Communist Party USA: 100 years in struggle for peace, democracy, socialism
Scenes and personalities from the Communist Party's 100-year history. | Photos from People's World and CPUSA Archives

One hundred years ago this weekend, on Sept. 1, 1919, 128 women and men, meeting in a hall in Chicago, founded the Communist Party of America. In their founding Manifesto, the members declared:

“The world is on the verge of a new era. Europe is in revolt. The masses of Asia are stirring uneasily. Capitalism is in collapse. The workers of the world are seeing a new life and securing new courage. Out of the night of war is coming a new day…. The class war rages fiercely in all nations. Everywhere the workers are in a desperate struggle against their capitalist masters. The call to action has come. The workers must answer the call!”

For a century, activists of the Communist Party USA have been answering that call—organizing workers to fight for their interests and struggling to win socialism in the United States.

Communists fought for labor and civil rights in historic campaigns of the 1920s and ’30s against the frame-ups of Sacco and Vanzetti and the Scottsboro defendants. The Communist Party helped found the International Labor Defense organization which led these struggles.

It was Communist organizers who helped found and lead many of the most militant unions in U.S. history, especially in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) during the Great Depression.

Communists were among the earliest champions of African-American equality, working with civil rights groups like the NAACP as well as in the National Negro Congress and Southern Negro Youth Congress in the 1930s and ’40s, and later as part of the Civil Rights Congress and the Council on African Affairs in the 1950s.

CPUSA members sacrificed valiantly in the fight against fascism before and during World War II. At least 3,000 party members fought for democracy and against Franco’s fascists in Spain, while an additional 15,000 Communists served with honor in World War II to defeat Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and imperialist Japan.

Check out the special People’s World series on the Communist Party’s centennial: CP100.

During the early days of the Cold War, Communists defended the Bill of Rights and fought against political repression. During the darkest period of McCarthyism, the CP helped win freedom of speech for all Americans, resulting in numerous landmark Supreme Court decisions overturning the unconstitutional attacks by anti-communists in Congress.

Communists helped lead the student free speech movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s and early ’70s. They also spearheaded the campaign to free Angela Davis, Rev. Benjamin Chavis Jr., and all political prisoners, working as part of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR) during that period.

Since it’s founding as the Daily Worker 95 years ago, People’s World has been a partner in all the struggles of the day, bringing partisan, working-class analysis and news coverage. | Al Neal / PW

Working with others to initiate local and national coalitions calling for comprehensive sanctions and freedom for Nelson Mandela, Communists helped spark the anti-apartheid divestment movement in the U.S. against the racist government of South Africa. Communists also helped found the National Anti-Imperialist Movement in Solidarity with South African Liberation (NAIMSAL) in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Later, Communists helped lead the U.S. peace movement during the first years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, participating in United for Peace and Justice and the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition in the 2000s.

That long, proud history carries on today.

Just as it was a century ago, the idea of socialism is again on the minds of millions. The 2020 election is already heating up, and proposals like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal have people talking about alternatives to the capitalist system. A new era of mass resistance to the Trump administration and its corporate backers has galvanized the working class.

The women’s and #MeToo movements, the Movement for Black Lives, the fight for immigrant justice, the youth and student movements, and the increasingly proactive organized labor movement have put people on the move—at the polls, in the streets, on campuses, and in union halls across the nation.

Add all these new developments together and it creates the perfect context to commemorate the centennial of our country’s longest-living socialist organization.

People’s World—since our establishment as the Daily Worker in 1924—has been a partner in all these great battles, bringing partisan working-class analysis to all the events of the day. So on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its founding, the editorial board and staff of People’s World send a very big “Happy Birthday” to the members and activists of the Communist Party USA.

Onward to your next century!


CONTRIBUTOR

People’s World Editorial Board
People’s World Editorial Board

People’s World Editorial Board: Editor-in-Chief John Wojcik, Managing Editor C.J. Atkins, Social Media Editor Chauncey K. Robinson, Senior Editor Roberta Wood, Senior Editor Joe Sims, Copy Editor Eric A. Gordon, Washington D.C. Bureau Chief Mark Gruenberg

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