John Jacob Abt
May 1, 1904
|Died||August 10, 1991 87) (aged|
|Other names||"Amt" (VENONA)|
|Employer||AAA, La Follette Committee, United States Attorney General's office, CIO|
|Known for||membership in Ware Group, Perlo Group, IJA, NLG|
|CIO union collective bargaining|
|Political party||Communist Party of the United States of America, American Labor Party, Progressive Party|
|Spouse(s)||Jessica Smith Ware, Vita Barsky|
John Jacob Abt (May 1, 1904 – August 10, 1991) was an American lawyer and politician, who spent most of his career as chief counsel to the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and was accused of membership in the Communist Party and the Soviet spy network called the "[Ware Group]]" (which he admitted at the end of his life).
Americans are nationals and citizens of the United States of America. Although nationals and citizens make up the majority of Americans, some dual citizens, expatriates, and permanent residents may also claim American nationality. The United States is home to people of many different ethnic origins. As a result, American culture and law does not equate nationality with race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and permanent allegiance.
A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, counselor at law, solicitor, chartered legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.
A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.
Abt was born on May 1, 1904 in Chicago, Illinois. He was a graduate of the University of Chicago, and from its law school.
Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, and the fourth largest in North America and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.
Illinois is a state in the Midwestern and Great Lakes region of the United States. It has the fifth largest gross domestic product (GDP), the sixth largest population, and the 25th largest land area of all U.S. states. Illinois is often noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in northeastern Illinois, small industrial cities and immense agricultural productivity in the north and center of the state, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base, and is a major transportation hub. Chicagoland, Chicago's metropolitan area, encompasses over 65% of the state's population. The Port of Chicago connects the state to international ports via two main routes: from the Great Lakes, via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, via the Illinois Waterway to the Illinois River. The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Wabash River form parts of the boundaries of Illinois. For decades, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been ranked as one of the world's busiest airports. Illinois has long had a reputation as a bellwether both in social and cultural terms and, through the 1980s, in politics.
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller, the school is located on a 217-acre campus in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, near Lake Michigan. The University of Chicago holds top-ten positions in various national and international rankings.
Abt practiced real estate and corporate law in Chicago from 1927 to 1933.
Abt was the Chief of Litigation, Agricultural Adjustment Administration from 1933 to 1935, assistant general counsel of the Works Progress Administration in 1935 (where Lee Pressman was also working), chief counsel to Senator Robert La Follette, Jr.'s Committee from 1936 to 1937 and special assistant to the United States Attorney General, 1937 and 1938.
The Works Progress Administration was an American New Deal agency, employing millions of people to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. It was established on May 6, 1935, by Executive Order 7034. In a much smaller project, Federal Project Number One, the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. The four projects dedicated to these were: the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), the Historical Records Survey (HRS), the Federal Theatre Project (FTP), the Federal Music Project (FMP), and the Federal Art Project (FAP). In the Historical Records Survey, for instance, many former slaves in the South were interviewed; these documents are of great importance for American history. Theater and music groups toured throughout America, and gave more than 225,000 performances. Archaeological investigations under the WPA were influential in the rediscovery of pre-Columbian Native American cultures, and the development of professional archaeology in the US.
The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C.
The United States Attorney General (A.G.) is the chief lawyer of the federal government of the United States, head of the United States Department of Justice per 28 U.S.C. § 503, and oversees all governmental legal affairs.
From 1938 to 1948, he worked at chief counsel of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union under Sidney Hillman, who hired him. By this time, the ACW had affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
Sidney Hillman was an American labor leader. He was the head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and was a key figure in the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and in marshaling labor's support for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.
The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was a federation of unions that organized workers in industrial unions in the United States and Canada from 1935 to 1955. Created in 1935 by John L. Lewis, who was a part of the United Mine Workers (UMW), it was originally called the Committee for Industrial Organization but changed its name in 1938 when it broke away from the American Federation of Labor. It also changed names because it was not successful with organizing unskilled workers with the AFL.
In his memoir, Abt claimed that leaders of the Communist Party of the USA had inspired the idea of the CIO-PAC:
In 1943, Gene Dennis came to me and Lee Pressman to first raise the idea of a political action committee to organize labor support for Roosevelt in the approaching 1944 election. Pressman approached Murray with the idea, as I did with Hillman. Both men seized upon the proposal with great enthusiasm.
Abt and Pressman became the CIO-PAC's co-counsels.(Thus, in 1943, as American spy Elizabeth Bentley resurrected the Ware Group [of which Abt had been a member], Abt could not risk involvement with her or the group. Instead, the group reformed without him under Victor Perlo as the Perlo Group. )
By January 1946, he was also working as general counsel for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and traveled to Russia with a CIO delegation, which included Lee Pressman.(The CIO had long-term support from communists; in 1947, CIO leaders like Walter Reuther pushed out communist elements and again in 1949 after the CIO's merger with the American Federation of Labor [AFL] to form the AFL-CIO.)
In September 1946, Abt appeared on the New York state ticket of American Labor Party candidates: Benjamin Fielding for Lieutenant Governor, Harry J. Chapman for State Controller, Joseph Lucchi for Attorney General, John T. Loughran for Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, and John Abt for Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals.
In October 1946, he (as CIO general counsel) joined other "liberal and progressive groups" in forming the new Progressive Party.
In February 1948, Abt left the Amalgamated and Pressman left the CIO to go work for the Progressive Party to support its presidential candidate, former Vice President Henry A. Wallace.At the time, the Washington Post dubbed Abt, Lee Pressman, and Calvin Benham "Beanie" Baldwin (C. B. Baldwin) as "influential insiders" and "stage managers" in the Wallace campaign. He also supported the candidacy in New York of Vito Marcantonio, a leader of the American Labor Party.
From 1951 to 1953, Abt joined Vito Marcantonio and Joseph Forer in defending the CPUSA on a charge from the McCarran Act.
In January 1955 Abt defended Claude Lightfoot in Chicago, an African-American Communist on trial under the 1940 Smith Act for belonging to a group that advocates the overthrow of the US government. This trial marked the first time the government attempted to convict an individual solely as a member of a group conspiring against the nation, rather than for individual actions. Although Abt's short and simple defense did not succeed at this trial, Lightfoot's conviction was ultimately overturned by the US Supreme Court in 1964.
In 1960, Abt again defended the CPUSA before the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the McCarran Act. In 1961, however, the Court sustained the section of the act requiring Communist-action organizations to register with the Government by a vote of five to four.
During Lee Harvey Oswald's interrogation by the Dallas Police on the evening of 22 November 1963, pending his arraignment for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, he requested the services of Mr. Abt:
I want that attorney in New York, Mr. Abt. I don't know him personally but I know about a case that he handled some years ago, where he represented the people who had violated the Smith Act, [which made it illegal to teach or advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government] ... I don't know him personally, but that is the attorney I want. ... If I can't get him, then I may get the American Civil Liberties Union to send me an attorney.
However, Abt and his wife had left New York City that day for a weekend at their cabin in Connecticut. He did not learn of Oswald's request until the following day. He told reporters that he had received no request either from Oswald or from anyone on his behalf to represent him, and so was in no position to give a definite answer. He said later that "if I were requested to represent him, I felt that it would probably be difficult, if not impossible, for me to do so because of my commitments to other clients."
In 1965, the Supreme Court ruled that individuals may invoke their constitutional privilege against self-incrimination and refuse to register with the Government as members of the US Communist Party. Abt considered this decision as his greatest legal victory.
Abt was one of the first attorneys to represent Angela Davis for her alleged involvement in the 1970 Marin County courthouse incident. Margaret Burnham worked with him and later wrote a foreword to his memoir.
Abt was also a member of the Ware Group, a covert organization of Communist Party operatives within the United States government in the 1930s, which actively aided Soviet intelligence by passing on government information, as well as furnishing assistance to members of the CPUSA. Abt's sister, Marion Bachrach, was also a member of the group. After the group's founder, Harold Ware, was killed in an automobile collision in 1935, Abt married Jessica Smith, Ware's widow.
In late 1943, Jacob Golos, who headed the CPUSA's secret apparatus, was referred to a spy ring of party members by General Secretary of the party, Earl Browder. This ring had been engaged for some time in espionage for Browder, and held regular clandestine meetings at Abt's apartment. In early 1944, Golos sent Elizabeth Bentley to make contact with the group at Abt's apartment. In attendance was Abt, Victor Perlo, Charles Kramer, Harry Magdoff and Edward Fitzgerald. They discussed paying party dues to Bentley, the various types of information each would be able to deliver, and the type of information other members not in attendance would also be willing to deliver.
In late 1943, the Federal Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation of Abt. Its surveillance showed frequent meetings in the early months of 1944 between Abt and a man then known as Alexander Stevens, one of the several pseudonyms used by the shadowy J. Peters, a party 'enforcer' who at one time headed the CPUSA's secret apparatus, and was involved in clandestine Soviet intelligence activities in the U.S., until his deportation to Hungary in 1948.
In 1948, under subpoena before HUAC, Whittaker Chambers named Abt among members of the Ware Group. Abt refused to give testimony.
(In 1996, it became known that Abt was referenced in Venona decrypts #588 KGB New York to Moscow, 29 April 1944 and #687 KGB New York to Moscow, 13 May 1944.)
In 1993, Abt wrote in his memoir that the Ware Group was a Communist Party unit and that he had been a member.
On March 14, 1937, Abt married Jessica Smith Ware, widow of Harold Ware; she died in 1983.
Later, he married Vita Barsky.
In 1984, on his 80th birthday, Abt admitted to being a long-time member of the CPUSA.
On August 10, 1991, Abt died at the Columbia-Greene Medical Center in Hudson, New York from a stroke. He was 87.
Victor Perlo (1912–1999) was an American Marxist economist, government functionary, and a longtime member of the governing National Committee of the Communist Party USA.
Harold Glasser, was an economist in the United States Department of the Treasury and spokesman on the affairs of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) 'throughout its whole life' and he had a 'predominant voice' in determining which countries should receive aid. Glasser was a member of the Perlo group of Soviet spies during World War II and worked closely with Harry Dexter White. His code name in Soviet intelligence and in the Venona files is "Ruble".
Charles Kramer, originally Charles Krevisky was a 20th-Century American economist who worked for U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his brain trust. Among other contributions, he wrote the original idea for the Point Four Program. He also worked for several congressional committees and hired Lyndon B. Johnson for his first Federal job. Kramer was alleged a Soviet spy as member of the Ware Group, but no charges were brought against him.
Elizabeth Terrill Bentley was an American spy and member of the Communist Party USA who served the Soviet Union from 1938 until 1945. In 1945, she defected from the Communist Party and Soviet intelligence by contacting the FBI and reporting on her activities.
Since the late 1920s, the Soviet Union, through its GRU, OGPU and NKVD intelligence services, used Russian and foreign-born nationals as well as Communist, and people of American origin to perform espionage activities in the United States. These various espionage networks had contact with various U.S. government agencies, transmitting to Moscow information that would have been deemed confidential.
Harold Ware AKA "Hal Ware" (1889–1935) was an American Marxist. Regarded as one of the Communist Party's top experts on agriculture, as well as alleged Soviet spy and founder of the "Ware Group," a covert group of operatives within the United States government to aid Soviet intelligence agents.
Lee Pressman was a labor attorney and earlier a US government functionary, publicly exposed in 1948 as a spy for Soviet intelligence during the mid-1930s, following his recent departure from Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) as a result of its purge of Communist Party members and fellow travelers. From 1936 to 1948, he represented the CIO and member unions in landmark collective bargaining deals with major corporations including General Motors and U.S. Steel. According to journalist Murray Kempton, anti-communists referred to him as "Comrade Big."
J. Peters was the most commonly known pseudonym of a man who last went by the name "Alexander Stevens" in 1949. Peters was an ethnic Jewish journalist and political activist who was a leading figure of the Hungarian language section of the Communist Party USA in the 1920s and 1930s. From the early 1930s, Peters was actively involved in the espionage activities of the Soviet Union in the United States, fabricating passports, recruiting agents, and accumulating and passing along confidential and secret information.
Nathan Witt, born Nathan Wittowsky, was an American lawyer who is best known as being the Secretary of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from 1937 to 1940. He resigned from the NLRB after his communist political beliefs were exposed and he was accused of manipulating the Board's policies to favor his own political leanings. He was also investigated several times in the late 1940s and 1950s for being a spy for the Soviet Union in the 1930s. No evidence of espionage was ever found.
Marion Bachrach (1898–1957) was the sister of John Abt and also a member of the Ware group, a group of government employees in the New Deal administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who were also members of the secret apparatus of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) in the 1930s.
Headed by Victor Perlo, the Perlo group is the name given to a group of Americans who provided information which was given to Soviet intelligence agencies; it was active during the World War II period, until the entire group was exposed to the FBI by the defection of Elizabeth Bentley.
Several allege that Harry Magdoff was among a number of persons inside the U.S. government used as information sources by Soviet intelligence. However, the allegation is disputed by several academics and historians asserting that Magdoff probably had no malicious intentions and committed no crimes.
The International Fur and Leather Workers Union (IFLWU), was a labor union that represented workers in the fur and leather trades.
The Ware group was a covert organization of Communist Party USA operatives within the United States government in the 1930s, run first by Harold Ware (1889–1935) and then by Whittaker Chambers (1901–1961) after Ware's accidental death on August 13, 1935.
Leo Isacson was a New York attorney and politician. He was notable for winning a seat in the United States House of Representatives from New York's twenty-fourth district (Bronx) as the candidate of the American Labor Party in what at that time the New York Times called "a test of Truman-[versus]-Wallace strength" with regard to the upcoming U.S. Presidential elections and a "test today of the third-party movement headed by Henry A. Wallace."
Harold I. Cammer was an American lawyer who co-founded the National Lawyers Guild. He was known for his participation in labor law, civil rights, peace and justice issues, and freedom of speech cases; in particular, defending those accused of communist leanings.
Henry Hill Collins Jr. (1905–1961), AKA Henry H. Collins, Jr., and Henry Collins, was an American citizen employed in the New Deal National Recovery Administration in the 1930s and later the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. He was a member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and the Washington D.C. based Ware group, along with Alger Hiss, Lee Pressman, Harry Dexter White and others. He was also a "pioneer in the compiling of ornithological field guides."
Calvin Benham Baldwin, also known as Calvin B Baldwin, C.B. Baldwin, and generally as "Beanie" Baldwin, served as assistant to US Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace and administrator of the New Deal's Farm Security Administration in the 1930s, worked for the CIO in the 1940s, and then worked with the Progressive Party from 1948 to 1955.
Hope Hale Davis was a 20th-century American feminist and communist, later author and writing teacher.
The first-ever "political action committee" in the United States of America was the Congress of Industrial Organizations - Political Action Committee or CIO-PAC. What distinguished the CIO-PAC from previous political groups was its "open, public operation, soliciting support from non-CIO unionists and from the progressive public... Moreover, CIO political operatives would actively participate in intraparty platform, policy, and candidate selection processes, pressing the broad agenda of the industrial union movement."