Jacob Liebstein was born in Hrodna, in modern day Belarus, on 15th December 1897. The family arrived at Ellis Island on 15th September. From that date Jacob adopted the name Jay Lovestone. His parents set up home in the Lower East Side, but later moved to the Bronx.
As a young man he became a follower of Daniel De Leon. In 1915 he became a student at the City College of New York. Lovestone became friends with Bertram Wolfe and the two men joined the Socialist Party of America and the Intercollegiate Socialist Society.
Lovestone was also a supporter of the Russian Revolution and joined the Communist Propaganda League. Lovestone graduated in June 1918. The following year he began studying at the New York University School of Law. In February 1919, Lovestone joined forces with Bertram Wolfe, John Reed and Benjamin Gitlow to create a left-wing faction in the Socialist Party of America that advocated the policies of the Bolsheviks in Russia.
On 24th May 1919 the leadership expelled 20,000 members who supported this faction. The process continued and by the beginning of July two-thirds of the party had been suspended or expelled. This group, including Lovestone, Earl Browder, John Reed, James Cannon, Bertram Wolfe, William Bross Lloyd, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Ella Reeve Bloor, Charles Ruthenberg, Rose Pastor Stokes, Claude McKay, Michael Gold and Robert Minor, decided to form the Communist Party of the United States. By the end of 1919 it had 60,000 members whereas the Socialist Party of America had only 40,000.
In 1921, Lovestone became editor of the party newspaper, The Communist, and sat on the editorial board of the The Liberator. Lovestone associated himself with the group led by Charles A. Ruthenberg that favoured a strategy of class warfare. Another group, led by William Z. Foster and James Cannon, believed that their efforts should concentrate on building a radicalised American Federation of Labor.
Lenin died on 21st January 1924. The group led by William Z. Foster believed that Joseph Stalin should become the new leader in the Soviet Union. However, Lovestone's faction supported Nikolay Bukharin. When Stalin emerged as the victor, Lovestone lost a certain amount of influence in the American Communist Party.
It was decided that because William Z. Foster had a strong following in the trade union movement that he should be the party candidate in the 1924 Presidential Election. Foster did not do well and only won 38,669 votes (0.1 of the total vote). This compared badly with the other left-wing candidate, Robert La Follette, of the Progressive Party, who obtained 4,831,706 votes (16.6%).
The Comintern eventually accepted the leadership of Lovestone and Charles Ruthenberg. As Theodore Draper pointed out in American Communism and Soviet Russia (1960): "After the Comintern's verdict in favor of Ruthenberg as party leader, the factional storm gradually subsided. Membership meetings throughout the country 'unanimously endorsed' the new leadership and its policies. At the Seventh Plenum at the end of 1926, the Comintern, for the first time in five years, found it unnecessary to appoint an American Commission to deal with an American factional struggle.... Ruthenberg's machine worked so smoothly and efficiently that it made those outside his inner circle increasingly restless. Beneath the surface of the factional lull, another rebellion smoldered, with the helpful encouragement of Cannon, who had touched off the anti-Ruthenberg rebellion three years earlier."
On the death of Charles Ruthenberg in 1927 Lovestone became the party's national secretary. Lovestone, James Cannon and Bertram Wolfe attended the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928. When Wolfe defended Lovestone against the criticism of Joseph Stalin, he was expelled from the party and was under virtual house arrest in Moscow for six months before he could obtain an exit visa.
While in the Soviet Union James Cannon was given a document written by Leon Trotsky on the rule of Joseph Stalin. Convinced by what he read, when he returned to the United States he criticized the Soviet government. Lovestone gained favour with Stalin by leading the purge of Cannon and his followers. Cannon now joined with other Trotskyists to form the Communist League of America.
By this time Joseph Stalin had placed his supporters in most of the important political positions in the country. Even the combined forces of all the senior Bolsheviks left alive since the Russian Revolution were not enough to pose a serious threat to Stalin.
In 1929 Nikolay Bukharin was deprived of the chairmanship of the Comintern and expelled from the Politburo by Stalin. He was worried that Bukharin had a strong following in the American Communist Party, and at a meeting of the Presidium in Moscow on 14th May he demanded that the party came under the control of the Comintern. He admitted that Jay Lovestone was "a capable and talented comrade," but immediately accused him of employing his capabilities "in factional scandal-mongering, in factional intrigue." Benjamin Gitlow and Ella Reeve Bloor defended Lovestone. This angered Stalin and according to Bertram Wolfe, he got to his feet and shouted: "Who do you think you are? Trotsky defied me. Where is he? Zinoviev defied me. Where is he? Bukharin defied me. Where is he? And you? When you get back to America, nobody will stay with you except your wives." Stalin then went onto warn the Americans that the Russians knew how to handle troublemakers: "There is plenty of room in our cemeteries."
Jay Lovestone realised that he would now be expelled from the American Communist Party. On 15th May, 1929 he sent a cable to Robert Minor and Jacob Stachel and asked them to take control over the party's property and other assets. However, as Theodore Draper has pointed out in American Communism and Soviet Russia (1960): "The Comintern beat him to the punch. On May 17, even before the Comintern's Address could reach the United States, the Political Secretariat in Moscow decided to remove Lovestone, Gitlow, and Wolfe from all their leading positions, to purge the Political Committee of all members who refused to submit to the Comintern's decisions, and to warn Lovestone that it would be a gross violation of Comintern discipline to attempt to leave Russia."
William Z. Foster, who had already gone on record as saying, "I am for the Comintern from start to finish. I want to work with the Comintern, and if the Comintern finds itself criss-cross with my opinions, there is only one thing to do and that is to change my opinions to fit the policy of the Comintern", now became the dominant figure in the party.
Lovestone and his supporters, including Benjamin Gitlow, Bertram Wolfe and Charles Zimmerman, now formed a new party the Communist Party (Majority Group). Later it changed its name to the Communist Party (Opposition), the Independent Communist Labor League and finally, in 1938, the Independent Labor League of America. Its journal, The Revolutionary Age, was edited by Wolfe.
Jay Lovestone went to work for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU). Its leader, David Dubinsky, later arranged for him to work for Homer Martin, the President of the United Auto Workers, who was in conflict with members who he accused of being members of the American Communist Party. This strategy did not work and Martin was eventually ousted from power.
In 1943 Lovestone became the director of the ILGWU's International Affairs Department. The following year David Dubinsky arranged for Lovestone to join the AFL's Free Trade Union Committee. He was also active in the American Institute for Free Labor Development, an organization sponsored by the American Federation of Labor. Later it also received secret payments from the CIA. This began a long-term friendship with James Jesus Angleton, Director of Operations for Counter-Intelligence.
In 1963 Lovestone became director of the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department (IAD), which arranged for millions of dollars from the CIA to aid anti-communist activities internationally, particularly in Latin America. The AFL-CIO president George Meany discovered in 1964 that Lovestone was involved with the CIA and instructed him to break-off contact with James Jesus Angleton. Lovestone agreed to do this but when Meany discovered in 1974 that he was still working with Angleton he forced him from office.
Jay Lovestone died on 7th March, 1990.
Weinstone and Lovestone-twenty-two and twenty-one respectively in 1919 - came from Russia as children and embraced socialism in their teens. Lovestone was also a former De Leonite. Unlike virtually all the other early Communist leaders, their radical apprenticeship was served in the student movement. They were leaders together of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society's chapter at the College of the City of New York." It was not literally true, as was sometimes said disparagingly, that they went from City College into the leadership of the American Communist movement, but the statement was close enough to hurt at a time when the student movement did not rank high as a preparatory school for Communist leadership. In the three years between Lovestone's graduation from City College in 1918 and his first full-time job in the Communist movement, he studied accountancy and lap, and held various short-term jobs such as statistician and social worker.
Everybody was rallying to endorse Stalin. I was not only a personal friend of Bukharin, but I had fundamental agreement with him on international questions, though on Russian questions I had agreement with Stalin and not with him. In that meeting I objected to the American Communist Party lining up. I said, "We will wear no Stalin buttons, and we will wear no Bukharin buttons, and we will not engage in gangsterism against Stalin or Bukharin." I said that Stalin was my leader as leader of the Communist Party; that I respected him, had high regard for his opinion and caliber of thinking.... Saying that, a cable was sent to Moscow. That cable was passed around throughout the International, and that pretty much served as the blot on my political death certificate in my relations with the Stalin leadership.
The chairman of the American Commission, Kuusinen, presided. He opened the meeting by reading the report of the commission, embodied in the proposed "Address" of the Executive Committee of the Comintern. Then Gitlow read a declaration in the name of the ten American delegates stating that they could not accept the Address because it would promote "demoralization, disintegration and chaos in the Party." This declaration warned that acceptance "would make it absolutely impossible for us to continue as effective workers in the Communist movement."
One after another, leading members of other parties appealed to the Americans to remain faithful to the Comintern and give their approval to the commission's proposals. All the other Americans present, especially the large contingent from the Lenin School which had been efficiently mobilized for the occasion, rose and called upon the delegation to obey the will of the Comintern. As this long proces¬sion of hostile speakers dragged on, the isolation of the ten Americans increased steadily and the pressure on them mounted visibly.
Of all the speeches made before the Presidium voted, the most important was of course Stalin's. He devoted most of his speech to the evils of factionalism and the virtues of discipline. He conceded that Lovestone was "a capable and talented comrade," but immediately accused Lovestone of employing his capabilities "in factional scandal-mongering, in factional intrigue," and he scoffed at the idea that Lovestone was so talented that the American party could not get along without him. Foster, he added, had not repudiated the "concealed Trotskyists" in his group in time, because "he behaved first and foremost as a factionalist."...
The last American to speak was Gitlow, and he parted company with the other delegates for the opposite reason. As the recently appointed party Secretary, Gitlow had potentially more to lose by the new set-up demanded by the Comintern than anyone else. An irascible man, he could not bow his head with the heartsick resignation of Bedacht or contain his anger with the cold calculation of Lovestone. Instead Gitlow declared that not only did he oppose the Presidium's decision but that he would go back to the United States to fight against it.
Gitlow's outburst brought Stalin to his feet. Usually Stalin spoke so softly that he forced his listeners to lean forward to hear him. Now he shouted in anger. The published version of this speech is comparatively mild and self-controlled, but witnesses agree that it hardly does justice to the fury in his voice and the violence of his language.
According to the official account, Stalin paid tribute to the "firmness and stubbornness" of the eight American hold-outs, but admonished them that "true Bolshevik courage" consisted in submitting to the will of the Comintern rather than in defying it. He assailed Lovestone, Gitlow, and Ella Reeve Bloor by name for acting like anarchists, individualists, and strike-breakers, and concluded by assuring them that the American Communist party would survive the downfall of their faction.
But, according to Wolfe, Stalin also shouted: "Who do you think you are? Trotsky defied me. Where is he? And you? When you get back to America, nobody will stay with you except your wives."
According to Lovestone, who later called it the "graveyard speech," Stalin warned the Americans that the Russians knew how to handle strike-breakers: "There is plenty of room in our cemeteries."
Stalin stepped down from the platform and strode out first. Guards and secretaries flocked after him. No one moved until he had walked down the aisle. But as he reached the Americans, he stopped and held out his hand to the Negro delegate, Edward Welsh, who stood next to Lovestone.
Welsh turned to Lovestone and asked loudly, "What the hell does this guy want?" and refused to shake Stalin's hand.
The American delegates, totally shunned by everyone else, walked out into the gray dawn and bought oranges from a street peddler.
Lovestone still hoped that all was not lost. The cable to the two caretakers, Minor and Stachel, arrived in New York on May 15, the day after the Presidium's meeting. He counted on them, especially on Stachel, to carry out the plan to take over the party's property and other assets, and he wanted to get back to the United States quickly enough to bring the delegation's story to the party membership before the Comintern could mobilize all its forces against him.
The Comintern beat him to the punch. On May 17, even before the Comintern's Address could reach the United States, the Political Secretariat in Moscow decided to remove Lovestone, Gitlow, and Wolfe from all their leading positions, to purge the Political Committee of all members who refused to submit to the Comintern's decisions, and to warn Lovestone that it would be a gross violation of Comintern discipline to attempt to leave Russia. The "loyal" American Communists - Bedacht, Foster, and Weinstone - were permitted to leave Russia immediately. Also dispatched to the United States was a special Comintern representative, the secretary of the American Commission, Mikhailov (Williams), sent secretly to take charge of the shake-up in the American party.
Jay Lovestone (born December 15, 1897 in Molchad , Grodno Governorate , Russian Empire , † March 7, 1990 in New York City ) was an American politician, union official and secret agent ( the labor movement's chief CIA liaison ). Lovestone belonged to the Socialist Party of America from 1914 to 1919 , then to various predecessor organizations of the Communist Party USA and finally - in leading positions - to this itself until 1929. After being expelled from the party, he founded and headed the Communist Party of the USA (opposition), a group comparable in terms of its political content to the German KPD-O . Through the mediation of anti-communist union leader David Dubinsky , Lovestone was in 1937 an employee of the president of the auto workers union UAW Homer Martin , who was involved in serious arguments with union officials who belonged to the CPUSA or were close. Here and in the following years, Lovestone gained a reputation as a "specialist" in suppressing and eliminating communist influence in the trade union movement. In this sense, initially only active on a national scale, Lovestone developed after the Second World War into the “gray eminence” of an initially European and finally worldwide branching network of right-wing social democratic politicians and trade unionists, whom he - now financed and instructed by the State Department and the CIA , officially but camouflaged as "foreign policy advisor" to AFL-CIO President George Meany - supported in the fight against communist parties and left-wing social democrats and sworn to a pro-American course. The extent, mode of operation and importance of this "Lovestone Intelligence Service" were only known in general in 1995 after the opening of Lovestone's estate and are in parts still in the dark.
Other books Edited by Tim Davenport and Paul Le Blanc
Selected Works of Debs,
This volume includes a lengthy introduction by the editors and copious illustrations, most of which are published here for the first time.
This important volume traces efforts to advance the socialist goal through the organization of revolutionary collectives, engaging with a pantheon of relevant radical thinkers.
The Selected Works of Eugene V. Debs Vol. III
This massive six volume set gathers together the most important spoken and written words of Debs for the first time, allowing a deeper understanding of radical political opposition in America during the first quarter of the twentieth century.
The Selected Works of Eugene V. Debs Volume II
Eugene V. Debs Selected Works will provide activists and scholars with a definitive trove of his best work that remains readable, informative, and inspiring.
The Living Flame
A remarkable collection of essays illuminating Rosa Luxemburg's tremendous contributions to revolutionary struggle and enduring relevance.
US Trotskyism 1928–1965 Part I: Emergence
The first in a documentary trilogy of U.S. Trotskyism, this volume spans 1928 to 1940, surveying labor struggles, contributions to the study of history and Marxist theory, and confrontations and convergences among left currents.
US Trotskyism 1928–1965 Part II: Endurance
The second in a documentary trilogy of U.S. Trotskyism, this volume spans 1941 to 1956, surveying the Second World War, the post-war strike wave, ongoing struggles against racism, and more.
US Trotskyism 1928–1965 Part III: Resurgence
The third in a documentary trilogy of U.S. Trotskyism, this volume spans 1954 to 1965, surveying the Cold War era, the Black liberation struggle, the "third wave" of feminism, and more.
The Selected Works of Eugene V. Debs, Vol. I
An extensive compilation of articles, speeches, press statements, and open letters by American socialist Eugene V. Debs.
C. L. R. James and Revolutionary Marxism
An evocative and inspiring account of the events of the 1917 Russian Revolution and its legacy.
Lovestone’s Thin Red Line
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Jay Lovestone is not only one of the oddest characters in the history of the American left but easily its most slippery. From the middle twenties, when as factional leader of the American Communist movement he gained a reputation for both ruthlessness and extraordinary powers of seduction, Lovestone focused his Rasputin-like skills for a half-century upon the manipulation of institutions and personalities. In the end, decades after he had enlisted as the labor movement’s chief CIA liaison, he had arguably outwitted himself. Had he lived ten more years, Lovestone would have seen his protégés forcibly retired from a reformed AFL-CIO and his Machiavellian global policies replaced by the beginnings of cross-border organizing and genuinely democratic internationalism. Perhaps he has been spinning in his grave.
A different version of the Lovestone tale might have treated constant intrigue as the manifestation of a troubled personality A Covert Life reads too much like the hagiographical treatments of that blustering bureaucrat and fellow Vietnam hawk, George Meany. Even this badly flawed book, however, offers insights into the dark side of the Old Left and into the massive intelligence operations conducted out of the sight of ordinary union members.
Like so many other stories, from showbiz to cerebral politics, this one starts in Jewish New York after the turn of the century. Jacob Liebstein, an immigrant radical who entered the City College of New York in 1915, made himself president of the campus Intercollegiate Socialist Society (a distant ancestor of Students for a Democratic Society) and simultaneously fell hard for the new Russian Revolution. A renamed Jay Lovestone was one of the “City College Boys” who aspired in 1919 to lead the American Bolsheviks to victory.
It was an impossible job, with the nation entering an era of relative prosperity and Moscow calling the shots, often very badly, on the most minor matters. Lovestone himself clearly learned the wrong lessons from the Vanguard Party. (The Wobbly aphorism of later decades put it all too accurately: “The trouble with Leninists is that they all want to be Lenin.”) He never seemed to get a grasp of the alien territory west of the Hudson, and perhaps for that reason he devoted less of his energy to fighting capitalism than to fighting factional opponents.
Morgan seeks to portray his subject as struggling heroically against Russian domination, as if the rising leader had not urgently sought Comintern support for his own side. Lovestone and former college classmate Bertram Wolfe nevertheless had a good idea in “American Exceptionalism,” the theory that capitalism had achieved here a certain stability, and consequently, Communists had to abandon their near-insurrectionary mentality for a nuanced program of tactical alliances. Indeed, the party would do so in the Popular Front era ahead. The trouble was, Stalin shifted toward an ultrarevolutionary strategy in the later twenties while consolidating his power against Trotsky, and old-fashioned Marxist predictions of a final capitalist collapse gained a renewed credibility with the stock-market crash.
Lovestone, who had commanded the party from its own Star Chamber, gravely erred in thinking he could influence either the Comintern or the membership in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Rank-and-file Communists, for their part, innocently admired anyone leading the Soviet Union, while they privately regarded their US leaders, Lovestone included, as puffed-up bumblers. Moreover, his eagerness to expel the “left” opposition (American followers of Trotsky) before Stalin’s supporters fell upon him had demonstrated that Lovestone was none too keen on the democratic procedures that he later, accurately, complained had been systematically violated.
For the following decade, Lovestone ran an organization with changing names and only several hundred members but two key accomplishments. Its paper, an ill-distributed weekly (first titled Revolutionary Age, later Worker’s Age), was in some respects the most literate journal on the left, and the organization provided a political base for guiding Local 22 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the largest local in the United States during the early thirties. Under the leadership of the talented and humane Charles Zimmerman, Local 22 not only operated with great efficiency but provided many of the amateur actors for Harold Rome’s production of the much-played union musical Pins and Needles.
Unfortunately, Lovestone always had larger aspirations. When John L. Lewis opened the new Congress of Industrial Organizations to the Communist organizers badly needed for the difficult and often dangerous work of reaching unskilled workers, ILGWU czar David Dubinsky was determined to re-establish AFL hegemony by battering the CIO’s dynamic center. On orders from Dubinsky, Lovestone provided staff and personally oversaw an attempted palace coup and purge of the United Auto Workers when that failed, he supported disgruntled ex-leader Homer Martin in an aborted effort to create a company-friendly (and lily-white, according to some followers) union for faithfully anti-CIO auto workers. The plans flopped, and in the balance, Lovestone acquired a lifelong non-Communist nemesis, Victor Reuther. As war neared, Lovestone saw his horizons narrow so completely that he actually dissolved his little political group, an almost unprecedented act on the left.
But another career had already begun, one with more potential than Lovestone had imagined since his days as a boy Bolshevik: intelligence operative. More properly, there was only a gap in this career. As documents released from the Moscow archives have revealed, until 1936 Lovestone worked quietly with Russian intelligence agents even while openly attacking Moscow’s policies, obviously hoping to demonstrate the loyalty needed to re-establish his former position. In 1941 Dubinsky introduced Lovestone to AFL second-in-command George Meany, avowing, “he’s been converted.” Three years later, Meany made Lovestone head of the AFL’s semisecret cold war division. By changing sides, Lovestone had come home to himself.
Here, the ur-text of A Covert Life opens. Often haphazardly researched (Morgan provides no precise footnotes, only “sources” for text pages, and offers up old chestnuts like the claim that socialist leader Daniel DeLeon regarded himself as descended from Ponce de León), the book treats early cold war intrigue as the narrative high point. Careful readers will find such tasty details as Lovestone checking personnel files of the Truman Administration for Comsymps to be blacklisted, and using columnist Walter Winchell to air useful rumors and scandal against real and imaginary enemies. But most of the ground on Lovestone’s international operations has been covered in other histories. It was detailed, using interviews with former high-level intelligence officials, in Ben Rathbun’s equally eulogistic British biography of Lovestone’s chief field officer, The Point Man: Irving Brown and the Deadly Post-1945 Struggle for Europe and America, a work curiously little deployed here.
By taking Lovestone’s assumptions and actions at face value, Morgan misses the real importance of labor spy work. With the Marshall Plan operating in Western Europe and the East frozen into Stalin’s cordon sanitaire, restabilization was inevitable, contrary hopes and fears notwithstanding. But what kind of Europe? Lovestone viewed the aspiration of non-Communist leaders like Léon Jouhaux and British Laborites for a “Third Way”–leading labor and socialistic governments on a course independent of either superpower–as a heresy exceeded only by Communism. Morgan does not explicate the widespread buying of votes and union officers (at low rates, in those distressed times). Nor were Lovestone and Irving Brown averse to propping up erstwhile Nazi collaborators (in Greece) or employing the Mafia to break certain unions’ strikes. All these tactics, with the exception of the fascist connection, had indeed been standard in garment district wars for decades. Lovestone essentially internationalized business unionism.
A Covert Life slips worse in the treatment of Lovestone and the labor world after 1950. Even as Europe rumbled, the Third World skyrocketed in strategic importance, and Lovestone was clearly out of his depth. His CIA handler, the paranoid but powerful James Jesus Angleton, insured a rapid increase of covert funding. But unaccountably, Morgan does not bother to treat the hot spots of Latin America, where Lovestone’s office assisted dramatically in a series of coups during the fifties and sixties, resulting in tens (and finally hundreds) of thousands of casualties thanks to US support of the region’s business and military elite. Morgan’s treatment of Africa is also clipped he insists that Lovestone supported “moderate” nationalism, a convenient disguise for policies set to create reliable postcolonial friends of US business. The same is still more true of Southeast Asia, where anti-Communism quickly became synonymous with massive assassination (“neutralization”) campaigns and carpet-bombing.
Morgan argues that by the sixties, the “great churning of worldwide activity was over.” Not true. The Kennedy Administration set up formal international labor agencies estimated conservatively at a cost of $100 million per year, a figure that grew rapidly during the eighties. Decades of financial and political assistance could be arranged for Angola’s Jonas Savimbi, world-class terrorist and key military ally of South Africa’s apartheid government. Grand programs could be launched in vital corners of US influence like the Philippines, where the AFL-CIO’s affiliate loyally supported the Marcos regime until it fell. And so on across the map. Lovestone himself, convinced until the end of his life that détente was only a Soviet ruse, became more and more of an anachronism, except of course in the hawkish command headquarters of the AFL-CIO.
The disclosure of CIA funding, fervently denied until exposure overwhelmed the familiar lies, was mortifying and enraging to George Meany’s minions. Thirsting for revenge against union peaceniks, Lovestone threw himself into the failed presidential campaigns of Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the “Senator from Boeing.” He also sought out the company of Henry Kissinger, who had begun writing for the AFL’s CIA-sponsored press from Harvard in 1960. Lovestone raged at Nixon for recognizing China. He remained close to Angleton when decades-long CIA activities against US citizens were also finally exposed and the spy chief was propelled into retirement. Never one for personal loyalty, Meany simply dumped Lovestone in 1974, replacing him (in typical AFL fashion) with a son-in-law in need of a career boost.
But of course the world had not changed so much after all. Lovestone kept up contact with his good friends Alexander Haig and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose triumph over Bella Abzug in the 1976 senatorial primary was celebrated as the quashing of McGovernite-pacifist “New Politics.” And he helped collect his papers in the Reagan Revolution homeland of the Hoover Institution, where his old friend Bert Wolfe held a sinecure. Morgan suggests that after 1979–that is, after Lovestone and Meany–the AFL-CIO built a new foreign policy independent of the CIA. Nothing could be less true, as the growing scholarship on the labor movement’s abysmal Central America adventures conclusively demonstrates.
A Covert Life winds down with Lovestone in his coffin, at a memorial service in which (quoting a friendly former Carter official) “there were more CIA men…than labor men.” Eight years later Meany successor Lane Kirkland, who offered heartfelt praise at Lovestone’s bier, was cashiered by a labor movement that had nearly lost itself after practically abandoning domestic matters in search of one last, great international victory of business unionism. That strategy had already failed miserably, and we can even now wonder that a Jay Lovestone could wield so much power for so long, with so little support or even knowledge of those who paid the dues to keep the gold-plated offices shiny for their masters.
Paul Buhle Paul Buhle, who published the one-shot Radical America Komiks in 1969, is researching Yiddish and Jewish culture in America. Monthly Review will publish his next book, Insurgent Images: The Labor Murals of Mike Alewitz, in February 2001. His biography of blacklisted writer-director Abraham Lincoln Polansky, A Very Dangerous Citizen, written with Dave Wagner, will be published in April 2001 by California University Press.
How Joseph Stalin Invented 'American Exceptionalism'
Rick Santorum and the rest of GOP presidential gang all have a man-crush. Considering he was an outright intellectual elitist, a shaggy-haired liberal, and -- horror of horrors -- French, the object of their adoration seems a bit surprising, but the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville and his 1835 United States travelogue, Democracy in America, have surged into national politics this campaign cycle -- often linked to the nascent expression "American exceptionalism."
Across the nation, from Plano, Texas, to Keene, N.H., Santorum has brandished Tocqueville, lecturing on how America got revolution right while France didn't. Last year Gingrich published A Country Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters, a book overflowing with praise for the Parisian writer. Going further still, the former speaker narrated a 2011 documentary called City Upon a Hill, which is produced by Citizens United (yes, that Citizens United). If you guessed that it leads with Tocqueville, you're right.
The trailer opens like something out of Lord of the Rings: inspirational music, horses galloping through verdant terrain, and the soothing voice of the biggest hobbit of them all -- Gingrich. "During his travels in 1831, French writer Alexis de Tocqueville observed that America was an exceptional nation with a special role to play in human history," he intones. "American exceptionalism has been at the center of our nation's experience for nearly 400 years."
There's only one problem with that: It's not strictly true. Although a superiority complex has long pervaded the national psyche, the expression "American exceptionalism" only became big a few years ago. (In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton called on Americans to "vindicate the honor of the human race.") What's more, Tocqueville didn't invent the term. Who did? Joseph Stalin.
In the 1920s, the lingering specter of World War I and austere German reparations battered Europe's market-based economy, giving rise to class tension and stark inequality. For worn-down workers, socialism and communism started sounding like pretty good ideas. A world revolution -- indeed, the rise of the proletariat -- seemed possible, and the Communist International was stoked.
But the Americans just wouldn't fall into line. The United States had long since passed the United Kingdom as the world's largest industrial power, but hadn't yet plunged into the Great Depression. To members of the U.S. Communist Party, it was a paradox. Why, in the what appeared to be the purest capitalist Western economy wasn't there any desire for egalitarianism? Had Marx been wrong when he wrote socialism would, inexorably and universally, emerge from the ruins of capitalism?
America's radical left considered the national condition, contrasted it with Europe, and concluded leftism would be a hard sell stateside thanks to characteristics forged along the frontier. Americans were different: individualistic, profit-crazed, broadly middle class, and as tolerant of inequality as they were reverent of economic freedom. The nation had "unlimited reserves of American imperialism," lamented Communist propaganda at the time.
In 1929, Communist leader Jay Lovestone informed Stalin in Moscow that the American proletariat wasn't interested in revolution. Stalin responded by demanding that he end this "heresy of American exceptionalism." And just like that, this expression was born. What Lovestone meant, and how Stalin understood it, however, isn't how Gingrich and Romney (or even Obama) frame it. Neither Lovestone or Stalin felt that the United States was superior to other nations -- actually, the opposite. Stalin "ridiculed" America for its abnormalities, which he cast under the banner of "exceptionalism," Daniel Rodgers, a professor of history at Princeton, said in an interview.
Stalin, to say the least, wasn't happy with Lovestone's news. "Who do you think you are?" he shouted, according to Ted Morgan's biography of Lovestone. "(Leon) Trotsky defied me. Where is he? (Grigory) Zinoviev defied me. Where is he? (Nikolai) Bukharin defied me. Where is he? And you! Who are you? Yes, you will go back to America. But when you get back there, nobody will know you except your wives."
As the Great Depression enveloped the United States, Stalin's argument -- if not his bluster -- seemed well grounded. "Exceptionalism was a disease, a chronic disease," wrote communist S. Milgrom of Chicago in 1930. "The storm of the economic crisis in the United States blew down the house of cards of American exceptionalism," the American Communist Party declared at its convention in April 1930.
Of course, the predictions failed: with the help of war, and despite Franklin Roosevelt's new welfare state, the U.S. economy stayed on the capitalist track. As American communism receded, so did talk of exceptionalism in leftist circles. Dismissive references appeared in academic research now and again, but usually in relation to communism's failure in America. Not until the 1980s did it suddenly reemerge, charged with a new connotation of national superiority. According to a Factiva survey, The New York Times was the first mainstream outlet to revive "American exceptionalism," when in 1980 Richard J. Tofel implored Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan to defend this distinctive cultural aesthetic: "As our unquestioned supremacy recedes, we need to decide what "America" means to us, and what it means to the world."
Sound familiar? Over the following 20 years, there was a lot more talk like this exceptionalism appeared in national publications 457 times. The next decade had it 2,558 times. But since 2010, it's gone viral, leaping into print and online publications roughly 4,172 times.
How did a phrase intended as derision become a rallying cry of American awesomeness? As significant portions of the electorate -- think Southern Democrats -- shifted toward the GOP in the 1960s and 1970s, conservative thinkers charted a new Republican identity emboldened by triumphalism and uncompromising patriotism. Doubting exceptionalism became "un-American." Looking to history for more evidence, conservative intellectuals stumbled across Tocqueville, who in Democracy in America had described a nation as "exceptional" for its devotion to practicality over art or science. He lent enough oomph to credibly define America as categorically transcendent, Rodgers said.
It worked. In a 2010 Gallup Poll, 80 percent of Americans agreed that based on history and the Constitution, the United States was the "greatest country in the world." American exceptionalism, along with flag pins shining from one's lapel, is one of the rare issues where Republicans and Democrats agree. In 2009, President Obama said in Strasbourg, France, that he subscribed to American exceptionalism (just as other nations, he stressed, should feel the same about their own country). Gingrich used the phrase 44 times in his recent book. For whatever reason, its author, Stalin, didn't even get a cameo.
Then last year during a debate in early September -- with dissatisfaction toward the economy as high as late 2008 -- Republican presidential candidates harped on American exceptionalism time and again. Before that, not a single incumbent or candidate had employed the expression in a presidential debate, transcripts at the American Presidency Project's website show.
It's hardly surprising such talk has accelerated recently. Everywhere you look, headlines, pundits, and academics prophesy the demise of Pax Americana and the "rise of the rest," as Fareed Zakaria termed it. We're gripped by concern we'll soon be a nation of austerity and dependency, not opportunity, that America's spiraling into insolvency with Greece. It's the same context in which Tofel revived the term 32 years ago.
In 2008, candidate Obama said fear makes people cling to religion, guns, and xenophobia. He was flayed for it in the media -- and, in some respects, rightly so. But there was an element of truth to his remarks, and there's a powerful parallel to the nation overall. In our secular state, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are as close to sacred relics of an established religion as it gets. Just look at how their air-tight casings in Washington, D.C. mimic saints' reliquaries.
Belief in America has taken on the desperate certitude of zealotry, as if the more we express it and the firmer our conviction, the more we might somehow succeed at wishing it true. And that it will stay true forever. Peel a few layers back and the rise of faith in American exceptionalism doesn't evince superiority. It indicates fear.
Jay Lovestone, Communist Leader Who Turned Against Party, Dies
Jay Lovestone, who briefly headed the Communist Party in the United States in the 1920's before becoming a staunch anti-Communist, died in his sleep Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 91 years old.
Mr. Lovestone, who once called Stalin a murderer and lived to tell about it, became a colorful and often controversial figure in the American labor movement. He served as the international affairs director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. before his retirement in 1974.
His confrontation with Stalin occurred in Moscow in 1929 after Stalin had deposed Mr. Lovestone from the leadership of the party in the United States, a post he had held for two years. The taunted Stalin was said to have become livid and promptly terminated the interview. Mr. Lovestone managed to escape from the Soviet Union by way of Danzig with the help of false identity papers.
The incident, which occurred when Mr. Lovestone was 29 years old, ended his comparatively short but spectacular career as a Communist.
However, he remained vastly knowledgable about Communist affairs throughout the world. His friends said he had an extraordinary network of contacts, with whom he kept in close touch, and a remarkable sensitivity for developments in Communist world before they became apparent to others.
Involement Began in College
Born on Dec. 24, 1898, in Lithuania, then a part of Russia, he was brought to the United States when he was 9, by his father, who had obtained a job as cantor of a New York synagogue. By the time he graduated from City College in 1918 the son was deeply involved in the Socialist and communist movements, which were then largely subterranean in this country.
In 1921 he got his first full-time Communist Party post, as editor of the party's official underground organ, The Communist. He made an enemy of Stalin early on. In 1923, when Stalin, the eventual Soviet ruler, split with Nicolai Bukharin, the powerful head of the Comintern, the Communist International, Mr. Lovestone was a leader in defending Bukharin.
As he moved higher in the American Communist hierarchy, Mr. Lovestone continued to pursue a line basically opposed to Stalin's.
The Lovestone argument was that because of special circumstances in the United States, the struggle against capitalism could not be conducted along traditional Marxist-Leninist lines.
Stalin called the leaders of the splintered American communist movement to a meeting in Moscow in July, 1929, where he ordered them '⟞tained'' for a year if necessary to work out their differences. Mr. Lovestone, who was then called ''the American Stalin'' by his followers, cabled to his friends that he was being 'ɿorcibly detained'' and asked that if word was not had form him in 10 days they should begin to 'ɺgitate for his release.'' However, he managed to flee and return to New York City.
An angry Stalin called Mr. Lovestone 'ɺ renegade to the cause of communism'' and ordered him expelled from Communist ranks. Stalin called Mr. Lovestone's theories 'ɾxceptionalism.''
Mr. Lovestone and his followers formed what they called the Communist Party of the United States, later becoming the Independent Labor League of America and acquiring the sobriquet ''Lovestonites.''
The group disbanded in 1940, but not before the artist Diego Rivera included a portrait of Mr. Lovestone in one of his murals of the revolutionary spirit in American history. The mural also included Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and an American soldier, black man, farmer and laborer.
By that time Mr. Lovestone had concluded that the Communist movement, which he once considered the salvation of the working class, was a monstrous totalitarian conspiracy engineered by the Kremlin with the goal of world conquest.
In the early days of World War II, when the Stalin-Hitler pact had given Axis forces free rein in Europe and led orthodox American Communists to espouse strict neutrality, Mr. Lovestone became a leader of the Committee to Defend America, a group that sought to mobilize support for Britain and the other Allies.
In 1943 he was named international affairs director for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. The following year he became executive secretary of a new group that after the war's end, formed the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which was organized to oppose the Communist-dominated World Federation of Trade Unions.
In the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and later in the merged A.F.L.-C.I.O., Mr. Lovestone rose in influence and ran the international operation almost as a personal fiefdom granted to him by George Meany, the labor movement's head.
The union's International Affairs Department carried on programs to train unionists abroad, particularly in Latin America, through the Institute for Free Labor Development. It also participated in the work of the International Labor Organization, an arm of the United Nations.
He retained his post over the years despite opposition from many labor leaders who regarded him as a doctrinaire anti-Communist. They conceded that he had a valuable network of informers who enabled him to be remarkably prescient about developments in the Communist world.
After his retirement he stayed on as a consultant to the labor federation and to the garment workers' union.
Pages from Party History (Feb. 1929)
"Page from Party History"
by Jay Lovestone
Published by Workers Library Publishers, New York, n.d. [February 1929].
This pamphlet by General Secretary of the Communist Party, USA, Jay Lovestone, it a triumphalist factional shot at the minority opposition of William Z. Foster, Alexander Bittelman. This group formerly ruled the Communist Party during the middle 1920s, together with key allies James P. Cannon and Ludwig Lore. Party headquarters was moved from New York to Chicago by the Chicago-based Foster group, and back to New York City by Lovestone & Co. after Foster fell.
At least 80 percent of the Communist Party was behind him and his associates, Lovestone is happy to tell us here in this factional document put out in the run-up to the 6th National Convention of the CPUSA (New York (. ): March 4-10, 1929).
Shortly after publication of this pamphlet, it would be time for Lovestone to get the boot, after trying to take on Stalin, Molotov, Lozovsky, and the Comintern apparatus head-to-head. The sitting Executive Secretary of the Communist Party USA was quickly removed and expelled and replaced by a troika by the Central Executive Committee. The CEC voted for the Comintern over Lovestone by a big margin, with defections by Max Bedacht, Robert Minor, and Jack Stachel particularly galling to Lovestone.
Scanned from a document in the Tim Davenport Collection.
Published in the USA between 1923 and 1977 with no copyright notice in original publication, public domain.
Communist Party (Opposition)
Lovestone and his friends had thought that they commanded the following of the mass of party members and, once expelled, optimistically named their new party the Communist Party (Majority Group). When the new group attracted only a few hundred members it changed its name to the Communist Party (Opposition). They were aligned with the International Communist Opposition, which had sections in fifteen countries.
The CP(O) later became the Independent Communist Labor League and then, in 1938, the Independent Labor League of America before dissolving in 1941. The party published the periodical Workers' Age (originally Revolutionary Age), which was edited by Bertram Wolfe, along with a number of pamphlets.
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Background and early life
Lovestone was born Jacob Liebstein (Яков Либштейн Yakov Libshtein) into a Jewish-Litvak family in a shtetl called Moǔchadz in Grodno Governorate (then part of the Russian Empire, now in Grodno Region, Belarus). The territory of present-day Belarus was considered a "Lithuanian" area at the time. His father, Barnet, had been a rabbi, but when he emigrated to America he had to settle for a job as shammes (caretaker). Barnet came first, then sent for his family the next year. Lovestone arrived with his mother, Emma, and his siblings, Morris, Esther and Sarah at Ellis island on September 15, 1907. They originally settled on Hester Street in Manhattan's Lower East Side, but later moved to 2155 Daly Avenue in the Bronx. The family did not know their dates of birth precisely, but they assigned Jacob the date of December 15, 1897. 
Young Liebstein was attracted to socialist politics from his teens. While imbibing all the ideological currents in the vibrant New York Yiddish and English radical press, he was particularly attracted to the ideas of Daniel De Leon. It is not known whether he ever joined de Leon's Socialist Labor Party, but he was one of the 3,000 mourners who attended his funeral on May 11, 1914. 
Liebstein entered City College of New York in 1915. Already a member of the Socialist party, he joined its unofficial student wing, the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. He became secretary and then president of the CCNY chapter. He also met William Weinstone and Bertram Wolfe in ISS, who would go on to become his factional allies in the Communist Party. He graduated in June 1918. In February 1919 he had his name legally changed to Jay Lovestone, the surname being a literal translation of Liebstein. (During the early 20th century such name changes were a common practice for Jewish immigrants who encountered widespread antisemitism in American society.) That year he also began studying at NYU Law School, but dropped out to pursue a career as a full-time Communist party member. 
The Communist years (1919–1929)
His first foray into what would become the American Communist movement began in February 1919, when the left wing elements in the Socialist Party in New York began to organize themselves as a separate faction. Lovestone was on the original organizing committee, the Committee of 15, with Wolfe, John Reed and Benjamin Gitlow. That June he attended the National Conference of the Left Wing.  He sided with the Fraina/Ruthenberg faction that opted to create a National Left Wing Council that would attempt to take over the Socialist Party. He stayed with this group after it reversed its stance, and joined the National Organizing Committee in founding the Communist Party of America on September 1, 1919, at a convention in Chicago.
In 1921, Lovestone became editor of the Communist Party newspaper, The Communist, and sat on the editorial board of The Liberator, the arts and letters publication of the Workers Party of America. Upon the death of Charles Ruthenberg in 1927 he became the party's national secretary. From about 1923, the CP developed two main factions, the Pepper–Ruthenberg group and the Foster–Cannon group. Lovestone was a close adherent of the Pepper–Ruthenberg tendency, which was to be centered in New York City and to favor united-front political action in a "class Labor Party", as opposed to the Foster–Cannon group, which tended to be centered in Chicago and were most concerned with building a radicalized American Federation of Labor through a boring from within policy. [ citation needed ]
In 1925 the leader of the Pepper–Ruthenberg faction, John Pepper, returned to Moscow for work in the apparatus of the Communist International, raising Lovestone's status to that of a chief lieutenant in a new Ruthenberg–Lovestone pairing. Foster and Cannon, on the other hand, parted ways, with Alexander Bittelman assuming the mantle as Foster's chief factional ally, while Jim Cannon built his power base in the party's legal defense mass organization, the International Labor Defense (ILD). [ citation needed ]
With the Soviet Bolshevik party riven by a succession struggle following Lenin's death in January 1924, the factions in the US eventually corresponded with factions in the Soviet leadership, with Foster's faction being strongly supportive of Joseph Stalin and Lovestone's faction sympathetic to Nikolai Bukharin. As a result of his trip to the Comintern Congress in 1928 where James P. Cannon and Maurice Spector accidentally saw Leon Trotsky's thesis criticizing the direction of the Comintern, Cannon became a Trotskyist and decided to organize his faction in support of Trotsky's position. Cannon's support for Trotsky became known before he had fully mobilized his supporters. Lovestone led the expulsion of Cannon and his supporters in 1928. [ citation needed ]
The Communist opposition years (1929–1941)
When Stalin purged Bukharin from the Soviet Politburo in 1929, Lovestone suffered the consequences. A visiting delegation of the Comintern asked him to step down as party secretary in favor of his rival William Z. Foster. Lovestone refused and departed for the Soviet Union to argue his case. Lovestone insisted that he had the support of the vast majority of the Communist Party and should not have to step aside. Stalin responded that he "had a majority because the American Communist Party until now regarded you as the determined supporters of the Communist International. And it was only because the Party regarded you as friends of the Comintern that you had a majority in the ranks of the American Communist Party". 
When he returned to the US, Lovestone was forced to pay for his insubordination and was expelled from the party for his support of Bukharin and the Right Opposition and for his theory of American exceptionalism, which held that capitalism was more secure in the United States and thus socialists should pursue different, more moderate strategies there than elsewhere in the world. That contradicted Stalin's views and the new Third Period policy of ultra-leftism promoted by the Comintern. Lovestone and his friends had thought that they commanded the following of the mass of party members and, once expelled, optimistically named their new party the Communist Party (Majority Group). When the new group attracted only a few hundred members they changed its name to the Communist Party (Opposition). They were aligned with the International Communist Opposition, which had sections in fifteen countries. The CP(O) later became the Independent Communist Labor League and then, in 1938, the Independent Labor League of America, before dissolving in 1941. The party published the periodical Workers' Age (originally The Revolutionary Age), which was edited by Bertram Wolfe, along with a number of pamphlets.
Union and anti-communist activities
Lovestone had, while within the Communist Party, played an active role in the Party's labor activities, primarily within the United Mine Workers, where the party supported the revolt led by John Brophy against John L. Lewis's leadership. His allies within the party, particularly Charles S. Zimmerman, had a great deal of power within the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (IGWU) prior to the debacle of 1926. After his expulsion, Lovestone formed a base within ILGWU Dressmakers Local 22, to which Zimmerman had returned after his expulsion from the CPUSA. Lovestone and Zimmerman worked their way into the good graces of ILGWU President David Dubinsky, who had been their fiercest enemy before their expulsion. [ citation needed ]
With Dubinsky's support, Lovestone went to work for Homer Martin, the embattled President of the United Auto Workers, who was attempting to drive his political rivals out of the union by charging them with being communists. Martin's and Lovestone's tactics, however, only succeeded in unifying all of the disparate groups in the leadership of the union at that time into a single coalition opposed to Martin and, unintentionally, enhancing the reputation of CP members within the union. The UAW's Executive Board, with the support of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), proceeded to oust Martin, who left to form his own rump version of the UAW. Lovestone followed him for a time. [ citation needed ]
Lovestone had maintained his relationship with Dubinsky throughout this period Dubinsky helped finance Martin's new union and worked for its affiliation with the American Federation of Labor (AFL). In 1943, Lovestone became the director of the ILGWU International Affairs Department. Dubinsky also helped Lovestone find work in 1941 with an organization favoring the United States' entry into World War II. Dubinsky had concerns that Lovestone's past role in the Communist Party would taint him and suggested that Lovestone change his name Lovestone declined to do so. [ citation needed ]
In 1944, Dubinsky arranged to place Lovestone in the AFL's Free Trade Union Committee, where he worked out of the ILGWU's headquarters. Along with Irving Brown he led the activities of the American Institute for Free Labor Development, an organization sponsored by the AFL which worked internationally, organizing free labor unions in Europe and Latin America which were not Communist-controlled.
In connection with that work he cooperated closely with the CIA, feeding information about Communist labor-union activities to James Jesus Angleton, the CIA's counterintelligence chief, in order to undermine Communist influence in the international union movement and provide intelligence to the US government. He remained there until 1963 when he became director of the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department (IAD), which quietly sent millions of dollars from the CIA to aid anti-communist activities internationally, particularly in Latin America. 
In 1973, AFL-CIO president George Meany discovered that Lovestone was still in contact with Angleton of the CIA, who was conducting illegal domestic spying activities, despite being told seven years earlier to terminate this relationship. 
Meany chose to force Lovestone out by issuing an instruction with which he knew Lovestone would not comply. On March 6, 1974, he informed Lovestone that he wanted to close his New York office, stop publication of Free Trade Union News, and transfer Lovestone and his library and archives to Washington, D.C. When Lovestone argued he could not relocate his library of 6,000 books, he was dismissed, effective July 1.  Lovestone's successor, Ernie Lee, maintained a low profile during his tenure from 1974 through 1982 and significantly scaled back the AFL-CIO's aggressive advocacy of a hawkish, anti-détente foreign policy. 
Death and legacy
Lovestone died on March 7, 1990, at the age of 92. 
Jay Lovestone's massive accumulation of papers, today encompassing more than 865 archival boxes,  were acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University in 1975, where they remained sealed for 20 years.  The material was opened to the public in 1995 and was a source for author Ted Morgan, who published the first full-length biography of Lovestone in 1999.  An associate, Louise Page Morris , later supplemented the collection with her correspondence—according to other reports, Morris "spent 25 years as Lovestone's lover."  
Lovestone's Federal Bureau of Investigation file is reported to be 5,700 pages long.