From the People’s World archives: W.E.B. DuBois joins the Communist Party
W.E.B. DuBois letter applying for membership in the Communist Party and Gus Hall's response to him were made public for the first time in the pages of 'The Worker' newspaper on Nov. 26, 1961. | People's World Archives

Editor’s Note: Dr. William E. Burghardt DuBois was born Feb. 23, 1868. Near the end of his life, in 1961, he applied for membership in the Communist Party USA. His letter, and the response from Gus Hall, leader of the party at that time, were published for the first time in the pages of The Worker, predecessor of People’s World. From our archives, we present here the original article on DuBois joining the party from Worker editor James E. Jackson and both letters. The terminology in use at the time has been preserved for historical purposes.

W.E.B. DuBois to Gus Hall: “Communism Will Triumph. I Want to Help Bring That Day.”
By James E. Jackson, Editor
Nov. 26, 1961

William E. Burghardt DuBois has applied for membership in the Communist Party of the U.S.A. Dr. DuBois is the father of the modern Negro liberation movement, a pioneer organizer and inspirer of the independence struggles of the African peoples against colonialism, and an honored world figure in the cause of peace and friendship between the nations.

This titan of our times has authored scores of books in the fields of the social sciences, literature, and history, which have become a part of the intellectual and cultural treasure of our age.

Dr. DuBois, this great fighter in the cause of human progress and the emancipation of man from tyranny, ignorance, and poverty, has stepped into the breach that the ultra-reactionaries have opened in the wall of the people’s democratic rights.

Not only is Dr. DuBois’s action in making public application for membership in the Communist Party a political testament to the unassailable dominance and the power of attraction of the Marxist-Leninist science of society, not only is it an historically important judgment of the main direction in which human history moves—that is, toward communism and away from capitalism—but it also constitutes an indictment of the little men in authority who would rob the people of our nation of their hard-won, and still to be realized, democratic rights as vouchsafed in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

DuBois’s principled act is a blow against the McCarran Act and the mounting attacks on the Communists and their Party.

Dr. DuBois, at 93, standing upon the summit of great works performed in the cause of humanity’s advancement, raises aloft the banner of Marxism-Leninism and points to mankind’s golden tomorrow, communism.

__________

W.E.B. DUBOIS’S APPLICATION FOR MEMBERSHIP IN THE COMMUNIST PARTY

October 1, 1961

To: Gus Hall, Chairman
Communist Party of the U.S.A.
New York, New York

On this First day of October, 1961, I am applying for admission to membership in the Communist Party of the United States. I have been long and slow in coming to this conclusion, but at last my mind is settled.

In college, I heard the name of Karl Marx, but read none of his works, nor heard them explained. At the University of Berlin, I heard much of those thinkers who had definitively answered the theories of Marx, but again we did not study what Marx himself had said. Nevertheless, I attended meetings of the Socialist Party and considered myself a Socialist.

On my return to America, I taught and studied for sixteen years. I explained the theory of Socialism and studied the organized social life of American Negroes; but still I neither read nor heard much of Marxism. Then I came to New York as an official of the new NAACP and editor of The Crisis Magazine. The NAACP was capitalist orientated and expected support from rich philanthropists. But it had a strong Socialist element in its leadership in persons like Mary Ovington, William English Wallin, and Charles Edward Russell. Following their advice, I joined the Socialist Party in 1911. I knew then nothing of practical socialist politics and in the campaign of 1912, I found myself unwilling to vote the Socialist ticket but advised Negroes to vote for Wilson. This was contrary to Socialist Party rules and consequently, I resigned from the Socialist Party.

The first paragraph of DuBois’s application letter. | CPUSA Archives

For the next twenty years, I tried to develop a political way of life for myself and my people. I attacked the Democrats and Republicans for monopoly and disfranchisement of Negroes; I attacked the Socialists for trying to segregate Southern Negro members; I praised the racial attitudes of the Communists, but opposed their tactics in the case of the Scottsboro Boys and their advocacy of a Negro state. At the same time, I began to study Karl Marx and the Communists; I read Das Kapital and other Communist literature; I hailed the Russian Revolution of 1917, but was puzzled at the contradictory news from Russia.

Finally, in 1926, I began a new effort; I visited Communist lands. I went to the Soviet Union in 1926, 1936, 1949, and 1959; I saw the nation develop. I visited East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. I spent ten weeks in China, traveling all over the land. Then, this summer, I rested a month in Romania.

I was early convinced that Socialism was an excellent way of life, but I thought it might be reached by various methods. For Russia I was convinced she had chosen the only way open to her at the time. I saw Scandinavia choosing a different method, half-way between Socialism and Capitalism. In the United States, I saw Consumers Cooperation as a path from Capitalism to Socialism, while England, France, and Germany developed in the same direction in their own way. After the Depression and the Second World War, I was disillusioned. The Progressive movement in the United States failed. The Cold War started. Capitalism called Communism a crime.

Today I have reached a firm conclusion:

Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction. No universal selfishness can bring social good to all.

Communism—the effort to give all men what they need and to ask of each the best they can contribute—this is the only way of human life. It is a difficult and hard end to reach—it has and will make mistakes, but today it marches triumphantly on in education and science, in home and food, with increased freedom of thought and deliverance from dogma. In the end, Communism will triumph. I want to help bring that day.

The path of the American Communist Party is clear: It will provide the United States with a real Third Party and thus restore democracy to this land. It will call for:

  1. 1. Public ownership of natural resources and of all capital
  2. 2. Public ownership of transportation and communications
  3. 3. Abolition of poverty and limitation of personal income
  4. 4. No exploitation of labor
  5. 5. Social medicine, with hospitalization and care of the old
  6. 6. Free education for all
  7. 7. Training for jobs and jobs for all
  8. 8. Discipline for growth and reform
  9. 9. Freedom under law
  10. 10. No dogmatic religion.

These aims are not crimes. They are practiced increasingly over the world. No nation can call itself free which does not allow its citizens to work for these ends.

__________

REPLY TO DUBOIS FROM THE COMMUNIST PARTY USA

November 15, 1961

Dr. W.E.B. DuBois
Accra, Ghana

Dear Dr. DuBois:

In reply to your letter of October 1st in which you made application for membership in the Communist Party of the United States, allow me to relate the following:

I read it before our National Board on October 13th, where it was greeted with the highest enthusiasm and responded to with many heartfelt testimonials to the titanic labors which you have performed over a glorious span of 60 years of dedicated services and leadership in the cause of human progress, peace, science, and culture.

Already in 1906 in your historic Address to the Country of the Niagara Movement, you had perceived the main line of development of our century, and wrote these prophetic words:

“The morning breaks over the hills. Courage, brothers! The battle for humanity is not lost or losing. The Slave is rising in his might, the yellow minions are tasting liberty, the black Africans are writhing toward the light, and everywhere the laborer is opening the gates of Opportunity and Peace.”

And so it has come and is coming to pass. And knowledgeable people everywhere are mindful of the fact that your selfless labors and mighty works have been a powerful contribution to the dawn of our new epoch, the epoch of the final triumph of man over all manner of oppression, discrimination, and exploitation.

DuBois’s letter and Gus Hall’s response were later re-published as a pamphlet. | CPUSA Archives

You (the first Negro to receive the Doctor of Philosophy degree from Harvard University, in 1895) are the acknowledged Dean of American Letters and most eminent living American scholar.

An editor, sociologist, historian, novelist, poet, publicist, lecturer, and organizer, you have made enduring contributions. Your life is a monumental example of achievement for all Americans.

For 50 years, you have been a tireless champion of the national liberation of the African peoples and new Africa’s wise counselor and “elder statesman.”

For more than 60 years, you have been the foremost philosopher, theoretician, and practical organizer of the glorious Negro people’s freedom struggle.

You have authored numerous books, each of which is a weapon against colonialism, racism, and imperialism, and for the victory of the cause of peace, freedom, and the brotherhood of peoples.

You have raised your voice powerfully and incessantly against war machinations, for world peace and disarmament, for friendship with the socialist countries, and co-existence between the two world social systems.

Your act of joining the Communist Party at this time not only expresses that recognition of the new world reality, of the great turn of the peoples of the world toward socialism for the solution of mankind’s need for peace, brotherhood, and well-being, but it constitutes an invitation and a challenge to men and women of science and culture, to creative thinkers of all countries, to the Negro masses and their outstanding leaders both here and abroad, to avail themselves of the social science of Marxism-Leninism and the fraternity of the Communist Parties to give new wings to their cause and their works.

You have chosen to join our Party precisely at the time when with brazen effrontery to the trends of the times, the most backward ultra-reactionary forces in our country’s national life have temporarily dragooned the Supreme Court’s majority into upholding the most flagrantly un-Constitutional thought-control laws—the McCarran Act and Smith Act, designed to muzzle free speech, ban freedom of association, persecute Communists, and suppress our Party.

This is symbolic of the personal courage and heroic exercise of social responsibility which have characterized your service and leadership to the people’s cause throughout your long life.

In joining the Communist Party, you have made that association which was clearly indicated by the very logic of your life.

Dear Dr. DuBois, welcome into the membership of our Party! The title of Party Member is an honorable and worthy title worn with pride by the most dedicated and farseeing, the best sons and daughters of the working class and peoples of all lands in the first ranks of struggle for mankind’s happy future.


CONTRIBUTOR

W.E.B. DuBois
W.E.B. DuBois

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was a U.S. civil rights activist, leader, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, educator, historian, writer, editor, poet, and scholar.

Gus Hall
Gus Hall

Gus Hall (1910-2000) served as leader of the Communist Party USA from 1959 until the time of his death. Born on Minnesota's Iron Range, he joined the Communist Party in 1927 and became an organizer for the Young Communist League. He worked as a timber worker and a steel worker, was a founding organizer of the United Steel Workers, and was a leader of the "Little Steel" strike in 1937. In 1972, 1976, 1980, and 1984, he was the presidential candidate of the Communist Party.

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