Arnold Becchetti, CPUSA leader

Arnold Becchetti, former national organization secretary and national treasurer of the Communist Party USA, died suddenly Dec. 27 while visiting family. He was 78 years old.

Arnold Becchetti served as CPUSA national organization secretary from 1974 through 1987, working closely with Gus Hall and Henry Winston. He was national treasurer in the 1990s until he moved to Oakland, Calif., in 1994. At the time of his death he was a member of the CPUSA’s National Committee, and a member of the District Board and District Committee in Northern California.

While a national leader, Arnold traveled extensively for both organizing and educational work. He is widely remembered as a dedicated and skillful teacher with a knack for engaging his students, as well as for his great personal warmth and irrepressible, pun-filled sense of humor.

“We will greatly miss Arnold’s leadership abilities and human warmth,” said CPUSA National Chairman Sam Webb. “For more than three decades he was a national leader of our party. It is a great loss, but we will take inspiration from his example and keep his memory alive.”

Arnold Becchetti was born in Needham, Mass., on Nov. 13, 1925. He grew up in Tampa, Fla., in the midst of the economic and political struggles of the day. He was greatly inspired by his mother, a shop worker, labor and community organizer from an early age, who was a family friend and a devoted defender of the framed labor martyrs Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

His own political life took root in the Progressive Party campaign of 1948, and the associated struggles over integrated audiences in the South for presidential candidate Henry Wallace and the legendary Paul Robeson. Faced with the draft during the Korean war, he elected to serve in the military rather than leave the country, because, he said, he wanted to be able to come home afterward and fight for peace, economic and social justice. He joined the CPUSA in 1961.

An accomplished pianist, Arnold Becchetti performed and taught in the Tampa area and later around Chicago. In the 1960s he and his wife, Marilyn, a cellist, performed to raise funds for peace and civil rights. He enjoyed playing the piano all his life.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s Arnold Becchetti served the Illinois District in several ways before being elected district organizer. Active in many community struggles, he was instrumental in developing the Evanston, Ill., Human Relations Council into a leading force in area civil rights struggles including the equal housing movement. He helped found a Veterans for Peace organization in the ’60s. In 1972 he ran for U.S. senator from Illinois on the Communist Party ticket.

Arnold Becchetti is survived by his wife of 45 years, Marilyn Bechtel, and daughters Linda, Gina (Kevin) and Lisa, as well as his sister Iris, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. A celebration of his life will be held in Oakland on March 21, with details to be announced.