The Communist Party of the U.S.A. (CPUSA), which has participated in every presidential election since 1968, has announced that it will not field a candidate in the 1988 race because “a very undemocratic electoral system” is “closed to minority party candidates.” That announcement was made by veteran communist leader Gus Hall, who has led the floundering party since the late 1950s.
The CPUSA has been losing influence and followers since its days of popularity in the ’30s, when it received more than 100,000 votes out of the nearly 40 million cast. In 1984, when Hall ran with vice-presidential running mate Angela Davis, the party only received 35,561 votes out of 92.7 million.
According to Stephen Schwartz of The Institute for Contemporary Studies, the CPUSA claimed 10,000 members in the 1960s. Today, in Schwartz’s estimation, the figure is down to 5,000 or 6,000. An enrollment form for interested potential members is still printed in The People’s Daily World, the party organ, but very little active recruitment is done. Lately, according to Schwartz, membership has become hereditary, mainly focusing on the children of older members.
Rather than trying to become a mass movement, the party has focused its efforts on influencing the peace movement and the Democratic Party – although a spokesman for the Hoover Institution says that “no Democrat would want to be seen, dead or alive, with Gus Hall.” The official CPUSA platform currently stresses consolidation of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and the blocking of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.
Since the party is not fielding a candidate in ’88, party leaders have selected Rev. Jesse Jackson as their favored choice. Michael Myerson, a leader in the U.S. peace movement and CPUSA National Council member, recently pronounced, “Jesse Jackson is the most advanced candidate on the peace issues, and for this reason, he should be supported.” Spokesmen for the Jackson campaign declined to comment on the statement.
Political analysts in Washington say that the CPUSA has always been completely controlled by Moscow, and that the decision to stay out of the 1988 race was initiated by the Kremlin. Schwartz added that it is most likely a part of the Soviets’ overall modernization campaign, in which leaders are attempting to improve the image of communism around the world.