June 18th, 2012

Juliet Poynz, changer?

About a week ago marked the 75th anniversary of the disappearance of Juliet Poyntz. She’s hardly a household word, but her story is not atypical of those highly-placed Communists who turned on their former colleagues.

Poyntz was a Barnard history professor and one of the founders of the American Communist Party, who worked for a while for the prototype of the KGB. Like many others (but not enough others), she became disillusioned with Communism during the 30s when Stalin’s excesses became more obvious. She disappeared not long after that, and the case has never been solved.

Fast forward to now. Kevin Higgins is a contemporary Irish poet who, like so many other poets, started out on the far left—but unlike most of them, he’s moved somewhat rightwards. Although it’s only “somewhat” rightwards, “somewhat” is way too much for many on the left, and as a result he has dealt with some ire from former fellow travelers.

Although I “know” Higgins, I’ve never met him; we’ve corresponded from time to time (one of the best perks of the blogosphere is hearing from people such as Higgins). He’s written the following poem in remembrance of Juliet Poyntz’s disappearance:

WHEREABOUTS
for Juliet Poyntz (1886-1937)

You deliver envelopes
you must under no circumstances open
to men whose names you never ask
in hotel lobbies in Baltimore, Copenhagen,
Shanghai… No one you know has seen
you in three years. On a New York street

you happen upon an old friend, you used to
like to disagree with – those
big opinioned, diner nights
you can’t quite forget – talk over
your new found
disgust: the white-walled cells
into which you’ve seen people
you call ‘comrade’ one by one vanish
to be kept awake all night
and confess
under extreme electric light. Over coffee
you are full of
the book you’re planning to write.

Already evening. Earlier today,
at a chateau in central France,
Edward married Mrs Simpson.
You leave your room at
353 West 57th Street
to buy The New York Times
or some Lucky Strike
cigarettes. No luggage
nor extra clothes. Behind you,
everything you own.
A solitary candle
still burning.

Buried in the upstate woods
or smuggled aboard a tanker bound for
Archangel, Leningrad, Vladivostok…
You are never heard of again.

5 Responses to “Juliet Poynz, changer?”

  1. George Pal Says:

    The poet failed to mention she was a member of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). I wonder if it was concurrent with her founding of the CPUSA? At any rate that’s an odd parlay.

  2. artfldgr Says:

    We know more today

    Juliet Poyntz: File 100-206603

    That’s the number of her file..
    she is mentioned in Venona

    Glazer, Juliet: Married name of Juliet Stuart Poyntz

    Poyntz, Juliet Stuart: Founding member of the CPUSA, directed its women’s department and the New York Workers School in the 1920s, and on the staff of the Friends of the Soviet Union and International Labor Defense. In 1934 she dropped out of open party activities and into Soviet intelligence work. She disappeared from her New York City residence in 1937 and a police investigation turned up no clues to her fate.

    Vassiliev Notebooks Concordance
    Cover Names, Real Names, Abbreviations, Acronyms, Organizational Titles, Tradecraft Terminology
    Compiled by John Earl Haynes, 20081
    Wilson Center

    Testimony by former Soviet agent Whittaker Chambers tied Poyntz’ disappearance to the shadowy Soviet Comintern agent Josef Peters.As an inside member of the Soviet Comintern and OGPU espionage network, Peters is believed to have participated in the planning of the kidnapping and alleged murder of fellow CPUSA member Juliet Poyntz by a Soviet assassination squad.

    Chambers later stated that he heard Poyntz had been killed for attempted desertion, and this rumor contributed to his caution when he defected in 1938. Elizabeth Bentley stated she was told by Jacob Golos in the late 1930s, and later by KGB officer Anatoli Gromov in 1945 that Poyntz had been a traitor and was now dead.

    Both Chambers’s and Bentley’s defection were probably in part motivated by fear of the example set in the Juliet Poyntz case.

    Gitlow

    Gitlow relates that the OGPU/NKVD used Poyntz’s former lover, a man named Shachno Epstein, the associate editor of the Communist Yiddish daily Morgen Freiheit (and an OGPU/NKVD agent himself), to lure Poyntz out for a walk in Central Park. “They met at Columbus Circle and proceeded to walk through Central Park…Shachno took her by the arm and led her up a side path, where a large black limousine hugged the edge of the walk. [...] Two men jumped out, grabbed Miss Poyntz, shoved her into the car and sped away.” Gitlow relates that the assassins took Poyntz to the woods near the Roosevelt estate in Dutchess County, and killed and buried her there. “The body was covered with lime and dirt. On top were placed dead leaves and branches which the three killers trampled down with their feet.”

    On June 11, 1937 a military tribunal, in camera, condemned Putna and other high-ranking officers to death in the judicial frame-up known as the Moscow Trial of the Trotskyist Anti-Soviet Military Organization. The NKVD, according to Krivitsky, may have abducted Poytnz one week before the trial out of fear that she would defect once the execution of Putna became known, or simply because she was a known friend of the “enemy” Putna

    GRU defectors

    Viktor Suvorov (Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun)
    Stanislav Lunev
    Oleg Penkovsky, a GRU officer who played an important role during the Cuban Missile Crisis
    Igor Gouzenko, a GRU cipher clerk who defected in Canada
    Walter Krivitsky, a GRU defector who predicted that Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler would conclude a Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, found dead in 1941
    Ignace Reiss, a GRU defector who sent a letter of defection to Stalin in July 1937, found dead in September 1937
    Juliet Poyntz, a founding member of the Communist Party of the United States, allegedly killed for an attempt to defect
    Iavor Entchev, a communist member of GRU; defected to United States during the Cold War.

    and in camera, they are referring to Kamera..
    i have brought it up before…
    The KGB’s Poison Factory

    the “Kamera,” or as KGB veterans might remember it, “Laboratory No. 12.”

    Poison laboratory of the Soviet secret services
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poison_laboratory_of_the_Soviet_secret_services
    Poison laboratory of the Soviet secret services, alternatively known as Laboratory 1, Laboratory 12, and Kamera which means “The Chamber” in Russian, was a covert research and development facility of the Soviet secret police agencies

    Currently: Several laboratories of the SVR, (headquartered in Yasenevo near Moscow), are responsible for the “creation of biological and toxin weapons for clandestine operations in the West”

    GRU alone spent more than $1 billion for propaganda and peace movements against Vietnam War,

    According to Oleg Kalugin, “the Soviet intelligence was really unparalleled. … The KGB programs — which would run all sorts of congresses, peace congresses, youth congresses, festivals, women’s movements, trade union movements, campaigns against U.S. missiles in Europe, campaigns against neutron weapons, allegations that AIDS… was invented by the CIA… all sorts of forgeries and faked material — [were] targeted at politicians, the academic community, at the public at large.”

  3. Gringo Says:

    In his memoir Radical Son, David Horowitz wrote about the courier work of a family friend in 1940. Not for nothing was he called a Red Diaper baby!

    In 1940 one of my parents’ closest friends was summoned fro a secret mission. Ann Colloms was a schoolteacher no more than five feet tall in her stocking feet. She was the mother of my nursery schoolmate, Michael, and had never broken a law in her life. The Party asked he to take a sealed envelope to Mexico and deliver to a contact. It was a call she could not refuse. She was instructed not to tell anybody about her mission, and had no idea what the envelope contained….

    To reach Trotsky in his American fortress [in Mexico] , it was useful to enlist the help of American comrades on whose services he could call. Anne Colloms never knew for certain whether she was one. But shortly after she delivered the party’s letter to her contact in Mexico, a Soviet agent named Jacson Mercader penetrated the compound and Coyacan and put an ice pick in Trotsky’s head.[page 76]

    There are couriers, and then there are couriers. Ann Colloms remained a loyal Party member at least through 1950, when she shut her mouth when she was called to testify in front of a Congressional committee.

    Thanks for the additional information, Artflgr.

    [My hardcopy version says "In 1940 one.." but the Google Books version says "In 1944 one.."]

  4. Occam's Beard Says:

    Sorry, I can’t muster much – make that “any” – sympathy for someone who was killed by the evil she’d spent her life trying to inflict on others. In my book, she’s on the Ernst Roehm plan.

  5. Kevin Higgins Says:

    I think that last comment is just a little unfair. ‘Darkness at Noon’, the novel which in many ways inspired ’1984′ was written Arthur Koestler who was also a former communist. And of course then there is Whittaker Chambers, who was actually a personal friend of Juliet Poyntz’. I don’t think she spent her life trying to inflict evil on others. There was an extremely serious crisis of capitalism between the two world wars. Many thinking people saw communism as a way out of that crisis for humanity. And many of these people became horrified by what it grew into i.e. Stalinism and took very brave stands against it.

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