[A-List] Gus Hall
charlesb at cncl.ci.detroit.mi.us
Mon Jan 12 08:59:00 MST 2009
Long-time American Communist Party leader. Hall was born Arvo Gus
Halberg on October 8, 1910, in the Mesabi Iron Range of Minnesota. His
parents were Finnish immigrants who were involved in the IWW and would
later be charter members of the Communist Party in 1919. His father,
Matt Halberg, recruited him into the Young Communist League (YCL) when
he was 17. Working for the YCL, young Arvo traveled to mining towns in
Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 1931, he spent two years at the
Lenin Institute in Moscow, learning the political ideology of Joseph
Stalin and other Soviet leaders of that period. In the 1934 Minneapolis
Teamsters strike (led by Trotskyist Farrell Dobbs), Hall was one of the
young activists involved. During this period, he became blacklisted and
could not find a job, forcing him to change his name to Gus Hall.
The YCL moved Hall to Ohio where he led the 1937 "Little Steel" strike
of Warren-Youngstown. He became a staff member of the Steel Workers of
America, and ran for mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, on the Communist Party
ticket. He volunteered for the US Navy during World War II and was
elected to the Communist Party's National Committee while in the Pacific
in 1944. He became a close aide to Eugene Dennis and was consequently
elected to the National Executive Board in 1946.
Under the anti-communist Smith Act, Hall was indicted in 1948 and
convicted one year later to a five-year prison term. He fled to Mexico
and was elected the Communist Party's National Secretary in 1950. In
Mexico City, US authorities apprehended Hall in 1951 and was given three
additional years of prison time. Upon his release in the 1960's, he
became the General Secretary of the Communist Party and worked to
rebuild the party after years of devestating decline. He ran for
President in 1968 with Charlene Mitchell, but received only 1,075 votes.
As he rebuilt the Communist Party, Hall retained many characteristics
of the Party's Stalinist past, and entered the New Left to gain young
activists with the YCL (now known as the "W.E.B. DuBois Clubs"). He
managed to draw in many young militants with the help of the likes of
Charlene Mitchell and Angela Davis.
Hall ran again four more times. The highest number of votes he received
was when he was paired with Jarvis Tyner in 1976. In the '76 election,
he received 58,992 votes. During his Presidential campaigns, Hall made
familiar the slogan "People Before Profits." He took part in the last CP
Presidential campaign in 1984 (gaining 36,386 votes). In 1988, he
steered the CP into full support for the Democratic Party when he
suspected left-Democrat Jesse Jackson would win the Presidential
In 1991, he led the anti-Gorbachev, pro-CPSU establishment in the
Communist Party — parting ways with former allies (such as Angela
Davis and Charlene Mitchell). Hall continued to lead the Party until the
end of his life, maintaining the popular front with the Democrats
against the right — even as Democrat Bill Clinton pushed Free Trade
and Wellfare reform. He passed away on October 13, 2000, and was
replaced as General Secretary by his lieutenant, Sam Webb. Hall's wife
and family received condolences from as far away as the Communist Party
Hall was a prolific writer, publishing numerous books for the layman
worker, including: The Energy Rip-Off: Cause & Cure (1974) ; Basics for
Peace, Democracy & Social Progress (1980); Fighting Racism (1985); and
Working Class USA: The Power and the Movement (1987).
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Born Arvo Gustav Halberg
October 8, 1910(1910-10-08)
Cherry Township, Minnesota
Died October 13, 2000 (aged 90)
Lenox Hill Hospital
Manhattan, New York
Known for Communist Party USA
Communist Party Campaign Poster:
Gus Hall for President;
Jarvis Tyner for Vice-President (1976)Gus Hall (October 8, 1910 -
October 13, 2000) was a leader of the 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
2 The "Little Steel" Strike
3 Indictment during the 'Red Scare'
4 Later years
Hall was born Arvo Gustav Halberg to Finnish parents in Cherry, a rural
community on Northern Minnesota's Iron Range. Hall's parents had been
involved in the Industrial Workers of the World and were founding
members of the Communist Party.
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 Moscow.
 The "Little Steel" Strike
In 1934, Hall went to Ohio's 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 Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
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 Guam. He was honorably discharged March 6, 1946.
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. The U.S.
Supreme Court later struck down the Smith Act as unconstitutional.
After his release, Hall continued his activities. In 1959, he was
elected CPUSA general secretary, and afterward, received the 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 it. He led the struggle to reclaim the legality of
the Communist Party and addressed tens of thousands in Oregon,
Washington and California.
 Later years
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 Brezhnev regime.
He ran for president four times, in 1972, 1976, 1980, and 1984, the
last two times with Angela Davis. 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
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 the Daily Worker and
for rental fees for the party headquarters.) 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 Manhattan.
"Socialism in America will come through the ballot box." - in an
interview with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer (1996)
^ a b c d e f g h i "Gus Hall, American Communist Party boss, dies at
90". Associated Press. 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."
^ a b c d Shellock, Marie (June 2007). "Defining moment in local labor
history occurred 70 years ago", The Metro Monthly, p. 8. Retrieved on 20
^ "Gus Hall, Unreconstructed American Communist of 7 Decades, Dies at
90", New York Times (October 17, 2000). Retrieved on 4 July 2008. "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."
Working Class USA
Basics--For Peace, Democracy and Social Progress
Ecology: Can We Survive Under Capitalism?
The Energy Rip-off: Cause and Cure
Karl Marx: Beacon for Our Times
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gus_Hall"
Categories: 1910 births | 2000 deaths | People from Minnesota | People
from St. Louis County, Minnesota | People from Youngstown, Ohio |
American communists | Communist Party USA | Finnish Americans | United
States presidential candidates, 1972 | United States presidential
candidates, 1976 | United States presidential candidates, 1980 | United
States presidential candidates, 1984 | COINTELPRO targets | United
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