James P. Cannon

“Robinson-Rubens” Frameup
Prepared for U.S. Spy Scare

(January 1938)

Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 1, 1 January 1938, pp. 1 & 5.
Not signed, but attributed to Cannon in the next issue of the Socialist Appeal.
Source: PDF supplied by the Riazanov Library Project.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists’ Internet Archive/Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors, translators, proofreaders etc. above.

The psychological preparation of the American people for war goes on alongside the swift speed-up of the Roosevelt military and naval program designed for the ultimate showdown with Japan for imperialist domination of the Pacific.

The country has been treated to its first spy-scare in the form of a spectacular search on a Japanese ship. Destroyers of the Pacific fleet engage in mysterious “maneuvers” along the West coast. President Roosevelt announces that he will ask an enlargement of the already stupendous naval building program which now calls for the expenditure of more than half a billion dollars.

“No Peace at Any Price”

This followed Roosevelt’s plain intimation that his government was not prepared to continue enjoying “peace at any price” and the studiedly frigid “acceptance” of Japan’s apology for the sinking of the gunboat Panay in the Yangtze River. The extension of Japan’s robber war of conquest in China will provide more than ample opportunity for new incidents, new friction, new “accidents” which can at any time considered propitious be made the pretext for starting the conflict.

This week the Stalinists did their bit for the cause by getting the American Student Union to repudiate the Oxford Pledge and to adopt an openly jingoistic platform promising in advance the students’ support to American imperialism in the coming war. At the same time the Daily Worker, more loudly, more shrilly than Hearst dares, lashes up the spy mania and calls upon the government at Washington to emulate Stalin’s methods in dealing with “spies” and “traitors” i.e., all those who oppose Roosevelt’s and Stalin’s war aims, and most especially those who steadfastly dedicate themselves to the revolutionary struggle against capitalism.

The ‘Robinson’ Case

Developments in the mysterious “Robinson-Rubens” case during the past week indicate more and more clearly that the couple now sitting in a GPU cell in Moscow are the center of a complex conspiracy with roots both in Moscow and the United States, designed to feed the spy-scare in this country. At one with Alf Landon in the sentiment that all opposition to imperialist foreign policy must be silenced, the Kremlin is apparently busily rigging – not without help from some American newspapers including Hearst – the fanciest of its series of Oppenheim mystery frame-ups.

The chief goat, apparently, is to be the “Trotskyite” movement, but there is no lack of indications that Prosecutor Vishinsky will shortly “ prove” in a Moscow court by the usual “confession” method that among the Japanese spies in this country are not only the Marxist opponents of imperialist war, but every opponent of collective security, Christian pacifists, and “objectively” even the two-hundred odd Congressmen who support the utopian Ludlow amendment.

As long ago as two weeks the New York World-Telegram stated that a Federal investigator on the “Robinson-Rubens” case (like the Soviet Embassy, whom this paper also quoted) had suggested that the prisoners in Moscow might very well be Trotskyites. The notion did not catch hold for some days, but early this week the New York Herald-Tribune echoed the allegation, again putting it in a Federal man’s mouth. On Dec. 29 the Federal men turned up a Mr. Richard J. Ribbe of Jamaica, a cousin of Mrs. A.A. Rubens. Interviewed by the Daily News, Ribbe was quoted as follows:

Hearst ‘Correction’

“Relatives felt a little disturbed ... and blamed Rubens for interesting Ruth in radical movements. I don’t know which Communist group) – the party in power or the Trotskyites – he was friendly with.

The Hearst reporter was not satisfied with this statement, and “corrected” it in a manner worthy of Hearst’s only rival, the Daily Worker. Hearst’s Mirror quoted Ribbe as follows:

“The family didn’t like the idea of her (Ruth) eloping with Rubens, who was thoroughly versed in Trotskyist ideas.

Just to make everything perfect, the Mirror’s story on Dec. 29 included the following interesting “revelation”:

“The Justice Department agents, it was learned, are probing reports that Rubens received a call to an anti-Stalinist conference in Latvia – a gathering, probably, of Trotskyist forces – and that it was imperative for him to attend.”

Authoritative Denial

Interviewed by an Appeal reporter, the New York spokesman of the Department of State of the U.S., declared that neither the Department nor its men had made or authorized any statements suggesting that they had. reason to think that the “Robinson-Rubens” people were Trotskyites. Asked whether he was prepared to make such a statement at this time, the spokesman declared he had no basis for making any such statement and that he would not make it.

The New York press seemed pretty well convinced that the “Robinsons” were, in fact, the Rubens couple, and that they had sailed for Europe on Oct. 16 on the Rex, using the Rubens passport. Then, according to the press, they went to Russia, presumably as Rubens, since the Soviet government denies it issued any visas to Robinsons. When they registered at the Moscow hotel, however, they used the Robinson name and passports.

What has not been explained yet by the New York reporters is why these people, who had two sets of pretty phony passports, chose to use the one in the name of Robinson – a name which as early as July had been labeled in the world press as “wanted by the police” in Moscow. Unless, of course, they were helping Vishinsky in his little arrangements. The official Soviet explanation, given jointly by the prosecutor and the “confessing” prisoners will surely be juicy – unless the surprise edge is taken off by more preliminary announcements in the Hearst press.

Last updated on 2 August 2015