Bolesław Konstanty "Bill" Gebert (22 July 1895 – 13 February 1986) was a top Communist Party official, remembered as one of the organization's top Polish-language speaking leaders. He was a Soviet agent during the years of World War II and was an official of the Polish Communist government after the war.
Bolesław Konstantin Gebert was born July 22, 1895 in the Tykocin the Białystok area, near the current border of Poland and Belarus. His father was a peasant of German-Jewish extraction, his mother an ethnic Pole.
Gebert immigrated from Poland to the United States prior to the Russian Revolution and found work as a miner. He was an active member of the Socialist Party of America working in the SPA's Polish Federation by 1915. He took part in the creation of the Kosciuszko League. Gebert was active in the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party In 1919 and a founding member of the Communist Party of America (CPA), and edited a Polish socialist newspaper. He was arrested in the Palmer Raids at the end of 1919 but was not deported. He was named to the governing Central Executive Committee of the CPA as an ostensible representative of the Polish Communist Federation in the wake of the deportation of Polish leader Daniel Elbaum in 1920.
Gebert was in Detroit, Michigan by 1920, where he was editor of the three primary Polish-language publications: Głos Robotniczy (Workers' Voice), Trybuna Robotnicza (The Workers' Tribune), and Głos Ludowy (People's Voice).
As well as working in his editorial capacity, Gebert was the Secretary of the Polish Bureau of the Workers (Communist) Party and was a fraternal delegate to the party's 6th National Convention, held in New York City in March 1929.
In 1932, Gebert was a founder of the Polonia Society from the existing Polish-language section of the International Workers Order (IWO), an organization for which he remained as a national officer. He also served in the first half of the 1930s as District Organizer of the CPUSA's Chicago and Pittsburgh districts. Louis F. Budenz wrote of a conflict between Gebert and Morris Childs, District Organizer for Illinois, over Gebert's intrusion into Chicago and, in particular, over a "Czech comrade who was doing vital underground work for Gebert."
In 1936 he went to work for the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in charge of efforts to organize fraternal organizations of foreign-born Americans. As such, Gebert organized a conference of said organizations in Pittsburgh at the end of 1936 — a gathering attended by 447 representatives of various national origins. The gather was addressed by Phillip Murray and greeted by John L. Lewis of the SWOC.
Gebert was a frequent contributor to the theoretical monthly of the CPUSA, The Communist, between the years 1933 and 1939.
Gebert appears in nine intercepted KGB messages between May and October 1944. Gebert was the contact of fellow Soviet agent, Oskar Lange, a Polish economist who was a personal emissary from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Joseph Stalin on the "Polish question". Another Venona message reports Gebert's demand for a $500 balance the KGB still owed him on a one thousand dollar contract to publish a Polish-language book.
After World War II, Gebert returned to the now Communist-dominated Poland, where he assumed a leading position in the state-controlled labor unions. From 1949 to 1950, Gebert was Secretary of the World Peace Council and from 1950 to 1957, the editor of Glosu Pracy.
Death and legacy
Bill Gebert died in 1986. He was survived by his wife, Krystyna Poznanska-Gebert (1916–1991), and was the father of three children: a daughter and a son, Konstanty Gebert (born 1953) Polish journalist.
- Robbie Terman, Finding Aid for the Don Binkowski Papers, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 2008.
- Russian State Archive for Socio-Political History (RGASPI), fond 515, opis 1, delo 1600, list 11. Available on microfilm as "Files of the Communist Party of the USA in the Comintern Archives," IDC Publishers, reel 122.
- Randi Stroch's Red Chicago: American Communism at Its Grassroots, 1928-35 refers to Bill Gebert in 1931 as "Chicago's leading Communist Party official" (pg. 31), which is an accurate description of the District Organizer's role as supervisor, dues collector, cheerleader, and the conduit of directives from the party center.
- Fraser M. Ottanelli, The Communist Party of the United States: From the Depression to World War II. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991. Page 143. Ottanelli erroneously refers to Bill Gebert's first name as "William."
- Fraser M. Ottanelli, The Communist Party of the United States: From the Depression to World War II, pp. 143-144.
- According to Joel Seidman's 1969 Communism in the United States — A Bibliography, Bill Gebert published articles in the following issues of The Communist: August, September, December 1933; July 1934; September 1935; January, March, June, August 1936; May, October 1937; February 1938; May 1939. Gebert's contributions seem to have ceased abruptly at this juncture.
- Bolesław Gebert's cover name, as assigned by Soviet intelligence and deciphered in Venona project transcripts, was ATAMAN. Gebert was a contact of the mysterious unidentified KHAN (also SELIM KHAN). Gebert is referenced in the following Venona decrypts: 700 KGB New York to Moscow, 17 May 1944; 759–760 KGB New York to Moscow, 27 May 1944; 761 KGB New York to Moscow, 27 May 1944; 763 KGB New York to Moscow, 29 May 1944; 823 KGB New York to Moscow, 7 June 1944; 928 KGB New York to Moscow, 1 July 1944; 956, 957 KGB New York to Moscow, 6 July 1944; 1229 KGB New York to Moscow, 29 August 1944; 1410 KGB New York to Moscow, 6 October 1944.
Books and pamphlets
- Factionalism -- the enemy of the auto workers (with William Weinstone) Detroit, Communist Party of Michigan 1938
- New Poland. Introduction by Arthur Upham Pope. New York: Polonia Society of the International Workers Order, 1945.
- Polacy w amerykańskich związkach zawodowych : notatki i wspomnienia. Kraków: n.p., 1976.
- Z Tykocina Za Ocean (From Tykocin Beyond the Ocean). Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1982. —Autobiography.
- "Trotskyism, Vanguard of the Counter-revolutionary Bourgeoisie," The Communist, vol. 13, no. 1 (January 1934), pp. 62–71.
- "Check-Up on Control Tasks in the Chicago District," The Communist, vol. 13, no. 7 (July 1934), pp. 711–717.
- "The General Strike in Terre Haute," The Communist, vol. 14, no. 9 (September 1935), pp. 800–810.
- "Our Tasks in Developing Activity Within the Company Unions," The Communist, vol. 15, no. 1 (January 1936), pp. 47–57.
- "The United Mine Workers' Union Convention," The Communist, vol. 15, no. 3 (March 1936), pp. 211–219.
- "The Steel Workers Give Their Mandate for Organization," The Communist, vol. 15, no. 6 (June 1936), pp. 498–507.
- "Smashing Through Barriers to the Organization of the Steel Workers," The Communist, vol. 15, no. 8 (August 1936), pp. 759–768.
- FBI Venona file
- Budenz, Louis, Men Without Faces: The Communist Conspiracy In America. New York: Harper, 1950, pgs. 55–58, 60–61, 252.
- Haynes, John Earl and Klehr, Harvey, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, pgs. 234, 235, 239.
- Klehr, Harvey, The Heyday of American Communism: The Depression Decade. New York: Basic Books, 1984.
- Ottanelli, Fraser M., The Communist Party of the United States: From the Depression to World War II. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991.
- Storch, Randi, Red Chicago: American Communism at its Grassroots, 1928-35. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2007.
- "W Polsce nie jestem sam" (I Do Not Feel Alone in Poland), an interview with Robert Mazurek, "Przekroj," Issue 28, 2010. http://www.przekroj.pl/ludzie_rozmowy_artykul,7197.html?print=1