Moscow Gold

Godenas at Godenas at
Mon Feb 19 18:31:53 MST 1996

Last Spring, a friend of mine sent me a copy of the (then) newly published
"Secret World of American Communism" by the two ageing cold war curiosities
Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes (a third "author", Fridrikh Igorevich
Firsov was later to be revealed as a mere "errand boy" working out of the
"newly opened" Soviet Archives) The book itself purported to be an "expose"
of Soviet domination of the CPUSA, promising in advertisements and reviews
(Robert Conquest's piiece in the TLS is a good example) to "name names and
reveal the sordid history of Moscow's agents during the cold war."  It is,
sadly for its promoters, far less than that.  The book (published at
Yale--the intellectual home of the CIA--with the aid of the usual run of the
mill suspects; John Olin Foundation, "Open Society" Fund, etc) is, finally,
little more than a collection of not very revealing documents, more apt to
produce ennui in those determined to wade through it, than any major
revelation about the CPUSA or its Soviet contacts.   The book is a turgid
recollection of innuendos, rumors, and half-truths that, true, did sustain
Cold War liberal anti-communism (not to mention its imitators in various left
groups like DSA and innumerable Trotskyite sects), but its promised value as
an "expose" of American Communism simply doesn't deliver.
The book is full of jail-house lawyer weasel words like "[s]everal of the
 NKVD inquiries strongly support [sic] Elizabeth Bentley's stories of
espionage by secret members of the [CPUSA]."  Following this rather
extravagant claim is a series of cryptic notes (mere pieces of paper, really)
containing requests for information about certain personalities, usually
within US government agencies. So what?   After much hemming and hoaring the
authors finally admit that several of the personalities involved had refused
to honor official inquiries into their membership in the Party.  Much of the
book, in fact, seems to be a special plea for the rehabilitation of Whittaker
Chambers, professional liar and sometime bed-mate of Roy Cohn and J. Edgar
Hoover.  That and regurgitated verbiage on the Party's attempt to open a
"Second Front" (in which they were finally successful) during WWII comprises
the main party of the book.  Nowhere does a single revelation occur of any
importance to friend or foe of the American Communist Party.
In view of this, and in light of the questionable authenticity of much of the
research being carried out in that section of the "opened" Soviet archives
(as recently chronicled in the NYT Book Review) I am tempted to ask, what
really is the quality of evidence that Moscow gold flowed in appreciable
quantities to American CPers?  And if it did flow in such quantities
(considering that money, lots of it, from our own government flowing in the
opposite direction), so what?
                                                            Louis Godena

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