Communist Control Act 68 Stat. 775 (1954)

views updated

COMMUNIST CONTROL ACT 68 Stat. 775 (1954)

This measure marked the culmination of the United States government's program to prevent subversion from within during the loyalty-security years. Conservative senators, eager to facilitate removal of communists from positions of union leadership, and Senator hubert h. humphrey, tired of hearing liberals smeared as "soft on communism," pushed the measure through Congress with large majorities in each chamber. Clearly tied to the 1954 elections, the act outlawed the Communist party as an instrumentality conspiring to overthrow the United States government. The bill as initially drafted made party membership a crime. Responding to criticism of the dwight d. eisenhower administration that the membership clause would make the provisions of the 1950 internal security act unconstitutional, because compulsory registration would violate the right against self-incrimination, the bill's sponsors removed its membership clause. However, Congress deprived the Communist party of all "rights, privileges, and immunities attendant upon legal bodies created under the jurisdiction of the laws of the United States or any political subdivision thereof." The act added a new category of groups required to register—"communist-infiltrated" organizations. These, like communist and "front" organizations, although outlawed, were expected to register with the subversive activities control board.

The measure, virtually inoperative from the beginning, raised grave constitutional questions under the first amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the ban against bills of attainder. The Justice Department ignored it and pushed no general test of its provisions in the court. The act summarized well the official policy toward the Communist party at the time—to keep it legal enough for successful prosecution of its illegalities.

Paul L. Murphy


Auerbach, Carl 1956 The Communist Control Act of 1954. University of Chicago Law Review 23:173–220.

About this article

Communist Control Act 68 Stat. 775 (1954)

Updated About content Print Article


Communist Control Act 68 Stat. 775 (1954)