American Committee For The Defense of Leon Trotsky - History


In March 1937, The American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky initiated the so-called Dewey Commission (officially the "Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials"). The inquiry was named after its Chairman, John Dewey. Its other members were Carleton Beals, an authority on Latin-American affairs; Otto Ruehle, biographer of Karl Marx and former member of the Reichstag; American journalists Benjamin Stolberg and Suzanne LaFollette (Secretary); Alfred Rosmer, who in 1920-21 had been a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International; Wendelin Thomas, leader of the Wilhelmshaven sailors’ revolt in November 1918 and later a Communist member of the German Reichstag; Edward A. Ross, Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin; former literary critic of The New York Times John Chamberlain, Carlo Tresca, Italian-American anarchist leader; and Mexican journalist Francisco Zamora.

A sub-commission, comprising the first five commission members listed above, conducted thirteen hearings at Trotsky's home in Coyoacan, Mexico, D.F., from April 10 to April 17, 1937. Leon Trotsky was defended by the lawyer Albert Goldman. John Finerty acted as the commission’s legal counsel.

During the course of the "trial", committee member Mauritz A. Hallgren, formerly an editor of The Nation magazine, made headlines with a public resignation from the committee published in the pages of the New York Times. Hallgren charged that the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky had "become an instrument of the Trotskyists for political intervention against the Soviet Union." Hallgren's January 27, 1937 letter of resignation was later published as a 1-cent propaganda pamphlet by the Communist Party's International Publishers.

Albert Einstein, although noting that Trotsky deserved the opportunity to prove his innocence, was critical of the Dewey inquiry: "The question is raised because Trotsky is an extremely active and adroit politician, who might well search for an effective platform for the presentation and promulgation of his political goals in the public sphere. . . . I'm afraid that the only result would be Trotsky's own self-promotion without the possibility of a well-ground judgment."

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