Martin Dies on Early Communist Infiltration of FDR’s New Deal, Punctuated By Recognition of the Soviet Union, and the Character Assassination of Anti-Communist Educator and Truthteller, William Wirt

Texas Congressman Martin Dies (d. 1972) was an intrepid investigator of both Fascist and Communist subversion in the U.S during the 1930s and 1940s, having established the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1938.

From, Martin dies’ story. New York, Bookmailer, 1963; pp. 29-34

“The revolutionary way out of the crisis begins with the fight for unemployment insurance, against wage-cuts, for wage increases, for relief to the farmers — through demonstrations, strikes, general strikes, leading up to the seizure of power, to the destruction of capitalism by a revolutionary worker’s government.”

—Manifesto of the American Communist Party, April, 1934

This chapter deals, not with the meteorological conditions at the seat of the Federal government, but with the attitudes, the psychology and the incredible monkey-shines which existed along the Potomac during the New Deal days. According to Earl Browder, the Communist Party, USA, enjoyed the greatest growth in its history in the years between 1935 and 1940. [1] A look at the climate which nurtured this growth seems appropriate.

The great influx which followed the new President to Washington in 1933 was a motley crew, exulting to the joyful notes of “Happy Days Are Here Again.” College professors — to become known as the “Brain-Trust” — idealists, dreamers, politicians, professional “do-gooders” and just plain job-hunters, filled our Nation’s Capitol. Free silverites, single taxers, Socialists, Technocrats, Townsendites, all were there in profusion. Name your fantasy, and you could find it. They were excited, happy, eager zealots, about to remake the world. Quickly, they coalesced into various and diverse groups. Parties were a nightly occurrence, and buzzed incessantly with all sorts of discussions, plans, ideas, schemes, and purposes. Nothing was too bizarre, or too absurd, to be tossed into the bubbling cauldrons of discussion. There was much talk of revolution; somewas theoretical, a great deal of it was serious. Drawing rooms, hotel lobbies, apartments, speak-easies, hummed continuously with excited conversation.

From the moment of Soviet recognition, caviar was plentiful and champagne flowed freely at parties in the Soviet Embassy, which for a time was kept open on a 24-hour schedule. Intelligence reports to our Committee disclosed that high U. S. government officials were in frequent attendance at these parties. Later, we learned, from the same source, certain Communists had free access to the White House, which was not always available to deserving Democrats. One of these Communists was Earl Browder, who actually helped to direct Roosevelt’s attempted purge of Congressmen in 1938, following failure of the plan to pack the Supreme Court. [2] Businessmen were encouraged to give away trade secrets and technical know-how to the Soviets, even before the war. Serious consideration was given to a plan which would have required corporations to have a Federal permit in order to operate.

At the behest of the administration, Congress passed a law setting up the National Recovery Administration, the NRA for short. It was headed by General Hugh Johnson, who conceived the idea of the “Blue Eagle” as a symbol of compliance. The NRA law was in clear violation of anti-trust laws, became practically inoperative because it was unworkable, and ultimately was declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. Congress virtually abdicated its primary function. Proposed legislation was prepared by the White House staff, marked “Must,” and sent to Capitol Hill for immediate action. In one instance, a bill was passed before it had even been printed, with a folded newspaper serving as substitute for the bill. The Chief Executive, who only recently had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, once suggested that Congress should not let a possible question of Constitutionality stand in the way of enactment. [3]

When the Dies Committee began operations, the majority of the administration, following the President’s lead, were frankly, openly, and actively hostile. Never did the administration cease its efforts to destroy the Committee. Government employees became indignant and abusive regarding its documented findings, and joined in parades of protest. Many ostensibly Liberal groups were actually led by Communists. More than one-third of the members of Federal Writers’ Project in New York were Communists. Men and women in high positions were sponsoring, endorsing, or joining Trojan Horse organizations, or other organizations which favored Communist purposes. Witnesses before the Committee reported that they were questioned afterwards as if they themselves were under suspicion. Government officials defended employees whose loyalty was questionable, became indignant, and refused to fire them.

In marked contrast was the prompt mobilization of New Deal forces to squelch the patriotic efforts of Dr. William A. Wirt, and to destroy the man himself. Dr. Wirt was a noted educator from Gary, Indiana, who came in contact with just one of the numerous efforts being made to destroy our Government. It happened at a dinner party in September 1933, where there were present, besides Dr. Wirt, the hostess from the U. S. Office of Education, an employee of the NRA, another from the PWA [Public Works Admin], one from the Department of Agriculture, one from the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, and a long-time representative of Tass, the Soviet news agency.

A special House committee of five [4] headed by Representative Alfred L. Bulwinkle (D.-N. C.) was immediately appointed to investigate Dr. Wirt’s story. Let former Representative John J. O’Connor (D, N.Y.), one of the members of the Bulwinkle committee, and former Chairman of the House Rules Committee, confess his regret for his part in the proceedings :

“On the sixth anniversary of the ‘purging’ of Dr. William A. Wirt before a Congressional Special Committee of which I was an active member, I desire to relieve my conscience of a matter which has long burdened it…Dr. Wirt was one of the world’s recognized educators…In March, 1934, a memorandum he had prepared was read before a Congressional committee in hearings on the original bill to create the SEC. In that statement Dr. Wirt asserted that there was a deliberately conceived plot among the New Deal leftists to ‘overthrow the established social order’ and substitute a ‘planned economy’ in our country. Some of his informants had boasted that President Roosevelt would be ‘the Kerensky of the coming American revolution.’…Immediately there was a furor in the House of Representatives over such ‘lese majesty.’ Almost overnight a Special Committee of the House was created to put on the grill this prominent citizen who dared to expose such a plot. In advance of his voluntary appearance, Dr. Wirt was threatened with jail if he did not appear and satisfactorily tell the whole Truth…The committee held two public hearings in the large caucus room of the old House Office Building, beginning April 10, 1934. Hundreds of newspapermen and photographers attended while Dr. Wirt stood at the ‘bar’ to repeat his story and give sources of his information. While he named names and quoted his informants, I took a leading part as ‘prosecutor’ and ‘inquisitor.’ In my early, rubber-stamp support of the ‘New Deal,’ I was quite severe with the distinguished Doctor, going so far as to oppose the appearance of the distinguished ex-Senator James A. Reed as the Doc tor’s counsel…The pack got the smell of blood and tracked down the prey! A great job was done! Little did we know that most of the happenings which Dr. Wirt said the plotters had predicted would come to pass. Most of them came true even before Dr. Wirt’s untimely and regrettable death. Or maybe, in our hearts we knew the plot was not idle gossip and we lunged at the discloser to appease our consciences. Many times privately have I apologized for my part in turning the thumb-screws, and I take this occasion to do so publicly. May Dr. Wirt’s honest, patriotic soul rest in peace. His was ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness.’

I [Dies] had tried to tell Bulwinkle that I felt that he was wrong, and that Dr. Wirt really knew what he was talking about. With Congressional immunity, Bulwinkle stated on the floor of the House that Dr. Wirt had been jailed for pro-German activities during World War I. This statement was completely false, but it made the front page of most newspapers. Bulwinkle’s retraction, five days later, was much less prominent, and in some instances, wound up buried near the classified advertising. Not only was Dr. Wirt denied benefit of counsel, he was denied the right to read a ten-minute statement in his own behalf, nor was he allowed to cross-examine opposing witnesses. Liberals have held such actions high crimes when applied to Communists and pro-Communists, but no Liberal voice was raised in defense of Dr. Wirt.

Notes from Dies pp. 29-34, Chapter III—THE WASHINGTON CLIMATE

  1. Dies Committee Hearings.
  2. Chesly Manly. Twenty-Year Revolution From Roosevelt to Eisenhower, 1954
  3. Twenty-Year Revolution From Roosevelt to Eisenhower
  4. Select Committee to Investigate Charges by Dr. William A. Wirt, 1934.


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