Dear Comrade Slaughter:
For the last fifteen months I have watched with a mixture of amazement and disgust as the leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party has denounced publicly my case against the FBI and CIA and their agents in the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party. After the crisis erupted in the WRP during the latter part of 1985, various party leaders raised “questions” about the case without contacting me or reviewing any of the facts or evidence.
Next, Workers Press published Mike Banda’s “27 Reasons,” which explicitly denounced Security and the Fourth International and the Gelfand case as a “monstrous frameup” and a “manic witch-hunt.” Then recently, a derogatory article appeared under your name in the Workers Press of January 17, 1987. In it, you wrote:
In place of the political struggle against revisionists and for a real, revolutionary, continuity of Trotsky’s work, Healy utilised the resources of the Party and the IC to build up a case that Joseph Hansen, a leader of the US Socialist Workers Party since before World War II and one of Trotsky’s secretaries, was an agent of the Stalinist GPU and of US intelligence working in the Trotskyist movement.
Evidence had come to light showing that agents had indeed deeply infiltrated the SWP. At the highest level, Sylvia Franklin, secretary to the founder of the SWP, James P. Cannon, was one of these.
A mountain of speculation and entirely circumstantial evidence was published and eventually this was used by a member of the SWP to try and “prove” the whole construction ... in the US courts! (the Gelfand case).
I understand that sharp political differences have emerged between the WRP on the one hand. and the International Committee and the Workers League on the other. Your sudden and quite unexplained about-face on the security issue strongly suggests that the WRP’s attacks are motivated by narrow, shortsighted factional considerations rather than by legitimate concerns over the integrity of my case.
Comrade Slaughter, you are totally familiar with Security and the Fourth International; publications of the WRP and the IC show that you were intimately involved in this investigation from the outset. It was your breadth of knowledge and understanding of fundamental security issues that resulted in your being included, with your explicit permission, on my list of witnesses filed with the Los Angeles federal court as an expert to testify about the political and historical implications of the evidence I had assembled.
But now you, without explaining anything politically or factually and without contacting me about your new concerns with the case, have adopted virtually word for word the line of the agent-dominated SWP. I cannot understand why, if leaders of the WRP had doubts about the case, you never suggested that I be contacted. After all, I have devoted years of my life to this investigation at considerable personal risk.
From the moment I first raised questions inside the Socialist Workers Party in July 1977, I was subjected to an unrelenting witch-hunt by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes and Political Committee member Larry Seigle. For nearly four years, I persisted in a legal action in the face of constant threats of vicious retribution by the court. As a result of my pursuing this case to its conclusion I have lived since March 1983 under the threat of massive financial sanctions by the presiding judge, Mariana R. Pfaelzer, who has still not rendered a verdict on the facts my attorneys and I presented at trial.
Given this record, don’t you think that you and others in the leadership of the WRP had a political, if not moral, obligation to raise any questions and objections about the lawsuit with me, and, at the very least, give me an opportunity to review the facts of the case in front of the appropriate committee of the Workers Revolutionary Party? Instead, you opened up a vitriolic public campaign against Security and publicly demanded—again without consulting me, and in a way that could only serve to help the Socialist Workers Party—that I settle the case out of court!
After having put my life and political reputation on the line to uncover the facts about the assassination of Trotsky and the penetration of the Fourth International by agents of imperialism and Stalinism, defending the integrity of what you and others in the WRP wrote over many years on the question of Security, I find myself stabbed in the back by those with whom I closely collaborated in order to establish historical truth.
I do not raise this as a personal question or in any way to complain. I regret absolutely nothing. Even had I been able to anticipate the eruptions inside the WRP and foresee your own evolution, it would not have deterred me from beginning the struggle inside the SWP and, after my expulsion, exercising my democratic rights in the interests of the workers’ movement to expose a dangerous conspiracy. But there is an important class question raised by your callous betrayal of political confidence. What worker in his right mind could ever be expected to place his trust in an organization whose leaders change their positions and are prepared to stab him in the back in the interest of immediate factional gains?
What makes your actions so reprehensible is that you used denunciation as a substitute for refutation. To this day, you have not even attempted to disprove any of the facts which the case uncovered. Instead, Comrade Slaughter, you have allowed the WRP to publish what you must know to be flagrant distortions of the legal record.
Comrade Slaughter, you have seen the legal pleadings on file; you know that my lawsuit demanded that the court “order the defendants Griffin Bell [former US Attorney General], William H. Webster [director of the FBI], Stansfield Turner [former director of the CIA] and Vice Admiral Bobby Inman [former director of the National Security Agency] to disclose the names of any and all agents and informants, past and present, who were or are members of defendant SWP,” and also that it order the same above-named persons “to cease and desist from ordering, assigning and deploying persons to infiltrate, inform upon and become members of the SWP....” (The Gelfand Case, Vol. I, Labor Publications, p. 122)
In spite of this clear and politically unimpeachable demand, the WRP repeated, in its central committee resolution of January 26, 1986, the SWP’s grotesque claim that my case threatened to establish “a dangerous precedent in calling on the state to determine the membership of a working-class political organization.”
How could you tolerate such a distortion of the truth? As you know, the court initially allowed the lawsuit to proceed on the legal grounds that the takeover of a political party by the US government would be utterly unconstitutional. The court wrote:
The kinds of activities of which the plaintiff complains strike at the heart of a cardinal principle of the First Amendment: the complete neutrality of the government regarding the political decisions of the citizenry ... it is clear that the governmental manipulation and takeover of plaintiffs political party that is alleged in paragraphs 21-22 of the complaint is a drastic interference with the associational right of its adherents and cannot pass constitutional muster. (Ibid., pp. 135-36)
This document proves that the WRP Resolution of January 26, 1986 lied about the legal content of the Gelfand case. My use of the courts in this instance was a “tactical” decision modeled on many similar actions taken by labor and civil rights organizations. The lawsuit was framed as a civil rights action aimed at defending what is known in the United States as “core” First Amendment rights.
Not a single legitimate working-class organization would object to the democratic principle asserted by this lawsuit. In what way is the labor movement harmed by a legal ruling which declared that “the government may not expel a member from the political party of his choice, directly or indirectly”? (Ibid., p. 136) Only in an organization controlled by police would this be seen as an unwarranted infringement on the prerogatives of the leadership. In reality it was the SWP’s legal pleadings which implicitly upheld the position that once government agents seize control of a socialist party, they are free to regulate its policies and membership.
In overcoming the efforts of both the government and SWP to dismiss the case, the Gelfand case represented a significant breakthrough in establishing the legal principle that such a drastic form of state manipulation of a socialist political party is inherently unconstitutional.
Moreover, the relevance and appropriateness of my demand was vindicated by what took place inside the SWP in the months that followed the conclusion of the trial: virtually every veteran member of the SWP who was in any way identified with that organization’s Trotskyist past—with the notable exceptions of Reba Hansen and George Novack—was summarily expelled by Barnes and his fellow Carleton-trained agents.
Don’t you believe in light of the facts presented above that the WRP must acknowledge that the January 26, 1986 resolution gravely misrepresented the legal foundation of the Gelfand case and that it must be rescinded?
Such a correction is all the more urgent given the fact that your abrupt repudiation of the case occurs in the midst of more and more state penetration of the workers’ movement, including the exposure of Teamsters President Jackie Presser as an FBI informant. Here in the US over the last several months, the Iran-contra crisis has revealed a virtual secret government operating outside all legal restraints from the White House basement.
Thus, whatever your intentions there is an objective political content to your counseling comrades to lower their guards to such provocations at a time when imperialism—driven by the intensification of the class struggle on a world scale—must greatly expand its antilabor provocations.
Upon reviewing my files, I found that you sharply criticized laxity in regard to basic security questions in a letter to the SWP and the United Secretariat dated October 23, 1975:
Security is not only an organizational question, but above all a fundamental political question of the struggle of the world party of socialist revolution against the capitalist state, against the intelligence and repressive agencies of the imperialist powers, and against the Stalinist bureaucracy, the main counterrevolutionary force in the world arena, dedicated since its inception to the liquidation of the Fourth International. (How the GPU Murdered Trotsky, New Park Publications, p. 236)
In my opinion, these words are as true today as they were then. What seems to have changed, Comrade Slaughter, is not simply your opinion of the evidence of GPU and FBI infiltration of the Trotskyist movement, but rather your attitude toward such provocations. In your recent article, you talk of a “mountain of speculation,” but you know full well that my case rests on an objective material foundation consisting of authenticated documents and sworn deposition and trial testimony—available for public examination and comment in the files of the US District Court in Los Angeles.
The most important of these records have been published verbatim in the two-volume set, The Gelfand Case: A Legal History of the Exposure of US Government Agents in the Leadership of the Socialist Workers Party.
An analysis of these two volumes, totaling 731 pages, would have to be the starting point of any politically honest evaluation of the Gelfand case. All the important legal pleadings and court transcripts have been meticulously reproduced. I have been informed by the Workers League that these volumes have been in your possession, as well as that of other members of the WRP, for well over a year. Why have they never been cited in any of the attacks made by the WRP against the Gelfand case and Security and the Fourth International?
Where, Comrade Slaughter, have you been able to show that any of the evidence assembled in the course of the Gelfand case is false? Where is your proof that my charges against Joseph Hansen and the SWP leadership were based on fabrications and are without merit? Where do you specify and expose the “speculation” on which you say my case is based? Your condemnation of my efforts are naked conclusions, based on nothing other than your own unsupported speculation which runs directly counter to established fact.
You twist and manipulate legal concepts to further your goals. For example, your statement that my case rests entirely on “circumstantial evidence” serves only to mislead comrades. As you know, there are two kinds of evidence, direct and circumstantial. With circumstantial evidence, one proves certain facts from which a reasonable inference can be drawn to prove the ultimate fact in issue. Circumstantial evidence reflects in legal form the method through which human beings obtain knowledge from the world. Your rejection of circumstantial evidence mirrors philosophical skepticism, the essence of bourgeois ideology.
The relative weight of direct and circumstantial evidence depends entirely on the specific facts of the case. As a public defender, I often represent clients who have been wrongly accused on the basis of “direct evidence” concocted by the police and supported by “eyewitnesses” whose testimony is clouded by unstated biases. Thus, my refutation of their testimony assumes the form of uncovering circumstantial evidence which calls their credibility into question. There are many cases where circumstantial evidence, i.e., that relating to such questions as motive, are far more persuasive than those based entirely on direct evidence.
You are still not convinced? Then ponder the following: The most notorious trials in history, in which convictions were obtained entirely on the basis of direct evidence, i.e., personal confessions and eyewitness testimony, were those organized by Stalin and held in Moscow between 1936 and 1938!
Much of Trotsky’s refutation of these allegations consisted of circumstantial evidence, i.e., the attitude of Marxists to individual terrorism, the psychological implausibility of the accused committing the crimes for which they were charged, the political biographies of the accused, etc.
At any rate, the bulk of the evidence on which my conclusions rest is not circumstantial at all. Citing only a few examples, the Gelfand case produced direct and irrefutable proof of the following facts:
1. The SWP collaborated with GPU murderer Mark Zborowski to keep him from testifying about his anti-Trotskyist work for Stalin.
2. Through the testimony of former SWP leaders, such as Farrell Dobbs and the present SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, the Gelfand case established that Joseph Hansen held secret and unauthorized meetings with US intelligence agent Robert McGregor in Mexico City and FBI special agent B.E. Sackett in New York during 1940 and 1941.
3. Longtime SWP leaders such as Farrell Dobbs and George Novack did not know about and could not explain factually or politically the preponderance of former Carleton College students in the SWP’s present leadership.
4. The present SWP leadership has promoted and covered up for agents such as Fausto Amador, a Somocista used against the Sandinistas prior to the victory of the Nicaraguan revolution, and confessed FBI informant Edward Heisler.
More startling even than these facts, however, was the SWP’s indefatigable defense of Sylvia Franklin throughout the case, no matter how much direct evidence linked her with the GPU apparatus that assassinated Trotsky. By stubbornly hammering on this glaring contradiction, the Gelfand case ultimately dislodged critical new evidence irrefutably linking Hansen to the GPU and to the subsequent penetration of the SWP by waves of FBI agents.
In your January 17 article you made an admission which by itself discredits all the attacks that have been made on the Gelfand case:
Evidence had come to light showing that agents had indeed deeply infiltrated the SWP. At the highest level, Sylvia Franklin, secretary to the founder of the SWP, James P. Cannon, was one of these.
Comrade Slaughter, how do you reconcile this correct position with your repudiation of Security and the Fourth International? Knowing, as you do, the centrality of Sylvia Franklin’s role in the entire controversy of the past decade, how can you acknowledge that she was an agent and at the same time defend Hansen and the SWP, which to this day insists that she was an “exemplary” comrade and that my efforts to expose her were “agent-baiting”?
The “evidence” that “had come to light” showing that Sylvia Franklin was a GPU agent was the fruit of Security and the Fourth International, the investigation by the International Committee of the Fourth International into the GPU murder apparatus which penetrated the Trotskyist movement during the 1930s. As a member of the SWP, I recall studying the International Committee’s articles on Trotsky’s assassin, Ramon del Rio Mercader, the brothers Sobolevicius, Jack Soble and Dr. Robert Soblen—who penetrated the Left Opposition in Germany and then, after their exposure by Trotsky, spent the following decades as controllers of key Stalinist agents in the Fourth International—the notorious Mark Zborowski—the blood-soaked GPU agent who stood at Sedov’s right hand while the struggle to found the Fourth International was under way—and, within the SWP itself, Sylvia Franklin and Floyd Cleveland Miller, a staff writer for the Militant.
As you know, Comrade Slaughter, the SWP responded to these publications with a ferocious denunciation of the investigation and the International Committee’s “slanders” against Sylvia Franklin. In his first reply to Security and the Fourth International, Hansen wrote:
Sylvia Caldwell (that was her party name) worked very hard in her rather difficult assignment of managing the national office of the Socialist Workers Party, which included helping Cannon in a secretarial capacity. In fact all the comrades who shared these often irksome chores with her regarded her as exemplary. They burned as much as she did over the foul slanders spread by Budenz.
Hansen’s longtime colleague George Novack labeled the International Committee’s allegation against Sylvia Franklin “reckless and indiscriminate.” Then Hansen’s wife, Reba, added a gushing tribute to Franklin, calling her “a warm human being.”
While Hansen, Novack and the SWP rushed to Franklin’s defense, the following facts were being established by the International Committee:
1. The initial accusation against Franklin was transmitted by Max Shachtman to Cannon in 1947. After perfunctory questioning by the leadership, Franklin left the SWP, never to return.
2. Three years later, Louis Budenz, a former editor of the Communist Party’s Daily Worker and FBI informant, named Franklin in a sworn affidavit before the House Un-American Activities Committee as a GPU agent gathering information on the “Trotskyites.”
3. During the 1950s, Franklin was interviewed repeatedly by the FBI, and she twice testified before a federal grand jury investigating Stalinist espionage.
4. Franklin appeared, under her maiden name “Sylvia Callen,” as an unindicted co-conspirator along with three admitted GPU agents—Jack Soble, Mark Zborowski and Floyd Miller—in the US government’s indictment of Robert Soblen for espionage. Her activities were described from the witness stand by confessed GPU controller Jack Soble.
The historical record is absolutely clear. It was Hansen’s and the SWP’s baffling defense that compelled the International Committee to deepen its inquiry into the Franklin affair. Security and the Fourth International located Lucy Booker, the proprietor of a GPU “safehouse” in New York City, who acknowledged that she witnessed Franklin pass information to Jack Soble and other GPU controllers, and Sylvia Franklin herself—now living comfortably under the name “Sylvia Doxsee.” When interviewed by the International Committee, Franklin-Doxsee would say nothing about her years with the SWP, claiming loss of memory. Asked directly whether she had been a GPU agent, she replied, “I don’t remember because I don’t want to remember.”
Two former secretaries of the Fourth International who supported the SWP politically against Security and the Fourth International, Jean van Heijenoort and Michel Pablo, indicated publicly their belief that Franklin was a GPU agent and, in Pablo’s case, that “The Socialist Workers Party must admit it.” In addition, during the preparations for the trial of my case, I obtained a letter written by Tim Wohlforth while he was a member of the SWP’s political committee to SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes urging that the SWP reverse its position on Franklin and admit she was an agent.
Despite all of this, the SWP refused to budge one inch on their defense of Sylvia Franklin. In his June 1977 response to the publication of the Booker and Franklin interviews, Hansen reiterated his support for the GPU agent and declared that pressing forward with the investigation would have “deadly consequences.” Four months later, Tom Henehan of the Workers League was shot and killed.
You were active in the WRP and the IC while these developments were taking place, and you understood their significance. In your letter of October 23, 1975 to Hansen, you specifically described Franklin as a GPU agent. Two years later, in a statement published by the International Committee on the assassination of Tom Henehan, you wrote:
Nor can [Hansen] explain why he praises Sylvia Franklin, nee Callen, party name Caldwell, as “an exemplary comrade” of the SWP when the International Committee has proved beyond a shadow of doubt that she was a GPU undercover agent in the Trotsky murder team.
She was planted in the SWP headquarters in New York in 1938 where she quickly rose to become personal secretary to the late James P. Cannon until 1947. All the time she was stealing correspondence flowing between Trotsky in Mexico and his comrades in New York, removing correspondence with international sections of the Trotskyist movement and betraying overseas comrades to the GPU, pilfering documents on Trotsky’s security and on political discussion within the party.
Despite this—and perhaps even more yet to be revealed—Hansen and his twisted co-thinkers abroad all maintain that Franklin was a loyal SWP member.
The Security and the Fourth International investigation has proved that Hansen and his colleague George Novack have followed a consistent policy of protecting GPU agents from exposure and covered up their crimes against the Trotskyist movement.
For this reason, the International Committee, on January 1, 1976, charged both men with being accomplices of the GPU and demanded the immediate formation of an international commission of inquiry. (“Open Letter to the World Trotskyist Movement,” The Murder of Comrade Tom Henehan, Martyr of the Fourth International, Labor Publications, p. 29)
At that time, November 1977, both the comrades in the leadership of the International Committee and I, a member of the SWP, understood that the SWP’s seemingly inexplicable defense of Sylvia Franklin had to be connected to a fundamental but concealed interest hostile to the Trotskyist movement. It was this obvious conflict between the objective fact of Franklin’s GPU role and the SWP’s staunch defense that, in large part, fueled my efforts to raise security questions within the SWP. It therefore led directly to my expulsion from the SWP and the filing of the lawsuit in federal district court.
Allow me to ask, Comrade Slaughter, what you think I should have done when the SWP leadership, specifically Barnes and Seigle, refused to give straightforward answers to my questions about Franklin, but instead ordered me to keep my mouth shut? The record shows that I first attempted to raise questions about the role of Sylvia Franklin in the Los Angeles branch of the SWP on January 23, 1978. I was not allowed to complete my remarks.
On January 29, 1978, I addressed a letter to Jack Barnes and the SWP Political Committee in which I reported a meeting that I had had with the SWP’s West Coast leader, Peter Camejo, following that incident. I pointed out that Camejo “refused to answer or to attempt to answer any of the questions which I propounded to him. Even to such basic questions, such as, was Sylvia Franklin a GPU agent or not?” (The Gelfand Case, Vol. I, p. 48) I concluded the letter by asking the Political Committee how I was to proceed.
Receiving no response, I resubmitted my letter to Barnes and the political committee on February 15, 1978. Six weeks later, having still received no answer, I addressed a letter, dated March 26, 1978, to the SWP National Committee. After listing all the evidence that had been published by the International Committee that indicated that Franklin was a GPU agent, I noted:
In short, we have the US Government, the GPU, the FBI and several prominent Trotskyist leaders all recognizing and admitting that Sylvia Franklin was a GPU agent. This broad group would seem to just about cover everyone. However, there seems to be notable exceptions in the SWP, who at even this late date, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, continue to insist that Sylvia Franklin was an “exemplary comrade.”
Such a conclusion is not just contrary to objective truth, but a conscious falsification. Sylvia Franklin was not an exemplary comrade, but a butcher, who must be held accountable for assisting in the murders of leading Trotskyists, including the founder of our movement, Leon Trotsky. Her conduct was only exemplary from the standpoint of the GPU, and anyone who continues to describe one of the murderers of Trotsky as an ‘exemplary comrade’ is speaking for the GPU, not the Trotskyist movement. (Ibid., p. 59)
The SWP’s reply came in a letter from Larry Seigle, dated April 7, 1978, which, twisting my questions, declared:
You have asked for our opinion about how you may proceed to press your charges against Joe Hansen. The answer to that question is simple. The Party cannot and will not allow agent-baiting in its ranks. Any further repetition by you of the Healyite slanders will not be tolerated. (Ibid., p. 73)
Should I have shrugged my shoulders, “minded my own business,” and accepted this sinister instruction—knowing full well that Seigle’s answer could only mean that the SWP leadership was consciously defending agents who had been involved in the assassination of Trotsky? I rejected such a cowardly course of action. Instead, on May 6, 1978, I informed the SWP leadership that Seigle’s letter “confirms my worst suspicions that a section of our leadership is unable to answer the most basic revolutionary questions raised by Sylvia Franklin’s and Joseph Hansen’s respective involvements with the GPU and the FBI, and as a consequence thereof, is consciously covering up these involvements.’’ (Ibid., p. 79)
You are fully familiar with the documentary record from which I have just quoted, and until November 1985 you had nothing but praise and encouragement for the actions I took to uncover the real reasons for the SWP leadership’s defense of Sylvia Franklin.
In September 1980, after my lawsuit survived the first SWP and government attempt to have it thrown out of court, I took the testimony of Sylvia Doxsee at an out-of-court deposition in Chicago. Over the course of three hours, she claimed loss of memory 231 times in response to my questioning. While two attorneys for the US Justice Department and the FBI watched silently, Doxsee perjured herself repeatedly, denying that she ever spied on the SWP for the GPU.
The SWP was represented at the deposition by in-house lawyer Margaret Winter and political committee member Larry Seigle. They collaborated closely with Franklin throughout the deposition. They conferred with the GPU agent during breaks, ate lunch with her, and protected her with objections during my questioning. In all respects, the SWP treated Sylvia Franklin as a “friendly witness.”
Subsequently in the case, I obtained documents and testimony confirming virtually every detail of the most important piece of evidence against Franklin, Louis Budenz’s HUAC affidavit. Furthermore, numerous witnesses such as Jean van Heijenoort, once Trotsky’s secretary, former SWP Political Committee member Felix Morrow, and Albert Glotzer, the leader of the Chicago branch when Sylvia Franklin joined the SWP, all testified that she was a Stalinist agent. Nevertheless, the SWP obdurately clung to her defense. During their depositions, SWP Political Committee member Larry Seigle—the bureaucrat who carried out my expulsion—and SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes denied the existence of any evidence that Franklin was an agent. At trial, both affirmed their unshakable commitments to the GPU agent.
Seigle testified as follows:
Q: Is there any doubt in your mind whether or not Sylvia Franklin was an agent of the GPU when she was a member of the Socialist Workers Party?
A: I have no doubt that she was not. (Gelfand Case, Vol. II, p. 586)
Barnes was even more emphatic:
Q: Now, was it your opinion at the time you received [my letter] that there was no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Sylvia Franklin was an agent of the GPU?
A: All the evidence is just the opposite. Her whole comportment not only when she was in the movement but everything that’s happened since she left indicates that she is exactly what she was: a loyal, hard-working, and model member of our movement.
Q: That is still your opinion today?
A: Well, my opinion today is she is one of my heroes after the harassment and what she’s been through in the last couple of years. I would even feel more strongly about her, her character, than I did then. (Ibid., p. 634)
Because of my case in the US district court for Los Angeles, I was able to petition the district court in New York for release of Franklin’s secret grand jury testimony, which had remained sealed since the 1950s. The SWP intervened in the proceeding solely to oppose any release of the transcripts. Although the transcripts were sent from the court in New York to Judge Pfaelzer, she refused to release them until after my attorneys completed presenting my case and questioning the witnesses. As a result, I was unable to use them to confront and cross-examine Seigle and Barnes on the witness stand.
As you know, Comrade Slaughter, in her grand jury testimony—which never would have been made public but for the Gelfand case—Sylvia Franklin confessed to her work as a GPU agent and detailed her role in the conspiracy to murder Leon Trotsky. She described her GPU contacts—an older man named “Jack,” the notorious Dr. Gregory Rabinowitz, “Sam,” alias Jack Soble, and a “slim man,” Dr. Robert Soblen—and the information she would provide them:
Who was fighting with who, and then if there was correspondence from Leon Trotsky that I saw, I would try to remember what was in the letters and write that all out, who’s going with who and that kind of thing, personal things like that, I remember, how much money that they had—I knew, you know, bank balances and stuff like that. (Ibid., p. 560)
Even after the confession became public during March 1983, the SWP has continued to defend Sylvia Franklin, contending what they themselves obviously do not believe—that the grand jury transcripts are forgeries.
You have not hesitated to condemn me for asserting that Joseph Hansen was an agent and that the present SWP leadership is dominated by agents, but yet you offer not the slightest criticism against those who to this day defend Sylvia Franklin, knowing that this woman was responsible for perpetrating the most heinous crimes against the Trotskyist movement. I can answer you with words from your October 23, 1975 letter to the SWP:
When Hansen lyingly accuses the Workers Revolutionary Party of being led by police agents and provocateurs, but then rejects a security investigation which would hit decisively at the Stalinists and their agents in the movement, what role is he playing? Why has he hitherto insisted on covering up the great historical questions concerning the murder of the founder of the Fourth International and his closest collaborators? What is the responsibility of those, like Hansen, who have criminally neglected these questions and now refuse to take them up? (How the GPU Murdered Trotsky, p. 236)
Moreover, the SWP’s appalling defense of GPU criminals did not stop with Sylvia Franklin. At his deposition in March 1982, SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes explicitly defended Zborowski and “the rights” of GPU agents during his deposition. When Barnes’ remarks were reported to Felix Morrow during his deposition later that same month, he reacted with the following words: “I find that incomprehensible, astonishing.”
What is your reaction, Comrade Slaughter? Do you now hold the opinion that I was wrong to attempt to force Mark Zborowski to tell the Trotskyist movement what he knows about the crimes in which he played such a monstrous role? Do you believe that Leon Trotsky would have condemned the use of such legal methods had they been available to the SWP and the Fourth International in the months following the February 1938 assassination of his son, Leon Sedov?
In December 1982-January 1983, my attorneys and I made one final effort to force the testimony of Mark Zborowski. A large portion of the legal papers submitted by Zborowski to avoid testifying were written by the Socialist Workers Party, whose attorneys were openly collaborating with this GPU killer’s lawyers. Thanks to their efforts, what was probably the last and only opportunity the Trotskyist movement shall ever have to question Zborowski was lost. Just three weeks later, the SWP went into court to plead frantically against the release of the sealed grand jury testimony of Sylvia Doxsee.
The actions taken by the SWP during the Gelfand case to protect Zborowski and Franklin were, by themselves, complete vindications of Security and the Fourth International. Allow me to recall that on January 1, 1976, the International Committee charged that Hansen and Novack were “accomplices of the GPU” on the grounds that they had worked to cover up the crimes of GPU agents such as Sylvia Franklin and Mark Zborowski.
In the notorious “Verdict” published by the SWP in its Intercontinental Press in September 1976, this indictment was denounced by virtually every group politically opposed to the International Committee as a “shameless frameup.” They claimed that the International Committee had “not brought forward the slightest probative evidence, documents, or testimony to substantiate their libelous accusations” that the SWP leaders “have covered up crimes of the Soviet secret police and shielded its agents.”
And yet, by the time the Gelfand case was approaching its climax, the SWP was actually committing, openly, the very political crimes of which the International Committee had initially accused Hansen and Novack—protecting and covering up for the agents of the GPU!
I cannot bring myself to believe that the WRP is so blinded by factional hatred of the Workers League that it is prepared to justify, let alone endorse, the actions taken by the SWP to protect GPU agents Zborowski and Franklin. But if you intend to continue your assault on the Gelfand case, then please provide me with your explanation of the SWP’s actions and your reasons for defending them.
As a result of the Gelfand case, the real meaning of the SWP’s apparently irrational defense of Sylvia Franklin was finally brought to light. Evidence was uncovered that definitively linked Hansen to the same GPU ring to which Franklin had belonged.
As you know, the first questions about Hansen’s relations with the GPU emerged in 1975 when Security and the Fourth International uncovered a 1940 State Department memorandum authored by Robert G. McGregor, an attache to the US Consulate in Mexico City responsible for monitoring communist activity, containing the following passage:
Mr. Joseph Hansen, Secretary to the late Mr. Trotsky, came in on Saturday morning in order to discuss matters connected with the assassination of Mr. Trotsky.... Hansen stated that when in New York in 1938 he was himself approached by an agent of the GPU and asked to desert the Fourth International and join the Third. He referred the matter to Trotsky who asked him to go as far with the matter as possible. For three months Hansen had relations with a man who merely identified himself as ‘John,’ and did not otherwise reveal his identity. (The Gelfand Case, Vol. I, p. 8) (The authenticity of the memorandum was established at my trial in 1983.)
The International Committee and later myself demanded that Hansen explain the passage. Why would Trotsky have risked the life of one of his secretaries on such a mission? What was learned from the operation? Why had nothing about it ever been made public before? Why was Hansen telling the US State Department about it?
Hansen waited almost a year to publish his reply. His account was riddled with inconsistencies and evasions. He said the year of his GPU contact was 1939, not 1938; as stated in the memorandum. He told an utterly fantastic tale about invisible ink, secret codes and cloak-and-dagger operations purportedly directed by Trotsky to gather information about the activities of the GPU and the Communist Party. Hansen stated that he was instructed by Trotsky to “take on a GPU” agent for the purpose of gathering information on GPU activities. He claimed that as a result “valuable information” was obtained for the Fourth International. (At his deposition in March 1982 Barnes cynically testified that the “valuable information” consisted of the fact that Hansen was unable to obtain “valuable information”!) To bolster his story, Hansen quoted a passage from a letter recently prepared by an “eyewitness,” his old friend and fellow guard at Coyoacan, Vaughn “Irish” O’Brien.
As you know, Comrade Slaughter, my case presented a unique opportunity to probe into Hansen’s explanations of his contacts with the GPU. I did so, naturally, by starting with “eyewitness” O’Brien. My attorneys, over the objections of the SWP, took the deposition of O’Brien in New York City during March 1982. O’Brien, who acknowledged that his friendship with Hansen dated back to high school in Salt Lake City, told a sharply different story than that presented by Hansen in his published accounts of the GPU “mission.”
Joe and L.D. had dreamed up a scam. Joe was to take, presumably, the only copy of the life of Stalin to New York, hand-delivered, presumably, and when he got there, he was to look up the GPU, the Stalinists, in New York, and tell them that he was a disillusioned Trotskyist and that for $25,000 he would sell them the only copy of the manuscript on Stalin. And, let me repeat, this was Trotsky’s idea.
A year later, on the eve of trial and after protracted litigation, I obtained a court order from the US Magistrate in Los Angeles compelling the SWP to turn over a copy of the letter O’Brien had written Hansen for inclusion in “Healy’s Big Lie.” The contents of the letter matched O’Brien’s deposition testimony:
Shortly before your departure, you gave me the following scenario: Upon arriving in New York you were to approach the CP headquarters on Thirteenth Street and let them know who you were and that you had a proposition for the right party. This proposition was that you had in your possession for delivery to the translator Malamud [sic] the only clean copy of Trotsky’s manuscript of the Life of Stalin. A year in Coyoacan had left you a disillusioned young man who wanted nothing more than to go back to Utah. $25,000 would buy a nice little ranch on which you would happily settle down. By purchasing the manuscript, the GPU would delay, perhaps irreparably, publication of Trotsky’s Life of Stalin.
My job was to receive your reports to L.D. and relay his instructions back to you. For this purpose we were to use a chemical “invisible ink” which responded to heat. No one in the household was to know of this fund-raising scheme except we three....
Now comes the part that I still find embarrassing after almost thirty-eight years. A couple of weeks after your departure I received a long letter from you, full of news from New York and of our friends there and around the country. I read it gratefully but never thought to give it the heat test. I don’t remember whether you finally flashed a signal to me or L.D., but I very well recall bringing in the letter with the real message showing plainly. L.D., this man with whom I had a most warm and friendly relationship, said quite seriously and without anger, “Thomas, in time of war you would be shot.” (Ibid., Vol. II, p. 652)
The letter itself, as an examination of the original shows, was a patent fraud. It is typed on two different typewriters, double-spaced, and is replete with editing marks and other changes. It is obvious that Hansen and O’Brien cooked up the letter together. This was confirmed by former Coyoacan guard Harold Robins, who, in a sworn affidavit, stated that he called O’Brien’s wife and elicited the admission that “Joe and Irish made it up out of the whole cloth.”
More damning is the way in which Hansen made use of the letter. Only a small portion of O’Brien’s letter was cited when Hansen referred to the letter in his published reply to Security and the Fourth International—that dealing with the “heat test.” He omitted making any reference to the $25,000 flimflam, which was apparently the alibi which Hansen and his old friend O’Brien had originally agreed upon in order to explain the GPU meetings uncovered by the International Committee. Hansen probably came to the conclusion, or was advised, that this alibi was too farfetched and that his claim that Trotsky had dreamt up a scheme to embezzle $25,000 from the GPU would simply not be believed even by the SWP’s political allies.
But Hansen chose not to discard the letter of his sole “eyewitness.” Instead, he cut-and-paste the “heat-test” paragraph into the article, using it to substantiate an entirely different alibi. Instead of the incredible plot to embezzle $25,000 from the GPU, Hansen substituted a story about his being instructed by Trotsky to penetrate the GPU. With homespun modesty, Hansen explained how “it was rather natural for me to accept an assignment in this field. It was part of the struggle to defend Trotsky against Stalin’s decision to kill him. Moreover, it was not just a passive defense but part of an effort—however limited—to mount a counteroffensive.
I felt no special aptitude for the task. Nonetheless, under Trotsky’s direct influence and the encouragement of Cannon and Shachtman, I was willing at that age to tackle anything that would help the Fourth International and speed the victory of socialism. To take on a GPU agent from whom something might be milked would now seem to some to be an unusual and even a “daring undertaking.” In Trotsky’s battle against Stalinism, it was only a very small maneuver. (“Healy’s Big Lie,” SWP Education Bulletin, p. 60)
At this point in the text Hansen inserted a small portion of O’Brien’s letter to substantiate the new alibi. In other words, O’Brien’s “eyewitness” account was used to substantiate a version of the events which were entirely different from that which appeared in the letter itself and to which O’Brien later testified during his March 1982 deposition.
Thus, the Gelfand case proved—with direct rather than circumstantial evidence—that Hansen fabricated a cover story for his meetings with the GPU. Comrade Slaughter, you know the implications of Hansen’s deceit as well as I. But we are not through yet. There was another portion of the O’Brien letter that Hansen chose not to use:
Some years ago, in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s... I encountered Pearl Kluger on the street. Pearl had been a secretary in the office of the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky and was, I believe, originally associated with A.J. Muste and Louis Bundenz [sic] in the old American Workers Party. I had not seen Pearl for a considerable period of time, but she immediately said, “Budenz says your friend Joe Hansen worked with the GPU.” (Ibid., Vol. II, p. 651)
The SWP did not attempt to challenge O’Brien’s astonishing report that Budenz had identified Hansen as a GPU agent. Instead, after the trial, in the Militant of April 15, 1983, the SWP informed its members for the first time of what it had known and deliberately concealed for years: that Budenz had named “several SWP members as Soviet agents. Among these were Joseph Hansen, a central leader of the SWP until his death in 1979.”
Now the many pieces of the complex historical mosaic came together to form a clear and devastating picture. The SWP’s unrelenting defense of Franklin and its hysterical denunciations of Budenz for having exposed her were necessitated by their knowledge—of which the entire world Trotskyist movement knew absolutely nothing—that Hansen was among the GPU operatives who had been turned over to the US government by Budenz in the 1940s. The fact that this revelation was never included in any of the public statements made by Budenz and was never publicly acted upon by the FBI points to only one conclusion: that the US government chose not to prosecute Hansen for his GPU connections or to publicly identify him as a member of a Soviet espionage ring, but instead instructed him to continue working inside the Socialist Workers Party.
If you think, Comrade Slaughter, that there is another more innocent explanation for all this, let me hear it. But first, I suggest that you re-read a perceptive observation that you made in your letter of October 23, 1975, when, in reference to the evidence given by GPU master spy Jack Soble at the trial of his brother, you noted and asked: “In his testimony, Soble said he had ten anti-Trotskyists under his control. Six have been named; who are the other four?” (How the GPU Murdered Trotsky, p. 238)
We can now claim with assurance that Hansen was one of the four. But unlike Soble and Zborowski, Hansen was never prosecuted or, like Franklin and Floyd Miller, revealed publicly. That is because he agreed to work for the US government. The exact date of his recruitment is not known, but the evidence assembled by the International Committee and authenticated and expanded upon in the course of the Gelfand case proved that Hansen had been collaborating with the US government against the Trotskyist movement since at least 1940.
US government documents revealed that after Hansen told US intelligence agent Robert G. McGregor about his relations with the GPU, he visited the consulate on at least four more occasions, each time providing the imperialists with confidential information belonging to the Fourth International. The most important of these was a highly confidential memorandum of a conversation between “W,” a confidential source on GPU activities, and a leading member of the Fourth International.
During his last visits, Hansen requested that McGregor set up “confidential means” for Hansen to continue his communications with the State Department and a contact “to whom confidential information could be imparted with impunity.” Top officials in the State Department and the FBI arranged for Hansen’s contact to be B.E. Sackett, the FBI Special Agent in Charge of the New York City Office. The matter was of sufficient importance for J. Edgar Hoover himself to instruct Sackett on the manner in which the FBI should deal with Hansen.
The most incriminating document is the letter from Hansen to George P. Shaw, chief of the US Consulate in Mexico City, stating, “I received your letter concerning Mr. Sackett in good condition and shall visit him shortly.” Since their publication, neither Hansen nor the SWP printed any explanation of the government documents. As you know, Comrade Slaughter, I was expelled from the SWP because I demanded that Hansen account for his meetings with the State Department and the FBI. Is it now your contention that my demand was wrong?
The testimony I obtained from Farrell Dobbs, Morris Lewit and Felix Morrow, members of the SWP Political Committee at the time of Hansen’s meetings with McGregor and Sackett, established that Hansen’s contacts with the imperialist police agencies were secret and unauthorized. Dobbs, still a member of the SWP when he gave his deposition on April 11, 1982, was unequivocal:
Q: Did you know that in 1940 Mr. Hansen had face to face meetings with the FBI in New York City?
A: I did not.
Q: Have you ever heard that before?
A: I have no knowledge of such a thing ever happening and no reason to believe that it did. (Cited from transcript in North, The Case Against the SWP, Labor Publications, p. 12)
None of the members of the SWP Political Committee which expelled me, with the notable exception of Jack Barnes—who admitted that Hansen met with Sackett—knew anything about Hansen’s meetings. Even though Hansen was present at my expulsion meeting, no one bothered to ask him about it. Little wonder. Barnes and the others in the SWP leadership over the last 20 years trace their political heritage directly to Joseph Hansen.
Barnes and Hansen discussed the GPU and FBI contacts. They worked together on the Intercontinental Press articles. Barnes saw the O’Brien letter when it was received in 1976. He participated in the construction of the lying article in which a portion of that letter was used out of its real context. Other members of the leadership—blissfully ignorant of the evidence implicating Hansen and Franklin in conspiracies with the GPU and FBI—helped to suppress my demands that Hansen account to the party for his actions. I was isolated, slandered, threatened and expelled because I would not stop asking questions about Joseph Hansen and Sylvia Franklin.
These actions were taken by Barnes and his co-agents in the SWP leadership to prevent the exposure of the fact that Hansen was a government agent. It is my contention that such a coverup would have been undertaken only by agents seeking to preserve state control over the SWP. If you and the WRP have an alternative explanation of the facts, it is your political responsibility to publish it.
There are many other elements of the case that I have not discussed in this letter. I have merely concentrated on what I consider to be the most crucial points. Nevertheless, the evidence to which I have referred is more than enough to show that the Gelfand case has produced a powerful factual record that totally refutes the attacks that have been leveled against it.
However serious your political disagreements with the International Committee and the Workers League, you bring harm to the workers’ movement and dishonor to yourself by misrepresenting the Gelfand case in order to hit back at the Workers League. To continue to attack an investigation which has unearthed so much invaluable information is—if I might be allowed to quote the very apt words which you once used in defense of Security and the Fourth International—“to deliberately perpetuate a situation in which clarification of urgent political questions by the revolutionary cadre is obstructed, and this is the very worst kind of historical irresponsibility to which anyone claiming to give leadership in the revolutionary movement can descend.”
I await your reply with the expectation that you will address yourself to the issues of fact that I have raised above.