1954 August 24

Banned: Congress Outlaws Communist Party


President DWight Eisenhower on this day signed into law the Communist Control Act,  outlawing the Communist Party. This was the first American law ever to outlaw a specific political party or group. The law also outlawed membership in the Communist Party or support for a “Communist-action” organization. Apart from two minor cases, no administration tried to enforce it, and the Supreme Court has never ruled on its constitutionality.

This law is not to be confused with the Smith Act, passed on June 29, 1940, which made it a crime to advocate the violent overthrow of the government. The top leaders of the Communist Party were convicted of violating the Smith Act, and on June 4, 1951, in Dennis v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld the convictions and the constitutionality of the Smith Act.

The law: The Communist Party or any of its successors “are not entitled to any of the rights, privileges, and immunities attendant upon legal bodies created under the jurisdiction of the laws of the United States or any political subdivision thereof; and whatever rights, privileges, and immunities which have heretofore been granted to said party or any subsidiary organization by reason of the laws of the United States or any political subdivision thereof, are terminated ….”

Learn more about the Cold War: Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998)

Learn more about the ACLU in the Cold War and other Times of National Crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-rooting-out-subversives-paranoia-and-patriotism-mccarthy-era

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