An idealistic philosophy professor in the 1930s and a Communist Party functionary from the late 1930s through the 1950s, who later became a Democratic Party district leader in Manhattan.
Born in 1906 in Baltimore, Maryland into a middle-class family of immigrants from Lithuania, Blumberg graduated from Johns Hopkins University and continued his education at Yale University, where he got his M.A. Subsequently, he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and received a doctorate from the University of Vienna, where he became part of the Vienna school of logical positivism. Upon his return from Europe, he became a professor of philosophy at Johns Hopkins. As a philosopher, he was best known for a paper he co-authored with Robert Feigl, an Austrian-born philosopher of science, called “Logical Positivism: A New Movement in European Philosophy.” 1
A fighter for economic and social reforms, Blumberg joined the Maryland branch of the American Communist Party in 1933 and chaired the party’s Agitprop Committee. In 1936, he helped to launch Science and Society magazine, published in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1937, he resigned his position at Johns Hopkins University, publicly acknowledged his Communist Party membership and became the secretary of the party organization in Maryland. In 1939, he became secretary of the Maryland/ District of Columbia branch of the CP USA.
In the late 1930s, Blumberg ran for several public offices on the Communist ticket (he ran for Mayor of Baltimore in 1939) but was not elected. In 1940, he was cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to identify Communist party members before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).
In March 1943, Blumberg moved up in the party hierarchy, assuming the important post of Washington legislative representative of the National Committee of the CP USA. In the early 1950s, he headed the newly organized Sector on Legislation. From 1954-1955, when most members of the party’s leadership were forced underground, Blumberg was on record as part of the party’s small, open or “legal’noe” [“not underground”] leadership. His responsibilities included dealing with legislative issues, the defense of Communists in various courts, and press relations.
In 1956, Blumberg was convicted in Philadelphia under a provision of the 1940 Smith Act – on a charge of trying to involve the metal workers of Eastern Pennsylvania in the Communist Party. He did not go to prison, however, since the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1957 that the grounds for his conviction were unconstitutional. As of 1957, Blumberg was on record as a member of a right-wing group within the party, which advocated freedom to interpret Marxist-Leninist theory and to make decisions free from the dictates of Moscow. In 1957 he also became one of the leading members of the American Forum of Socialist Education – a new organization created in May of that year “to facilitate uninhibited discussion of the problems of socialism among all the elements that consider themselves connected with historical traditions, values and goals of the workers’ movement.” In August 1957, Blumberg was approved by the party to head its Legislative Department. In 1961-1962, he was again under a cloud in Philadelphia.
For many years, Blumberg was unable to get a teaching job; in the early 1960s, he worked in a bookstore until he was hired by Rutgers University in 1965 and settled in northern Manhattan. By that time, his Communist past was obviously behind him. At Rutgers, he was a respected philosophy professor and department chairman. In Manhattan, he participated in local democratic politics and led numerous community organizations. By the time of his retirement in 1977, he had become an established figure in the local Democratic Party, winning the 1977 election for leader of the 71st Assembly District – a post he held until 1985. Professor Blumberg died in 1997. 2
- The Journal of Philosophy, No. 28, 1931; the article was one of the first reports on logical positivism published in the United States and helped the philosophy to spread. ↩
- A reference regarding Blumberg’s participation in Science and Society magazine was discovered in the Comintern Dimitrov Secretariat files, 495-73-5504, pp. 37-40; details about Blumberg’s Communist Party activities from 1941 to the late 1950s (including the quotation about the American Forum of Socialist Education) are sourced to the Albert Blumberg Comintern file, 495-261-5504, RGASPI, Moscow; Albert Blumberg obituary, The New York Times, October 13, 1997. ↩