yea or nay. Pop Mindel's eyes got smaller, his lips more
tightlv compressed. There was another interval of silence;
then Trachtenberg said, "We hear you do not like Thompson."
"Really, Comrade Trachtenberg, whether I like Thompson or not has nothing to do with the case," I said. Nevertheless I went on to explain my feeling about him: that he
was a menace to tbe lives of American workers; that be
endangered the safety of our members.
The next question was unexpected.
"Were you born a Catholic?"
"Yes," I said. The three shrewd men knew I had been
born a Catholic; they knew I had followed no religion for
many years. Why the question?
They did not continue the inquiry. Suddenly Trachtenberg asked why I was not active any longer in membership.
1 hedged. "I am still not quite well, Comrade Trachtenberg. And I have personal problems. Let me alone until I
can find myself again."
Then- was another long silence. "Shall I go?" I asked at
"You will hear from us again," said Trachtenberg.
I was dismissed, ancl walked out, still wondering about
this strange interrogation that had no beginning and
^V si vv plan against me developed in the following
Weeks, a strategy of slurs, character defamation, harass-
<nents. The Party decided to blacken my character publicly.
The incident used as an excuse for my formal expulsion
bom the Party was of no importance in itself. The way in
which it was handled was symptomatic of Party methods.
A Czechoslovakian woman lived in a small three-story
building on Lexington Avenue, where she served as janitor
bom 1941 to 1947. Her husband was permanently incapacitated and she was the sole support of the family.
■Vcting as janitor and working as a domestic, she managed
t() keep her family together.
In 1947 the owner of the building decided to sell it.
The woman, afraid she would lose both her apartment and
her job, made up her mind to buy it, and borrowed the
"loiiey to do so. Thus she became technically a landlord;
"er daily life remained the same. She became involved
*ith her tenants and came to me for help. I agreed to
'''present her. The court granted my plea.
One thing was clear: Only technically could she have
''ecu called a landlord. But the Communist leaders heard
With delight that Bella Dodd bad appeared as "attorney
f°r a landlord." At last they had the excuse for getting me
Politically. Of course they could have simply expelled
■"c, but they were looking for an excuse to expel me on
°'iarges that would besmirch my character. They must add
soinething unforgivable: A charge of anti-Negro, anti-
Semitism, and anti-working class was thrown in for good
On May 6 a round-faced youth leader of the Communist
''arty (ame to my house; handed me a copy of written
°harges. When I said something about their falseness,
•'iter I glanced through them, he gave me a sneering look
il«d instructed me to appear for trial the next day at the
'"eil section commission, a block from my house.
I climbed the endless stairs to the drab, dirty room with
'ts smell of stale cigarets. A group was waiting for me; I
*acts Forum News, September, 1956
saw it consisted of petty employees of the Party, those at
the lowest rung of the bureaucracy. The three women
among them had faces hard and full of hate — Party faces,
I thought, humorless and rigid. They sat there like fates
ready to pass on the destinies of human beings. One
woman, the chairman, was Finnish. Another, a Puerto
Rican, began shouting [in] English too hysterical to be
understood. The pudgy-faced boy was there. Of the three
men I recognized one as a waiter ancl tbe other as a piccolo player whom I had befriended.
1 ms was an odd kind of trial. The Commission had
already made up its mind. I asked whether I could produce witnesses. The answer was "No," I asked if I might
bring the woman involved in tbe case to let her state the
story. The answer was "No." I asked if the Commission
would come with me to her bouse and speak with her and
the tenants. The answer was "No." Then I asked if I might
bring a Communist lawyer. Tbe answer was "No."
As simply as possible I tried to explain the facts. I realized I was talking to people who had been instructed, were
hostile, and would continue so despite arguments or even
proof. Tbe Finnish chairman said that I would be informed
of the result.
I was dismissed. My heart was heavy. The futility of my
life overcame me. For twenty years I had worked with this
Party. Now at the end I found myself with only a few
shabby men and women, inconsequential Party functionaries, drained of all mercy, with no humanity in their eyes,
with no good will.
I thought of others who had been through this; of others
still to go through this type of terror. I shivered at thought
of harsh, dehumanized people like these, filled with only
the emotion of hate. I sorrowed for those who would be
taken down the long road whose end I saw, now, was a
When I reached my own house and went in, I was tired
ancl spent, as if I had returned from a long, nightmare
Of course I was certain more trouble was in store. This
step had been preliminary. For this expulsion had not originated in the dirty rooms of the Harlem Commission, but
from Party headquarters on Twelfth Street, and perhaps
from more distant headquarters. I dreaded the coming
On June 17, 1949, my telephone rang. "This is the Associated Press," said a voice. "We have received a statement
from the Communist Party announcing your expulsion
from membership. It says here that you are anti-Negro,
anti-Puerto Rican, anti-Semitic, anti-labor, and the defender of a landlord. Have you any statement to make?"
"No comment," was all I could manage to say.
Tbe New York papers carried the story the following
day and three days later the Daily Worker reprinted the
long resolution of expulsion, signed by Robert Thompson.
1 braced myself for further attacks from the Partv, and
they came soon in terms of economic threats. Some of my
law practice came from trade-union and Party members,
and here action was swift. The union Communists told
me there would be no more referrals to me. Party members
who were my clients came to my office, some with their
new lawyers, to withdraw their pending cases.
Reprisals came, too, in the form of telephone calls, letters, ancl telegrams of bate and vituperation, marry from