Communist Party USA (CPUSA)
|1929||William Z. Foster|
Although the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) never became a major player in American political life, it was a significant participant in mainstream politics and the trade union movement in the 1930s and 1940s whose activities evoked tremendous passions among both supporters and opponents. Prior to 1928 the Communist Party had little success recruiting from the Black community. After the Communist Party’s much publicized defense of the Scottsboro boys, the CP was increasingly perceived by Blacks as the defender of minority rights.
During World War II, it 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. After World War II, in line with other Communist parties worldwide, the CPUSA also swung to the left and, as a result, experienced a brief period in which a number of internal critics argued for a more leftist stance than the leadership was willing to countenance.
The policies of the Communist Party can be understood only in the light of the basic characteristics of the Communist movement. The Communist movement, from its inception, purported to be a movement of working people. Its basic thesis was that a new order of society must be created by revolution of the working classes and that the "dictatorship" of the "proletariat" must be established. Because of this basic thesis, Communist philosophy was always predicated upon the use of trade-unions as an instrument of Communist policy and as a weapon by which the party could organize the working classes and bring nearer the revolution from which the dictatorship of the party would emerge.
Whatever may be the theoretical goals of the party, its program was based upon one fundamental objective: the support of the Soviet Union, the country in which the Communist Party first achieved its goal of dictatorship. This objective Is never expressly stated to be the sole controlling factor in determining the party's program. To the contrary, because of its desire to speak as an American rather than a Soviet agency and to maintain its position within the trade-union movement, the party presented its program as a program for American, not for Russian, labor.
The policies which the party adopted were stated to be policies for the achievement of the goals of American labor—not for the advancement of the cause of the Soviet Union. But, over a period of years it is clear tliat the goals of American labor, as stated by the party, are always found to be those policies which will aid the Soviet Union. As the tactical position of the Soviet Union in the world has changed, the program of the American Communist Party "for American labor" has accommodated itself. And, when it seemed in the interest of the Soviet Union for American labor to forsake its heritage and to adopt policies contradictory to the whole fabric of the labor movement, the Commnnist Party adopted such policies.
The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) is a Marxist-Leninist political organization that was founded in Chicago in 1919. The CPUSA played a pivotal role in many significant political and social movements of the 20th century. Its Party platform focused largely on working class issues such as fair wages and unemployment, civil rights for racial and ethnic minorities, civil liberties for politically persecuted communities, economic justice for the poor, the unemployed and for immigrants, and international peace efforts.
The Party’s work left an indelible mark in the arena of progressive politics and made it an influential force in the labor movement, particularly from the 1920s to the 1940s. Its varied political, social, and cultural initiatives attracted the support of a number of prominent artists, intellectuals, and activists, including Woody Guthrie, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis. Though the CPUSA’s strength and size declined sharply following World War II and the advent of the Cold War and McCarthyism, it remains committed to socialism, peace, economic and social justice, and civil rights and liberties.
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