Subversive Activities Control Board

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The Subversive Activities Control Board, (SACB) 1950–1972 was created by the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950. SACB records contain information about the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) and its front organizations. The records constitute one of the most valuable resources for the study of left-wing radicalism during the 1950s and 1960s.


Organized on November 1, 1950, under authority provided in the Internal Security Act, the SACB was empowered to order the registration of organizations that it found to be "Communist front," "Communist action," or "Communist infiltrated." In carrying out this mandate, the SACB took a leading position in the federal government’s response to the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 1950s.


Unlike the hearings undertaken during this era by such government agencies as the House Un-American Activities Committee, the SACB’s proceedings were thorough, methodical, fact-finding exercises. The SACB called hundreds of witnesses in these cases, compelled the production of thousands of documents, and allowed those testifying on behalf of the government to be vigorously cross-examined by many of the most able radical lawyers in the nation. In addition, the decisions and findings of the SACB were subject to judicial review. These procedures combined to enhance the credibility of the hearings and allowed the SACB to engage in detailed inquiries into the history, activities, outside influences, and ideology of all of the organizations that appeared before it.


Records of the Subversive Activities Control Board, 1950–1972 is divided into two parts. Part I: Communist Party USA reproduces the massive records of the complex, year-long hearings involving the CPUSA. Because the SACB’s case against the CPUSA was the linchpin in the government’s efforts to cripple what it considered to be the subversive Left, hearings and investigation of this case resulted in over 15,000 pages of testimony by scores of witnesses, plus hundreds of pages of reports and supporting documents.

Attorney General's list

In order to prove its allegation that the CPUSA was in fact a "Communist action" organization, the Office of the Attorney General, through witnesses called before the SACB, explored every major aspect of the party: its ideology, its internal organization, its relationship with the Comintern, its major programs, the background and political orientation of its leaders, its training procedures, its secret practices, the extent of nondeviation from the policies of the Soviet Union, and its finances (including both the sources of its funds and where it disbursed them). In effect, the government, in presenting its case, compiled a complete history of the inner workings of the CPUSA from the moment of its founding until the time of the hearings themselves.

Part I: Communist Party USA, also includes the documentation for all of the more than 50 cases brought before the SACB involving individuals who were alleged to be members of the party. These cases extend into the 1960s and complete the SACB’s records of its investigations regarding the CPUSA.

After successfully prosecuting the CPUSA case, the attorney general and the SACB turned their attention to a host of other organizations. Part II: Communist-Action and Communist-Front Organizations contains all SACB documentation of these historically significant hearings. While the central question presented in these cases was the extent of each target organization’s ties to the CPUSA, many related issues were explored as well, including each organization’s activities, political orientation, membership, leaders, and sources of funding. Totaling over 70,000 pages, the transcripts and reports relating to these hearings are very revealing.

The organizations whose cases are documented in Part II include American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born; Civil Rights Congress; International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers; Labor Youth League; International Workers Organization; Council on African Affairs; Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy; California Labor School; American Peace Crusade; National Negro Labor Council; United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America; and many others.

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