The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) was formed on September 1, 1919, as a breakaway party from the Socialist Party of America following the success of the Russian Revolution. The CPUSA played an active role in labor unions for multiple decades and saw membership reach around 75,000 by 1938. Many communists were elected before World War Two and their most successful presidential ticket saw William Z. Foster receive 103,307 votes in the 1932 presidential election. However, following World War Two the CPUSA saw membership decline due to the Red Scare and government suppression to the point of less than 10,000 in 1957, with over 1,500 being FBI informants.
The CPUSA remained a small political force in the United States with their best presidential result following World War Two being 58,709 votes in 1976. The CPUSA lost its support from the Soviet Union in 1989, and saw further decline following the fall of the Soviet Union. The party has rarely run candidates since the 1990s.
However, in recent years the CPUSA has been more successful electorally. A member of the CPUSA served on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen from 1983 to 2002, Denise Winebrenner Edwards served on the Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania city council from 1999 to 2010, and since 2019, and Wahsayah Whitebird has served on the Ashland, Wisconsin city council. Whitebird’s victory was rather impressive due to him defeating the president of the city council. Now the party is planning to start running candidates for office again starting with local elections in either 2022 or 2023. The CPUSA has also seen its membership increase in recent years with membership rising to between 5,000 and 10,000.
The party has decided to go in this direction due to the success of progressive organizations such as Our Revolution and DSA. The new guide by the CPUSA was drafted by the Political Action Commission on February 22, 2021, and was presented to the National Board on April 7.
The guide was welcomed by district leaders and has ten points of recommendation as follows:
“1. Include discussion on running candidates as part of the overall discussion on building the Party.
2. Have as a goal running where possible. especially in local elections. There should be collaboration between the National Party and the districts and clubs.
3. Possibly concentrate nationally on one or two candidates where we go all out to win and put resources into campaigns.
4. Develop guidelines for how to consider a candidacy and a collective process of deciding how, who, and where to run and carry out the effort. This should include connections to local struggles and relationship building. It also should include collaboration between local and national Party organization in decision making.
5. Develop a national platform which can be adapted to state/local conditions.
6. School for candidates: develop guidelines and work with candidates on how to run — Voter registration, education, engagement and turnout, fund-raising, status of public financing, social media, concentration, research, positions on issues, greater visibility (e.g., testifying at state and/or local public hearings), etc. — use 2021 to prepare and educate our candidates. It often takes running more than one time to get elected. We want to win, but running itself is a learning experience.
7. Reestablish Progressive Public Officials, a network of those who hold elected and appointed public office who are in and around us, as a way of mutual support and action on policy.
8. Hold a discussion on voter suppression, which would include the question of voter intimidation and develop a program to democratize our election laws.
9. Study where are the main local elections we can run in 2022 and 2023.
10. Maintain the sub-committee on Communist candidates as part of the Political Action Commission to help carry out these recommendations.”