Benjamin Mandel (1887-August 8, 1973) AKA "Bert Miller" was a New York city school teacher and communist activist who later became a ex-communist director of research for the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SIS).
Benjamin Mandel was born in 1887 in New York City.
Mandel used the name "Bert Miller" when he joined the Communist Party in the 1920s. On April 6, 1923, name appears in the letterhead of the 1922 Labor Defense Council in support of Bridgman Raid defendants (and forerunner of International Labor Defense or ILD) as a local committee member. Other members included Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Freda Kirchwey, Eugene V. Debs, Norman Thomas, Mary Heaton Vorse, J.B. Matthews, and Nerma Berman (wife of Soviet spy Isaiah Oggins).
In 1925-1926, Bert Miller studied under Professor Scott Nearing in his Research Study Group for a forthcoming book called The Law of Social Revolution (1926). Classmates included Whittaker Chambers, Dale Zysman (vice president of the Teachers' Union), Bertram Wolfe, Ben Davidson (later co-founder of the Liberal Party of New York) and his wife Eve Dorf, Sam Krieger, Alfred J. Brooks, Myra Page, and Rachel Ragozin.
In 1926, Bert Miller became business manager of the Daily Worker communist newspaper. His name first appears on the masthead in the November 26, 1926 issue, and appeared throughout 1926 and 1927 – the publication of "business manager" dropped from the masthead in 1928. Whittaker Chambers recalled:
In those days, Bert Miller was a harassed soul. As business manager of the Daily Worker, the future research director of the House Committee on Un-American Activities had to meet a weekly payroll and find money to pay the paper, print, and other bills. Money was very hard to find, and his life was a weekly crisis. Thus, my chief recollection of Bert Miller from the past is less than a face than as a weary plaint: money.
Bert suffered other grievances, too. In his business office, he presided over a number of young women Communists, one of whom was a remarkably pretty Hungarian girl. He often protested that his girls were terrified towalk through the Daily Worker office (as they sometimes had to) because, while they wriggled their way past he crowded chairs, each of the editors in turn reached back and pinched them.
In 1927, Mandel was elected to the Party's Central Committee at its fifth congress in 1927. In 1929, he was re-elected as a "candidate member" at its sixth convention in March 1929. Later that year, he was expelled with followers of Jay Lovestone (known at the Lovestoneites) as an "incurable right-wing deviationist".
As of the November 1, 1929 issue, Bert Miller appeared on the editorial board of Revolutionary Age, organ of the Communist Party (Majority) formed by Jay Lovestone. Other editors included: Benjamin Gitlow, editor; Bertram Wolfe, associate editor; and editorial board members J.O. Bixby, Ellen Dawson, Will Herberg, William Miller, R. Pires, Jack Rubinstein, Frank Vrataric, Ed Welsh, W.J. White, Herbert Zam, and Charles S. Zimmerman.
In 1932, he had called for a bar to admittance of communists during a meeting to discuss the ongoing Harlan County coal strike that had started in 1931 (see Harlan County War): ""No communists are admitted here", was the greeting at the door, which met the delegate of the C.L.S., who tried to attend the "broad united front of labor", called by the I.W.W. General Defense Committee for the Harlan Kentucky miners on January 6. Of course it had to be the unspeakable Bert Miller, who handed out this information. All sorts of liberals, anarchists, and what not were gathered together, but the Communists were not even allowed to enter the hall!"
By the later 1930s, "Bert Miller" the former communist had become a dedicated anti-communist and by 1939 had resurfaced as "Benjamin Mandel" help J.B. Matthews as a researcher for the Dies Committee until 1945. He also worked with the New York legislature during the Rapp-Courdert inquiry into the presence of Communist teachers in New York schools.
On August 7, 1941, Mandel himself testified before Dies Committee regarding the China Aid Council, a subsidiary of the American League for Peace and Democracy. He named Dr. Owen Lattimore, Frederick V. Field, and others.
In 1947, Mandel returned to former Dies Committee, now renamed the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), "to assist the committee in the Hiss-Chambers case." He has been characterized, along with U.S. Representative J. Parnell Thomas and HUAC chief investigator Robert E. Stripling as one of the "choreographers of the hearings."
During the Hiss Case, Mandel participated in questioning during hearings. Mandel stated "A picture of Hiss shows his hand cupped to his ear," to which Chambers replied, "He is deaf in one ear." Mandel asked, "How is it that he (Hiss) never wrote wrote anything publicly," to which Chambers answered, "He was never in the open Communist Party." Mandel checked for "George Crosley" as a government employee and received the negative findings from one Ernest S. Griffith, director of Legislative Reference Service. He also partook in the search for the Ford car sold by Hiss to William Rosen.
In 1951 he became research director in the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, and stayed in that position until his retirement in 1967. During his SIS years, he took an active role in connect the influence of the Communist Party and communist-influenced labor unions (e.g., CIO) in the Teachers' Union and among teachers (e.g., see "Mandel" in 1952 hearings). He continued to consult to that subcommittee for some years.
Mandel married Margaret Rees.
He believed in exposing the Communist Party in the U.S. and explained in 1951:
You've got to assume there is a present communist conspiracy, and it is obvious the communists want every additional scrap of atomic information they can lay hands on.
There are two ways to meet this conspiracy. One is to have a secret polic. The other is to develop the evidence in the American way, in open hearings and with sworn testimony. The goal should never be to railroad the people; always to respect civil liberties.
Mandel died age 82 on August 8, 1973, at the Mar-Salle Convalescent Home at 2131 O Street NW, Washington, DC.
According to his Washington Post obituary, Mandel was co-author of the book I Was a Soviet Worker, published in the U.S. in 1936 and in the U.K. in 1937, but neither "Mandel" or "Miller" appears in that book.
As Bert Miller:
As Benjamin Mandel: