View the h-diplo Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in h-diplo's June 2000 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in h-diplo's June 2000 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the h-diplo home page.
Others have capably taken up the complexities of cases such as Harry Dexter White so I would like to pick up on the question of the search for 'subversives' after World War II. I am struck by the easy use of labels in recent e-mails. Because I propose reasons of ideology and electoral politics (rather than economic determinism, for example) for the move against 'fellow travellers' in all areas of American life from late 1947, I have 'Marxist lenses'. [Kaiser] Because Paul Robeson questioned a US foreign policy of confrontation with the Soviets and suggested that African-Americans would not support such a policy given racial conditions in the US, he becomes 'a slavish lackey and volunteer propagandist for one of the greatest mass-murders in history'. I'm not sure how these caricatures answer my question: where were the Soviet subversives that justified a comprehensive campaign --- legal, political, cultural --- against not only a minority of Communists but many more non-Communists? Yet these contributions serve a useful purpose. They replicate the rhetorical strategy used by the Truman Administration, much of the media, and many private groups to ostracize, as well as the supposed subversives whose names have still not entered this discussion, those whose dissent was not acceptable. W.E.B. DuBois is pushed out of the NAACP leadership for the crimes of 1) pressing for the UN Human Rights Commission to consider the issue of racial discrimination in the US and 2) opposing Executive Secretary Walter White's open support of Truman, in defiance of the NAACP regulation that officers should not endorse a candidate in electoral campaigns. Labor activists who do not whole-heartedly support the Marshall Plan are expelled from the CIO. Many lecturers and teachers lose their jobs because of their opinions on domestic issues and foreign policy rather than any call for The Revolution. And it was Truman who offered the lead in a set-piece extravaganza on St Patrick's Day 1948 when, following Cardinal Spellman's call to God to save 'a civilizatin threatened with crucifixion by Communism', he declared, 'I do not want and I will not accept the political support of Henry Wallace and his Communists.' In short, the campaign was based foremost on slapping the Red/Pink label on opponents rather than dealing with their substantive arguments re domestic and foreign issues. John Haynes and Harvey Klehr (and it should be noted that they have not engaged in labelling) have slipped into this rhetorical pattern. Their latest book closes, 'The Soviet espionage offensive, in [American officials'] minds, indicated that the Cold War was not a state of affairs that had begun after World War II but a guerrilla action that Stalin had secretly started years earlier.' And in Professor Klehr's latest posting comes the assurance 'There was a genuine security problem occasioned by the willingness of several hundred American Communists to violate their oaths and their obligations and to provide classified information to the Soviet Union and the government needed a mechanism to deal with the problem.' Who exactly were those severalhundred Communists? Where exactly were they? The problem with loyalty-security, whether implemented formally within the Government or 'informally' in the private sector, was that it was based not on identifying subversive Communists but on others suspected of being 'disloyal', possibly because they were political opponents, possibly because they raised uncomfortable issues (as in the actions against state NAACP chapters in the 1950s in the South), possibly because they had 'unconventional' lifestyles, or possibly because they didn't agree with Truman's foreign policy. The position taken by John Haynes and Harvey Klehr that they criticise the organisation and design of the loyalty-security program --- the line of Arthur Schlesinger and others in the 1950s when the threat came from McCarthy and the 'Right' --- misses the point that, given the rhetoric which lumped Communists and non-Communists together, a line could not be drawn. For, even if the Truman staff wanted to pull back their rhetoric after the 1948 campaign, it had buttressed the Congressmen, FBI officials, and private groups who wanted an all-out crackdown on those to the 'left' of Truman. In my opinion, the pursuit of this 'anti-Communist liberalism' continues to be an effort to justify America's Cold War, whatever the cost, irrespective of whether there was really a subversive threat in the years after World War II. One result of that is the convenient oversight of other aspects of the conflict, such as the links between private individuals and intelligence agencies of the American rather than the Soviet variety. Scott Lucas University of Birmingham -----Original Message----- From: H-DIPLO [Hanks] <hdiplo@YorkU.CA> To: H-DIPLO@H-NET.MSU.EDU <H-DIPLO@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Date: 01 June 2000 05:57 Subject: Communist fifth column/Truman, White, Venona, Progressive Party [Haynes and Klehr] >From: Harvey Klehr <email@example.com> > >>Scott Lucas wrote: >> >>>I am grateful for the replies to my initial posting but I do not >believe they deal with the substance of my objections to the sweeping >charges of Soviet infiltration of the US Government during and after World >War II. While John Haynes and Harvey Klehr have now written at length >about their depiction of the loyalty-security program, their letter in >_The Nation_ (as cited in John Haynes' posting of 25 May) asserted "there >is something that is justified by what we wrote --- Harry Truman's cold >war liberalism and his loyalty-security program". So the contention is not >the creation of the program but its implementation. (It should also be >noted that, in their latest book, any blame for abuses in the system is >cast not against the Administration but against the 'enemy': 'By abetting >Soviet espionage, these Communists and the CPUSA itself laid the basis for >the anti-Communist era that followed World War II.') < > >Klehr and Haynes reply: > >The material quoted in our response to Mr. Lucas about the >loyalty-security program comes from our earlier books, not something just >written to deal with his accusation. Thus, when he writes that earlier we >had laid "any blame for abuses in the system" at the feet of the CPUSA, >and that we "have now written" something else, he is inaccurate. We make >it very clear in our books that the loyalty/security program was poorly >designed and often poorly administered. But the fact remains that there >was a genuine security problem occasioned by the willingness of several >hundred American Communists to violate their oaths and their obligations >and to provide classified information to the Soviet Union and the >government needed a mechanism to deal with the problem. > >>Scott Lucas wrote: >>>On the White case, let's assume for the sake of argument that he was a >Soviet 'agent' rather than an informal contact (such as the informal >contact that British intelligence maintained with a number of US >officials throughout World War II). Did White's information affect the >outcome of US-Soviet negotiations during the war in any way? In every case >cited in VENONA, White's attitude (towards the proposed US loan to the >Soviet Union, on the Security Council veto, and on the gold loan to China) >was shared by other very non-Communist officials. So the real question >here is not White's information but the wisdom of US policy on these >issues, something which does not constitute Soviet 'subversion'.<< > >Klehr and Haynes reply: > >Whether or not White's views on certain policies reflected those of other >American officials is entirely beside the point. They didn't deal with >their policy disagreements by meeting with Soviet intelligence agents and >passing along information. Take the case of the Security Council veto. =20 >White was covertly informing a KGB officer of his own country's >negotiating position, an action that served to undermine that position and >make it more likely that the Soviets would get what they wanted out of the >negotiations. Does Mr. Lucas doubt that any government would find such >behavior anything but an act of betrayal? Officials of the U.S. government >do not have the right to share their governent's confidential information >and negotiating strategy with the intelligence agency of a foreign power >because they find their government=92s policies to lack wisdom. And as for >the notion that White was an "informal contact", we refer to the >deciphered KGB message we quoted in our earlier posting in which White >says he is ready to make "any self- sacrifice" and suggests rotating the >meetings with his KGB contact at the homes of friends and having >"conversations lasting up to half a hour while driving in his automobile." = >=20 >That is not a description of an informal contact, but regular clandestine >debriefings. > >>Scott Lucas wrote: >> >>>Brian Villa's query re Soviet influence is pertinent. Granted that >there were Soviet agents such >as Silvermaster in the Government, what >is striking about Haynes and Klehr's latest book is the lack of any >detail on the information passed to Moscow. Without this detail, their >list of culprits does not constitute, as they claim, 'an >unrestrained espionage offensive against the United States'. << > >Klehr and Haynes reply: > >The Venona messages are short messages reporting time sensitive >information that could not wait for slow transmittal by diplomatic pouch. >Only occasionally was detailed information provided by a source judged so >time-sensitive that it was transmitted by cable. Reading the thousands of >deciphered Venona messages allows one to make some judgment about the >volume (which was extremey high) and general subject matter of Soviet >espionage (and contrary to Mr. Lucas's assertion, we provide numerous >illustrations of that subject matter in our book) but does not allow a >detailed conclusion about the value and worth of the stolen material. >Still, having upwards of 300 agents and sources of information reporting >classified information from virtually every sensitive agency of the >American government and key high military technology suppliers strikes us >as significant and indicative of an "espionage offensive" undertaken by >the USSR against its leading ally. > >Do we know exactly what the Soviet did with all the many hundreds of reels >of microfilm being sent back to Moscow by diplomatic pouch? No, we don't, >and neither does Mr. Lucas. But the view that since we don't know exactly >what the Soviets did with the information,that the assumption should be >that the information was not used and did not damage American interests is >illogical. Nor is it relevant to the question of whether certains persons >betrayed their trust. > >>Scott Lucas wrote: > >>Most importantly, I return to my original >question: where does this material establish the significant threat of >Soviet subversion of the US Government after World War II? The repetition >>of the charge of 'Soviet penetration of the US government ( with the >assistance of American Communists and fellow travelling leftists)' merely >recycles the rhetoric that justified the Loyalty->Security Order, the work >of J. Edgar Hoover, and the repressive measures taken against many >non-Communists in the Cold War. It wasn't VENONA's revelations but >electoral strategy that prompted Clark Clifford to recommend in 1947, >"Every effort must be made now to jointly and at one and the same time --- >although, of course, by different groups, to dissuade [Wallace] >and also >identify him and isolate him in the public mind with the Communists." >Whether or not the Progressive Party was in Moscow's pocket was >immaterial, to see off the political threat from the 'Left', that >allegation had to be made. One of the outcomes of that campaign against >'fellow travellers' would be that, in subsequent years, far more >Americans would become >'agents' of the CIA (in the sense of receiving >funds for their activities) than ever worked for the GRU and the KGB.<< > >Klehr and Haynes reply: > >The issues that led up to the formation of the Americans for Democratic >Action as a alternative to and opponent of the Progressive Citizens of >America were largely ideological regarding the basic values of liberalism. = >=20 >When in January 1947 Hubert Humphrey, then the young mayor of Minneapolis, >traveled to the founding convention of the ADA, Soviet spies were not on >his mind; nor were they much of a concern to the other founders of the >group. In 1946 he had gone through a bruising fight within the Minnesota >Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party with a Popular Front faction led by >concealed Communists, and he had come to a realization that liberals who >believed in political democracy as a bedrock value could not in good >conscience cooperate with Communists and their allies who rejected that >value both in theory and in practice. >=20 >Clark Clifford, to say nothing of those American liberals who established >the Americans for Democratic Action to drive communists and their allies >out of the liberal movement, did not have to know about Venona and Soviet >espionage to understand that American Communists were not autonomous >actors but faithfully reflected and justified Soviet policies. Of course >it was very material that the Progressive Party was in Moscow's pocket. =20 >Anti-communist liberals like Reinhold Niebuhr and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. >had been arguing for some time that the CPUSA and its adherents were more >loyal to Moscow than to their own country; they were not surprised when >Alger Hiss was found guilty and did not believe that communists could be >trusted in sensitive government positions, although they also did not >approve of many of the ways the Loyalty-Security program was implemented- >also our point. >=20 >Finally, our book has nothing to do with the covert work of the CIA and we >offer in it neither a defense of its efforts or criticism of them, but we >are bewildered that Mr. Lucas cannot see the difference between American >citizens working for and with an agency of the American government and >American citizens working for the Soviet Union. > >Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes --- end forwarded text