Communist Party of the United States of America

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Communist Party of the United States of America


(CPUSA), founded in September 1919. On Sept. 1–5 the founding congress of the Communist Party of America was held. It had originated as the result of a split within the Socialist Party when the left wing, led by C. Ruthenberg, withdrew. From Aug. 31 to Sept. 5, 1919, the founding congress of the Communist Labor Party of America was held; it was convoked by another group of the left wing, led by J. Reed. Harsh persecution by the government compelled both parties to adopt an illegal status. In 1920 they established contact with each other, and in May 1921 they merged into the United Communist Party of America. In December 1921 the legal Workers Party of America was organized to include the United Communist Party. Between Dec. 30, 1923, and Jan. 1, 1924, the party adopted the name Workers (Communist) Party of America, and in June 1930 it became the Communist Party of the USA.

The CPUSA waged a consistent resolute struggle against Trotskyism, revisionism, and sectarianism. In 1928 the Trotskyist faction was expelled from the party, and in 1929 the revisionist group was also expelled. Under the conditions of the worldwide economic crisis of 1929–33 the party played a large role in organizing hunger marches of the unemployed and meetings and demonstrations in support of the ruined farmers and the unemployed. It was the only political party that came out in, defense of the rights of blacks. On the initiative of the CPUSA in the early 1930’s the League of Struggle for the Rights of Negroes was created. American Communists made a great contribution to the struggle against fascism. Together with all progressive forces, they fought against the reactionary plans to turn the country to fascism. During World War II the CPUSA actively advocated the earliest possible opening of a second front in Europe against fascist Germany and the stepping up of US efforts in combating the enemy.

At the end of World War II revisionism reappeared in the CPUSA; it came as a result of the activity of E. Browder (general secretary of the party from 1930 to 1944), who preached an anti-Marxist theory of “American exceptionalism,” “class peace,” and “cooperation between labor and capital.” At the Twelfth Congress of the CPUSA (1944) he managed to push through a resolution for the dissolution of the party and its replacement by the nonparty, so-called Communist Political Association. The efforts of a Marxist-Leninist party nucleus including W. Foster (chairman of the Central Committee and later of the National Committee of the party, 1929–44 and 1945–57), E. Dennis (general secretary, 1946–57; after the abolition of this position in 1957, secretary until the end of 1959; chairman of the party National Committee, 1959–61), E. Flynn (chairman of the party National Committee 1961–64), and G. Hall (general secretary of the party since December 1959) restored the CPUSA at the Thirteenth Extraordinary Congress (July 1945). In 1946, Browder and his followers were expelled from the party.

Under the conditions of the intensified reaction after World War II, US ruling circles unleashed a campaign of persecution against the Communists. A number of laws and administrative statutes were adopted that were directed against the Communist Party. In 1954 they were combined in the Humphrey-Butler Act on the “control of communist activity,” which declared the Communist Party to be a “subversive organization” and deprived it of all political rights. Between 1947 and 1956 more than 150 of the leading figures of the Communist Party were imprisoned. Under these conditions the party was forced to conduct its activity illegally. The Sixteenth Congress of the CPUSA, held in 1957, dealt a serious blow to the right-wing opportunistic elements and liquidators, who had called for the replacement of the Communist Party by a nonparty “association of political action,” and reaffirmed the CPUSA’s loyalty to the principles of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism. The American Communists were aided greatly in this by the resolutions of the International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties (1957, Moscow). There was no delegation from the CPUSA to this conference, but the documents and the Declaration of the Conference of Communist and Workers Parties of the Socialist Countries (1957) were approved by the party.

From 1961 to 1965 the party suffered a new wave of persecution triggered by the McCarran Act, which provided for imprisonment of the party’s leaders and the levying of fines for “subversive activity.” With the support of democratic forces the party succeeded in 1964–65 in removing from the books certain statutes of the anticommunist legislation (for example, those concerning the registration of party members and forbidding them to occupy elected positions in trade unions). In 1967, by a decision of the Supreme Court, all charges against the party and its leaders were dropped, and the articles of the McCarran Act, on the strength of which the party had been persecuted, were declared unconstitutional.

The Eighteenth Congress of the CPUSA (1966), which ratified new party rules, signaled the beginning of the party’s emergence from isolation. The Nineteenth Congress of the Party (1969) rejected the anti-Marxist views of a small opposition group that disputed the party’s internationalist position on a number of international problems and expressed doubts about the party’s class approach to the analysis of the domestic situation. A party program was adopted at this congress that posed the task of creating an antimonopolistic alliance of American working people directed against the political and economic domination of the monopolies. The CPUSA declared its complete support of the struggle of the working class and black people against racism and chauvinism. The congress affirmed the resolve of the American Communists in waging a struggle against the aggressive policy of American imperialism, especially for the immediate cessation of the war in Indochina, and for the promulgation of a policy of peaceful coexistence among states with different social systems. The Twentieth Congress (1972) set the task of still greater activity for the CPUSA in the workers’ and black movements, the intensification of the party’s influence among the masses, and the broadening and strengthening of the party rank and file. The party participated in the election campaign of 1972, nominating Hall as its presidential candidate. The Twenty-first Congress of the CPUSA (1975) once again called for the unity of all the Country’s left-wing and other progressive forces in the struggle against the monopoly yoke. It is not possible, the congress declared, to overcome the economic crisis, put an end to unemployment, and raise the living standards of the working people unless military spending is drastically slashed. The congress spoke in favor of continued international détente.

Delegations of the CPUSA participated in the work of the International Conferences of Communist and Workers’ Parties (1960 and 1969, Moscow), and the party approved the documents of the conferences.

The activity of the CPUSA is organized on the principles of democratic centralism. The supreme body of the party is the Congress, which elects the Central Committee. The national chairman of the CPUSA is H. Winston, and the general secretary is G. Hall. The central organ is the newspaper The Daily World, and the theoretical organ is the journal Political Affairs. (See Table 1 for a list of the congresses of the CPUSA.)


“Novaia programma KP SShA,” SShAekonomika, politika, ideologiia, 1970, nos. 11–12; 1971, nos. 1–2.
Dennis, E. Stat’i i rechi (1947–1951). Moscow, 1952. (Translated from English.)
Foster, W.Z. History of the Communist Party of the United States. New York, 1952.
Hall, G. Imperialism Today: An Evaluation of Major Issues and Events of Our Time. New York, 1972.

N. V. MOSTOVETS [12–1671–1; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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