Communist Party of the United States of America

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Communist Party of the United States of America

Co-chairsJoe Sims
Rossana Cambron
FounderC. E. Ruthenberg
FoundedSeptember 1, 1919
NewspaperPeople's World
Youth wingYoung Communist League USA
Membership (2014)~2500
Political orientationMarxism–Leninism (de jure)
Bill of Rights Socialism
Reformism (de facto)
Patriotic Socialism
USA nationalism

The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) is a revisionist and national chauvinist social democratic party posing as a communist party in the United States.[1][2][3][4] It was established in 1919 after a split from the Socialist Party of America.

History[edit | edit source]

Formation[edit | edit source]

On July 28, many members of the Socialist Party of America, including C. E. Ruthenberg, Louis Fraina, and Bertram D. Wolfe, decided to split and form a new party.[5]

After being expelled from the Socialist Party of America's convention, the Michigan group of the Socialist Party formed the Communist Party of America (CPA) on September 1, 1919. The Communist Party soon reached a membership of 58,000. Another smaller party was formed from this split, the Communist Labor Party (CLP). The CPA decided not to cooperate with non-revolutionary parties.[6]

At the request of the Comintern, the CPA and CLP merged to form the CPUSA in 1919. The early CPUSA had two factions: the former CPA led by Ruthenberg and the former CLP led by Jay Lovestone. Many members of the African Blood Brotherhood also went on to join the party, including Harry Haywood.[3]

Palmer Raids[edit | edit source]

On October 16, 1919, the police raided the headquarters of the CLP in Cleveland and arrested its leadership. In New York City, 700 police raided meetings celebrating the anniversary of the October Revolution. During the night of January 6, 1920, President Woodrow Wilson authorized Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer to carry out raids in 70 cities that led to approximately 10,000 arrests. Much of the leadership of the communist parties was arrested and over 500 people were deported. As a result of the Palmer Raids, the membership of the CPA dropped from 60,000 to 10,000. In May 1920, the CPA and CLP combined to form the United Communist Party of America.[6]

In August 1922, the government raided a party convention being held in Bridgman, Michigan.[7]

The majority of party members were foreign-born and the party ran 27 publications in almost 20 languages.[8]

Anti-Lovestone struggle[edit | edit source]

Jay Lovestone's faction believed capitalism was stronger in the USA than in any other country and believed the party should wait for capitalism to decay instead of taking action.[3]

In October 1928, the CPUSA expelled about 100 Trotskyists led by James Cannon and Max Shachtman. They went on to found the Socialist Workers' Party. In June 1929, following the sixth congress of the Comintern, the party expelled the group of right-oppositionists led by Lovestone.[8]

Great Depression[edit | edit source]

In October 1929, a major economic crisis known as the Great Depression began. 17 million workers became unemployed and basic industrial production dropped by 50%. During the first four years of the Depression, party membership increased from under 10,000 to 18,000.

On March 6, 1930, the CPUSA organized a demonstration of over a million workers and unemployed. In New York City, the demonstration was met with 25,000 police and firemen.[9]

The Seventh National Convention of the CPUSA was held in New York City in 1930 with 306 delegates. Party leaders, including William Z. Foster, did not participate because they were in jail after attempting to present the demands of the unemployed to Mayor Jimmy Walker.[10]

In 1932, William Z. Foster ran for president and received over 100,000 votes.[9] During the early 1930s, the party considered Roosevelt a fascist and opposed working with the Democrats.[3]

Browder period[edit | edit source]

Initial opportunism[edit | edit source]

In the early 1930s, the CPUSA considered president Roosevelt to be a fascist, and opposed joint work with the Democrats. Earl Browder set out to convince the Comintern that a new detente with capitalists was necessary to fight European fascism. By 1936, communists were in key positions of the Roosevelt administration as part of a people's front. Foster, now sidelined, fought against Browder’s collaborationism with Roosevelt, but Browder controlled the key party positions.[3]

Second World War[edit | edit source]

The CPUSA was initially opposed to U.S. involvement in the Second World War but changed its position after Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union. 15,000 party members fought against fascism during the war. While many communist men were fighting in the war, women increased their share of leadership in the party and four women were elected to the National Committee.

In 1943, Communist Peter V. Cacchione was elected to City Council in the New York municipal elections. At the same time, Benjamin J. Davis Jr. became the first Black communist to be elected to public office. By 1944, the party had 80,000 members.

General Secretary Earl Browder made an opportunist error and assumed that the United Kingdom and United States would support the communist movement because they had agreed to help the Soviet Union in the war.[11]

In 1944, Browder briefly dissolved the CPUSA. Due to the intervention of the PCF, the party was reestablished and Browder was purged.[3]

Postwar period[edit | edit source]

In 1947, the party affirmed the line that the African diaspora has a right to full nationhood,[12] a position that Browder had rejected.[3]

In the 1948 presidential election, the CPUSA supported the Progressive Party, led by Henry A. Wallace, which had been created in 1948. The Progressive Party received 1,158,000 votes in the election.[12]

In July 1948, the USA brought indictments against 12 of 13 National Board members under the Smith Act, including William Z. Foster, Eugene Denis, Benjamin Davis, and Gus Hall. 11 of the 12 defendants received five-year sentences.[13]

The CPUSA opposed the Korean War and Syngman Rhee's puppet government in South Korea as well as the U.S. puppet states in Taiwan Province and South Vietnam. On June 29, 1951, the CPUSA held the People's Congress for Peace in Chicago. The congress had 5,000 delegates, including 1,500 Black delegates and over 1,600 women.[12]

Hall period[edit | edit source]

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the CPUSA took the side of the United States government by attempting to impose "international inspections" on Cuba.[14]

In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the CPUSA was accused by the Communist Party of China (CPC) of breaking communist solidarity by not only siding against Cuba and slandering the CPC and its positions regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also of "prettifying U.S Imperialism", breaking from Marxism-Leninism, and pledging loyalty to the Bourgeois government of the U.S. The CPC described General Secretary Gus Hall as being no different than Earl Browder[14] and that the influence of both Browder and Jay Lovestone permeated the CPUSA.[14]

Modern era[edit | edit source]

Webb period[edit | edit source]

Sam Webb served as National Chairman of CPUSA from 2000 to 2014.[15] While in this function, he enacted policies to purge out the Marxist-Leninist elements within the party and wanted to abandon the word communism from the party's name.[4]

In a 2002 Club Educational Study Guide published on the CPUSA website, they claimed that "... the people of Israel, Jewish and Arab, also have a right to their own independent state",[16] effectively claiming "Israel" has a right to exist, which is contrary to the one-state solution of Palestine supported by most ruling communist parties.[citation needed]

In 2008, before he became national chairman, Joe Sims published an article in Political Affairs titled Ten Worst and Best Ideas of Marxism,[17] a magazine associated with the party that he is now the editor of. His article has been criticized as denouncing core principles of Marxism and has raised questions as to how someone so hostile to Marxism could become national chairman of a communist party. Conversely, the article has also been defended as satire by CPUSA members.

Bachtell period[edit | edit source]

In 2015, then-national chairman John Bachtell admitted that he was previously active in both of Obama's presidential campaigns (2008 and 2012) and even served as precinct captain for his senatorial campaign, describing Obama as a "progressive."[18] At the 31st National Convention, John Bachtell was replaced by Rossana Cambron and Joe Sims as co-chairs of the CPUSA, while Bachtell took up new roles with Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People’s World, and eventually became its president.[19]

The CPUSA published an article promoting and endorsing voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections against Donald Trump. The article went on to promote the Democratic Party as a whole due to the claiming that they have the support of LGBT+ people, racial minorities, and women.[20]

Sims period[edit | edit source]

In 2022, an anonymous party member published a criticism of the party's leadership for isolating itself from the rank and file. In it, the member decries the Webbite tendency (named after ex-national chairman Sam Webb) and which, the member believes, survives to this day in the CPUSA.[4]

As President of Long View Publishing, Bachtell used Nazi rhetoric and propaganda of the "Holodomor" to denounce Stalin.[21]

The CPUSA has significantly promoted the Israeli Communist Party, even going as far to state, “Long live the Communist Party of Israel!” in a statement adopted by the CPUSA National Committee a month after Operation Flood of Al-Aqsa.[22] The Israeli Communist Party has denounced Hamas several times in the midst of the Operation, promoting settler-colonial views.[23][24]

On June 10, 2024, CPUSA held their delayed 32nd Convention. During the Convention, they invited Ofer Cassif of Maki as a speaker. Ofer denounced the 7th of October uprising, condemning the Resistance, upheld the existence of the Zionist Entity, and denied the Apartheid nature of "Israel" to the applause of CPUSA members.[25]

Structure[edit | edit source]

National level[edit | edit source]

National conventions of the CPUSA are held once every four years. They may be postponed by a 75% vote of the National Committee or special conventions may be held with a 40% vote of the National Committee or a majority vote of all state and district committees. The national convention can amend the party constitution with a majority vote.

At the national convention, a new National Committee is elected. The National Committee meets at least three times a year and can amend the party constitution with a 75% vote in addition to a majority vote of the majority of state and district committees.[26]

District level[edit | edit source]

The National Committee of the CPUSA can establish state and district organizations. District organizations may cover multiple states or parts of states. State and district conventions meet once every four years, before the National Convention does. Additional state/district conventions can be called with a one-third vote of the State/District Committee or upon the request of clubs representing a third of the state or district's party membership. The State/District Committee meets at least four times a year, or three times a year in districts covering large geographic areas.[26]

Club level[edit | edit source]

Clubs are the smallest organizations of the CPUSA and represent local communities or workplaces. Club conventions meet once a year and elect a chair. Additional officers may also be elected depending on the club's size.[26]

Districts[edit | edit source]

The CPUSA website has a list of districts with contact information:[27]

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota and the Dakotas
  • Missouri/Kansas
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • San Francisco Bay Area
  • South Carolina
  • Southern California
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington (state)
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Western Pennsylvania

Further reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. “The CPUSA has long said the transition to US socialism will be much more prolonged and complex. [...] Just like the socialist society we envision - peaceful, humane and democratic – so too must be the path as it will shape every aspect of the new society.


    Marx and Engels foresaw the possibility of peaceful transition particularly under conditions of the democratic or bourgeois republic. [...] Even Lenin initially thought a peaceful transition to workers' and peasants' power in Russia would be possible as a result of the crisis brought on by WWI, but the armed intervention of western imperialist powers changed the course of history.”

    John Bachtell, chairman of CPUSA until 2019 (2014-06-23). "Elections, the state, reform and revolution" Political Affairs.
  2. “Non-violent peaceful resistance is a very important form of struggle.


    It will be what we call a democratic path. One that utilizes the electoral arena but also other democratic venues where we’re constantly trying to expand our right”

    John Bachtell, chairman of CPUSA until 2019 (2018-04-25). "Marxism a vibrant philosophical outlook, says CPUSA leader" CPUSA Blog.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Gaius Gracchus (2024-02-22). "A True Accounting of the CPUSA In Its Members Own Words" The Red Clarion. Archived from the original on 2024-03-01.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Anonymous CPUSA member (2022-07-07). "On the Webbite Tendency in CPUSA" ProleWiki.
  5. Jacob A. Zumoff (2014). The Communist International and US Communism, 1919–1929: 'The Formation of the Communist Party, 1912–21' (pp. 40–44). [PDF] Boston: Global Oriental and Hotei Publishing.
  6. 6.0 6.1 William Z. Foster (1952). History of the Communist Party of the United States: 'The Formation of the Communist Party (1919-1921)'.
  7. William Z. Foster (1952). History of the Communist Party of the United States: 'The Communists and the Capitalist Offensive (1919-1923)'.
  8. 8.0 8.1 William Z. Foster (1952). History of the Communist Party of the United States: 'Building the Party of the New Type (1919-1929)'.
  9. 9.0 9.1 William Z. Foster (1952). History of the Communist Party of the United States: 'The Communist Party and the Great Economic Crisis (1929-1933)'.
  10. Marxists Internet Archive (2009). Communist Party of the United States of America (1919–1946): 'The Communist Party, USA'. [MIA]
  11. William Z. Foster (1952). History of the Communist Party of the United States: 'The Communists in the War (1941-1945)'.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 William Z. Foster (1952). History of the Communist Party of the United States: 'The Communist Party and the "Cold War" (1945-1951)'.
  13. Albert Szymanski (1984). Human Rights in the Soviet Union: 'The Land of the Free' (pp. 175–176). [PDF] London: Zed Books Ltd. ISBN 0862320186 [LG]
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2
    “As for revolutionary Cuba, you say that you support her five demands for safeguarding her independence and sovereignty, but on the other hand you try to impose “international inspection” on her.

    Why don’t these leaders of the CPUSA stop and consider: What is the difference between your present embellishment of U.S. imperialism and Browder’s revisionism?

    if they combat the corrosive influence of the bourgeoisie and the poison of reformism in the working-class movement and eliminate the revisionist influence of the Lovestones and Browders from their ranks”

    "A Comment On The Statement Of The CPUSA" (March 8, 1963). Renmin Ribao.
  15. CPUSA. "Sam Webb"
  16. Communist Party USA (2002-04-26). "Club Educational Study Guide: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" Archived from the original.
  17. Joe Sims (2008-08-05). "Ten Worst and Best Ideas of Marxism" Political Affairs. Archived from the original.
  18. “I was really active in both Obama campaigns. Actually I was his precinct captain for his Senate campaign in Illinois.”

    Hamilton Nolan (2015-08-17). "Mistakes Were Made: A Talk With the Head of the Communist Party USA" Gawker. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  19. John Wojcik And C.J. Atkins (2019-06-25). "U.S. Communists elect new leaders to begin party’s second century" People's World. Archived from the original on 2019-06-26. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  20. Cameron Orr (2016-11-08). "Defeating Trump: A strategy for uniting progressive forces" CPUSA. Archived from the original. Retrieved 2023-12-01.
  21. John Bachtell (2023-09-12). "It includes the Stalin years during Soviet times, e.g. Holomodor." Archived from the original on 2024-03-03. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  22. CPUSA National Commitee (2023-12-11). "A ceasefire is the first step toward peace and liberation" CPUSA. Archived from the original. Retrieved 2023-12-20.
  23. Communist Party of Israel (2023-11-27). "Sexual Violence Perpetrated by Hamas Must be Investigated as Crimes Against Humanity" Maki.
  24. Communist Party of Israel (2023-10-16). "Human Rights Organizations, MK Cassif Raise a Clear Voice Against the Harming of Civilians" Maki. Retrieved 2023-12-20.
  25. Ofer Cassif (2024-06-08). "CP"I" greets the CPUSA's 32nd Convention" CPUSA. Archived from the original on 2024-06-10. Retrieved 2024-06-10.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 30th National Convention (2014). Constitution of the Communist Party of the United States of America.
  27. "Contact". Communist Party USA. Archived from the original on 2022-07-07. Retrieved 2022-08-08.