Louis F. Budenz

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Louis Francis Budenz
Louis F. Budenz (1947).png
Budenz in 1947

Born (1891-07-17)July 17, 1891
Indianapolis, Indiana
Died April 27, 1972(1972-04-27) (aged 80)
Newport, Rhode Island
Spouse Margaret

Louis Francis Budenz (July 17, 1891 – April 27, 1972) (Pronounced "byew-DENZ") was an American activist and writer, as well as a Soviet espionage agent and head of the Buben group of spies. He began as a labor activist and became a member of the Communist Party USA.[1] In 1945 Budenz renounced Communism and became a vocal anti-Communist, appearing as an expert witness at various governmental hearings and authoring a series of books on his experiences.

Biography[edit]

He was born on July 17, 1891 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Budenz married Gizella Geiss in 1916 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Louis and Gizella adopted a daughter in 1919 named Louise (born in 1917). Louis, wife Gizella and daughter Louise, moved to Rahway, NJ in 1920 where Louis worked for the ACLU (NY). Louis and Gizella were separated in 1931 and divorced in 1938. Budenz married his second wife Margaret Rodgers of Pittsburgh, by whom he had four daughters: Julia, Josephine, Justine and Joanna.

Communist[edit]

He became a member of the National Committee of the Party and from 1935 held various positions at its newspaper, the Daily Worker, where he was eventually promoted to editor. By 1938, he had been arrested more than 20 times. That same year, he became editor of a new Communist daily in Chicago, the Midwest Daily Record, part of a "cross-country alliance of Communist dailies, between the San Francisco People's World...and New York City's...Daily Worker", at a time when there were more than 700 labor papers in America.[2]

Anti-Communist[edit]

In 1945, Budenz renounced Communism, returned to the Roman Catholic Church under the guidance of Fulton Sheen, and became an anti-communist advocate.[3]

Formerly the author of numerous articles and pamphlets in support of Communist causes, after 1945 Budenz wrote several books about the dangers and evils of Communism. He became a professor at Fordham University,[3] a syndicated columnist, and lecturer. In 1947, he wrote an autobiography, This Is My Story.

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Louis Budenz in 1929, as an Executive Secretary of the Conference for Progressive Labor Action.

As early as 1946, Budenz started testifying about other commununists like Gerhart Eisler (former husband of Soviet spy Hede Massing, who would testify in the second trial of the Hiss Case).[4]

Budenz became a paid informant for the FBI (like Elizabeth Bentley and unlike Whittaker Chambers). He testified as an expert witness at various trials of Communists and before many of the Senate and House committees that were formed to investigate Communists. He voluntarily confessed that he had participated in espionage and other efforts on behalf of the Soviet Union, including discussion of the assassination of Leon Trotsky with CPUSA chairman Earl Browder.[5]

By his own estimate, Budenz spent some 3,000 hours explaining the Party's "inner workings" to the FBI, as well as testifying on 33 occasions to various committees. By 1957 he estimated he had earned approximately $70,000 for his expert testimony. Budenz was a witness at the 1949 First Amendment case Dennis v. United States, brought by Eugene Dennis, General Secretary of CPUSA. He was also a key witness in the 1950 hearings before the Tydings Committee, which had been called to investigate charges made by Senator Joseph McCarthy that the State Department had numerous Soviet moles in its employ.

Lattimore testimonies[edit]

In the 1950 Tydings Committee hearings, Budenz testified that Owen Lattimore, one of the so-called "China Hands," was a member of a Communist cell within the Institute of Pacific Relations but not a Soviet agent.[6][7][8] The reliability of his testimony came under question because, in all of his 3,000 hours of debriefing before the FBI (1946–1949), Budenz had never mentioned Lattimore's name.[9] In 1951, Budenz again testified against Lattimore, this time before the hearings of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, headed by Senator Pat McCarran. During this second testimony against Lattimore, Budenz claimed Lattimore was both Soviet agent and secret Communist.

At one point in the late 1940s he testified, according to one account, "that the fact that a man denied he was a Communist might prove he was a communist since all Communists had instructions to deny it."[10]

McCarthy summation[edit]

In 1952, Senator McCarthy praised Budenz for having "testified in practically every case in which Communists were either convicted or deported over the past three years; one of the key witnesses who testified against... Communist leaders."[citation needed]

Death[edit]

Budenz died on April 27, 1972 at Newport Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island.[11][12][13]

Works[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Guide to the Louis F. Budenz papers". Providence College. Retrieved 26 December 2011. Until 1945, Louis F. Budenz was a labor activist and prime supporter of the United States Communist party. 
  2. ^ "The Press: Proletarian Press". Time. 21 February 1938. Retrieved 10 November 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Religion: Recoversion". Time. 22 October 1945. Retrieved 10 November 2010. 
  4. ^ "Communists: The Brain," Time, October 28, 1946.
  5. ^ Affidavit of Louis Budenz, 11 November 1950, American Aspects of the Assassination of Leon Trotsky, U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Un-American Activities, 81st Cong., 2d sess., part I, v–ix
  6. ^ "Investigations: Of Cells and Onionskins". Time. 1 May 1950. Retrieved 10 November 2010. 
  7. ^ "Investigations: In the Dark". Time. 8 May 1950. Retrieved 10 November 2010. 
  8. ^ "Investigations: The Absent-Minded Professor?". Time. 10 March 1952. Retrieved 10 November 2010. 
  9. ^ Cook, Fred J. (1971). The Nightmare Decade: The Life and Times of Senator Joe McCarthy. Random House. p. 244. ISBN 0-394-46270-X. 
  10. ^ Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, Labor's Untold Story, 3rd edition (NY: United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, 1979), 355-6: "As a result of this testimony, Professor Owen D. Lattimore was indicted for perjury after he had sworn he was not a Communist. Budenz added that anything a man said might, as a matter of fact prove he was a Communist since Communist spoke in a queer double-talk, in so-called '"Aesopian' language. Thus, according to Budenz's testimony, if a man said, 'I am not a Communist and I favor peace,' he might really be saying in Aesopian language, 'I am a Communist and I favor war.' With this formula generally acclaimed, no one was safe, least of all the leader of a militant labor center costing employers billions a year in wage raises.”
  11. ^ "Louis Budenz, McCarthy Witness, Dies.". New York Times. April 28, 1972. Retrieved 2008-04-03. Louis F. Budenz, an exCommunist who was a star witness in the 1950's for the late Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, died at Newport Hospital today after a long ... 
  12. ^ "Louis Budenz, Figure in Red Hunt, Dies at 80.". Los Angeles Times. April 28, 1972. Retrieved 2008-04-03. Louis F. Budenz, the former Communist who turned star witness for the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and others in the Red hunting of the early 1950s, died Thursday at Newport Hospital after a... 
  13. ^ "Died". Time magazine. 8 May 1972. Retrieved 10 November 2010. Louis F. Budenz, 80, American Communist leader who turned against the party and informed on his erstwhile comrades; in Newport, R.I. ... 
  14. ^ "Books: The Hidden World". Time. 19 June 1950. Retrieved 10 November 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Chapman, Roger (2001). "Louis Francis Budenz's Journey from the Electric Auto-Lite Strike to the Communist Party and Beyond". Northwest Ohio Quarterly (73): 118–141. 
  • Lichtman, Robert M. (June 2004). "Louis Budenz, the FBI, and the "list of 400 concealed Communists": an extended tale of McCarthy-era informing". American Communist History 3 (1): 25. doi:10.1080/1474389042000215947. 
  • Lichtman, Robert M. and Cohen, Ronald (2004). Deadly Farce: Harvey Matusow and the Informer System in the McCarthy Era. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02886-4. OCLC 224061244. 
  • Olmsted, Kathryn S. (2002). Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-2739-8. OCLC 49320306. 

External links[edit]

Photos from Life magazine[edit]