Will the Real Joseph Hansen Please Stand Up.
Statement by the International Committee of the Fourth International 29 July 1977
News Line 30 July 1977
On 29 June 1940, the United States government signed into law the Alien Registration Act, more widely known as the Smith Act. This piece of reactionary legislation was drafted to discipline the working class and trade unions and crush all opposition within the labour movement to the impending world war.
Almost one year to the day later, on 27 June 1941, the Roosevelt administration invoked the Smith Act for the first time: agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) swooped on the headquarters of the Socialist Workers Party Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The FBI agents turned the offices inside out, rifled party documents and carried off large quantities of books and pamphlets.
On 15 July 1941 a federal grand jury in St. Paul handed down indictments against 28 leaders and rank and file members of the SWP. The charges included ‘seditious conspiracy’ and other violations of the Smith Act.
A few days earlier, Karl Skoglund, the Swedish born SWP leader, had fallen into the FBI dragnet. He was held for deportation from the United States.
The trial began in Minneapolis on 27 October 1941. The aim of the government was to destroy the American Trotskyist movement. Among the accused were James P Cannon, Albert Goldman, Felix Morrow, Grade Carlson, Jake Cooper, Oscar Schoenfeld, Karl Skoglund and Farrell Dobbs.
On 8 December 1941, the very day Roosevelt declared war on Japan, 18 of the 28 SWP members on trial were found guilty and sentenced to jail terms of 12 to 18 months. Cannon was incarcerated in Sandstone Penitentiary, Minnesota.
Hansen was not among those convicted. He somehow escaped the very wide net cast by the FBI although he was more prominent in the party leadership than a good number of those on trial.
He was former secretary to Leon Trotsky, the founder of the Fourth International; a member of the editorial board of the monthly magazine Fourth International; and, since the autumn of 1940, a member of the SWP’s Political Committee.
Hansen did not escape prosecution because his name was unknown to the FBI. On the contrary, the Bureau knew him personally.
Today, the International Committee of the Fourth International publishes evidence which has just been uncovered proving that Hansen secretly established confidential contact with the FBI during the very period J. Edgar Hoover’s G-men were organiseting their frame-up of the SWP.
The evidence has been obtained from official government records in Washington DC, as part of a two year investigation by the International Committee into all aspects of the circumstances of the assassination of Leon Trotsky. (How the GPU Murdered Trotsky, New Park Publications, £3)
It provides irrefutable proof that Hansen formed secret and personal contacts with the FBI in September 2940, one month after Trotsky was killed in Coyoacan in Mexico.
Hansen, who is today the leader of the American revisionists of the SWP, initiated the request for regular and confidential correspondence now made available to the public.
Following an exchange of letters between the American Embassy in Mexico City, the US State Department and the FBI in Washington, Hansen was put in direct touch with the head of FBI operations in New York.
It was a contact arranged at the highest level. At the very moment the FBI was getting ready to round up the leaders of the SWP, J. Edgar Hoover and no less a personage than Adolf A. Berle Jr., the assistant US Secretary of State, were following the progress of Hansen’s relationship with the US government’s secret police.
Hansen cannot claim that he is being “framed” since the most incrimination document is written and signed by himself!
Hansen has suppressed all documents and details of his collusion with the FBI since the day it began in 1940.
He never told James P. Cannon about it, nor the Political Committee of the SWP, nor the leadership of the world Trotskyist movement. It goes without saying that today’s membership of the SWP is completely in the dark about Hansen and the FBI.
This information has been brought into the light of day by the International Committee’s investigation into Security and the Fourth International begun in May 1975 when Hansen accused the International committee of being “paranoid” about security.
In Augustine 1975, the International Committee first revealed that Hansen visited the US Embassy in Mexico unknown to the Trotskyist movement. When we published these facts about his initial FBI contact Hansen made an abusive and hysterical reply alleging that it was “a geyser of mud” (Intercontinental Press, November 24, 1975)
The new evidence, published today after painstaking research and checking, proves conclusively that the International Committee was right and that Hansen is a liar.
This is not the first time Hansen has been caught red-handed telling lies and suppressing truth from the Trotskyists movement. In an International Committee statement (May 24 1977) we proved that Sylvia Franklin, personal secretary to the late James’ P. Cannon, between 1938 and 1947 was an agent of the GPU, Stalin’s secret police.
She was planted in the SWP headquarters at 116 University Place, New York, as a key agent in the GPU team set up to murder Trotsky.
In May this year the International Committee located Franklin, Nee Callen, party name Caldwell, and interviewed her in the United States. We also interviewed Lucy Booker whose Manhattan apartment Franklin used to liaise with her GPU controller Jack Soble.
Although Franklin’s GPU spy role is indisputable, Hansen still maintains to this day that she was “an exemplary comrade” in the SWP while his wife, Reba Hansen, said only 18 months ago that Franklin was a veritable heroine and a “very warm human being.” (James P. Cannon As We Knew Him, Pathfinder Press)
The International Committee has exposed the two central features of Hansen’s political biography which he has sought to hide from the Trotskyist movement for nearly four decades: the first is his deliberate protection and cover-up of GPU agents operating inside the Fourth International, the second is his own secret collusion with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
By his calculated actions, his lies and deceptions, Hansen has shown himself to be completely unworthy of membership of any organisation claiming to be Trotskyist. We demand his suspension and an immediate investigation to determine what, in fact, he is.
For two years the International Committee of the Fourth International has been demanding an international Commission of Inquiry into Hansen. The case for such an inquiry is irrefutable and urgent.
On November 24, 1975, Joseph Hansen of the revisionist Socialist Workers Party (USA) launched a slanderous attack on the International Committee of the Fourth International. It was contained in a 15-page article in his Intercontinental Press, replying to the International Committee’s investigation into “Security and the Fourth International”. Hansen’s article was entitled “On Healy’s Investigation – What the facts Show.”
Hansen took desperate exception to the International Committee’s exposure of his hitherto unreported visit to the American Embassy in Mexico City on August 31, 1940, eleven days after the murder of Leon Trotsky.
Under the Sub-heading “FBI ‘Associations’ – A Geyser of Mud”, Hansen said that the publication of this official record of his visit had been used to “cast the foulest suspicion on me and the Socialist Workers Party”.
In relation to Hansen, the International Committee was not raising suspicions but facts. As for the SWP, it was not implicated because its members and leadership knew nothing about Hansen’s visit to the embassy. He only admitted it 35 years after it took place when the international committee produced the documents for the whole movement to see.
Hansen focussed his indignation on the International Committees charge that the man he met in the US Embassy, Robert G. McGregor Jr., was an FBI agent.
He declared: “In the whole series of twenty six articles, the Healyites in no place indicate any basis of their charge that McGregor was ‘an FBI agent who was operating under diplomatic cover at the American embassy’.” Hansen preferred to innocuously refer to Mc Gregor as an “aid”, thus attempting to create the false impression that McGregor was nothing more than a humble diplomatic minion preoccupied with matters of protocol and helping American tourists recover lost passports.
In fact this “aide” was the third-ranking member of the embassy staff, placed ahead of Commander Dillon and Captain Piper, who were in charge of naval intelligence, and Colonel McCoy, who was responsible for military intelligence.
A detailed report of his duties is contained in a secret embassy memorandum to the US Secretary of State dated April 24 1940. After naming four members of McGregor’s stall, it sets out his functions as follows:
“Prepares under the direction of the principle officer such special reports as are now called for, including narcotics, smuggling, counterfeiting, Communist activities, and reports on European refugees in Mexico and the general effect of their residence in this country.”
The most distinguished European refugee in Mexico at that time was Trotsky, exiled from the Soviet Union by Stalin and hounded out of western Europe by capitalist, social democratic and popular front governments,
So, a major part of McGregor’s work was to spy on Trotsky’s household and gather intelligence information about its political life, its inhabitants and visitors.
In other words, in the era before the formation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mc Gregor was the nearest thing to an embassy “spook” reporting and liaising with the FBI.
This fact is spelled out even more clearly in another secret Embassy memorandum, dated December 24 1940, which lists his duties as “consulate- strictly confidential reporting and information.”
These documents make unchallengeable the role of McGregor at the Mexican Embassy and go towards explaining why Hansen reacted so hysterically. But there is much more to come.
The International Committee is now in a position to expose completely another Hansen lie – that he made only one visit to the US Embassy following Trotsky’s death.
From official records publicly available at the US National Archives in Washington DC, we have established that Hansen made at least five visits.
They all took place between August 20 1940, the date of Trotsky’s assassination, and September 26 1940, when Hansen left Mexico for Harvard University, Boston, with the remaining consignment of Trotsky’s priceless archives, (See Consul George P. Shaw’s letter to the US State Department, dated September 25 1940)
Hansen kept all these contacts with the American government a secret from his own Socialist Workers Party and Trotskyist movement.
When we published details of the August 31 meeting with McGregor, Hansen replied:
“Healy’s bloodhounds have really exposed the ‘dubious’ Trotsky. He was in ‘association with the FBI agent (McGregor) at least twice (his emphasis) according to the agent’s report and not just once as in the case of Hansen”. (Intercontinental Press, November 24 1975)
As we pointed out then, and we reaffirm today, Trotsky made no secret of his meeting with McGregor after the first major attack on his life on May 24 1940, but Hansen did!
And when he had the opportunity to tell his own party members the full story of his relations with the American Embassy and the agent McGregor – albeit 37 years later – Hansen resorted to outright deception.
Now the International Committee can give a full account of Hansen’s liaison with the Embassy from the official records.
August 31, 1940 - when he told McGregor that he has consorted with a top GPU officer in New York for a period of three months in 1938. Hansen has since admitted meeting with the GPU chieftain, and he has tried desperately to cover his tracks by inventing a fantastic story about getting approval from two SWP leaders, James P. Cannon and Max Shachtman, both dead, and communicating his spy information in invisible ink.
September 3, 1940 – he asked the Embassy for a photograph of Trotsky’s assassin, Ramon Mercader, alias Jacques Monard, alias Frank Jacson, and told McGegor that he knew “perfectly well where David AFARO Siqueiros, leader of the May 24 attack, was hiding.
September 14, 1940 – when he brought to McGregor an internal security document removed from Trotsky’s desk relating to a possible members of the GPU network, Jose Harari.
September 24, 1940 – when he gave a report to the Embassy on the relations between the assassin and his girlfriend, Sylvia Ageloff, a member of the Socialist Workers Party. Both were being detained in prison at the time.
Several things immediately emerge from these visits; their regularity, their secrecy from the Trotskyist movement, their air of confidentiality, and their show of willingness on Hansen’s part to ingratiate himself with the FBI by handing over information, some of it never seen by the Trotskyists themselves.
There is nothing to rival it in the annals of the world Trotskyist movement; a secretary of imperialisms most feared enemy is walking in and out of the American Embassy and holding private discussions with the FBI’s head men in Mexico City!
It is true that others members of Trotsky’s household also visited the US Embassy – Albert Goldman and guard Charles Cornell among them.
But they went on specific assignments with the full knowledge of their comrades while Hansen went there in circumstances of secrecy to trade-off information with the representatives of US imperialism
While passing on material to the State Department and the FBI, we have proved that Hansen was leading the SWP’s own investigators into Trotsky’s death on a merry chase. (See News Line January 11, 1977)
From official records we obtained a copy of a letter which Hansen wrote to Charles Cornell while travelling on board the SS Mexico from Vera Cruz to New York. The letter, posted in Cuba late in September 1940, gave a wildly imaginative account of a mystery man who was on the ship. It said:
From the hour listed on your telegram … Wolf – a heavy, paunchy, red faced, light haired man of about 45. Head of a bull, long-horned, front view, tattooed on his chest in blue ink. Speaks German, English, French, Spanish.”
And later on: “he tried to cultivate friendship with me but I am not ready for that stage until we pass Havana so I turned down his offers of drinks etc. He has two girlfriends whom I would swear to god were Stalinists (in GPU now?). One has made a couple of discrete passes in my direction (not too flattering with Marcus troupe on board!)”
And further down: “He knew many of the bull-fighters personally; for example the boy who was gored Sept 16. He spoke some appreciations of bull-fighting as an ‘art’ and then mentioned he had a ‘Russian’ friend who was very interested in bull-fighting and writing something on it. God, Charley. I felt the cold steel pass through my shoulder blades.”
The letter is more about bull-shooting that bull-fighting. As we observed at the time: “But this is not the real Hansen writing. This is Hansen at his old game of deflecting things.”
It cannot be otherwise. Nowhere is the mysterious Mr. Wolf ever mentioned as part of the SWP investigation into Trotsky’s death, yet Hansen had Cornell and Goldman rushing in all directions (and to the US Embassy in Mexico) hunting for mythical clues.
The most sensational visit that Hansen made to the US Embassy was the final one on September 24, 1940. From this contact two memoranda arose:-
The one already mentioned concerning the relations between Mercader and Ageloff which went to the US Secretary of State in Washington DC; and –
A second “Air Mail – Strictly confidential” letter from the US Consul, George P. Shaw, to Raymond E. Murphy,a top State Department official in Washington. We will quote this letter, dated September 25, 1940, in full.
Raymond E. Murphy,
Department of State, Washington D.C.
I am resorting again to personal letter in order to acquaint you with a desire of Mr. Joseph Hansen, secretary to the late Mr. Trotsky, to establish confidential means by which he may be able to communicate with you and through you to this office from New York City.
Mr. Hansen sails this evening from Veracruz with the remainder of the late Mr. Trotsky’s archives, which are destined to Harvard University. He will not return to Mexico. In New York City he may be reached at 116 University Place.
Prior to leaving Mr. Hansen said that he was going to follow very closely all leads in New York pertaining to the identity of the assassin of Mr. Trotsky. He believes it possible that certain information may become available to him in which the Department will be interested, and there may develop certain clues which would lead back to Mexico City, and which could be of value to this office. For this reason he wishes to be put in touch with someone in your confidence located in New York to whom confidential information could be imparted with impunity.
I would greatly appreciate is (sic) if you would let me know the name you indicate to Mr. Hansen.
With kind regards, sincerely, Geo. P. Shaw.”
The political implications of Hansen’s request are truly breath-taking.
He was not acting on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party: he was asking for “confidential means” of communicating for himself with American imperialism’s Department of State. No Trotskyist could ever have done such a thing.
When Shaw emphasised that Hansen wanted “to be put in touch” with an agent in New York “to whom confidential information could be imparted with impunity”, this could only mean that Hansen wanted guarantees that what he told the FBI would not get back to the SWP. What else could it mean to impart information “with impunity”?
That Shaw approved of Hansen’s request and was anxious that his proposal be accepted is shown by his final choice of words: “I would greatly appreciate it if you would let me know the person whom you indicate to Mr. Hansen.”
On receiving Shaw’s letter in Washington, Murphy acted at once. He picked up the telephone and spoke to Mr. J.B. Little, a top man in the FBI. He told Little that Hansen was “desirous” of meeting an FBI agent in New York and Little agreed to put the arrangements in hand. After hanging up, Murphy dictates the letter:
Mr. J.B. Little,
Federal Bureau of Investigation,
Department of Justice
Dear Mr. Little,
Confirming our telephone conversation of September 28, I wish to inform you that according to a personal Letter from Consul Shaw at Mexico City dated September 1940, Mr. Joseph Hansen, secretary to the Late Mr. Trotsky, was sailing on September 25 from Veracruz with Mr. Trotsky’s archives which are to be delivered to Harvard University.
Hansen is not returning to Mexico and he may be reached at 116 University Place, New York City, where it is understood that he will attempt to follow up such leads as he has in New York which may throw light on the identity of the assassin of Mr. Trotsky. It is further understood that Mr. Hansen is desirous of ascertaining the name of some person with whom he may communicate in the event he develops any further information. Consequently, it would be appreciated if your New York office would send an agent to interview him in about ten days by which time he should be located in New York
Note how Murphy reports that “Hansen is desirous of ascertaining the name of some person with whom he may communicate in the event he develops any information.”
No Trotskyist would ever impart information to the FBI. That was not the procedure of the Socialist Workers Party. Whatever information it uncovered about the GPU plot to murder Trotsky would not be handed over to the FBI through private channels. The SWP had its own weekly public organ – The Militant – and a theoretical journal – Fourth International – to publish the results of its investigation.
The SWP assigned Albert Goldman to undertake the investigation into Trotsky’s assassination. His findings were published and used by the SWP to fight back against the Stalinists and the GPU.
Murphy’s other response that day – September 28 1940 – was to send an immediate reply to Shaw in Mexico City. It was marked “Personal – Air Mail – Strictly confidential”. It said:
George P. Shaw Esquire,
Mexico City, D.F. Mexico.
Reference is made to your personal air mail letter of September 25, regarding the desire of Mr. Joseph Hansen to establish means by which he may communicate with me and through me to your office on the results of his prospective investigation in New York on leads pertaining to the identity of Trotsky’s assassin.
I would suggest that Mr. Hansen be informed that he get in touch with Mr. B.E. Sackett, Room 607, United States Court House, Foley Square, New York City, and use that office as a liaison. Mr. Sackett, agent in charge of the New York District of the Federal Bureau of Investigation through its office in Washington is developing the investigation of the Trotsky case in the United States.
The Department much prefers that these channels be employed as, strictly speaking, it has no means of its own to go into the extensive investigation needed for a case of this character. Furthermore, these Trotskyists are in such a bitter struggle with the Stalinists and their ethics are on no higher a plane than those of the Stalinists that we don’t think it advisable to let them have direct contacts with the State Department here, as we never know when they will try to exploit a connection to their own advantage or distort interviews.
Consequently, it is preferred that he conduct his negotiations with some-one on the ground floor who is cognisant of all developments in the pending investigation and is in a better position to assess the value of the information given. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been apprised of Mr. Hansen’s departure and will undoubtedly contact him in New York.
The factor that has been bitterly disappointing to us has been the lack of original documents found in the possession of Jacson. Your despatches have adequately explained the inability to obtain such documents.
There has been one interesting development though first suggested by your office with regard to the Jacson passport originally issued to Babich. This is the first instance to our knowledge of the use of any of the passports impounded in Spain by Communists for the purposes of Soviet agents in other countries.
You will be kept informed of any developments in the pending matter which may be elicited by the FBI office in New York which will contact Mr. Hansen upon his arrival.
Murphy’s promptness and eager reaction from the FBI shows the importance they placed on the confidential liaison with Hansen, while, of course, remaining cautious and wary of possible ulterior motives on his part. Therefore, the FBI selected as Hansen’s contact not any old “aide” or “official”, but B.E. Sackett who is described as the “agent in charge of the New York District of the Federal Bureau of investigation.”
The International Committee has obtained detailed information about the career of Sackett. Born in 1902, he joined the FBI in 1928. With special legal training, he rose rapidly through the ranks, serving as special agent in charge of FBI divisions in Indianapolis, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Buffalo and Los Angeles. He attracted the attention of J. Edgar Hoover and served as his administrative assistant.
He was appointed head of the New York District of the FBI in June 1940. It was a significant date. That was the month when the Smith Act came into force and when the Roosevelt administration drew up plans to smash the Trotskyists, the chief opponents of the imperialist war.
As New York’s FBI chief, Sackett’s speciality was the investigation of espionage and sabotage. He occasionally presided over national police gatherings at which methods of co-ordinating efforts against what Sackett referred to as the “internal enemy” were discussed.
Sackett pioneered the combining of police activities under FBI supervision to combat “subversives”. He once described this to the now-defunct New York Journal-American newspaper:
“In addition, under the FBI Law Enforcement Officers Mobilisation Plan for National Defence, all the thousands of local and state peace officials are bending every effort to combat espionage, sabotage and subversive forces seeking to undermine democracy and our vital defence program.”
The number one subversive force to which Sackett was undoubtedly referring was the Socialist Workers Party. Sackett also described the FBI’s method of dealing with espionage agents:
“First, to determine who they are.
“Second, to watch their activities – whom they see – what they do. Thus they can’t harm us, since we are forearmed. Moreover, it would be ineffective and even ridiculous to pick up one saboteur, take him out of circulation and allow the others to go free and undetected.
“By keeping them under surveillance, out in the open, when and if the time comes for us to act, we can act against them all simultaneously.”
This is the man with whom Hansen established his “confidential” relationship to talk to “with impunity”. It is worth picturing the scenario: Hansen seeks a personal contact with the FBI ostensibly to get the Bureau’s help to find out how Trotsky was murdered, and the man he is seeing is actively engaged in preparing the frame-up indictments to put all of Hansen’s political colleagues behind bars for the duration of the war!
Upon receiving Murphy’s letter late in September 1940, Consul Shaw wrote to Hansen in New York in order to give the green light for the contact with Sackcett, at room 607. This letter is not filed in Washington archives, or perhaps it has been removed, or remains “restricted” by the FBI. But a copy of Hansen’s reply to Shaw is on file. It says:
Mr. Geo. P. Shaw,
American Consulate General,
Mexico, D.F. Mexico
October 23, 1940
Dear Mr. Shaw
I received your letter concerning Mr. Sackett in good condition and shall visit him shortly. There was a little delay in my receiving your communication due to my absence from New York for some days while I was in Boston.
There is no “geyser of mud” about so-called “FBI associations”. This is the real thing! Hansen asked for a confidential contact with the FBI and he “respectfully” thanked Shaw for setting it up.
Note that Hansen does not sign “yours sincerely” or “yours faithfully”, but “respectfully … to the US state Department and the link man in his contact with the FBI.
This is a salutation that no Trotskyist would ever use in addressing a lackey of imperialism. It expresses political cringing of a kind that no one in the revolutionary movement would ever use.
Nevertheless, it had a purpose for Hansen, and that was to ingratiate himself “respectfully” with the agencies of US imperialism.
Hansen will doubtless try to make the squalid claim that all this was done with the authorisation of now dead leaders of the Socialist Workers Party. But even an attempt to put such a monstrous lie into circulation can be demolished by irrefutable evidence of a factual and, above all historical nature.
Since we are dealing with the history of the Trotskyist movement, we consider decisive the political and historical evidence that the SWP leadership would never have sanctioned Hansen’s intimate contact with the FBI.
Any claim by Hansen that his contacts with the FBI were authorised by the SWP to obtain information about the GPU plot against Trotsky’s life must rest on the absolutely untenable “theory” that the imperialists were concerned with the apprehension and punishment of Trotsky’s killers. This is identical to claiming that the bourgeoisie were concerned with protecting the life of the co-founder of the Soviet Union and the greatest proletarian revolutionist after Lenin.
Trotsky himself illuminated the mutual terror with which the fascist and the democratic imperialists viewed the Fourth International. On October 18, 1939, he concluded his famous article, On the Nature of the USSR, with the following observation:
“In the weekly of the well-known newspaper Paris-Soir of August 31, 1939, an extremely instructive conversation is reported between the French ambassador Coulondre and Hitler on August 25, at the time of their last interview. (The source of the information is undoubtedly Coulondre himself.) Hitler sputters, boasts of the pact which he concluded with Stalin (‘a realistic pact’) and ‘regrets that German and French blood will be spilled.
“’But’, Coulondre objects, ‘Stalin displayed great double-dealing. The real victor (in case of War) will be Trotsky. Have you thought this over?’ ‘I know’, der Fuehrer responds, ‘but why did France and Britain give Poland complete freedom of action?’, etc.
“These gentlemen like to give a personal name to the spectre of revolution. But this of course is not the essence of this dramatic conversation at the very moment when diplomatic relations were ruptured. ‘War will inevitably provoke revolution’, the representative of imperialist democracy, himself chilled to the marrow, frightens his adversary.
“’I know’, Hitler replies, as if it were a question decided long ago. ‘I know’. Astonishing dialogue!
“Both of them, Coulondre and Hitler, represent the barbarism which advances over Europe. At the same time neither of them doubts that their barbarism will be conquered by socialist revolution. Such is now the awareness of the ruling classes of all the capitalist countries of the world. Their complete demoralisation is one of the most important elements in the relation of class forces. The proletariat has a young and still weak revolutionary leadership. But the leadership of the bourgeoisie rots on its feet. At the very outset of the war which they could not avert, these gentlemen are convinced in advance of the collapse of their regime. This fact alone must be for us the source of invincible revolutionary optimism!” (In Defence of Marxism, New Part Publications, p.39)
But here it is not just a question of the “democratic’ imperialists attitude towards Trotsky; that attitude should be clear enough from the fact that Trotsky was turned away from so many European countries that he lived on a “planet without a visa.”
Even in death, Trotsky terrified the ruling class. We have uncovered a State Department memorandum, dated August 24, 1940, stating:
“The Department of State has received a request to bring Mr. Trotsky’s body to the United States for burial. The American Consul General at Mexico City had been instructed to inform the interested persons that this government perceives no reason for bringing Mr. Trotsky’s body to this country.”(US National Archives, Washington, D.C.)
Even more decisive is the fact that Trotsky had an unshakeable revolutionary attitude toward the imperialists and bourgeois democracy. It is inconceivable that he would have entrusted his safety or the investigation into his murderous assailants to the agencies of imperialism.
Even in Mexico, an oppressed nation where the traditions of the democratic revolution lived on a thousand times more forcefully that in the sclerotic imperialist democracy of Roosevelt, Trotsky did not entrust his defence to the state, he organised his own guard with men sent to him by the Socialist Workers Party
His entire political life and revolutionary principles precluded the secret arrangements which Hansen initiated for himself with the FBI.
Trotsky’s defence was a fundamental class question in which his position could be no different from that which he held on the defence of the Soviet Union.
Trotsky, fighting for his life, could no more rely upon the democratic imperialists than he could, in fighting the soviet bureaucracy, enter into an alliance with them. His political position on these questions was grounded on the unbendable political principles:
“We are not a government party: we are the party of irreconcilable opposition, not only in capitalist countries but also in the USSR. Our tasks, among them the ‘defence of the USSR’, we realise not through the medium of bourgeois governments and not even through the government of the USSR, but exclusively through the education of the masses through agitation, through explaining to the workers what they should defend and what they should overthrow.
“The defence of the USSR coincides for us with the preparation of world revolution. Only those methods are permissible which do not conflict with the interests of the revolution. The defence of the USSR is related to the world socialist revolution as a tactical task is related to a strategic one. A tactic is subordinated to a strategic goal and in no case can be in contradiction to the latter. (The USSR in War, from In Defence of Marxism, New Park Publications, p. 21)
Finally, in all his struggles against Stalinism, Trotsky never entered into secret discussions with the bourgeois state or exchanged “confidential” information with its police.
Trotsky’s attitude towards the Dies Committee in 1939 exemplifies his principled method of work. Trotsky agreed to appear before the Dies Committee to publicly expose the politics of the Kremlin Bureaucracy. About the internal working of the Stalinist parties Trotsky declared he would have nothing to say.
Furthermore, Trotsky declared that he would appear before this committee of the US Congress only in public session and that he would not consent to meeting any representative of the Dies Committee behind closed doors. For this reason the Dies Committee withdrew its invitation for Trotsky to testify. Congressman Dies suggested that an attempt would be made to interview Trotsky privately. Trotsky refused at once:
“Mr. Dies says that he may send an investigator to Mexico to ‘take Trotsky’s statement’. But I never invited his representative to Mexico, irrespective as to whether or not he presented me with an assurance that he would be permitted to return to the United States. I agree only to make a public deposition before a Committee of the House of Representatives with the full possibility of elucidation all obscure questions through cross-examination. If Mr. Dies wishes my opinion in written form only, he can read my books.” (Writings of Leon Trotsky, Merit Publishers, p. 53)
Five days later, on December 17, 1939, Trotsky issues another statement on the Dies Committee in which he emphasised that “I never accepted and I don’t accept any invitation to discuss these questions with Mr. Dies or Mr. Mathews behind closed doors”. (Ibid)
If still more evidence of Trotsky’s attitude towards private consultation with the bourgeoisie is required, let us turn to the second paragraph of Trotsky’s Testament:
“I have no need to refute here once again the stupid and vile slander of Stalin and his agents: There is not a single spot on my revolutionary honor. I have never entered either directly or indirectly, into any behind-the-scenes agreement or even negotiations with the enemies of the working class.” (The Age of Revolution: A Trotsky Anthology, Dell, p.360)
Hansen could never make the same claim. He did enter into negotiations, directly, with the greatest enemies of the working class, the imperialist police.
Then there is the question of the attitude of the SWP. Did Cannon and the SWP leadership authorise Hansen to contact the FBI? Had they done so it would have represented a complete repudiation of the most basic class principles. But, it fact, they did not.
By the summer of 1940, the SWP was publicly warning the working class of the danger represented by the FBI. In the June 1940 issue of the magazine Fourth International, less than four months before Hansen asked to hold private talks with the FBI in New York, Farrell Dobbs wrote an article entitled, FBI and the Unions.
It began by warning that the FBI had launched the widest attack on the labour movement since the mass round-ups initiated by Attorney-General Palmer in 1919-20 (The notorious Palmer raids)
“The trade union movement is today the victim of the most thorough-going governmental attack since the days of the Palmer raids. This assault, carefully planned and conducted in a most deliberate manner, daily becomes broader in scope and the methods utilised become more brazen.
“Its purpose is to prepare the American working class for docile submission to regimentation in industry and service in the military machine when Roosevelt, acting for Wall Street, plunges the United States into World War II
“Present-day appropriations for the Federal Bureau of Investigation are roughly fifteen times as large as they were in 1917, the year of United State entry into World War I. The FBI operates in all fields, finding grounds on whatever slender pretext for federal jurisdiction in labor cases. When this is not possible, the FBI gives full aid to the local police and courts.
“J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, testified before the House Appropriations Committee in November, 1939, that the FBI organised a ‘general intelligence division’ which has compiled extensive records of individuals, groups and organisations engaged in what he calls ‘subversive activity.’
“All of these are earmarked for arrest in mass when Roosevelt plunges the country into war. The immediate objective of the government is to cull out of the trade union movement in advance of the war as many of the militant elements as possible.
“By this action they aim to terrorise the workers, and especially the working-class leaders, so that there will be a minimum of resistance to the war plan.” (Fourth International, June 1940)
Dobbs’ warning proved accurate. The Fourth International for July 1941 carried a special article by the editors entitled: The FBI-Gestapo Attack on the Socialist Workers Party. (By now the SWP regularly referred to the FBI and the FBI-Gestapo.)
The statement dealt with the gathering FBI conspiracy against the SWP and the Minneapolis Truck Drivers Local 544-CIO. It resulted in the trial of 18 SWP leaders in December 1941 and the jailing of James P. Cannon for 16 months.
Hansen is the odd man out. When the Socialist Workers Party is gearing itself for a major onslaught from the capitalist state, he is seeking a private liaison with the very agency that is preparing the frame-up charges.
The political and historical record which precluded the possibility that the SWP authorised Hansen’s collusion with the FBI is sustained by the categorical denial by Felix Morrow that the SWP collaborated with the FBI in any manner whatsoever in the investigation into Trotsky’s assassination.
Morrow, now 72 years old, was a member of the SWP Political Committee in 1940, was in overall charge of SWP measures to defend Trotsky, and was a close associate of Albert Goldman, Trotsky’s lawyer and the man chosen by the SWP to investigate the assassination.
The International Committee conducted the following interview with Morrow in the United States on June 2, 1977:
Q: I was wondering whether or not you had any recollection about the steps taken by the Socialist Workers Party at the time to learn more about the assassination, how it was carried out. Particularly, whether it received any assistance from the American Government in any way.
Q: None whatsoever?
Q: Well, what was the attitude of the FBI, in your opinion, toward the assassination?
Morrow: They weren’t involved in any way.
Q: Well, did the SWP to your knowledge have any policy of trying to obtain the assistance of the FBI?
Morrow: There would be no reason. It was an open and shut case. Jacson had done it. The only problem was to establish that Jacson was a GPU agent.
Q: I see. Then to your knowledge the SWP made no initiative at any time toward establishing contact with the FBI?
Morrow: None. None
Q: Nothing at all
Morrow: I’m sure of that.
Q: You’re sure of that?
Q: Let me ask you something. Who was more or less in charge in the party with investigating the death of Trotsky? I know that Goldman wrote a book on the assassination.
Morrow: Well, all involved – you know, the whole Pol-Com (Political Committee).
Q: I see. How about Joseph Hansen?
Morrow: He was down in Mexico.
Q: And when he came back in late September 1940?
Morrow: He was not a member of the Pol-Com
Q: And therefore he would not have been given a special responsibility?
Q: Does the name Sackett mean anything to you?
Q: Sackett. B.E. Sackett?
Morrow: Say it again
Morrow: What’s the first name?
Q: Well initials only, B.E.
Q: It means nothing to you?
Q: Politically speaking, in that period of time, as I recall, there was some serious problems in terms of repression against the SWP and the labour movement by the FBI. This was before the war.
Q: In 1940, round the period of August, had the repression already started, building up towards the Minneapolis case?
Morrow: I would say so.
Q: In what particularly?
Morrow: I couldn’t really remember the details, but, you know …
Q: The heat was on?
Morrow: Yes, the heat was on.
Q: And, by the beginning of 1941 it probably became quite serious?
Q: In light of that, how would the party have looked upon an attitude – given Trotsky’s political positions on defence of the workers’ state, his attitude toward imperialism and Stalin – how would the SWP leadership at that point, the Political committee, have looked upon the reliance on the FBI in terms of ---
Morrow: There was no reliance on the FBI.
Q: I see
Morrow: It just didn’t exist.
Q: But, politically speaking, it would have been considered out of the ordinary …
Morrow: Of course!
Q: It would have been?
Q: I’m asking because this question has come up in documentation, but to you that would be complete news?
Morrow: That’s right.
Q: I see, and you’re quite sure that there was never any authorisation given?
What is news to Morrow will certainly be news to every member of the SWP from the oldest veteran to the youngest rank-and-filer. The International Committee has documentary proof that Hansen pursued his contact with the FBI enthusiastically. He gave Sackett an internal party memorandum covering aspects of Trotsky’s assassination.
So far as we know, the Trotskyist movement has never seen a copy of this document, but the US State Department and the FBI have.
A notation attached to the memo says: “This is a memorandum of a conversation between a member of the Directing Committee of the Fourth international in New York, and a prominent member, “W”, of the Fourth International, handed to the Consulate General by Mr. Joseph Hansen, secretary to the late Leon Trotsky, and sent to Mexico City by air mail.” The document says:
“A REPORT OF A COVERSATION WITH W.
1. Could not understand why we have not raised a hue and cry charging that the GPU will at any moment arrange ‘suicide’ of Jackson. Is certain Jackson will be killed (a) through police friends of GPU or (b) if police friends don’t suffice, the by GPU desperately barging in from outside to arrange it. Thinks death if Jackson is central concern now of GPU.
2. Cannot believe innocence of Ageloff girls. Only a moron could live with GPU agent and not become cognizant. Present conduct of Sylvia not decisive in changing his mind; she may be trying to save herself, or remorseful (but not enough to tell), or even playing a part. Any one of these three possibilities is more probable, he says, that is her innocence. Set-up of Ageloff household reminds him of scores of similar ones employed by GPU: Two or three members of a family in the movement (which group in movement not important), while others have no connection with movement at all, but also serve GPU.
When I said papa is in real estate, he laughed. He says that’s traditional business. ‘The GPU work runs in family dynasties’. And especially Jewish families in cities of large Jewish communities. Considers systematic combing of all phases of Ageloff family one of the two main leads.
3. The other main lead would be the Klement case if French government had removed its files when it left Paris. Otherwise Nazis have turned over Klement file to GPU. Seemed certain police knew the story of the Klement business (he didn’t say so, but from other things it appeared that Krivitsky had told him that the French police knew). Reason for emphasis on Klenent case as a lead was the connection made in his mind between anatomical knowledge of Klement’s assassin and that of assassin of L.D. Felt such knowledge was unusual accomplishment in a GPU killer, hence considerable likelihood it was same man. If that were true, and if French file could be looked into, identity of assassin would be established.
(N.B.: note that he does not consider Jackson himself, via questioning or any other method, as a lead. Asked why he said: it’s only a matter of days before the GPU will execute Jackson).
4. Apart from the above two leads (if they can be called that), is very pessimistic about possibilities of establishing further the GPU’s guilt. Is certain that apparatus which murdered Trotsky was especially set up for that purpose, and had no connection during the entire period of planning the murder (thought plans had been going on for five years) with any other part of GPU apparatus.
5. Thinks assassin must have grown up in the Komsomols. Only Russians, or members of other nationalities in Soviet territory, or children of foreigners whose parents have lived in Russia since the revolution (this would include children of refugee Hungarians or Bulgars) would, he believes, be subject to the type of pressure which could compel a man to take such a desperate assignment. Believes assassin led the first attempt in May and when that was bungled, came to New York to report his superiors. That he was told to go back and do the job himself, or return to Moscow. That the assassin preferred the outside chance of doing the killing and getting away, to certain death awaiting him in Moscow.
Thinks, despite evidence to contrary, that assassin is a Jew. Doubtful that he is a Lett, because in purge practically all the Letts were wiped out of the GPU. Jews now predominate in the GPU apparatus, especially in Western Hemisphere. In any event, a Soviet subject.
6. If situation has not changed, very dubious about hoping for any serious investigation by Mexicans. GPU had deeply penetrated all spheres of government and society. That’s why he’s so certain the GPU will succeed in wiping out Jackson.
7. Has come to the conclusion (after beginning with the thought on first hearing news, that Natalia would probably not be touched) that Natalia is in serious danger. GPU isn’t and can’t be certain that she does not know things that are dangerous to them. Her long association with Trotsky would strengthen their determination to finish her off. Only hesitation on their part would be obvious meaning of killing her. But
8. Emphasises that GPU is now extremely cocky. Because (a) ‘feeling their oats’ as an expanding power thanks to territorial gains during war (b) war conditions make assassinations seem minor incident in public mind at a time when millions are dying (c) do not worry much about American public opinion because they have no hope of doing much with it. Hence for all three reasons they are moving on this continent quite brazenly. Krivitsky will be next, together with (un-named) GPU figure now a refugee here; and that, as an example to all GPU agents, they will even take the trouble and risk of murdering secondary figures who broke with the apparatus. Doesn’t believe there is any danger of GPU striking at leading cadre of Amerian Trotskyists in near future – but advises to take all precautions.
9. HAS NO FAITH WHATSOEVER THAT THE US GOVERNMENT WILL SERIOUSLY PURSUE ITS INVESTIGATION INTO THE MURDER OFTROTSKY. (Our emphasis)
(a) Believes that the state department is now orienting on a major campaign to woo the Kremlin. Thinks they’re stupid to try to win Kremlin, because under no circumstances will Stalin break pact with Hitler; breaking of pact will come only from Hitler’s side. Because the Russians of the GPU know this, and know that the US Government will eventually realize hopelessness of wooing the Kremlin, is their reason for having no hope of changing American public opinion and hence their cockiness in flouting such public opinion) But meanwhile that means that the government here will not be at all interested in uncovering Trotsky’s murderer.
(b) (US) Government investigation will in any event be sabotaged by Stalinist agents in the government. Tells an incredible story of Stalinist penetration into governmental apparatus – but buttressed by impressive details. Nat Witt was at one period in full charge of the GPU’s underground apparatus in Washington. Replaced only when he became object of sharp attacks. Lee Pressman joined the CP in 1936, was then released to underground apparatus (this while Pressman was still in the AAA) and it was at direction of the apparatus that Pressman left government post to take CIO counsel post. Pressman worked directly under the Russians in purchasing munitions for Spain here. Thinks Pressman by now is one of the key figures in the underground apparatus, is in position to sabotage and mislead FBI investigation of LD’s murder.
Hedda Gumperz (he thinks she was mixed up in the Reiss affair) and her husband who is Paul Lassing (?), also known as Karl Billinger (author of Fatherland. They are living in Quakertown. Easton, Pa, area, where they have a farm. He names Grace Hutchins as a GPU agent. Doesn’t know who the present GPU rep is in CP poliburo here.
11. Is absolutely certain that Trotsky’s murder was organised in USA. This is the centre for all activities on this continent.”
There is no doubt that when “W” wrote this internal party document, he never dreamt that it would end up in the hands of the State Department and the FBI courtesy of Joseph Hansen. This is made clear in paragraph 9 in which “W” openly attacks the US government and says (rightly) that he has no faith in it to pursue the Trotsky murder case.
What kind of mind is at work here – to take an internal party document which is critical to the US government and the FBI and to hand it over to those very reactionary, anti-working class forces?
It is the mind of someone who is “respectfully” attempting to tell the FBI that unlike the “Trotskyites” who are “paranoid” about the police, he himself is a reasonable citizen prepares to do trade-offs with J. Edgar Hoover even as the Smith Act witch-hunt is getting into full swing.
This document certainly must have made an impression upon the FBI. In more recent years, it never received anything of comparable importance from its Denver informer, Timothy Redfern, who achieved notoriety in The Militant for spying for the FBI from inside the SWP.
By handing in “W”s’ document, which named American CP members in the civil service and trade union bureaucracy, Hansen was acting as a confidential “finger-man” for the FBI (See paragraphs 9b and 10)
What all the documents expose is that Hansen’s relationship with the FBI was a one-way street. He feeds the G-men information and documents but there is absolutely no record that the Trotskyist movement received anything in return of a benefit whatsoever.
This is not only because the FBI would never assist the Trotskyist movement from the standpoint of its own class interests, but also because Hansen was acting entirely on his own.
For reasons which remain to be determined, Hansen wanted to cultivate a relationship with the FBI
Before Hansen tries to claim that he told Cannon all about his contact with B.E. Sackett, the International Committee will now quote from a recently declassified document that is perhaps the most astounding of all.
On December 28,1940, J. Edgar Hoover wrote a personal letter to the Honourable Adolf A. Berle Jr., assistant Secretary of State, in which he called to his attention a special report filed by Special Agent M.R. Griffin on December 9, 1940, in New York City. Special Agent Griffin informed Hoover that:
“From a confidential source, it was ascertained that Dr. Albert Goldman, a Trotskyite attorney, located at 40 West 45th Street, New York City, received a letter on or about September 24, 1940, from one Leo Fischer, La Paz, Bolivia, Box 947. This letter read approximately as follows:
“Kindly give me your address and the address of James P. Cannon. I have important information for you and for him.
“(Note: James P. Cannon is the Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, 116 University Place, New York City.)”
Who was the confidential source who obtained this information for Griffin? Only someone inside the SWP and working closely with Goldman could have known the content of the letter. But what follows raises still more questions, Griffin informed Hoover:
“The writer interviewed James P. Cannon and Joseph Hansen regarding the Trotsky affair and was advised by them that they had no information to offer. They appeared very reluctant to discuss the matter and gave very brief answers to questions put to them by reporting agent. A further interview will be had with these men, at which time and effort will be made to secure information that they may have regarding this affair.”
The meeting must have been one of the most extraordinary confrontations that ever occurred at 116 University Place. Special Agent M.R. Griffin arrived at the SWP headquarters fully aware of the fact that Hansen had previously sought a confidential liaison with the FBI to which he could feed information.
But now, with Cannon in the room, the entire situation must have been exceptionally awkward – particularly for Hansen. Cannon, predictably, had nothing to say to G-men. He probably gave monosyllabic answers to Griffin’s questions while barely trying to conceal his inner contempt.
As for Hansen, what must have been racing through his mind as he sat next to the veteran party leader? This was certainly not the moment to “respectfully” offer more information that he had already disclosed (privately) to the FBI.
Had Hansen been giving information to the FBI with Cannon’s knowledge and consent, he would not have been silent in Griffin’s presence and “appeared reluctant” to answer questions. That was a show he put on to keep Cannon in the dark about the private channels he had established. As for Griffin, he clearly made no mention of Hansen’s prior contacts with the FBI.
Both Hansen and Griffin were keeping Cannon out of the picture. Of course, there is always the possibility that Griffin himself had not been informed of Hansen’s private contact with Sackett, and therefore left 116 University Place somewhat confused by Hansen’s reluctant behaviour.
The official records do not show how long Hansen’s collaboration with the FBI persisted. He cannot argue for a single moment that the liaison produced results in the investigation into Trotsky’s death.
A search of his articles in The Militant and the Fourth International reveals that no evidence of the GPU network came from the FBI or the US State Department.
When the International Committee first exposed Hansen’s connivance with the FBI in Mexico City, Hansen and George Novack (and a chorus of renegades and revisionists from all corners of the woodwork) cried “slander”.
Now we have proved that Hansen was in regular, confidential contact with the FBI at his own request, and that he “respectfully” thanked them for arranging the contact.
All this occurred at the very time when the FBI was spying day-in and day-out on the SWP in order to lay the ground for the impending Smith Act indictments.
The man in charge of spying was the New York District chief, B.E. Sackett, had the pleasure of Hansen’s company in his office at FBI headquarters, Room 607, in Foley Square. This will certainly come as a shock to members and supporters of the SWP who have donated generously to prosecute its $27m suit against the self-same FBI.
Hansen certainly never told the Director of the Political Rights Defence Fund that he himself handed over to the FBI internal documents that were the property of the Trotskyist movement.
Only the persistence of the International Committee’s two-year investigation into Security and the Fourth International has made possible the public exposure of Hansen’s role.
This investigation has now entered a new stage. In a statement dated May 24, 1977, the International Committee produced incontrovertible proof that Hansen deliberately suppressed the GPU spy role of Sylvia Franklin, personal secretary to the late James P. Cannon, between 1938 and 1947.
The Franklin case showed a pattern of systematic cover-up of an undeniable agent of Stalin’s secret police. When Hansen claimed her as a “exemplary comrade”, he was lying through his teeth.
Despite the International Committee’s exposure of Franklin, Joseph Hansen has continued to defends her. In the light of the new evidence now brought forward by the International committee, Hansen’s latest defence of Franklin bears fresh examination.
In the June 20, 1977, issue of Intercontinental Press, Hansen declared that the testimony of ex-Stalinist Louis Budenz could not be accepted because:
“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 disruptions in the Trotskyist movement and should be weighed with due caution.”
Hansen went on to attempt to discredit the testimony of ex-GPU agent Lucy Booker, who identified Sylvia Franklin (known in the SWP by her party name “Caldwell”) as the woman who stole documents from the SWP and delivered them to her apartment, as a possible FBI set-up. He wrote:
“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 rumor that Caldwell was a GPU agent. At the time the rumor 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.” (Intercontinental Press, June 20, 1977)
In order to defend Franklin, Hansen insinuates that the International Committee has been duped by the FBI, and then, posing as a “pioneer” Trotskyist, brags about understanding its “standard tactics”
But official documents prove that it was none other than Joseph Hansen who was secretly prancing about in “J. Edgar Hoover’s stable of turncoats, stoolpigeons and provocateurs” in the crucial months after Trotsky’s death and during the preparation of the Smith Act indictments.
If Hansen claims that “pioneer Trotskyists” refused to accept hard evidence of Franklin’s role as a GPU agent because rumours of her guilt had first emanated from the FBI, how can Hansen claim that “pioneer Trotskyists” instructed him to contact the FBI in the hope of obtaining information about the GPU?
Hansen is caught in the web of his own monstrous lies. The only thing consistent in all of Hansen’s actions has been his deliberate attempt to consign the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Trotsky into the oblivion of history,
With complete contempt for the membership of the SWP he has tried to lie his way past the mountain of evidence proving that he has stood at the centre of a 37-year cover-up of the conspiracy to murder Leon Trotsky.
There are individuals like Tim Wohlforth of the SWP, Ken Coats of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Adam Westoby of the Thornett clique, Tariq Al of the Pabloite International Marxist Group, and Pierre Lambert and Mrs. Betty Hamilton of the Paris-based OCI, who will digest there revelations without a murmur.
They are consumed with such hatred of the International Committee that they will ride with Hansen to hell and back. But for others, regardless of their political differences with the International Committee, the time has come to stand up and be counted.
The international Committee statement on “Sylvia Franklin – GPU agent unmasked”, (May 24, 1977) and the Revelations about Hansen and the FBI make and international Commission of Inquiry an urgent necessity.
The International Committee has long since proven that Joseph Hansen, by virtue of his cover-up of such Stalinist agents as Sylvia Franklin, Floyd Cleveland Miller and Mark Zborowski, is an accomplice of the GPU. The International committee has now proved that he established secret contact with the FBI and delivered internal SWP documents to its agents.
The International Committee has demonstrated before the world Trotskyist movement and an international audience of workers, intellectuals and youth that Joseph Hansen is not and has never been a Trotskyist. The question is: Who is Joseph Hansen? Accomplice of the GPU? Accomplice of the FBI? Or both?
An international Commission of Inquiry must be set up to answer this question once and for all.