Bedacht, Max

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BEDACHT, MAX (1883–1972), U.S. Communist leader. Bedacht was born in Munich, Germany. After an impoverished childhood and a career as a journeyman barber and trade union leader in Germany and Switzerland, he immigrated to New York City in 1908, where he supported himself as a barber and German-language newspaper editor. He moved to Detroit and then to San Francisco (1919), where he worked as an editor for the German press. In the same year he was made a member of the national executive committee of the newly formed Communist Labor Party, renamed the American Communist Party in 1921. In this capacity Bedacht was sent as a delegate to the Comintern Congress in Moscow (1921), from which he returned an apostle of the militant new line. While primarily a labor agitator, Bedacht rose to serve on the central executive committee's secretariat (1927–29), and in 1933 was named general secretary of the International Workers Order. He built its Jewish fraternal section into the party's largest auxiliary, while editing its publication The New Order. In 1946, following the post-World War ii changes in Communist leadership, Bedacht was expelled from the party for factionalism, and retired to become a poultry farmer in New Jersey.

In 1949 he appeared before a hearing of the House Un-American Activities Committee to deny charges made against him by the former Russian espionage agent Whittaker Chambers that for many years he had served as a permanent link between Soviet military intelligence and the central committee of the American Communist Party. In his 1952 autobiography Witness, Chambers wrote: "About both brief, tidy men [Heinrich Himmler and Max Bedacht] there was a disturbing quality of secret power mantling insignificance – what might be called the ominousness of nonentity, which is peculiar to the terrible little figures of our time."


D. Bell in: D. Egbert (ed.), Socialism and American Life, 1 (1952), index; T. Draper, Roots of American Communism (1957), index; Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952), index.

[Edward L. Greenstein /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]