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Proletarian Detour By: Time.com
Time.com | Wednesday, August 22, 2007


[This story ran in Time Magazine on October 30, 1939, when Time was on the right side of the war - The Editors.]

One day last week Miss Sally Bright, a deputy U. S. marshal at Raleigh, had a safe and simple chore to do at North Carolina's Central Prison. She subpoenaed Prisoner No. 34,722 to testify before the Dies Committee in Washington.

The blond, fattening, ruddy man of 43 who received her summons had a bitter and significant story for Congressman Martin Dies. That worthy and his co-committeemen could have read the story at any time since 1937, when Fred Erwin Beal told all in his book, Proletarian Journey. But a detour for Prisoner Beal from North Carolina to Washington made more headlines for Mr. Dies, focused national attention on an episode which shamed U. S. Communists long before Joseph Stalin signed with Adolf Hitler.

Fred Beal is a Yankee who turned radical during his boyhood in the mill-town of Lawrence, Mass. His journey down the Marxist road, took him to Gastonia, N. C., where in 1929, along with other northern Communists, he organized and led a bloody textile strike. In a raid on union headquarters, Police Chief O. F. Aderholt of Gastonia was shot dead—whether by strikers or by drunken officers has never been conclusively proved. Convicted of conspiracy to murder, Fred Beal and six others jumped their $5,000 appeal bonds and fled to Soviet Russia. There one blossomed as a professor. Three vanished. One fled back to America and died. Fred Beal and one other eventually returned and were imprisoned, Beal to serve 17 to 20 years.

Of the Gastonia strike Prisoner Beal had oddly little to say last week. One of his prosecutors then was Clyde Roark Hoey, who as Governor of North Carolina now has the power to pardon Fred Beal. Lolling in the witness chair, Witness Beal declared that Party leaders deliberately made the trial a vehicle for Communist propaganda, inflaming the southern jurors and dooming the defendants. Afterward, said he, Communists in Manhattan worked their false passport racket, shipped him and his fellows off "to show the Russians by our coming that there was a bad situation in America."

Fugitive Mr. Beal got in bad with the Russian comrades by finding a worse situation in Soviet Russia. Said he: "I found just the conditions against which I was fighting over here. The union officials . . . ate well, but the workers were hungry and they were in rags. I never saw the equal of that misery in this country."

When he returned briefly and secretly to the U. S. in 1931 and betrayed his disillusion, a U. S. Communist told Fred Beal that the Russians should have shot him while they had him. When he returned for keeps in 1937, he was no longer a martyr to the Communists. Their International Labor Defense not only refused to aid Fred Beal but covertly discouraged all efforts to save him. He was arrested last year at his brother's home in Lawrence.*

Light on Kuhn. Next on Martin Dies's hospitable griddle was German-American Bundesführer Fritz Kuhn. Before the Committee last August, Fritz Kuhn did very well by himself, thanks largely to the feckless questions put to him by Martin Dies & colleagues. Last week witness Kuhn undid himself.

Under $50,000 bail in Manhattan, awaiting trial on a charge of stealing $14,000 from his Bund, Fritz Kuhn was able to leave Manhattan only by permission of the court. Jittery and angry, Witness Kuhn got off to a bad start. When a spectator murmured an epithet, Fritz Kuhn roared: "Stand back! I'll ask the chairman to throw you out if you make remarks about me!" Chairman Dies threw out no spectators, but did ask newsreel cameramen to turn off their lights "because they bother Mr. Kuhn."

"The lights don't bother me," snapped Fritz Kuhn, "you do!"

Witness Kuhn then sweated and railed at length, explaining that by refusing to supply Germany with raw materials, Britain and the U. S. forced Hitler to turn to Stalin.

Noting that 23 of 71 Bund units listed by Witness Kuhn were concentrated in and near New York City, Congressman Starnes wondered out loud whether this was because of the aircraft and naval manufacturing plants handy for sabotage in that area. Cried Mr. Kuhn: "That's the same thing Lipshitz said. You know who Lipshitz is? That's Walter Winchell. Lipshitz is his real name."?

Bawling Mr. Kuhn and the bawling committeemen between them produced one significant fact: "To level off this vicious criticism," the Bund has discarded its Storm Trooper uniforms, its Hitler Swastikas, the Nazi salute.

*Others (nonCommunists) who now aid Convict Beal: U. S. Senator Robert M. La Follette's cousin Suzanne, Author Eugene Lyons (Assignment in Utopia), Raleigh Editor Jonathan Daniels.




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