Golos, Jacob (1889-1943)
A Russian revolutionary, a founding member of the CPUSA and member of its inner circle and a long-time agent of Soviet intelligence, whose cover name was “Sound,” or “Zvuk” in Russian; his assumed name, Golos, means “voice.”
Jacob Golos was born on April 24, 1889 in Ekaterinoslavl (now Dnepropetrovsk), in a working-class Jewish family. His real name was Yakov [in English, Jacob] Reisen – the English transliteration of the name as it appears on the cover of his Soviet Communist party “transfer” file [Рейзен]. However, in the United States Golos’s real name is spelled as Raisin, as it appears in his American passport issued in October 1923. 1 The name of Jacob’s father was David Reisen, however, in the biographical forms, which Jacob Golos filled in Moscow in various years he gave his patronymics as Naumovich, Samoilovich and signed under the personal history he wrote in Moscow in 1926, oddly as S. Naumovich. 2 It is difficult to say when Jacob changed his name, Reisen, to Golos. His only son Milton (Dmitry) born in the USA in 1923, had the name Raisin in his birth certificate, however, since a very early age he remembered his father and himself as Golos. 3
Jacob had two more brothers and three sisters, but the family was not poor. Although Golos always indicated his “social origin” as “working class,” in Russia his father for some time worked as a shop-assistant [Russian, “prikazchik.”] Jacob studied at a city secondary school and since the age of 13, simultaneously worked at a print shop. After his graduation from school, he prepared himself for external examinations, which enabled him to graduate from gymnasium (a secondary and high school in pre-revolutionary Russia, which had a 5% admittance barrier for Jewish students.) 4
Golos joined the Russian revolutionary movement as a teenager, and became a member of the Russian Social-Democratic Party (RSDRP) in 1904. As he would later write in his personal history, he began to study Marxism in his underground organization and continued his studies in prison and in Siberian exile. He took an active part in the first Russian revolution of 1905-1907 and was a member of the first “Soviet” [“Sovet”] of working and soldier deputies in his native city. In December 1905, the general strike in Ekaterinoslavl erupted into an armed uprising, which was defeated by the end of that month. In 1906, Jacob organized an underground print shop in which he was arrested in the last days of the same year. He was tried by court martial and sentenced to eight years of hard labor, which was changed to a perennial exile to Yakutia, in the Far North; however, he managed to settle near Zhigalovo railway station on the Lena River. After about two years, the party helped Jacob to escape. From Siberia, he made his way to Japan and later to China, where he spent about two years. 5
In 1909 Jacob came to San Francisco, where he found work as a pressman and in 1917-1919 also as a fruit packer. He soon joined a Socialist Russian club and later initiated an organization to assist Russian political prisoners. Around 1912, most of Jacob’s family members immigrated to the USA and settled in the Bronx borough of New York. Jacob joined the Socialist Party of America in 1915 (in the above cited personal history he wrote that he “transferred from the RSDRP”) and became active in its left wing. In the same year he became a naturalized citizen. According to his own description, in the Socialist Party he “held important positions and took an active part in the organization of the Communist Party of America.” 6 From 1917 to 1919, Golos lived in California, where he worked for fruit picking and packing firms – and served as a functionary of the California regional committee of the Socialist Party. In September 1919, at the charter convention of the future Communist Party in Chicago, he represented California, thus becoming the founding member of the American Communist Party (which later became CPUSA), and “since then attended almost all party conventions.” 7
Jacob moved to New York, where he worked at a print shop. In the fall of 1948, the FBI New York Office would find among Golos’s personal effects his membership card in New York Printing Pressmen’s Union dated 1920 and issued to Joe N. Raisin. 8 He also joined the Russian Section of the party district organization. From 1919 to 1925, according to his own description, Golos served as a member of the section’s central committee, took part in the work of several Russian party publications and was a member of the party regional organization. In 1921-1922, Jacob worked at the party’s Chicago headquarters as a regional organizer and in other capacities. In 1922-1923, he worked in the same capacities in the party organization in the state of Michigan. Since 1922 or 1923, he became a full-time party functionary. In his personal history written in Moscow in 1926, Golos indicated that he had an “education at a party school abroad,” probably, meaning some party training in early 1920s. 9
In 1923, on party orders, Golos returned to New York where he became Communist party’s section organizer and an organizer of party cells. But more importantly, the party appointed him as secretary of the Central Bureau of the Society for Technical Aid to Soviet Russia, which was organized in May 1919 on the basis of the engineering department [“Techotdel”] of the so-called Martens Bureau, an unofficial mission of Soviet Russia in the USA in 1919-1920 headed by a Russian émigré, revolutionary and engineer, Ludwig Martens. (The mission’s engineering department was headed by another Russian émigré and engineer, Arthur Adams, who among other things began registering American workers and engineers who might be willing to go to Russia.) 10
By that time, Jacob Reisen was already using the name Golos, which appears among two more names under a “Message of Greetings to Soviet Russia” sent to Moscow by the Society’s second convention. 11 By 1923, the Society had affiliates in 58 cities with a few thousand members. It had already sent to Russia several agricultural communes, two communes of construction workers and one of miners, as well as several groups of highly qualified workers and experts, who brought along tractors and other equipment, as well as badly needed seeds and food. American workers and engineers helped to organize the First Moscow Electrical Engineering Factory, Moscow Tool Factory, Moscow Garment Factory No 36 named after the Third International (commonly known as Comintern) and other enterprises.
In 1926, Golos’s services were requested for one of the largest of such international undertakings, known as the Autonomous Industrial Colony “Kuzbass” [AIC “Kuzbass”], established in late 1921 in the Kuznetsky coalfield region to use foreign machinery and advanced technologies for an accelerated reconstruction of Russian economy. In early 1926, its founder and director, Sebald J. Rutgers, a Dutch engineer and Marxist, invited Golos to AIC “Kuzbass” as its business manager to help mend the rapidly deteriorating relations with the Soviet entrenching bureaucracy. Following the decisions by the Central Committees of the VCP (b), CPUSA and Comintern, in late April, 1926 Golos left New York for Moscow, accompanied by his wife Celia and their little son. On May 15 Golos began work as business manager of “Kuzbass.” 12 Golos worked at “Kuzbass” for almost a year. That was the final period of its existence: “the little Siberian international”, as it was called by Rutgers, did not fit in with the concept of forced industrialization of the country planned by Stalin.
Following the de facto liquidation of “Kuzbass” in 1927, Golos returned to Moscow, where he was offered managerial work at one of Moscow publishing houses. There is no documentation in support of an account by Golos’s biographer, writer Theodore Gladkov, that in that period the OGPU got interested in his organizational talents and somehow facilitated his return to New York. Anyway, in September 1928, Jay Lovestone, the secretary of the CPUSA, sent a letter to the VCP (b) Central Committee with a request “to detach Comrade Golos in the disposal of the Central Committee for party work in America.” For some reason, the Soviets procrastinated with their decision until late December, when the Central Committee of the CPUSA requested from the Central Committee of VCP (b) “to expedite” the return of Golos. This time, according to the notation on the Russian translation of the CPUSA request, the “exit permit” was immediately granted. 13
Golos returned to New York in 1929 and settled with his family in the Bronx borough of New York City. He resumed his work at the party’s Russian section and became business manager (or an office manager by another description) of its “Novi Mir” magazine. 14 In the spring of 1930, Golos became part of the party’s “machinery for investigations” that was being organized at the time with the responsibility over investigating a number of labor unions, including Textile and Marine Workers, as well as ICOR and World Tourists Inc. (a tourist agency established in 1927 with CPUSA funds.) 15 In the end of the year, Golos also became member of the party’s Anti-Militarist Committee. 16
In the same year, Golos’s name appeared for the first time in the operational documents of the INO OGPU. According to the account of Golos’s life based on the reading of his case file by the KGB foreign intelligence veteran, Major-General Julius Kobyakov, at that time Golos was already referred to as “our reliable man in the USA.”
According to Alexander Vassiliev notes, Golos’s initial contact with the Soviet intelligence was “the Soviet ‘illegal’ Chivin (‘Smith’) who was a station chief of the OGPU special operations group headed by Jacob Serebryansky and ultimately had not returned to the USSR.” 17 The trouble is that according to the available information, Serebraynsky “got down to building an independent agent network in various countries of the world for sabotage operations in case of war,” only since mid-1930s; with this purpose, he arrived in the USA in 1932. However, “the OGPU special operations group headed by Jacob Serebryansky” known in Russia under its official abbreviation, SGON, was organized only on June 13, 1934 as part of NKVD and not of OGPU – followed by the organization of “independent stations in 12 major countries of Europe, Asia and America.” 18
Alternatively, Kobyakov described an intelligence officer “who established the first operational contact with Golos” as an “illegal,” who periodically visited the USA “to establish illegal communication channels, documentation and covers for illegal agents.” Kobyakov did not identify the “illegal” whom he called “Gardi,” however, the above cited particulars fit in with the description of Abram [Abraham] Ossipovich Einhorn (also known under his operational pseudonym, “Taras”, the Soviet spymaster, who worked in the USA from 1930 to 1934 under an alias of a businessman), which is provided in the second volume of the semi-official history of the Russian foreign intelligence. Particularly, Einhorn is credited with “establishing a regular communication line with America (live, illegal)” and obtaining “American and Canadian documents … for our illegal intelligence.” The latter description also mentioned Einhorn’s trips to China and Japan during the period of his work in the USA. 19
In 2005, Einhorn was firmly identified as Golos’s initial Soviet intelligence contact by Golos’s Russian biographer, Teodor [Theodore] Gladkov (however, without an indication of his sources.) By Gladkov’s account, Einhorn approached Golos in the spring of 1930 by producing the material password that was arranged with Golos in Moscow – an envelope with a blue tie with white polka dots, which Golos “had left behind” at the Moscow National Hotel. According to Gladkov’s account, Einhorn “not only established the first contact with Golos – but brought an important assignment from the Center. Documents! The INO needed authentic American documents, primarily passports for foreign travel.” 20
Vassiliev sourced the story of Golos’s recruitment by a “Smith”/”Chivin” to an NKVD reference dated January 26, 1937. Likely, that was an ex post facto substitute for the name of the real recruiter, Einhorn, to save Golos from charges of association with the “enemy of the people”: as of the date of this reference, Einhorn was already under the NKVD investigation to be arrested in less than two months. According to KGB veteran, Colonel Igor Damaskin, that was a trick used at the time by some of the Center’s operatives to save valuable agents. Damaskin cited the case file of Kitty Harris, another agent recruited by Einhorn in early 1930s: someone had made a notation: “By whom [she was] recruited – unknown.” 21
Pretty soon, Golos managed to establish a continuous supply of authentic American naturalization papers and birth certificates to obtain US passports for legalization of Soviet illegal operatives primarily in Europe and Asia, but later in both Northern and Southern America. However, “operational relationships with Golos” were finally documented only in January 1933 by a report submitted to Arthur Artuzov, the head of the INO. 22
By that time, Golos was heading the above mentioned World Tourist with an office in the landmark “Flatiron” building, which he turned into a rather successful business enterprise of a special kind. Under Golos’s management, World Tourists continued its original business of sending delegations and individuals to the USSR to attend various Comintern events and as tourists. Golos-run business enterprise supplied money to fund some of the CPUSA activities. It provided American documentation for CPUSA and Comintern functionaries to ensure their safe travel across the countries and continents.
Gradually, Golos’s cooperation with the Soviet intelligence expanded to include spotting promising information sources, many of whom for years would stay under the delusion that they were providing information for the CPUSA and the Comintern. In late 1934, Golos met his new Soviet contact – Dr. Rabinovich, who arrived in the USA in September of that year as a representative to the Red Cross and, simultaneously, as the INO’s operative with the operational cover name “Luch” (“Beam”). The latter’s functions were reportedly limited to receiving information from Golos and transferring the Center’s wish lists. The contact with Rabinovich (who appears under his second operational pseudonym, “Harry”, used since 1937, both in Julius Kobyakov’s account of Golos’s file and in Alexander Vassiliev’s notes on apparently the same file. 23
Since 1932, in his capacity as the manager of World Tourist, Golos visited the Soviet Union almost every year, as a rule, for the celebration of the anniversaries of the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917. In the summer of 1936 he moved his wife, Celia, and son, Milton, to Moscow, explaining it by his desire to give his son “a good Soviet education.” In 1937, Celia and Milton (whose name was changed to Dmitry) entered into the Soviet citizenship. Now alone in New York, Golos moved out from his Bronx apartment to a hotel in Manhattan, and moved part of his archive to his sister’s home. That archive would be discovered by the FBI in October, 1948. 24
In November of 1937, Golos came to Moscow to take part in the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. In Moscow, he was invited to the INO headquarters, where he met its head, Abram Slutsky, with whom he discussed the situation in the USA and the prospects for further work. 25
After the break of the Civil War in Spain, Golos got involved into sending American volunteers to Spain. Considerable part of American volunteers received their travel documents through Golos’s firm, World Tourists, Inc. Many of them were travelling under assumed names with documents provided by Golos. Among them was a young man named Morris Cohen, who sailed to Spain with the passport in the name of Israel Altman. In Spain, Morris would be recruited into the Soviet intelligence – among a few more American volunteers, who were likely spotted by Golos. 26
By that time, Golos had turned into an indispensable asset of the INO’s New York station – through his increasing involvement in the work on the Trotskyites, in spotting and/or recruitment of new important sources of information and finding reliable Communists for technical work at the station. Among other things, in Alexander Vassiliev’s notes on Golos’s case file, he is credited with taking part in the involvement of a source “Maurice” at the Department of Justice, and in finding ‘Knocker’ (later ‘X’) who became the most devoted agent of the Soviet intelligence. 27 Golos was also responsible for maintaining a permanent political link to the CPUSA. According to Peter Gutzeit, the INO “legal” station chief in the USA from 1934 to 1938, “when the station needed reliable and devoted people, we turned to ‘Zvuk,’ and he selected the necessary people. There have not been any failures during all the years of our contact with him. There have never been any suspicions or doubts in his respect.. … ‘Zvuk’ has not received any payment from us. However, when due to financial difficulties, he turned unable to pay salaries to his associates, on leaving the USA I left an instruction to give him 100-150 dollars a month.” Gutzeit wrote this reference in an NKVD prison cell. 28
By that time the INO had learned about the FBI interest in Golos’s activities. The Soviets faced a dilemma: Golos was their most important asset in the United States – and, simultaneously, a potential weak link in the whole chain. At the time, the INO head resolved, “Although, in general, we avoid people who are actively working in the [Communist] party, but since we have been in contact with Golos for a long time, we can use him with care.” For NKVD that meant suspicion, investigations – and more references filed in Golos’s case file. In 1990s, while studying Golos’s file, KGB foreign intelligence veteran Julius Kobyakov discovered a reference dated January 1937, signed by a GB Captain, Tomchin, describing Golos as a “foreign agent.” In April, 1938 a GB Lieutenant, named Raissa Sobol, added a notation, “The source ‘Zvuk’ was known to the following individuals, whom by this time we have arrested: Samsonov, Tomchin, Karin, Lebedinsky, Livent-Levint, Berlin.” In a few months this list would be rewritten in another handwriting, which added the name of Sobol herself. Later, another GB Lieutenant, named Pshenichnyi, would write, “the enemies of the people, Passov, Schpiegelglass, Grafpen, Kaminsky, Sobol, Gutzeit were interested in ‘Zvuk’.” 29 By that time, most of the operations in the United States were suspended and the sources put on ice: the shock wave of purges had left almost no operatives in the field.
In October 1939, the FBI made a search in the office of World Tourists, which ascertained its violation of the so-called Voorhis Act on registration of foreign agents. The Center panicked and suggested that Golos should flee to the Soviet Union, but the Central Committee of the CPUSA decided that Golos had to face the court and plead guilty – to save the party from more trouble. In Moscow, the trial was a high priority: on March 5, 1940 the NKVD head, Lavrenty Beria reported to Stalin, Molotov and Voroshilov on the World Tourist trial, which was to open in New York. Golos pleaded guilty, and in March 1940 was sentenced to a $1,000 fine and 4 to 12 months imprisonment and put on probation. 30
Around that time, the Center, where the places of seasoned operatives who had perished in purges of 1937-1938, were being taken by a crop of young recruits, faced the difficult task of picking up pieces. For some of them, understanding the situation with Golos turned an impossible task. One of these operatives resolved that Golos was “a hidden Menshevik and Trotskyite, who had joined the Communist Party to disintegrate it from within.” Another one found Golos guilty of being “developed” by the FBI. Two young operatives insisted that Golos had to be immediately isolated from the Soviet operations, summoned to the USSR and arrested. 31 The attempts to lure Golos to Moscow continued through the first half of 1940, and only by early 1941 an opinion that Golos was not an enemy of the Soviet people had prevailed.
By 1943, Golos had developed a huge network of Communist information sources, most of whom had no idea that the information they were providing was going any further than to Earl Browder, the head of the CPUSA. Beginning in 1942, Soviet operatives tried to identify Golos’s sources, split his network into several groups and put these groups in direct contact with Soviet operatives. However, despite pressure on the part of Moscow, Golos resisted this transfer of power, and it was not completed until his sudden death in late November 1943. Just before he died, Golos was nominated for the Red Star Order award. The award was cancelled with his death.