Communism in America


Devorah Segura, Reporter

In the United States, Communism has had a negative reputation, largely rejected among political spaces. However, many fail to realize that ideals and functions of both Communism and Socialism are used in everyday life, becoming ingrained in our foundations — despite how propaganda has aided in turning the two ideologies into enemies.


With Communism’s primary goal of bringing equality to the people, it has started to become a system favored by man during this era of social justice. However, this is not the first or second time that the US has had Communism as a center topic. 


What is Communism? 

The term “Communism” can refer to many different political ideologies and parties; however, at its core, Communism is the theory of economic equality through the elimination of  socio-economic classes and private property. The beliefs behind Communism were coined by Karl Marx, who largely believed that suffering and inequality stemmed from Capitalism. 


Under Capitalism, private businesses and corporations own all factories, equipment, and resources known as the means of production. These owners, according to the Communist doctrine, then exploit workers who are forced to sell their labor for wages.


According to the ideals of Communism, the working class, or proletariat, must rise up against the Capitalist owners, or bourgeoisie, and institute a new society with no private property, no economic classes and no profits. The end goal? To live in a classless and stateless society where, ideally, no person is beneath another. 


Communist equality does not mean everybody getting exactly the same thing, but rather, everybody getting what they need to fulfill their physical, mental, emotional, and social needs. Whereas in Capitalism, the individual is often taken advantage of for labor, whilst barely being able to sustain their livelihood, leading to further economic disparities. This makes Communism, at its core, justice and liberation for the people of society: the liberation of the proletariat.


Communism in United States history

A couple of years after the 1917 October Revolution, which led to the rise of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party U.S.A  was founded and popularized from decades of local organizing. Many of its members were from the Socialist Party, labor movements, and even anarchist activists. As calls for civil rights intensified, the party also found a base amongst African-Americans when Communists proved to take on their struggles for self-determination. 


Concurrently, the Red Scare of the 1920s emerged, which crushed American Communism, spurred purges, blacklisted suspects, and deported accused party affiliates, with some cases even leading to high profile executions. Many party members, and other political activists were tried under the McCarran and Smith Acts, which required the registration of Communist organizations as “un-American.” U.S Attorney General Mitchell Palmer, led a task force to find such members with little evidence, and often held them in custody without access to lawyers or knowledge of their charges, evidently deporting them on a Buford Ship dubbed the “Soviets Ark.”


The party gained loyalty from spectators and sparked calls for change, beyond the ideals of Marx. Communist led campaigns that ran against police brutality, the practice of lynching, and Jim Crow laws made their politics and ideologies relevant to the lives of ordinary people who were affected by the state of society. On soapboxes in the streets of Harlem, as well as on plots of sharecropped land in Alabama, Communist organizing addressed the grievances of black people which had long been overlooked. 


As the country fell into economic turmoil during the Great Depression, the Communist party took on fights beyond better wages and working conditions. They contested against landlords and evictions as well as the abuse prisoners endured under the criminal justice system. They began legal defense, representing cases like that of the Scottsboro Boys, where nine black teenagers were falsely accused of rape in 1941, receiving help from the International Labor Defense, a legal branch of the Communist Party U.S.A. 


Fighting oppression has always been central to Marxist theory and practice. Marxists have never counterposed working-class unity to fighting against racism. On the contrary, the fight against all forms of oppression is an indispensable condition for that unity.


Issues surrounding exploitative labor were combated with the creation of the Congress of Industrial Organization in the 1940s. Communist-led unions were consistently the leaders on racial and gender equality action and progressive movements in the United States, making a lot of Communist sub organizations prioritize issues concerning people of color and the working class. However, at times, this clashed with the plans of white male members, who occasionally, went on strike against the inclusion of  Black union members and the aid that they were provided.


With the rise of the “Second Red Scare” in the 1940s and 50s, Senator Joseph McCarthy began to spew accusations of people being Communists, which led to arrests on the premise of subversion and treason without proper regard for evidence. This became commonly known as “McCarthyism.” Later, McCarthyism was highly scrutinized by social justice and human rights leaders due to the lack of evidence and human consideration when these accusations were made. 


The Communist Party U.S.A. had its greatest successes as the country reeled from the Great Depression. Today, as the U.S is still picking its way out of the ruins of the 2008 market crash, left-wing ideas have gained ground, especially now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the depths of wealth inequality.


Communist Ideas Today 

Many leftist ideals have become popularized in the United States, like universal healthcare and free education. However, many people don’t realize that these ideas stem from Marx’s work based on Communism.


Many services, such as public education, universal healthcare, and even the stimulus checks that Americans received stem from Communism, making it a system with roots in equality that other systems may neglect.


The Green New Deal proposed by U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, highlights Communism party support for:

  • The civil rights and anti-war movements.
  • For battles against police abuse and mass incarceration. 
  • For drastic action to combat climate change. 

This shows how Communism, even historically, has been for the benefit of the people.


Action and radicalization are the two main principles of leftist activism in society, as seen recently with what may be the largest protest movement in America. These protests have provided an outlet for frustration with the economic downfall and mounting death toll, leaving communities of color and the working-class devastated. Crisis and discontent are two necessary ingredients for radical change, which is the founding principle for Communism.