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The Secret World of American Communism

The Secret World of American Communism

Harvey Klehr
John Earl Haynes
Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov
Russian Documents Translated by Timothy D. Sergay
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 380
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  • Book Info
    The Secret World of American Communism
    Book Description:

    For the first time, the hidden world of American communism can be examined with the help of documents from the recently opened archives of the former Soviet Union. By interweaving narrative and documents, the authors of this book present a convincing new picture of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), one of the most controversial organizations in American public life. Heated debates about whether the Communist Party harbored spies or engaged in espionage have surrounded the party from its inception. This authoritative book provides proof that the CPUSA was involved in various subversive activities. At the same time, it discloses fascinating details about the workings of the party and about the ordinary Americans and CPUSA leaders who participated in its clandestine activities.The documents presented range from letters by Americans wishing to do international covert work for the Soviet Union to top secret memos between the head of Soviet foreign intelligence, the Comintern, and the CPUSA. They confirm that--the Soviet Union heavily subsidized the CPUSA and that some prominent Americans laundered money for the Comintern;--the CPUSA maintained a covert espionage apparatus in the United States with direct ties to Soviet intelligence;--the testimony of former Communists concerning underground Communist activity in the United States can be substantiated;--American Communists working in government agencies stole documents and passed them to the CPUSA, which sent them on to Moscow;--the CPUSA played a role in atomic espionage;and much more.An engrossing narrative places the documents in their historical context and explains key figures, organizations, and events. Together the narrative and documents provide a revealing picture of American communism and convey the contradictory passions that drew so many Americans into the Communist movement and eventually tore that movement apart.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13783-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Documents Reproduced in Facsimile
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes
  6. A Note on the Documents
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. Glossary of Individuals and Organizations
    (pp. xxiii-xxx)
  8. Chronology of American Communism
    (pp. xxxi-2)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Background
    (pp. 3-19)

    IN 1943 WOLFGANG LEONHARD, a young German attending a Communist International (Comintern) school for foreign Communists near Ufa, a city 750 miles east of Moscow, received an unusual assignment. The Comintern’s archives had been transferred to Ufa when the Nazi army was threatening Moscow, and Leonhard was among a group of students given the task of putting the chaotic archives into order. His assignment was to organize the records of the American Communist party. In his memoir written in 1958, a decade after his break with communism, Leonhard noted:

    The Communist Party of the U.S.A. was readily conceded first place...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Clandestine Habits: The 1920s and the Early 1930s
    (pp. 20-70)

    IN THE EARLY 1920s, the Comintern conducted covert operations and acted as the Soviet Union’s foreign intelligence agency. As the USSR matured, the predecessors of the KGB, the state security organization (the GPU, the OGPU, and the NKVD), and the Soviet military intelligence service (GRU) established their primacy in the country’s intelligence hierarchy. The romantic revolutionaries of the early years of communism gradually gave way to professional agents. In the 1930s, the operations of the Comintern overlapped with those of the KGB and GRU, but the Comintern continued to conduct covert operations until its dissolution in 1943. The Comintern was...

  11. CHAPTER THREE The Secret Apparatus of the CPUSA: The Early Years
    (pp. 71-118)

    IN 1930 THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE of the Comintern reminded its member parties that “legal forms of activity must be combined with systematic illegal work.”¹ This illegal work was designed to escape the surveillance of hostile police and protect special party assets from exposure, with members carrying out surveillance and infiltration of enemy groups and undertaking other clandestine tasks. That same year, B. Vassiliev, a Comintern official based in Moscow, sent a memo to the CPUSA pointedly noting that “all legal Parties are now under the greater responsibility in respect to the creation and strengthening of an illegal apparatus. All of...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR The Secret Apparatus Branches Out
    (pp. 119-187)

    DURING THE SOVIET GREAT TERROR of the mid- and late- 1930S, the CPUSA and its covert arm reflected Stalin’s obsessions by waging their own war on ideological deviationists and suspected spies, even taking their paranoia into the Spanish Civil War.

    The “Brief on the Work of the CPUSA Secret Apparatus” (document 27) stated that Rudy Baker took over as head of the Communist underground in June 1938. Rudy Baker, born in Yugoslavia in 1898, immigrated to the United States at an early age and became a naturalized citizen. According to a 1939 Comintern biography, document 34, Baker joined the American...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Other Faces of the Secret World
    (pp. 188-204)

    ALTHOUGH THE MAIN CHANNEL OF RECRUITMENT into the secret world of American communism was through the CPUSA underground, documents in the Comintern archives show other paths as well. Discussed below are a genteel Southern artist who volunteered for covert Comintern service and a New York schoolteacher who became a Soviet radio propagandist. The training of American students at the International Lenin School in Moscow further documents the extent to which habits of secrecy, ideological militancy, and Soviet loyalty were inculcated.

    In 1969 theState, the newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, announced the death of Ann Cadwallader Coles, a local artist...

  14. CHAPTER SIX The American Communist Party, the Secret Apparatus, and the NKVD
    (pp. 205-258)

    THE AMERICAN PARTY’S CLANDESTINE WORK and the secret apparatus that it had created in the 1930s provided Soviet intelligence with a bountiful harvest during World War II.

    The Comintern’s files include two documents proving that the secret apparatus of the CPUSA had integral links to Soviet espionage against the United States during World War II. In document 58 General Pavel Fitin, head of the foreign intelligence directorate of the NKVD, conveys the text of a 1942 message transmitted through NKVD channels to Dimitrov; the message is signed “Son.” In his cover note to Son’s message, Fitin says, “We are forwarding...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN The American Communist Underground Fights World War II
    (pp. 259-291)

    THE RELATIONSHIPS FORGED in the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat, on the battlefields of Spain, in Washington’s Communist underground, and in the party’s secret apparatus allowed the CPUSA and Soviet intelligence to penetrate America’s chief intelligence agency in World War II.

    In May 1942 General Pave1 Fitin of the NKVD sent a memo, originally in code and labeled “Top Secret” and “Personal” to Dimitrov, head of the Comintern. This memo, document 71, and its companion, document 74, implicate Eugene Dennis, the man who succeeded Earl Browder as general secretary of the CPUSA, in Soviet espionage. Fitin stated that one of his...

  16. CHAPTER EIGHT Soviet Intelligence and American Communists, 1942–1945
    (pp. 292-321)

    BY WORLD WAR II the Comintern was past its prime. Once the Soviet Union’s chief foreign intelligence and covert action arm, it was displaced by the foreign intelligence directorate of the NKVD and by the military intelligence service (GRU) of the Red Army in the 1930s. Even as an agency to promote Communist ideology and revolution around the world, it had become a much reduced organization. Externally, the Soviet Union’s acceptance as a legitimate nation-state in the 1930s forced the Comintern to take a much lower profile. There was, after all, considerable contradiction between the government’s exchange of ambassadors and...

  17. CHAPTER NINE Conclusion
    (pp. 322-328)

    IN THE PARABLE OF THE CAVE inThe Republic, Plato suggests that most people are like prisoners in a cave, chained and confined so that they cannot turn around. Behind them is a fire, and between them and the fire, a puppet show is taking place. The prisoners see the shadows reflected on the walls of the cave, but they are unable to see the puppets themselves, nor can they see the fire. They assume that the images they see on the walls are real. For these people, “truth is nothing other than the shadows of artificial things.” How, Plato...

  18. APPENDIX A The Archival Record
    (pp. 329-333)
  19. APPENDIX B Organization of the American Communist Party
    (pp. 334-336)
  20. Selected Readings
    (pp. 337-340)
  21. Index
    (pp. 341-348)