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The basics
Quick Facts
Gender male
Birth 24 June 1903 (Moravian Falls, Wilkes County, North Carolina, U.S.A.)
Death 18 November 1955 (Berkeley, Alameda County, California, U.S.A.)
Star sign CancerCancer
The details
Biography

Paul Crouch (June 24, 1903 - November 18, 1955) was a communist activist and then paid government informer regarding communist infiltration in the U.S. federal government. Crouch biographer Gregory Taylor has called him a "naïve, ill-educated recruit" to the Communist Party. Oppenheimer biographers Bird and Sherwin have claimed that he was the "most highly paid" informer for the Justice Department in 1951-1952.

Background

Paul Crouch was born in Moravian Falls, North Carolina, on June 24, 1903.

Career

Communism

Crouch was a worker, secretary, and newspaper editor. In April 1924, he joined the U.S. Army. While stationed in Hawaii, he formed a Hawaiian Communist League (1924-1927) with 75 other soldiers and supported a local strike on a sugar plantation. On February 17, 1925, the military arrested the group and singled out Crouch as their leader. After discharging the others, they sentenced him to 40 years of hard labor.

Crouch contacted Upton Sinclair, who gained support from the Daily Worker newspaper and the International Labor Defense (ILD), both affiliates of the nascent Communist Party. Thanks to the efforts of ILD lawyer Austin Lewis, Crouch served another 24 months in Alcatraz on a commuted three-year sentence. Crouch emerged on June 1, 1927, as a "national cause célèbre" to the Communist Party, thanks to the Daily Worker.

Crouch moved to New York City, where he joined the Workers Party of America. He worked at the Daily Worker, where he met Whittaker Chambers on staff.

The Party sent him with George Mink on a mission to Moscow from December 1927 to April 1928. He attended the Sixth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern. He attended what he later called the "Frunze Institute." In Moscow, he met Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Lenin's wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, Klara Zetkin, and "Big" Bill Haywood. He also meet Sam Darcy there.

Crouch returned from Moscow, charged with fomenting national self-determination of African Americans in the "Black Belt" of the American South — from the states of Maryland to Texas. Practically speaking, the American party supported African Americans legally (see Scottsboro Case) but did not go so far as to promote national self-determination.

Following the defeat of the CPUSA ticket for the 1928 Presidential Election of William Z. Foster and Benjamin Gitlow, Crouch toured the South but found little support except in North Carolina. He supported the 1929 Loray Mill strike in Gastonia, North Carolina. He supported the National Textile Workers’ Union (NTWU, now TWUA). He also worked on a strike in Norfolk, Virginia, under the name "Fred Allen."

He later claimed to have served the CPUSA as:

  • 1933-1934: Utah state organizer
  • 1934-1937: Carolina state organizer
  • 1938-1939: Alabama state organizer (and editor of the ‘’New South’’)
  • 1939-1941: Tennessee state organizer
  • 1941-1942: Alameda Country, California, organizer

Anti-communism

Crouch claimed to have broken from the CPUSA in January 1942, although the Party renewed his membership for 1943.

During five years as a paid government informer, he testified regarding Robert Oppenheimer, Harry Bridges, Charlie Chaplin, William Remington, Milton A. Abernethy, and many others as Communists. He alleged that Communist conspiracy had reached the White House and inspired the civil rights movement.

During his testimony on May 6, 1949, he spoke at length about efforts by the CPUSA to continue to infiltrate the U.S. Army. He also mentioned alleged communists known to him, including Harry Bridges (strike organizer), William Schneiderman (California CP), Robert Oppenheimer (atomic scientist), including Haakon Chevalier (translator). Clearly, the committee tried to connect Crouch to the Hiss Case. During the years 1934-1937, he testified that he had worked under J. Peters, Max Bedacht, daughter Elsa Bedacht, and Peter's replacement Rudy Baker. He knew George Mink. He also knew Alexander Trachtenberg well. (Bedacht and Peters recruited Whittaker Chambers to the underground, while George Mink was an early underground comrate. Chambers’ wife Esther Shemitz illustrated a book for International Publishers.) However, he did not know Isaac Folkoff or William Edward Crane (AKA Irving Keith), people in one of Chambers’ earlier networks. (It is worth noting that J. Peters, already under federal investigation, left the U.S. permanently on May 8, 1949, two days after Crouch's testimony.)

During 1951-1952, Crouch was the "most highly paid" informer for the Justice Department and earned $9,675 (more than $87,000 in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars) during those two years.

During the same period, he lectured across the U.S., sometimes with his wife Sylvia and fellow informant Louis Budenz.

Discredited

On January 5, 1953, an appeals board overturned a decision regarding the loyalty of Mary Dublin Keyserling, wife of Leon Keyserling, both New Deal economists. Both Keyserlings resigned from government on January 9. Crouch, J. B. Matthews, and Senator Joseph McCarthy were their chief accusers.

Reporters Joseph Alsop, Stewart Alsop, and Drew Pearson began to challenge Crouch's testimony. (I. F. Stone joined in March 1954.)

Within a few months, Justice stopped using Crouch as a witness. In 1955, supreme court justices agreed that Crouch and Manning Johnson had made allegations under perjury.

Death

Crouch died on November 18, 1955, at the hospital of the University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley, California, of cancer of the throat and bronchial tubes.

Legacy

At his death, one of the people whom he had accused wrote:

In his testimony before the Courts, Congressional Committees, and Loyalty Boards, Crouch did just what he was hired to do and, whatever may be said about him, he gave his employers full value of what they wanted of him. He died lonely and despised by those who used him. Those who hired him remain respectable and powerful. They used him and when he was no longer useful they threw him aside. There are plenty of others to take his place. His very death was a final act of service to his hirers, for by it he became purged of his evil doing and they, of their responsibility for using him, for of the dead we should speak only good. Our Attorney General will now be spared the embarrassment of answering questions about the progress of his long delayed "study" of Crouch's conflicting testimony or about what is being done to right the wrongs done his victims.

Works

  • ‘’Broken Chains’’ (unpublished manuscript about his CPUSA career 1925-1942)

Images

External sources

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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