Tuesday, May 4, 2010

US "individuals" who assisted the USSR -- I. F. Stone

            In previous notes I berated the French, especially French intellectuals who created an anti-French disposition -- a climate of opinion in which one was "realistic" or "with the latest fashion" only if one opposed the French establishment, the French status quo.  But peculiarity wasn't the sole property of France.  The same sort of thing occurred in the United States, albeit with not quite the same cataclysmic result.  Consider a new book just published Spies, The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassilief:
            After the fall of the USSR, the KGB archives became more and more accessible.  The American Left who claimed to be individuals much like their French predecessors succumbed through a slightly different process to the same destructive anti-national sentiments.  Whereas the French developed their own process, moving from Anarchy up through anti-French pacifism, the Americans, while perhaps to some extent influenced by the French, seem also to have been powerfully assisted by a Communist "party line" which played to their "anti-establishment" predisposition. 
            Much of the information provided by Ronald Radosh, who reviewed the book in the current issue of The Weekly Standard, was already familiar to me from having read previous Haynes and Klehr books.  I gather though that this book provides much more evidence about what actually occurred.  I already knew that McCarthy was being used by J. Edgar Hoover to go after certain individuals as Communists, and that McCarthy was prohibited from saying where he got his information for fear of exposing the Venona project; so Radosh doesn't exactly surprise me when he quotes the authors to say that McCarthy was "wildly off the mark.  Very few of the people he accused appeared in KGB documents (or the Venona decryptions), and by the time he made his charges, almost all Soviet agents had been forced out of the government and Soviet intelligence networks were largely defunct."   I wonder though how many of the names of the "people he accused" were provided him by Hoover, and whether any of them could be numbered among the individuals that were referred to but not named in the KGB archives.  I don't have the impression that McCarthy made anything up; so who were his sources?  That sort of information wouldn't be in the KGB files. 
            And I hadn't heard that the Soviet networks were "largely defunct" by the time McCarthy and HUAC got rolling.  The KGB's efforts were ended, not by investigative efforts but by the defection of certain spies, especially Elizabeth Bentley.  Radosh writes "It was the 1945 defection of Elizabeth Bentley that led Soviet intelligence to close down almost all of its American operations, and to dissolve and deactivate its agents.  Bentley had run party-based KGB networks in the government, and when she went to the FBI, her defection 'was by any measure a catastrophe.'  Everything that the KGB and GRU had put together during the war years had to be abandoned: 'By the time the FBI began to watch them or came to interrogate them, Bentley's American agents had their excuses and cover stories thought out and their cries about political persecution of progressives well rehearsed.'"
            Radosh writes "The most striking fact to emerge from Spies 'is that a remarkable number of Americans' -- more than 500 -- 'assisted Soviet intelligence agencies.'  We still do not know the identities of all of them.  Despite HUAC, the FBI, and Senator McCarthy and his associates, many were questioned, but few were prosecuted and fewer convicted.  Some have argued that, although the Soviets may have spied against America, they did little harm.  The KGB files reveal, however, that stolen scientific and technical data helped the Soviets wage the Cold War, build an atomic bomb, and deploy 'jet planes, radar, sonar, artillery proximity fuses' and other armaments long before they could have done so on their own.  Soviet espionage in America gave Stalin the confidence to give Kim Il Sung the go-ahead to invade South Korea in 1950."
            Radosh concludes, "Joseph McCarthy was wrong in many of his accusations, but those American anti-Communists who saw the Communist party as a genuine threat to our national security, and who worked to keep their members out of government, were right.  They were not witch-hunters, and the search for Communists in government was 'a rational response to the extent to which the Communist party had become an appendage of Soviet intelligence.'"
            As indicated, I am more interested in Americans who were anti-nationalists like the French "individuals" described in earlier notes, and this book does shed some light on them.  Radosh writes, "the third major revelation is the solid identification of leftwing journalist I. F. Stone as a Soviet agent.  For decades, Stone's admirers have depicted him as an independent, free spirited journalist, unafraid to go after sacred cows, beholden to no one but his own conscience.  His opposition to Cold war foreign policy, and his influential writings in opposition to the Vietnam war, made him a hero in the 1960s to the emerging New Left, and to a future generation of journalists and writers.  The KGB files now firmly establish that, during 1936-38, Stone signed on as a full-fledged KGB agent.  There is simply no more room for doubt.  As the New York KGB station agent reported in May 1936, 'Relations with "Pancake" [Stone's KGB name] have entered "the channel of normal operational work."'  For the next few years, HKV [Radosh's abbreviation of the authors' names] write, 'Stone worked closely with the KGB' as a talent spotter and recruiter.  He also worked with the American Communist Victor Perlo who, while an economist at the War Production Group, also led a Soviet espionage apparatus and compiled material for Stone.  'That Stone chose never to reveal this part of his life,' write the authors, 'strongly suggests that he knew just how incompatible it would be with his public image as a courageous and independent journalist.'"
            While French intellectuals may have been the authors of the sort of "individual" that became the idol of the anti-Establishment-Left, their views resonated in the intellectual Left of the rest of Europe and the West.  Wherever you go in the West you will find "individuals" opposing the well-being of their own nations.  That their philosophy was disastrous to the nation in which it originated is well-documented.  As to its effect elsewhere, I will only comment about the U.S.  Nietzsche wrote that whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and that seems to have been the case with the U.S.  Despite the "individuals" who opposed America's national interests, America survived, and its enemy didn't.  Klehr, Haynes and Vassiliev describe to us, for example, how the KGB orchestrated a "party line" attack against America's interests in such places as Korea and Vietnam.    We should not fail to return to the Leftist arguments that blamed the US with accusations originated, ultimately, by the KGB and its cohorts.  The KGB was wildly successful.  The American Left took the Communist Party Line and ran with it.  Granted, the Left is rather quiet nowadays about what they advocated during the Cold War, but some of us need to remember what they did and said, not to rub their noses in it, but to recognize the danger anti-national sentiment and activities can represent.

No comments: