Steve Nelson

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Steve Nelson (1903-1993) is an author and late Communist Party USA member. He was born Stephen Mesarosh) in Yugoslavia in 1903. He became a carpenter after emigrating to the United States and became involved in the trade union movement.

Nelson entered the United States June 14, 1920, at New York using an illegal and fraudulent passport under the name Joseph Fleischinger. On November 21, 1922, the Immigration Service legalized this entry and on November 26, 1928, at Detroit, Mich., Nelson was permitted American citizenship by naturalization.

In 1925 Nelson joined the American Communist Party and moved to Chicago to be a full-time party worker. He helped organize the International Unemployment Day demonstration on 6 March 1930. During the demonstration Nelson, Joe Dallet, Oliver Law and eleven other activists were arrested and beaten by the police.

He fought in the Spanish Civil War, leading many attacks. After the World War II, Nelson moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to be the leader of the local American Communist Party. On 31 August 1950 Nelson was arrested and charged with sedition against the state of Pennsylvania. Two years later Nelson was convicted of sedition and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Supreme Court overturned the ruling in 1956 and Nelson was released.

Steve Nelson, published his book, Steve Nelson: American Radical in 1981, died in 1993.[1]

Aliases

Nelson used the aliases, Stephen Mesarosh, Steve J. Mesarosh, Joseph Fleischinger, Louis Evans, and "Hugo." The latter name is the code name employed by Nelson when he would contact the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco, California.[2]

Lenin School

Nelson in the 1930's attended the Lenin School in Moscow, which is reserved for only the most promising and worthy Communists. The Lenin School stressed instructions in revolutionary espionage and sabotage.

In August 1931 Nelson applied for a United States passport and willfully made the fraudulent statement that he had been born in Rankin, Pa. In July 1933 Nelson renewed his passport for a 2-year period with the American Consul at Vienna, Austria. At the time of this renewal Nelson stated that he had resided in Russia from September 1931 to May 1933, and from that time until July 1933, he had resided in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.[3]

China

Nelson was in China for 3 months in 1933 working for the Shanghai branch of the Comintern. One of Nelson's coworkers in Shanghai was Arthur Ewert, a seasoned Comintern agent, who was imprisoned in Brazil for the part he played in the Communist revolution there in 1935.

During the entire time he was outside the United States, performed espionage work for the Soviet Government. The exact time that Nelson returned to the United States is not known but in 1934 Nelson contributed an article to The Party Organizer, then the official voice of the Central Committee of the Communist Party USA.[4]

Spanish Civil War

Nelson traveled to Spain during the Spanish Civil War, rising through the ranks to become a lieutenant colonel in the International Brigade of the Loyalist Army.[5]

Atomic Espionage

In 1937 in Spain, Nelson met and befriended a woman, Katherine Puening Harrison who had gone to Paris, France, to meet her husband who was a member of the International Brigade. The husband, Joe Dallet, however, had been killed in action and Nelson assisted the wife in returning to this country. The woman, upon her return to the United States, moved to Berkeley, Calif., where she became acquainted with and eventually married one of the leading physicists engaged in the development of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer.

Nelson, through his acquaintance with the scientist's wife, believed that he could gain access to secret atom data.

Meeting Zubilin

A meeting was held in Steve Nelson's home in Oakland, California, on April 10, 1943, with Vassili Zubilin, a top official of the Soviet NKVD.

Following the introduction and proper identification, Nelson explained to Zubilin that he was engaged in work for the Soviet espionage apparatus upon instructions delivered to him by courier from New York. Nelson explained that Earl Browder, then head of the Communist Party USA, was fully aware that he, Nelson, was engaged in secret work for the Soviets.

Nelson outlined completely for Zubilin the character and personalities of the various individuals engaged in activities for the Com- munist apparatus on the west coast, and in most instances used their code names in referring to them. Nelson expressed dissatisfaction with the contacts that were being made with Japanese Communists interned in the relocation centers and also with the handling of literature and documentary material which was being furnished points in the South Pacific area by means of Communist seamen couriers.

Nelson also discussed with Zubilin the matter of "Russian activities" which he distinguished from purely political and propaganda work for the Comintern apparatus. Nelson explained that with regards to the "Russian activities" that there were a number of Communist Party officials in California, who had expressed alarm because Soviet representatives were directly approaching rank and file members and giving them specific assignments of an espionage nature and instructing the members not to say anything to their party superiors regarding their assignments. It was Nelson's suggestion that the Soviets choose, in each important city or State where espionage activities might be necessary, a trustworthy contact and allow that person to handle direct contact with the Communist members to be given special assignments.

Also at this meeting Nelson complained about the inefficiency of two of the persons operating in the apparatus. The identity of these individuals was established as Getzel Hochberg and Mordecai Rappaport. Following this meeting these two persons were relieved of their apparatus assignments and transferred to different cities, Hochberg from New York to Detroit and Rappaport from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Prior meeting

The events that transpired at the April 10, 1943, meeting between Steve Nelson and Vassili Zubilin in Nelson's home have been accounted for. However, a short time prior to this meeting another meeting had taken place in the Nelson house, which although not attended by Zubilin, was directly related to Zubilin's being on the west coast.

One evening in March 1943 a man identifying himself as "Joe" kept an appointment with Nelson which had earlier been arranged through Nelson's wife. Upon "Joe's" arrival at the Nelson home, Nelson was not there and did not return until well after midnight. When Nelson finally did arrive, "Joe" greeted him by stating that he had some information he believed Nelson could use. "Joe" then furnished Nelson with some highly confidential data regarding the nuclear experiments then in progress at the radiation laboratories at the University of California at Berkeley. The experiments at the University of California had then reached the experimental stage of the atom bomb. The "Joe" mentioned herein has been identified as Joseph W. Weinberg.

Meeting with Ivanov

Several days after this meeting with "Joe," Nelson arranged with the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco to meet Peter Ivanov, a vice consul. Nelson suggested the meeting take place at some place where they could not be observed. Ivanov suggested the meeting would be safe in the "usual place." Government agents subsequently observed a meeting between Nelson and Ivanov that took place in the middle of an open park on the grounds of St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco. The Government agents observed Nelson passing an envelope or package to Ivanov. It was shortly after this meeting that Vassili Zubilin arrived at the Russian Consulate in San Francisco and subsequently met with Nelson.

Atomic intelligence gathering

Nelson, a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA, instructed Weinberg, a research physicist engaged in development of the atomic bomb, that Weinberg should keep Nelson advised of progress in this development in order that Nelson could in turn furnish this information to the proper officials of the Soviet Government.

Nelson was of the opinion that there were enough Communists engaged in atomic research so that when all reports were correlated the Soviets could assemble the atom bomb. There is no question that the information gathered from the Nelson group materially assisted the Soviets toward this goal.

Weinberg, when questioned by the House Committee on Unamerican Activities , denied the allegations that he had furnished any information concerning the atomic bomb to Steve Nelson. Later, when he appeared before a Federal grand jury in Washington, D. C, Weinberg refused to answer similar questions on the grounds that to do so might tend to incriminate him.

The committee's investigation was intensified toward ascertaining the facts relating to a meeting which was held in the home of Joseph W. Weinberg in Berkeley, Calif., in August 1943. This meeting was attended by the following persons: Weinberg; Steve Nelson; Bernadette Doyle, who had been secretary to Steve Nelson while he was a Communist Party organizer in California, and who later was a candidate for office in California on the Communist Party ticket and later indicted under the Smith Act; Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz; Irving David Fox; David Bohm; and Ken Max Manfred, formerly known as Max Bernard Friedman.

With the exception of Doyle and Nelson, these persons were all associated with the radiation laboratory of the University of California. During the course of the committee's investigation all of these persons were identified as being members of the Communist Party.

The committee questioned Nelson, Lomanitz, Fox, Bohm, and Manfred, who declined to answer pertinent questions, basing their refusal on the statement that to do so might incriminate them.

Joseph Weinberg, when questioned concerning this meeting, steadfastly denied that such a meeting had ever occurred.

The committee also introduced witnesses who had been agents of Government intelligence agencies who testified that this meeting had been covered by the Government. Weinberg persisted in his denials.[6]

Loyalty

An idea of Nelson's loyalty to the United States may be gained by a statement made by him in November 1941, immediately prior to the United States' entrance into the war in which Russia and England were already engaged with Nazi Germany;[7]

Roosevelt and Churchill are fine men, but we cannot expect them to promise socialism. We know there will be quarrels, but now we must defeat Hitlerism- Fascism. We may have to take guns against the United States and England later.

New American Movement

In 1981 the Lucy Parsons Chapter of the New American Movement and friends honored Milt Cohen and Vicky Starr for their many years of activity in the causes for people's progress and democracy. The members of NAM listed were: Alba Alexander, Bill Barclay, Dan Gilman, Roger Gilman, Debby Holdstein, Rob Persons, Miriam Rabban, Ralph Scott, Julie Skurski, Peg Stroebel, Monty Tarbox and Ed Kucinsky. The friends of NAM listed were: Florence Green and Ben Green, Bob Reed of Seattle, Judy MacLean of San Francisco, Max Gordon of NYC, Quentin Young and Ruth Young of Chicago, Clarence Lipschutz and Peggy Lipschutz of Evanston, Miriam Bazell, Florence Gibbon of Chicago, Bronwen Zwirner of New Bedford, Leonard Lamb and Constance Lamb of Astoria, Helene Susman and Bill Susman of Great Neck, Corinne Golden of Chicago, Robert Havighurst and Edythe Havighurst of Chicago, Sara Heslep, Sandy Barty, Clara Diamont, Pete Seeger, Steve Nelson, Hannah Frisch, Sue Cohen, Gil Green of NYC, Joan Powers, Clarence Stoecker and Rebecca Hobbs of Chicago, James Bond of Oakland, Pat McGauley, Gabby Rosenstein of Santa Monica, Karl Cannon and Fay Cannon of Camarillo, Loriel Busenbard and Steven Starr, Daniel Starr, Beth Starr and Bob Starr (children of Vicky Starr) were listed as friends of the Lucy Parsons Chapter of the New American Movement.[8]

Tribute to Ben Dobbs

On Sunday, June 7, 1981, the Los Angeles Chapter of the New American Movement sponsored a Tribute to Ben Dobbs for "His lifelong commitment to socialism". The event was held at the Miramar-Sheraton Hotel, Santa Monica, California. Sponsors of the event included Steve Nelson.[9]

External links

References

  1. Spartacus Educational, Steve Nelson
  2. THE SHAMEFUL YEARS, THIRTY YEARS OF SOVIET ESPIONAGE IN THE UNITED STATES, HUAC Jan 8, 1952
  3. THE SHAMEFUL YEARS, THIRTY YEARS OF SOVIET ESPIONAGE IN THE UNITED STATES, HUAC Jan 8, 1952
  4. THE SHAMEFUL YEARS, THIRTY YEARS OF SOVIET ESPIONAGE IN THE UNITED STATES, HUAC Jan 8, 1952
  5. THE SHAMEFUL YEARS, THIRTY YEARS OF SOVIET ESPIONAGE IN THE UNITED STATES, HUAC Jan 8, 1952
  6. THE SHAMEFUL YEARS, THIRTY YEARS OF SOVIET ESPIONAGE IN THE UNITED STATES, HUAC Jan 8, 1952
  7. THE SHAMEFUL YEARS, THIRTY YEARS OF SOVIET ESPIONAGE IN THE UNITED STATES, HUAC Jan 8, 1952
  8. 10th Anniversary Booklet for the New American Movement, 1981
  9. Tribute to Ben Dobbs program, June 7, 1981