The GPU Agent They All Want to Protect
News Line January 12, 1977, Page 7
Twice every month between 1938 and 1947, a young secretary employed at 116 University Place in downtown Manhattan would, at the end of a particularly hard days work, begin gathering a large number of papers together.
Without attracting nay special attention, she would sift through the filing cabinet and pull out whatever interested her.
Then, the secretary would enter the office of the man for whom she worked and examine the papers in his work desk, returning some and keeping others.
Among the papers which she would now sort into a neat bundle were correspondence from such foreign countries as Mexico and France, stenographic notes which she had taken in dictation, and various documents related to the activity of the organisation for which she worked.
As she put on her coat and prepared to leave, the bundle of papers in her arms, the likeable youg woman might explain in a tone of grave dedication they she had a heavy load of evening homework ahead.
Then, she would pass through the door and descend the stairs toward the street. Once outside she would turn sharply left on to Thirteenth Street and walk in a westerly direction for several blocks until she arrived at Sixth Avenue.
Pausing only briefly to make sure she was alone, the young woman would enter a department building located at the corner and take an elevator up several flights. Leaving the elevator she walk a few a steps to a flat on the left side of the hall.
The secretary would then enter the flat, the door being opened by the middle aged woman who lived there. Quickly she would sit down at a typewriter and begin copying the papers which she had brought.
Then, she would separate the originals from the copies and collate the two sets, give the copies to the woman who lived in the flat and leave as quickly as possible.
Later that evening, or perhaps the next day, the woman in the flat would meet a man and hand over to him the papers she had received earlier.
Why is all this worthy of such detailed description
Firstly, because 166 University Place was the headquarters of the Socialist Workers Party
Secondly, because the young and industrious office worker referred to above was Sylvia Franklin, née Callen, party name Caldwell – office manager of the of the national headquarters of the Socialist Workers Party and private secretary of its founder, James P. Cannon.
Third, because the flat visited twice a month belonged to one Lucy Booker, whose 100 dollars a month rent was paid for by the GPU, secret police of the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy.
Fourth, because the man to whom Miss Booker delivered the papers received from Franklin was none other than Vasili Zubilin, top GPU agent of Joseph Stalin and Lavrenti Beria in the United States.
For about decade from 1938 to 1947, Sylvia Franklin, née Callen, known in the SWP as Caldwell, worked for the GPU inside the Socialist Workers Party. After successfully infiltrating the American Trotskyist movement in Chicago in New York.
The orders for this transfer were given by Dr. Gregory Rabinowitz, who was, beneath the cover of the Red Cross, the Chief GPU operator in New York.
Franklin’s reassignment was part of the preparation of the GPU for the biggest job ever ordered by Stalin – the assassination of Leon Trotsky, Lenin’s co-leader of the Russian Revolution.
With Franklin stationed in the SWP national office, the GPU had virtually unlimited access to even the most confidential messages exchanged between Trotsky and James P. Cannon
It was able to follow discussions in the SWP national headquarters about security measures in Coyoacan and relay this information to the assassination squad being assembled. It was also in a position to influence the selection of the guards by the SWP national office.
Grace Carlson, a member of the SWP National Committee in 1940 and one-time vice-presidential candidate, has described the position of Franklin inside the national office.
“Oh, she was Cannon’s confidential secretary. There wasn’t any doubt about that. She was as close a secretary as anybody ever has, you know.”
When asked by the International Committee on October 13 1975, in this tape recorded interview, whether Franklin had total access to Cannon’s office, Carlson replied:
“There was no doubt about that. She was truly a confidential secretary.”
And crucial documents?
“Sure. She typed them.”
Franklin/ Callen/Caldwell’s spy career began to become unravelled in 1946. Ex-Stalinist-turned-informer Louis Budenz, former editor of the Daily Worker, wrote This is My Story in which he revealed that a secretary inside the SWP national headquarters was in fact a GPU spy.
Her name surfaced publicly when the House of Un-American Activities Committee of the US Congress began in 1950 its investigation into “American Aspects of the Assassination of Leon Trotsky.”
On December 4, 1950, a subcommittee of the HUAC met at 11.00am in room 226 of the Old House Office Building. Representative Francis E. Walter presided.
Appearing that day was Ruby Weil, the one-time GPU agent who has accompanies young Trotskyist Sylvia Ageloff to Paris in June 1938 and introduced her to Jacques Monard, the alias of Ramon Mercader – the future assassin of Trotsky.
Weil was anxious to give the impression that her association with the Stalinists had been brief and innocent. The government investigator William A. Wheeler probed her role in the assassination of Trotsky and toward the end of the examination – the witness growing increasingly curt and testy – the following exchange took place:
Mr. Wheeler: Do you know Silvia Franklin?
Miss Weil: No
Mr. Wheeler: Silvia Caldwell? (Sic)
Miss Weil: No
Mr. Wheeler: Silvia Kallen? (Sic)
Miss Weil: No
The reason for Wheeler’s interest in the names Caldwell, Kallen and Franklin emerged three weeks earlier, on November 11th. 1950, when Louis Budenz submitted a sworn affidavit to the Un-American Activities Committee.
He gave a detailed account of his collusion with the GPU in helping to infiltrate the Trotskyist movement in the United States, and focused on the role of Sylvia Franklin:
“Another person whom I introduced to Roberts [an alias of Dr. Gregory Rabinowitz] was Sylvia Caulwell [sic] and whose maiden name was something like Sylvia Kallen.
When I went to Chicago, under Roberts instructions, I got in touch with Jack Kling, head of the young Communist League in that area. The purpose of this consultation was, in the name of the National Committee of which I was a member, to get hold of some Stalinist agent infiltrating the Trotskyists, who could be moved to New York and put into the Trotskyist national office.
Jack King introduced me to Sylvia Franklin, a Chicago social worker who was successfully infiltration the Trotskyites. Her husband, Irving Franklin, had been in Spain working in secret work and had been sent to Canada to aid in espionage activities there.
After a number of consultations with Sylvia Franklin, I advised Roberts that he could meet her in Chicago if he wished to do so. He made a special visit to Chicago for that purpose, staying at the Hotel Stevens where he registered under the name of Rabinowitz. He we obliged there of course to register under his legal name in this country, and this fact I mentioned in my book, ‘This is My Story’, written in 1946.
It was a fact that he was thus compelled to use his correct name of Rabinowitz that enabled me to check with Miss Bentley and learn definitely that he was Dr. Gregory Rabinowitz.
In Chicago Roberts gave Sylvia Franklin $300 as an initial expense account to make the trip to New York where he had arranged her employment with a woman doctor, who was connected with the Soviet secret police.
He also arranged that her husband, Irving, who had returned from his espionage work in Canada, should be located in a special apartment in the Bronx, so that Sylvia could visit him there from time to time. She was to represent herself to the Trotskyites as unmarried and was setup in a separate apartment of her own in Manhattan.
By first volunteering to do secretarial work in the national Trotskyite offices in New York, Sylvia Franklin, under the direction of Roberts-Rabinowitz, gradually made herself indispensable to James Cannon, then head of the American Trotskyites. She became his secretary and served in that capacity for some time. Roberts-Rabinowitz advised me that she had proved to be invaluable.”
Several years later, in 1959, journalist Isaac Don Levine wrote a book about Mercader, The mind of an Assassin, in which re related the known facts about Sylvia Franklin.
The next big public exposure of Franklin/Caldwell/Callen came on November 29, 1960 – and this time it made front page news all over the United States. On that day the US Government arrested Dr. Robert Soblen of New York as a Soviet Spy and named Sylvia Callen as one of his co-conspirators.
Named in the Grand Jury indictment along with Callen as co-conspirators were, to mention only a few, Mark Zborowsli, the GPU agent who originally penetrated the French Trotskyist movement and set up the murders of Leon Trotsky’s son Leon Sedov, Rudolf Klement, Ignace Reiss and Irwin wolf; Floyd Cleveland Millar, another GPU spy in the Socialist Workers Party who became a staff writer on The Militant, the afore mentioned Lucy Booker, the lady with the apartment, and Lavrenti Beria, infamous boss of the GPU under Stalin.
The indictment with Callen’s name on it was filed in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York. The next day, November 30, 1960, The New York Times ran a page one story on the indictment and the list of conspirators. It reported the statements of Morton S. Robson, the chief assistant US attorney in the Soblen case:
“The American co-conspirators acted as couriers, Mr. Robson said. They were named as Esther Rand, Sylvia Callen, Lucy Booker and Floyd Millar.”
The trial of Robert Soblen – who began his spy career as a GPU plant in 1931 inside the German Trotskyist Left Opposition using the party name Well – opened in the summer of 1961.
The star witness against Soblen was none other than his brother, Soviet master spy Jack Soble. The latter had also begun his murderous GPU career as an agent provocateur with the German Left Opposition, in which he employed the name Senin.
As he testified against his brother, Soble-Senin had the following exchange with the judge:
SOBLE: There were people – there was a secretary to Cannon, who was a secretary of the Trotskyite organisation at that time here in the States who had one of the secretaries worked for the GPU. I never recruited her. I never introduced her. The GPU introduced her to me. [Text as original – Ed.]
JUDGE HERLANDS: What is her name?
SOBLE: I knew her under the name Sophie or Sylvia
In later testimony the theme was picked up again.
SOBLE: I went farther in the Trotskyist field and worked with the secretary of Cannon, Sylvia, whom I knew only under the name Sylvia or Sophie, also introduced to me by the same Russians who worked for them already before.
QUESTION: What did she do?
SOBLE: She gathered material at the secretariat of Canon and gave it to me.
QUESTION: The same Trotskyist Material?
SPBLE: The same Trotsky ….
QUESTION: Trotsky material?
SOBLE: Yes. It had pure Trotsky material. It had nothing to do with the Mensheviks.
Robert Soblen was found guilty, but he appealed the verdict. In arguing its case against the appeal, the US Government submitted a 78 page brief prepared by the prosecutor for the New York Court of Appeals. The Government brief once again outlined the spy ring run by Soblen.
Page 6 of the document, placed on Docket No. 27179, was headed “Statement of Facts.” On this paper Sylvia Callen was named yet again as a person “who worked with appellant (Robert Soblen), Jack Soble and Floyd Miller on behalf of the Soviets.
That Franklin/Caldwell/Callen was an insidious GPU bag lady has been established beyond a shadow of a doubt. She was one vital link in the GPU chain of command that ran all the way from Stalin to Ramon Mercader. She helped place the ice-pick in Trotsky’s brain.
All the facts to prove this have been documented, firmly established and are widely known.
But what makes her case so extraordinary is that to this day she is considered nothing less than a Trotskyist heroine by Joseph Hansen, George Novack and the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party.
The International Committee had only to publish the known, established and documented facts about the GPU spy in the national office of the SWP in order to provoke howls of protest from Hansen and Novack.
In the November 24, 1974 issue of Intercontinental Press, Hansen wrote:
“Sylvia Caldwell, (that was her party name), worked very hard in her rather difficult assignment of managing the office of the Socialist Workers Party, which included helping Cannon in a secretarial capacity. In fact all the comrades who shared these often irksome chores with her regarded her as exemplary. They burned as much as she did over the slander spread by Budenz.”
(As has been shown, it is not true that the Budenz affidavit was either a “slander” or the only accusation against Franklin/Caldwell/Callen. She was the object of a congressional and FBI investigation and finally named a GPU conspirator by a grand jury in 1960)
Two weeks after Hansen’s outburst, George Novack denounced the International Committee for making “indiscriminate accusations” against Franklin while providing “no new probative evidence”!!
But the most astonishing tribute to Franklin has come from the pen of Reba Hansen, the wife of GPU accomplice Joseph Hansen.
Just as the International Committee was publishing the first findings of its investigation into Security and the Fourth International in August-September 1975, Reba Hansen was composing a contribution for the Pathfinder Press memorial volume, James P. Cannon as we Knew Him, published early in 1976.
A quarter of a century after Franklin/Callen/Caldwell’s exposure in the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings and 15 years after her Grand Jury branding as a GPU conspirator Reba Hansen sticks a page-long panegyric to her smack in the middle of an article that is supposedly a tribute to Cannon! We quote it if full:
“During those years Sylvia Franklin served as secretary in the national office, a job that included working with Jim, who held the post of National Secretary. She was the second full-time secretary the party had. The first was Lillian Roberts.
Jim often told us about how it was ‘in the old days’, when it was difficult to get things done because of having no secretarial help. He said he was grateful for any help he could get and he never failed to show his deep appreciation for the aid that Sylvia gave.
Jim was fond of telling the story about how Sylvia went to a business school to learn shorthand when it was proposed she work in the national office. This was before the days of the tape recorder, and shorthand was essential to taking adequate minutes at meetings and dictation for letters and articles. Sylvia learned fast and well. Her Gregg characters were like copper plate engravings, her typing without strike-overs and no messy erasures.
When the load in the national office was heavy and Sylvia needed help I gave her a hand, working very closely with her. Her efficiency impressed me. She knew how to do everything that was necessary to keep a one-person running smoothly. Her devotion to the movement and her readiness to put in long hours of hard work inspired us all.
Sylvia and I became close collaborators and good personal friend. She was a warm human being.
When Sylvia left New York in 1947 because of family obligations Jim asked me to take her place in the national office. Since this included working closely with Jim I felt a little nervous, but Sylvia helped me through the transition for business manager of The Militant to my new assignment.
At that time Rose and Jim lived at 26 West Eleventh Street, seventh floor. The apartment building was modern – it had an elevator – and the rooms were large by New York standards. The front room, facing on Eleventh Street, was big enough for two desks, several filing cabinets, and a work table. Sylvia took me there to work with her and learn the ropes.
But Jim didn’t shift easily from one secretary to another, and it was only after Sylvia had been gone for some time that Jim felt enough at home with me through working together in the national office to ask me to come over to West Eleventh Street.” (James P. Cannon as we Knew Him, Pathfinder Press, 1976, pages 232-233)
This quotation is the most damning proof of the decades-old conspiracy of Hansen, Novack and the top leadership of the SWP to deliberately suppress the exposure of the GPU agents and their crimes against the world Trotskyist movement and the working class.
When Reba Hansen decided in late 1975 to write this obscene tribute to Cannon’s secretary, she knew full well that Franklin stood publicly accused of being a GPU agent.
Mrs. Hansen makes no reference to this at all. She glides past this unpleasant fact entirely with a brazen lie, claiming that Franklin – “Sylvia” to Reba Hansen – “left New York in 1947 because of family obligations …”
Reba Hansen writes about “family obligations” when in fact the reason for Franklins hasty departure was – as the Hansens and Novack know – that her cover was being blown by Budenz and the G-men of the FBI.
Moreover, it was also in 1947 that Max Schactman obtained information that Cannon’s secretary was a GPU agent and relayed it to the SWP leadership.
Reba Hansen’s statement that Franklin left New York in 1947 establishes that the so-called Control Commission which supposedly cleared Franklin was an utter fraud.
To lend some “weight” to the cover-up version of Franklin’s career, Rosa Hansen quotes a 1966 letter from James P. Cannon in which he said:
“In another case a rumour spread by the Schactmanites and others outside the Party against the integrity of a National Office secretarial worker was thoroughly investigated by the control Commission which, after taking stenographic testimony from all available sources, declared the rumours unfounded and cleared the accused party member to continue her work.” (Reba Hansen in James P. Cannon as we Knew Him, Pathfinder Press, page 282)
By presenting us with bogus Control Commission “findings” and the clearance statements of Cannon does not impress us. It only means that Cannon knew about the cover-up and that he was in on it for reasons which have still to be discovered.
It was in 1947 that Cannon and the SWP first received the report that Franklin was a GPU plant. The official story peddled by Cannon, Hansen and Novack is that she was cleared “to continue work”
But she didn’t stay on. She took off – not for “family obligations” but for reassignment elsewhere.
The SWP Control Commission then rigged its report to clear her and get The GPU off the hook. The National committee accepted this rigged report, even though many of its members knew that Franklin was a GPU agent and that the Control Commission was perjuring itself.
The International committee demands to know who was on the Control Commission that cleared her, who gave evidence, and what they said.
Pierre Lambert and Mrs. B. Hamilton of the liquidationist OCI group in Paris have made a slavish defence of Hansen and Novack and their cover-up for Franklin. They wrote:
“We do not know if the Sylvia Callen the Workers Press talks about is really Sylvia Franklin, but we are convinced that if new facts require it, the SWP will review the conclusions of its Control Commission.” (Informations Ouvrieres, February 27 to March 4, 1976 edition)
But in spite of the mountain of incontestable evidence gathered by the International Committee, Hansen and Novack have no intention of taking any friendly advice from Lambert and Hamilton. They have had a phoney story for 27 years to cover up the fact that Franklin/Caldwell/Callen was a GPU agent and they are sticking to it. Why?
The woman described by Reba Hansen as a “close Collaborator” and a “good personal friend” from whom she came to “learn the ropes” was part of the killer network that set up the murder of Leon Trotsky.
Years have passed since Silvia Franklin has been exposed in unchallenged documents and sworn testimony as a GPU agent. But Reba Hansen gives her a heartfelt salute as a “warm human being.” If this is not a conscious cover-up of a GPU agent, then what is?
The defence of Franklin which has been orchestrated by George Novack and Joseph and Reba Hansen is part of their sinister anti-Trotskyist conspiracy to protect the agents of the Soviet secret police. Would Hansen and Novack now take the stand in a commission of inquiry to deny it?