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My series on ex-Communist turned Catholic Bella Dodd continues with excerpts from Chapter Seven of School of Darkness, published in 1954.

You will appreciate the insights she provides into Communist machinations: distorting American values and heroes (i.e. Lincoln, someone the Democratic Party and Obama hijacked in 2008), obscuring political definitions (i.e. fascism, which lasts to this day) and infiltrating schools via teachers’ unions.

This is a shocking expose you won’t want to miss. You can find the first two installments here and here. The text of the book is online.  The first seven chapters can be found here.  Emphases below are mine.

Chapter Seven

IN THE SPRING of 1936 I got a six-month leave of absence from the College to serve as the legislative representative of the Teachers Union.  I spent much of my time in Albany, in Washington, and at City Hall in New York.  I was successful in having two Union bills passed and the Union was well pleased.

I now represented a growing educational pressure group.  With the Communists in control, the New York Teachers Union expanded its membership rolls by taking in unemployed teachers, substitute teachers, and WPA teachers.  These made a large bloc for political pressure.  We added further strength to it by working with the communist section of the PTA and several student organizations

The Communist Party was pleased, and later it promoted to important positions with the American Labor Party, which it controlled, many of the teachers who got their first experience in practical politics with teachers’ district clubs.

At this time I became one of the Teachers Union delegates to the A.F. of L. Central Trades and Labor Council of New York.  When I first went to Beethoven Hall on East Fifth Street, Joseph Ryan was president and George Meany was legislative representative.

I was proud of the assignment.  I was young and idealistic and eager to serve the workers.  I now became a member of the Communist Party “fraction” in the A.F. of L.  This meant that I would meet regularly with the Communist Party members of the A.F. of L. and the leaders of the Party in order to push A.F. of L. policy toward the communist line.

The Party maintained an active fraction in labor groups, including the A.F. of L.  In 1934 the Red unions under the title TUUL, led by William Z. Foster, had been ordered liquidated by the Communist International.  The radicalized core of workers, trained by Foster, turned their energies to A.F. of L. unions.  They attracted new followers by militant support of legislation for the unemployed.  This struggle for a worthy cause enabled the Party to build emotional and organizational ties with workers belonging to many unions.

In 1936 I met, through the Party, committees of the striking seamen who, under the leadership of the Communist Party, were fighting both the shipowners and the corrupt leadership of the old I.S.U., an affiliate of the A.F. of L.  A rank-and-file movement was organized against the old leadership of the I.S.U.  …  To gain some support from organized labor they sought assistance from the Central Trades and Labor Council.  They wanted to present their grievances before delegates of the city’s organized labor body.

I was summoned by the Communist Party and told I had been selected to present to the Central Trades a petition of the striking seamen with their demands for a reorganization of their union along democratic lines.  I agreed to cooperate though I was only partly aware of the implications …

I learned something important that night.  I found that acts of daring, supported by the appearances of moral justification, have a terrific impact in building a movement, regardless of whether or not you win.  This is a fact the Communists know how to use.

Of course I was hardly representing the teachers by becoming involved in matters which were of no immediate concern to my union.  But I had learned that serving the Communist Party was the first requisite for continued leadership in my union.

From my tutors in the Party I learned many communist lessons.  I learned that Lenin held in contempt unions interested only in economic betterment of workers, because he held that the liberation of the working class would not come through reforms.  I learned that unions which followed a reformist policy were guilty of the Marxist crime of “economism.” I learned that trade unions are useful only insofar as they could be used politically to win worker acceptance of the theory of class struggle and to convince workers that their only hope of improving their conditions is in revolution.

the American worker was not conscious of his class role because he was too comfortable.  In line with this I saw senseless strikes called or prolonged.  At first I did not understand the slogan frequently proclaimed by these men: “Every defeat is a victory.” Loss of salary, or position, or even loss of life was not important as long as it brought the worker to acceptance of the class struggle.

That year I was elected as delegate to the State Federation of Labor convention at Syracuse.  The Communists and some of the liberal unions were determined to pass a resolution endorsing the formation of a Labor Party.  I attended the Communist Party fraction meeting in New York in preparation for this convention.  We went over the resolutions to be introduced and the objectives to be achieved.  Assignments were made to individual delegates.

This use of fractions made the Communist Party effective in noncommunist groups.  They went prepared, organized, trained, and disciplined with a program worked out in detail, and before other groups had a chance to think the Communists were winning advantagesThey worked in every convention as an organized bloc.  In other organized blocs the Communists had “sleepers,” assigned to protect Communist Party interests.  These “sleepers” were active members in noncommunist blocs for the purpose of hamstringing and destroying the power of the opposition.

The “progressive” bloc at the State Federation convention that year decided to run me for a position in the State Federation of Labor.  It seems ridiculous to me now that one so newly come to the labor movement should have been pushed forward against the established machine.  But this, too, was a communist tactic, for Communists have no hesitation whatever in bringing unknown people forward into leadership, the more callow or ill-equipped the better, since they will therefore more easily be guided by the Party.  The weaker they are, the more certainly they will carry out the Party’s wishes.  Suddenly and dramatically the Communist Party makes somebodies out of nobodies.  If tactics change, they also drop them just as quickly and the somebodies again become nobodies

In 1936 the communist hold on the A.F. of L. in New York State was slim.  The Party was afraid to expose well-placed comrades in the A.F. of L. apparatus, reserving them for key positions in vital industries and for long-range strategy.  In addition there were Communists occupying important positions in the unions who enjoyed their union “pie card” positions, and they objected to being sacrificed even by the Party.  These argued that it was more important for them to hold their positions than to be used for mere opposition purposes.

The leadership of the Teachers Union was not affected by a fear of losing jobs; the tenure law for public schoolteachers was now effective.  Therefore, the Party leaders found it expedient to use the teacher leaders in the A.F. of L. as the spearhead of A.F. of L. work In addition teachers were generally better informed about current Party writings and were better disposed to follow the Party line than the old-time communist union leaders who were hampered by the fact that they had to give consideration to the bread-and-butter issues for their unions.  Then, too, the teacher representatives were not affected by a desire to preserve “pie card” positions since there was no material advantage to leadership in the Teachers Union in my day.

But this steady use of the Teachers Union by the Communist Party in the city, in the state, and at times even in the national A.F. of L. brought reprisals from A.F. of L. leaders.  They became colder and more unwilling to accede to requests for assistance from the Teachers Union …

I was to learn in the years to come that those who seek to influence public opinion on any question are just as effective with a small as with a large organization; and that it is easier to control a small organization …

We did not receive the wholehearted support of the A.F. of L. because the Teachers Union in America was basically pro-socialist and supported an educational system intended to prepare children for the new economic collectivist system which we regarded as inevitable.  This went far beyond A.F. of L. policy of those days.

Though I was at a decided disadvantage in Albany, I was not easily discouraged.  I had a “good” legislative program and the Party comrades had assured me they did not expect me to get passed the bills we were sponsoring.  Their real purpose was to have the program popularized and to use this as a means of recruiting more teachers into the Union

In 1936 people had a little more money than in those tragic years of 1932 to 1934.  On the whole a tremendous change had taken place in America.  Millions of people formerly regarded as middle class found themselves on relief or on WPA and had been merged into the comradeship of the dispossessed.  To people of this group the Communist Party brought psychological support.  It saved their pride by blaming the economic system for their troubles and it gave them something to hate.  It also made it possible for them to give expression to that hate by defiance.

Many of these new proletarians marched that May Day down Eighth Avenue, through streets lined with slum buildings …

With the others I went from one group to another that evening.  By the early morning we had reached one of the intimate little night clubs which the Communist Party financed and where Party people were wont to congregate …

Beginning in 1936 a prodigious effort was made by the Party in support of the Spanish Civil War, and this continued until 1939.  Perhaps no other activity aroused greater devotion among American intellectuals …

Since 1932 the Communist Party had publicized itself as the leading opponent of fascism … Its propaganda machine ground out an endless stream of words, pictures, and cartoons.  It played on intellectual, humanitarian, racial, and religious sensibilities until it succeeded to an amazing degree in conditioning America to recoil at the word fascist even when people did not know its meaning.

Today I marvel that the world communist movement was able to beat the drums against Germany and never once betray what the inner group knew well: that some of the same forces which gave Hitler his start had also started Lenin and his staff of revolutionists from Switzerland to St. Petersburg to begin the revolution which was to result in the Soviet totalitarian state.

There was not a hint that despite the propaganda of hate unleashed against Germany and Italy, communist representatives were meeting behind the scenes to do business with Italian and German fascists to whom they sold materiel and oil.  There was not a hint that Soviet brass was meeting with German brass to redraw the map of Europe.  There was no betrayal of these facts until one day they met openly to sign a contract for a new map of Europe — a treaty made by Molotov and Von Ribbentrop.

In the Spanish Civil War, the Party called upon its many members in the field of public relations, agents who made their living by writing copy for American business, for the sale of soap, whisky, and cigarettes.  They gave the Party tremendous assistance in conditioning the mind of AmericaPeople of all ranks joined the campaign for the Loyalists: pacifists, humanitarians, political adventurers, artists, singers, actors, teachers, and preachers.  All these and more poured their best efforts into this campaign.

During the Spanish War the Communist Party was able to use some of the best talent of the country against the Catholic Church by repeating ancient appeals to prejudice and by insinuating that the Church was indifferent to the poor and was against those who wanted only to be free.

The communist publicists carefully took for their own the pleasant word of Loyalist and called all who opposed them “Franco-Fascists.” This was a literary coup which confused many men and womenViolent communist literature repeatedly lumped all of the Church hierarchy on the side of the “Fascists,” and, using this technique, they sought to destroy the Church by attacking its priests.  This was not a new tactic.  I had seen it used in our own country over and over again.  When the Communists organized Catholic workers, Irish and Polish and Italian, in labor unions they always drove a wedge between lay Catholics and the priests, by flattering the laity and attacking the priests.

In the Spanish campaign the Communists in the United States followed Moscow directives.  They were the distant outpost of the Soviet realm and co-ordinated with the Communist International in details.  When the call came to organize the American contingent of the International Brigade, the communist port agents of the National Maritime Union along the East Coast provided false passports and expedited the sending of this secret army to a friendly country.

Various unions were combed for members who would join the Abraham Lincoln Brigade which was the American division of the International Brigade.  The Communists used the prestige of Lincoln’s name as they had other patriots’ names to stir men’s souls for propaganda purposes.

I, myself, swallowed the Party’s lies on the Spanish Civil War.  There was little forthcoming from American national leaders to expose this fraud.  The Party, from time to time, produced a few poor, bewildered Spanish priests who, we were told, were Loyalists and these were publicized as the “People’s priests” as against the others, the Fascists.  In retrospect it is easy to see how completely they twisted the American’s love of freedom and justice to win emotional support for the Soviet adventure in Spain.

Through numerous committees the Communist Party raised thousands of dollars for its Spanish campaign.  But the tremendous advertising campaign could not have been financed from the contributions made at mass meetings and other gatherings, though these were not small sums.  I remember one mass meeting (where I made the speech), held under the auspices of the Teachers Union.  It netted more than twelve thousand dollars.

It became obvious, as the extensive campaign went on, that some of the funds were coming from sources other than the collections.  It is now well known that the Soviet Union was doing everything in its power to bring the foreign policy of the United States into conformity with its own devious plans and that it did not hesitate to use trickery to do so.  It wanted the United States to support Soviet policy on Spain.  I did not understand this at the time.  After that odd pieces of information and desultory recollections of events stayed in my mind and finally pieced out an understandable picture.

As one example of the puzzle that finally became a picture there is the story of the Erica Reed, which will serve as an example of hundreds of others.  It was supposed to be a mercy ship taking food, milk, and medicines to hard-pressed Barcelona.  It was chartered ostensibly by the North American Committee for Loyalist Spain.  In reality it was financed by Soviet agents.

The Erica Reed was laid up in New Orleans.  At that time anti-communists were in control of the National Maritime Union in the Gulf, and the ship was manned by a crew which was either anti-communist or nonpolitical.  This did not fit into the plans of the Soviet agent and the American Communists working with himSo it was decided to bring the Erica Reed to New York and there replace her crew with trusted Party men.

Later, I talked to one of the men assigned to switch crews.  A group had been ordered to board the vessel at night.  Armed with blackjacks and lead pipes, they set to work.  Some of the crew suffered broken jaws, arms, and legs, and, as the little Soviet agent had planned, some were hospitalizedIn addition a crowd of boys from the fur market, who were told they must fight fascism, congregated near the East Side pier where the ship was docked.  They attacked the members of the crew who escaped the goon squad on the ship.  They did not know that they were assaulting fellow Americans and were confused as to what the fracas was about

Only the captain, an old Scandinavian, remained of the original crewThe new crew signed on by the New York office of the Union were nearly all pro-communist sailors, some of whom were looking for an opportunity for violent action and adventure.

When the Erica Reed cleared Gibraltar and nosed toward her destination, Franco’s gunboats ordered her to stop.  The captain, concerned for the safety of his vessel, made ready to do so.  As he turned to give the order, a communist member of the crew held a pistol to the captain’s head and commanded, “Proceed to Barcelona.”

The Spanish gunboat, reluctant to seize a ship flying the American flag, returned to headquarters for further instructions.  The “relief ship” with its supplies reached Barcelona where she was immediately ordered to Odessa.  And so the Erica Reed, ostensibly chartered by the North American Committee for Loyalist Spain, was sent to Odessa by her real charterer, the Soviet Union.  The Spanish people were expendable.

During those years house parties were held by our union members to raise money for Loyalist Spain.  Union and nonunion teachers were invited.  Communists and non-communists rubbed shoulders and drank cocktails together.  Eyes grew moist as the guests were told of bombs dropped on little children in Bilboa.

The International Brigade was eulogized by many Americans.  They failed to realize that the first international army under Soviet leadership had been born; that though all the national subdivisions had national commissars, these were under Soviet commissars ! There was the Lincoln Brigade and the Garibaldi Brigade.  There was the emerging world military communist leadership developing in Spain.  There was Thompson for the United States, Tito for Yugoslavia, Andre Marty for France, and others to act as the new leaders in other countries.

We teachers recruited soldiers for the Lincoln Brigade …

During this time communist girls wore gold liberty bells inscribed “Lincoln Brigade,” as a symbol of their pride in those “fighting fascism” …

Monday: Chapters Eight and Nine

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