Louis Francis Budenz
Born July 17, 1891(1891-07-17)
Died April 27, 1972 (aged 80)
Newport, Rhode Island

Louis Francis Budenz (July 17, 1891 – April 27, 1972) was an American activist and writer, as well as a Soviet espionage agent and head of the Buben group of spies. He began as a labor activist, and a member of the Communist Party USA. He became a member of the National Committee of the Party and from 1935 held various positions at its newspaper, the Daily Worker, where he was eventually promoted to editor.

Expert witness

In 1945, Budenz renounced communism, returned to the Roman Catholic Church, and became an anti-communist advocate. He became an informant for the FBI and testified as an expert witness at various trials of Communists and before many of the Senate and House committees that were formed to investigate Communists. He voluntarily confessed that he had participated in recruiting agents and other efforts on behalf of the Soviet Union, including discussion of the assassination of Leon Trotsky with CPUSA chairman Earl Browder.[1]

By his own estimate, Budenz spent some 3,000 hours explaining the Communist party's "inner workings" to the FBI, as well as testifying on 33 occasions to various committees. By 1957 he estimated he had earned approximately $70,000 for his expert testimony. Budenz was a witness at the 1949 First Amendment case Dennis v. United States, brought by Eugene Dennis, General Secretary of CPUSA. He was also a key witness in the 1950 hearings before the Tydings Committee, which had been called to investigate charges made by Senator Joseph McCarthy that the State Department had numerous Communists in its employ. Budenz was called to testify regarding Owen Lattimore, a scholar on Central Asian affairs and one of the China Hands. Budenz testified that Lattimore was a member of a Communist cell within the Institute of Pacific Relations, but not a Soviet agent. The reliability of this testimony was questioned, as in all of his 3,000 hours of debriefing before the FBI in the years 1946 through 1949, Budenz had never once mentioned Lattimore prior to the McCarthy hearings.[2] In 1951, Budenz again testified against Lattimore, this time before the hearings of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee headed by Senator Pat McCarran. During his second testimony against Lattimore, Budenz claimed Lattimore was both a Soviet agent and a secret Communist.

In Boyer & Morais’ Labor’s Untold Story; pg. 355-6, 3rd edition, “If Murray needed the lesson underlined it was done for him by Louis Budenz, Communist renegade who was proving in testimony before Congressional committees, in 1948 and 1949 that the charge of Communist was wide enough to include everyone. Budenz solemnly declared in testimony solemnly received and solemnly praised that the fact that a man denied he was a Communist might prove he was a communist since all Communists had instructions to deny it.

As a result of this testimony, Professor Owen D. Lattimore was indicted for perjury after he had sworn he was not a Communist. Budenz added that anything a man said might, as a matter of fact prove he was a Communist since Communist spoke in a queer double-talk, in so-called “Aesopian” language. Thus, according to Budenz’s testimony, if a man said, “I am not a Communist and I favor peace,” he might really be saying in Aesopian language, “I am a Communist and I favor war.” With this formula generally, acclaimed no one was safe, least of all the leader of a militant labor center costing employers billions a year in wage raises.”

In 1952, Senator McCarthy would praise Budenz for having "testified in practically every case in which Communists were either convicted or deported over the past three years; one of the key witnesses who testified against... Communist leaders."

Formerly the author of numerous articles and pamphlets in support of Communist causes, after 1945 Budenz wrote several books about the dangers and evils of Communism, as well as becoming a syndicated columnist, Catholic professor and lecturer. In 1947, he wrote an autobiography, This Is My Story.


He died at Newport Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island. He was survived by his wife Margaret and four daughters.[3][4]


  1. Affidavit of Louis Budenz, 11 November 1950, American Aspects of the Assassination of Leon Trotsky, U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Un-American Activities, 81st Cong., 2d sess., part I, v–ix
  2. Cook, Fred J. (1971). The Nightmare Decade: The Life and Times of Senator Joe McCarthy. Random House. p. 244. ISBN 0-394-46270-X. 
  3. "Louis Budenz, McCarthy Witness, Dies.". New York Times. April 28, 1972. Retrieved 2008-04-03. "Louis F. Budenz, an exCommunist who was a star witness in the 1950's for the late Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, died at Newport Hospital today after a long ..." 
  4. "Louis Budenz, Figure in Red Hunt, Dies at 80.". Los Angeles Times. April 28, 1972. Retrieved 2008-04-03. "Louis F. Budenz, the former Communist who turned star witness for the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and others in the Red hunting of the early 1950s, died Thursday at Newport Hospital after a..." 


Further reading

  • Lichtman, Robert M. (June 2004). "Louis Budenz, the FBI, and the "list of 400 concealed Communists": an extended tale of McCarthy-era informing". American Communist History Volume 3 (Number 1): 25. doi:10.1080/1474389042000215947. 
  • Budenz, Louis F. (1947). This Is My Story. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1-4191-6050-8. 
  • Chapman, Roger (2001). "Louis Francis Budenz's Journey from the Electric Auto-Lite Strike to the Communist Party and Beyond". Northwest Ohio Quarterly (73): 118–141. 
  • Lichtman, Robert M. and Cohen, Ronald (2004). Deadly Farce: Harvey Matusow and the Informer System in the McCarthy Era. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02886-4. OCLC 224061244. 
  • Olmsted, Kathryn S. (2002). Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-2739-8. OCLC 49320306. 

External links

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