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Communist Party Campaign Poster:
Gus Hall for President;
for Vice-President (1976)
Gus Hall (October 8, 1910 – October 13, 2000) was a leader
Communist Party USA and its four-time
U.S. presidential candidate.
As a labor leader, Hall was closely associated with the so-called
"Little Steel" Strike of 1937, an effort to unionize the nation's
smaller, regional steel manufacturers.
Hall was born Arvo Gustav Halberg to
Finnish parents in
Cherry, a rural community on Northern
Iron Range. Hall's parents had been involved in the
Industrial Workers of the World and were founding members of the
At 15, Hall left school and went to work in the
North Woods lumber camps, where he spent much time studying
Marxism. At 17, he joined the Communist Party and became an
organizer for the
Young Communist League. In 1931, Hall travelled to the
Soviet Union spending two years at the Lenin Institute in
The "Little Steel" Strike
In 1934, Hall went to
Mahoning Valley. Following the call for organizing in the steel
industry, Hall was among a handful hired at a steel mill in
Youngstown, Ohio. He was a founding organizer of the
Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) and a leader of the
1937 “Little Steel” strike, so called because it was directed
against Republic Steel, Bethlehem Steel and the Youngstown Sheet and
Tube Company, as opposed to the industry giant U.S. Steel, which had
previously entered into a contract with SWOC without a strike.
The strike was ultimately unsuccessful, and marred by the deaths
of workers at Republic plants in Chicago and Youngstown.
Hall was arrested for allegedly transporting bomb-making materials
intended for Republic's plant in
Warren, Ohio. SWOC became the United Steelworkers of America
(USWA) in 1943.
Philip Murray, USWA founding president, once commented that
Hall's leadership of the strike in Warren and Youngstown was a model
of effective grassroots organizing.
It was also in Youngstown that Hall met Elizabeth Turner. They
were married in 1935. Elizabeth Hall was a leader in her own right,
among the first women steelworkers and a secretary of SWOC. They
went on to have two children, Arvo and Barbara (Conway).
Hall and other rank-and-file steelworkers signed up workers who
wanted to join a union:-
“This had to be a secret operation,” Hall wrote in a 1972 letter
to the USWA. “Any man who signed was immediately fired if it became
known. As a matter of fact, I was fired. It was not until we had
collected thousands of such signed cards that
Lewis agreed to set up the [SWOC]. I was on the committee that
presented the cards to John L. Lewis in the dugout of a baseball
stadium where he was the speaker at a Miners' Day rally” in
Thus, Lewis was convinced and one of his first decisions was to
hire Hall as a full-time SWOC organizer in the Mahoning Valley where
he served as an international representative throughout the
organizing drive and later as chairman of the strike committee
during the strike. Under Hall's leadership, 10,000 workers were
recruited to the steel union in the Mahoning Valley.
Later, he resigned his union post to become an organizer for the
Communist Party in Youngstown.
Hall volunteered for the U.S. Navy when
World War II broke out, serving as a machinist in
He was honorably discharged
After his return, he was elected to the National Executive board of
the American Communist Party.
Indictment during the 'Red Scare'
On July 22, 1948 Hall and 11 other Communist Party leaders were
indicted under the
Smith Act on charges of "conspiracy to teach and advocate the
overthrow of the U.S. government by force and violence." Hall spent
eight years in
Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.
U.S. Supreme Court later struck down the Smith Act as
After his release, Hall continued his activities.
In 1959, he was elected CPUSA general secretary, and afterward,
Order of Lenin.
But the McCarthy,
Cold War era had taken a heavy toll on the Communist Party.
Hall, along with other Party leaders who remained, sought to rebuild
He led the struggle to reclaim the legality of the Communist Party
and addressed tens of thousands in Oregon, Washington and
Hall became a speaker on campuses and talk shows as an advocate
for socialism in the United States. Hall argued that socialism in
the United States would be built on the traditions of U.S.-style
democracy rooted in the
United States Bill of Rights. He would often say Americans
didn't accept the constitution without a Bill of Rights and they
won't accept socialism without a Bill of Rights. He professed deep
confidence in the democratic traditions of the American people.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Hall worked to build the Communist
Party among the young “baby boomer” generation of activists involved
in the peace, civil rights and the new rank-and-file trade union
movements. During this time, Hall also made frequent appearances on
Soviet television always supporting the position of the Soviet
Communist Party and the
He ran for president four times, in 1972, 1976, 1980, and 1984,
the last two times with
Due to the great expense of running, the difficulty in meeting the
strenuous and different election-law provisions in each state, and
the difficulty in getting media coverage, it was decided that the
CPUSA would suspend running national campaigns, while continuing to
run candidates at the local level.
In late 1980s, when liberalisation and democratisation were under
way in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Hall stood by his "anti-revisionist"
Marxist-Leninist stance. Concerning
Stalin, he admitted that even leaders of a socialist country
might err sometimes, but suggested that the
Soviet historians were exaggerating Stalin’s crimes. Hall
declared that he had not become a member of CP because of Stalin and
would not leave because of him.
After the dissolution of the
Soviet Union in 1991, the party faced a crisis. (According to
formerly secret documents quoted by the
Washington Post in early 1992, Hall received over $2 million
from the Soviet government for the party's expenses in publishing
Daily Worker and for rental fees for the party headquarters. ) Former KGB General Oleg Kalugin
declared in his memoir that the KGB had Hall and the American
Communist Party "under total control" and that he was known to be
siphoning off "Moscow money" to set up his own horse-breeding farm."
Hall led a faction of the party that stood against
Gorbachev and for the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
In later years Hall worked to preserve the party as many members
left and he served as leader until his death.
He died on October 13, 2000 at
Lenox Hill Hospital in
"Socialism in America will come through the ballot box." – in an
interview with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer (1996)
"Gus Hall, American Communist Party boss, dies at 90".
Retrieved on 2007-10-25. "Gus Hall, the American
Communist Party boss who steadfastly stuck to his beliefs
through years in prison and the collapse of communist
regimes around the world, has died. He was 90. Mr. Hall died
Friday at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan of complications
relating to diabetes, Scott Marshall, a Communist Party
official, said yesterday."
Shellock, Marie (June 2007). "Defining moment in local labor
history occurred 70 years ago". The Metro Monthly:
^ Oleg Kalugin, "The First Directorate" (New York,
"Gus Hall, Unreconstructed American Communist of 7 Decades,
Dies at 90".
New York Times. October 17, 2000.
Retrieved on 2008-07-04. "Gus Hall, the zealous
lifelong Communist who led the American branch of the party
from the cold war through political oblivion in the
post-Soviet era, died on Friday at Lenox Hill Hospital in
Manhattan. He was 90 and lived in Yonkers."
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