The Case of Joseph Zack

An Editorial [1]

(July 1938)

Unsigned Editorial in the Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 30, 23 July 1938, p. 4.
Editor of the Socialist Appeal was Max Shachtman, who almost certainly wrote this piece.
Transcribed by Tim Davenport.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The case of Joseph Zack demands the active attention of every worker, every labor organization, every progressive in the country.

Joseph Zack is threatened with an order issued by the Immigration authorities for his deportation to Czechoslovakia. The order was issued despite the fact that Zack was born in Scranton, Pa., and is therefore an American citizen.

The circumstances of Zack’s planned deportation are what lifts the case far above the ordinary.

A Socialist Party member before the war, Zack became one of the founders of the Communist Party in 1919 and one of its leaders. For years he was a member of the Central [Executive] Committee of the CP, more than once a delegate to Moscow, and before his separation from the party, he was in charge of its trade union work.

Broke with Communist Party in 1935

In 1935, Zack broke with the Stalinist party, joined the Workers Party for a short time, and has since been active in small left wing movements.

In 1936, Zack wrote to the State Department in Washington, asking it to intervene in an attempt to get his wife and son, held in Russia as virtual hostages, to the United States. The State Department, far more interested in maintaining friendship with the Stalin bureaucracy than in “helping an American citizen,” showed no interest in Zack’s request.

They did show a great interest in getting rid of Zack. And in their efforts, Zack now charges, the Communist Party gave signal assistance. In a word – and those who know the present Stalinist line will not be astonished – the Browderites turned coppers and deportation-agents at the same time. That’s what is called service to America’s “democratic institutions.”

Able to Prove American Citizenship

The claims of the State Department in backing up the deportation warrant are that Zack is not an American citizen, because there is a record of his baptism in Czechoslovakia. In reply, Zack is able to prove that his baptism took place in Czechoslovakia, on his mother’s initiative, two years after his birth in Scranton, Pa., from which he and his mother left for her native land. Furthermore, Zack has not only been given regular USA passports in the past, but the validity of his claim to American nationality was recognized by the Immigration Division of the Labor Department when it cancelled the deportation proceedings in 1934 which had originated with the Michigan Criminal Syndicalism cases in 1923 – in which he was involved together with Foster, Browder, and Amter, that is, the same gentlemen who have now testified against him before the Department of Labor!

The Browders Act in Silence

The deportation warrant against Zack is in every possible respect a shame and a disgrace. The Browder gang keeps silent in its press, because it does not yet have the brass to avow and urge in public the perfectly infamous thing they did in the closed chambers of the government’s deportation experts.

As for the latter, they are, we believe, part of President Roosevelt’s political and administrative machine. Roosevelt today poses as the great friend of the political refugees. He has just arranged an elaborate farce in Evian, to discuss the question of allowing the politically persecuted to find refuge in the “democratic countries.”

At the same time, his Department of Labor deports, each year, more people than are admitted under all the immigration quotas! That is a statistical fact. More than that, it now proposes to deport a US citizen, solely because he is a revolutionary worker and does not suit the Stalinist machine in Moscow and on 13th Street.

This revolting plan of Browder and the Labor Department must be scotched in the bud – right now. Every voice must be raised against it immediately, and out loud, for everyone to hear.

Silence or indifference to this unique case is not only a crime, but means that the case will cease to be unique and turned into just another American Custom!


1. Joseph Zack Kornfeder (a.k.a. “Joseph Zack,” “A.C. Griffith,” “J.P. Collins”) was born March 20, 1897, in Trencsen, Slovakia. Zack (he used his mother’s maiden name) was an ethnic Austrian from Catholic family and first came to US in 1916, where he worked as a garment worker. Zack was a member of the Communist movement from 1919, although not as a top-ranked leader in that year. In 1920 he was elected as a member of Central Executive Committee of the United Communist Party. He was a fraternal delegate to May 1921 Woodstock Convention due to his status on the CEC of the UCP. Early in 1922, he was elected as a member CEC of unified CPA. He voluntarily resigned on April 17, 1922, to help make way for Earl Browder, Robert Minor, and Alfred Wagenknecht, who were coopted to the CEC at that time. He was a delegate to the ill-fated Bridgman Convention of August 1922.

Zack served as Secretary of National Committee of the Needle Trades Section (TUEL), organized November 22, 1922. Zack was an adherent of the Foster faction in 1920s party fight. He married a Russian woman in 1926, with whom he had one son. Zack was in Moscow at disposal of the Communist International from 1928 to 1930. He attended Lenin Institute and was Foster faction’s man in Moscow and also sat on the Anglo-American Secretariat of ECCI. Zack left his family in Moscow to serve as a Comintern Rep to South America from 1930 until Fall 1931. At that time he was jailed in Venezuela, returned to the United States and released at behest of US State Dept.

Zack was the Eastern District Secretary of the Trade Union Unity League in Fall 1931 and actually lived with Earl Browder for 4 months. Deportation proceedings dating back to the time of the Bridgman convention were dropped 1934. Zack quit CPUSA in fall of 1934, ostensibly over the party’s Right turn. He joined Workers Party of the United States and was a member for short time thereafter. Zack sought State Department help in getting wife and child out of USSR in 1936, but was unsuccessful. He was threatened with deportation to Czechoslovakia, summer 1938. His wife was apparently arrested in the Ezhovshchina as the relative of an “enemy of the people.” Zack thereafter moved to a position of venomous anti-communism and was friendly witness before the Dies Committee on September 30, 1939. Extreme Right Winger after WWII. Zack died on May Day, 1963. (– Tim Davenport)

Max Shachtman
Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 11 September 2015