The Communist Party of the United States of America, once party of 80.000 Americans in 1945 now reduced to 2.000. Still the CPUSA has survived the collapse of the USSR. The history of the party began in 1919, when two communist parties were founded. These parties were created after revolutionary socialists split from the Socialist Party of America. Until May 1921 there was the; Communist Party of America and the Communist Labor Party of America. Both communist parties wanted to become members of the Communist International. Lenin however wanted only one American communist party as leading force of the proletariat in the USA. After many discussions with the Communist International, the two parties came together as Communist Party USA. In the year 2014, the CPUSA is a shadow of its former self. No longer revolutionary socialist, the current communist party supports the Democrats and their capitalist candidates!
Communists were not free to express their political opinion in the USA. They rejected the first world war and America’s participation in the slaughter. Because of their opposition to war, capitalism and imperialism they were soon called ”enemies of the union”. With the Sedition Act of 1918, the US Government started to arrest people who were seen as ”dangerous to the state”. Many progressives, socialists and communists were jailed. A famous socialist leader jailed was Eugene V. Debs, who was arrested in June 1918 for opposing world war one. Debs said to the judge, who sentenced him to spend ten years in jail; ”Your honor, I ask no mercy, I plead for no immunity. I realize that finally the right must prevail. I never more fully comprehended than now the great struggle between the powers of greed on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of freedom. I can see the dawn of a better day of humanity. The people are awakening. In due course of time they will come into their own”. Debs served three years and was released in 1921. He died five years later!
The ruling class of the USA and the world feared the revolution in Russia. So in 1919 they enforced the Red Scare, a propaganda campaign to put fear in the minds of the American people. Lies were spread about the supposed ”evil” of world communism. How the Bolsheviks would destroy ”freedom” and how they would destroy Christianity. The Red Scare lasted from 1919 until 1923 and many leftist Americans were bullied by racist police offers, intimidated by their capitalist bosses and hated by many white Americans for standing up for minority rights. Because many ethnic minorities and immigrants were part of the CPUSA, so the anticommunist media claimed that the whole left-wing was a danger to the American way of life. The first Red Scare saw in all leftists a danger and did not distinguish between communism, anarchism, socialism, or social democracy!
Like all communist parties the CPUSA degenerated into stalinism. This happened after the first Red Scare and the death of Vladimir Lenin. In 1927, the first group of CPUSA members were expelled. Stalin started with the supporters of Leon Trotsky, but others would soon follow. Benjamin Gitlow was a supporter of Nicolai Bukharin, a Bolshevik who supported the New Economic Politics. Gitlow was expelled in 1929, as Stalin removed the supporters of Bukharin from the Communist International. After forming a opposition communist party, Benjamin Gitlow became disillusioned with communism and turned towards anticommunism. By 1934, the former supporter of Nicolai Bukharin had turned conservative and was now deeply anticommunist. Fueled by Stalin’s mass terror, Gitlow was convinced that communism was pure evil. Rejecting the ideals he once shared, Benjamin Gitlow started to work with the FBI against the CPUSA. Later during the second Red Scare, he became a role model for ex-communists who turned on communism!
James P. Cannon was a communist who opposed Stalin’s increasing power. He was part of the early Communist Labor Party of America and a leader from the first day. Cannon became a supporter of Leon Trotsky in 1928, after reading Trotsky’s criticism of Stalin. Together with his co-thinkers Max Shachtman and Martin Abern, he tried to build a left opposition inside the CPUSA, but like all anti-Stalinist communists he was expelled. James P. Cannon then created the Communist League of America which became the Workers Party of the United States in 1934 and finally the Socialist Workers Party in 1938. Because of many splits and disagreements, the anti-Stalinist communists were never able to outgrow the CPUSA. Cannon’s friend Max Shachtman became so anti-Stalin, that he rejected the idea to defend the Soviet-Union against imperialist attacks. Disillusioned about the weakness of the anti-Stalinist communist movement and his personal failures, Max Shachtman became a social democrat and rejected revolutionary socialism!
As a Stalinist party the CPUSA followed the doctrine of Moscow. Party leader Earl Browder would lead the party for almost 10 years. During world war two he favored close relations between the USA and the USSR. But after the war it became clear the world would split between Moscow and Washington. Earl Browder was expelled from the CPUSA in 1946, due largely to a refusal to modify his views to accord with changing political realities and their associated ideological demands. Because by 1946, the USA and USSR became political enemies and the CPUSA had to reject the US government. William Z. Foster replaced Browder as party leader and soon faced the second Red Scare!
The second Red Scare started in 1947 when senator Joseph McCarthy began his anticommunist crusade. This Republican senator from the State of Wisconsin, was very anticommunist and paranoid. He feared Soviet spies and saw them everywhere. The white ruling capitalist class started to support McCarthey’s delusions. People were told that supporters of communism were working in secret in the US government. Progressives were called ”communists in disguise”. Every liberal thinking American was called a ”potential communist”. Anybody who was critical of American imperialism was a communist according to Joseph McCarthy. The fame of this delusional senator rose very high when he claimed to have a list of communist party members working inside the US government. Not only communists were targeted by the supporters of McCarthy. His witch-hunt also included attacks on homosexuals and African-Americans. They saw black liberation as a communist ideal and because they were deeply religious, they also hated gay’s. In the 1950’s it was impossible for a gay person to admit he was homosexual, because most Americans would not tolerant it!
Many Hollywood movies made in the 1950’s were anticommunist in nature. Movies about the Korean War portrayed the Americans as good guys and the North Koreans as pure evil. Hollywood also produced movies about a future communist USA, in which democratic freedoms were destroyed. The movie industry also fired many actors, screen writers and directors who were too progressive or who stood in opposition to the paranoia of the Red Scare. A black list of actors was created including the name of Charlie Chaplin. After finishing a movie, Chaplin choose not to return to the USA, knowing his progressive political views would not be tolerated by the anticommunist establishment. A reason why the Red Scare was able to brainwash so many people, was because they were partly right in their propaganda. Stalinist Russia was indeed a totalitarian society and by supporting this, the CPUSA gave the anticommunists all the ideological gunpowder they needed. The victory of the Communist Party of China in the Chinese Civil War, meant that 1/3 of the world was under control of ”communist” governments by 1950!
For the CPUSA the period between 1959 and 1989 was bad. Just after the second world war, more then 80.000 Americans were members of the party. But only five years later this number was reduced to 10.000. This was partly because of the anticommunist hysteria, but also because of the totalitarian climate the party leadership enforced. The party leadership choose were you worked, who you married and what you were to believe. This totalitarian control over party members lives was reduced after the death of Stalin, but by then many had left the CPUSA. Anticommunists loved the stories of ex-CPUSA members and many newspapers printed news-items about former communists. The opponents of communism were strengthen in their believes, because of the totalitarian climate in the CPUSA and their role models!
Gus Hall became the general secretary of the party in 1959. He was deeply Stalinist and rejected the liberalization ideals of many party members. Under Hall’s leadership the CPUSA remained a dogmatic party that supported Moscow. Gus Hall would lead the party for almost 40 years. He was very orthodox in the Marxist-Leninist ( Stalinist ) ideology. Hall also made frequent appearances on Soviet television, always supporting the position of the Soviet Communist Party and the Leonid Brezhnev regime. The CPUSA under Gus Hall hated Mao Zedong and expelled all supporters of Maoism from its ranks in the 1960’s. When the workers of Poland created their own trade union in 1981, the CPUSA renounced it as ”counter-revolutionary”. Poland became a military dictatorship under Wojciech Jaruzelski who banned the trade union Solidarity and turned Poland into a militarist Stalinist dictatorship. When Micheal Gorbachev started with his reforms, the CPUSA criticized them. Still Gus Hall remained loyal to Moscow but would never endorse Gorbachev. When the crimes of Stalin became fully public by the late 1980’s, the CPUSA leader said they were exaggerated.
In 1991 a group of CPSU members called the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, wanted to turn the CPSU in a reformist socialist direction. Although the USSR collapsed, Gus Hall remained loyal to his Stalinist religion. After many debates, the supporters of reformist socialism were expelled from the party. The Communist Party of the United States of America did not dissolved or changed its ideology. Other communist parties were not so fortunate. The Communist Party of the Netherlands joined GreenLeft, a progressive green party and was dissolved. The mighty Italian Communist Party was renamed Democratic Party of the Left, although a minority created the Communist Re-foundation Party. All ruling communist parties in Eastern Europe either changed their ideology or were dissolved. The Bulgarian, Romanian, Yugoslavian, Czechoslovakian, Polish and Soviet communist parties were all gone by 1992!
Since 1984, the CPUSA supported the candidate of the Democratic Party in elections. This shows that the CPUSA under Gus Hall was never revolutionary socialist. By supporting Democratic candidates they accepted their ideological bankruptcy. Hall died in the year 2000, leaving the party to Sam Webb who moved away from dogmatism to pragmatism. Today the CPUSA is little more then a historic party with little to no political voice. Webb is a reformist and not at all revolutionary, he told his supporters to vote for Barack Obama during the 2008 and 2012 elections. When Obama was elected some CPUSA supporters celebrated in the streets with a Soviet flag. This was abused on Fox News who started a massive campaign to equal Obama with Marxist socialism. Right-wing commentator Glenn Beck even allowed Sam Webb to appear on his show. Beck tried to portray Obama as a Marxist socialist and although Webb opposed this he was unable to make a strong case against the Democratic Party. The weakness of Sam Webb on Glenn Beck’s show, proofs how ideological empty the CPUSA has become. Red flags are gone, Marx and Lenin are not to be seen. If you look at the last party convention in June 2014, you would not think this is a revolutionary party. No slogans against capitalism, no banners calling for socialism and workers rule. The Communist Party of the United States of America is no socialist alternative to the Democratic Party, who’s candidates they support since 1984!!