The American Communist Party is Outlawed
I HAVE just signed a bill which is designed to place into the hands of our law enforcement agencies, particularly the Attorney General and the FBI, better weapons for combatting the Communist menace in this country. This is one of a series of bills that are designed in this general purpose.
The American people are determined to eliminate from their midst organizations which, purporting to be political parties in the accepted sense of that term, are actually conspirators dedicated to the destruction of our form of government by violence and force.
Now they also are determined to do this by means that are fair, just and in accordance with our Constitution. They well realize that to do it in any other way could affect the innocent adversely as well as the guilty, and could in the long run distort and damage our entire judicial procedures. All of these bills are designed in that spirit and with those purposes.”— Dwight D. Eisenhower, remarking on the Communist Control Act of 1954
In 1954, the Red Scare still raged in the United States. Although Senator Joseph McCarthy, the most famous of the "red hunters" in America, had been disgraced earlier in the summer of 1954 when he tried to prove that communists were in the U.S. Army, most Americans still believed that communists were at work in their country. Responding to this fear, Congress passed the Communist Control Act in August 1954. The act declared that, "The Communist Party of the United States, though purportedly a political party, is in fact an instrumentality of a conspiracy to overthrow the Government of the United States." The act went on to charge that the party's "role as the agency of a hostile foreign power renders its existence a clear and continuing danger to the security of the United States." The conclusion seemed inescapable: "The Communist Party should be outlawed." Indeed, that is what many people at the time believed the Communist Control Act accomplished.
The Communist Control Act was originally proposed as an amendment to the International Security Act of 1950, which had sought to combat the spread of communism in labor unions. Apart from its secondary focus which concentrated on the illegality of “communist front organizations” (i.e. labor unions), the bill was drafted with the intention of tackling the root of the communist problem in America: the Communist Party. In its second section, the CCA of 1954 portrayed the American Communist Party as an “agency of a hostile foreign power.” The Party was described as “an instrumentality of a conspiracy to overthrow the government,” and as a “clear, present, and continuing danger to the security of the United States." The Act made membership to the Communist Party a criminal act and stipulated that all Party members would be sanctioned with up to a $10,000 fine or imprisonment for five years or both. Additionally, according to the third section, the Communist Party would be deprived of “the rights, privileges, and immunities of a legal body.”
The International Security Act of 1950 had defined two types of “communist organizations.” Senator Butler later proposed a bill aimed at the removal of Communists from leadership positions in labor unions, adding a third class, that of “communist-infiltrated organizations.” Afterwards, the Democratic Senator Humphrey put forward a substitute to that bill with the intention of directly tackling the “root of evil,” the Communist Party members. Through an amendment by Senator Daniel, both the Butler and Humphrey bills were merged into one, winning unanimous approval in the Senate from both Democrats and Republicans.