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All Trails Lead to Stalinist Camp
in the Robinson-Rubens Case

(15 January 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 3, 15 January 1938, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

While the U.S. State Department and the Moscow Foreign Office continued playing their respective games, chiefly in the dark, revelations of the past week cast new light on the mysterious case of the “Robinson”-Rubens who “disappeared” early in December in Moscow. Washington, having established to its satisfaction that Mrs. “Robinson” is also Mrs. Rubens and an American citizen, asked Moscow for information, as to her whereabouts; Moscow showed no haste in replying.

Indications are that Washington, now aided by a Federal “passport racket” Grand Jury in New York, continues to make life hot for certain retiring 200-per cent Americans uncovered as a result of the breaking of the “Robinson”-Rubens affair. Combined with the news of the utter and unexplained disappearance of Juliet Stuart Poyntz, leading Stalinist who withdrew from public political work several years ago and is rumored to have been close to the G.P.U. Federal probing is apparently disturbing some of the ultra-exclusive sections of these doubly-patriotic circles.

Washington Hesitant

While its secret agents use the present rosy opportunity to make American sub-soil safe for a Washington monopoly on the underground, the State Department appears to be hesitating between two alternative policies: to play in with the Stalinist frame-up underlying the “Robinson”-Rubens mystery in order to crucify not only the “Trotskyites” but all opponents of an alliance to make the world safe for democracy by a People’s War Front – or to expose the international frame-up apparatus in order to crucify Stalinism and discredit the Russian Revolution in the eyes of those who identify it with the bloody reaction of Joseph Stalin.

Forced to postpone the projected “confession” trial of the “Robinson”-Rubens, who were imported to Moscow to tell fairy tales about “Trotskyites”-Japanese plotting and espionage in California, Mexico and elsewhere in North America, Moscow can use the interim to put added polish on its frame-up hoping that if Vishinsky ever gets Washington’s O.K., he will be able to offer something better than non-existent airplanes and extinct hotels. On the other hand, fearful that Washington may decide to recommend that no trial be held, Moscow is preparing to unload the whole affair. Hence the inspired rumors from Moscow that Mrs. Rubens is free and out of the U.S.S.R. Hence, also, Moscow’s extreme reluctance to say anything about any aspect of the affair.

One newspaper reports that a Moscow official declared that “this is a very unfortunate case,” and no doubt the G.P.U. shares his sentiments. Otherwise Moscow says nothing, and the Daily Worker follows its lead. The Stalinists have even abandoned the public aspect of what some Washington informants of a World-Telegram reporter recently called their “build-tip” of the idea that American “Trotskyites” have something to do with the “Robinson”-Rubenses.

This retreat into “dignified” silence is made by the Stalinists in Moscow and here despite the succession of revelations which last week pointed a finger sharply at the C.P.U.S.A. as being located close to the center of the “Robinson”-Rubens affair. To these revelations, the Daily Worker offers not one denial, despite the fact that, were they in a position to do so, they could roundly denounce all who have pointed the finger at them, including the Appeal, Eugene Lyons of the New Leader, and reporters on the Scripps-Howard press and the N.Y. Daily News.

The following facts – and questions they inspire – are of interest:

1. Mrs. Rubens’ relatives regarded her and her husband as Stalinists; Mr. Rubens had no known occupation but enough money to run an expensive car, hire servants, travel abroad, etc.

2. In applying for birth-certificates in the names of long-dead children, the “Robinsons” (presumably the identical couple) used an address which housed several members of the C.P.

3. In applying for passports the couple worked through one Max Shaw (still presumably unlocated) and one Arthur or Aaron Sharfin. Is Max Shaw also the Marshall Shaw who was a member of the Friends of the Soviet Union in 1933 and who sold so many copies of Soviet Russia Today that his picture was printed on page 18 of the December issue of that year? What was Max Shaw’s exact relation to the “Robinson”-Rubens? Is Sharfin also the Arthur Sharfin or Shafrin who in 1933 was a member of the C.P., New York District. Section 15 (mid-Bronx) and who was active in unemployed work at the Unemployed Councils at 1400 Boston Road and on Claremont Parkway?

Phony Passport Links

4. Sharfin apparently passed the phony passport application to one Zukerman, who passed it to one Katz, who passed it to one Schwartz, who passed it to Al Marinelli, then New York County Clerk. Marinelli, apparently, was connected only with Tammany and not with the Kremlin. Just what were the motives of Zukerman, Katz and Schwartz in helping put through the phony applications is not yet clear.

5. Marinelli certified the passport applications, which then went to the State Department at Washington. The Department made out two passports for the “Robinsons” and one for Mr. Rubens. (Mrs. Rubens, an American citizen, got the passport in her own name in the prescribed legal way.)

6. The “Robinson” passports were ordered by the applicants to be sent to the address of an organization called the Drama Travel League. Miss Isabel Walsh, a worker in that office, has identified pictures of Mrs. Robinson as those of a nervous woman who once came into the office looking for Miss Helen Ravitch, the manager. Miss Ravitch, despite her denials, has been identified as the person who signed the post office receipt for the Robinson passports.

It is not known what if any personal connections Miss Ravitch has with Stalinist organizations, but her husband, Dr. Solon Bernstein, has been proven to be physician to William Z. Foster and to the Stalinist International Workers Order.

7. The “Robinson”-Rubens then utilized their passports to go to Moscow and to register there under the name of “Robinson” about three months after the world press had announced that all American tourists named Robinson were being barred from the U.S.S.R.

We have here a fairly well defined chain. Somewhere in the middle is Al Marinelli, who apparently certified the passport applications out of the same good-heartedness which caused him to resign his job rather than put the finger on a lot of shady characters tied up with his political organization. Also in the middle are a couple of petty Tammany errand boys, and the U.S. Department of State, which issued the passports apparently as a matter of routine on Marinelli’s say-so.

At the two ends of the chain, however, the picture is very different. At one end is the Sharfin-Shaw combination, and at the other, is the Ravitch-Bernstein combination.

Links to Stalinists

Thus, it appears that the Robinson-Rubens had the assistance of Stalinists or people quite close to the Stalinists in starting the process of applying for the phony passports and in completing the process of receiving the phony passports.

If public knowledge of facts of this kind increases without the help of the State Department and even despite the State Department, Scr’y Hull may, in the end, decide to advise Moscow to bury the whole affair, along with a couple of people now in Lubianka Prison. It will nevertheless remain clear that the Robinson-Rubens affair was a Stalinist concoction whose object, as the many not so coy hints in the Stalinist and Hearst press in the first days of the affair indicated, was to frame up the international opposition to Stalin’s People’s Totalitarian War Front.

If, however, Stalin finds it desirable to go through with the frame-up, one may expect the “Robinson”-Rubens to attempt to tie themselves to the Trotskyites by introducing into the chain described above a couple of hand-forged links which the world will be asked to accept as “Trotskyite connections”. Only the G.P.U. dramatists who have written the “Robinson”-Rubens “confessions” know today at just what point they have planned to introduce those “links.” One may doubt that the G.P.U. ever had any intention of accusing Al Marinelli of being in favor of the permanent revolution. A more likely attempt would be to fish around in peripheral puddles in an effort to find some political poly-wog who, after a little treatment by the Stalinist and allied propaganda experts, might seem to have developed into a Trotskyite-Bukharinite-Fascist-Gestapo-wrecker-spy-saboteur-assassin frog of considerable proportions.

I have mentioned two possibilities: one, that Stalin will try to bury the whole affair, another, that he will try to go through with the frame-up. In either case, the G.P.U. and its friends are due for an unpleasant time.

Whatever the State Department and the Federal Grand Jury decide to reveal about the affair, the termination of the whole business will be an even more glaring exposé of Stalinist frame-up methods than resulted from the infamous Moscow Trials. Not a day passes but that several workers visit the Appeal office with information bearing on the “Robinson”-Rubens affair. Some aspects – particularly the fate of the central figures in Moscow- – are still completely dark. But readers of the Appeal may expect startling revelations in a very short time. Needless to say, they will be of a character which will make no headlines in the Daily Worker.

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