The romance of Soviet stooges

Vivian Gornick is the author of the 1979 book titled The Romance of Communism. It’s a romance with which many readers of the New York Times are familiar even if the thought of it is revolting to anyone who knows the relevant history. Earlier this year in anticipation of May Day the Times turned over valuable real estate in its Sunday Review section to Gornick to celebrate the time “When Communism inspired Americans” (as part of the Times’s so-called Red Century series of columns). I noted Gornick’s column in “The Times revisits the old-time religion.”

Professor Harvey Klehr is our foremost authority on the reality of American Communism and Soviet espionage. He’s not into the romance. He is the antidote to the likes of Gornick. Several of his outstanding books on the subject were co-written with John Haynes, such as Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage and Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. The Times has now posted Professor Klehr’s sobering column “American reds, Soviet stooges.” Professor Klehr writes:

From its founding in 1919 in the wake of the Russian Revolution until the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Communist Party of the United States of America was an instrument of Soviet foreign policy. The Communist International, or Comintern, which was set up under Lenin in 1919 and then disbanded by Stalin in 1943 as a gesture of unity to his World War II allies, regularly sent delegates to oversee the C.P.U.S.A. and transmitted orders from Moscow dictating who should lead the American party and what policies it should pursue.

The dissolution of the Comintern did not end Soviet control over the C.P.U.S.A. Supervision was simply transferred to the newly formed international department of the Soviet Union’s own Communist party.

At certain times, this Soviet domination was blatant. In both 1929 and 1945, Moscow demanded, and got, a change of party leadership. Jay Lovestone had the support of 90 percent of the party members in 1929, but his support for the Bolshevik Nikolai Bukharin led Stalin to remove Lovestone as the American party’s general secretary. When, at a hearing chaired by Stalin himself, Lovestone and several of his lieutenants refused to back down, Stalin angrily denounced them and turned the C.P.U.S.A. over to its factional opponents. When the Lovestoneites set up a dissident movement, fewer than 200 American Communists joined.

* * * * *

The C.P.U.S.A. dutifully spread the lies put out by Moscow. The party thus insisted that the show trials during Stalin’s purges had uncovered a vast capitalist plot against the Soviet leader. Party members dutifully repeated Soviet fabrications that Trotsky had been in the pay of the Nazis. Worst of all, many Communists applauded the execution of tens of thousands of Soviet comrades, denouncing those who were executed as bourgeois spies and provocateurs. When Finnish-Americans who had returned to Soviet Karelia in the late 1920s and early ’30s to build socialism were purged, their American relatives were warned by party authorities to remain silent, and most did so.

Neither did the Communist movement limit its disinformation to Russian matters. In the 1960s, the K.G.B. secretly subsidized a left-wing publishing house in New York run by a former party member, Carl Marzani, that published the first book claiming that John F. Kennedy’s assassination had been arranged by a cabal of American right-wing businessmen and C.I.A. operatives.

It is not apparent to me that Professor Klehr’s column actually appears in the Times (unlike Gornick’s). Can Times readers handle the truth? Read the whole thing here.

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