”…a smooth operator”: Laszlo Dobos (a.k.a. Louis Gibarti) Short Personal File in the Comintern Archive

Enclosed Picture in Gibarti's Personal File, National Archives (Kew Gardens, London) Public Records Office KV2/1401

Picture of Louis Gibarti, Source: The National Archives (Kew Gardens, London) Public Records Office KV2/1401

In 1946, an unknown writer remembered and described the Hungarian Laszlo Dobos as ”a smooth operator”, a person that had been active under the name of Louis Gibarti (1895-1967), and was intimately connected to Willi Münzenberg’s activities. I will not here go further into detail about Gibarti/Dobos life and career in the international communist movement during the interwar years. However, the definition of Gibarti as ”a smooth operator” aptly describes his life and the ambigous traces left behind in the Comintern Archive in Moscow, traces that leave more questions than answers. While some of the active individuals in the Comintern left a trail of documents, compiled and categorized in personal files, Gibarti’s personal file consists only of half a page (see below), which, in all of its scarceness, give no substantial evidence or clues about his actual role or contributions in various communist movements or activities during the 1920s-30s. 

Still, Gibarti is a fascinating character in the history of international communism, a person that played a part in shaping the outcome of the League against Imperialism and the Anti-war movement in 1932 (the Amsterdam Congress in August, 1932) to mention a few examples. In 1941, the political police in Madrid arrested Gibarti ”while trying to cross illegally Spain”, whereupon he spent 27 months in Spanish prisons and camps. After the Second World War, Gibarti held a position in the UNESCO, later suspected of being an informant for the FBI in connection with the communist spectre beginning to haunt the USA as the Cold War made its entrance. In 1955, Gibarti re-established some of the contacts from the 1920s as he interviewed the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the French paper Le Monde diplomatique in relation to the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung 1955. Thus, this is one of several historical threads which link together the Bandung Conference in 1955 with the ”First International Congress Against Colonialism and Imperialism” in Brussels 1927.   

Below follow Gibarti’s ”total” personal file in the Comintern Archive:    

RGASPI 495/205/6048: Louis Gibarti (LUIZ GIBARTI)

List 1, Biography on Gibarti, undated

Luis Gibarti, geb. 26.4.95. Ungarn. Politisch organ. Seit 1913 Jug. 1919 ung. KP. KPD seit Febr.29 (?) Arbeitete im internationalen Auftrag für die IAH, war in Amerika usw. Vor Eintritt der Hitlerdiktatur war G. Instrukteur der Telefunkenzelle. April [19]33 verließ er Deutschland auf Anweisung des Gen. Mü [Münzenberg]. Er meldete sich nur bei seiner Zelle ab, da er die UBL nicht erreichen konnte. War dann in Paris Sekr. d. Welthilfskomitees, und reiste in dessen Auftrag auch andere Staaten.

The sparse content in Gibarti’s personal file in the Comintern Archive stands in stark contrast with his personal file, located in the British National Archives in Kew Gardens, London. The dossier contains documents and accounts which entails a thorough understanding of Gibarti’s life both within and outside the international communist movement. The history of Gibarti will be continued…

”Against the Cruelties in Syria”: Revisiting History to Understand Syria Today

Appeal from the "Against the Cruelties in Syria" committee, December 1925The war and terror in Syria has taken on horrific proportions, yet, and as sad as this may sound, this is nothing new to the country or region in itself. In 1925, the French mandate forces, which, in other words, was how the colonial powers rephrased their control over the colonies after the establishment of the League of Nations and with the Versailles Peace Treaty in 1919, brutally suppressed a tribal uprising in Syria. Similar to the situation in Syria today, numerous people (men, women and children) were affected by the military measures to bring order to the country, yet this time it was the French military. However, the consequence of these measures provoked a strong reaction in Europe, and became part of the nucleus that later would constitute the formation of the League against Imperialism (1927-37), a leading petitioner and protester against colonialism and imperialism during the interwar years.

The reactions on the disastrous situation and violence in Syria was concentrated in the committee ”Against the Cruelties in Syria” (in German: Gegen die Greuel in Syria), the creation of the prominent German communist Willi Münzenberg (1889-1940) and the communist mass organization the Internationale Arbeiterhilfe (1921-35), who was (and still is) described and perceived as the leading persona during the interwar years in designing and shaping the propaganda campaigns of the communist movement, ideas which from time to time evolved into transnational enterprises. Yet the history of the ”Against the Cruelties in Syria” committee is a short one. The committee was initiated in December 1925, and dissolved in the beginning of 1926, fused with the anti-colonial organisation the League against Colonial Oppression (LACO; in German: Liga gegen koloniale Unterdrückung), which later acted as the official organiser of the ”First International Congress against Colonialism and Imperialism” in Brussels at Palais d’Egmont on 10-14 February, 1927. The congress also witnessed the establishment of the League against Imperialism.

The peculiar idea behind the Against the Cruelties in Syria committee was to get leftwing intellectuals and leading politicans in the European socialist movement to support the political message. Prominent people involved in the committee were, for example, Ernst Toller, Henri Guilbeaux, Weiland Herzfelde (brother to artist John Heartfield), George Ledebour.

The leading principle for the committee was to raise awareness by signing petitions, publish declarations of protests, and arrange public demonstrations. Hence, this is pretty much the blueprint of twentieth century political activism, however, activism these days rather transmitted through the dynamics of social media. Yet at this point, it was a question of acting and interacting for the sole reason of spurring some kind of reaction on what was happening outside of Europe’s borders and its power structures, particularly to illustrate and inform about dramas enacted in colonial and semi-colonial countries. This so-called Syria committee promised to, which it to some degree managed to do, raise awareness and material relief in Europe on the drastic and gruesome effects of the mandate system, i.e. the continuance of colonialism after the ”Great War”.

What now is happening in Syria deserves a similar reaction from prominent individuals in Europe and beyond, or can just one simply say that there already exists an abundance of political and moral support that seeks a solution to the onslaught? The clock is ticking and so does the lives of ordinary men, women and children, caught in the maelstrom of violence due to the power struggle of the Syrian regime and the national liberation movement.