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Louis F. Budenz

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Louis F. Budenz
Budenz in 1947
Louis Francis Budenz

(1891-07-17)July 17, 1891
DiedApril 27, 1972(1972-04-27) (aged 80)
Occupation(s)espionage, later anti-Communism, writer

Louis Francis Budenz (pronounced "byew-DENZ"; July 17, 1891 – April 27, 1972) was an American activist and writer. 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 governmental hearings and writing about his experiences.


Budenz was born on July 17, 1891, in Indianapolis, Indiana, a grandson of German and Irish immigrants, being raised on the Southside in a mostly German and Irish Catholic neighborhood around Fountain Square.

He attended St. John's Catholic High School in Indianapolis, Xavier University in Cincinnati, and St. Mary's College in Topeka, Kansas, before receiving his LL.B. from Indianapolis Law School in 1912.


Labor supporter[edit]

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

Budenz's role in the labor movement began from a Catholic perspective. In 1915, working with the Central Bureau of the Roman Catholic Central Verein, a reform-minded and social justice-oriented organization in St. Louis, he published A List of Books for the Study of the Social Question: Being an Introduction to Catholic Social Literature.[2]

In 1920, Budenz moved to Rahway, New Jersey, where he worked for the ACLU (NY) as publicity director.[3] In 1924 and into the early 1930s, Budenz was managing editor of the monthly magazine Labor Age. He advised striking workers at a hosiery mill in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1928; at a silk workers' strike Paterson, New Jersey, in 1930; and the Toledo Auto-Lite strike in 1934.[3][4] He taught labor organizing and strike management at Brookwood Labor College outside New York City.[5]

In the inaugural issue of the Monthly Bulletin of the International Juridical Association (May 1932), the name Budenz appears as "a lawyer from Rahway, N.J." He had been distributing leaflets against Yellow dog contracts, a topic of that issue under the broader topic of "free speech."[6]

In 1934, he served as national secretary for A. J. Muste's Conference for Progressive Labor Action (which later became the American Workers Party).


In 1935, Budenz joined the Communist Party, continued to organize labor strikes, and became managing editor of the Party's Daily Worker newspaper.[3] He became a member of the National Committee of the Party.[7]

By 1938, he had been arrested on more than 20 occasions. 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.[7]


In 1945, Budenz renounced Communism, returned to the Roman Catholic Church under the guidance of Bishop Fulton Sheen, and became an anti-communist advocate.[8]

Formerly the author of numerous articles and pamphlets in support of Communist causes, after 1945 Budenz wrote several books relating his criticisms and antipathy towards Communism. He became a professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame and later taught at Fordham University,[9] in addition to working as a syndicated columnist and lecturer. In 1947, he wrote an autobiography, This Is My Story.


From 1946, Budenz began to testify about Communists such as Gerhart Eisler (former husband of Soviet spy Hede Massing, who would testify in the second trial of the Hiss Case).[10]

Budenz became a paid informant for the FBI (like Elizabeth Bentley and unlike Whittaker Chambers). He testified as an expert witness at 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.[11]

A day after "Confrontation Day" (August 25, 1948) in the Hiss Case, Budenz testified before the HCOUA that the Communist Party "regarded him always" ("him" being Alger Hiss) as a party member[12] and "under Communist discipline."[13] He also corroborated Chambers's claim that Lee Pressman, John Abt, and Nathan Witt were party members.[12][13]

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 different committees. By 1957, he estimated he had earned approximately $70,000 for his expert testimony. Budenz was a witness at the 1949 trial in Dennis v. United States, the Smith Act prosecution of Eugene Dennis, General Secretary of CPUSA, and ten other CPUSA leaders. He was 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 ranks.

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.[14][15][16] The reliability of his testimony came was questioned because, in all of his 3,000 hours of debriefing before the FBI (1946–1949), Budenz had never mentioned Lattimore's name.[17] In 1951, Budenz once more 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 a 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."[18]

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]

In his 1953 book Techniques of Communism, Budenz wrote a subsection on Professor Frederick L. Schuman in a chapter on "Affecting Public Opinion." Budenz asserted that Schuman was a CPUSA member in the 1930s and 1940s. Citing Eugene Lyons' 1941 book Red Decade, Budenz asserted that Schuman had supported CPUSA head William Z. Foster's bid for the US presidency (1932), traveled to and lectured in the USSR (1933-4), extolled US-USSR friendship at a Carnegie Hall gala (1936), called for closer Soviet ties in an open letter in the Daily Worker (1939), and supported alleged Soviet spy Gerhart Eisler (1946). He cites several books by Schuman as being subversive: American Policy Toward Russia Since 1917, American Politics at Home and Abroad (error for Soviet Politics at Home and Abroad?), and The Commonwealth of Man. He also listed "Communist fronts" to which Schuman belong. In sum, Budenz claimed, Schuman had "done tremendous damage" to the US. (Budenz also notes that Schuman had attacked ex-communists who had testified for the US government, "particularly Whittaker Chambers, Louis Budenz, and Elizabeth Bentley.")[19]

Personal life and death[edit]

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.

Louis Francis Budenz died age 80 on April 27, 1972, at Newport Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island.[20][21][22]


At time of death, Time magazine wrote of Budenz:

"A Catholic-educated Midwesterner, Budenz became sympathetic to the working class and involved himself in the labor movement of the 1920s. In 1935 he joined the Communist Party and within five years was managing editor of the Daily Worker. He became disillusioned, he said, when he 'learned the truth concerning the Communist conspiracy against America and Catholicism,' and in 1945 he renounced the party to rejoin the Catholic Church. Later he was frequently called as a witness in trials of accused Communists, and he appeared often before Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigating committee.[22]

Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island houses Budenz's papers.[23]


Communist period:

Anti-Communist period:

  • This Is My Story. New York, London, Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1947
  • Men without Faces: The Communist Conspiracy in the U. S. A. (1950)[24]
  • The Hidden World (1950)[25]
  • The communist conspiracy : a Harding College Freedom Forum presentation [Searcy, Ark.] : National Education Program, 1951
  • The cry is peace. Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 1952
  • The techniques of communism Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 1954
  • What every citizen can do for the good of his country: attack communism! New York: American Business Consultants 1963
  • The Bolshevik invasion of the West; account of the great political war for a Soviet America. [Linden, N.J.] Bookmailer 1966


  1. ^ "Guide to the Louis F. Budenz papers". Providence College. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2011. Until 1945, Louis F. Budenz was a labor activist and prime supporter of the United States Communist party.
  2. ^ "A list of books for the study of the social question, being an introduction to Catholic social literature". HathiTrust. hdl:2027/mdp.39015058404875. Retrieved 2024-02-26.
  3. ^ a b c Chapman, Roger; Ciment, James (2015). Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints and Voices. Routledge. ISBN 9781317473503.
  4. ^ Guide to the Louis F. Budenz Papers, Providence College: http://library.providence.edu/spcol/fa/xml/rppc_budenz.xml Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Kates, Susan (2001). Activist Rhetorics and American Higher Education, 1885-1937. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press. pp. 76–77.
  6. ^ "Enjoining Free Speech". Monthly Bulletin. International Juridical Association: 8. May 1932. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  7. ^ a b "The Press: Proletarian Press". Time. 21 February 1938. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  8. ^ "Religion: Reconversion". Time. 22 October 1945. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  9. ^ "Investigations: Charge & Countercharge". Time. 10 April 1950. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  10. ^ "Communists: The Brain". Time. October 28, 1946. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ a b "Ex-Daily Worker Editor Identifies Pressman, Witt, Abt With Party". Washington Post. 27 August 1948. p. 1.
  13. ^ a b Morris, John D. (27 August 1948). "Communists Held Hiss to be Member, Budenz Testifies". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  14. ^ "Investigations: Of Cells and Onionskins". Time. 1 May 1950. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  15. ^ "Investigations: In the Dark". Time. 8 May 1950. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  16. ^ "Investigations: Absent-Minded Professor?". Time. 10 March 1952. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  17. ^ Cook, Fred J. (1971). The Nightmare Decade: The Life and Times of Senator Joe McCarthy. Random House. p. 244. ISBN 0-394-46270-X.
  18. ^ Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, Labor's Untold Story, 3rd edition (NY: United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, 1979), 355–56: "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."
  19. ^ Louis Budenz (1953). Techniques of Communism. Arno Press. pp. 172–176. ISBN 9780405099427. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  20. ^ "Louis Budenz, McCarthy Witness, Dies". New York Times. April 28, 1972. Retrieved 2008-04-03.
  21. ^ "Louis Budenz, Figure in Red Hunt, Dies at 80". Los Angeles Times. April 28, 1972. Archived from the original on 2011-05-24. Retrieved 2008-04-03.
  22. ^ a b "Milestones, May 8, 1972: Died, Louis F. Budenz". Time magazine. 8 May 1972. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  23. ^ "Louis Budenz Papers". Providence College. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  24. ^ Budenz, Louis Francis (1950). Men Without Faces: The Communist Conspiracy in the U. S. A. Harper. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  25. ^ "Books: The Hidden World". Time. 19 June 1950. Retrieved 27 July 2021.

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): 25–54. doi:10.1080/1474389042000215947. S2CID 159772092.
  • Lichtman, Robert M. & 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]