CPUSA membership

John Haynes's picture

The discussion of CPUSA membership after the Pact reminds me that it would be a nice project for someone to bring together documents or citations to documents that provide reliable numbers of CPUSA membership by year. 

We have all sorts of estimates from the origins of the party to the 60s and 70s, but my impression is that for many years these are just estimates, educated and sometimes no-so-educated guesses based on limited or no ducumentation. 

For some years, certainly we have reliable internal party records from fond 515 or party reports to the Comintern.  The FBI also generated membership estimates, many of which are now public in FOIA files.  Presumably the FBI estimates were based on information from its informants in the party in the post-WWII years or its surreptitious copying of CPUSA office records.  But I don't think anyone has attempted to bring those all together and produce a documented membership record over a long span of years. 

It would be a useful project for someone with the time and energy to do it.   

Categories: Discussion, Research
Keywords: CPUSA, Membership

In May 1955, the FBI produced an internal training monograph for its Agents regarding CPUSA membership from 1919 to 1954.

The statistical information in that Monograph is based upon multiple sources (including public statements by Party officials as well as documentary evidence obtained by the FBI through clandestine means). I have uploaded that FBI monograph in my Internet Archive webpage at the link below:

In addition: I have uploaded the following FBI files:

(a) NYC 100-80638 = Sections 1 thru 8 and sections 16 thru 41 --which is the FBI-New York field office file on CPUSA membership.

This is over 8100 pages covering the period from April 1946 to December 1946 and November 1949 thru December 1952 and January 1956 thru January 1966.

(b) NYC 100-4931 (5815 pages) = CPUSA-NYC General Activities which includes discussion of the following subjects:

Organization, Membership, Funds, Security Measures, Confidential Mailing Addresses, Factionalism, International Relations, UN Organization, Colonial Matters, Political Activities, Domestic Administration Issues, Slow Down In Industry, Veterans Matters, Negro Question, Youth Matters, Women’s Matters, Farmers Matters, Cultural Activities, National Group Commission, Religion, Pamphlets and Publications, Education, and CPUSA Brief

I would love to take on such a project, given that I am now graduated. However, it's a matter of funding such a project that would be a difficult sell for many departments.

I've been working to accumulate historical records of the Michigan District CPUSA for some time now, much of which I discovered was lost in a flood in the late 1980s at a private residence. The work of William Gernaey at the Walter P. Reuther as a spy for Corporation Auxilliary provides a good example of where to find membership numbers at the grassroots, and I'm also considering looking through other extensions of Corp Aux to see if there were other plants similar to Gernaey in other Party districts.

But I do agree it would be an awesome project to mix together national statistics, but also even better to mix them with geographical/regional numbers and produce a digital map to be hosted so that a visual representation of CPUSA membership is accessible.

When I go to these websites, the page images are so small that I cannot read them. This has happened before with items like this posted on HNN. Can anyone advise how I might be able to enlarge them? Many thanks for any assistance anyone can provide!

In the lower right part of the screen, there's what looks like a magnifying glass which you can use to zoom in (make larger) or zoom out (make smaller).