HANSEN’S BIG LIE GROWS BIGGER
News Line 25 June 1977, page 7
With the tracking down and exposure of Sylvia Franklin, the Stalinist Agent who penetrated the national office of the Socialist Workers Party [of America] between 1938 and 1947 and became the confidential secretary of James P. Cannon, the International Committee of the Fourth International has dealt a shattering blow to the 30-year-old cover-up of the GPU activities within the Trotskyist movement by Joseph Hansen and George Novack.
The vast edifice of lies constructed by Hansen to protect the GPU agents involved in the assassination of Trotsky – especially Sylvia Franklin – is crumbling on its own rotted foundations.
Having now read the interviews with Sylvia Franklin and Lucy Booker, obtained by the International Committee, the politically honest members of the SWP are finding it impossible to defend with any conviction Hansen’s blatant lies about the role of Franklin inside the SWP.
Hansen is still trying to brazen it out with yet another dose of lies and crude diversions. His latest article, “Healyites Escalate Frame-up of Trotskyist Leaders”, published in Intercontinental Press is not, in any sense, a reply to the interviews with Franklin and Booker.
Rather, it is a desperate, last ditch effort to prevent the formation of a Commission of Inquiry as demanded by the International Committee into the circumstances surrounding the death of Trotsky.
Without even attempting to answer the overwhelming proof of Franklin’s guile – something incidentally, that not even she denies – Hansen continues his cover-up of Franklin. Taken by itself, Hansen’s article provides still more evidence of his role as a GPU accomplice and makes all the more urgent the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry.
1. Hansen complains about the International Committee having “escalated their slanders of the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party.” What stands out immediately is that Hansen considers the exposure of the GPU agent Franklin as an attack on himself! It is he who establishes in this way the bonds of solidarity. Rather than answer the content of the interviews, Hansen resorts to some revealing insinuations. He writes:
“As the basis for notching up their lies, they offer two purported interviews, one with Sylvia Caldwell, (Franklin) and one with Lucy Booker, neither of which provides any new information of substance.”
Does Hansen, by the use of the word “purported” mean to suggest that the interviews with Franklin and Booker never took place? He avoids making the charge directly because he knows that testing it means coming before a Commission of Inquiry that could examine all evidence.
The International Committee is, of course, prepared to produce the tapes of both interviews before such a Commission where the authenticity of the tapes could be established. The International Committee is prepared to have its evidence tested by a Commission. It is Hansen who opposes the establishment of a Commission.
As for Hansen’s claim that the interviews contain no “new information of substance”, this is simply absurd. Just how “new” the information is can be readily gauged by the fact that Hansen now automatically refers to “Sylvia Caldwell” and “Sylvia Franklin” as one and the same person.
In defending Caldwell, the name used by the spy as she infiltrated the SWP, Hansen continuously maintained that the story about an agent named “Sylvia Franklin” was a fabrication invented by Louis F. Budenz, the ex-Stalinist who became a FBI informer.
The heart of Budenz’s allegations was that Sylvia Caldwell, whose maiden name Callen, was secretly married to the American Stalinist and GPU agent Franklin. In a sworn affidavit submitted on November 11, 1950, to the house of UnAmerican Activities Committee, Budenz stated:
“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.”
If the interview had done nothing more than establish that Sylvia Caldwell was Sylvia Franklin, which it clearly did, then it would have already substantiated the charge made by Budenz against Cannon’s personal secretary. Hansen makes the concession on Caldwell-Franklin, but goes right on lying as if nothing had happened.
Even the most politically naïve members of the SWP must be rubbing their eyes in amazement by now. He might just as well have said: “Yes. Caldwell is Franklin, but while Franklin was a GPU agent, Caldwell isn’t”! The secret of this riddle is that Hansen is a liar and an accomplice of Franklin.
To all members of the world Trotskyist movement and especially to members of the SWP, everything in the interviews obtained by the International Committee is “new”.
Until the International Committee located, photographed and interviewed franklin, no SWP member had any idea what became of her. Some of them had been led to believe that she was dead!
SWP members knew only what Hansen had chosen to tell them; that Caldwell was a Trotskyist heroine whose loyalty and devotion to the SWP and its founder, James P. Cannon, was beyond question. In the November 24, 1975 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 a much as she did over the foul slanders spread by Budenz.”
Mrs. Reba Hansen poured it on even thicker just a few months later. She recalled how Cannon “never failed to show his deep appreciation for the aid that Sylvia gave.” Reba Hansen went on to write that Franklin “knew how to do everything that was necessary to keep a one-person office 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 friends. She was a warm human being.” (James P. Cannon As We Knew Him, Pathfinder Press, pp. 232-233)
The sinister implications of these extraordinary tributes can be grasped by any politically-literate person. Hansen is now trying to wriggle out of his own words by pretending at this late hour that the issue of Franklin is nothing more than a matter of different juridical procedures within the SWP and the International Committee.
He has the temerity to claim that “Hansen and Novack have refused to pronounce Sylvia Caldwell an ‘agent of the GPU’ in the absence of substantial evidence establishing her guilt. They have maintained that Caldwell must be considered innocent until proved guilty. The Healyites have taken an opposite position, holding that she is guilty until proved innocent.”
Who does Hansen think he’s fooling at this point? He has not been arguing that Franklin is innocent until proven guilty. He’s been claiming that she was an “exemplary comrade” and has been organising an international slander campaign against the International Committee in order to prevent her exposure.
If Hansen is so concerned about defending the juridical principle of presumption of innocence, why doesn’t he do it in front of a Commission of Inquiry? What Hansen wants is the right to lie about GPU agents, protect them against exposure and slander anyone who presents evidence that drags their foul crimes into the light of day.
Once this Commission is functioning, it can deal with all the other insinuations made by Hansen about the interview. Hansen goes on about “lack of evidence in the interview itself”. Apparently, short of an outright confession by Sylvia Franklin, Hansen considers no evidence is sufficient. This is in sharp contrast with his attitude toward the statements of self-confessed Stalinist agent Thomas L. Black about other GPU spies in Coyoacan.
Hansen dismissed Black’s revelations as “the lying testimony of an avowed agent of the GPU and of the FBI” in which no credence can be placed. (Intercontinental Press, August 9 1976)
The International Committee did not require, or, for that matter, expect a confession from Franklin. The mountain of evidence already obtained – court documents, a Grand Jury indictment, newspaper articles, interviews etc. – constituted an overwhelming case establishing her role as a GPU agent.
However, what is most devastating to Hansen’s lies is that the interview has confirmed everything written by the International Committee about Franklin. She denied none of the charges, relying on “amnesia” as the most convenient escape route.
Hansen doesn’t say whether he believes this transparent charade, though a number of his more cynical lieutenants in the SWP have been telling rank-and file members to ignore what the “sick old lady” until yesterday an “exemplary Comrade” – said in the interview.
“Another curious gap is that the interviewers (or interviewer) say nothing whatsoever about the circumstances of the conversion. Was it held in the street, as the accompanying blurred photograph of a woman in hair curlers would indicate? Was she on her way to a supermarket when she was accosted? What guise – perhaps a praiseworthy one – was used in approaching her?
“Finally, why do the committee members refuse to name the ‘mid-western community in the United States’ where they claim to have met Caldwell? Why do they refuse to expose her ‘new identity’, which she went to the length of obtaining, they charge, ‘through a second marriage’?
If the committee proved through the interview that Caldwell was a GPU agent, why are they so interests in covering her up?”
What Hansen finds so “curious” is that the International Committee has exercised basic security precautions in relation to the information it has gathered. This is so self-evident that the very manner in which Hansen raised these questions is grounds for suspicion.
Upon the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry, the International Committee will provide all the details of the circumstances under which the interview was obtained and conducted. It will also disclose the present identity of Franklin and other biographical details.
2. Although Hansen concedes that Franklin is Sylvia Caldwell, he attempts to challenge the International Committee’s assertion that the interview with Franklin “completely confirms the revelations made 30 years ago by ex-Communist Party leader, Louis F. Budenz.” He writes:
“Budenz was one of the prize exhibits in J. Edgar Hoover’s stable of turncoats, stoolpigeons and provocateurs. Some of his ‘revelations’ may have been calculated to cause disruption in the Trotskyist movement and should be weighed with due caution.”
For the past two years Hansen has been shouting up and down about the “perjurer Budenz”, but has never once produced any factual evidence that refuted Budenz’ accusations. Furthermore, these accusations have been substantiated with vast quantities of evidence arising from sources entirely independent of Budenz.
Not only did Hansen never answer the Budenz affidavit of November 11, 1950, he never sought to defend Franklin when she was named by a Grand Jury as a GPU co-conspirator in November 1960. It is a matter of the historical record that the SWP widely publicised Budenz’ revelations in 1946-1947 until he made his reference to Cannon’s GPU secretary.
But as for the possibility that Budenz’ revelations may have been calculated to cause disruption inside the Trotskyist movement that can best be determined by a Commission of Inquiry. The Commission should definitely investigate the role of Budenz and all the others working in Hoover’s “stable of turncoats, stoolpigeons and provocateurs.”
The International Committee believes that it is of the most urgent importance that a Commission of Inquiry very carefully examines the activities of all those in and around “Hoover’s stable” and determines the exact role they played in the assassination of Trotsky and all the events surrounding it. Hansen can bring before the Commission whatever information he has about the activities of “Hoovers stable”.
3. Hansen claims that the International Committee is slandering the SWP control commission that supposedly investigated the allegations against Caldwell-Franklin which first emerged in 1947. He writes:
“The members of this select body of witch-hunters commit themselves to a slander they had previously only hinted at; namely, that the control commission set up by the Socialist Workers Party in 1947 to examine the rumours circulating about Caldwell was ‘rigged’”
What follows is not a refutation of the charge made by the International Committee. Rather, with a cynical sleight of hand, Hansen launches into another diversion:
“If a control commission was ever held, it was rigged! This falsehood is aimed squarely at James P. Cannon, as can be easily proved”
This is Hansen at his tricks again. He doesn’t give a straightforward answer: was the SWP control commission rigged or wasn’t it? Instead, he drags in James P. Cannon in order to hide behind his grave. Why doesn’t he leave Cannon out of it? The International Committee has made no accusations against Cannon. We’ve accused Hansen! It’s Hansen’s favourite trick to immediately conjure up Cannon’s ghost the moment he himself is challenged.
What this in fact amounts to is the most odious political blackmail against the Socialist Workers Party!
Hansen’s blackmail note is written as follows:
“If there was a cover-up, if the control commission was rigged, if no control commission was held at all – as the Healyites now allege – then the main guilt clearly falls on James P. Cannon, one of the founders of the Fourth International. In accordance with the logic of the Big Lie as practiced by the Healyites, Cannon must be listed as an ‘accomplice of the GPU’, if not worse.”
“This is only the beginning. If Cannon was an ‘accomplice’ or ‘agent’ of the GPU, then the entire top leadership of the SWP associated with him must be similarly listed, for they obviously participated in staging the alleged control commission fraud, whether by helping to rig it or, if it was not held at all, by making out – along with Cannon – that it had been held.
“How far back did such fraudulent practices go? Was Cannon as accomplice or agent of the GPU when he founded American Trotskyism? When he collaborated with Trotsky in founding the Fourth International? Was his long battle against Stalinism a sham? Were his close relations with Trotsky a cover up for a secret connection with Stalin? Just whom did Cannon use as willing tools in working for the GPU – for instance, in the alleged fake control commission?”
All this comes straight from the pen of Joseph Hansen! He is charged with covering up the activities of GPU agents, and so he replies by trying to frighten SWP members with the suggestion that his guilt makes Cannon a Stalinist agent! He is trying to intimidate the SWP membership and bully them into silence by telling them how terrible the consequences will be if the International Committee’s charges against him are proven correct.
Hansen deals with his members like an airplane hijacker with a bomb in his hand who waves it above his head and shouts at the passengers “Anyone tries to stop me and we’ll all be blown the kingdom come!”
What is clear is that Hansen will stop at nothing to save his own political neck. Hansen is not protecting Cannon; he’s using Cannon; he’s using Cannon to save himself.
There is one way to immediately clear up the entire question of the SWP control commission into Sylvia Franklin. Let Hansen come before a Commission of Inquiry and submit to it all the official party records of its proceedings and findings. Hansen refuses to do this, so he tries to confuse and mislead his own members about the charges made by the International committee. He writes:
“Adherence to the technique of the Big Lie has brought the Healyites to a qualitatively new level in the perpetration of their frame-up. It can be summarised in the thesis: From the 1930’s on the Socialist Workers Party has been permeated and run by a network of agents of the GPU which is still functioning as a spy ring.
“On this incredible assumption Cannon’s comradely attitude toward his secretary Sylvia Caldwell becomes entirely explicable to Healy and his team. Were not both members of the network of the GPU agents who, according to the Healyites, have been running the Socialist Workers Party since the 1930’s?”
Look how insidiously Hansen tries to twist everything to avoid answering the real charges made by the International Committee. It has never said that the GPU agents have been running the Socialist Workers Party. Hansen – the political blackmailer – says that. Then, notice how in the second paragraph cited just above he inserts “in the 1930’s” between quotation marks! Everything is his invention.
While shrieking about the “slanders” on the International Committee, it is Hansen who is flinging the most reckless insinuations in all directions. The fact that it is Hansen and only Hansen who continuously alludes to Cannon as a possible GPU agent should hit every SWP member in the face like a splash of ice water.
What the International Committee has stated – and proved – is that Hansen and Novack are accomplices of the GPU because they have covered up for a Stalinist agent like Franklin. He cannot refute this charge. But Hansen’s desperate attempt to evade the real issues by dragging in Cannon actually rebounds against him.
If Hansen believes that the charges of the International Committee place a dark shadow over Cannon – whose memory Hansen supposedly cherishes – all the more urgent is his responsibility to accept a Commission of Inquiry to clear the air.
Once the Commission is convened, the role of Cannon could be investigated and Hansen would be free to defend his memory and that of any other pioneer member of the SWP.
As for Hansen’s claim that it is an “incredible assumption” that a GPU spy ring is still functioning inside the SWP, let us simply point out that it is a matter of public record that at least one spy ring is functioning inside the SWP at this very moment – composed of at least 66 US government agents.
The SWP has brought a $27m suit against the Federal Government to bring to an end the activities of this functioning spy ring.
4. Hansen hides behind another blatant lie when he writes:
“Aside from the Belgian sectarian Vereeken, who has an axe of his own to grind against Trotsky, not a single well-known figure in the left, either in Britain or any other country, has given any credence to the crude frame-up. Instead the Healyite campaign has met with universal condemnation.”
Hansen, of course, has never acknowledged that two former secretaries of the Trotskyist movement, Jean Van Heijenoort and Michel Pablo, have publically stated that the evidence assembled by the International Committee proves that Sylvia Franklin was agent. Both men originally supported Hansen’s fraudulent “verdict”, but were compelled beneath the weight of the evidence to withdraw their endorsement of Hansen’s lies about Franklin.
On March 8, 1977, at a public meeting in Paris, Van Heijenoort stated that “everything in my mind at the present time goes in the direction that Sylvia was a agent of the GPU.”
When asked in front of the audience whether he agreed with Van Heijenoort, Pablo replied:
“Oh, I think so, definitely. I think she was, yes, an agent. I think so. And I think it is right that they must admit it. That’s my position. The Socialist Workers Party must admit it.
Only last summer, Intercontinental Press praised Van Heijenoort and Pablo as veteran battlers when their names were listed as supporters of Hansen’s so-called “verdict” which labelled the International Committee’s investigation into the assassination of Trotsky as a “Shameless Frame-up.”
But since Pablo and Van Heijenoort changed their minds about Franklin, not a word has been said about them in Intercontinental Press. Why has Hansen been silent on the statements of Pablo and Van Heijenoort for the last three and a half months? This is the Hansen School of Falsification at work.
Hansen claims that the charges of the International Committee consist of “easily exposed frame-ups”. Then why doesn’t he accept the formation of a Commission of Inquiry where he would be able to “easily expose” the charges made against him?
5. Hansen’s method of dealing with Lucy Booker is so blatantly cynical and deceitful that it cannot possibly be accepted by anyone save the most pathological enemies of Trotskyism and … the truth. Like the interview with Franklin, Hansen finds nothing “new” here either. But for members of the SWP and the Trotskyist movement internationally, everything here is new.
This is the first time ever that Lucy Booker – named as a GPU courier along with Franklin by a Federal Grand Jury in 1960 – has been contacted and interviewed. She gives an eye-witness account of the GPU activities of Canon’s secretary. “Maybe once in three weeks”, Franklin delivered documents from the national headquarters of the SWP to Booker’s apartment. Booker also reports that Franklin met with Jack Soble, Stalin’s No. 1 anti-Trotskyist spy.
Hansen makes no mention of these astounding revelations at all. This is a measure of his utter contempt for the members of his own organisation. He does not even feel that he owes them an explanation. Rather he attempts to evade all the devastating statements made by Booker with a grotesque diversion. Hansen writes:
“Booker reveals in her concluding answer that she was in touch with the FBI. In fact she flatly declares that the FBI was the source of her knowledge that Caldwell was ‘from Chicago’, and that she had been ill.”
“This should serve to remind everyone who has been following the exposures of the two-year Healyite slander campaign that it was the FBI that first circulated the rumour that Caldell was a GPU agent. At that time the rumour smacked of a standard tactic used by the political police everywhere. A tactic well understood by the pioneer American Trotskyist leaders, who had to confront it from the beginning. Today, since the exposure of COINTELPRO, the FBI’s methods have become common knowledge, at least in the United States.
“ It seems incredible that the members of the International Committee – no matter how much they have become caught up in the logic of their frame-up methods – would listen in silence to such a revelation by Booker. Unfortunately, that is precisely what they did. Instead of pursuing this promising lead opened up by Booker, they acted as if struck dumb. Without saying another bumbling word, they rose and quietly filed out of her apartment – if that was where they met.”
Hansen’s performance over Booker’s statement that she spoke to the FBI is utter rubbish. Whoever denied or doubted that she did? Booker was the subject of an intensive FBI investigation because of her connections with the GPU. The FBI came to her apartment and she was hauled before a Grand Jury. To save her own skin, she turned state evidence against the main accused, Robert Soblen. This is all a matter of historical record.
Another person who met with the FBI – which Hansen says nothing about – was Sylvia Franklin. The portion of the interview where she admitted this is reproduced in the June 20 issue of the Intercontinental Press on page 702:
QUESTION: You have no explanation for your name.
FRANKLIN: No, but the FBI came to see me here.
QUESTION: Why did they come to see you?
FRANKLIN: I don’t know. I had a mental breakdown afterwards so it must have been pretty terrible.
Hansen has introduced the question of Booker’s meeting under interrogation with the FBI as a cynical diversion. However, he apparently wants to suggest that the International Committee has been fooled by FBI propaganda. As we said before, this is a question that should be resolved before a Commission of Inquiry.
The International Committee issues this challenge again: Let a Commission of Inquiry determine who has been duped by the FBI or fallen for its propaganda.
We repeat: central to any investigation by a Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Trotsky’s death and its aftermath must be an examination of the role played by the FBI and all its agents.
We say that Hansen is desperately trying to cover up for the agents involved in the murder of Trotsky. Now that it is widely accepted within the SWP that Franklin was a GPU agent, Hansen is lying more brazenly than ever. He is now at the point where he will say anything to keep the cover-up going and prevent the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry.
6. The International Committee, upon concluding its statement, Sylvia Franklin: GPU Agent Unmasked, wrote:
“The completion of the Sylvia Franklin case is a milestone in the two-year inquiry, but there is much more to come. We have reason to believe that this could well produce provocations against our movement all over the world. This places the greatest urgency on the International Committee’s demand for a Commission of Inquiry to hear all the testimony and examine all the evidence.”
Every historically conscious Trotskyist will immediately appreciate the grounds for the warning raised by the International committee against the dangers of provocations
The exposure of its agents strikes a mortal blow against the counter-revolutionary Soviet bureaucracy. The investigation into Security and the Fourth International has aroused the greatest anxiety within the camp of the bureaucracy and its allies.
The manner in which Hansen chooses to reply to this historically-justified warning by the International Committee raises the most serious questions.
When Trotsky warned that he and his followers faced danger of physical liquidation by the bureaucracy, the Stalinists stepped up their hysterical lies about “Trotskyite terrorist plots” against the leaders of the Soviet Union. This was the cover they used while staging the Moscow Trials and preparing Trotsky’s assassination.
In the spring and early summer of 1940, the Mexican Stalinist press was bursting with this sort of lies. Within this historical context, examine Hansen’s response. He writes:
“What do the Healyites mean by ‘provocation’? Precisely what do they have in mind? If they are weighing a course of physically attacking Trotskyites who they have designated as ‘accomplices’ or ‘agents’ of the GPU, or members of a ‘functioning spy ring’, part of their preparations would naturally consist of trying to pin the blame of the prospective victims by forecasting ‘provocations’ on their part.”
These lines are part of Hansen’s attempt to create the political atmosphere within which he can continue his cover-up of the GPU and prepare his own provocation against the International Committee. By writing that ‘the Healyites are quite capable of initiating physical violence against other sectors of the labour movement’, he is simply regurgitating the most obscene lies of the Stalinists.
There is a simple way to guard against and prevent all provocation. The Workers League proposes the setting up of a joint commission with the Socialist Workers Party, composed of equal members from each side, to attend all public functions of both organisations and investigate all provocations and incidents of violence on the spot!
7. Every serious member of the Socialist Workers Party, class-conscious workers and intellectuals who have followed the documents and all the evidence uncovered over the last two years by the International Committee will immediately realise upon completing Hansen’s article that he has failed to reply to any of the charges.
Once again he serves up nothing but devious and sinister diversions. Hansen writes that the International Committee is guilty of ‘lurid falsifications’, but cannot point to one falsification, lurid or otherwise.
Is the interview with Franklin a falsification? When all is said and done, it is Hansen who will not accept the formation of a Commission of Inquiry. The fact that the International Committee has called for the establishment of a Commission is not mentioned once by Hansen in his article. Hansen says he is the victim of a frame-up. He protests too much.
History has recorded the example of Trotsky in fighting the frame-ups of the Stalinists. He set in motion whatever resources he had, however limited, to form a Commission of Inquiry. He said he had nothing to hide. Trotsky produced willingly every existing document covering 40 years of his political activity, and he was the leader of the October Revolution, founder of the Third Internal and the supreme commander of the Red Army. Hansen won’t accept a Commission because he has a great deal to hide.
All SWP members devoted to Trotskyism must now demand an end to Hansen’s lies and diversions. His refusal to accept a Commission is the distilled expression of his hatred of Trotskyism. This contempt was shown no less sharply just a few days ago when one of Hansen’s lieutenants in the New York local leadership of the SWP told a member of the Workers’ League, “You’re right about Franklin, but we don’t have to answer you.”
The Workers League does not believe that this is the attitude of the many sincere members of the SWP who want to know the truth. We are sure that they share our scorn for those who not only are willing to lie about history, but are even prepared to say history doesn’t matter. The highest point of Trotsky’s struggle against Stalinism was his unyielding defence of history against the monstrous falsifications of the bureaucracy.
Those who lie about Trotsky’s death by covering up for agents who plotted his assassination are lying about all the principles for which he fought. They can claim no connection with Trotskyism. In the eyes of objective history, they serve the goals of the of counter-revolutionary bureaucracy. The words of Trotsky ring out more powerfully today than ever before:
“In point of fact, the lie in politics, as in daily life, serves as a function of the class structure of society. The oppressors erect the lie into a system of befuddling the masses in order to maintain their rule. On the part of the oppressed, the lie is a defensive weapon of weakness. Revolution explodes the social lie. Revolution begins by giving things and social relations their real names.” (The Stalin School of Falsification.)
The Commission of Inquiry must be formed and begin its work. It will examine all the evidence and arrive at conclusions which give both things and people their real names.