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CPUSA - 1941 - Great Patriotic War

Since the summer of 1941, or after the attack on the Soviet Union by Germany, all communist parties stressed the virtues of patriotism, prompted efforts to insure maximum production and win the war, deprecated strikes, and criticized anything which tended to weaken the unity of the allied nations which opposed Germany.

With the attack of the Soviet Union by Germany in June 1941, criticism of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal decreased dramatically. Emphasis shifted to cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States to win the war. As leading advocates of this CPUSA wartime policy, Earl Browder wrote Speed the Second Front (1942), Production For Victory (1942), and Teheran and America (1944); Foster contributed The USA and USSR War Allies and Friends (1942) and Steelworkers and the War (1942).

All aid to the peoples of Great Britain and the Soviet Union was called for. Extension of the draft act, which had been so vigorously opposed when originally enacted in September of 1940, was demanded by the Communist Party in September 1941. Senator Wheeler, whose isolationism had been praised by the party in 1940, was now a Munichman and a traitor. Labor, again said the Communist Party, had a stake in the defeat of fascism throughout the world and should direct its energies to the support of all-out production to defeat Hitler.

President Roosevelt wanted to strengthen a distrustful Stalin in his fight against Hitler, and his lieutenants had no desire to antagonize Moscow by suppressing the CPUSA or publicly probing rumors that members of the Party had infiltrated government agencies. Hoover, for his part, kept a close eye on the CPUSA but did not, at least before 1945, try to convince the White House that Soviet officials in the United States were actively engaged in espionage.

During World War II, the CPUSA advocated militant, if sometimes bureaucratic, trade unionism while opposing strike actions at all costs. The leadership of the CPUSA was among the most vocal pro-war voices in the United States, advocating unity against fascism, supporting the prosecution of leaders of the Socialist Workers Party under the newly enacted Smith Act.

In May, 1944, the Communist Party of the United States changed its name to that of Communist Political Association, diluted its Marxian program considerably, and announced its willingness to collaborate with all classes, except potential “fascists”, during and after the war. This stand was approved by the Central Committee of the French Communist Party as announced in May, 1944, issue of its official publication, France Nouvelle.

The Army had adopted a firm policy of excluding Communists and Communist sympathizers entirely from its ranks. After passage of the Selective Training and Service Act on 16 September 1940, however, this policy needed careful reexamination in light of enforced induction into the military service. Hence, during June 1941, it was announced that pending a final determination in each individual case, persons strongly suspected of membership in the Communist Party or who appeared to be consistent followers of the Communist Party line would not be assigned on sensitive duty or granted an officer commission.

But with the Party line having undergone a convenient switch to provide for full cooperation with the Allied war effort right after the German invasion of Russia, more and more Communists and fellow travelers were seeking to qualify for entrance into such schools. It was argued, for example, that the segregation policy had merely tended to relieve Communists from the hazards of combat duty and even encouraged the dissemination of Communist doctrine throughout the country.

The Communist Party launched an immediate and violent propaganda campaign against Army counterintelligence procedures. Spearheaded by the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade organization, this campaign took the form of heavy attacks in the so-called liberal press along with a flood of critical letters. The combined result was a departmental agency inadequately equipped to fulfill its essential counterintelligence responsibilities during most of World War II. With well-organized subversive elements representing both an actual and potential danger to ultimate military success, this was certainly not the proper time to reduce MID (MIS) capabilities for exposing or blocking them, yet that is exactly what did take place.

The Soviet Union proved adept at espionage, primarily because it was able to play on the ideological sympathies of a significant number of Americans and British as well as foreign émigrés. Soviet intelligence services devoted a tremendous amount of resources into spying on the United States and Britain. In the United States alone, hundreds of Americans provided secret information to the Soviet Union, and the quality of Soviet sources in Britain was even better. In contrast, during the war neither the American nor the British secret services had a single agent in Moscow.

The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) had thousands of members, a disproportionate number of whom were highly educated and likely to work in sensitive wartime industries. Many physicists were members of the CPUSA before the war. This does not mean that every member of the CPUSA was willing to supply secret information to the Soviet Union, but some were and some did.

For over four decades, Klaus Fuchs was thought to be the only spy who was a physicist at Los Alamos. In the mid-1990s, release of the VENONA intercepts revealed an alleged second scientist-spy: Theodore Hall. Like Fuchs, a long-time communist who volunteered his services, Hall made contact with Soviet intelligence in November 1944 while at Los Alamos. Although not as detailed or voluminous as that provided by Fuchs, the data supplied by Hall on implosion and other aspects of atomic weapons design served as an important supplement and confirmation of Fuchs's material.

The most famous "atomic spies," Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, never worked for the Manhattan Project. Julius Rosenberg was an American engineer who by the end of the war had been heavily involved in industrial espionage for years, both as a source himself and as the "ringleader" of a network of like-minded engineers dispersed throughout the country. Julius's wife, the former Ethel Greenglass, was also a devoted communist, as was her brother David.

A number of spies within the Manhattan Project have never been positively identified. Most are only known by their codenames, as revealed in the VENONA decrypts. One source, an engineer or scientist who was given the codename FOGEL (later changed to PERSEUS), apparently worked on the fringes of the Manhattan Project for several years, passing along what information he could.

American Communists while attacking the policies of the United States carefully implant the feeling in the public mind that any adverse action the United States may take against them for violations of the law will have an unfortunate repercussion on this country’s relations with the Soviet Union. By smear campaigns and unbridled criticism of public servants who view the interests of the United States as paramount to those of the Soviet Union Communists attempt to force these officials to change their views.

While Communists were in the forefront of those demanding extreme punishment of American Bundists, they denounce public officials as fascist who attempt to punish Communists for infraction of the laws. In brief, Communists have the same attitude as Goebbels did—that the civil liberty laws of the democracies are convenient instruments for Communists to facilitate their tearing down the structure of the state and thereafter abolishing all civil rights.

Toward the end of the war, the FBI did limit substantially its investigation of individual Communists. Orders to the field requiring investigation of every member of the Communist Political Association (CPA) (as the Party was named during 1943-1945) were modified in 1944, when field offices were instructed to confine their investigations to key figures in the national or regional units of the CPA. This directive received widely varying interpretations in the field, and many offices continued to open cases on the basis of membership alone. Further instructions in April 1945 stated that investigations were restricted to key figures or potential key figures rather than to all members as had been the policy before 1944.

The Communist Political Association of the United States had about 100,000 members now but it influenced several millions. It controlled some C. I. O. Unions such as the Fur Workers, the National Maritime, the Miners and Smelters, the Architects, the Radio, and the Canners, not to mention Bridges’ longshoremen on the West Coast. It exerted considerable influence in intellectual fields. For instance, it was nonsensical to think that a small party of 100,000 members can support three daily publications, at least ten schools with an enrollment of 500 to 5,500, numerous weekly publications, and the upkeep of several office buildings. Yet that is what the Communist Political Association did and the conclusion is warranted that it had access to funds and sources far greater than its modest membership would sustain.

In the beginning, Earl Browder wrote many good party pamphlets and was ideologically very sound. He was a staunch supporter of the Soviet Union, but toward the end WW II, he adopted the theory of what came to be known as ‘American exceptionalism.’ This concept separated American workers from workers in other countries and eventually led to the liquidation of the CPUSA, becoming the Communist Political Association. Browder believed [as did leaders of the CPUSA that came along much later like Sam Webb], that capitalism and socialism could ‘peacefully co-exist’ in a competitive world.

Browder argued that the WWII experience of broad anti-fascist popular front activity and the victory over Nazi Germany would usher in a period of co-operation that would allow the CPUSA to dissolve or at least change its character and become a lobbying association or something similar. Browder proposed the continuation of the no-strike pledge after the end of World War II. As it became apparent that this view did not reflect the post war reality and that corporate and reactionary forces were moving forcefully to reassert power and influence they felt they had lost during the years of the New Deal and FDR, the CPUSA underwent intense internal debates.

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Page last modified: 01-11-2017 19:29:10 ZULU