Wow, who knew.
An excerpt from the New York Times article.
From its founding in 1919 in the wake of the Russian Revolution until the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Communist Party of the United States of America was an instrument of Soviet foreign policy. The Communist International, or Comintern, which was set up under Lenin in 1919 and then disbanded by Stalin in 1943 as a gesture of unity to his World War II allies, regularly sent delegates to oversee the C.P.U.S.A. and transmitted orders from Moscow dictating who should lead the American party and what policies it should pursue.
The dissolution of the Comintern did not end Soviet control over the C.P.U.S.A. Supervision was simply transferred to the newly formed international department of the Soviet Union’s own Communist party.
At certain times, this Soviet domination was blatant. In both 1929 and 1945, Moscow demanded, and got, a change of party leadership. Jay Lovestone had the support of 90 percent of the party members in 1929, but his support for the Bolshevik Nikolai Bukharin led Stalin to remove Lovestone as the American party’s general secretary. When, at a hearing chaired by Stalin himself, Lovestone and several of his lieutenants refused to back down, Stalin angrily denounced them and turned the C.P.U.S.A. over to its factional opponents. When the Lovestoneites set up a dissident movement, fewer than 200 American Communists joined.
Later, Lovestone’s Stalin-approved successor, Earl Browder, concluded that the American-Soviet alliance of World War II would continue after the defeat of Nazi Germany. For this reason, in 1944, he boldly engineered the transformation of the C.P.U.S.A. into a pressure group designed to work within the Democratic Party. When Browder refused to accept Soviet criticism of his policies the following year, he, too, was unceremoniously removed — expelled from the party for his heresy.
With the C.P.U.S.A. reconstituted, virtually every Communist who had hailed Browder for years as the symbol of an Americanized Communism then shunned him. He was even forced to find a new dentist and a different insurance agent.
Public displays of Soviet control over C.P.U.S.A. policies were hard to miss. After years of attacking Franklin D. Roosevelt for “fascist” policies and denouncing the New Deal as an elaborate plot to deceive the working class, the C.P.U.S.A. was stunned in 1935 when the Comintern, alarmed by the growing menace of Nazi Germany, abruptly changed course and called for a popular front against fascism. In place of the Comintern’s previous policy of treating any alliance with socialists and liberals as anathema, Moscow’s U-turn involved demanding that its constituent parties reach out to all and sundry to stop fascism.
Running for president in 1936, Browder offered indirect support to Roosevelt. Two years later, Communists — who had formerly regarded Roosevelt as a harbinger of American fascism — hailed the president for his calls for a democratic alliance against Hitler.
The hosannas for antifascism ended suddenly in 1939 with the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The same Communists who had lauded Roosevelt now denounced him again, this time as a warmonger for such policies as Lend-Lease aid to Britain. The somersaults demanded by Moscow continued when Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941: The C.P.U.S.A.’s calls for peace were quickly replaced by demands that the United States do everything possible to aid the Allies.
Such major shifts in party line were only the most dramatic and public signs of fealty to the Kremlin. In 1938, at the height of the popular front policy, the C.P.U.S.A.’s slogan “Communism Is 20th-Century Americanism” demonstrated its effort to prove its patriotism. But that same year, a C.P.U.S.A. representative in Moscow sent a secret letter warning that Comintern leaders thought the slogan ideologically incorrect and subversive. Without any discussion or debate, the party stopped using it.
While most of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who joined the C.P.U.S.A. over the years did so because they supported the policies or ideals the party promoted, a great majority quickly abandoned it after a policy reversal occasioned by a shift in Soviet foreign policy. Anyone who remained a Communist for more than a few years, though, had to be aware that the one constant was support for whatever policy the Soviet Union followed. Open criticism of the U.S.S.R. was grounds for expulsion. For all members of the C.P.U.S.A., the Soviet Union was the homeland of socialism, the first workers’ state, which had to be defended against the machinations of capitalism.
The C.P.U.S.A. dutifully spread the lies put out by Moscow. The party thus insisted that the show trials during Stalin’s purges had uncovered a vast capitalist plot against the Soviet leader. Party members dutifully repeated Soviet fabrications that Trotsky had been in the pay of the Nazis. Worst of all, many Communists applauded the execution of tens of thousands of Soviet comrades, denouncing those who were executed as bourgeois spies and provocateurs. When Finnish-Americans who had returned to Soviet Karelia in the late 1920s and early ’30s to build socialism were purged, their American relatives were warned by party authorities to remain silent, and most did so.
Neither did the Communist movement limit its disinformation to Russian matters. In the 1960s, the K.G.B. secretly subsidized a left-wing publishing house in New York run by a former party member, Carl Marzani, that published the first book claiming that John F. Kennedy’s assassination had been arranged by a cabal of American right-wing businessmen and C.I.A. operatives.
It was not until 1956, when Khrushchev told Soviet Communists that Stalin had been a mass murderer, that American Communists were willing to believe what had been widely known for years. The persecutions of McCarthyism and the Cold War seriously depleted the ranks of the C.P.U.S.A., but it took the word of a Soviet Communist leader to destroy the faith in Communism that had sustained many Americans. By 1959, the C.P.U.S.A., which had once numbered nearly 100,000 members, was reduced to fewer than 3,000.