Reds in America - Richard M. Whitney

The National Information Bureau

As for the "pale gray" organizations, the kind which bear all the earmarks of respectability, in number they are multitudinous. Also the clever way in which recognized organizations, may be used by the radicals for their purposes is in many instances instructive. To attempt an enumeration would be outside the scope of this book and to designate any definite organization as a part of the united front of the lawful propaganda machinery of the Communist party of America by examination of its personnel and objectives would in many cases only raise a debatable question. But that many are made use of with or without their official wish in the matter is apparent.

Of such is "The National Information Bureau" which will be considered for a space in that it has been of assistance to some of the disloyal organizations. According to its literature, the National Information Bureau was established in 1918, and at present has offices at No. 1 Madison Avenue, New York, the office building of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

"Special reports are issued to members on request, on any organization within the field of the Bureau's formal approval. The Bureau also reports to members, as far as possible, on any enterprise in such related fields as the following:

  • Civic Reform
  • Americanization
  • Health Work
  • Religious Work (non-sectarian)
  • Propaganda (non-political)
  • Negro Schools
  • Soldier Magazines
  • Child Welfare Magazines
  • Semi-fraternal organizations, labor unions, etc., seeking support from non members.
  • Miscellaneous sem-comniercial enterprises with a genuine or spurious humanitarian appeal.

"Reports are now available to Bureau members on approximately 1,600 agencies. New Investigations will be made promptly on receipt of inquiries." (Bulletin No. 8, 1921.)

"By arrangement with the Charity Organization Society of New York, the Bureau is enabled to secure, for its members only, reports on local New York agencies." This fact places the National Information Bureau in direct connection with what is generally known among social workers the country over as the "New York Charity Trust."

"The Bureau also issues exclusively for Us members a special cautionary bulletin."

"Organizations are approved on the basis of (a) complete information supplied by the organizations themselves and supplemented by necessary investigation; (b) compliance with the standards adopted by the Board of Directors of the Bureau."

The Board of Directors has established a set of standards expressed in ten items, most of which, if not all, are entirely laudable. Two are here reproduced to show that in these respects the standards are so flexible that approval or disapproval, in any particular instance, will rest not so much on the standard as on the interpretation of the standard by Bureau's Board of Directors.

  • "A legitimate purpose with no avoidable duplication of the work of another efficiently managed organization.
  • "Reasonable efficiency in conduct of work, management of institutions, etc., and reasonable adequacy of equipment for such work, both material and personal."

The Bureau also states itself to be "an impartial investigating agency, does not express a judgment concerning the purposes of organizations where the value of these purposes is open to legitimate difference of opinion," palpably a standard which has wide latitude of interpretation.

The Bureau apparently seeks to gain its financial support from organizations, firms and individuals willing to pay for the service, who desire investigations made of "national, social, civic or philanthropic organizations soliciting voluntary contributions." There are naturally many people both among the wealthier and the well-to-do classes who desire to be satisfied that any funds which they contribute will be properly disbursed, and the National Information Bureau is apparently the organization, from its point of view, which is able and equipped to give them satisfaction. Presumably, then, the Bureau is constantly receiving applications from such people, and in time would have listed large numbers of those who are philanthropically inclined. "Over 1700 investigations have been made; forty percent show undesirable conditions" (1921).

In detailing the scope of the work of the National Information Bureau, attention has been called to certain dangerous potentialities, and it remains to examine the personnel of its organization as shown by its reports. Mr. Paul Cravath was apparently one of the earlier officials. He is widely known in New York as an attorney, and it is a matter of common knowledge that he had acted in a professional capacity for the banking firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Co., or for some of its partners as individuals. He appeared for Mr. Otto Kahn for instance, before the Federal Trade Commission at hearings appointed to investigate the facts as to the possibility of the existence of a moving picture trust. Literature describing the work of the Bureau in the year 1921, presents a list of names of the officers and directors, many of which are quite above the suspicion of being consciously involved in any subversive organization.

There are two divisions of the Board of Directors, the first "representing the contributing public," and the second "representing organized social work." Of the names in the former division, that of Robert W. DeForest is perhaps the most conspicuous. He is a well known attorney in New York City, an official in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and a trustee of the Sage Foundation, etc., etc., etc. Among radicals he is widely and favorably known because of the fact that he is or was president of the corporation which publishes The Survey, a magazine which the Lusk Committee Report very conservatively classifies as "a Liberal paper, having the endorsement of Revolutionary Groups". Its editorial policy exhibits a tendresse for Soviet Russia which approaches in an intellectual way near to that which is exhibited by wordy brass knuckles of The Communist. The Lusk Committee also brought out the fact that The Survey was "subsidized by the Russell Sage Foundation and has been receiving at the rate of $13,000 a year for the past nine years."

The Lusk Committee Report also records the fact that Freedom, a paper published by the Ferrer group of anarchists at Stelton, N.J., and advocating the "principles of anarchist communism," had this to say editorially:

"It may well be asked, 'Why another paper?' when the broadly libertarian and revolutionary movement is so ably represented by Socialist publications like the Revolutionary Age, Liberator, Rebel Worker, Workers World, and many others, and the advanced liberal movement by The Dial, Nation, The World Tomorrow, and to a lesser degree, the New Republic, and Survey. These publications are doing excellent work in their several ways, and with much of that work we find ourselves in hearty agreement."

The explanation which has been advanced in defense of Mr. De Forest to the effect that as a busy business and professional man, he hardly has time to give detailed attention to many activities to which he lends his name, is a specious one. He alone is responsible for the use of his name.

Among those given as members of the directorate of the National Information Bureau "representing organized social work" is the familiar one of Owen R. Lovejoy, general secretary of the National Child Labor Committee of New York. It should be noted that Lovejoy is secretary of the Bureau (1921), presumably indicating his lively interest in the work. To radicals of every hue from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Lovejoy's name is always hailed with satisfaction. He was formerly active in the American Association for Labor Legislation. He is listed in the Lusk Committee Report as a member of the executive committee of the Civil Liberties Bureau, of which Roger N. Baldwin was director, this Bureau afterwards merging into the American Civil Liberties Union, a part of the open or legal machinery of the Communist party of America.

The roster of that Executive Committee reads more or less like the membership of a New York Local, among them being: Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. Dr. James P. Warbasse, Rev. Norman M. Thomas, Agnes Brown Leach, Zona Gale, Max Eastman, Emily Greene Balch, Oswald Garrison Villard (owner of The Nation), Prof. Scott Nearing, James R. Maurer, Alice Lewisohn, Paul U. Kellog (editor of The Survey), Rev. John H. Holmes, Frank Bohn and Jane Addams. Mr. Lovejoy also wrote the so-called "Dear Gene" letter to Debs at the time when the latter was sentenced to Atlanta Penitentiary and in which Lovejoy analyzed his feelings at this event by comparing them with the falling shades of night.

As general secretary of the National Child Labor Committee, he has been welcomed in at least one High School of the City of New York, where, after making a speech, he solicited pennies from the students for the support of the Committee.

In Bulletin No. 8 issued by the National Information Bureau, a list of the societies approved (1921) is given, and among them are the names of two. The American Association of Social Workers and the National Child Labor Committee, of which Lovejoy himself is an official.

In this approved list there are of course many societies and organizations which are far above criticism both as to their functions and the personnel of the officials. There are however some which are quite to the contrary. For instance, approval has been extended to the American Civil Liberties Union, an important constituent organization in the open legal machinery of the Communist party of America, for all practical purposes a continuation of the Old Civil Liberties Bureau of which Lovejoy himself was a member of the Executive Committee, and an organization which caused so much anxiety to the Government during the war. Approval has also been extended in a list of 1923 to the Women's Trade Union League of which, as stated, Mrs. Raymond Robins was the organizer and president, and which was discussed with more than friendly spirit in the documents seized during the raid on the convention of the Communist party at Bridgman. As has been shown this organization is a part and not an unimportant one of the united front of the open legal machinery of the Communist party of America.

The American Association for Labor Legislation has also been approved in the 1923 list, an organization which has also been considered and of which Mr. Felix Warburg of the banking firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Co., is or was a vice-president, along with Miss Lillian Wald, Ernst Freund and Rabbi Stephen Wise. In the approved list are also societies of all stripes among them:

  • American Union Against Militarism, (1921);
  • American Jewish Committee, (1923) organized to "protect and prevent the infraction of civil and religious rights of Jews throughout the world";
  • Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, (1923) of which whole books have been written;
  • Foreign Policy Association, (1923) which stands for "a liberal and constructive American foreign policy";
  • League to Enforce Peace, "organized to promote an effective League of Nations with the United States as a member",
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (1923) an agitative pro-Soviet organization for propagandizing negroes;
  • National Consumers League, of which Mrs. Florence Kelly (formerly Wishnewetzky) is the General Secretary, and John R. Shillady, also on the directorate of the National Information Bureau, is the executive director;
  • Voluntary Parenthood League, which specializes in the propaganda of birth control, and which from an examination of its personnel and objectives may be regarded as in the periphery of the radical movement;
  • American Relief for Russian Women and Children of which the pro-socialist and pacifist, Jane Addams is the chairman;
  • Committee for the Rescue and Education of Russian Children;
  • American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee of which Mr. Felix Warburg is the chairman; and many others.

If letterheads are to be believed, the National Information Bureau has extended within the recent past its seal of approval to the Friends of Soviet Russia, the open, legal branch of the Communist party of America. It has also set the seal of its approval on the many constituant organizations of the Friends of Soviet Russia and also upon the American Committee for the Relief of Russian Children of which Capt. Paxton Hibben is the executive secretary, of whom much has already been said.

Information of the type which the National Information Bureau collects and correlates is lifeblood to those who are actively engaged in the work of propaganda, good or bad. "Sucker-lists" such as were uncovered in the raid upon the convention of the Communist party of America at Bridgman must be constantly replenished and if a mechanism does not exist capable of supplying them, it must be organized.