Irwin Suall

Irwin Suall (1924–1998) was an American socialist and researcher. He was national director of fact-finding for the Anti-Defamation League from 1967 to 1997 in which capacity he directed that organization's undercover intelligence gathering on extremist groups.


Born in 1924 on East Broadway [in a former hospital now functioning as the Bialystoker Home for the Aging] on the Lower East Side to immigrant[1] parents,[Abraham,a Russian emigre and Flora - maiden name Rosen - Poland] Suall grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and graduated from Samuel Tilden High School. After briefly attending Brooklyn College, Suall joined the Merchant Marines in 1945, for three years. While a Merchant Marine, he visited Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe living in squalor in Shanghai. This experience left an indelible impression on him. After his stint in the Merchant Marines, Suall studied at Ruskin College, Oxford on a Fulbright scholarship.[2] He graduated with a BA in political science in 1950.

Suall was always politically minded, joining the Young Peoples Socialist League as a teenager.[3] When he returned to the U.S. after studying in England, he did brief stints as head of public relations for the Jewish Labor Committee, education director for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and national secretary for the Socialist Party–Social Democratic Federation.[1] In the latter capacity, he was instrumental in convincing Norman Thomas and others to allow individual members of the Independent Socialist League, sometimes known as Shatchmanites, to join with the party.[4] During that period, Suall was ejected from the Soviet consulate in New York when he and William Lusk tried to present a protest to Arkady Sobolev, the USSR's representative to the United Nation's. They were protesting the execution of Imre Nagy, Nicolas Gimes and other Hungarians.[5]

In 1957, Suall replaced Herman Singer as Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party of America. He would remain in that role until 1968.[6] The Arab–Israeli 1967 Six-Day war had a profound effect on him. He visited Israel shortly thereafter and returned to the U.S. "a changed man" according to ADL head Abraham Foxman. His attitude towards socialism apparently changed, and he "began to realize that his efforts on behalf of democracy and human dignity were part of a larger Jewish struggle".[3] He became fact-finding director of the ADL that year and his work "reinforced his growing awareness of the intimate linkages between extremism, totalitarianism, and anti-Semitism".[4]

Meanwhile, Suall was still active in the factional struggles within the Socialist party. He became aligned with a Shactmanite faction against the "new politics" wing led by Michael Harrington and others. At the Socialist Party's final convention in December 1972, he and James Glazer presented a majority report urging that the group's name be changed to Social Democrats, USA (SDUSA). This action was approved by a 73–34 vote.[4][7] Afterwords, Harrington resigned his SDUSA membership and founded the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee.

Suall remained as head of the Anti-Defamation Leagues fact-finding department until 1997, when his fight with emphysema forced him to retire. His work with the ADL was not without controversy. He was sued twice, by Lyndon LaRouche and Liberty Lobby. He was also criticized for expanding the focus of his activities to Black nationalist, Arab and leftist groups as well as far-right organizations.[1][8]

He died of emphysema in August 1998.[2]

Personal life

While attending Oxford Suall met and married fellow student Sarah [Sally] Mountain in 1949.For a time she was an assistant to the director of SANE,the world's first nuclear disarmament organization.She died in 1969, but they had a son together,Mark, a New York City musician. Suall's brother Bert and sister-in-law Joan were also active in the Socialist Party and the SDUSA.[4]


  • This is Socialism! New York: Young People's Socialist League, 1950
  • The American Ultras: The Extreme Right and the Military-Industrial Complex. New York: New America. 1962. ASIN B002JYQUQS. LCCN 62001461. 
  • Anti-Semitism in the United States, 1972 New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1972 ASIN B00071C1OK
  • Extremism Targets the Prisons New York Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1986
  • Shaved for Battle: Skinheads Target America's Youth (with David Lowe and Michael Lieberman) New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1987, ASIN B00071ADB8
  • The Skinheads: An Update on Shaved for Battle (with David Lowe) New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1988 ASIN B00071WQWC
  • Young and Violent: The Growing Menace of America's Neo-Nazi Skinheads (with David Lowe and Tal Recanati) New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1988, ASIN B00071REI8
  • The 1989 IHR Conference: White-Washing Genocide Scientifically (with David Lowe) New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1989
  • Skinheads Target the Schools (with David Lowe and Tal Recanati) New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1989 ASIN: B00071YH1A
  • Electronic Hate: Bigotry Comes to TV (with Thomas Halpern) New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1991
  • The KKK today: a 1991 status report (with Linda Greenstein and Thomas Halpern) New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1991, ASIN B0006D5OWU
  • Young Nazi Killers: The Rising Skinhead Danger (with Thomas Halpern) New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1993, ASIN B0006P961I
  • The Klan Splits: A Radical Breakaway Fact-Finding Report (with Thomas Halpern and Michael A Sandberg) New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, 1994
  • The Skinhead International: A Worldwide Survey of Neo-Nazi skinheads. New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. 1994. ISBN 978-0884641667. 


  1. 1 2 3 Boland, Mira. The Jewish Daily Forward. New York: August 21, 1998. Vol. CII, Iss. 31,198; p. 14
  2. 1 2 Pace, Eric (20 August 1998). "Irwin J. Suall, Fierce Fighter Of Bias for A.D.L., Dies at 73". The New York Times.
  3. 1 2 The Jewish Daily Forward. New York: August 21, 1998. Vol. CII, Iss. 31,198; p. 6
  4. 1 2 3 4 Gershman, Carl (24 September 1998), Irwin Suall memorial: NED President Carl Gershman's eulogy at Irwin Suall's memorial service, Washington, D.C.: National Endowment for Democracy
  5. "Police Eject Two at Soviet Office; Socialists Here Are Foiled in Bid to See Sobolev to Protest on Nagy". The New York Times. June 19, 1958. p. 7. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  6. Ross, Jack (2015-04-15). The Socialist Party of America. U of Nebraska Press. p. 604. ISBN 9781612347509. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  7. "Socialist Party Now the Social Democrats, U.S.A." The New York Times. December 31, 1972. p. 36. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  8. Robert I. Friedman (May 11, 1993). "ADL Turned Notion of Human Rights on Head". The Village Voice. XXXVIII (19). Retrieved July 25, 2014.
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