Max Shachtman

Correspondence with Attorney General’s Office

ISL Fights to Take WP
Off ‘Subversive List’

(April 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 19, 9 May 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed &anp; marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Attorney General Tom C. Clark was called upon to remove the name of the Workers Party, left-wing socialist organization, from the “subversive list” issued by the office of the attorney general, in a letter sent to Mr. Clark by Max Shachtman, national chairman of the Independent Socialist League.

In the letter, Shachtman, former chairman of the Workers Party, protested against the inclusion of that group in a list of fascist, totalitarian and Communist organizations with which, he declares, the Workers Party has never had anything in common.

The letter points out that the recent national convention of the Workers Party voted to dissolve that organization and to establish the Independent Socialist League. The letter states that while this change of the organization was not made because the Workers Party had been listed by the attorney general, it did not mean an abandonment of previous efforts to have the name of the Workers Party removed from the subversive list.

The text of the letter to the attorney general follows:

ISL Letter to Attorney General

Tom C. Clark, Attorney General
Department of Justice
Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir:

I have been instructed to inform you that the Fifth National Convention of the Workers Party, which has just concluded its sessions, adopted a resolution declaring that the Workers Party is dissolved and no longer exists. The primary reason for this decision, as set forth in the resolution, was that the Workers Party, in spite of its name, is not a political party in the full sense of the term but a group whose purpose is to popularize the ideas of socialism, including the idea of the formation by the American trade unions of a national Labor Party. Accordingly, the resolution provided for the immediate establishment of an organization to be known as the Independent Socialist League, in the capacity of National Chairman of which I am addressing this letter to you.

As Attorney General of the United States, you saw fit to include the Workers Party on the list of “subversive organizations” made public by your office. Following the publication of this list, I addressed a letter to your office protesting the inclusion of the name of the Workers Party and requesting that arrangements be made by you for a hearing at which we would propose the removal of the Workers Party from the list after we had been supplied with the exact nature of the charges levelled against the Workers Party and the nature of the evidence adduced to sustain the charges. In reply, your office informed me that this information could not be supplied. It was obvious that there could be no point in holding a hearing without making this information available.

Now, although the convention of the Workers Party has voted to dissolve the organization and to establish the Independent Socialist League in its place, I wish to make it clear that this decision in no wise signifies the abandonment of our desire and determination to secure the removal of the name of the Workers Party from the list of “subversive organizations.” To continue listing the Workers Party, along with a number of reactionary and totalitarian organizations with which it has and can have nothing in common, is not only a gross injustice and a flagrant infringement upon democratic rights, but also maintains a basis for the persecution and discrimination practiced against political opponents from which real or alleged members and sympathizers of the Workers Party have already suffered.

In the name of the Independent Socialist League, I therefore request you again to take the steps required for removing the name of the Workers Party from the “subversive list.” I reiterate my readiness to give more detailed justification of this request at any fair hearing of the case which your office may arrange to hold.


Yours truly,
Max Shachtman
National Chairman
Independent Socialist League


Reply by Attorney General

April 28, 1949

Mr. Max Shachtman
National Chairman
Independent Socialist League

Dear Mr. Shachtman:

This will acknowledge your letter of April 19, 1949, addressed to the Attorney General.

Executive Order No. 9835 contains no warrant or authority for disclosing the bases upon which the designations made pursuant thereto were formulated. The designations were made after careful consideration of the available information, and in the circumstances your request for removal of the Workers Party from the list of organizations declared to come within the scope of Executive Order No. 9835 must be denied.


For the Attorney General
(Signed) Alexander M. Campbell
Asst. Attorney General

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