Harvey Klehr's hatchet job on the CPUSA

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Wed Apr 12 09:39:22 MDT 1995

Harvey Klehr is a historian who writes about the CPUSA in much the
same manner as Theodore Draper. For this type of historian, the party
was for the most part merely an instrument of Soviet foreign policy.
This is in sharp distinction to younger historians like Mark Naison
who were shaped by new left political experience and who find many
positive things to say about the CP's grass-roots organizing abilities.

Klehr has co-authored a new book with John Earl Haynes called "The
Secret World of American Communism" which alleges that the
CPUSA operated an elaborate underground network in the 1930s and
1940s that engaged in espionage to help Soviet intelligence. The book
relies on materials obtained from archives in the former Soviet Union.
According to the book, the party cooperated with the Soviet military
and even helped infiltrate the Manhattan project. Other documents
purport to show that Moscow provided large cash payments to the
CPUSA and that American industrialist Armand Hammer laundered
some of these payments.

Some analysis of this book as political phenomenon is in order. Klehr
has clearly jumped on the right-wing bandwagon. A precedent would
be Ronald Radosh's book "proving" that the Rosenbergs were really
atom spies. Liberals and social democratic intellectuals who have
made a good living writing anti-Soviet propaganda clearly intend to
continue doing so, no matter that the USSR is defunct. The goal of
such historiography must be to help shift the political agenda to the
right. By characterizing the CPUSA as an "alien" presence, such
historians imply that the radicalization of the 1930's had no native
roots. In reality, the radicalization of the 1930's was expressed for the
most part through the CP--for better or for worse--as the radicalization
of the early 20th century was expressed through the SP of Eugene V.

As for the substance of the charges, I would be very leery of any
archival material coming out of the former Soviet Union. Last year a
book appeared that attempted to prove that many of the atomic
scientists in the US were passing secrets to the USSR, including
Oppenheimer himself. Experts on this period proved that the book was
filled with factual inaccuracies and chronological inconsistencies. The
gang that's in charge of the former Soviet Union today would no doubt
find it very easy to fabricate documents in order to discredit the
socialist project. They hate their own history as much as the US
professional anticommunist industry does.

A more overarching concern has to do with the continuing
anticommunist crusade. Despite the demise of the Soviet bloc, some
keep thrusting a knife into its cold corpse. Not only do we have Klehr's
book, we also have the dubious book from Mao's doctor on Mao's
sexual improprieties. Isn't it possible that with the continuing attack
on the living standards of working people in this country the old mole-
-revolution--might make a re-appearance one of these days. In case it
does, it might make sense to create in the popular mind the idea that
revolutionaries in earlier periods were nothing but "un-American"

Louis Proyect

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