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Today’s chapter is the final instalment of Bella Dodd’s School of Darkness (1954).  Photos are from the City University of New York Brooklyn’s library and Parish World.

In Chapter 17, Dodd and Bishop Fulton J Sheen discuss the Catholic faith.  I realise that most of my readers are Protestant, however, much of the content here is of general Christian interest about the hope which a belief in Jesus Christ brings.

I read with interest of the Maryknoll priest Fr Keller who wrote the book which helped to bring Dodd back to her childhood faith.  Today, Maryknoll — along with many other religious orders — is very much oriented towards a syncretism of Catholicism and Marxism. I doubt many of them truly bring souls to Christ these days.  That might seem like a harsh statement, but the Maryknoll order has changed dramatically over the past few decades.  I used to read their monthly missions magazine which my parents received until the 1980s, when it got too radical for my mother to read.  She stopped her donations and, with them, the magazine.

For those too young to place Bella Dodd’s conversion in Catholic history, this was pre-Vatican II. The Latin Mass was universal throughout the world. Catholics received Holy Communion kneeling at the altar rail. Also, certain prayers, such as the Angelus, which few Catholics alive today know or learn, were still recited with great reverence every day.

Bella Dodd died in 1969, when the Vietnam War was at its peak.  She had adopted a conservative political philosophy and it would have been interesting to know what she thought about the student and racial protests which characterised the second half of that decade.  At the end of this book, she was optimistic that the young adults she met would continue to embrace the Church, but this certainly started to change by the time she died.  I would also have been interested to know what she thought about the Novus Ordo (New Order!) Mass. I hope that I can ask her one day.

The book is available online free of charge.  Emphases below are mine.

Chapter Seventeen

EARLY IN THE NEW YEAR I went to the office of the Board of Education to see Dr. Jacob Greenberg, then superintendent in charge of personnel, regarding a teacher. In his office I met Mary Riley, his assistant. Since Dr. Greenberg could not see me at once, Miss Riley and I began to talk …

I was somewhat surprised that she would talk to me for I knew that my activities and the doctrine I had spread had been offensive to her. But she was smiling and saying she was sorry they no longer saw me at the Board. I explained that I had been having a lot of trouble.

She knew. “That’s putting it mildly,” she said. “But don’t let anyone stop you, Bella. You still have a lot of friends. We don’t like communism but we do admire one who struggles to help human beings as you always have” …

Some days later a package came from Mary Riley. It contained books and magazines dealing with a variety of things Catholic, such as the medical missions in Africa, the Interracial Councils, and youth shelters. There was also a book by a priest: James Keller’s You Can Change the World.

As I read the title my thoughts went back to Sarah Parks, my teacher at Hunter College, and the books she had given me that had quickened my interest in the communist movement. Those books had been in praise of the change in the world brought about by the Russian Revolution which at the time I had considered an upheaval necessary for the improvement of the social conditions of the Russian people. I knew now that glorification of revolution and destruction of lives in the hope that a better world would rise were fatally wrong. I thought with sadness of Sarah Parks — her bright intelligence wasted because she had no standard to live by, of how in the end she took her own life rather than face its emptiness ...

I could not stop reading the book. I sat there in the quiet of my office and I felt all through me the truth of Father Keller’s saying: “There can be no social regeneration without a personal regeneration.” As I read I felt life flowing back into me, life to myself as a person. Within the Party I had been obliterated except as part of the group. Now, like some Rip Van Winkle, I was awakening from a long sleep …

Not long afterward I was in the Criminal Courts Building defending a youthful offender and I ran into judge Pagnucco, formerly of the District Attorney’s office, who had interrogated me during the Scottoriggio investigation. We talked about the measure of individual responsibility for criminal acts. He mentioned Father Keller’s words on that subject and I said I had heard of him and admired his work. The Judge asked me if I would like to meet the Maryknoll priest.

Next afternoon I met the judge at the office of Godfrey Schmidt, a militant Catholic lawyer, and a teacher at Fordham Law School. I remembered him vividly as the official in the New York State Department of Labor who had prepared the case against Nancy Reed, the girl who had lived at my apartment for a time and whose mother was an owner of the Daily Worker. I thought of the violent campaign the Party had organized against him, the gruesome caricatures of him in the Party-controlled papers, and how they called him “Herr Doktor Schmidt.” Now I listened to Godfrey Schmidt talk of America and its people with obvious sincerity, and I had an overwhelming feeling of shame that I had participated in that campaign of hate.

Father Keller came in with another friend and Mr. Schmidt invited us to lunch together. I looked at the priest in frank appraisal and found myself interested in the harmony and peace of his face and in his keen understanding of the problems facing men and women of our day. As he and the other men discussed various matters, I realized why these three talked so differently from the little groups I had been with at tables like this in the communist movement. Here there was no hatred and no fear. We talked of books and television and of communism too, and Father Keller referred to the latter as “the last stage of an ugly period” …

I found myself returning again and again to that office, impressed with the spiritual quality I found there. On my first visit to the Christopher headquarters a dozen of us were busy in the room when the chimes from the nearby Cathedral rang the noon hour. Everyone stopped working and recited the Angelus. I caught, here and there, remembered words of prayer I had heard long ago. “. . . Behold the handmaid of the Lord,” I heard, and “. . . the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. ”

I did not know the response and I stood silent. But I was deeply stirred to hear young men and women pausing in their work to pray together, here in the most materialistic city ever raised by a materialistic civilization. And I felt how true of this believing little group were the words: “And dwelt among US” …

Seeing the Christophers at work stirred a memory of the flame I had in my youth, the desire to help those in trouble, the sense of shame at any indignity to a human being. I smiled ruefully in recalling that I had thought the Communists the modern prototype of the early Christians, come to cast greed and selfishness from the world. The Communists too had promised an order and a harmony of life. I knew now that their promises were fraudulent, and that the harmony they promised brought only chaos and death. Yet I knew too that I had to get the difference between the two clear in my own mind before I took any further steps. I had to know, and for myself …

The anti-clericalism which had been a part of my thinking for years dropped from me completely when I watched the lights turned on each morning around the altar of Our Lady of Guadaloupe and when the candles were lighted and I saw the priest offer the Sacrifice. I felt myself inescapably drawn to the altar rail, but I still sat in the darkness of the rear pews as a spectator. I was not ready, I told myself. And I had a dread of dramatic gestures. But as the days went by I knew the sense of strain was leaving me and I began to feel an inner quiet.

I found myself reading, like one who had been starved, books which the Communists and the sophisticated secular world marked taboo or sneered at. I found St. Augustine and the City of God infinitely more life-giving than the defiant modern professors who wrote The City of Man. I found St. Thomas Aquinas and I laughed to remember that all I had learned of St. Thomas was that he was a scholastic philosopher who believed in the deductive method of thinking. Now, as the great storehouse of his wisdom was opened to me, I felt rich beyond all words.

One day at lunch with Godfrey Schmidt I explained that I must learn more about the Faith. As we walked down Park Avenue, he took me into a bookshop and bought me a prayer book. Next day he called me to say that Bishop Sheen was in town and had agreed to see me again. This was like a joyful summons from an old friend.

With Mr. Schmidt I went to East Thirty-eighth Street, to the offices of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and rang the bell. Bishop Sheen opened the door himself and I saw the silver cross on his chest, the smile in his eyes, but this time I heard a welcome home in his greeting.

And so I began to receive instructions in the Faith. Something strange was apparent to me in my behavior — I who had generally been skeptical and argumentative now found that I asked few questions. I did not want to waste one precious moment. Week after week I listened to the patient telling of the story of God’s love for man, and of man’s longing for God. I listened to the keen logic and reasoning that have lighted the darkness and overcome the confused doubts of others of my group who had lost the art of reasoned thinking and in its place had put assertive casuistry. I saw how history and fact and logic were inherent in the foundations of the Christian faith.

I listened to the Bishop explaining the words of Jesus Christ, the founding of His Church, the Mystical Body. I felt close now to all who received Communion in all the churches of the world. And I felt the true equality which exists between people of different races and nations when they kneel together at the altar rail — equal before God. And I came to love this Church which made us one

Easter of 1952 was approaching and Bishop Sheen said that I was ready. I had no baptismal record and a letter of inquiry to the town in Italy where I was born produced none, though I was reasonably certain I had been baptized. So it was decided I was to receive conditional baptism.

On April 7th, the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, I was baptized by Bishop Sheen at the font in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Mary Riley and Louis Pagnucco stood on either side of me. Godfrey Schmidt and a few other friends were with me too.

Afterward Bishop Sheen heard my first confession. He had noted that I was nervous and distraught in making my preparation, for I had to cover the many years in which I had denied the truth. I meditated on the mockery I had made of my marriage; how I had squandered my birthright as a woman; on my twisted relationship with my parents; on the exaggerated pride of my mind; and on the tolerance I had for error. He realized my despair and said comfortingly: “We priests have heard the sins of men many times. Yours are no greater than those of others. Have confidence in God’s mercy.” After hearing my confession he granted absolution. His Pax vobiscum [‘Go in peace’] echoed and reechoed in my heart.

At Mass next morning I received Communion from his hands. And I prayed as I watched the flicker of the sanctuary lamp that the Light that had reclaimed me might reach the ones I loved who still sit in darkness.

It was as if I had been ill for a long time and had awakened refreshed after the fever had gone. I went about my work with a calm that surprised me. I seemed to have acquired a new heart and a new conscience.

Outwardly my life was changed not at all. I still lived in a cold-water flat on a street of tenement houses, but now I could greet my neighbors with no feeling of fear or mistrust. I was never to be lonely again, and when I prayed there was always the Presence of Him I prayed to.

As order and peace of mind returned to my life I was able to face intelligently the difficult ordeal of appearing before governmental agencies and investigating committees. I dreaded hurting individuals who were perhaps as blind as I had been and who were still being used by the conspirators. I dreaded the campaign of personal abuse which would be renewed against me.

Now I formulated and tried to answer three critical questions: Does my country need the information I am called upon to give? Will I be scrupulous in telling the truth? Will I be acting without malice?

I knew that the information which I had might be of some help in protecting our people. I knew also that honest citizens of our country were uninformed about the nature of Marxism and I recognized now that in the best sense of the word to “inform” means to educate. As avenues of education are blocked and twisted into propaganda by the agents of this conspiracy, my country needed the information I had to give.

But I dreaded the ordeal of testifying, when letters, telephone calls, and post cards of abuse came to me after my first appearance before the Internal Security Committee of the Senate. There was one interesting turn to the abuse: the bulk of it was in biblical terms — “Judas Iscariot,” “thirty pieces of silver,” “dost thou betray” were the most common expressions used. Quite a few quoted from the Gospel of St. Matthew the words telling how Judas Iscariot hanged himself and the writers ended with the exhortation, “Go thou and do likewise.”

Now I saw in true perspective the contribution that the teachers and the schools of America have made to its progress, just as I was sadly aware of the darker picture some of the educators and the educated among us have presented. Justice Jackson has said that it is the paradox of our times that we in modern society need to fear only the educated man. It is very true that what a man does with his knowledge is that which, in one sense, justifies or indicts that education. A glance at the brilliant scientists who served the Hitler regime, and the Soviet scholars who serve the Kremlin, a look at the men indicted for subversion in our own country -all lead us to re-estimate the role of education. We are told that all problems will be solved by more education. But the time has come to ask: “What kind of education?” “Education for what?” One thing has become transparently clear to me: rounded education includes training of the will as much as training of the mind; and mere accumulation of information, without a sound philosophy, is not education.

I saw how meaningless had been my own education, how like a cafeteria of knowledge, without purpose or balance. I was moved by emotion and my education failed to guide me in making sound personal and public decisions. It was not until I met the Communists that I had a standard to live by, and it took me years to find out it was a false standard.

Now I know that a philosophy and movement that devotes itself to improving the condition of the masses of our industrial society cannot be successful if it attempts to force man into the mold of materialism and to despiritualize him by catering only to that part of him which is of this earth. For no matter how often man denies the spirit he will in an unaccountable manner turn and reach out to the Eternal. A longing for God is as natural a heritage of the soul as the heartbeat is of the body. When man tries to repress it, his thinking can only lapse into chaos.

I know that man alone cannot create a heaven on earth. But I am still deeply concerned about my fellow man, and I feel impelled to do what I can against the inhumanity and injustices that threaten his well-being and security. I am aware, too, that if good men fail to so love one another that they will strike vigorously to eliminate social ills, they must be prepared to see the conspirators of revolution seize power by using social maladjustments as a pretext.

I believe that the primary requisite for a sober appraisal of the present challenge of communism is to face it with a clear understanding of what it is. But it cannot be fought in a negative manner. Man must be willing to combat false doctrine with the Truth, and to organize active agency with active agency. Above all there must be a new birth of those moral values that for the past two thousand years have made our civilization a life-giving force

New armies of men are rising, and these are sustained not by the Communist creed but by the credo of Christianity. And I am keenly conscious that only a generation of men so devoted to God that they will heed his command, “Love one another as I have loved you,” can bring peace and order to our world.

End of series

This is the penultimate chapter of School of Darkness (1954).  Bella Dodd discusses her life after the Communist Party expelled her.  She also meets Fulton J Sheen, who was a monsignor at the time.  (The photo is from the Ephemera blog by Jose Pacheco Pereira.)

Before I began excerpting from this book, I ran a few posts about the Communist infiltration of the Church on July 8, July 10 and July 11.  Some of these posts mentioned the Venona Project, the findings of which became available only in 1995.  So, whilst many people — my parents included — suspected further Communist involvement not only in the church but in government and the media, they had little concrete proof at the time after the hearings of the 1940s and early 1950s.  Therefore, it was easy for leftists of various stripes to laugh at them looking for ‘Reds under the beds’.  I was one of them — whilst still at Catholic school, which, perhaps quite innocently, strongly encouraged us students to adopt peace and unity along with left-wing political positions.  I imagine that the same is true in other denominational schools, just as it is in state schools.

Now we know that those who were suspicious were correct.  I would encourage you to read about the Venona Project at the link in the preceding paragraph.  Bella Dodd also discusses people and hearings in the United States after the Second World War.  These links are also worth reading: List of Americans in the Venona Papers, List of Soviet Agents in the United States (look at their various occupations!), American Peace Mobilization, Harry Dexter White, the Institute of Pacific Relations, Owen Lattimore and a left-of-centre apologist who was a Supreme Court Justice, Abe Fortas (not a Communist). Dodd writes about Lattimore and Fortas in this chapter.

Although the American Peace Mobilization was short-lived, those who were alive during the 1960s — 20 years later — will recognise how the United States adopted four of its Five Planks to Defend America and is still doing so:

  1. Defeat Militarism and Regimentation. Repeal Conscription. No M Day for the American people.
  2. Restore the Bill of Rights. Restore free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought. Take special privilege away from the top and give it back to the whole American people.
  3. Stop War Profiteering. Put lives ahead of profits. Put profits last on democracy’s list. What helps democracy helps you.
  4. Guarantee a decent standard of living for all. Work for more social and labor legislation. End discrimination.

On the second point above, remember who is exercising free speech.  They are the same voices trying to silence conservative and libertarian voices.

Now on with the book … It’s available online free of charge.  Emphases below are mine.

Chapter Sixteen

TO THE New York newspapers the story of the expulsion of a woman Communist was merely one more story. It was handled in the routine way. I winced, however, when reputable papers headlined the Communist Party charges and used the words “fascism” and “racism,” even though I knew these words were only quoted from the Party resolution.

I braced myself for further attacks from the Party, and they came soon in terms of economic threats. Some of my law practice came from trade-union and Party members, and here action was swift. The union Communists told me there would be no more referrals to me. Party members who were my clients came to my office, some with their new lawyers, to withdraw their pending cases.

Reprisals came, too, in the form of telephone calls, letters, and telegrams of hate and vituperation, many of them from people I did not know. What made me feel desolate were the reprisals from those I had known best, those among the teachers whom I had considered friends. While I was busy with Party work I sometimes thought proudly of my hundreds of friends and how strong were the ties that bound us. Now those bonds were ropes of sand.

What I had failed to understand was that the security I felt in the Party was that of a group and that affection in that strange communist world is never a personal emotion. You were loved or hated on the basis of group acceptance, and emotions were stirred or dulled by propaganda. That propaganda was made by the powerful people at the top. That is why ordinary Communists get along well with their groups: they think and feel together and work toward a common goal.

Even personal friends, some of whom I myself had taken into the Party, were lost to me now, and among them were many of my former students and fellow teachers. If rejection by an individual can cause the emotional destruction which our psychiatrists indicate, it cannot, in some ways, compare with the devastation produced by a group rejection. This, as I learned, is annihilating …

I had always been an independent person and rarely gave my reasons for doing things. Now I wrote letters to people, some of whom had lived in my house or had been frequent guests there, and in whose homes I had been welcome. Those who replied were either abusive or obviously sought to disassociate themselves from me. Two friends replied in one sentence on the back of the letter I had written them only this: “Please do not involve us.” Many did not answer at all …

There is no censorship of reading so close and so comprehensive as that of the Party. I had often seen leaders pull books from shelves in homes and warn members to destroy them.

But I had no desire to read now. The one book I did open was the New Testament which I had never stopped reading even in my days of starkest Party delusion …

The New York Post asked me to write a series of articles on why I had broken with the Communist Party, and made me a generous offer. I agreed. But when I had finished them and read them over I did not want to see them published and found an excuse for refusing the offer. When a weekly magazine made an even more lucrative offer, I refused that, too. There were several reasons for this, as I now realize: one was that I did not trust my own conclusions, and another that I could not bear to hurt people I had known in the Party and for whom I still felt affection. Some I knew were entrapped as surely as I had been …

But I had begun the process of “unbecoming” a Communist … It was a long and painful process, much like that of a polio victim who has to learn to walk all over again. I had to learn to think. I had to learn to love. I had to drain the hate and frenzy from my system. I had to dislodge the self and the pride that had made me arrogant, made me feel that I knew all the answers. I had to learn that I knew nothing. There were many stumbling blocks in this process.

One afternoon in March of that year an old acquaintance, Wellington Roe, came into my office. He breezed in with a broad smile and said he was just passing and had decided to say hello. I thought nothing further of his visit. “Duke,” as we all called him, had been one of the Party’s front candidates in the American Labor Party …

He asked if I had ever known Owen Lattimore. I said I had not. Had I ever known him to be a Party member, he asked, and again I said no. I had heard of him vaguely, I said, as a British agent in the Far East.

A few weeks later Duke walked in again and this time asked if I would be willing to help Professor Lattimore. I replied I did not see how, since I did not know him. He talked of the importance of having all liberals unite to fight reaction wherever it was manifesting itself. This left me unconvinced. I had problems of my own and for once I did not wish to get involved with those of others. But he came again the next day, this time with a man he introduced as Abe Fortas, Lattimore’s attorney. I did not know him, but I had heard of him through mutual friends as a man who often defended civil-service employees faced with loyalty probes.

After a short talk the attorney said he thought he would have to subpoena me in the defense of Lattimore. When he saw my reluctance he asked if I would be willing to give him an affidavit saying that I had not heard of Lattimore while I was a leader in the Communist Party. So I signed an affidavit to that effect, and I thought that was the end of it.

I was naive to think so. A few days later I was served with a subpoena by the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate. Dumfounded, I called Duke. He said it was no surprise to him. Since he was going to Washington he would be happy to make a reservation for me. He would even rent a typewriter so that I could prepare a statement.

At the hearings I saw Lattimore for the first time. Duke was there too. At a table with Senator Tydings sat Senator Green of Rhode Island, Senator McMahon of Connecticut, Senator Lodge of Massachusetts, and Senator Hickenlooper of Indiana. Back of them sat Senator McCarthy, and next to him Robert Morris, whom I had known as one of the attorneys for the Rapp-Coudert Committee.

I studied the senators before me. I knew that Senator Tydings was related in some way to Joseph Davies, former ambassador to Russia, who had written the friendly Mission to Moscow, and who had been active in Russian War Relief, receiving an award from the Soviet propaganda center in the United States, the Russian Institute. I knew of Senator McMahon’s proposal for sharing our atomic knowledge with Russia. I felt that these men in the seats of power had facts not available to the rest of us, and were going along with the postwar perspective of co-existence with the Soviet Union, a position easy for me to accept since it was much like the communist propaganda during the years of my involvement with the communist world. When Senator Hickenlooper began to throw hostile questions at me I reacted with the hostility of the Communist, and I gave slick, superficial answers, for I did not want to be drawn into what I regarded as a Democratic-Republican fight.

There is no doubt in my mind that on facts of which I had knowledge I told the truth. But when it came to questions of opinion there is no doubt that before the Tydings Committee I still reacted emotionally as a Communist and answered as a Communist. I had broken with the structure of the Party, but was still conditioned by the pattern of its thinking, and still hostile to its opponents.

Something, however, happened to me at this hearing. I was at last beginning to see how ignorant I had become, how long since I had read anything except Party literature. I thought of our bookshelves stripped of books questioned by the Party, how when a writer was expelled from the Party his books went, too. I thought of the systematic rewriting of Soviet history, the revaluation, and in some cases the blotting out of any mention of such persons as Trotsky. I thought of the successive purges. Suddenly I too wanted the answers to the questions Senator Hickenlooper was asking and I wanted the truth. I found myself hitting at the duplicity of the Communist Party …

My appearance before the Tydings Committee had served one good purpose: it had renewed my interest in political events, and it had the effect of breaking the spell which had held me. I had at last spoken openly and critically of the Communist Party.

To those who find it difficult to understand how a mind can be imprisoned, my puny indictment of the communist movement before the Tydings Committee may have seemed slight indeed, for I no doubt gave some comfort to the Party by my negative approach. But it takes time to “unbecome” a Communist …

I read the congressional report of the hearings on the Institute of Pacific Affairs. I found I was again able to interpret events. In my time with the Party I had accumulated a large store of information about people and events, and often these had not fitted into the picture presented by the Party to its members. It was as if I held a thousand pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and could not fit them together. It irritated me, but when I thought of the testimony of witnesses before the Congressional Committee, some of whom I had known as Communists, much of the true picture suddenly came into focus. My store of odd pieces was beginning to develop into a recognizable picture.

There had been many things I had not really understood. I had regarded the Communist Party as a poor man’s party, and thought the presence of certain men of wealth within it accidental. I now saw this was no accident. I regarded the Party as a monolithic organization with the leadership in the National Committee and the National Board. Now I saw this was only a facade placed there by the movement to create the illusion of the poor man’s party; it was in reality a device to control the “common man” they so raucously championed.

There were many parts of the puzzle which did not fit into the Party structure. Parallel organizations which I had dimly glimpsed now became more clearly visible, and their connections with the apparatus I knew became apparent. As the war in Korea developed, further illumination came to me …

Now I realized that, with the best motives and a desire to serve the working people of my country, I, and thousands like me, had been led to a betrayal of these very people. I now saw that I had been poised on the side of those who sought the destruction of my own country.

I thought of an answer Pop Mindel, of the Party’s Education Bureau, had once given me in reply to the question whether the Party would oppose the entry of our boys into the Army. I had asked this question at a time when the Communists were conducting a violent campaign for peace, and it seemed reasonable to me to draw pacifist conclusions. Pop Mindel sucked on his pipe and with a knowing look in his eyes said:

“Well, if we keep our members from the Army, then where will our boys learn to use weapons with which to seize power?”

I realized how the Soviets had utilized Spain as a preview of the revolution to come. Now other peoples had become expendable — the Koreans, North and South, the Chinese soldiers, and the American soldiers. I found myself praying, “God, help them all.”

What now became clear to me was the collusion of these two forces: the Communists with their timetable for world control, and certain mercenary forces in the free world bent on making profit from blood. But I was alone with these thoughts and had no opportunity to talk over my conclusions with friends …

Early in the fall of 1950 I went to Washington to argue an immigration appeal. I had planned to return to New York immediately afterward. It was a clear, crisp day, and I walked along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol. Near the House Office Building I ran into an old friend, Christopher McGrath, the congressional representative of the Twenty-seventh District, the old East Bronx area of my childhood

He asked me if I wanted FBI protection, and I must have shivered noticeably. Though I was afraid, I was reluctant to live that kind of life. He did not press the issue. Instead, he said: “I know you are facing danger, but if you won’t have that protection, I can only pray for your safety.”

He looked at me for a moment as if he wanted to say something else. Then he asked: “Bella, would you like to see a priest?”

Startled by the question, I was amazed at the intensity with which I answered, “Yes, I would.”

“Perhaps we can reach Monsignor Sheen at Catholic University,” he said. Rose put in several calls and an appointment was made for me late that evening at the Monsignor’s home.

I was silent as we drove to Chevy Chase [Maryland]. All the canards against the Catholic Church which I had heard and tolerated, which even by my silence I had approved, were threatening the tiny flame of longing for faith within me. I thought of many things on that ride, of the word “fascist,” used over and over by the communist press in describing the role of the Church in the Spanish Civil War. I also thought of the word “Inquisition” so skillfully used on all occasions. Other terms came to me — reactionary, totalitarian, dogmatic, old-fashioned. For years they had been used to engender fear and hatred in people like me …

The screeching of the brakes brought me back to reality. We had arrived, and my friend was wishing me luck as I got out of the car. I rang the doorbell and was ushered into a small room. While I waited, the struggle within me began again. Had there been an easy exit I would have run out, but in the midst of my turmoil Monsignor Fulton Sheen walked into the room, his silver cross gleaming, a warm smile in his eyes …

Monsignor Sheen put his hand on my shoulder to comfort me. “Don’t worry,” he said. “This thing will pass,” and he led me gently to a little chapel. We both knelt before a statue of Our Lady. I don’t remember praying, but I do remember that the battle within me ceased, my tears were dried, and I was conscious of stillness and peace.

When we left the chapel Monsignor Sheen gave me a rosary. “I will be going to New York next winter,” he said. “Come to me and I’ll give you instructions in the Faith”

On my way to the airport I thought how much he understood. He knew that a nominal Christian with a memory of the Cross can easily be twisted to the purposes of evil by men who masquerade as saviors. I thought how communist leaders achieve their greatest strength and cleverest snare when they use the will to goodness of their members. They stir the emotions with phrases which are only a blurred picture of eternal truths.

In my rejection of the wisdom and truth which the Church has preserved, and which she has used to establish the harmony and order set forth by Christ, I had set myself adrift on an uncharted sea with no compass. I and others like me grasped with relief the fake certitude offered by the materialists and accepted this program which had been made even more attractive because they appealed for “sacrifice for our brothers.” Meaningless and empty I learned are such phrases as “the brotherhood of man” unless they have the solid foundation of belief in God’s Fatherhood …

Christmas, 1950, was approaching, an I again my loneliness was intensified. I was now living in a furnished room on Broadway at Seventy-fifth Street and still shuttling from my room to my office and back again every day and night.

On Christmas Eve, Clotilda and Jim McClure, who had lived at my house on Lexington Avenue and who had kept in touch with me and worried about me, called and urged me to spend the evening with them. After I sold my home they had had a miserable time finding accommodations. Harlem and its unspeakable housing situation was a cruel wilderness cheating the patient and undemanding. The McClures had moved to a one-room apartment on 118th Street where the rent of the decontrolled apartment was fantastic for what it offered. But Jim and Clo made no apologies for their home, for they knew how I grieved at their predicament …

After we had eaten, Jim opened his well-worn Bible and read a few of the psalms and then Clo read several. As I listened to their warm, rich voices sounding the great phrases I saw that they were pouring their own present longings into these Songs of David, and I realized why the prayers of the Negro people are never saccharine or bitter. Jim handed me the book and said: “Here, woman, now you read us something.”

I leafed through the pages until I found the one I wanted. I began to read the wonderful phrases of the Eighth Psalm:

“For I will behold the heavens, the works of Thy fingers … What is man that Thou art mindful of him? … Thou hast made him a little less than the angels … Thou hast subjected all things under his feet…. Lord, our Lord, how admirable is Thy name in all the earth.”

For a few moments after I had finished no one spoke. I handed the Bible back to Jim. Clo poured another cup of coffee for me. Then I said I was tired and ought to get home since it was almost eleven o’clock. I promised I would come again soon, and Jim walked with me to the Madison Avenue bus and wished me a “Merry Christmas” …

I have no recollection of leaving the bus at Thirty-fourth Street or of walking along that street to the west side. My next recollection is of finding myself in a church. The church, I learned later, was St. Francis of Assisi ...

Services had begun. From the choir came the hymns of Christmas. Three priests in white vestments took part in the ancient ritual. The bell rang three deep notes; the people were on their knees in adoration. I looked at the faces etched in the soft light, faces reverent and thankful.

It came to me as I stood there that here about me were the masses I had sought through the years, the people I loved and wanted to serve. Here was what I had sought so vainly in the Communist Party, the true brotherhood of all men. Here were men and women of all races and ages and social conditions cemented by their love for God. Here was a brotherhood of man with meaning.

Now I prayed. “God help me. God help me,” I repeated over and over.

That night, after Midnight Mass was over, I walked the streets for hours before I returned to my rooming house. I noted no one of those who passed me. I was alone as I had been for so long. But within me was a warm glow of hope. I knew that I was traveling closer and closer to home, guided by the Star.

Tomorrow: Chapter Seventeen

In Chapter 15 of School of Darkness (1954), Bella Dodd relates her apprehension about the Communist Party turning against her.  She wants to leave the Party, but would she be able to do so by herself or would she be set up with false charges and negative publicity?

We also see how involved corporations are with the Party.  What appears to be capitalist sometimes isn’t.  One example involves increased trade with China, encouraged by the Party.  Another involves Frederick Vanderbilt Field, who was extensively involved with the Communists.  At the same time, what appears to be about ‘worker’s struggles’ is really about the Communist Party getting money from those workers and not accounting for it.

The book is available in full online free of charge.  The past few chapters can be found at this link.  Emphases below are mine.

Chapter Fifteen

DURING the latter months of 1947 my world was shifting all about me. The certitude which I had so long known in the Communist Party was now gone.

I was ill in mind and often in body, too, for I had a constant and terrible fear that every effort was being made to destroy me. I had watched the pitiless and methodical destruction of others. I did not have the will to fight back, nor did I want to involve the innocent.

At that period little dissident groups were forming and they criticized the Party, both from the right and the left. Each had its own leader. Each vowed devotion to the Party and each charged that the leadership of the Party in the United States had gone off the Marxist-Leninist track. I had noted the futility of such attempts before and, although I never refused to see anyone who sought me, I did refuse to become involved with them. I knew well that no group could be organized without being under the surveillance of Chester, the smooth, dapper director of the Party’s secret service. His men were everywhere.

I turned to my law practice and sought to forget my fears by immersing myself in work, but inwardly I was so disturbed that my work suffered. I did not know how and when the ax would fall. I knew my office was still under constant surveillance and I had no way of stopping it. Certain agents from communist headquarters made a practice of visiting me at regular intervals trying to get me to take part in some meaningless activity. I knew well that was not the reason they came.

I remember particularly an Italian Communist whom Foster sent to me to discuss the raising of money for the 1948 elections in Italy. I felt the purpose was to enmesh me, and I said as much to the young Italian. Also I protested that raising money was not my specialty, and that the national office had only to lift the telephone to collect the fifty thousand dollars which I was asked to raise.

I was still accustomed, however, to obeying directions from the Ninth Floor. Instead of getting rid of my visitor, I found myself handed a list of people to call on, and together we visited various men of wealth who worked with the Party.

I had paid relatively little attention to this phase of communist activity while engaged in union and political work. The finances of the Party were never discussed at state or national committee meetings. No financial reports were given. Periodically we planned drives to raise money usually by asking a day’s or a week’s wages from workers.

Of course I knew that the Party had other sources of income but we never discussed them. I knew that they collected from a score of camps, and the reason I knew this was due to a hilarious incident after the war when Chester came to a secretariat board meeting to tell us he had a chance to buy a brand-new car for the Party’s use at blackmarket prices. The board approved and then Chester announced that the car must of course be at his disposal because it was he who made the weekly rounds of the camps to collect the money …

During the war I became aware that the Party had an interest in a certain machine plant engaged in war contracts and that it drew revenue from it. I had long known that the Party had an interest in printing and lithograph plants, and in stationery and office supplies — shops where all the unions and mass organizations directed their business through office managers who were Party members.

Several night clubs were started with the assistance of wealthy political figures snagged by some of the most attractive communist “cheesecake” in the Party. I used to sympathize with these pretty Communists when some of them rebelled because they said they were not being given sufficient Marxist education. Instead, their time went into calling on men and women of wealth, in an effort to get them to open their pocketbooks. These girls, nearly all of them college graduates, and some of them writers for the slick magazines, were mostly from out of town and still had a fresh-faced look and an innocent charm.

I noted that after a while they forgot their eager desire for more Marxist education and developed a keen competition for private lists of suckers and private telephone numbers. These young women were capable of raising fabulous sums. It was they who raised the first money for the night clubs which had been called Bill Browder’s Folly, Bill being Earl’s brother. But these night clubs paid off in money and in political prestige. They were also the means of attracting scores of talented young people who got their first chance to perform, and at the same time had the excitement of knowing they were part of a secret movement of revolt.

The Party boys who had worked on congressional committees, like the Truman committee which investigated the condition of the small businessman, had made valuable contacts for the Party’s participation in the business world. It was they who steered the establishment of the Progressive Businessmen’s Committee for the election of Roosevelt. Through them the Party had entree into local chambers of commerce and conservative business organizations like the Committee on Economic Development, in which Roy Hudson’s wife held an important research job. Party economic researchers, accountants, and lawyers got jobs with various conservative planning groups in Republican and Democratic Party setups and in nonpartisan organizations.

The director of much of this activity was William Wiener, head of Century Publishers, who was known as the top financial agent of the communist movement, and who also operated a large financial empire. He was a mild, pudgy little man, who wore Brooks Brothers suits, smoked expensive cigars, and frequented expensive restaurants. The average Party member had no contact with men like him, for a functionary who earned an average of fifty dollars a week seldom saw this side of the Party.

Wiener had a number of financial pools operating to gather in capital from wealthy, middle-class Party people. They maintained offices with scores of accountants and attorneys from whom the communist movement drew reserves. There were doll factories, several paint and plastic manufacturing firms, chemical firms, tourist travel bureaus, import-export companies, textiles and cosmetics, records for young people, and theatrical agencies. In 1945 several corporations were established for trade with China in one of which was Frederick V. Field. Under the direction of Wiener and others, such corporations hired and maintained a different type of communist, better-dressed, better-fed, more sophisticated, and much more venomous.

today the communist agent engaged in international trade is far more effective than the old-type political agitator.

Now, as I traveled about the city trying to help raise money for the Italian elections, I realized more than ever how many major financial operations were touched by the Party. In one office we visited a Party concern that bought pig iron in Minnesota and shipped it to northern Italy where, with the help of Italian Communist Party leaders, it was allocated to communist-led plants and there processed into steel and shipped to Argentina. In another office were lawyers who were deeply involved. in the business of making money as custodians of alien property — that of Italian citizens which had been seized during the war. Assignments like these were not easy to get, but these men got them.

After I had introduced my young Italian associate to a number of people who professed themselves willing to help, he decided to establish a permanent committee in the United States for cultural ties with Italy. Thus was born the American Committee for Cultural Relations with Italy. John Crane, whose family fortune was made in bathroom fixtures, was made chairman.

It was not that I had not known that the Communist Party used the rich as well as the worker, but I had never seen it so clearly before.

That spring I worked at my law practice and tried to build a private life for myself. I outwitted a number of well-laid plans to injure me. I learned during those months that some of the agents of the International Communist movement look and talk like your next-door neighbor. While I still saw many rank-and-file Communists, I avoided contact with the rest when I could …

I hoped against hope that I would be permitted to drift away from the Party. After all, a million and more Americans had drifted into and out of it. But I knew they were not likely to allow anyone who had reached a position of importance to do so.

I had withdrawn from most activity with them, except that I continued as Party contact for the Party teachers’ groups. Now I was replaced even there and by a man who knew nothing at all about education. I was not attending Party meetings. Nevertheless, when I received a notice I decided to go to the state convention held that year in Webster Hall on the East Side.

There I found I was a marked person, that people were afraid to be seen sitting with me …

As a member of the National Committee I had an obligation to attend the National Convention of 1948, but I decided I had punished myself enough. There was no reason for me to go; there was nothing I could do. Perhaps when that was over, when I was no longer a member of the National Committee, they would drop me entirely.

Evidently some of the leaders had thought I might go to the convention and had planned a means to silence me. Just before the convention the discipline committee ordered me to appear before it on the ninth floor …

I did not have to go, but like an automaton I went.

When I left the elevator I went through the long, dark corridor into an untidy room. Suddenly I all but laughed with relief, for there sat three old men – and I knew them all well. Alexander Trachtenberg, with his little walrus mustache and his way of looking down his nose, said nothing as I came in. Pop Mindel, the hero of the communist training schools, whose bright brown eyes were usually merry, had no smile for me. The third was Jim Ford, a Negro leader, whose look at me was distant and morose …

“Will this take long?” I asked Trachtenberg. With that he cleared his throat and spoke, and I could hardly believe what he was saying …

When he spoke again his German accent was stronger than usual. “We want to ask you a few questions.” “Here it comes,” I thought, and braced myself. And then I found myself saying inwardly, “Dear God, dear God,” with such an intensity that it seemed I had spoken aloud. “We hear you attacked the Cominform,” said Trachtenberg, half-asking, half-accusing me. Then he stated the time and place where I had done it.

This I could answer. I explained carefully that I had criticized the Daily Worker statement which said the reason the Communist Party in America had not joined the Cominform was that it would be dangerous to do so. I had pointed out that this was a false statement and that no one would believe it …

The next question was unexpected. “Were you born a Catholic?” …

They knew well I had been born a Catholic; they knew I had followed no religion for many years. Then why the question?

They did not continue the inquiry. Suddenly Trachtenberg asked me why I was not active any longer in membership, why my activity was at a standstill.

I hedged. “I am still not quite well, Comrade Trachtenberg. And I have personal problems. Let me alone until I can find myself again” …

“You will hear from us again,” said Trachtenberg …

A new plan against me developed in the following weeks, a strategy of slurs, character defamation, harassments. There were, of course, still many people in the trade-union movement and especially teachers who were not part of the inner communist circle who remembered the days of my campaigning. Now the Party decided to blacken my character publicly so that the simple working people in the Party who liked me would no longer have confidence in me.

The incident which was used as the excuse for my formal expulsion from the Party was of no importance in itself. The way in which it was handled was symptomatic of Party methods. On Lexington Avenue, a few doors from my home, lived a Czechoslovakian woman with whom I sometimes talked. She lived in a small three-story building where she served as janitor from 1941 to 1947. Her husband was permanently incapacitated and she was the sole support of the family. Acting as a janitor and working as a domestic several days a week, she managed to keep her family together.

In 1947 the owner of the building decided to sell it. The woman, afraid she would lose both her apartment and her job, made up her mind to buy it, and borrowed the money to do so. Thus she became technically a landlord; but her daily life remained the same; she was still the janitor. However, as owner of the house she had become involved with her tenants and in quick succession three judgments were entered against her. Her husband quarreled and left her. The attorney for the plaintiffs, eager to collect his fees, asked warrants for her arrest.

At this point she came to me for help and I agreed to represent her. In the end the court granted my plea, the tenants were paid, and the woman escaped imprisonment.

One thing was clear: only technically could she have been called a landlord. But the communist leadership heard with delight that Bella Dodd had appeared as “attorney for a landlord.” At last they had the excuse for getting me politically, the excuse for which they had been looking. Of course they could have simply expelled me but this would involve discussion of policies. They were looking for an excuse to expel me on charges that would besmirch my character, drive my friends away, and stop discussion instead of starting it. What better than to expel me for the crime of becoming a “hireling of the landlords”?

They must have realized that such an argument would scarcely be cogent to outsiders. Even to many of the Party it was weak. They must add something really unforgivable to make me an outcast in the eyes of the simple people of the Party. They did this by spreading the story that in my court appearances I had made remarks against the Puerto Rican tenants, that I had slandered them, and showed myself a racist, almost a fascist. And last of all, a charge of anti-Negro, anti-Semitism, and anti-working class was thrown in for good measure.

On May 6 a youth leader of the Communist Party, a round-faced, solemn youth, came to my house. I asked him in and offered him a cup of coffee, which he refused. Instead, he handed me a copy of written charges. When I said something about their falseness after I glanced through them, he gave me a sneering look and instructed me to appear for trial the next day at the local section commission, a block from my house …

A group was waiting for me and I saw it consisted entirely of petty employees of the Party, those at the lowest rung of the bureaucracy. The three women among them had faces hard and full of hate — Party faces, I thought, humorless and rigid. They sat there like fates ready to pass on the destinies of human beings.

I had no quarrel with these people. In fact, as I looked at the group I had the feeling of a schoolteacher when small children become suddenly defiant of authority. One woman, the chairman, was Finnish. Another, a Puerto Rican, began shouting her hatred of me. At least it must have been hate to judge from her expression, for her English was too hysterical to be understood. The pudgy-faced boy was there, too. Of the other three men I recognized one as a waiter and the other as a piccolo player whom I had befriended.

I asked whether I could produce witnesses. The answer was “No.” I asked if I might bring the woman involved in the case to let her state the story. The answer was “No.” I asked if the Commission would come with me to her house and speak with her and the tenants. The answer was “No.” Then I asked if I might bring a communist lawyer who at least understood the legal technicalities I had been faced with in trying this simple case. The answer was “No” …

The Finnish woman who was chairman said that I would be informed of the result.

I was dismissed. As I walked down the dingy steps my heart was heavy. The futility of my life overcame me. For twenty years I had worked with this Party, and now at the end I found myself with only a few shabby men and women, inconsequential Party functionaries, drained of all mercy, with no humanity in their eyes, with no good will of the kind that works justice. Had they been armed I know they would have pulled the trigger against me

When I reached my own house and went in, the rooms were cool and quiet. I was tired and spent, as if I had returned from a long, nightmare journey.

Of course I was certain more trouble was in store for me. This step had been merely preliminary to publicity against me, clever publicity. For this expulsion had not originated in the dirty rooms of the Harlem Commission, but from the headquarters on Twelfth Street, and perhaps from more distant headquarters.

I dreaded the coming publicity and decided to get in touch with the one group whom I had regarded as my friends. I called the Teachers Union to tell the Party leaders what was surely coming. I thought they would understand and discount any false accusations.

I need not have bothered. From the testimony of John Lautner months later before the Senate Internal Security Committee I learned that Rose Russell and Abraham Lederman, leaders of the Teachers Union, had been present at the State Party meeting which engineered and confirmed my expulsion and issued the resolution to the press. The vote had been unanimous.

On June 17, 1949, my telephone rang. “This is the Associated Press,” said a voice. “We have received a statement from the Communist Party announcing your expulsion from membership. It says here that you are anti-Negro, anti-Puerto Rican, anti-Semitic, anti-labor, and the defender of a landlord. Have you any statement to make?”

What statement could I make? “No comment,” was all I could manage to say.

The New York papers carried the story the following day and three days later the Daily Worker reprinted the long resolution of expulsion, signed by Robert Thompson.

Tomorrow: Chapter Sixteen

In today’s excerpts from School of Darkness (1954), Bella Dodd describes how the Communist Party leadership was turning against her after the Second World War. A new Party leader brought confusion and fear in the ranks.

There are also passages where Dodd details what the Communist Party thinks of women, young people and blacks — emotional pawns for revolution, nothing more. The same no doubt goes for other minority and ‘oppressed’ groups around the world, furthered by misguided or mischievous clerics with their liberation theology.  Please take note — Communists are not our friends.

This chapter, as are the others, is available online free of charge.  Emphases below are mine.

Chapter Fourteen

THE NEW LINE established at the Emergency Convention was meant to be all things to all people. It was intended to be leftist enough to assuage those who had guilty feelings about betrayal of the working class, yet called for enough unity with so-called democratic forces to permit continued collaboration with the forces of “imperialism.” Even so there were dissatisfied elements on both the right and the left.

At district conventions the new line was adopted with the hysteria that had characterized the National Convention. The same terror was apparent …

The new National Board had reshuffled Party posts …

I tried to withdraw from my post as an employee of the Party but Thompson insisted on keeping me close at hand. I could not be silenced and we clashed repeatedly. I was uneasy and frightened, but I tried to believe that the madness which was on us was temporary. When Browder left for Moscow with a Soviet visa I hoped a change would come on his return. So I held on because I felt I had an obligation to do all in my power to get others to see how terrible were the things we planned to do. For, strange as it now seems to me, the last illusion to die in me was the illusion about the Soviet Union. I did not know then that the new line was made in Moscow.

The leadership of the Party in the United States might be wrong; the leadership of the French Party or of the Italian Party might be wrong; but faith in the socialist Motherland, in the Soviet Union, was deeply etched into our very being. The conditioning had been deep.

I ran into conflict after conflict with Thompson. He was Moscow-trained, morose, and unstable. He surrounded himself with strong-arm men and packed the state board meetings with those who flattered him and voted his way. He moved in swiftly to destroy anyone who thwarted him …

“Comrade Dodd forgets,” said Thompson, “that communist leadership is superior to mass leadership. Anyone who opposes us must be eliminated from the labor movement” …

As 1945 dragged into the spring of 1946 it was clear that Foster and Dennis had been ordered to take over the Party, but it was also clear that they did not know what to do with it. The depression in the United States predicted by a Soviet research group had not materialized and Foster and his aides, who were all poised for the revolutionary moment, were unable to agree on what to do. It became obvious there would be no Party convention in 1946.

In January of 1946 the National Board decided to expel Earl Browder from the Party, and he was brought up on charges by the little communist branch in Yonkers where he made his home. The charges were that he had advanced Keynesian ideas, that he maintained them stubbornly, and that he had been politically passive, and had failed to attend local club meetings.

He was tried by a handful of Yonkers Communists, but his expulsion was approved by the National Committee. The cruelty of such treatment for a past leader can be possible only in this strange movement, where there is no charity, no compassion, and, in the end, total elimination of those who have served it.

Late in 1945 word had come … that it was important that American women be organized into an international movement, ostensibly for peace. An international federation was to be established with Russian and French Party women as leaders. So during the next months I helped organize the United States branch. A combination of wealthy women and Party members established and maintained what was called the Congress of American Women.

Since it was supposedly a movement for peace, it attracted many women. But it was really only a renewed offensive to control American women, a matter of deep importance to the communist movement, for American women do 80 per cent of the family spending. In the upper brackets they own a preponderance of capital stock and bonds. They are important in the making of political decisions. Like youth and minority groups, they are regarded as a reserve force of the revolution because they are more easily moved by emotional appeals. So the Soviet campaign for peace was especially geared to gain support of the women.

From the day of the Emergency Convention there had been efforts to bring every Party member back into support of the new leadership. Some were won over with jobs. Others were given the public-humiliation treatment; some were permitted to hang around unassigned until their disaffection had cooled; and some were expelled.

From 1945 to 1947 several thousands were expelled, each individually with the refinement of terror in the purge technique. Two main reasons were given for expulsion: one was guilty either of leftism or rightism

I had escaped punishment for my independence in 1945, possibly because I was not easy to deal with, for I had won for myself a position of respect with the rank-and-file members and had always remained close to my Union.

But a stealthy campaign had begun against me. Twice that year I faced charges. My home and law office were invaded by Party investigators, who came in supposedly to chat and visit with me, and then reported at headquarters any unorthodox remark. My secretary was enlisted to report on who came to the office, on my relations with Party and non-Party members, and on the nature of my correspondence …

Twice they concocted a charge of white chauvinism against me. Once I was brought before Ray Hausborough, a Negro from Chicago, whom I liked and respected, and who heard the charges and dismissed them. Once I found myself before a woman’s commission with Betty Gannet in the chair, again on a trumped-up charge dealing with chauvinism. I laughed at them for of all the white women present, I was the only one living in Harlem in friendship with my neighbors of all races.

All these charges were too slim to be sustained, but they concocted others. One accusation stemmed from the fact that I had blocked the Party’s move to support one of their favorite union leaders who was facing charges of pilfering union funds. This charge was true, as I was shocked at the Party’s support of such an unsavory character. This time I received such rough treatment from the comrades that when Thompson, who was in charge, leaned over the desk and started shouting at me, I stood up, knocked over the chair I had been sitting in, and said to them coldly: “You think like pigs,” and slammed out of the room. But in my heart I was frightened at my own temerity.

The next day Bill Norman, the state secretary, who served as a balance wheel to the explosive and unpredictable Thompson, called me to his office. He talked to me in his quiet and reasonable way and I told him frankly that I wanted to get out of the Party. His expression changed. He fixed his eyes on me and said, almost harshly, “Dodd, no one gets out of the Party. You die or you are thrown out. But no one gets out. Then he became his mild self again.

Finally I asked to have Si Gerson take my position as legislative representative and that I be assigned to the Marcantonio campaign that fall …

My headquarters were at Second Avenue and Ninety-ninth Street. My captains consisted of a group of teachers who were my friends, and Italian and Puerto Rican members of the Marcantonio machine …

In the registration campaign the teachers helped hundreds to pass the literacy tests. Many hours were spent helping these adults qualify for the right to vote. We practically doubled the registration figures. The election campaign was a bitter one with violence erupting everywhere. Among our leading opponents was Scottoriggio, who interfered with our campaign workers and challenged their effectiveness in canvassing the housing project. Hatred had reached a high pitch on the night before election day.

On election day I opened my headquarters at five o’clock in the morning. I served coffee and buns to my captains and then proceeded to make assignments. While we were drinking our coffee we listened to the radio on my desk, and heard the news that Scottoriggio, on his way to the polls, had been assaulted by four men and was in a hospital with a fractured skull.

We won the election. When Scottoriggio died of his injuries, the district was thrown into an uproar. The Republican leader and the police who had co-operated with Marcantonio for years were under fire. All my captains were called in for questioning …

I was subpoenaed by the New York County grand jury and interrogated at the district attorney’s office. In the midst of the questioning one of the two assistants asked me why I had become a Communist.

“Because only the Communists seemed to care about what was happening to people in 1932 and 1933,” I said. “They were fighting hunger and misery and fascism then, and neither the major political parties nor the churches seemed to care. That is why I am a Communist.”

I spoke with the practiced intensity of long habit but no longer with the old faith in the cause, for I no longer had the same deep conviction about the Party’s championship of the poor and dispossessed. I knew now that its activities were conceived in duplicity and ended in betrayal.

The sessions of the December National Committee were notable for their long-winded, long-spun-out, and fantastic justification of the line of “self-determination of the Negro in the black belt.” Only the intelligence and patience of Negro leaders in America have made possible resistance to this mischievous theory which was contrived by Stalin and was now unleashed by Foster. Briefly told, it is the theory that the Negroes in the South form a nation, a subjugated nation with the desire to become a free one, and that the Communists are to give them all assistance. The Party proposed to develop the national aspirations of the Negro people so they would rise up and establish themselves as a nation with the right to secede from the United States. It was a theory not for the benefit of the Negroes but to spur strife, and to use the American Negro in the world communist propaganda campaign to win over the colored people of the world. Ultimately, the Communists proposed to use them as instruments in the revolution to come in the United States …

In the spring of 1947 Foster went to Europe, clearly to get instructions for action …

No sooner had he returned than every sign of factionalism disappeared. A National Committee meeting was called for June 27, 1947. It continued for several days, and each day was filled with drama. It was clear to us gathered there that a reshuffling of leadership was near.

First of all, Morris Childs, editor of the Daily Worker, was removed from his office. Morris, who had recently returned from Moscow, had evidently done something to displease either Moscow or the Party in New York. He knew it himself, for no sooner had he returned than he asked for a six months’ leave of absence, explaining he had heart trouble.

Eugene Dennis, national secretary of the Party, in making the organizational report, announced that Childs was to have an indefinite leave of absence, and then he proposed as the new editor a young man with the adopted name of John Gates. Childs’s face turned white as a sheet, for neither he nor, as it turned out, the editorial board of the Daily Worker had been consulted about the new editor.

It was a strange choice. John Gates, a young veteran recently returned from overseas service, had no experience in newspaper work, but I did know that he had made contacts with powerful figures overseas, and on his return he had been placed in charge of veterans’ work for the Party. There was a stir among the members about this selection. Foster put an end to dissent by saying flatly, “A communist leader does not need newspaper experience to be an editor. It is more important that he be a sound Marxist.”

Following this statement, the vote was taken at once. It was unanimous in favor of Gates. There were two abstentions from approval — Morris Childs and myself. My vote was an overt act of rebellion against the steam roller which was being used on the National Committee. I knew that this meeting marked the end of my stay in the administration of the Party and so I decided to make the most of it. I knew there were others in the committee who felt as I did, but fear kept them from making the open break I now made.

I knew that no one in the Party ever attacks the persons in power chosen to give reports. They must be praised, and the report must be characterized as crystal clear and masterful. I knew, finally, that everyone was supposed to vote for it.

I decided to break with this tradition, first by my abstention in voting for Gates, and then by attacking Foster’s next proposal: to postpone the Party convention until 1948. The constitution of the Party, which was proudly displayed every time the Party was attacked as undemocratic, provided for a regular convention every two years. The last had been held in 1944; the one in 1945 had been merely emergency. A convention was certainly due in 1947. I arose and said that we had no other choice but to live up to the constitution.

Some of the other members now spoke up and I saw the possibility of a tiny victory against the steam roller. Foster saw it, too, and in a voice of authority he said that, since all other political parties would be having conventions in 1948 for the nomination of candidates for president, the Communists ought to have theirs at the same time. He threw a withering glance at me and said, “Comrade Dodd’s argument is legalistic,” a remark which ended the discussion.

The report was voted on and approved.

The next item on the agenda was a political report on the coming elections of 1948 and the possibility of a third party. This report was given by John Gates, and the fact that he was chosen to give it showed that he was being groomed as a coming leader of the Party. Not only did he know nothing about running a newspaper, but he was relatively uninformed about American politics.

His report was obviously not his work …

I listened carefully to the report, vague, contradictory, and full of words, repeating the old phrases about the need of a Labor Party in America. It did not state when it was to be built nor what were the special conditions which called for it at this particular time …

When Gates had finished, I took the floor …

My remarks were heard in icy silence …

When the Progressive Party was finally launched it represented not the farmers and workers of America but the same kind of synthetic coalition which had become a pattern of communist participation in national politics. There were large numbers of disillusioned middle-class professionals in it; there were women of wealth, moved by humanitarian motives; and there were Communists and fellow travelers. All these elements were welded together by flashy professional publicity agents, glib of tongue and facile of pen …

A limited and controlled Progressive Party would be a cover organization and a substitute for the Communist Party if the latter were outlawed.

Also it was clear why at the National Committee meeting of June, 1947, Foster gave a report on underground organizations in Europe, in countries where the Communist Party faced illegality. He said that only the hard core would remain organized and all others would be reached through their trade unions and other mass organizations.

About 10 per cent of the Party would be organized in tight little groups of three — trade-union representatives, political representatives, and unorganized representatives. This was to be the underground party of illegality.

In fine, one could see that shuffling of personnel at the meeting had been carefully planned. It had squeezed out all those who had been put in for window dressing at the Duclos convention of 1945. Now the stalwarts and professionals of revolution took their appointed places and prepared to strike.

Tomorrow: Chapter Fifteen

Today’s excerpts from Bella Dodd’s School of Darkness (1954) detail what happens when Communists have rifts within the Party.  Hostility, racism and threats of violence come to the fore.

The public confessions which take place illustrate my objections to small groups in church settings.  A personal perspective, but the continuous confessional aspects of our society — from recounting deeply personal experiences to strangers (e.g. religious retreats, Alpha) to social networks (e.g. Facebook) and reality television — are subtle, if unintentional, ways of preparing us to confess all to the parish or neighbourhood gauleiter.

The book is available online free of charge.  Emphases below are mine.

Chapter Thirteen

BY APRIL, 1945, there was evidence of trouble in the Communist Party. Uneasiness increased among its functionaries. I first became aware of this in my work with the Italian Commission of the American Communist Party.

One day two foreigners appeared in our midst, recently come from Italy. Berti and Donnini were a smooth, attractive pair, who called themselves professors and had become leaders of the Italian Commission. They immediately started a controversy about the work among national minorities.

Earl Browder at the convention of 1944 had insisted on the elimination of a sense of difference among the foreign-born and had moved to have them treated as part of the American labor movement. To this Professors Berti and Donnini offered strenuous objections. They emphasized the importance of separate national organizations, of encouraging the foreign-born to use their languages, and of circulating foreign-language newspapers. They encouraged the organizing of the different national groups almost as if these were foreign colonies. It would strengthen the sense of nationalism among them, they asserted, a necessary thing for the building of world communism.

These two Party functionaries found themselves on the carpet for their unwelcome views. Plans were on foot to expel them. Then, suddenly, came the amazing news that they were members of the Italian Communist Party! …

Now I realized that nothing they said had been unpremeditated, and that they were not speaking for themselves. They represented the International Communist movement and it was clear that Browder’s approach to the national problem was in disfavor with some sections of world communism.

During a bitter meeting I learned that these two men were responsible for translating and giving to the Scripps-Howard press a letter by Jacques Duclos, published previously in a communist magazine, Cahiers du communisme, in France. This letter was to change the whole course of the communist movement in this country.

The letter, which appeared in the World-Telegram in May, 1945, ridiculed the Browder line … and charged the American Communists with having betrayed the principles of Marx and Lenin. It called upon the American Communists to clean house, and literally demanded that they get back to the job of making a revolution. It branded Browder as a crass “revisionist” of Marxism-Leninism, and it called for his removal from office.

Immediate confusion and hysteria permeated the Party. Ninety per cent of the membership did not know who Jacques Duclos was, nor did they understand what “revisionist” meant. No attempt was made to enlighten them. More important things were happening.

For one thing, a palace revolution was taking place at Twelfth Street, with William Z. Foster leading the forces of Marxist fundamentalism. The large corps of jobholders in the Party added to the confusion, for like horses in a burning stable they had lost all sense of discretion. Frightened at being caught in a state of “revisionism,” even if they did not know what it meant, and feeling that the voice from overseas presaged a change in the line of world communism, they tried frantically to purge themselves of the error they did not understand but which they had evidently committed. They confessed in private and in public meetings that they had been remiss in their duty, that they had betrayed the workers by support of a program of class collaboration. There were some demonstrations of public self-flagellation that stirred in me feelings of disgust and pity.

It was a bewildering time. To me nothing made sense. Over and over I heard people say they had betrayed the workers. I saw members of the National Board look distraught and disclaim responsibility, plead they had not known what was going on, or that they had been afraid to speak up when they saw errors. They cried that Browder had confused and terrorized them. It was distressing to watch these leaders, who were at best ignorant of what had gone on or were at worst cowards …

Gil and Israel Amter asked me to write a public statement to be published in the Daily Worker in which I was to repudiate the recent policy and confess my errors. I tried, but my pen would not write the words. I excused myself by saying, “I don’t understand what has happened. We don’t seem to have all the facts.” For I remembered how, as recently as the previous May, members of the Communist International had been present at the Party convention and had approved the line. And I remembered, too, that it was William Z. Foster who nominated Browder as president of the Communist Political Association. It was Foster who seconded the motion to dissolve the Party in 1944 …

Today it is obvious that after Stalin had gained diplomatic concessions at Yalta, and after the Bretton Woods and Dumbarton Oaks conferences had placed concealed American Communists in positions of power, world communism did not want the patriotic efforts of Earl Browder and his band of open Communists who longed for participation in American affairs. Only later did I learn that Foster’s belated, polite, and restrained opposition to the Teheran line the year before had been suggested through private channels from abroad, as preparation for the upheaval of 1945.

Browder obviously was caught off guard and unprepared.

He was now compelled officially to present the Duclos letter to the membership for “discussion” through the columns of the Daily Worker. At meetings of the Party there was a wave of confused discussion, and the culmination of it was the calling of an emergency convention in June, 1945.

Much was to happen before that took place. The National Committee, almost sixty in number, was called into session at Twelfth Street to prepare for the convention …

Browder was in the room. He had been ill and his appearance was that of a man in pain. Person after person studiously avoided speaking to him, and when he sat down he was entirely alone. Yet a hundred times I had seen these same people jump up when he came into a room and sing, “Browder is our leader. We shall not be moved.” Now, when they looked at him, their faces were grim with hate, or perhaps it was fear.

I did not know Browder well. I was one of the newest members of the National Committee, but suddenly I could not bear this any longer. I arose from my seat at the opposite end of the room and walked over to Browder’s chair and shook hands with him. Then I sat down in the empty chair next to his, though I was aware my action would not go unnoticed. I urged him to offer some explanation or at least to stay and meet the charges to be brought. But he said he could not stay for the meeting.

“I will not defend myself,” he said firmly. “This is leftwing sectarian nonsense. They will come back.”

I knew little about high politics within the communist apparatus, and I could not understand the upheaval nor why he gave up so easily. Even then I did not believe, as he evidently did, that there would be any return. Later, when he went to the Soviet Union, I realized that he had gone to Moscow in the hope of reversing the decision. The old National Committee met for three days. The meetings began early and lasted late. I looked for signs of understanding and kindness and compassion. I thought to find them at least among the women, but they were not there either …

I, myself, was neither for nor against Browder. Yet I almost got in trouble by replying to Ben Davis when he made a particularly cruel speech. Ben Davis was a Negro, a member of the New York City Council, and the previous year he had joined a Tammany Hall Democratic Club in order, he said, to get support for his next campaign for the City Council. Now he excoriated Browder for his “betrayal” of the Negro people in disbanding the Communist Party in the South. Browder had urged that the Party work in the South through broad front committees, such as the Southern Committee for Human Rights, because he felt that the very name “Communist” shut all doors there.

I had seen this same Ben Davis use the united front line of collaboration in the crassest possible way to promote his own political ambitions and now I suddenly knew I must speak. I took the floor and asked where Ben Davis had been at the time when all this was being done. Surely anyone as sensitive as he to any betrayal of the Negro, I said, should have spoken up then and not have waited until now.

Ben Davis promptly turned his violence on me: I was guilty of chauvinism, he insinuated, since I expected him as a Negro to be sensitive to the problem of the Negro. This strange illogic left me wordless.

That same day several of the Negro members of the National Committee took me to lunch. Pettis Perry and William Patterson, both of whom I liked, tried to justify Ben Davis’ intemperate attacks and said I did not understand the national minority question well. All I could think as I listened was, “Has everyone gone mad?” …

Just before the National Committee closed its meeting it set up committees to prepare for the Emergency Convention. I was surprised to hear myself named to serve on a temporary committee of thirteen which was to interview all members of the National Board and National Committee, estimate the extent of their revisionist errors, and recommend to the National Convention those who should be dropped and those who should be retained for new leadership

One by one the leaders appeared before this committee. We were silent and waited for them to speak. Men showed remorse for having offended or betrayed the working class. They tried desperately to prove that they themselves were of that working class, and had no bourgeois background, and were unspoiled by bourgeois education. They talked of Browder as if he were a sort of bourgeois Satan who had lured them into error because of lack of understanding due to their inadequate communist education. Now they grieved over their mistakes and unctuously pledged that they would study Marx-Lenin-Stalin faithfully, and never betray the working class again. One by one they came before the committee and I began to feel like one of Robespierre’s committees in the French Revolution ...

As the comrades continued to come before the examining committee the thought came to me that there was not one real worker among them. Foster, though he affected the khaki shirt of a workman, hadn’t done a stroke of work in a long time. He had been sitting in little rooms planning revolutions and conniving for power for twenty-five years. Thompson and Gil Green had graduated from school right into the Young Communist League. Thompson had gone to Spain as a commissar of the Lincoln Brigade and when he returned he worked for the Party, and Gil became a Party functionary at an early age.

That was the pattern of these American revolutionaries, and I felt as I looked at them that they really could know little about the ordinary worker.

At the end of June the Emergency Convention met … When Foster strode in with Thompson and Ben Davis at his heels I could think only of the victorious Fuehrer and his gauleiters.

The debate and the argument that went on at that convention I can only compare to conversation in a nightmare. One sensed threatening danger in the frenzied activity, but there was vagueness as to what it was all about, and as to where we were going. Confusion and universal suspicion reigned at the Fraternal Clubhouse on Forty-eighth Street which was the arena of the convention.

Close friends of many years’ standing became deadly enemies overnight. Little cliques, based on the principle of mutual protection and advancement, sprang up everywhereSome shouted down anyone who suggested logical discussion of problems. The mood, the emotions, were hysterically leftist with the most violent racist talk I ever heard

The newly elected National Committee, which was elected on the third day, held its first meeting at 4 A.M. A new chairman and a secretary were still to be selected. Browder had appeared briefly at the Convention to address it. When this had first been suggested there were calls from the hall for his immediate hanging and loud cheers at the suggestion. However, he was allowed to speak, and he was most conciliatory, saying he approved the draft resolution and the establishing of a new line. He promised to co-operate.

When he finished, there was scattered applause in which I joined. I was sitting at a table with Israel Amter and I caught his beady black eyes fixed on me. Months later he brought me up on charges of having applauded Browder.

The Convention carried out various measures. It voted to dissolve the Communist Political Association and to re-establish the Communist Party. It voted to re-dedicate itself to its revolutionary task of establishing a Soviet America. It voted to intensify Marxist-Leninist education from the leaders down to the lowliest member. It voted to oust Browder as leader. It voted to return to the use of the word “comrade.”

As for me, from that time on I became allergic to the use of that word, for I had seen many uncomradely acts at the Emergency Convention in the Fraternal Clubhouse.

Monday: Chapter Fourteen

In Chapter 12 of Bella Dodd’s School of Darkness, we find out more about Bella’s rise in the national Party structure, fellow travellers from prominent American families and the way Communism changes its colours to fit the times, whether in times of war or peace.  With her divorce becoming finalised, Dodd has lost her husband as well as her parents (see Chapter 9).

Interestingly — think Obama with his proposed compulsory citizens service and, prior to that, the Clintons with Americorps — the Communist Youth in the United States wanted universal military training after the Second World War ended.  Yet, then as now, the Communists were promoting peace through the United Nations Charter.

The next few chapters are available online, as is the rest of the book.  Emphases below are mine.

Chapter Twelve

I HAD NOW BECOME an elder statesman of the Teachers Union. I retained my membership as an honorary member and at the direction of the Party I remained on the top communist committee …

The previous year my husband obtained a divorce down South. Shortly thereafter I heard he had remarried. These events and the death of my mother led me to immerse myself more completely than ever in my work for the Union and the Party. However, I missed a personal family life and I often talked of adopting children. But the comrades dissuaded me. They reminded me I could not overcome the legal handicaps of adoption for a woman living alone, and I knew, too, that irregular hours and my limited income would make it difficult. Instead, I continued to move in a world of men who were determined to create new types of human beings who would conform to the blueprint of the world they confidently expected to control. I lived only as part of an ideological group. I was accepted by them and I dealt with them in the direct but impersonal manner I had long cultivated.

In March 1943 I began to spend part of each day at Party headquarters at 35 East Twelfth Street. This building, which ran from Twelfth Street to Thirteenth Street, was owned by the Party …

Despite a campaign to clean up the building, it remained unbelievably drab. For a long time the Communists had resisted any attempt to beautify the place because that was regarded as bourgeois pretentiousness. The only pictures on the walls were those of Lenin, Marx, and Stalin. The only decorations were Red flags.

Under the impetus of [Earl] Browder’s attempt to make the Communist Party American, a cleanup job was begun.

The walls got new paint. New photographs of the American leadership appeared. I came on the scene just after the painting was completed — a ghastly cream with brown trim. Lenin and Stalin got equal space on the walls and the photographs of the members of the Politburo, each exactly identical in size and type of frames, were placed in identical positions, none lower, none higher than the other. They ranged high along the walls of the ninth floor. Looking at them, I had the feeling I was entering the abode of some strange secret cult, and I was both attracted and repelled …

As I began to prepare for the work I was assigned to do I was amazed at the lack of files of material on social questions such as housing and welfare. When I complained about this, Gil said: “Bella, we are a revolutionary party, not a reform group. We aren’t trying to patch up this bourgeois structure.”

I began to realize why the Party had no long-range program for welfare, hospitals, schools, or child care. They plagiarized programs from the various civil-service unions. Such reforms, if they fitted in, could be adapted to the taste of the moment. But reforms were anathema to communist long-range strategy, which stood instead for revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Party wanted me to retain my contacts with the noncommunist world, which had been so easy while I represented the Teachers Union, but which I knew would be difficult as an avowed Communist. Gil was delighted when I discussed the possibility of establishing a law office midtown which I could use to meet non-Party friends of the Party who would not go to the Party headquarters for fear of police surveillance. I set up business with two young lawyers who wanted to practice in the labor field. They thought that my growing power in left-wing politics would aid them.

… I found suitable offices at 25 West Forty-third Street. We established the firm and got off to a good start. But I found little time for the practice of law. My office became a place where I met Party and non-Party persons engaged in common enterprises.

Earl Browder was then preparing for the Party convention of 1944. At this convention I was to make the public announcement of my Party affiliation …

That spring of 1943 was memorable for the new friends I met. I had moved to an apartment on Seventh Avenue near Fourteenth Street. The rent was small for it was over a restaurant. Nevertheless it was a pleasant flat which could easily be shared for it had two rooms in front and two in back and a kitchen and bath in between.

Before long I had a roommate … I met Nancy Reed, who had recently been fired, with much publicity, from a New York State Labor Department job because of exposure of her communist activity, by Godfrey P. Schmidt, then Deputy Industrial Commissioner. The press carried, as a result of the investigations of Stephen Birmingham, lurid stories of how she had buried Communist Party records in the sand at her mother’s summer home on Cape Cod. She was out of a job. I offered to share my apartment, and then persuaded the Teachers Union to set up an employment bureau and to make her its director.

Nancy came from a good Boston family. I knew her mother, Ferdinanda Reed, who was one of the three old ladies who technically owned the Daily Worker, the other two being Anita Whitney and my former tenant in the Village, Susan Woodruff. Ferdinanda had come to communism intellectually and remained because, like Susan, she never saw its ruthless side. Her two daughters had followed her into the Party and Nancy’s sister Mary, a writer of some note, had left her American husband and taken their infant son and gone to Russia to live. Nancy had visited her there.

Nancy had many friends among the working people for whom she had helped find jobs when she worked for the State Employment Bureau

Before I knew it my home became a center for National Maritime Union leaders and seamen of every rank …

One evening John Rogan of the National Maritime Union brought a tall, slender, red-haired seaman in khaki shirt and trousers who had been a friend of Paddy Whalen. “Red,” as his friends called him, proved a fine addition to the party for he talked well and had many stories to tell. He came from Minnesota …

We talked late into the night and I learned that he had left his Church and become an IWW and had worked with the Communist Party at times. I told him proudly of my recent decision to become an open worker in the Party. Dubiously, he asked, “Are you sure that is what you want?” and as I looked surprised, he continued:

“You see, I don’t think they have the answer. I simply can’t make myself believe that we are only clods of earth and that when we die, we die and that’s all. I’ve seen bad conditions in lots of places, on ships, in jails, and in foreign ports in China and India and Africa and South America. I’ve fought against these conditions. There’s no doubt that out of it all revolution may come -the way the Communists want it to — but what will come after that? What will this crowd do when they’ve got their revolution? I hate to think about it. But I’m pretty sure they haven’t got the answer.”

I was startled to hear this sort of talk from a man who had stubbornly worked and fought for labor, often with a reckless disregard for the safety of his life. He was not a “class enemy.” As he talked, I sensed the uneasy feeling that sometimes came over me, even though I tried to ignore it. It was as if this man’s words were the echo of my own unformulated fears.

But they did not alter my decision to be formally inducted into the Party leadership. For years I had functioned with the Party without a Party card or other formal indication of allegiance. Now Gil Green gave me my first Party card, and when he asked to which branch I wanted to be assigned I named the section in East Harlem. To become effective in that area I now moved to a house on upper Lexington Avenue, a neighborhood that had once been Irish and where there still remained a scattering of Irish and Italian families, but where there were an increasing number of Puerto Rican, West Indian, and Negro families. I called our block the street of all nations …

I had moved into this particular neighborhood because, as a Party functionary, I wanted to work in this community and I wished to study its special problems. I was assigned to the Garibaldi Branch of the Party located on 116th Street, a Party club which concentrated on recruiting Italians. The club was ineffective and drab, due in part to the fact that Italians in America were loath to join the Communist Party and in part also to Vito Marcantonio, who represented the American Labor Party and actively worked for the Communist Party. But he did not relish a strong local Communist Party in his district, perhaps because he thought it might get in his way when he made fast deals with the diverse forces.

His own center of political activity was a brownstone clubhouse on 116th Street near Second Avenue. There congregated a strange assortment of smooth, sophisticated communist boys and girls, going and coming in the game of political intrigue, members of local gangs, known racketeers, ambitious lawyers, and political opportunists looking for the crumbs of his political favor.

There were also people of the neighborhood who needed a friend. Marc listened to their stories, assigned lieutenants to their cases, or called on communist-led unions for help. He wrote his people many letters from Washington on his letterhead as Representative …

The Garibaldi branch of the Communist Party was a block from his club. This branch of fifty or sixty members consisted chiefly of Italians, Jews, Negroes, and Finns. Some of the Italians were old-time anarchists. Yet they felt at home with the Communists if only because of their atheism and belief in violence. I found plenty of work to do in East Harlem, but 1 soon learned that the Labor Party and its activees, the Communists, were concerned mainly about getting out the vote. Certainly they were not concerned about the welfare of the people. This was a new type of political machine, attracting not only the voters but the actual precinct workers by vague promises of future social betterment.

By January 1944 I was firmly established at Party headquarters on Twelfth Street. There I organized the legislative program of the Party; but, more important still, I supervised the legislative work of the unions, chiefly the unions of government workers on a state, local, and national level, of the mass organizations of women, and of the youth organizations.

All over the building there was a noticeable feeling of excitement and optimism. Browder’s book, Victory and After, placed communist participation in the mainstream of American life, and there was among us less and less left-wing talk and activity

The convention that year was held at Riverside Plaza, a hotel on West Seventy-second Street. It was well attended. Besides the delegates, many trade-union leaders and men of national reputation were there. The Communist International had been, at Roosevelt’s insistence, technically dissolved the previous year, but several of its members were in New York and came to our convention

At this convention Earl Browder’s speech calling for the dissolution of the Communist Party was … the most surprising event. Some old-time functionaries could not understand it. Some pretended to see in it an attempt to cancel out the teachings of Lenin.

But the Party machine worked with planned precision. The American Communist Party dissolved itself and then by another resolution the delegates re-established it under the name of the Communist Political Association, with the same leaders, same organization, same friends.

I was elected as a member of the National Committee of this Communist Political Association, which brought me into its top leadership. I was now supposedly a part of the inner circle.

The new change of name puzzled many both in and out of the Party. I had listened closely during the convention and it was not at all clear to me. I knew, of course, that one immediate reason was to lay the basis for leadership of the Communists for the re-election of Roosevelt, since Earl Browder was the first to call publicly for his re-election to a fourth term. I also knew that the new name had a less ominous sound to American ears. Even so, it had been a drastic thing to do.

By those who thought they knew the reason it was explained to me thus: the current line in world communism was now based on the Roosevelt pledge to the Soviet Union of mutual co-existence and continued postwar Soviet-American unity. If that pledge were kept and if the march to world communist control could be achieved by a diplomatic unity arising out of official Soviet-American relations, then there would be no need of a militant class-struggle party. In that case the Communist Political Association would become a sort of Fabian Society, doing research and engaging in promoting social, economic, and political ideas to direct America’s development into a full-fledged socialist nation.

The convention over, we turned to the most important item — on the Party’s agenda, the re-election of President Roosevelt for a fourth term …

Some of us knew, however, that though Browder was Americanizing the appearance of the organization he was having difficulties, because of numerous professional revolutionaries who could not change their speech, manner, and way of thinking so swiftly.

My duties were various. I continued to exercise control over the communist teachers. Before I had left the Union I had been able to lay the basis for affiliation of the Teachers Union with the NEA. In June 1944 I was assigned to speak at a meeting of more than five hundred communist teachers and their friends at the Jefferson School [a Marxist training school for adults] on the new communist perspectives as applied to education. I held out the prospect of a new approach to education soon to be disclosed by American leaders who controlled the purse strings of the nation. I urged the communist teachers to exercise their influence for unity on all teachers’ and citizens’ groups.

I pointed out that the NAM had established a tie with the NEA and had pledged itself to help build education and to support a nationwide school-building program; that this would grow into a program of continued co-operation on all educational subjects. To those who questioned this perspective I said that the progressive businessmen were playing a revolutionary role. I repeated the explanations given by Gil and other leaders of the new National Board …

In New York the CIO Political Action Committee was staffed with many sophisticated Communists with years of experience in the nation’s capital. The Independent Committee of Artists, Scientists and Professionals, under the chairmanship of Jo Davidson, the sculptor, was under strong Party direction.

These election committees, made up of Communists and non-Communists, were under communist control. If the chairman of the committee was a non-Communist, its executive secretary was inevitably under communist domination ...

In that campaign the Communists were everywhere. We did not trust the district leaders of the Democratic Party to deliver the votes, so we sent bright young left-wingers into the Democratic clubhouses to jog the old fellows into action, and it was amusing to see them in that rough-and tumble atmosphere.

To gather in the votes which the Labor Party could not win and which the Democratic organizations might fail to reach, we set up a National Citizens Political Action Committee. This loose organization held local rallies and collected funds. Its executive committee had many glittering names. The real work was done by the same dedicated little people, the ones who were looking for no personal reward save the right of participation in the building of a new world.

It was fascinating to see how easily the Party personnel acclimated itself to its new role of pulling all forces together. They rubbed elbows with district leaders, with underworld characters, and with old-line political bosses whom they really regarded as caretakers of a disintegrating political apparatus.

While I was in active work I was reasonably happy, but when the campaign was over and Roosevelt re-elected, I found myself depressed. One reason was a peculiar struggle for power which I saw emerging. During the election I had seen effective work done by Communists who were concealed members. Disputes began to develop between open communist functionaries and these concealed Communists who were safely ensconced in well-paid jobs in powerful organizations. These disputes were resolved by Browder himself, if necessary, and always in favor of the concealed members. I felt a growing competition between these groups, and I wanted to run away from it

I spoke in Cleveland, Toledo, Gary, and Chicago. I came back feeling no happier than when I left. Nor did my next task make me feel any better. I worked for a while with the Communist Youth who were just starting a campaign in favor of universal military training. This campaign troubled me for it did not seem to fit in with the … perspective for a long-term peace, nor with the happy optimism that was promoted when the Nazi armies were broken and peace seemed near.

The campaign for universal military training, the nostrike postwar pledge which the Communists were ballyhooing, and the labor-management charter were all straws in the wind and pointed to one thing: ultimate state control of the people.

When the Yalta conference had ended, the Communists prepared to support the United Nations Charter which was to be adopted at the San Francisco conference to be held in May and June, 1945. For this I organized a corps of speakers and we took to the street corners and held open-air meetings in the millinery and clothing sections of New York where thousands of people congregate at the lunch hour. We spoke of the need for world unity and in support of the Yalta decisions. Yet at the same time the youth division of the Communists was circulating petitions for universal military training.

The two seemed contradictory. But Communists do not cross wires in careless fashion. The truth was that the two campaigns were geared to different purposes: the need to control the people in the postwar period, and the need to build a world-wide machine to preserve peace. Since the communist leaders were evidently not envisioning a peace mechanism without armies, the obvious question then was: for whom and to what end were the Communists urging the building of a permanent army? Did they not trust their own peace propaganda?

Tomorrow: Chapter Thirteen

In this chapter of School of Darkness, Bella Dodd describes how Communists wanted to establish several training schools in the United States.  In order to make them appear respectable, they planned to name them after American patriots or revered presidents, e.g. Abraham Lincoln — also co-opted by the Obama campaign team in 2008!  Observe how many of the teachers came from state schools and universities.

Once again, more wealthy people helped to fund this initiative!

This chapter, like the rest of the book, is available online.  Emphases below are mine as is the addition of two links.

Chapter Eleven

The Union had assumed the obligation of helping the teachers and professors displaced by the Rapp-Coudert Committee, which was proving difficult to do. Finally, after brooding over this problem, we decided to establish a liberal school for adults, thus making employment and spreading education at the same time.

The School for Democracy was established with Dr. Howard Selsam, formerly of the Philosophy Department of Brooklyn College, as director, and with David Goldway, formerly of Townsend Harris High School and also formerly state director of education for the Communist Party in New York, as secretary. It was to be housed also at 13 Astor Place and to use certain facilities jointly with the Teachers Union. I worked hard to get it organized.

The school was a success. Almost immediately our science teachers received well-paying jobs in experimental laboratories. But the Party observed our venture into education and made ready to bend it to its purposes.

Attached to the Party for some time had been a school called the Workers School, located at Party headquarters. This school was conducted by the Party for members and sympathizers. Its curriculum consisted largely of courses in Marxism-Leninism, courses in trade-union history, and courses in popularizing the current line of the Party. The school was frankly one for communist indoctrination and no compromise was made with bourgeois educational concepts …

Earl Browder and the national leadership were busy striving to give the Communist Party the appearance of a native American party to prepare it for its new role in the war and in the postwar period when it was expected to play an even greater role. He was enthusiastic about the School for Democracy.

Often I had the feeling he was impatient with the overwhelming foreignness of the Party. Perhaps his days as child and young man in Kansas had had something to do with it. His slogan, “Communism Is Twentieth Century Americanism,” had irked both the foreign-minded Communists and the native Americans who had felt it was an attempt to sell a bogus article. But with the war Browder could work with impunity to convert the Party into an acceptable American social and political organization.

In line with this it was decided to take over the School for Democracy with its core of professors, graduates of the most distinguished bourgeois colleges, and to join it to the hard core of communist teachers from the Workers School. Alexander Trachtenberg was put in charge of a committee to merge the Workers School and the School for Democracy. An astute Communist, a charter member of the Party and before that a revolutionary socialist, Trachtenberg was and is now one of the financial big wheels of the movement. He was also chief of the firm of International Publishers, which had a monopoly on the publication of communist books and pamphlets and on the distribution of Soviet books and pamphlets. This is a highly profitable undertaking.

He bought a beautiful building on the corner of Sixteenth Street and Sixth Avenue, a stone’s throw from St. Francis Xavier School, to house the new Marxist School. Plans were already on foot for a string of Marxist Adult Education schools which would have a patriotic look. The patriots of the American Revolution and of the Civil War were to be given a new sort of honor — a Marxist status. The new school in New York was named the Jefferson School of Social Research. In Chicago the school was named the Abraham Lincoln School, in Boston the John Adams School, and in New Rochelle, the Thomas Paine School. These schools were to play a part in the “third revolution” that was to destroy the nation.

Trachtenberg once said to me that when communism came to America it would come under the label of “progressive democracy.” “It will come,” he added, “in labels acceptable to the American people.”

The initial funds for the setting up of the Marxist schools were, ironically enough, contributed by wealthy business people who were personally invited to attend dinners at the homes of other men of wealth. They came to hear Earl Browder analyze current events and predict the future with emphasis on the role the Party would play.

There is no doubt that Earl Browder, as chief of the Communist Party, was close to the seats of world power in those days, and that he knew better than most Americans what was going on, except insofar as events were warped and refracted by his Marxist ideology. The men who paid their hundred-dollar admissions and contributed thus to the school funds became part of the group which Earl Browder was to call the “progressive businessmen,” meaning those who were willing to go along on an international program of communism. The lure was attractive: expanded profits from trade with the Soviets. The price to be paid was unimportant to these well-fed, well-heeled men, who felt the world was their oyster. The price was respectability for communism at home and leadership of the Soviets abroad.

I had no part in the group which planned this new Marxist educational empire, though I had been the moving spirit in establishing the School for Democracy. The trustees of the Jefferson School were not educators; they were key communist figures in the growing hierarchy of a native American leadership for the Communist Party. There were among them people with unbelievable backgrounds, some of them Moscow-trained, but they all had a surface of respectability, even though sometimes a blurred surface.

As I look back I see that I never ceased keeping for myself a small area of freedom into which my mind could escape. Some phases of my life I was perfectly willing to have controlled and even enslaved. I was conditioned to accept the view that the capitalist system was inefficient, greedy, immoral, and decadent. My schools and my reading and the depression had put me in agreement with President Roosevelt in wanting to drive the moneychangers from the Temple. I was also willing to follow the Party in its program of practical politics, for here, too, the attack was upon the grossness and stupidity of those in government who sat in the seats of power with no plan for the future. Willingly, too, I helped the Party gain in power in the field of American education through my work with the Teachers Union. I was always ready to help in the struggle for admission to the academic world of the intellectuals among our immigrant population who felt they faced discrimination …

The Party leaders made frequent attempts to get me to attend state and national training schools. I was approached repeatedly about the possibility of going to school in Moscow, but I always pleaded that the immediate emergencies of my work in the Union made it impossible for me to give time to such a duty. “Perhaps someday,” I told them.

I had seen teachers, sailors, furriers, subway conductors, housewives, some with third-grade education and some with college degrees, lumped together as students in these state and national training schools and I had seen them come out with the same stamp of dedicated uniformity. It was a leveling process that still gave them an odd sense of superiority, as if they were now priests of a new cult.

With the development of the new Marxist schools I tended to withdraw further from this phase of the work. I taught one class at the Jefferson School, but I found no joy in it. When I was offered the directorship of the California Labor School I refused it without hesitation. I had the vague fear that if I allowed myself to be drawn into this type of indoctrination the last small refuge where my mind found freedom would be gone.

The war years had produced interesting phenomena in communist-led left-wing circles, not the least of which was public renunciation of the class struggle. The Party announced that whole sections of the capitalist class had joined the “democratic front,” the so-called “Roosevelt camp of progress.”

The Daily Worker never wearied of enumerating those who were clasping hands in a common purpose, Communists, trade unions, sections of the Democratic Party, and progressive capitalists. These made a coalition, the Party stated, that would win the war and later the peace.

The Communist Party now assumed the responsibility for establishing a rigid discipline over the working class. No employer was more effective or more relentless in checking strikes among the workers, or in minimizing complaints of workers against inequities of wages and working conditions. Some employers were delighted with this assistance. It is startling to note that, while wages rose a little during those years, they did not compare with the rise in profits and in monopoly control of basic necessities.

In other circumstances, Communists would have blasted the fact that war production was chiefly in the hands of ten large corporations and that 80 per cent of the war production was in the hands of a hundred firms. Now the Communists carefully muted such information. Instead, they played on the workers’ feelings of patriotism.

It was sad to observe that in the interest of its objectives the Party even barred the protests of the Negro workers who felt that, now that they were needed in the war factories, they might win some rights. The Communists opposed the Negro demands violently. In fact, a campaign of vilification was begun. It was charged that the leaders of this Negro movement were Japanese agents.

The Party did all it could to induce women to go into industry. Its fashion designers created special styles for them and its song writers wrote special songs to spur them. Use of womanpower in the war industries was, of course, inevitable, but it also fitted into the communist long-range program. War-period conditions, they planned, were to become a permanent part of the future educational program. The bourgeois family as a social unit was to be made obsolete.

Its leaders were driving for a strong war and peace unity between the United States and the Soviet Union. Everywhere the Party leadership was being placed in positions of importance so that they might direct the home-front segments of the coalition. Communist leadership was being consulted and utilized by those in power in government.

Government officials were utilizing Communists to pull together divergent groups.

When the Russian War Relief was begun, a glittering array of names of outstanding citizens adorned its elegant stationery. Sumptuous affairs launched Russian relief in America. These were attended by people prominent in society and government.

The Communist Party made the most of this. Now there emerged the Russian Institute with its imposing headquarters on Park Avenue. This was a sophisticated propaganda agency; it brought American educators, public officials, artists, young people of families of wealth into this left-wing world. Famous names, Vanderbilt, Lamont, Whitney, Morgan, mingled with those of communist leaders. The Russian Institute was so respectable that it was allowed to give in-service courses to New York City schoolteachers for credit.

In Albany and in Washington a new crop of young, native American Communists swarmed into the legislative halls as legislative representatives and public-relation and research aides to legislators. With inside information on what was happening, they were able to guide legislators in the direction of Soviet-American unity. They helped to produce dozens of important public figures at Madison Square Garden rallies, organized under various labels but filled by the rank and file of devoted Party members. It was a glittering society that was emerging, made up of Russian diplomats and Russian business agents, of Americans in evening clothes, and artistic Bohemians in careless dungarees, all of them cheering the repeated avowals of friendship with the Soviet Motherland.

When in 1943 Stalin announced the dissolution of the Communist International, a great impetus was given to the drive to build the Communist Party into a native American party. This dissolution was a tactic meant to lessen fear in those Americans who did not believe that Soviet-American unity could be achieved without danger to American sovereignty …

When some days later I spoke at a budget hearing to a packed hall, ostensibly for my Union, I was in reality putting across the Party’s unity line in terms of the taxation problem. I received congratulations from Republicans, Democrats, and representatives of the taxpayers’ organization.

Afterward Gil Green, New York State chairman of the Communist Party, and Si Gerson, its legislative representative, congratulated me on my speech. Then Gil said decidedly: “The time has come, Bella, when you ought to come forward openly as a leader of the Party.” Si Gerson, he added, was going into the Army soon and there would be need of a new legislative representative of the Party. “And we want you” …

In the Party I was beginning to see many people of a different stripe. During the war period I saw how opportunism and selfishness engulfed many comrades. They wore expensive clothes, lived in fine apartments, took long vacations at places provided by men of wealth. There was, for one, William Wiener, former treasurer of the Party, manipulator for a score of business enterprises, who wore Brooks Brothers suits, smoked expensive cigars, and lunched only at the best places. There were the tradeunion Communists who rubbed elbows with underworld characters at communist-financed night clubs, and labor lawyers who were given patronage by the Party by assignment to communist-led trade unions and now were well established and comfortable …

In everything except name I was a Communist. I accepted discipline and attended meetings. I gave a full measure of devotion to Party works, and I felt a deep attachment and loyalty to the people in its ranks. I considered myself as part of a group looking and driving toward the day when socialism would triumph.

Even more significant was the fact that I had made their hates my hates. This was what established me as a full-fledged Communist. In the long ago I had been unable to hate anyone; I suffered desperately when someone was mistreated; I was regarded as a peacemaker. Now, little by little, I had acquired a whole mass of people to hate: the groups and individuals who fought the Party. How it came about I cannot tell. All I know as I look back to that time is that my mind had responded to Marxist conditioning. For it is a fact, true and terrible, that the Party establishes such authority over its members that it can swing their emotions now for and now against the same person or issue. It claims such sovereignty even over conscience as to dictate when it shall hate.

Before 1935, for instance, the Party had preached hatred of John L. Lewis as a labor dictator. No stories about him were too vile. He was accused of murder and pillage in his march to power in the Miners Union. Suddenly, in 1936, Lewis became the hero of the Communist Party. Again in 1940, when the Party decided to support Roosevelt against Willkie, and John L. Lewis risked his leadership in the CIO by calling on the unions to vote for Willkie, the Communists screamed invective, and in private meetings Roy Hudson and William Z. Foster, in charge of labor for the Politburo, vilified Lewis. When the Communists shifted their support, Lewis was dropped as president of the CIO and Philip Murray was elected in his place. During my years in the Teachers Union I gradually got used to these bitter expressions of hate. And since hate begets hate, often those under attack also responded with hate. Hearing them, I began to take sides and in the end accepted the Party’s hates as my own.

Once at the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers in 1938 I was assigned to attack a resolution introduced by the socialists in support of a Fred Beals, once a Communist, and indicted for murder in the Gastonia textile strike. He had jumped bail and escaped to Russia but he did not like life in the Soviet Union and insisted on returning to the United States even though it meant standing trial. The socialists were defending him and asking trades-union support for him because the indictment had grown out of a labor dispute …

This is the peculiar paradox of modern totalitarianism. This is the key to the mental enslavement of mankind: that the individual is made into nothing, that he operates as the physical part of what is considered a higher group intelligence and acts at the will of that higher intelligence, that he has no awareness of the plans the higher intelligence has for utilizing him. When a person conditioned by a totalitarian group talks about the right not to incriminate himself, he really means the right not to incriminate the communist group of which he is only a nerve end. When he talks of freedom of speech, he means freedom for the communist group to speak as a group through the mouth of the individual who has been selected by the higher intelligence.

The Bill of Rights of the American Constitution was written to protect individuals against centralized power. The Communists pervert this safeguard by first enslaving the individual so that he becomes the marionette of the centralized power.

This kind of conditioning had something to do with my decision to become a card-carrying Communist. In March, 1943, I gave my consent to Gil Green’s proposal to become an open Party leader. I took over Si Gerson’s position as legislative representative for the New York district. Gil was pleased and insisted that I begin the transition immediately, so I spent some time in Party headquarters and attended all meetings …

The Union gave a farewell affair in my honor in June 1944. It was a fine illustration of the kind of unity which this Union, now a sturdy arm of the Communist Party, was able to establish.

The farewell party was called “A Tribute to Dear Bella.” As I read today the blurbs on the program I can but shake my head sadly. I read there of the “inspiring and untiring leadership in behalf of all the children — all the teachers — the improvement in public education — the fight against racial intolerance” …

… a gift from the Union, a modernistic water color … still hangs on my law-office wall. It is a good reminder, in its complete confusion of subject matter, of the distortion of the actual, the confusion and meaninglessness of this part of my life.

Tomorrow: Chapter Twelve

In these two chapters of School of Darkness, Bella Dodd becomes formally involved with the Communist Party in New York.

She describes how Communists continuously change tactics and strategies to meet political circumstances.  What’s more, some of their targets — former members or sympathisers — become anathema one day only to be accepted back into the fold the next. Others are dumped permanently once they have served the Party’s purpose.  Also note her campaign for day care, also a Communist plan to destroy families under the guise of helping working mothers!  They will stop at nothing to subvert society to their own ends.  Sadly, there are endless numbers of wealthy people who want to help, mainly out of social concern.  I wonder if the Gimbel to whom Dodd refers was of the Gimbel department store family …

Communists, she warns us, do not fundamentally change, even if they adopt radically different positions from one period in history to the next.  Everything is done to advance the interests of the Soviet Union and to draw the West, particularly the United States, closer to totalitarianismBe especially careful of their calls for ‘peace’. Please bear this in mind and, if you have children, explain it to them.  Communist strategems tie in with the Democratic Party in the United States and, quite possibly, with the more centrist Republicans.

These chapters are available free of charge online.  Emphases below are mine.

Chapter Ten

… That fall [1941] I was still trying to find jobs for teachers who had lost their positions in the Rapp-Coudert fight. A number of those suspended were still awaiting departmental trials. The Party was no longer interested in them. Its new line was a united front with all the “democratic forces” — meaning all the pro-war forces.

Before June 1941 it had been an “imperialist war” for the redivision of markets, a war which could have only reactionary results. But when the Soviet Union was attacked, the war was transformed into a “people’s war,” a “war of liberation.”

The American Communist Party dropped all its campaigns of opposition. Its pacifist friends were again “Fascist reactionaries” and all its energy was employed in praise of France and England as great democracies. The fight against the Board of Higher Education had to be brought to an end because the Party regarded Mayor LaGuardia as a force in the pro-democratic war camp …

In the legislative program of the Teachers Union for 1941 I included a proposal to establish public nursery schools. The WPA nursery-school program which had been under the State Department of Education was coming to an end. The bill I introduced for the Union was mild. It was conceived mainly as a program of jobs for teachers and partly as a social program to aid working women with small children. The storm of opposition from conservative groups startled me. Evidently I had stumbled on a controversial issue, one which struck at the role of the mother in education

On December 7, 1941, I called together a few outstanding citizens to discuss the program of school expansion and to solicit support for nursery schools and better adult education. The meeting was held at the home of Mrs. Elinor Gimbel, a public-spirited woman, interested in many causes …

We had enjoyed Mrs. Gimbel’s hospitality and talked about discrimination, about the new waves of population in New York, about the conflict with Catholics on federal aid, about budgets, school buildings, and teachers’ salaries.

As I look back over the conferences I attended on educational policies and methods and progress, I realize that we never discussed or thought about what kind of man or woman we expected to develop by our educational system. What were the goals of education? How were we to achieve them? These questions few asked. Are we asking them today in the higher echelons of the public schools, and what are our conclusions?

Those devoted to progressive education and to preparing youth to live in the “new socialist world” are abstractly sure of what they want, but they seem not to know that they work with human beings. Aside from teaching that children must learn to get along with other children, no moral or natural law standards are set. There is no word about how our children are to find the right order of harmonious living.

I, too, had to learn by hard experience that you cannot cure a sick soul with more buildings or more playgrounds. These are important, but they are not enough. Abraham Lincoln, schooled in a one-room log cabin, received from education what all the athletic fields and laboratories cannot give. All his speeches reflected his love for his Creator. He knew that God is the cure for godlessness.

On this Sunday afternoon of December 7, 1941 [Pearl Harbor], we talked long and ardently on education. We talked, too, of the splendid work done by the women of England for the safety of their children in preparation for bombing attacks. Mrs. Gimbel finally turned on the radio to give us the news …

So it was only natural that we immediately set to work to make plans, and that these plans dealt with children. Then and there we formed ourselves into an emergency Child Care Committee with Mrs. Gimbel as chairman, and to this committee I promised to turn over my files on nursery schools and to give all my assistance.

In the Party we had long expected that the war would involve the United States

The energies of the Party were now turned to establishing win-the-war committees. The old feuds of the Teachers Union and the CIO and the A.F. of L. were put into moth balls and the little arguments and the big ones were forgotten. Now the Communists became peacemakers between discordant factions everywhere. With joy and relief I watched the Party serve as an agency for drawing the forces of the community together to win the war.

Of course the Communist Party was overjoyed at what was happening. It moved briskly to place the colossal strength of America at the disposal of the Soviet Union. Moreover, the rank-and-file Communists were once again tasting the joy of being accepted by all groups. The Party line made it possible during this period for ordinary Party members to be merely human beings and to act naturally, for their neighbors were now less frightened, and even listened to Communists explain that they were on the side of the American people. All American groups worked together now on Red Cross committees, on bond rallies, on blood-bank drives. We were one people united in a common cause.

It is bitter for me to realize that Communist Party leaders looked upon this united front as only a tactic to disrupt this country, and that they were using the good instincts of their own members for their ultimate destruction. Under the deceptive cloak of unity they moved like thieves in the night, stealing materials and secrets. Each Communist Party member was used as a part of the conspiracy, but the majority of them were unaware of it. Only those who knew the pattern knew how each fitted in the picture.

I had stayed close to the Party during the worst days of 1939 to 1941, the days of the Soviet-Nazi pact, primarily because I deeply loved the Teachers Union which I represented …

The second reason was because of the Party’s campaign against war. I now know that this anti-war policy was merely a tactic to meet changing conditions. At that time I could not believe that the communist line was a scheme advancing Communists one more step closer to total war for total control of the world. I had slowly come to believe in the infallibility of “scientific socialism” and in the inevitability of the socialist millennium. I was by no means oblivious to many signs of crudeness, corruption, and selfishness within the Party but I thought the movement was a bigger thing.

I, and hundreds like me, believed in … the Politburo, and the great Party of the Soviet Union. We felt they were incorruptible. Blind faith in the Soviet Union, the land of true socialism, was the last spell that was broken for me. This had been a spell woven of words cleverly strung together by Party intellectuals who lied, and it was made plausible by my desire to see man-made perfection in this imperfect world …

I was so completely involved with the Party now that it absorbed all my spare time. Its members were my associates and friends. I had no others …

To this was added one other factor, one not to be minimized: I was rising in importance in this strange world. I had joined as an idealist. Now I was beginning to stay because of the sense of power it gave me, and the chance of participation in significant events …

I became sharp and critical of those who did not pour themselves as completely into the Party. I still based activity on my own standards of goodness, of honesty, and of loyalty. I failed to understand that the Party in making alliances had nothing whatever to do with these qualities, that it was not out to reform the world, but was bent on making a revolution to control the world. I did not know then that to do so it was ready to use cutthroats, liars, and thieves as well as saints and ascetics. I should have known, however, had I reflected on the implications of Lenin’s speech delivered at the Third All-Russian Congress of the Russian Young Communist League on October 2, 1920: “ . . . all our morality is entirely subordinated to the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat” …

Tomorrow: Chapter Eleven

In this instalment from School of Darkness, Bella Dodd describes her work for the Teachers Union of New York after she resigned from Hunter College.  We also discover more about the influence the Communist Party had on teachers and the union.  Then, too, we read of the wealthy women descended from the first families who settled the United States;  they gave support and money to the Communist Party.

However, the main takeaways from this chapter are how the Party organises and executes campaigns according to plan.  These strategies are still being used today and will be familiar to anyone who follows news stories closely.

Chapters 8 through 10 are available online.  Emphases below are mine.

Chapter Nine

I GAVE up my Hunter College work mainly because I felt I could not serve two masters. If I remained a teacher, I felt my undivided attention ought to be given to my students and not shared with outside organizations. I was afraid also that, if I remained a teacher, as many teacher politicians did, there would be a conflict between my desire to serve the interests of the college and my sense of dedication to the interests of the “downtrodden.”

I made the choice without regard for the future, confident that in the working class I should find satisfaction and security. As the legislative year again approached, I became a full-time employee of the Teachers Union at sixty dollars a week. This is the salary I received during the years I worked for the Union. I did not then or later ask for an increase. I was sensitive about workers’ money …

The WPA teachers, the substitutes, the instructors’ associations in the colleges, were goaded by a sense of injustice and a fear of failure. This was the lush soil in which the communist teachers’ fraction in the Teachers Union flourished …

In the substitute teachers’ campaign I attracted thousands of nonunion teachers. I felt I had to find a way to help them. And in a quiet way they began to be grateful to the Communists.

There were dark by-products of the struggle. The younger teachers who had been forced into the WPA and substitute-teacher categories were the children of the most recent immigrants, the Italians, the Greeks, the Jews from Russia, and the Slavs. Merging with this group were the children of the expanding Negro population of the city who were qualified educationally for professional jobs. The positions of power and of educational supervision, however, were held mostly by persons of English, Scotch, and Irish origin.

The Communists, who are unerring in attaching themselves to an explosive situation, had their answers for these troubled young teachers. Their chief answer was that we had reached the “breakdown of the capitalist system.” To those who were self-conscious on race or religion they said that “religious or racial discrimination” was the cause. When individual instances of bigotry and discrimination arose, the Communists were quick to note them and to exaggerate them. So a cleavage was established between the older teachers, who were largely Protestants, Catholics, and conservative Jews, and the new teachers who were increasingly freethinkers, atheists, or agnostics, and sometimes called themselves “humanists.”

I now began consciously to build new Party leadership in the Union. I surrounded myself with younger Party members who were more alert to new situations and did not think in rigid Marxist patterns.

We did not succeed in passing the substitute-teacher legislation for which we fought at Albany. But we made it the most controversial legislation of the 1938 sessions. Later, when it was passed by the legislature, Governor Lehman vetoed it reluctantly after the entire Board of Education had used its power against it. However, in vetoing it he urged New York City to do something about the situation. He added that if the city failed to do so he would act favorably on such legislation in the future.

The Union and the communist group grew immeasurably in stature and prestige among the new crop of teachers and among other civil-service employees. Even politicians and public officials respected us for our relentless campaign.

In the fall of 1938, the American Labor Party nominated me for the Assembly in the old Tenth Assembly district, the area including Greenwich Village …

That year John [Dodd, her husband] and I were living in a small and charming house on West Eleventh Street. My parents occupied one floor, John and I the next, and the duplex above us we rented to Susan Woodruff and her husband. Susan was a dear old lady whose husband was a Princeton graduate and a Republican. Susan, on the other hand, was an avowed Communist and admirer of the Soviet Union, though like her husband she traced her ancestry to the early settlers of America. Later she became one of the three old ladies who ostensibly owned the Daily Worker.

She had gone to Russia in the thirties and had taken pictures of Soviet scenes. These she had arranged in slides and she offered to show them free as well as give a lecture to churches and Y’s. She genuinely believed that the Soviet Union meant an advance for humanity and she was eager to do her part in strengthening it.

The Party was always happy to use such voluntary propagandists. Even anti-communists never attempted to show such people as Susan that Communists and their fellow travelers were helping to undermine not a selfish capitalist class, but the very life of her own group. She was surrounded by like-minded people, Mary van Kleek of the Russell Sage Foundation, Josephine Truslow Adams, Annie Pennypacker, and Ferdinanda Reed. When I saw Susan and others of old American families devoted to the principles of service to humanity it helped to allay any doubts I had …

The legislative session of 1939 had reflected the now deepening depression which had been gathering momentum. The public hearings on the state budget which took place on Lincoln’s Birthday brought demands for a cut in state aid to education. It was a struggle now between the organized taxpayer group with the slogan, “Ax the tax,” and the Teachers Union which led an army of teachers and parents with the counter slogan, “Don’t use the ax on the child.” But a ten per cent cut in state aid was passed — a cut which we felt endangered the education program and meant a loss of teachers’ jobs.

At the end of the session the legislature passed a resolution calling for a legislative investigation into the costs of education and of the administrative procedures of education. There was a rider at the end calling for an investigation into the subversive activities of teachers in New York City.

I called immediate attention to the fact that the study of the costs of education was tied to one for investigating subversive activities. I concluded that the legislative leaders wanted to reduce costs, but that in order to do so it would be necessary to smear the teachers. I charged they were using a Red-baiting technique to undermine education.

Neither Mayor LaGuardia nor the officials of the American Labor Party would move to ward off this attack.  A legislative committee was appointed, headed by Senator Frederic Coudert, a Republican from New York City, and Herbert Rapp, a Republican from upstate. Other teacher organizations discounted this attack on the educational budget and regarded it merely as an attack on the Teachers Union, and no doubt were secretly pleased.

In April 1939 John called me in Albany and urged me to come home immediately. My father was dying in St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie …

As I stood by my father’s bedside looking at him, my hand over his, he opened his eyes, still so blue and bright, and, though he could not speak, he looked at me steadily, and then a single tear fell from his eye. It cut into me and troubled me for years afterward, for somehow it seemed to represent his sorrow about me. I thought, with remorse, how in these cluttered years I had failed him as a daughter and had left him without my companionship …

The Communist Party had been quick to realize that to avert the attack on the communist teachers, a thing which might lead to the heart of the Party, it must help the campaign against the pending Rapp-Coudert investigation. In a move to spare the Union the strain of all this and also to bring people other than teachers into the fight, we organized a committee called “Friends of the Free Public Schools.” Under its aegis we collected funds, more than $150,000 the first year. We published attractive booklets which we sent to teacher organizations, to trade unions, to women’s clubs, to public officials.

I set up a booth and an exhibit at the New York State Fair in Syracuse and I covered numerous county fairs, issuing a strident call for aid to the public schools. We got free time on dozens of radio programs. We put on interesting programs over a radio station in New York. We organized “Save Our Schools” community clubs, made up of teachers, parents, trade unionists, students, and young people. We were a well-trained army and by our well-organized action we gave people a feeling that in the long run we would win.

That summer saw a new attack on the New York Teachers Union. Friends of Dr. Lefkowitz, largely from the professorial group in the American Federation of Teachers, together with a socialist bloc, some old-line A.F. of L. members, and some anti-communists, were organized …

They planned to take the leadership in the Federation from the Communists …

To make matters worse, news of the Soviet-Nazi pact broke during the week of the convention, with the result that we were now driven into a minority position. Even though some hidden Communists remained in office, we were powerless to use the American Federation of Teachers to help the distraught New York locals. We feared that the newly elected officers would do their own investigating of the New York situation, and perhaps lift our charters.

The Soviet-Nazi collaboration came at a time when the civilized world could no longer remain silent at the Nazi atrocities against Jews and other minorities … Now these people were genuinely outraged at the picture of Molotov shaking hands with Von Ribbentrop.

The Jewish people within the Party were also disturbed and quite a few left it. Those who remained, rationalized the event on the ground that the warmongers of the West wanted to destroy the Soviet Fatherland, so in self-defense it had outfoxed the Western “warmongers” by making an alliance with their enemy. I was too busy with the teachers’ problem to give much attention to this outrage though it troubled me.

Though the Communists supported Mayor LaGuardia in the election campaigns I became impatient with his attitude on teacher problems and finally to exert pressure we threw a picket line around City Hall. We made a singing picket line; twenty-four hours of it, an all-day and all-night picketing and, as a publicity stunt, I announced to the press that there would be prayers at sunrise. I tried to get a Catholic priest to say the sunrise prayers for us, but even the priests from the poor parishes around City Hall looked at me oddly and said they could not do it without permission from the chancery. I offered to pay them, to make a contribution to their charities, but they only eyed me more oddly and refused with thanks. Eventually a liberal minister agreed to come and lead our pickets in prayer.

This episode ended my friendship with LaGuardia, for he was furious at the adverse publicity. It did accomplish something. The Board of Education was ordered to look into the situation of the substitute teachers.

By fall of 1939 the Rapp-Coudert Committee had settled down to work with a score of investigators. On the committee were men I could not dislike …

Assemblyman Rapp was an up-stater concerned chiefly with educational finance and administration. So he played a negligible role in the investigation.

That left one person on whom to turn our combined fury. Senator Coudert was a Republican, cold and patrician in appearance. Because of his international law firm with an office in Paris and the fact that it acted for many White Russians, we looked on him as an agent of imperialism. From the Communist Party and from the men who represented the Soviet interests in this country we got the go-ahead signal to make him our target. The Party placed its forces at the teachers’ disposal, since the teachers were now in the vanguard holding the line in defense of the Party itself …

There was general consultation. The Party established a joint chief-of-staff group with several from the teachers’ fraction … The strategy decided on was to defend the teachers by defending the Party. The lesser policy, or tactics, was to be established from day to day.

For the “Committee to Defend the Public Schools” we hired a battery of lawyers, as it was impossible for one lawyer to attend to the many demands. We decided to fight the seizure of our Union membership lists all the way to the Court of Appeals. This would gain time and enable us to continue organizing the mass campaigns against the legislative committee. It would also serve to wear out the investigating committee

The Party now placed at our services its intelligence apparatus, for the Communist Party has its own intelligence officers, in splinter groups, in the trade unions, in major divisions of our body politic, in the police departments, and in intelligence divisions of the Government. I was to see some proof of its efficiency. For no sooner did the Rapp-Coudert Committee begin to issue subpoenas than I got a message from Chester, who was in charge of the Party Intelligence, assuring me he had arranged for a liaison who would meet me regularly with information on what was going on in the Rapp-Coudert Committee …

The Coudert Committee issued more than six hundred subpoenas. The teachers over whom the Party had control followed our directions and instructions. Because they were forewarned by us they were able, with our assistance, to prepare defense stories to give the Committee. After each person had been down to the Committee meeting he was instructed by us to write an exact resume of what had transpired with all the questions and answers, and these were delivered to our Defense Committee. We studied these resumes for possible evidence of the trend of the Committee’s inquiry so that we could better arm the next batch of teachers to be called.

There is no doubt that the Rapp-Coudert investigation of New York City schools provided the legislature with a great deal of information on how Communists work. It also provided a good example of how they fight back, sometimes by a defensive fight against those conducting the investigation and with every weapon at the Party’s disposal, including smearing, name-calling, frameup, careful combing of each investigator’s history and background. If there is nothing that can be attacked, then some innuendo is whispered which by repetition snowballs into a smear and makes the public say, “Where there is smoke there must be fire.”

Sometimes the campaign is on the offensive. Some angle is found to explain the evil motives of those who are conducting the investigation, perhaps to show that the investigation is itself a blind for some ulterior motive and that the result will deprive people of certain rights. In the teacher fight we steadfastly kept before the public the idea that the investigation was intended to rob the public schools of financial support and to promote religious and racial bigotry.

Little by little we won the campaign, at least in the opinion of many people; and we distracted the attention of the public from the specific work of the Committee. Support for the teachers, which at first had come only from the Communist Party, increased and included liberals, left trade unions, national group organizations, religious organizations, then political parties of the left, then leftwing Democrats, then so-called Progressive Republicans. All the support, however, was for tangential issues and not the basic issue. It did not matter to us so long as they marched at our side. Their reasons were unimportant to us …

In 1940 I had been selected by the Party to lead a committee called Women’s Trade Union Committee for Peace. We raised money, hired a young man to do public relations, and arranged a mass delegation to Washington. There we lobbied with representatives and senators. We went on the air with pro-German speakers. We set up a continuous picket line in front of the White House.

It had been at this time that a final break came between my husband and myself. For some time John had been disturbed by my increasing activity with the Communists. He himself was pro-British. He had served in the Canadian Air Service during World War I until America’s entry. He despised what he called the “phony peace” campaigns. There were other and personal reasons why our marriage had not been successful, but the breaking point came at this time. He told me he was leaving for Florida to get a divorce.

It was during these months that I developed my deepest loyalty to the Communist Party. In great part this was because I was grateful to them for their support of the teachers.

I still did not see communism as a conspiracy. I regarded it as a philosophy of life which glorified the “little people.” I was surrounded by people who called themselves Communists and who were warmhearted people like myself. In the world outside there was immorality and decadence and injustice; there was no real standard to live by. But among the Communists I knew there was moral behavior according to well-defined standards and there was a semblance of order and certitude …

In addition to the Teachers Union work I continued as an active leader of the American Labor Party. I was assigned to work with a committee to free the leaders of the Furriers Union who had been sent to prison for industrial sabotage. I organized a committee of women, including the wives of the imprisoned men, to visit congressmen and the Department of Justice.

We talked with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt at her apartment on Eleventh Street. She graciously agreed to do all in her power to get our memoranda into the hands of the appropriate officials. She was sympathetic with the wives of the imprisoned men who had come with me …

In the summer of 1940 we attended the American Federation of Teachers convention in Buffalo, fearful of our welcome … The previous year we had heard of the signing of the Soviet-Nazi pact; now came news of the murder of Leon Trotsky in Mexico … But the real result of that 1940 convention was the fact that … soon after the New York, Philadelphia, and other communist-led locals had their charters lifted. In New York the coveted charter of the American Federation of Teachers affiliation went to … the new organization … the Teachers Guild.

This automatically ended our formal relations with the A.F. of L. The New York Teachers Union was now an independent union not affiliated with either of the great labor movements

I returned to New York to learn more bad news. Nearly fifty of our teachers had been suspended from their jobs.  But perhaps the greatest blow was the indictment of one of our teachers, Morris U. Schappes, on the charge of perjury. An English teacher at City College, an ardent Communist … He had exercised tremendous influence on class after class in the college, and in the organizing of the college teachers into the Union he had worked indefatigably.

… he was to admit he was a Communist and say that he and three others published the Communist shop paper, the Pen and Hammer, which was circulated anonymously at City College …

Morris Schappes was indicted and brought to trial before judge Jonah Goldstein, remanded to the old Tombs, with bail set at ten thousand dollars.

We organized a committee for Schappes’ defense … Meantime, I received ten thousand dollars in cash from one of the Party’s friends and Morris was out of jail pending appeals.

About this case there is still a certain irony. Schappes’ trial attorney, Edmund Kuntz, was one of the trial lawyers in the Rosenberg atom spy case. It is equally ironical that Morris Schappes was one of the teachers who inspired Julius Rosenberg at City College while he was a student there.

At the end of the trial Morris Schappes was convicted and sentenced to two to four years in State Prison.

A new period was at hand, a period of extremes, when the united front of Communists and the forces of national unity in the United States were to work together to win the war. Morris Schappes was forgotten except by his wife and a few loyal friends. The Communist Party was now in coalition with the forces which had prosecuted Morris.

In February of 1941 my dearly loved mother was taken ill. The diagnosis was pneumonia. I was in Albany when word came. I hurried back to find to my distress that agents of the Rapp-Coudert Committee and overzealous newspaper reporters had broken into my apartment in search of teachers’ lists. My mother, in her broken English, had informed them that I was away and would be glad to see them when I returned. She refused to let them look at any of my papers but they had pushed her aside and tried to take over. I was furious when I learned of this illegal invasion of my home. But everyone disclaimed responsibility and my chief concern at the moment was my mother …

For a long time my activities had no meaning to my mother. All she knew was that I worked too hard. But she must have known something in her later days, for once she shook her head and looked at me sadly and said, “America does strange things to children.”

She died in my arms one night several weeks later …

I moved out of the apartment because I could not bear its loneliness. I found a tiny, inexpensive one on Horatio Street on the top floor of an old house near the Hudson River. There was a window beside my bed and from it I could see the morning sky when I woke up …

I still had a room and I still had a family. The room was far different from the one at Pilgrim’s Rest and my family was a great, impersonal family. In its midst I could find forgetfulness when my body was completely spent and my brain was weary.

Tomorrow: Chapter Ten

In this chapter of School of Darkness, Bella Dodd explains how Communists infiltrated teachers’ unions and respected learned societies with the help of sympathisers. She tells us how American education took a leftist turn in the 1930s.

Those interested in New York history may be interested by what she has to say about the city’s famous mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, after whom the airport is named.

‘WPA’ in the text below refers to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal agency, Works Progress Administration, which put many unemployed people to work on federally-funded plans, from bridge building to teaching — and more.  The scheme lasted until 1943.

The next few chapters of the book are available online.  Emphases are mine.

Chapter Eight

FROM 1936 TO 1938 I was involved in so many activities I had little time for my family and old friends. I devoted myself more and more to the new friends who shared my fanatical sense of dedication. I found little time to read anything except Party literature. This was necessary to hold leadership in a union where many of the leaders were trained and established Communists.

The Teachers Union was growing rapidly in numbers and influence. The college teachers in the Union grew so numerous that a separate local with a separate office was established for them, Local 537. Together with the WPA Local Number 453, our membership grew to almost nine thousand and we extended control to many upstate locals. At its peak the Union boasted ten thousand members, and in it the Communist Party had a fraction of close to a thousand. Among them were Moscow-trained teachers and men and women who had attended the sixth World Congress of the Comintern.

The president of the Union, Charles J. Hendley, a history teacher at George Washington High School, was not a Communist. He was a militant socialist and did not join the Communist Party until he retired from the school system. He then became associated with the Daily Worker. He was, however, willing to join with the Communists in the many and varied campaigns of the Teachers Union and of the labor movement generally. He grew to like many of the Communist Party leaders in the Union and that tended to minimize political differences. He was a lonely man; the Union and its leadership were his family and his social life …

The Party literature of the period was stressing the increasing importance of united fronts for peace, against fascism, against discrimination, against economic insecurity. Earl Browder and other Party leaders were warning Union leaders not to regard Marxism as dogmatic, but as flexible in meeting new situations. As a matter of fact, this literature sometimes seemed a handicap, cluttered as it was with double talk used purposely by Marx and Lenin. Browder emphasized the importance of relying on Stalin who was building socialism in Russia, and only on Stalin because of his shrewdness in dealing with all, even with enemies of the working class, such as English and American capitalists.

We who were the leaders of the united-front period used to shake our heads at the old guard in the Union and scornfully call them Nineteen Fivers, referring to the Russian Revolution of 1905. Yet I see now that this old guard with its endless disputation gave stability to Party control of our Union. It was their whole life; few got anything for their endless hours of work except the right to control. They were dour people though, and some of them … were so dedicated that they were intolerant of anyone’s opinions except the opinions of those on their side. I never saw them laugh and I doubt if they knew how.

We had one man in the Union who was so talented in manipulation that he was regarded as the Stalin of the Union — Dale Zysman, also known as Jack Hardy. He had been to Moscow. He had written The First American Revolution, thus implying that a greater one was to come. A junior high-school teacher … It was he who tried to give the Union Executive Board a well-balanced appearance by persuading Protestant and Catholic teachers to accept posts on the Board where most of the members were communist atheists.

Dale also maintained an espionage system which brought back information on what was going on in the Union as well as in the inner circles of other teachers’ organizations. Those who worked in this espionage system, particularly in other left-wing groups, became twisted personalities

Attending conventions took much of my time. No convention of teachers in the United States ever went unnoticed by the Communist Party. The national office would call the leaders of the teacher Communists and discuss with us the nature of the organization and inquire if we had Party members in it. If we had, we would decide which resolutions they were to introduce and which they were to oppose. If we had no members, observers would be sent to make contacts. Particular attention was given to pushing federal aid to the public-education program and to the issue of separation of church and state at these conventions.

We also carefully prepared for meetings of learned societies, such as mathematics and modern-language associations, and those composed of professors of physics, history, and social studies. A careful search of Party members and friends of the Party was made, as well as of liberals and special-interest groups. This was all done months in advance. Then a campaign began to get certain people elected or to have them volunteer to go to a convention so that we would have a core of dependables. Finally we drew up a plan of action to put through certain measures and to try to defeat others.

We felt it was important at these meetings of learned societies to defeat everything which did not conform to Marxist ideology. The result was that the ideology of many of our learned societies has within the last thirty years been deeply affected. The Communists establish a fraction in such societies and whenever possible a leadership for a materialistic, collectivistic, international class-struggle approach.

The conventions were invaluable in bringing together the growing group of scholars who were not members of the Party but who followed Marxist ideology idealistically. For the strength of the Party was increasing in high positions; and job getting and job promotions are a sine qua non of academic gatherings. Men are drawn where power is, and these academic men were no different in that respect from traveling salesmen. The Party and its friends were assiduous in developing the job-getting and job-giving phase of these meetings.

At the end of a convention they returned with lists of new conquests, the names of men and women who would go along with us. These names were given to the district organizer of the Party in the locality where each professor lived. The organizer would visit and try to deepen the ideological conquest by flattering his victim, disclosing to him new vistas of usefulness, and by introducing him to an interesting social life. The methods were many; the end was one — a closer tie to the Party.

Before long a professor would become involved in the proletarian class struggle. His name would then be used to support communist public declaration on national or international policies. Soon the professor identified himself with a “side,” and all the good people were on his side and all the greedy, the degraded, the stupid were on the other. Soon he began talking of “our people” and thinking himself part of an unnumbered army of justice marching to a brave new world, or, as one French intellectual Communist, who lost his life in the Resistance, put it, toward “singing tomorrows” …

A debate raged in educational periodicals as to the advisability of teachers unionizing, a debate which has gone on ever since. By 1916 twenty teachers’ organizations in ten different states had affiliated with labor. Some were short-lived, due to local suppression, or to loss of interest, after the immediate objective was won.

In 1916 a call was issued by the Chicago Teachers Union to all locals affiliated with labor. A meeting was held and the American Federation of Teachers, a national organization, was founded. The next month it affiliated with the A.F. of L. with eight charter locals in Chicago, Gary, New York City, Scranton, and Washington, D.C., with a combined membership of twenty-eight hundred. The American Teacher, a magazine published by a group of individuals in the New York union, was endorsed as the official publication. At first hostile, boards of education exercised pressure against the new teachers’ organization, but by 1920 there were one hundred and forty locals and a membership of twelve thousand.

The American Federation of Teachers in the beginning was sparked by socialists. Its growth was due to the antiwar principles of the American socialists, for there was need of an organization to help teachers involved in the anti-war struggle. Even then most of the members were not socialists but were attracted by the Federation program for economic and social aid. By 1927 the Federation had declined in membership and prestige because of attacks on organized labor. With the coming of the depression it again began to grow and by 1934 there were seventy-five locals in good standing with an active membership of almost ten thousand.

By that time the Communists were displacing the socialists from posts of radical leadership in unions. The steady march of the Communists into the Federation at this period was planned and not accidental. Since twenty-five teachers could form a local and send delegates to the national convention, the communist district organizers began promoting the organizing of teachers, and these began to send delegates, often charming and persuasive ones.

Many of the teachers were not interested in the political struggle in the Federation and did not care to go as delegates. Even in the New York local in my time it was difficult to get non-Party people to go as delegates because the Federation did not pay expenses. But the keenest competition existed among Party members. The communist fraction within the Federation drew up its list carefully and it was considered a mark of honor for Party members or fellow travelers to be selected.

Of course, from 1936 to 1938 our delegation from Local 5 to Federation conventions had to be divided between the communist group which was in control and the opposition which consisted of socialist splinter groups. The struggle between these groups was carried to the national conventions, often to the consternation of the political innocents who still believed that all American politics was ruled by the Republican and the Democratic parties. They could not understand the bitterness, the vituperation, and sometimes the terror which their colleagues exhibited. But one fact was clear to others: the conventions of the Federation became battles for the capture of the minds and the votes of the independent delegates.

My first federation convention was in Philadelphia in 1936 … We were so well organized that we were in almost complete control. The arrangements were in the hands of the Philadelphia local, itself communist led and controlled. The party assigned its ablest trades-union functionaries to hold continuous secret sessions in a room at the convention hotel to aid comrades on all questions.

If I had not yet been convinced that the road to progress was the one pointed out by the Communists, I was certainly overwhelmed by the sense of power which this convention manifested. To it came professors whose names I had read in academic literature and in the press. There was a wide range of delegates, from university men and women of distinction and old-time classroom teachers with the staid dignity that seemed so much a part of the profession in America to the young substitute and unemployed teachers who eyed their situation with economic fear and political and philosophical defiance. There was also the WPA troop, an assortment of men and women who were called teachers but many of whom had been shifted into this category because they were on relief, or had a college education, or some talent that allowed them to be called teachers, such as teaching tap dancing or hairdressing.

A great leveling process was at work in American life and at that time it seemed to me a good thing. So it also seemed to the Communist Party, but for a different reason. This professional leveling would fit teachers better into its class-struggle philosophy and so bring them to identify themselves with the proletariat.

At the convention were various interesting personalities: neat, quiet Albert Blumberg from Johns Hopkins University, the shrewdest communist agent in the Federation; Jerome Davis, just fired from the Yale Divinity School, thrown out, we were told, because he had dared promote a strike of student cafeteria workers …

The convention was entirely swallowed up by the Communists. They passed every resolution they wanted and I began to feel that we had enough votes to pass a resolution for a Soviet America.

Jerome Davis was elected president of the Federation and his cause became the rallying point around which we fought during the next year. The fight for his reinstatement at Yale also became a Teachers Union cause.

The college division of the Federation voted to picket Yale and I was elected to a committee to negotiate with the Yale Corporation for his reinstatement …

We outlined our demands. We made propaganda speeches about the role of American educators and about the right of a professor to participate in community problems. Then we reported to the assembled academic picketers that the power of concentrated wealth which the Yale Corporation represented had heard our remarks and promised to consider them.

As a result of our efforts the Corporation agreed to give Professor Davis a year’s salary but refused to reinstate him. We were satisfied. He had got something out of our efforts and the Federation had a president who was a college professor.

The next convention was held in Madison, Wisconsin, the following year and again I was a delegate …

The CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations] organization of mass unions and the rapid rise in union membership everywhere had brought great prestige and tremendous power to labor. We teachers rode on labor’s coattails and were grateful to the Party for helping us to remain close to labor through all the shifts.

By 1937 the sit-down strikes in large plants and in WPA and welfare offices in New York fired the imagination of young intellectuals in the Teachers Union and we were eager to throw our lot in with the CIO. Wherever the Party teachers had influence we joined with strikers and walked in their picket lines. In New York we joined the newspapermen at the Brooklyn Eagle and at the NewarkLedger; at the telegraph offices we joined the communications workers. On the water front we gave time and money and even our homes to striking seamen. We marched in May Day parades in cap and gown.

That year we went to the convention hoping to take the Federation into John L. Lewis’ CIO …

The convention at Madison had a large contingent of college professors, especially from teacher-training schools, and they began more and more to dominate the Federation. Among them … the attractive Hugh de Lacy from the West Coast. Even then De Lacy was engaged in splitting the Democratic Party by the formation of the Democratic Federation which resulted in his election to Congress. He was a valuable addition to the communist cause.

The Communist Party had told us that it did not want the teachers to go into the CIO. It felt it had enough power within the CIO whereas in the A.F. of L. the Party’s forces were diminishing. I was bitterly disappointed for I believed that with the liberal CIO forces and its funds the Teachers Union movement could be vastly expanded. The A.F. of L. did not like to spend money in organizing teachers.

The Party took no chances on having its instructions miscarry …  The Communists uniting with some of the conservative members of the Federation defeated the CIO proposal.

In the city-wide 1937 elections in New York, the Party, which had helped establish the American Labor Party the year before, captured several important places within it. In city politics there was a steady elimination of differences between the major parties, and responsible leadership in the two old parties was disappearing. This led inevitably to the control of all parties by a small group around Fiorello LaGuardia, whose political heir was Vito Marcantonio. It was a personal dictatorship. Nominations were traded in the struggle for power, and the Communist Party was not slow in insinuating itself into this struggle.

Those who say LaGuardia was a great mayor forget that he did more to break down the major political parties and party responsibility than any other person in New York State. The streets were clean, taxes were lower, graft was less obvious, but under LaGuardia political power was transferred from the people organized into political parties into the hands of groups exercising personal power. The real political power passed to the well-financed, well-organized unions of the CIO and of the left-wing A.F. of L. and to the organized national minority groups, Negro, Italian, Jewish, etc. These groups were used as political machines to get votes and their self-appointed leaders were rewarded with the spoils of office. This new pattern I saw repeated over and over again, and it drained both Republican and Democratic Parties.

I saw LaGuardia meet with the Communists. I saw him accept from Si Gerson and Israel Amter written withdrawal from a position to which they had been nominated and receive a certificate of substitution at the mayor’s request. A half-hour later I heard him address the Social Democrat wing of the American Labor Party at the Hotel Claridge, and the first thing he did was excoriate the Communists. Communists were in the audience and not one of them seemed even to notice this humbug. Thus LaGuardia played with both wings of the Labor Party to his own advantage. Such were the politics to which the idealists were giving themselves.

The election campaign for 1937 was important to the left wing for it could begin now to make deals for power, with the Social Democrats of the American Labor Party, with the Democrats, with the Republicans, and with men of wealth who wanted public office and public spoils …

By 1938 my work for the Union and for the schools was engaging me so deeply that it interfered with my work as a teacher, so I decided to resign from Hunter and take a full-time position with the Union …

President Colligan was deeply distressed when I told him and he asked me to reconsider. “These people will take you and use you, Bella,” he warned me, “and then they will throw you away.”

I looked at him. I could see that he was sincerely troubled about me and I appreciated it. But I thought him old-fashioned and fearful of new viewpoints. Besides, I knew he was a Catholic and opposed to the forces with which I was associated

And I handed him my resignation from Hunter College.

Tomorrow: Chapter Nine

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