The Communist Party U.S.A., a Marxist stepchild whose parents moved without leaving a forwarding address, is becoming more like the dispossesed and homeless it claims to represent.

Increasingly alone as wayward uncles in Hungary, Romania, and finally Soviet Russia itself stray from the house of ideology built by Lenin and Marx, the CPUSA finds itself struggling to identify goals for today's communist."We have grown. We're not a hidebound thing," spokesman Jim West said from CPUSA headquarters in New York City. "We have evolved. We have matured. We believe in a democratic human socialism."

But Richard Starr, editor of the Yearbook on International Communist Affairs, contended that the party is shrinking. U.S. communists are confused by the reform movement sweeping the Soviet Union toward a capitalist society. The overall collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the recent bloody events in China and Romania leave them aghast.

"I think . . . pronouncement of the death of communism is long before it's true," said Kendra Alexander, chairperson of the Communist Party in northern California. "My personal opinion is that this drama is far from over."

"There's no question," Alexander adds, that events in Eastern Europe have had a "tremendous impact on our party as well as parties throughout the world."

Marxism "is wedded to the idea of progress," says Herbert Aptheker, a pioneer CPUSA member, fiery author and University of California at Berkely law school professor.

"This is a time not for despair, but renewed dedication. We must refresh, renovate and qualitatively change the corrupt political process in this country."

Aptheker, 75, known as an ideological watchdog for the CPUSA and a member of the party's National Committee since 1957, believes the left has a mandate to "cleanse this country, our country, of racism, of male domination, of corruption."

The party claims 15,000 members, the majority in California, New York and Chicago, but Staar puts the figure closer to 4,000 to 6,000.

Whatever the numbers, the general U.S. membership, which hit an all-time high of some 80,000 members in the 1930s and '40s, has seen a swing toward socialist "moderates" among the rank and file, Starr said. The top leadership post is held by an aging, unwavering "Stalinist," he said.


upi 10-21-90 12:13 ped