UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


CPUSA - 1950s - Red Scare

In November of 1950 the second Congress of the World Peace Council was held in Warsaw, Poland. The Trotskyites, who usually know what goes on in the Communist movement, reported on the Warsaw WPC conference in a pamphlet written by James P. Cannon, the leader of the American Trotskyite organization, the Socialist Workers Party. Cannon referred to "the recent Warsaw Peace Conference of professional fellow travelers, congenital stooges and moon-struck clergymen steered, like all such gatherings, by hard-faced jockeys from the Stalinist riding stables."

Between 1949 and 1957 the government, invoking the Alien Registration Act (better known as the Smith Act), won convictions of a dozen top CPUSA leaders for advocating the violent overthrow of the government. The following year, Congress overrode Truman's veto and passed the Internal Security Act (often called the McCarran Act), which required Communist-affiliated organizations to register with the government and allowed emergency detention of potential spies and saboteurs.

Gus Hall was convicted in 1949 for conspiring to teach the violent overthrow of the federal government. He jumped bail after his arrest and fled to Mexico, where he was arrested and sent back and was jailed for 8 years. The party did not fully recover from these political repressions.

Paul Robeson was surely the most talented human being known to recorded history. He was the son of a former slave, born and raised during a period of segregation, lynching, and open racism The great singer, actor, performer, lawyer, athlete Paul Robeson had his passportrevoked and was not able to travel. Robeson was an athlete who won 15 varsity letters in four different sports? As a concert artist he sold out shows around the world and who could perform in more than 25 different languages. This scholar-athlete-performer also acted in Shakespearean and Broadway plays, and in movies.

"The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice," he said. This philosophy drove Robeson to Spain during the civil war, to Africa to promote self-determination, to India to aid in the independence movement, to London to fight for labor rights, and to the Soviet Union to promote anti-fascism.

Robeson petitioned the president of the United States of America for an anti-lynching law, promoted African self-rule, helped victims of the Spanish civil war, fought for India's independence, and championed equality for all human beings. His outspokenness about human rights and his pro-Soviet stance made Robeson a prime target of militant anticommunists. In 1950 the State Department revoked his passport, thereby denying his right to travel and, ultimately, to earn income abroad. Robeson fought this injustice for years vigorously but with no success.

Robeson stuck to his principles and refused to swear an affidavit that he was not a Communist. "Whether I am or not a Communist is irrelevant," he told the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956. "The question is whether American citizens, regardless of their political beliefs or sympathies, may enjoy their constitutional rights." In 1958 the U.S. Supreme Court finally agreed, ruling that the State Department could not deny citizens the right to travel because of their political beliefs or affiliations.

Governmental actions sent the CPUSA partially underground in 1951. Party leaders took this step in an effort to protect essential cadres, but the move actually hastened the CPUSA's decline. In addition, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 critique of Stalinism prompted demoralizing internal debates in the CPUSA and precipitated the departure of still more members. Soviet intelligence officers apparently received orders to steer clear of the closely monitored CPUSA, and they urged assets to avoid open contacts with Communist causes. By 1953 the FBI had concluded that the CPUSA was no longer a serious espionage threat, although the Bureau still regarded it as a potential recruiting ground for spies.

Executive Order No. 10450, 27 April 1953, established security requirements for Government employees and provided that the Department of Justice furnish to the heads of departments and agencies the name of each foreign or domestic organization, association, movement, group or combination of persons which the Attorney General, after appropriate investigation and determination, designated as totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive, or as having adopted a policy of advocating or approving the commission of acts of force or violence to deny others their rights under the Constitution of the United States, or as seeking to alter the form of government of the United States by unconstitutional means.

The leadership of the CPUSA willingly allowed the USSR to use it as an espionage apparatus. Soviet intelligence benefited directly and indirectly from the activities and infrastructure of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). Moscow collected secrets in the United States through overlapping organizations. The Communist International (better known as the Comintern) monitored the CPUSA and supervised the Party's clandestine apparatus.

The case of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg was high drama, featuring charges of atomic espionage, unshakable claims of innocence and persecution. Ethel and Julius were members of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA), but they dropped out of the Party in 1943. On 17 June 1953 Ethel and Julius were executed in the electric chair at New York's Sing Sing prison, the only Americans ever put to death in peacetime for espionage.

The argument about the Rosenbergs' guilt would continue for more than 40 years, a bitter and vituperative fight about responsibility for the Cold War and McCarthyism that was carried on in magazines, competing books, and the arts. Progressives pressed their case but could not clinch it, complaining, as did one reviewer in the reliably pro-Rosenberg The Nation.

In April 1958, a representative of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) named Morris Childs made important trips to the Soviet Union and China. His purpose: to re-establish formal contact between the CPUSA and these countries. First, Morris visited with key Communist Party and Soviet leaders in Moscow. He learned of their wider political goals, their concerns and fears, and their deep interest in restoring connections with the CPUSA. Then he went to Beijing, where he made similar inroads and met with Premier Mao Tse Tung. After three months, Morris returned home and reported all hed learned to CPUSA leaders.

Morris Childs, a representative of the Communist Party of the United States, became a secret informant for the FBI beginning in the 1950s. Morris Childs' intelligence work was handled by the FBI under the code name SOLO. He ultimately provided a great deal of valuable intelligence about the issues and concerns of the leadership of the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

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