Bella Dodd (née Visono; 1904 – 29 April 1969) was a member of the Communist Party of America (CPUSA) in the 1930s and 1940s who later became a vocal anti-communist. After her defection from the Communist Party in 1949, she testified that one of her jobs, as a Communist agent, was to encourage young radicals to enter Roman Catholic seminaries.
She was born in Picerno, Basilicata, Kingdom of Italy in 1904 and baptized Maria Assunta Isabella. In 1917, she entered Evander Childs High School. Four years later, after winning a state scholarship, she attended Hunter College, where she received an A.B., developed an interest in social issues and drifted into agnosticism. She did her master's studies at Columbia University working toward a doctorate in philosophy then switched to the legal division. Later, she graduated from the School of Law at New York University where she received a Degree of Doctor of Jurisprudence.
A schoolteacher and lawyer by profession, Dodd was an organizer for the CPUSA from 1932–1948, and from 1944 to '48 sat on the CPUSA's National Council. She also served as head of the New York State Teachers Union.
She was expelled from the CPUSA in 1949. Ostensibly, she was expelled for representing a landlord in a legal dispute with a renter, which was a violation of Party bylaws against recognition or defense of the right to private property. However, Dodd's expulsion from the Party was part of a larger purge following the ouster of Earl Browder as the CPUSA's General Secretary.
According to Harvey Klehr, "The American Federation of Teachers' Local 5 in New York, the union's largest affiliate, was [Communist] Party stronghold. Its vice president, Dale Zysman, was a Communist who used the pen name of Jack Hardy," of whom Dodd was a close associate. In Dodd's memoir, she states: "We had one man in the [Teachers] Union who was so talented that he was regarded as the Stalin of the Union -- Dale Zysman, also known as Jack Hardy."
Testimony and the Catholic Church
Dodd testified before the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). She said: "In the 1930s we put eleven hundred men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within. The idea was for these men to be ordained, and then climb the ladder of influence and authority as Monsignors and Bishops"
Dodd told Alice von Hildebrand that:
When she was an active party member, she had dealt with no fewer than four cardinals within the Vatican who were working for us, [i.e. the Communist Party]|Christian Order magazine, "The Church in Crisis", reprinted from The Latin Mass magazine.
Dodd made a public affidavit which was witnessed by a number of people, including Paul and Johnine Leininger.
In her public affidavit, among other things, Dodd stated: "In the late 1920’s and 1930’s, directives were sent from Moscow to all Communist Party organizations. In order to destroy the [Roman] Catholic Church from within, party members were to be planted in seminaries and within diocesan organizations... I, myself, put some 1,200 men in [Roman] Catholic seminaries."
von Hildebrand confirmed that Dodd had publicly stated the same things to which she attested in her public affidavit.
In 1953, she testified before the US Senate about widespread Party infiltration of labor unions and other institutions. On March 11, 1953, The New York Times ran a front-page article entitled "Bella Dodd Asserts Reds Got Presidential Advisory Posts." The article reported that Dodd "swore before the Senate Internal Security subcommittee today that Communists had got into many legislative offices of Congress and into a number of groups advising the President of the United States." The New York Times reported on March 8, 1954 that Bella Dodd "...warned yesterday that the 'materialistic philosophy,' [i.e., dialectical materialism ] which she said was now guiding public education, would eventually demoralize the nation."
In 1968, Dodd made an unsuccessful attempt to become a member of the US Congress as a candidate of the New York Conservative Party; she lost by a significant margin. She came in last place with 3% of the vote, against Democratic incumbent Leonard Farbstein (easily reelected with 53%), Donald Weeden (Republican), Ralph Denat (Liberal), and David McReynolds (Peace and Freedom).
- Dodd, Bella (1954). "CHAPTER ONE". School of Darkness. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons.
- Obituaries, The Pittsburgh Press (archived at Google), 30 April 1969: "Dr. Bella V. Dodd...died in New York yesterday..."
- Dodd, Bella (1954). "CHAPTER THREE". School of Darkness. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons.
- Starobin, Joseph Robert (1975). American Communism in Crisis, 1943-1957. University of California Press. ISBN 0520027965[page needed]
- Morgan, Ted (2003). Reds: McCarthyism in 20th Century America. New York: Random House, p. 172. ISBN 0-679-44399-1
- Klehr, Harvey (1984). The Heyday of American Communism: The Depression Decade. New York: Basic Books. p. 378. ISBN 0-465-02945-0. OCLC 10456780.
- Dodd, Bella Visono (1954). School of Darkness. New York: P. J. Kenedy. p. 96.
- The Vortex—Infiltration! (YouTube video). Church Militant. January 29, 2016. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- "Bella Dodd Asserts Reds Got Presidential Advisory Posts", The New York Times, 11 March 1953 (subscription required)
- "Bella Dodd Assails Materialism In U.S.", The New York Times, 8 March 1954 (subscription required)
- Milestones: May 9, 1969, Time, 9 May 1969.
- "Dr. Bella V. Dodd Dies at 64; Expelled by Communists in '49; Lawyer Was Also Leader in Teachers Union; Ran for House as a Conservative", The New York Times, 30 April 1969 (subscription required)
- Zullo, Joseph. "Catholic Rites to be Held for Dr. Bella Dodd", Chicago Tribune (archived at Google), 2 May 1969.