THEY TAUGHT ME TREASON
At Lenin University, the world’s Communist elite learned history, economics, philosophy—and how to kill capitalists
IN THE year 1931, after four years as a Communist. Party worker in Manitoba, Western Ontario and Alberta, I attended the International Lenin University in Moscow as one of 20 students from Canada.
Each year 6,000 fledgling party leaders from nearly every part of the five settled continents were brought to the big grey stone building at Vorovsky No. 25, 15 minutes’ walk from the Kremlin, to spend nine months absorbing party dogma and learning how to convert dogma into action after they had returned home.
Their instruction included precise directions for “peaceful” attacks on non-Communist political institutions and on religion of all kinds, and for the penetration of trade unions and cultural organizations. It included target practice with many of the weapons which were standard equipment in the students’ respective countries of origin.
I was in Calgary when Harvey Murphy, a fellow Communist with whom I had been working as an organizer in the Alberta coalfields, told me that he and I had been ordered to report to the party’s national headquarters in Toronto to pick up our transportation for the first lap of our trip to Moscow.
Murphy preceded me to Toronto by a few days. When I arrived he met me at the station looking a bit glum, and told me the party was in the middle of a financial crisis and our expense money might be held up a while. Meanwhile he took me around to meet Tim Buck, the party’s national secretary and the man who had recommended us to Moscow for social training. I found Tim intelligent and sympathetic; at 27 I was saturated with party fervor and in my eyes Buck was a great and idealistic man.
The Travelling “Conservatives”
TIM TOLD US not to worry about the money and sure enough, a few days later, the word went around that a shipment had come through from New York. We were never told the precise source of the money nor the precise amount, but the guesses began at $25,000, and from the casual way in which the “shipment” was discussed at party headquarters it was apparent there had been many others.
Just before we left Tim gave us a special briefing. He told us that since there were no diplomatic relations between Canada and the U. S. S. R. we would have to obtain our Soviet visas in Germany. We’d be taking an indirect route through England, France, Germany and Poland to lessen the danger of being spied on. While en route we must not talk about the party or the revolutionary movement. We must not carry any papers or books that would suggest Communist affiliations or sympathies.
“During the trip you may be engaged in conversations on politics,” Tim said. “In such cases you must always appear to be Conservatives. This is of the utmost importance. The discovery that members of the Communist Party of Canada are being sent to Moscow for secret training would be fatal to the party in Canada.”
In each country lying on our route, we were to be met by officials of the national Communist Party or of its international parent, the Comintern. These officials would identify themselves by presenting carbon copies of our special identification papers. Tim handed each of us a typewritten bill of sale from a clothing store, dated at Toronto two months earlier and recording Continued on page 72
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They Taught Me Treason
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the purchase of a suit of clothes for ! $35. We were to trust no one who j couldn’t show a duplicate bill of sale.
All of this had an exciting, Oppenheimish flavor, and nobody but a bourgeois dullard would have asked whether it was really necessary. Within i its own councils the party has always been careful to nourish and dramatize its air of conspiracy. The younger comrades love the smell of risk and intrigue, and even when it’s unnecessarily exaggerated it does have the advantage of keeping them securityconscious.
By now the other students had I drifted in. There were six from Port j Arthur and Fort William Martin Parnega, Mike Chmyshen and four young Finnish-Canadians whose names I didn’t learn. Alex Gauld had come from Montreal and Rankin McDonald and Murdock Clarke from Nova
Scotia. Leslie Morriss was another
fellow student whom I already knew by reputation. Two Toronto girls were going, and the rest of the group was drawn from the mining country around Sudbury and Timmins.
For the trip we were split into small groups. I travelled with Harvey j Murphy, Alex Gauld and Rankin
To The Promised Land
The first part of the journey was disappointingly uneventful. We took the White Star liner Pennland from Halifax to Southampton, made a brief call at party headquarters in London, crossed the Channel by packet, called on the party again in Paris, and then went on to Berlin by train.
The party official who met us there placed each of us in a different hotel. Next day we went to the Karl Liebknecht Haus, which was the headquarters of the German Communist Party. Before we could enter the building we had first"to go to a little bookshop in the corner of the same building and show our receipts for that mythical suit of clothes to the pro-
prietor. The proprietor pointed to a door. The door opened, seemingly by itself, as we approached. We learned later it was made of steel and was operated by controls beneath the bookseller’s counter.
We were ushered into the office of Hans Neuman, the secretary of the German Communist Party. He told us we were to stay in Berlin a week riso, then be sent to Moscow one at a time. Our hotel bills in Berlin would be looked after by the German Communist Party. We left our passports with Neuman and he arranged transit visas through Poland as well as regular Russian visas.
During the long train ride from Berlin to Moscow I had my first real chance to look at Europe. What 1 saw didn’t impress me. There seemed nothing to compare with the spacious striding abundance of Canada—but after all, this still wasn’t Russia. Once across the last border, 1 reassured myself, I’d see a land pulsing with vitality, I’d see the incarnation of the shrine 1 had built in my mind throughout the years of association with the revolutionary movement. I’d see the workers and peasants happy and contented, with security' and freedom undreamed of in the capitalistic countries. Naive? Of course. You had to be naive to be as ardent a Communist as I was then.
The train crossed the border at a little station called Negorieloye. All passengers bound for Moscow had to get off to change trains. I took the opportunity to exchange all my “capitalist” money for rubles: our money.
During the last leg of the trip I watched the countryside with avid eyes. I don’t suppose I really expected to see the trees a different color; nevertheless it was disappointing to note that the only unusual sight was the patrol of green-capped guards from the GPU or state police on every bridge. Other GPU men patrolled the train. As a Ukrainian-Canadian I knew the language. I tried to talk to them several times but invariably was brushed off with curt official monosyllables.
When I stepped from the train in Moscow a tall gaunt man in mufti ap-
proached me, identified himself as an emissary of the Comintern, and led me through the station. Even to my by no means objective view, the station didn’t seem notably clean or notably efficient. The people were shabbily dressed and looked poor—and the wetness of the November day seemed to underline their shabbiness and poverty.
An ancient jalopy was waiting outside the station. My guide was silent during the drive through the streets. I wasn’t eager to talk anyway. I craned my neck, still confidently expecting that just around the next corner we’d be confronted with one of the splendid super-creations of the socialist fatherland. Perhaps, I thought, the driver had happened to choose an unfortunate route.
We soon arrived at the four-story building on Wolchonka Street that housed the famous Comintern. A truly international crowd milled around the anterooms: Orientals, Negroes, whites of many races and degrees of attire. After more than two hours I was paged and taken to the third floor to meet Stewart Smith.
It wasn’t until a few years later, after his energetic career in Canadian politics had landed him on the Toronto Board of Control, that Smith became known to any substantial number of his fellow Canadians. But to me he was already the most eminent of all Canadians—more exalted even than Tim Buck. He’d graduated from the long course at Lenin University a few years before and had been sent back to Canada as a special Comintern trustee of the Communist Party of Canada. In Communist circles that was something like being Governor-General; he was the representative of the throne.
It came as a rude shock to me to learn a few hours after our first meeting in his Moscow office, that despite the apparent authority and respect he was still granted, Smith had fallen from grace and was virtually a prisoner of the Comintern. He’d made a serious error in relaying the Comintern’s policy to the Communist Party of Canada—I think the specific issue was connected with Canada’s relation to the British Empire—and Moscow had recalled him for “correction.” The Comintern was putting him up in a luxurious apartment and had placed him in charge of its Canadian department, but of course it was holding his passport, and it was clearly understood that
Smith’s only chance of getting back to Canada depended on his ability to redeem himself.
During ray interview with him a member of the secret police sat between us. Smith was coldly formal, and restricted himself to routine questions about the beginnings of unemployment back home and the opportunities therein for the promotion of Communism, and about Communist progress in the Alberta coalfields.
From Hladun to Logan
From his office I went to meet Dmitri Manuilsky, then secretary of the Comintern, now president of the Ukraine. Then I was driven to Lenin University’s main building at Vorovsky No. 25.
After the usual ceremony of identification at the outer gatehouse I was taken inside to the office of the dean, Comrade Stassova, a plump elderly woman who had been one of Lenin’s close advisers in the early days of the revolution, and then to the offices of the special division which was also headed by a woman, Comrade Sobolskaija.
Comrade Sobolskaija took my passport from me and explained that it would be held by the special division until my return journey to Canada. Manuilsky had already told me that I’d use a cover name throughout my stay in Moscow and on the way over from his office I’d decided to call myself Jack Logan. While I waited Comrade Sobolskaija made out a set of the papers I’d be needing. These consisted of a university pass, a meal ticket booklet for the month, a lodging ticket and a social club membership. I was also given 50 rubles in cash for my first month’s out-of-pocket expenses.
I was assigned to a dormitory at 14 Gogolievsky Boulevard, a few blocks from the University. The building evidently had once been the residence of a wealthy man. The rooms were spacious and walls were draped with satin. The floors were inlaid with rare, exquisite woods in beautiful designs.
I slept until supper. The dining room was like an army mess hall. I’ve forgotten what the first meal was, but I remember that I couldn’t eat it.
That night Johnny Weir—the man who’d enrolled me in the Young Communist League back in Winnipeg years before—came over to see me. Johnny was a long-course student and
had luten in Moscow over a year. He’d always regarded me as his protege, and told me now how pleased he was that I’d worked my way up to Moscow. He asked me about things back home, then told me of Stewart Smith’s precarious status with the Comintern, and warned me not to he seen in Smith’s company more than I could help. Johnny also told me that Sam Carr had been in Moscow for some time being groomed to replace Smith as the Comintern’s trustee in Canada. Another long-course student he mentioned was Charley Sims, then a promising novitiate, today Toronto’s only Communist aiderman.
(This is a good place to mention what became of some of the other Canadians I met in Moscow. Weir— real name Wewiursky—is now editor of the Canadian Ukrainian, a proRussian weekly published in Toronto. Harvey Murphy is an organizer for the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers in British Columbia. Gauld, Clarke and McDonald are in the Canadian trade union movement. Morris is editor of the left-wing Toronto daily tabloid, The Tribune. Carr, who became national organizer of the LaborProgressive Party, is a fugitive from Canadian justice, wanted in connection with the Russian espionage enquiry.)
Of Lenin University’s normal complement of 6,000 students, Johnny Weir told me, half were Orientals and had their own sector. The other half were Europeans, North and South Americans, Africans and Australians. The Comintern was starting to build a j new university—a self-contained town just outside Moscow in the Gorki district. When completed it would 1
accommodate twice as many students as the old university and its activities would be merged with those of the Comintern. (Incidentally, according to a recent speech by Tim Buck, the new university is now operating, at least at partial capacity.)
Back to School
1 hardly slept that night. 1 had a lot to think about. Besides, bedbugs crawled over me in a constant procession.
In tlie morning 1 got up and made a beeline for the washroom. There was only one wash basin for the entire floor.
It had to serve 25 men and women. 1 was warned not to drink the water j out of the tap. The sink was dirt v and there was no hot water. However, I finally managed to ready myself for t he day.
At nine o’clock we were in the class room. Tlie 200-odd students of the English-speaking sector were sub; divided into groups of 20. Alex Gauld, Rankin McDonaldand Murdock Clarke were in t he same group to which I was j assigned, along with Rebecca G recht, I Ben Gold and a couple of other ; Americans who remained so stolidly behind their cover names that I never did learn their real ones. There were a few English students, a couple of Australians, one New Zealander, one Icelander and one South African.
The morning was spent in setting up the group on a functional basis. We elect ed monitors for each of the subject s on the curriculum—which were listed ; ns political economy, history of the Communist Party of the U. S. S. R.. J history of the labor movement, trade union movements, strategy and tactics of party work, materialism and materialist conception of history, and finally a mysterious subject identified only as Orgwork.
onitor for each subject was to . official liaison between the stunents and the faculty, and since a monitorship offered the prospect of
j getting on intimate terms with big shots of the party, they were greatly coveted. During the election of monitors it became all too evident that I was the youngest and least illustrious member of Lite group. While the students scrambled for positions of authority in such high-sounding specialties as materialism and political economy, it became apparent that we all suspected Orgwork of being some obscure form of kitchen fatigue. When the time came to appoint a monitor for Orgwork, I was elected by default.
With all the details settled, an official of the school gave us a very brief introduction to each subject. These went pretty well along the lines we’d anticipated. But when he came to explain Orgwork everybody’s eyes popped out—none more than mine. I’d landed the plum of the course!
Orgwork would bring us a working knowledge of every common type of machine gun, field rifle, pistol and revolver; would teach us how to make and handle explosives; would teach us the tactics and strategy of warfare and armed insurrection, strikes, demonstrations and street fighting. We would have not one but three instructors in this subject, two from the Red Army and one from the GPU. I felt like a beggar suddenly elevated to knighthood; I’m sure that I could have traded my monitorship for any other monitorship in the class—-and collected at least 500 rubles to boot. Even the coldly ambitious arch - Communist, Rebecca Grecht, who usually talked and acted as though she were Stalin’s daughter, condescended to speak to me.
Sam Carr’s Election
For the next nine months the school was the centre of our activities, but the ordinary business of adjusting ourselves to our new environment had its educational features too. For recreational purposes we had a clubhouse where we could participate in dramatics, music and other hobbies. We were shown movies—nearly always propaganda—once a week. On special occasions such as anniversaries of notable days in the history of Bolshevism the entire English-speaking sector would combine for a special celebration of one kind or another. There was no lack of variety in the personalities we met then—people like Nishi, a sophisticated American Jap; chunky James Ford, an American Negro; our own rough-hewn Canadian, Harvey Murphy; Cop, a hard-bitten colorful Australian sailor; Moore, a dour Clydeside worker from Glasgow.
We all had been made full citizens of the Soviet Union for the duration of our stay, and we set up a university section of the Communist Party that functioned as a part of the regular Soviet political machine. Within a few weeks the time for the “election” of deputies to the Moscow Soviet arrived. Sam Carr’s name was on the slate proposed by the party leadership and naturally Sam was elected unanimously by a show of hands. So far as I know, Sam Carr has the distinction of being the only Canadian citizen ever elected and installed as a member of the Russian ; parliament.
Money soon became a problem for most of the visiting students. The university was financed by the Russian Communist Party through the Comintern. Besides our transportation, board and lodging, we were allowed 50 rubles a month for clothing and incidental expenses, but due to the efficient working of our party com! mittee these allowances were gradually j trimmed down. First the university i section of the party “unanimously”
! decided that each student would sub-
scribe to the first and second national j savings loans to help with the Soviet j j five-year plan. Then came a series of ! “donations" and memberships in varij ous associations including even a “trade union" membership of some kind. In the end our 50 rubles a month had been cut to 10—barely enough for smokes.
The Rich Student
Most of the students had to resort tó ! special means to get some extra cash, j Those who had valuable articles in their luggage sold them to the Muscovites at fancy prices. The lady dentist who examined my teeth asked me to sell her my suit and topcoat. I asked what I’d wear myself if I did that. She replied that many of the students at Lenin University sold their foreign clothing to Muscovites, and then replaced it with Muscovite clothing which could be bought at low prices at the university commissary. Now it became clear to me why so many Englishspeaking students had begun to appear in rough native worsteds. At first I’d thought they made the change to show their international solidarity.
I was particularly amused when I spotted my old friend Harvey Murphy minus his blue serge suit, swaggering in a pair of heavy woollen mackinaw trousers, a rim-collared shirt and blue tunic. He looked like a typical Moscow speculant—a caste of private traders who sprang up after the revolution as an unavoidable byproduct of the Soviet economy.
Fortunately I was well prepared for the unexpected financial emergency.
I sold my pocket watch for 1,500 rubles, two fountain pens for 100 each, a raincoat for 200, a bathing suit for another 100. Soon I’d accumulated nearly 5,000 rubles.
We had a buffet at the school where j good food could be bought—at fancy j prices. After I got into the money 1 seldom ate at the mess hall. 1 gave mv meal tickets away to less fortunate students from Poland, Turkey and Romania. They could stand t he grub, j and were very happy. In return they ¡ looked after me when I needed a suit pressed or other personal chores attended to. I complained about the bedbugs in the dormitory and the housekeeper drenched my mattress in coal oil. All in all, it could have been worse-—even though it wasn’t paradise.
We Learn IIow to Spy
We dug into our studies. All the lectures and textbooks were in English, | our instructors were men of high ; intellectual calibre, and besides our j I regular professors we heard special lectures * by Emil Yarowslasky, the eminent theoretician of the Russian Communist Party; Wilhelm Pieck, one of the leaders of the party in Germany; Otto Kuusinen, the leader of the j Finnish Communist Party (who had ! done a tour of duty in Canada as a j trouble-shooter for the Comintern); Comrade Ercoli (now known as j Togliatti) of the Italian Communist j Party, and Eugene Varga and Bela j Kun of Hungary.
The course in Orgwork was no disj appointment. Lieutenant - General , YegerofT and Colonel Zilbert of the j Red Army lectured us on the broad strategy of the class struggle and on the j state of the enemy’s defenses—the j enemy, of course, being our own countries. Captain Ignatowitch of the j CPU supervised our practical training.
On the first day, as monitor of the j course, I was given a set of pamphlets I to hand around. These dealt with the organizational structures of the British, American and Canadian armed forces, j
As the curriculum progreased through lectures by Zilbert on field tactics, communications and supply and military intelligence, we were supplied with official British Army handbooks on these subjects, and with maps of cities and other strategic areas. The Canadian cities for which we received military maps were Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
We were told that when we returned home we should try to obtain similar maps of secondary cities. In any case we should form the habit of mapping our own districts for ourselves. In mapping we should mark clearly: (a) districts where workers lived; (h) police stations and army barracks; (c) railroad stations; (d) airfields; (e) post offices, city halls and other public buildings; (f) factories and workshops; (g) mainroadsand railroad lines. Besides their obvious value in warfare, maps were useful in planning strikes and demonstrations, we were reminded.
We were instructed to make ourselves thoroughly familiar with the disposition and strength of army units and police forces. This information must be forwarded to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada.
Strikes and demonstrations should be regarded as military operations, we were told, and conducted on that basis. We must not overlook the tremendous importance of organizing public opinion, with particular emphasis on enlisting the sympathy of the police and armed forces. We must never hesitate to use women and children as screens when battling with the police. We received reports on several strikes and demonstrations in various European countries where clashes with the police or militia had taken place. In each case the party’s tactical triumphs and tactical errors were thoroughly analyzed.
How to Make a Bomb
After a couple of preliminary lectures by Captain Ignatowitch we settled down to the study of arms. First on the list were the army rifles of various countries; in our class we paid special attention to Springfield, Lee-Enfield, Ross and Winchester, the latter classed as sporting weapon hut still useful. We soon learned the mechanics of the four weapons and moved on to target practice. There weren’t enough of the American and British weapons to go around so we had to use two or three Russian “three lines” infantry field rifles. These were clumsy and kicked savagely. Since I was in charge of passing them out to the class I invariably saw to it that Rebecca Grecht, our haughty American comrade, got one.
We studied a number of pistols and used them in target practice too. There were hardly two alike, with the exception of three .45 Colt automatics of an ancient vintage. Rebecca always got one of these, and nearly always missed the target by miles. One day she fluked a bull’s eye. For a week afterwards we heard of nothing else.
Machine guns took more time. After mastering their theory, we practiced on assembly and operation, and finally went hack to the targets. The Maxim came first, then the Hotchkiss and the Lewis, a Russian version of the Lewis, and finally the Thompson. We devoted more time to the Tommy gun than to any other weapon. As Ignatowitch said, it was easily concealed and was ideal for street fighting.
The only explosives to which we wrere introduced were black gunpowder and TNT, and we were cautioned to use them only in extreme cases—“for instance supposing there existed a state
Of war between your country and the Soviet Union.” In that event it would be our duty to attack troops and supply trains moving against the Soviet forces, lgnatowitch took us to the Red Army proving fields outside the city, where we mixed the explosives, made crude bombs and fired and detonated them, lgnatowitch explained that there were olhcrand moreeffective explosives than those we’d learned about, but we wouldn’t be required to study them unless we were assigned by our central committees back home to their special military sections.
We finished our training in Orgwork with tactical manoeuvres during which we simulated strikes, demonstrations,
street fights, and even a long, forced marcl? to an objective. About 300 students played the part of militant workers and a couple of detachments of the CPU played the part of the soldiers and the police. Red Army officers were referees.
Our academic studies were less exciting. Yet they too, despite their high content of philosophy, reminded us constantly that we were preparing for conflict. Professor Mint/, the highly esteemed Marxist writer who lectured on the history of the Soviet Communist Party, seldom allowed a lecture to pass without a direct restatepient of the course’s main theme: 'The Communists of the world owe their allegiance to the Soviet Union. Wherever they are, the governments of their own countries are their enemies.
’The lessons we drew from the history of the party of Lenin and Stalin were sharp and pointed. We were shown where the Russian Communists had found it temporarily expedient to softpedal their hostility to the church. 'The “lesson” here was particularly useful for Canadian Communists. Our duty was to avoid antagonizing either the French-speaking Roman Catholics or the English-speaking Protestants and to play them against one another with the ultimate objective of seeing our country split into two independent and none too friendly states.
Similarly, we were shown how the Russian Communists had played on the animosities of Russia’s scores of ethnicgroups in the early development of the Bolshevist state; the “lesson” here was particularly aimed at students from the United States who were reminded that a separate, self-governing “Black Belt” was still part of the Comintern’s blue-
print for winning the support of American Negroes.
We were encouraged to discuss and comment on the lectures after they were completed and this practice led to one first-class fiasco. The political economy course was conducted by a Professor Zimmerman, and the official textbooks were the first volume of Marx’ “ Kapital” and “The Elements of Political Economy” by Lapidus and Ostrovitianow. As a rule we st uck pretty closely to Marx’ basic thesis on the values created by human labor, and on the surplus values actually created by labor but drained off by the capitalists in the form of profits.
A Poser for the Prof essor
Everything went fine while we were still dissecting the capitalist society. Naturally, we all agreed with Marx, Lapidus and Ostravitianow and Professor Zimmerman that capitalists were the root of all evil. Our difficulties began when, after one of the lectures, the Clydeside Scotsman, Moore, got up and complained somewhat apologetically that he’d often found it difficult back home in Glasgow to refute the non-Communist argument that the Soviet Union itself operated on the principles of capitalism—state capitalism to be sure, but still capitalism. It wasn’t Moore’s intention to brand the U. S. S. R. as a capitalist state; all he wanted was a formula for refuting the accusation when someone else made it.
We began to examine the evidence. The further we got into it, the more adamant and embarrassing seemed these five facts about Soviet Russia as we ourselves had found it:
(I) All labor was paid by wage, salary or piece work; (2) The remuneration to the worker was only a fraction of the value lie produced; (3) The workers did not own the means of production; (4) The workers did not own the articles they produced; (5) 'The workers did not own the houses they lived in; (6) 'The workers had no voice in management. According to Marx, this was Capitalism.
Poor Professor Zimmerman made a game but fumbling attempt to find the answers in the textbooks, but Moore and a few other students who now shared his predicament were still mumbling unhappily when the discussion broke up late that night.
By the next day the reports of what bad happened liad spread through the whole English sector, and the uni-
versify had a full-blown controversy on its hands. Eventually Eugene Varga, a Hungarian economist and author of note and a professor at the Communist Academy, was rushed to the rescue. He delivered a long and intricate lecture which led up to the exhortation that while there might he evidence of capitalist forms in the Soviet economy, Marx had not foreseen the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship in one country before the rest of the world was ready to follow suit. In some matters, therefore, it was necessary to regard his formula for straightening out the world as a general rather than a specific one.
Zimmerman disappeared from the faculty. Lapidus and Ostroviatanow vanished from the library shelves.
Smith Puts His Foot In It
Professor Rozengoltz, who lectured on the history of the labor movement, had much easier going than Zimmerman. Whenever he got a dangerous question on current events lie would stop and tell us that he dealt only with history and that contemporary issues would be discussed in the course on the trade union movement. He was as fine a buck-passer as I have ever met.
One night there was a special extracurricular meeting to discuss North American trade unions. Earl Browder, secretary of the American Communist
Harvey Murphy, classmate of the writer.
Party, was there, as were Stewart Smith, Sam Carr, Charlie Sims, Johnny Weir and a few other prominent Canadian Communists.
Smith apparently thought this would he an excellent occasion on which to break out of the private doghouse to which the Comintern had consigned him. He led off with a vehement attack on all the conventional “bourgeois" trade unions of Canada and the United States. Carried away by his own considerable eloquence and by the respectful hearing he seemed to be getting, he wound up by urging that we set out to destroy them one by one and set up Communist organizations.
Browder jumped to the floor fairly spluttering, and denounced the startled Smith’s speech as outright and dangerous nonsense. Party policy, Browder said, amid approving nods from the Russian comrades who were the real adjudicators of the discussion, would remain as before—-work with the established trade unions, capture their
leadership, and then use them to promote the breakdown of capitalism. Any other course was stupid and disloyal.
That was the only hint Johnny Weir, Alex Gauld and Charlie Sims needed. One by one they got up and endorsed Browder’s views, each trying to outdo the others in loading fresh epithets on the unhappy Smith.
Finally Smith, pale and shaken, got up and threw the Sunday punch at his own sagging jaw. With a perspiring earnestness that would have been funny if it had been less an affront to human dignity, he denounced himself, thanked Comrades Browder, Weir, Sims and Gauld for showing him the speciousness of his own arguments and pledged his wholehearted support to the policy their superior wisdom had recognized as the only way. It was a sorry performance, but every party member who makes the mistake of misreading the party line has to go through it sooner or later.
“Don’t Believe Your Eyes”
Our regular lecturer in the trade union movement was an American whose real identity remained a secret throughout the course. With the policies of the Comintern undergoing ¡ frequent changes, the whole trade j union field was strewn with pitfalls, but the professor navigated skilfully at first. When he came to the Soviet unions he found the going more tricky.
The big question was: What are
the Soviet trade unions? We knew their role was vastly different from that of the trade unions in other countries. The Soviet trade unions could not fight, for higher wages, for better hours or for better working conditions. They couldn’t call strikes, in fact they couldn’t do anything that the ordinary trade union could do in a non-Ccmmunist state. One comrade, overzealous for the truth, hinted that the Soviet trade unions might be companyunions.
With the memory of Professor Zimmerman’s debacle in political economy freshly in mind, the faculty moved fast. The whole class was shunted to the Profintern—the Russian international labor organization—where Comrade Lozovsky gave us a pep talk on the special role of the Soviet trade unions in this transition period in the war between decaying capitalism and rising Communism. He cautioned us not to ! use bourgeois standards in appraising the role of the Soviet trade unions. Our j task, he reminded us rather severely, 1 was work for the overthrow of capitalism and not to delve into the affairs of the Soviet workers.
To me, this was a really severe jolt, j I was still a good Communist; a good enough one that, in spite of an occaj sional doubt about some of our j methods, 1 still had no real doubts i about the Cause. Yet here was a deep j and terrifying paradox staring me in ¡ the face. I had come to Moscow filled with eagerness to feed and strengthen j my faith in the new paradise of man, ¡ to marvel at it with my own eyes. Now, 1 was bluntly told, there were things my eyes weren’t meant to see. And in any case, when my eyes did see something that failed to support the dogma I’d been taught, it was my eyes 1 was to disbelieve.
Good Communist though he was, John Hindun was further shocked by his visit to a Russian slave labor camp and his wanderings in poverty-stricken and oppressed Ukraine, his ancestral homeland. Read how he turned away from Commun ism in the third installment of "They Taught Me Treason” in the next issue of Marican's. -if