What a Factoid:

Samuel Dickstein was a Democratic Congressman from New York for over 20 years. In 1934, his concern about pro-Nazi activity in the U.S. led him to help establish what eventually became the House Un-American Activities Committee, which of course moved from investigating fascists and Nazis to investigating Communists.

He is also apparently the only Congressman known to have spied for the Soviet Union while a member of Congress.

Thanks to Prof. Gary Alan Fine (Northwestern University), whose talk pointed me to this story.

Bd (mail):
Was Samuel Dickstein a founding partner in the firm now known as Dickstein Shapiro Moriu &Oshinsky?
9.1.2005 4:19pm
Better Red than Read? (mail):
Heh. Curious about the founding fathers of the ACLU, are we?
9.1.2005 5:51pm
Bd (mail):
believe it or not, it's just a simple question. I am a legal journalist of sorts and have written about that firm in the past. so just curious...
9.1.2005 5:59pm
SteveMG (mail):
Well, he wasn't really a spy for the Soviets. Like the Rosenbergs, he was just practicing "unconventional patriotism" (as a writer for the Nation magazine once described their activity).

Besides, Bush lied.

9.1.2005 6:07pm
Better Red than Read? (mail):
Sorry, BD. Didn't mean to make you think that comment was aimed at you.

Actually, I had commented earlier on another thread where Volokh had defended the ACLU. I had asked lightheartedly who had founded the ACLU. The comment above was me wondering aloud if the comment on the ACLU's founding had caused Volokh to turn to Google and discover, lo and behold, that the ACLU was actually founded by communists as a legal defense organization for members of the Party. That sort of thing gets you wondering, and you turn up all sorts of factoids (e.g., the only KNOWN Soviet spy who served in Congress).

Like I said, heh.

p.s. Busch Lied, Taste Buds Died!
9.1.2005 6:18pm
Actually, Professor, I believe the correct name of the Committee was the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Written the other way suggests a House Committee designed with a purpose inconsistent with its existence - a name which was routinely used by some left-wing types ever since it began investigating Communism.
9.1.2005 6:42pm
Jerry Sternstein (mail):
A good account of Dickstein's work as a Soviet agent can be found in Allen Weinstein's "The Haunted Wood." Dickstein, who immigrated from Lithuania with his parents when he was six years old, was apparently motivated to spy for the Soviets more by money than ideology.

Though he was the father of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, he only served on it for a couple of years, and, according to Walter Goodman, a student of the HUAC, regretted his role in establishing it for the rest of his life.

Though Dickstein worked assidously for his NKVD handlers (who paid him a regular salary), they viewed him with a great deal of disgust, characterizing him in a memo found in the KGB archives by Weinstein's co-author, Alexander Vassiliev, as "a complete racketeer and a blackmailer."

In Congress, Dickstein was best know for his role as chairman of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, a post that enabled him to increase his income considerably since his law firm, of which his brother was a partner, specialized in immigration affairs.

When Dickstein left Congress, he was elected to the New York State Supreme Court, serving as a judge between 1946-1954. As Weinstein notes, Dickstein's involvement in the spy trade "left no visible mark on his public career."

By the way, there is no evidence that Dickstein helped found the ACLU.
9.1.2005 8:01pm
Better Red than Read (mail):
Read the post a little closer, then try to refute it, genius. No, no one said that Dickstein was a founder of the ACLU. The assertion was that Volokh only looked it up because he had also Googled the founders of the ACLU, WHO WERE ALSO COMMUNSITS. Not that Dickstein founded the group.

The ACLU was mainly founded by Roger Baldwin, et al. They MOST DEFINTIELY WERE Communists...with a capital C. CPUSA officials set it up, the Party (hence, indirectly, the Soviet Union) financed it, and the Party kept it under their thumb for years. The ACLU was designed as an outside counsel to protect Party members in trouble. It was only in the 1960's that the group got free from some of the founding Communists, but the ACLU remained in debt to the Communists for years afterwards for organization, financing, and other things. The ACLU's activities and leadership reflect this history even today.

Red baiting? Tough. It's historical fact. If someone doesn't like it, that doesn't make it untrue.
9.5.2005 1:33pm