Category: Historical Reprints
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, 2 Apr 1953, Thu, Page 6
Strong Man Harry
Victor Riesel Says
New York, April 2 — Even well informed insiders have been sharply underestimating the power and position of Harry Bridges in the Soviet scheme of things.
There is now available to the intelligence services of all western nations a man willing to charge that, to his personal knowledge 1, the belligerent Bridges is the Soviet’s control man for 10,000 miles of coastline. This runs from Alaska right through the Cominform center in Guatemala, the Panama Canal Zone and on down to the vital copper-laden docks of Chile.
The man from whom I learn this is Pat Walsh, once Bridges’ undercover waterfront comrade-in-arms. Today Walsh, carefully guarding his own documents and secrets, is in open rebellion against the Soviet’s global labor network. Pat Walsh was leader of the Canadian waterfront section of the Communist Party until he broke recently. It was Walsh now in Quebec City, who was ordered personally and he has the documents to prove it, to sabotage our Marshall Plan arms and food shipments to Europe.
Today, Walsh informed this column that Harry Bridges, although a convicted perjurer and a Communist Party member according to the testimony which led to his deportation order, is still the active Western Hemisphere liaison man for the Soviet’s global labor operation known as the World Federation of Trade Unions.
Just what is this world labor federation for which Bridges is fronting along 10,000 miles of vital defense coastline?
Let me show you what the French counter-intelligence headquarters thinks of it. Just a few hours before this was written, scores of Paris police and special security officers jammed riot helmed riot helmets on their heads, picked up automatic rifles and descended on the French section of the World Federation of Trade Unions.
With the Parisian police, who obviously expected quite a battle, were French counter-espionage agents. They broke into the headquarters run by the French General Confederation of Labor, and carted away special files and current records. This confederation in France is the single most important and powerful affiliate of the Russian’s World Federation of Trade Union. Obviously the French security police don’t trust it.
A sister union of the raided French Confederation of Labor is the International Seamen’s and Dockers’ Union. Guess who turns up as president of this sister union? Harry Bridges!
Furthermore, our own intelligence people have just learned that if the Supreme Court gets off its antipathy for ruling on the five-year-old Bridges case, and upholds the lower courts’ deportation orders, the man will go to Europe and will become official head of all maritime activities of the Soviet’s world labor federation!
Meanwhile, Pat Walsh charges that Bridges is in constant communication with the veteran Communist who now is Moscow’s specialist on maritime operations in the American Hemisphere. Fellow’s name is Andre Fressinet, a powerful French comrade now operating out of Vienna where the Russians have located the World Federation of Trade Unions in their own zone. There, the MVD can protect it and keep its sharp eyes on all its operations across the world.
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1 Referring to intelligence obtained by Riesel from Pat Walsh for the former’s “Labor” column, Riesel claims that he is about to divulge the “personal knowledge” of Patrick Walsh, supposedly a deeply embedded former insider into Soviet penetration of labour. However, it seems very odd indeed that Walsh would have claimed “personal knowledge” of the Soviet nature of activities undertaken by “Strong Man Harry” Bridges. In his July 13th, 1953 testimony three-and-a-half months after the date of this news item by Riesel, Walsh denies “personal knowledge” of Harry Bridges’ Communism. That exchange before the Un-American Activities subcommittee at Albany, New York, went this way (page 2378):
Mr. Kearney. Do you have any knowledge of your own as to whether Harry Bridges was a member of the Communist Party or not?
Mr. Walsh. Well, I haven’t got any positive knowledge, but among seamen and dockers it was commonly acknowledged that he was a member of the Communist Party or, if he wasn’t he was certainly doing everything that Communists were doing in the maritime section — and we could see, for example, in publications of the Communist Party, of seamen and dockers’ workers’ unions, that Harry Bridges even had articles. For example, I have an article here from a French Communist paper of Harry Bridges, which I could submit to the committee, and I’ve seen various articles of Bridges in Italian and Hungarian and German and Dutch and French papers.
Mr. Scherer. There wasn’t any question in the minds of those individuals like yourself who were acting in the Communist Party that Harry Bridges was a Communist, was there?
Mr. Walsh. No, because Pat Sullivan, the founder and the president of the Canadian Seamen’s Union, told me that Harry Bridges and himself and other American Communists — that they met in the Morrison Hotel in Chicago, I believe, and that they had decided to coordinate plans in Canada for the eventual taking over of longshoremen’s unions, which were then controlled by the International Longshoremen’s Association.
Mr. Scherer. Who would take over? What do you mean?
Mr. Walsh. Harry Bridges’ outfit — the International Longshoremens’ and Warehousemen’s Union.
How could Pat Walsh be qualified, according to Riesel writing at the beginning of April 1953, with the following credentials:
“There is now available to the intelligence services of all western nations a man willing to charge that, to his personal knowledge 1, the belligerent Bridges is the Soviet’s control man for 10,000 miles of coastline.”
Could it be that Walsh was willing to exaggerate to Riesel for some reason, but he was not willing to risk the prospect of perjury charges before the Un-American Activities subcommittee? In any event, we cannot “convict” Walsh on Riesel’s words in the column above; but as hearsay, they conflict to a substantial degree with the claims and qualifications made by Walsh when later questioned on Harry Bridges by the U.S. Subcommittee.
On the other hand, perhaps Riesel “dressed up” the nature of Walsh’s words to him, to enhance the “authority” of his own column as a source of intelligence on Communist activities in labor.