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Eugene Dennis: Wikis


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Eugene Dennis (August 10, 1905 - January 31, 1961) was a long-time leader of the Communist Party USA and union organizer, best known for being the named party in Dennis v. United States, a famous McCarthy Era Supreme Court case.



Dennis was born Francis Xavier Waldron in Seattle but adopted the pseudonym of Eugene Dennis in the 1930s. He worked in various jobs and was active in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) prior to joining the Communist Party in 1926 and was active in California as a union organizer.

He fled to the Soviet Union in 1929 to evade criminal charges for his political activities. He returned to the United States in 1935 and assumed his pseudonym. On his return, the Comintern leader Dmitry Manuilsky refused to allow Dennis' son Tim to leave the Soviet Union, keeping him as a hostage to ensure future co-operation. [1] Dennis became general secretary of the party after the expulsion of Earl Browder and was a staunch supporter of the Moscow line.

On July 20, 1948, Dennis and eleven other party leaders, including Party Chairman William Z. Foster were arrested and charged under the Alien Registration Act. Foster was not prosecuted due to ill health.

As Dennis and his co-accused had never openly called for the violent overthrow of the United States government, the prosecution depended on passages from the works of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin and on the testimony of former members of the party who claimed that Dennis and others had privately advocated the use of violence.

After a nine months trial and the imprisonment of the defense lawyers for contempt of court, Dennis and his co-defendants were found guilty and sentenced to five years imprisonment. They appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled against the defendants on June 4, 1951 by a vote of six to two in Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951). The Court later scaled back its Dennis opinion in Yates v. United States, and rendered the broad conspiracy provisions of the Smith Act unenforceable.[2]

Dennis remained general secretary until 1959, when he succeeded Foster as party chairman, and held that position until his death in 1961.

He was buried at the Waldheim Cemetery[3] (now Forest Home Cemetery), in Forest Park, Illinois.


Though never charged with any act of espionage, Dennis was identified in the Venona project as being a source for Soviet intelligence during World War II, when the United States and Soviet Union were officially allies. In the transcripts, Dennis is referenced as a contact for a group of concealed Communists in the Office of Strategic Services and the Office of War Information. Harold Glasser was also another contact.

Dennis is referenced in the following Venona transcripts:

  • 708 KGB Moscow to Mexico City, 8 December 1944
  • 1714 KGB New York to Moscow, 5 December 1944
  • 55 KGB New York to Moscow, 15 January 1945


  • Ann Kimmage, [ An Un-American Childhood] (University of Georgia Press 1998) ISBN 0820317683, pp. 21–22, 120
  • Louis Budenz, Men Without Faces: The Communist Conspiracy in the USA (New York: Harper, 1948), 252.
  • John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999).

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