Chapter Thirty-Five: Persecution of the Communist Party (1948-1951)

35.  Persecution of the Communist Party (1948-1951)

Bill Foster, Ben Davis & Eugene Dennis at the time of their trials.
To outlaw and destroy the Communist Party is another imperative necessity for the capitalists in their attempt to break down working class opposition to their drive for imperialist mastery of the world. For these rulers understand very well, even if many workers and their friends do not, that the Communist Party is indeed the vanguard of the working class, the true party of the people. They realize that the Communist Party has the only basically anti-fascist, anti-war program, and that it is the key fighter for democracy and peace. They have found out in this era of imperialism that only to the extent that there is a strong Communist Party, do the workers and the broad democratic masses have effective leadership. The ruling classes have learned this, on the positive side, from the many solid people's struggles led by the Communist Party and, on the negative side, from the collapse of the trade union leaders, the Socialists, and the liberals (such as Wallace, the New Republic, etc.) in the face of Wall Street's war drive. The monopolists know that the Communist Party is their most fundamental enemy; hence they are trying to wipe it out at any price. All of which is a testimonial to the Communist Party, its clear-sighted program, and its fighting spirit.

The capitalists understand very well that the Communist Party is the greatest defender of democratic rights. That is, if the Party's democratic rights can be abolished, then the whole structure of the people's liberties is undermined. This is a dangerous lesson which American reactionaries learned from Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and other fascist dictators. The Taft-Hartley law, the Smith, Voorhis and McCarran Acts, the Magnusson Act, the loyalty oaths, the attacks upon the Negro people and the foreign-born, are all blood kin to each other. Under cover of the pretended Communist menace, trade unionism, social democracy, academic freedom, and liberalism, are all being assailed. The fight to destroy the Communist Party is the attempt of the warmongers to cut the heart out of trade unionism, to eliminate the Bill of Rights, to advance toward fascism in the United States, and to clear the way for war.


Ever since it was organized in  1919, the Communist Party, as we have seen earlier in these pages, has always been under attack from the government. During World War II, with the Communists militantly supporting the war, this persecution subsided somewhat, but as soon as the war was over the anti-Communist drive was resumed with intensity. Wall Street, launched for world conquest, was doubly resolved to get rid of its most hated enemy, the Communist Party. The main official instruments used for this purpose and for the attack upon all other activities of the progressive forces by the Truman government were the Federal Bureau of Investigation, headed by J. Edgar Hoover, the McCarran Committee in the Senate, and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (the chief of the latter, J. Parnell Thomas, was indicted in November 1948, and later convicted as a common thief).

Among the many arrests in the growing post-war terrorism have been those of the leaders of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, including Dr. Edward K. Barsky, chairman, and a dozen members of the board—Howard Fast, Prof. Lyman Bradley, Dr. Joseph Auslander, Dr. Louis Miller, H. M. Justiz, Mrs. Ruth Leider, James Lustig, M. Magana, Mrs. Marjorie Chodorov, Mrs. Charlotte Stern, and later Mrs. E. G. Fleischman and Helen R. Bryan. They were charged with contempt of Congress and convicted, on June 27, 1947, for refusing to turn over to the reactionary Un-American Committee the names of their contributors and also those of Spanish Republican refugees. They got sentences up to six months in jail and fines of $500.

Another famous contempt-of-Congress case was that of the "Hollywood Ten"—Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk,1 Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Or-nitz, Adrian Scott and Dalton Trumbo. On December 5, 1947, these men, noted progressive motion picture writers and directors, were indicted. They were eventually sentenced to jail sentences of up to a year, with fines up to $1,000, for refusing to tell the Un-American Committee their political beliefs and affiliations. This outrageous case caused world-wide protest.

Other court cases piled up, too numerous to mention. Among them were those of Gerhart Eisler, Leon Joscphson, Carl Marzani, Richard Morford, and George Marshall, charged variously with perjury, contempt, etc. William L. Patterson, noted Negro leader, was charged with contempt of Congress after being called a "black son of a bitch" and threatened with violence at a Senate committee hearing. Some defendants were sentenced to as much as three years, with heavy fines. In Los Angeles and Denver there were cases of some sixteen and seven men and women respectively, charged with contempt before federal grand juries for refusing to disclose their political affiliations  and opinions.

Eugene Dennis, general secretary of the Communist Party, was enmeshed in the net of contempt persecutions spread by the government in an effort to still all opposition to its developing war program. Dennis, formerly a seaman, teamster, and worker in various callings on the Pacific Coast, has always been a militant fighter in the class struggle. Belonging to the Communist Party since 1926 and long a member of its leading district and national committees, he was elected general secretary of the Party on July 17, 1946. 2 The government was especially determined to "get" Dennis. He was summoned to testify before the Un-American Committee on April 9, 1947, but he boldly refused to do so on the ground that the committee was illegal, because it contained the notorious Rankin of Mississippi who was elected in an election in which Negroes were not allowed to vote. Dennis declared that the hearing would constitute an infringement upon his constitutional rights. He was convicted of "contempt of Congress" in June 1947, in the Federal District Court in Washington, D. C, and was sent to jail in New York, on May 12, 1950, to serve a sentence of one year, with a fine of $1,000. 3

On the eve of Dennis' imprisonment Gus Hall, outstanding member of the National Board and chairman of the Ohio State Committee, was elected to head the Party in Dennis' stead, with the title of national secretary.

To intensify the witch-hunting drive against the Communists and other progressive forces, government agencies, without any legal justification or precedents whatever, outrageously began to publish a blacklist of organizations designated as "subversive." The condemned groups were given no previous hearings or trials whatsoever. A few fascist organizations were included among the proscribed bodies for form's sake, but the bulk of the list was on the left. The blacklisted organizations included every conceivable type, and many of them were long since defunct. Relief, defense, fraternal, trade union, educational, veteran, Negro, women's, and youth organizations—all were blasted. Attorney General Tom Clark listed some 160 of such groups during 1947-48, and the Un-American Committee had no less than 608 organizations on its rolls as subversive. This arbitrary proceeding' was an attempt to terrorize the left, particularly the foreign-born workers.

One of the more outrageous aspects of this general attempt to deny the workers the right to organize is the government's effort to destroy the International Workers Order. This broadly progressive fraternal body, with a present membership of about 165,000, of varied political opinions, was founded in 1930 by 5,000 workers who had split from the Social-Democratic Workmen's Circle. The I.W.O. has strictly adhered to the state insurance laws, under which it is incorporated, and it has been of great economic value to its members, but it is nevertheless attacked as subversive.

The major united front organizations defending the people's democratic rights during this period were the Civil Rights Congress, with William L. Patterson as secretary, and the American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, with Abner Green as secretary. Among these defense cases were hundreds of workers arbitrarily threatened with deportation.


On July 20, 1948, twelve members of the National Board of the Communist Party were arrested and indicted for violation of the Alien Registration law of 1940, the Smith Act. They were William Z. Foster, national chairman; Eugene Dennis, general secretary; Henry Winston, organization secretary; John B. Williamson, labor secretary; Jacob Stachel, education secretary; Robert G. Thompson, chairman of the New York District; Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., New York City Councilman; John Gates, editor of the Daily Worker; Irving Potash, manager of the Joint Council, Fur Workers Union; Gilbert Green, chairman of the Illinois District; Carl Winter, chairman of the Michigan District; and Gus Hall, chairman of the Ohio District. Foster's case was later separated from the others because of a heart ailment; four leading New York physicians, appointed by the court, affirming that to submit him to a long trial would hazard his life.

The Board members were charged by the Federal Grand Jury: "That from on or about April 1, 1945, and continuously thereafter up to and including the date of the filing of this indictment, in the Southern District of New York, and elsewhere [names of 12 defendants], the defendants herein, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly, did conspire with each other, and with divers other persons to the Grand Jurors unknown, to organize as the Communist Party of the United States of America, a society, group, and assembly of persons who teach and advocate the overthrow and destruction of the Government of the United States by force and violence, and knowingly and willfully to advocate and teach the duty and necessity of overthrowing and destroying the Government of the United States by force and violence, which said acts are prohibited by Section 2 of the Act of June 28, 1940 (Section 10, Title 18, United States Code), commonly known as the Smith Act." They were also charged with liquidating the Communist Political Association on or about June 2, 1945, and of "organizing as the Communist Party of the United States." There were second indictments, charging the defendants with membership in the Communist Party.

The trial of these leading Communists took place in the Foley Square Federal Courthouse, before Federal Judge Harold R. Medina. The chief prosecutor was John F. X. McGohey, and the attorneys for the defense were George Crockett, a Negro attorney from Michigan; Abraham J. Isserman of New York; Louis McCabe of Pennsylvania; Richard Glad-stein of California, and Harry Sacher of New York. Eugene Dennis acted as his own counsel. The trial began on January 17, 1949, and lasted until October 14th of the same year, the longest "criminal" trial in American history.


The trial of the eleven Communist leaders was not a trial in a civil or criminal sense. It was a political attack by the government upon the Communist Party, aided by the Court. The whole proceeding was organized upon this basis. There was neither law nor justice in it, in the accepted meaning of these terms. The affair had the form of a trial, but this was only a thin facade to provide a sort of democratic cover to facilitate the railroading of the Communist leaders to jail and the breaking up of their Party. It was only a mockery of a trial. It was another flagrant example in the long list of labor frame-ups, of capitalist "class justice" meted out to the working class. All the trappings of the trial fitted into this general picture of the arbitrary political condemnation of a Party, under the mask of democratically "trying" its leaders.

The Smith Act, under which the defendants were tried, clearly violates the Constitution of the United States by abolishing the rights of free speech, free press, and free assembly. It is fascist thought-control legislation. The law is also unconstitutional in that it is a bill of attainder, which is legislation directed against a specified group of persons, in this case the Communist Party.4 Its like has not been seen in the United States since the hated Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798. But then, any stick would do to beat the Communist Party.5

The court proceedings were also flagrantly unconstitutional in that they denied the defendants the right of trial by jury. The twelve men and women who acted as jurors in the Communist case were a group of hand-picked middle and upper class citizens, a so-called "blue ribbon" jury. Although New York is largely a proletarian city, not one manual worker managed to get on the Grand Jury which indicted the Communist leaders, nor on the jury which tried them. Besides the hostile class composition of the jury, one juror even publicly stated his prejudice against the defendants, an action which should have resulted in a mistrial, but did not.

Judge Medina, himself a millionaire landlord and corporation lawyer, as well as a violent redbaiter, was an organic part of the government's trial-offensive against the Communist Party. Violating his judicial role, Medina worked hand in glove with the prosecution and lost no opportunity to help the government put in its case and to cripple that of the defense. Then he hypocritically cried out endlessly through the newspapers that he was being abused by the defendants and their attorneys.6

The capitalist press also did its share to further the political persecution of the Communist defendants. It totally distorted the facts of the trial and used every means to inflame the public against the defendants and to intimidate the jury. Among the results of the widespread redbaiting at the time was the infamous Peekskill, New York, riot of September 4, 1949, in which gangs of fascist-minded ruffians attacked a Paul Robeson concert meeting of 15,000 people.

Significantly, the indictments of the eleven leaders were initiated at the beginning of the 1948 presidential election campaign. This special timing was caused by the need of President Truman, the Democratic candidate, to have as an election issue the fact that he was prosecuting the Communist Party.

Under these circumstances of an organized government frame-up, a verdict of guilty was a foregone conclusion. The government's anti-Communist offensive could have been forestalled only by a broad mass democratic counteroffensive, which could have brought the true issues of the trial to the public and thus protected the legal rights of the defendants. This democratic offensive, however, in the prevailing conditions of "cold war" and redbaiting hysteria, did not emerge in sufficient strength.


The trial began on January 17, 1949, and the first two months of it consisted of a determined effort by the defense, with Doxey Wilkerson many days on the stand, to knock out the discriminatory jury system. Some time previously, while practicing before the bar as a lawyer, Judge Medina had attacked this "blue ribbon" type of jury. But when the issue was placed squarely before him in the trial of the eleven Communists, he promptly swallowed all his former arguments and declared the system to be fully just and legal.7

The government began putting in its case on March 21st. The indictment did not charge the defendants with committing overt acts, or with conspiring to commit any such. They were accused of "conspiring to teach and advocate" the violent overthrow of the government. The issue, therefore, was one of speech and thought-control. Under this indictment, which Judge Medina, as a definite part of the prosecution, duly held to be constitutional, Jefferson, Paine, and Lincoln all could have been jailed for their revolutionary utterances, not to speak of their deeds. The American capitalist class, having come to power by its own revolutions, very violent ones, would bar the revolutionary path of the proletariat and make its own social system sacrosanct, above all basic criticism.

The prosecution could produce no examples of the advocacy of force and violence by American Communist leaders, except for the obviously lying statements of its stoolpigeons; so to "prove" its case it read lengthy extracts from The Communist Manifesto, State and Revolution, Problems of Leninism, History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and other Marxist classics dealing with the Socialist revolution. The trial was an American version of the Nazi book burning. All these works, as every serious student knows, put the question of violence in the class struggle in the true sense that it is the bourgeoisie that originates this violence. That is, in the face of a working class backed by the majority of the nation and resolved upon establishing socialism, the ruling capitalists always undertake to crush the movement by armed force, to which the revolutionary workers necessarily reply in self-defense, no matter how peaceful their intentions are. This is what Marx, Lenin, and other Communist theoreticians have in mind when they speak of the workers' overthrow of the capitalist state. The substance of what Marxist writers and speakers have to say on the matter of violence is to point out what history teaches regarding violence and to warn the workers what to expect when the class struggle finally comes to its crisis.

This scientific analysis the prosecution tried to torture into an advocacy of force and violence. The small Communist Party was pictured as a "clear and present danger" to American imperialism. To put in its manufactured case, the government called to the stand, not a number of "experts" who might have built up a complex theoretical sophistry, but collection of renegade Communists, labor detectives, strikebreakers, professional informers, and outright criminals. These witnesses included such as L. Budenz, J. V. Blanc, W. Cummings, W. O. Nowell, C. Nicodemus, H. Philbrick, G. Herron, and others.8 They knew nothing of Marxism-Leninism. Nor did they have to. All that was required of them was to declare, without proof or analysis, that the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin constitute an advocacy of force and violence. What the state's witnesses lacked in theoretical knowledge, they made up by perjury.

All this trash was quite sufficient for Judge Medina, who carefully shielded the state's witnesses from embarrassing cross-examination, and who also used every device to enable the government to wangle in its distorted picture of Communist policy.9 The prosecutor, judge, and state's witnesses were also unsparing in their praise of Browder and Browderism, as representing the type of "communism" with which they could agree. The renegade Budenz was the star government stoolpigeon. This man, formerly known in the Communist Party for his blistering articles against the Vatican,10 posed on the stand as a devout Catholic (strictly of the rice variety). He insolently tried to sweep away all the Party's militant defense of democracy in theory and practice as only so much pretense, as mere "Aesopian language." According to Budenz, when Communists say "peace" they mean "war," when they say "democracy" they mean "tyranny," etc. He also had the gall to state that the very term "Marxism-Leninism" in itself constituted a secret advocacy of force and violence. The cynicism of all this is emphasized when it is realized that no political movement in the world is even remotely as careful as the Communist Party to state precisely what its analysis and policy mean in all its theoretical documents and public statements. Budenz's mum-bo-jumbo was followed by endless perjury from other state witnesses, who lyingly declared that they had heard Party leaders, in conspiratorial meetings, declare that Marxism-Leninism consists of an advocacy of force and violence and that they were only awaiting "the day" in order to put this into effect. 11

Thus the American government, producing as witnesses at its trial politically illiterate and corrupted stoolpigeons, spies, renegades, and other nondescripts, put in its case against the Communist Party. Its whole presentation was strictly on a gutter level. But the bourgeois press, reveling in redbaiting, hailed the whole sorry mess of brazen perjury, political imbecility, and factual distortion as a masterful defense of the "American way of life." The government rested its case on May 18th.


The Party replied to this barrage of slander, misrepresentation, and redbaiting by making an offensive against the government and its contemptible frame-up. The main line of the Party's case is to be found in the opening and closing statements of Eugene Dennis,12 in the testimony of Gates, Green, Davis, Thompson, Winter, and Winston, and in the deposition of Foster.13 Paul Robeson, Simon Gerson, Alan Max, Joseph Staro-bin, Abner W. Berry, A. Krchmarek, and several others also testified.

The Party put in its case in the face of constant opposition by Judge Medina, who tried by every device to prevent the Party from making a rounded-out presentation of its policy and activities. Medina constantly badgered the Party witnesses, actually jailing Gates, Green, Winston, Hall, and Winter for terms up to six months during the trial, for alleged contempt of court. He also bullied the defense attorneys and wound up at the end of the trial by sentencing all of them to jail for from one to six months apiece for contempt, and also moving against them for their disbarment and the loss of their profession. Georgi Dimitrov had a much fairer trial before the Nazi tribunal at Leipzig, not to speak of getting an acquittal.

The Party's spokesmen in court explained, in the face of strong resistance from both judge and prosecutor, the war and fascist content of the trial. They showed that the whole process was part and parcel of the drive to get the United States into war and to force it more completely under the domination of big business. They demonstrated, too, that if it were possible to condemn as criminal the Communist Party, the most resolute fighter for world peace, then the way would be open to silence the whole labor and liberal movement. The Communists were being attacked first; the other democratic organizations would follow in turn.

The Party witnesses developed, as best they could in the face of the judge's opposition, the day-to-day policies of the Party. They traced the generation-long fight of the Communists for improved wage and living conditions for the workers, for the rights of the Negro people, for protection of tire foreign-born, for the rights of women and youth, for the adoption of progressive legislation of all sorts, and against fascism and war. Medina ceaselessly hammered his gavel at all this, being particularly anxious to prevent the real nature of the Communist Party and its program from being brought out before the jury and the public. About half of the defense's time was consumed in fights to get into evidence vital phases of the Party's program.

The Party made a militant defense of the democratic rights of the people, so gravely threatened in this fascist-like trial. Its witnesses defended the Bill of Rights and demonstrated that the attack of the government upon the Party, if successful, would undermine all guarantee of popular rights. In this broad democratic sphere the Party also defended the people's right of revolution, twice practiced by the American people —in 1776 and 1861—and long advocated unchallenged on the public forum and in the press.

The Party's witnesses also shattered the government's contention that the Communists teach and advocate the violent overthrow of the United States Government. They made a theoretical review of everything that leading Communist writers have said on the question of force and violence, and they also analyzed the experience of the workers in all countries where proletarian-led revolutions have taken place. They showed that the sources of violence in the class struggle are the big monopolists, even as these elements are the instigators and organizers of imperialist war. In doing this, the Party's witnesses demonstrated clearly that the Communists, far from being the teachers and advocates of violence, are precisely the greatest champions of peace and democracy. They are the historical leaders of the masses in restraining and defeating capitalist violence and in putting an end, once and forever, to the centuries-long stream of capitalist civil and international wars.

As to the immediate attitude of the Party toward the American Government, the Communist witnesses cited, as a typical example, the Party's policy in the recent presidential elections. Eugene Dennis said in his summary speech to the jury: "We did not advocate the forcible overthrow of the United States Government headed by President Truman. We did advocate its defeat at the polls in 1948." Foster and others outlined the course of the workers' struggle for socialism, through a people's front government and a people's democracy.

The Party's witnesses completely demolished, in the field of theory and practice, the absurd contention of the government prosecution that, because of the similarity of the American Communist Party's policies for international peace with those of the Soviet Union, it therefore takes orders from the latter. They showed by innumerable examples how the Party formulates its own policies on the basis of developing events. There was nothing unusual in the fact, they contended, that Communists in all countries, having a common theoretical background of Marxism. Leninism, should arrive at similar or identical analyses. This trend is true they showed, not only of Communists, but of all other international ideological groups. Another major factor making for the unity of Communist policy, they pointed out, is that the various parties naturally learn from each other's experience. Thus the American Communist Party learned immensely from the historic Russian Revolution, from the pre-war people's fronts in France and Spain, from the Spanish Civil War, from the People's Democracies in Eastern Europe, from the great Chinese Revolution, from all the daily and revolutionary struggles of the masses everywhere. The significance of the capitalists' attempt to characterize all Communist parties and revolutionary mass movements as Russian "plots" and "fifth columns," it was made clear, is that the former dare not look in the face the basic modern reality of their dying capitalist system and the rising new socialism.

The Party's shattering refutation of the government's indictment, however, was altogether unavailing. The hand-picked, rubber-stamp jury did what it was organized to do, and on October 14th, after only a brief deliberation, it brought in a verdict of guilty against all the defendants. Thereupon Judge Medina, in his savage hatred of the Communist Party, sentenced the eleven defendants, save Robert Thompson, to terms of five years in the penitentiary and fines of $10,000 each. Thompson, a holder of the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery in the Pacific area during World War II, was condemned to three years. The United States had taken another long stride toward fascism and war.


On August 1, 1950, the verdict and sentences against the eleven Communist leaders were upheld in the Second Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. And on June 4, 1951, they were affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, by 3 vote of six to two. Chief Justice Vinson headed the majority, Justices Black and Douglas dissented, and Justice Clark disqualified himself. In October 1951, the Supreme Court refused to reconsider its decision.

During World War II, under the pressure of the people's fight against fascism, and at a time when the ruling class felt it necessary to make at least a show of protecting civil liberties, the Supreme Court had ruled rationally regarding the Communist Party. Thus, in the Schneiderman case of 1942 (see Chapter 27), the Supreme Court correctly said that it was a tenable conclusion that the Party "desired to achieve its purpose by peaceful and democratic means, and as a theoretical matter justified the use of force and violence only as a method of preventing an attempted forcible counter-overthrow once the Party had obtained control in a peaceful manner, or as a method of last resort to enforce the majority will if at some indefinite future time because of peculiar circumstances constitutional or peaceful channels were no longer open." And in the Bridges case in 1945, the Supreme Court similarly ruled that "not the slightest evidence was introduced to show that . . . the Communist Party seriously and imminently threatens to uproot the Government by force or violence"—although the prosecution had brought in bushels of the usual "proofs" of such a threat.

But in these present days of feverish war preparations the Supreme Court, discarding its erstwhile "liberal" sentiments and abandoning its elaborate pose of being "above the battle," came a-running, like every other capitalist institution in the country, to do the bidding of the fascist-minded Wall Street warmongers by condemning the Communists. Its decision was political, not juridical, even as were those of the lower courts. The high court's ruling was a triple-phased lie: first, that the Communist defendants "had conspired to teach and advocate the overthrow of the United States Government by force and violence"; second, that the "petitioners intended to overthrow the Government of the United States as speedily as the circumstances would permit"; and third, that "their conspiracy to organize the Communist Party and to teach and advocate the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force and violence created 'a clear and present danger' of an attempt to overthrow the Government by force and violence."

The Supreme Court arrived at this outrageous decision by refusing even to consider the perjured testimony of the prosecution's witnesses, the rigged jury system, and the prejudiced rulings of Judge Medina, by disemboweling the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and by torturing, twisting, and virtually annulling Justice Holmes's doctrine of "a clear and present danger." It simply assumed that the Communist Party advocated force and violence, without weighing the evidence one way or the other. On this arbitrary basis the Supreme Court declared the Smith Act constitutional and affirmed the conviction of the eleven Communist leaders.

This reactionary nonsense was too much for Supreme Court Justices Black and Douglas. Justice Black declared that the decision had so watered down the First Amendment, "the keystone of our government," that it amounts to little more than an admonition to Congress." And Justice Douglas, pointing out that the decision crippled free speech, scoffed at the silly conclusion of the august Supreme Court that the propaganda of  the comparatively small Communist Party constitutes "a clear and present danger" of a violent revolution in the United States Undermining the Bill of Rights, the Supreme Court decision dealt a body blow to popular liberty in this country. It evoked widespread popular resentment; newspapers, trade unions, Negro organizations women's clubs, educators, lawyers, and others speaking out in condcmna-tion. Notably silent in this democratic protest, however, were the top leaders of organized labor, who should have led the fight. These elements, themselves rabidly imperialist, look upon the government's attacks upon democracy much as the capitalists do, as necessary for carrying through the war program. At most they content themselves with a few futile grumbles, "for the record," and then let the infamous measures go into effect without a real fight.

On July 2, 1951, the Communist leaders started serving their sentence; that is, all except Thompson, Hall, Winston, and Green, who did not show up in court when called to go to jail. In October, Hall was arrested in Mexico, kidnaped back across the border without any legal formality, and was given an additional sentence of three years in jail. The prisoners were scattered in various penitentiaries—Atlanta, Lewisburg, Leavenworth, Terre Haute, Danbury—"to keep them from conspiring together." Following this raw undermining of American democracy, Judge Medina and Prosecutor McGohey were both promoted to higher posts in the federal judicial hierarchy. Meanwhile, as "democratic" America was being discredited by these disgraceful proceedings, the people of Australia, in September 1951, defeated by national referendum a law aimed at outlawing the Communist Party.


The final conviction of the eleven top Communist Party leaders was immediately followed by further arrests: on June 20, 1951, in New York —Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Claudia Jones, Pettis Perry, Israel Amter, Betty Gannett, Alexander Bittelman, Alexander Trachtenberg, Simon W. Gerson, V. J. Jerome, Albert Lannon, William Weinstone, Marion Bachrach, Louis Weinstock, George B. Charney, Isidore Begun, Jacob Mindel, and Arnold Johnson (four others were indicted with this group, —who did not appear in court—Fred Fine, Sid Stein, James Jackson and William Norman); on July 26th, in California-Al Richmond, P. M-Connelly, William Schneiderman, Rose Chernin, Dorothy R. Healey. H. Steinberg, E. O. Fox, R. Lambert, A. J. Lima, Oleta O'Connor Yates, Loretta S. Stack, and Bernadette Doyle; on August 8th in Maryland-R. Wood, G. Meyers, Maurice Braverman, Philip Frankfeld, Dorothy M. Blumberg, and Regina Frankfeld; on August 17th, in Western Pennsylvania—Andrew Onda, James H. Dolsen, Benjamin Carreathers, Steve Nelson, William Albertson, and I. Weissman; on August 28th in Hawaii t W. Hall, C. K. Fugimoto, Eileen T. Fugimoto, K. Oryoshi, D. J. Freeman, J. D. Kimoto, and Dr. J. E. Reinecki; on August 31st, in California— F. Carlson, B. Dobbs, and Frank Spector. Meanwhile, Frederick V. Fields, Dashiell Hammett, Alphaeus Hunton, and Abner Green, trustees of the bail fund of the Civil Rights Congress, were thrown into jail for contempt of court because they refused to furnish names of contributors to the bail fund to federal inquisitors. In November 1951 came the trial of Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, the noted, 83-year-old scholar, Kyrle Elkin, Abbott Simon, Sylvia Soloff, and Elizabeth Moos, charged with failing to register as "foreign agents" because, in the Peace Information Center, they had circulated pledges for peace. It was so outrageous that the trial judge threw the case out of court. The F.B.I, announced that all these arrests were only the beginning, as it had 43,000 Communists under surveillance for early arrest, and also that half a million Party supporters would be thrown into concentration camps in case of war.

As this book goes to press Comrades Onda, Nelson, and Dolsen have been convicted of sedition in Pittsburgh, and trials under the Smith Act are either going on or immediately scheduled in New York, California, Maryland, and Hawaii.


Another line of attack on the Communist Party, under the growing police state, is through the infamous McCarran Act. This law was enacted by Congress on September 23, 1950. The demagogue Truman, tongue in cheek, vetoed the bill, but made no fight to have it defeated in Congress. Akin to the Alien and Sedition Acts of a century and a half ago, the McCarran Act condemns communism as an international conspiracy and Communists as foreign agents, and it also establishes the reactionary principle of "guilt by association." The law requires the registration of the officers and members of all "Communist Action" organizations, i.e., the Communist Party, under the control of the new Subversive Activities Control Board. Such registration, amounting to an admission of criminal guilt, would immediately expose the registrees to prosecution under the Smith Act, which has virtually made Communist belief a crime punishable by ferocious penalties. The McCarran Act also permits the Department of Justice to dominate the activities of non-citizens and arbitrarily to deport them. To climax its many ultra-reactionary features, this law also provides that in case of "a declaration of war," of "invasions," or of "insurrections," the authorities may throw into concentration camps, without previous trials, all those whom they may deem "subversives"-that is, the Communists and other protestors against war. For this pur-pose the government is now busily constructing concentration camps.14

The McCarran Act also requires registration of the officers of what it designates as "Communist Front" organizations. These are progressive mass organizations of various types. For over a century the workers and other progressives have followed the practice of setting up united front committees and mass organizations for supporting or fighting against various causes, such as Negro emancipation, Negro civil liberties, women's suffrage, anti-labor injunctions, child labor, lynching, poll tax, fascism, peace, strike relief, labor defense, etc. The Communists, with tiieir united front policy, support and participate in all such movements. But now the government cracks down upon all these movements displaying a militant spirit, denounces them as especially sinister, bans them as subversive organizations, and, under the McCarran Act, provides that their officials, under pain of long jail sentences, shall register as criminals and traitors.

The Communist Party and individual Communists all over the country have refused to register under the McCarran Act, as have the officers of various united front organizations, on the ground that the law does not apply to them. Under the terms of this law Attorney General J. Howard McGrath on November 22, 1950, therefore, called upon the Control Board to force the Party and its members to register. As things stand at present writing, the Communist Party has been hailed before this inquisitorial board, and since April 23, 1951, it has been fighting there against registration and the other barbarous features of this law. Its attorneys are Vito Marcantonio and John Abt. To rig up the hearings, the government has as witnesses Gitlow, Zack, and the usual string of professional stoolpigeons. The McCarran police-state law has been condemned by virtually the entire labor movement, as well as by a myriad of liberal groups and individuals. As usual, however, the protests of the top union leaders are little more than formal, without any real weight in them.

Pro-war liberals and Social-Democrats, however, share a large part of the responsibility for the adoption of these infamous fascist-like laws and practices. Morris L. Ernst ardently pioneered for registration of Communists by the government; Norman Thomas publicly supported the proposal of concentration camps for Communists; and Senator Humphrey, with a special Senate subcommittee, is setting out in Dies-Rankin fashion to purge the progressive independent unions of left wingers or to break them up.


The purpose of such barbarous legislation as the Smith and McCarran Acts is to illegalize the Communist Party and to destroy it, as part of the broader plot to destroy democracy in general. These laws are the culmination of a long series of assaults upon the Communist Party and its individual members by the government. This general and developing attack has come to a climax as American imperialism steps up its fascist-war drive for world conquest.

For many years past Communists have been treated as second-class citizens and denied fundamental rights of citizenship because of their political opinions. Now this trend has become even more intensified. Many A.F. of L. unions, since far back in the 1920's, have denied Communists the basic right to hold membership in them, and some C.I.O. unions also have the same undemocratic regulations. According to the Taft-Hartley law, Communists, in effect, are also denied the right to hold office in trade unions. Under various thought-control loyalty tests Communists are prohibited, with savage penalties, from working in government employ or in "defense" plants, which means practically all important industry. Such legislation as the Feinberg law of New York State bars Communists from  the teaching profession. Communists  are  also often denied the right to place their names on the ballot during election times, and are notoriously discriminated against in securing living quarters, in hiring meeting halls, and the like. They are also being treated with prejudice in the armed services, and the government denies them passports with which to travel. And now under the existing legislation, Communists are classed as criminals, kangarooed into jail, and may be arbitrarily thrown wholesale into concentration camps. In the face of this sinister development, the Party is resolute in its efforts to maintain a legal existence.

The government's attack against the Communist Party confronts it with many urgent tasks. It must learn how, under increasingly difficult conditions, to develop its united front policy in the broad peace movement, in the economic struggle, in the fight of the Negro people, and in the growing mass movement against the Smith Act and other phases of fascist development. Especially the Party will have to become skilled in defending its members and organizations, and it must intensify its vigilance to protect itself from provocateurs and stoolpigeons.15 As never before, the Party must vigorously practice self-criticism and fight every manifestation of bureaucracy. The Party must also be keenly aware of liquidationist dangers, from both right and left. Above all, the Party must strengthen its grasp of Marxism-Leninism. And whatever the difficulties, the Party must persevere in its tireless efforts to win and maintain a completely open existence.

Those who think the Communist Party will fold up or perish under the present government persecution would do well to reread their American history. In colonial days, the Quakers, Catholics, and other sects defied the attempts of bigots to destroy them. The patriotic Committees of Correspondence, prior to and during the American Revolution of 1776, were declared illegal by the tory British, but they nevertheless carried their just cause to ultimate victory. The pre-Civil War Abolition movement, too, fighting in the great cause of Negro emancipation, carried on its agitation and its heroic Underground Railroad in the face of violent legal and extra-legal persecution—until its struggle triumphed. The trade union movement also fought for a century, courageously and eventually successfully, to establish itself, notwithstanding endlessly hostile employers, courts, and government. In the early years of the Republic strikes were outlawed, the labor unions were condemned in the courts as "conspiracies," and their members were thrown into jail.16 Even as late as the advent of the C.I.O., in many open shop industries in this country the trade unions functioned virtually as an underground movement.

The Communist Party represents an even greater cause than any of the foregoing—namely, its defense of world peace, democracy, the people's well-being, and, eventually, socialism. And if it should be forced underground, it will be worthy of these American democratic traditions. But it will never abandon its fight for the fullest democratic rights for itself and the masses. The present government attacks cannot destroy the Communist Party. The Party represents far too fundamental a movement and program to be disposed of by this brutality. The need for Communist leadership in the workers' daily struggles is imperative, and socialism, which is historically destined to supersede capitalism, is inevitable. Indestructible, too, is the political organization of socialism, the Communist Party.

It is not at all new in Communist world experience for the Communist Party to be forced underground through the desperation tactics of dying capitalism, which systematically denies to Communists all constitutional guarantees of speech, press, assembly, political action, and even liberty. The Communist parties in tsarist Russia, China, France, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Japan, Hungary, Bulgaria, Brazil, Cuba, Canada, Venezuela, Chile, the Philippines, and many other countries, have all had this experience. The C.P.U.S.A. also Ld its "underground" period during its founding years, 191941. Everywhere, however, the general result has been the same: The hardships of such an existence have steeled the parties and cleansed them of opportunists and fair-weather sailors. The consequence has been that, finally emerging from underground, they were more powerful than ever The Communist Party's present experience in the United States will not result differently, if in spite of its battle for an open existence, it should be driven "underground."

1 Dmytryk later became a turncoat.
2 Political Affairs, Sept. 1946.
3 See Labor Research Association, Labor Fact Books 9 and 10, for details on labor defense cases.
4 This law was first used to prosecute the Trotskyites during the war. They were charged with overt acts. For the Party's stand against the Smith Act in this case see Milton Howard in Daily Worker, Aug. 16, 1940.
5 For briefs on the unconstitutionality of the Smith Act, see Political Affairs, Sept. 1948.
6 Joseph North, Verdict Against Freedom, N. Y., 1949.
7 Civil Rights Congress, Censored, pp. 8-14, N. Y., 1950.
8 Civil Rights Congress, Censored, pp. 8-14.
9 George Marion, The Communist Trial, N. Y., 1950.
10 Louis Budenz in The Communist, May 1940.
11 Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, The Plot to Gag America, N. Y., 1950.
12 Eugene Dennis, Ideas They Cannot Jail, N. Y., 1950.
13 William Z. Foster, In Defense of the Communist Party and Its Leaders.
14 New York Herald Tribune, Jan. 3, 1952.
15 Gilbert Green in Political Affairs, May 1950; John Gates, Report to Fifteenth Convention, C.P.U.SA., Dec. 1950.
16 Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the U.S., p. 73.

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