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Irving Howe

Budenz Reveals GPU Plotted
Trotsky Murder in New York!

(17 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 11, 17 March 1947, pp. 1 & 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Leon Trotsky, the great revolutionary leader, was murdered by the GPU, Stalin’s secret murder gang.

Leon Trotsky’s murder was partly planned and prepared in New York City – in the headquarters of the local section of the GPU and its appendage and servant, the American Communist (Stalinist) Party.

Leon Trotsky’s murder was planned and prepared in New York by the GPU with the aid of the American Communist Party, and among those intimately involved in the preparations were such nationally known leaders of American Stalinism as Earl Browder, Jack Stachel and – Louis Budenz.

These are the sensational revelations spilled from the pen of an ex-Stalinist leader – Louis Budenz, former editor of the Daily Worker and now a convert to the Catholic Church. In his book, This Is My Story (Whittlesey House, $3.00), there appears for the first time part of the inside story of the workings of Stalin’s murder machine in the Western Hemisphere.

Budenz’s book offers inside corroboration of the charges made by the Trotskyist movement, as well as other sections of the socialist and radical world, that the GPU murdered Trotsky; that the GPU murdered innumerable other anti-Stalinist revolutionaries, like Ignace Reiss; that the GPU kidnapped from this country and probably murdered such dissatisfied tools of its apparatus as Julia Stuart Poyntz.; and that the GPU ruled and still rules with an iron hand the American Communist Party, whose “leaders” cringe and tremble like slaves before these secret agents of the Kremlin.

Though these facts were known before and proved in many ways, Budenz’s testimony is the first evidence from inside the top American Stalinist circles, and is therefore mighty valuable despite our detestation for Budenz’s career as a Stalinist bureaucrat.

In this article we shall present in detail the revelations made By Budenz, quoting his account where necessary. Let us begin with the most important revelation: that the murder of Trotsky was partly prepared in New York City by the GPU add the Stalinist Party leadership, in which Budenz himself played a key role.

In this story of the New York Stalinists’ role in the preparations for Trotsky’s murder, Louis Budenz himself, despite his attempts now to hide behind the skirts of “Mary Immaculate, Patroness of our Beloved Land,” to whom the book is dedicated, played an important part. Budenz had at one time been associated with leftwing anti-Stalinist groups – the Conference for Progressive Labor Action and the American Workers Party in the early thirties – and when he joined the Stalinists in 1935 he was therefore of special value to them as an “anti-Trotskyist specialist.” Not long afterward Budenz was enmeshed in the GPU apparatus as a tool who provided it with special information about the Trotskyists. As Budenz describes it:

“If was rather early in my party career that I was summoned to meet members of the Soviet secret police ... The telephone on my desk rang imperatively. The call was from Jack Stachel on the ninth floor. I was wanted ‘at a conference’ there.”

Budenz, accordingly, went to a nearby restaurant where he met “a well-built individual of about 40” who was introduced to him as “Friend Richards.” Richards, says Budenz, had an obviously Russian accent.

“As we ate together, Richards quietly told me his purpose in seeing me. His commission was to investigate the condition of the Social Democrats, and to determine who among them and what Trotskyites and ’fascists’ were making organized efforts to enter the Soviet Union ...

“... But where did I fit info an enterprise for the protection of the Soviet Union against plotters? I was readily told. I was to collect all the data I had on enemies of the Soviet Union within the Left of labor ranks, and specifically the Trotskyists. Their names were to be given and everything else about them that might be pertinent to this inquiry. Particular attention was to be paid those who did much traveling, especially abroad. If I could learn where they went or were reputed to have gone, so much the better. Could my report be ready by the following Monday, three days hence?”

In this way, then, was Budenz sucked into the GPU’s grasp. Was he really so naive to believe that the GPU wanted this information to prevent plots – at the very time that it was engaged in a campaign to murder all dissidents and was concocting the frame-up Moscow trials? Probably not; whatever else, Budenz gives little evidence of naivete. In any case, that is his weak excuse for having consented to serve the GPU.

After that, Budenz held regular appointments with the GPU. Their agents changed, from “Richards” to “Michaels” to “Roberts” but the procedure was the same. The original agent, “Richards,” returned and asked Budenz what he knew about the national executive board of the Socialist Party. To the best of his ability, Budenz sketched the members of that board as he knew them.

It should be remembered that at the time the American Trotskyists were in the Socialist Party; therefore the GPU agent’s question was not merely connected with the Socialist Party, but with the plans the GPU was hatching against Trotsky and his followers.

The Chain That Leads to Trotsky’s Murder

For several years Budenz continued to act the informer against the American revolutionists in behalf of Stalin’s murder machine. His usefulness to the GPU increased. When a new and more skillful GPU agent, “Roberts,” was assigned to work with him, Budenz broadened the scope of his work. Thus he carefully notes that his was not “a menial task.” Such tasks as peeking through keyholes and searching mailboxes were reserved for others. Budenz’s job was to get facts “about persons, dates and addresses” as directed by Roberts. To get them he went “into the highways and byways of New York and picked them up in casual conversation.”

“Roberts” who knew his business, soon had Budenz snooping around and picking up all sorts of material. This activity was known to the then leaders of the American CP, Browder and Stachel, who even helped Budenz. It should be noted that Budenz was a mere tool; he never knew what happened with the information he provided, tb whom it went; he was a mere wretched snooper in the service of a murder machine.

After a while “Roberts” showed him some’ photographs and lists of names. Among these was that of a young woman named Sylvia Ageloff, later to play the role of a tragically duped victim of the GPU in the Trotsky murder. Let us quote this section from Budenz; we are getting to the central point:

“Photographs, too, came Into his (‘Roberts’ – I.H.) field of inquiry ... Then he inquired about certain names on lists, which he said were ‘Trotskyite couriers.’ ... Another was Sylvia Ageloff, whose name became widely known as the woman Who brought Leon Trotsky’s assassin, ‘Frank Jacson,’ into Mexico.”

It was not an accident that “Roberts” mentioned Miss Ageloff to Budenz. For a little while later, writes Budenz –

“Roberts startled me by asking that I bring Miss Y, a young woman who he had learned was a friend of Sylvia Ageloff, ‘the Trotskyist courier.’ I had known Miss Y in the CYLA (Conference for Progressive Labor Action) and had been aware that she seemed to know both certain Trotskyites and certain Stalinists. I Was not sure about her fealty, but Roberts had apparently checked and seemed assured that she was loyal,’ though she had never done undercover work before, that was why he wanted me to introduce her to him. I complied with his request.”

The web of intrigue is now clear, is it not? The GPU had cleverly fixed on Miss Ageloff as a possible dupe through whom access might be secured to the Trotsky household. It knew, further, that this Miss Y, whose name is really Ruby Weil (Budenz hides her identity for reasons of his own private convenience ...) was acquainted with Miss Ageloff. Accordingly it planned to use Ruby Weil as a means of bringing Miss Ageloff and the GPU agent, “Jacson,” Trotsky’s assassin, together. Thereby “Jacson” was able to assume a false pose as her friend, and gained entry into Trotsky’s house.

In this plot Budenz played a key role. It was he who brought the GPU and Ruby Weil together! It was he who gave the GPU this invaluable contact! It is he who, along with others of Stalin’s GPU, has the blood of Leon Trotsky on his hands!

Budenz puts the matter very bluntly:

“I learned that this quiet-voiced, grave-faced, intelligent man (‘Roberts’) had arranged the preliminaries for one of the greatest political assassinations of recent years. He had served his Soviet masters well, using many innocent people in the process and calmly abusing their confidence. If was a first-class instance of the ruthlessness with which the Soviet machine will use people for its ends and then leave them shattered and uncertain to face as they may the consequences of Soviet plots and gangster acts. So far as I could piece that plot together, several unsuspecting persons were left high and dry in this very fashion. Even I did not dream that this mild-mannered man, so preoccupied with ‘defending the Soviet Unibn,’ was engaged in such a fantastic fatality as was to be staged in Mexico City.

“And that is the story of the killing of Leon Trotsky. In 1940 and 1941 the Miss Y whom I had brought to Roberts ... was severely ill with tuberculosis and confined to various convalescent homes. I had not seen her for many months, but before going away she had looked me up and hurriedly told me part of the stdry ... Roberts gradually got her to establish close connections with the Trotskyites, including a trip to Paris-to attend a Trotskyite ‘congress.’

“... she was persuaded by NKVD (GPU – I.H.) people in Paris (if I remember correctly, the agent then was another woman) to introduce ‘Frank Jacson’ as a Belgian count to Sylvia Ageloff ... who promptly fell in love with him. It was later disclosed that through her he became accepted by the Trotskyites and was smuggled into Mexico, where he gained admission to the Trotsky household. He was the man who murdered the former Soviet leader.”

There, then, is the story of the Trotsky murder. A crack has taken place in the GPU-Stalinist machine; one of its flunkies, Louis Budenz, has told some of the dirt he knows (we are ready to state that he knows a good deal more about the Stalinist machine, but that he does not talk for reasons of his own). And the truth is then that Trotsky’s murder was planned in New York City by the GPU in conjunction with the American Stalinist leaders.

GPU’s Implication Can No Longer Be Doubted

No one can doubt this any more. A formerly highly-placed leader of the American CP, Louis Budenz, former editor of the Daily Worker and member of the CP National Committee, has told part of the inside story. Now all the feeble alibis of the Stalinist gangsters that Trotsky’s murderer was a disaffected follower, that Jacson murdered Trotsky for personal reasons are shown to be the desperate lies they were.

The blood of Trotsky rests on the hands of Stalin and his GPU!

The blood of Trotsky rests on the hands of Louis Budenz, of Earl Browder, of Jack Stachel, of the entire Stalinisf-GPU Mafia!

Let the facts be known. Let them be spread far and wide. The truth is vindicated by one of the guilty tools of the assassins himself. The headquarters of the American Communist Party at 35 East 12th Street, New York, is not a workers’ headquarters; it is the center from, which reactionary Stalinism plans and prepares the murders of the revolutionary socialists, of its great Marxist opponents like Trotsky ...

This is the story of the murder of, Leon Trotsky, as told by Louis Budenz, one of the men responsible for that murder.

Book Discloses Other Murders

Though the most sensational disclosure of Bddenz’s book is his account of the preparations for Trotsky’s murder, there are many other valuable pieces of information in it. Ignace Reiss was a GPU agent who in 1936 broke from his masters and solidarized himself with the Fourth International. Shortly afterwards he was murdered in Switzerland. This murder, the Trotskyists conclusively demonstrated, was organized by the GPU itself. Budenz confirms this charge to the hilt, confirms further that the leaders of American Stalinism – those totally depraved and corrupted creatures – knew the truth about the Reiss murder.

Budenz writes:

“On another occasion Comrade H (Clarence Hathaway, former editor of the Daily Worker – I.H.) made some interesting comments or confessions regarding Ignatz Maria Reiss. That faithful Red and member of the conspiratorial apparatus for the Communist international had suddenly gone sour on his Cl work, disillusioned by the cruelty of the gangster apparatus. He was kidnapped and liquidated In France, and the evidence pointed overwhelmingly to the Soviet secret police. The New Republic chose to say as much and to make a bitter assault on Soviet assassination methods ... I suggested we reply to it.

“Comrade H said this was ‘impossible’ and he stressed the word ... I was stubborn and persisted in raising the question ...

“Comrade H took me aside then, and said, ‘Don’t you know what you’re doing? You are raising a question which we will not deal with under any circumstances. This Reiss case is closed so far as we are concerned. We have received definite instructions not to mention it, no matter what happens. The facts won’t stand discussion.

“Even then, I said, being somewhat chastened: ‘Frame-Up, eh?’ And he replied, ‘That’s it ...’”


Another instance of long-discussed Stalinist terror is cleared up by Budenz. That is the Julia Stuart Poyntz case. Poyntz was, in Budenz’s words:

“A prominent member of the Communist Party and was a part of the conspiratorial apparatus, but just before her disappearance, she had begun to differ with that group. The member of the Political Committee whom we shall call Comrade H (Clarence Hathaway – I.H.) advised me, almost in so many words, that she had been ‘liquidated’ by the Soviet secret police.”

Later Budenz had a further conversation with Hathaway, during which Hathaway told him about the Poyntz case:

“‘Well,’ he drawled, ‘that is hot cargo, that case. We never want to allude to it in our press or touch on anything that might lead to a discussion of it. It’s hot cargo, mind you, and it could cause serious trouble in the undercover.’ Then he caught himself short and made a meaningless joke. And a year or two later, when we were discussing a further development of this case, he was even more emphatic.”

Has Budenz told all he knows? We doubt it very much. What, for instance, does Budenz know about the murders of Rudolph Element and Erwin Wolf, European Trotskyists who were victims of the GPU? What does he know about the present apparatus of the GPU in America? Let him name names! Labor Action has in editorials reprinted in this issue demanded that Budenz spill all the facts he knows about the insidious workings of the Stalinists, not to the FBI, but to the labor movement which must be the main force to smash Stalinism. He has told a lot. But is that all he knows?

Striking Picture of Life in CP

If the most striking aspect of Budenz’s book is his revelations about the GPU murder machine, his picture of the inner life of the American Stalinist Party is also of great importance.

From Budenz’s book one gets an almost incredible picture of internal totalitarianization, of cringing and debased personalities known to the outside world as leaders of the American Stalinist Party but in reality mere flunkies of the GPU and the Kremlin.

This article is already much too long, so we shall not give too many details. But we wish to urge every one to read this, book, provided they have rather strong stomachs. Budenz, for instance, tells the story of the downfall of Clarence Hathaway. That unfortunate person was at one time editor of the Daily Worker and a top figure in American Stalinism. Yet Budenz reports an incident in which a GPU man, “Edwards,” stormed into the Worker’s editorial office to berate Hathaway. “Edwards” told Hathaway off in no uncertain terms, and Hathaway swallowed it quietly, smiling a little shamefacedly.

Later on Hathaway became cynical and as Budenz reports:

“Once, in the rear of a National Committee meeting, he had suddenly whispered: ‘Even such wise men as Browder and Stachel get their orders how to think from abroad. Their “lines” are not self-starting.’ When I looked up quizzically, he laughed rather vacuously and became stone silent.”

Budenz paints a picture of the intrigue in the National Committee of the CP at the time of the downfall of Browder and the reemergence of Foster that is fascinating in a macabre sort of way. All of Browder’s former adulators – especially Eugene Dennis, present party secretary, who had been the foremost hosanna-singer for Browder – were afraid to talk to him in the CP building. A few, like Roy Hudson, tried to make peace by persuading Browder to capitulate, but they too fell into line when Foster made it clear that he had the backing of Moscow.

For three or four weeks Budenz reveals, Browder tried desperately to readjust himself to the new line. He believed for a while that Moscow would come to his rescue. The new line had come in a special letter from Joseph Starobin, Daily Worker foreign editor, who was then attending the opening sessions of the United Nations. Starobin was handed the line there by Dmitri Manuilsky, Stalinist delegate to the UN. Browder believed that his line would be backed up by Stalin and therefore refused to go along with Manuilsky. He paid for his mistake.

The sessions of the National Committee meetings of the American CP are vividly described by Budenz. Were there not overwhelming evidence. from other sources and were not Budenz a personal participant, it would be difficult to believe that such sycophancy, such knee-scraping, such debasement of personality and dignity is possible even in the Stalinist party. When Browder was in favor, his entrance into a National Committee meeting evoked a half hour of applause. When he was in disfavor, no one said hello to him.

That, then, is the picture of American Stalinism.

And a Word About Mr. Budenz Himself

A word, perhaps, should be said about Budenz himself. This wretched hypocrite now pretends that he was always on the verge of religious conversion, even during his years as a Stalinist. Such acclaim is, of course, nonsense; it is an attempt at retrospective whitewash.

But to the revolutionary movement, to every honest person in fact, Budenz presents a totally nauseating spectacle. Here is a man who knew the truth about the Trotsky murder, the Reiss murder, the Poyntz kidnapping, for at least six years – and said nothing. Today he preaches morality ... Here is a man who even in this book, written under the Catholic canopy, continues – the habit is in his blood – to spread such infamous slanders as that the German Trotskyists were prison guards for Hitler, even though he knows full well that the German Trotskyists were among the first to be murdered and imprisoned by Hitler. It is to be observed that here Budenz speaks not from personal knowledge, but from hearsay, based on vague authorities whose animating motive is hatred of revolutionary socialism.

Here is a man who served as the finger for the GPU, pointing out dissidents, checking on prospective GPU agents, obtaining information for the Stalinist Mafia. And today he splutters with Hail Marys oh every page.

Here is a man who was responsible in part for the murder of the greatest revolutionary socialist of our time, a figure of titanic heroism and unmatched intellect, a man who kept alive the Socialist flame in the darkest days – Leon Trotsky. And this willing pawn of murderers dares talk about morality ...

But enough about Budenz. He has merely transferred from one totalitarian allegiance to another.


The central task in connection with this book remains. Budenz has spilled the facts, the Stalinist monolithic wall has cracked. The truth is out on the murder of Leon Trotsky.

Let us spread these facts far and wide until every worker, every human being knows the truth about Stalinism – this machine of murder, counter-revolution and totalitarian despotism.

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