Studies Thaw the Exploits of Undercover Cold Warriors

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Sat Jun 10 10:08:29 MDT 2000

          June 10, 2000

          Studies Thaw the Exploits of
          Undercover Cold Warriors


          In the years since the
          breakup of the Soviet Union and the
          opening of it secret
          files, much has been learned about the
          accomplishments of Soviet spies in the
          United States, particularly in the
          1930's and 40's. The
          still-accumulating evidence has
          silenced some of the truest believers
          in the innocence of the likes of Alger
          Hiss and Julius Rosenberg.

          But lest Americans are left with the
          uncomfortable notion that their
          country remained passively at the
          mercy of traitors, new studies are
          drawing attention to huggermugger by
          the Western allies after World War II.
          In some ways these books are
          reassuring; in some ways they raise or
          reinforce doubts about the means and
          ends of Washington's undercover wars.

          At the close of World War II, with
          much of Europe in economic and
          political disarray, Washington was
          troubled by what it saw as a surge of
          Communist influence promoted from
          Moscow. The Truman administration
          being new to the geopolitical game and
          the Central Intelligence Agency not
          yet invented, a few leaders of the
          American Federation of Labor undertook
          their own anti-Communist effort.

          To direct it, George Meany, who was in
          effect running the A.F.L., and David
          Dubinsky, president of the
          International Ladies Garment Workers
          Union, picked Jay Lovestone to be
          their commander in chief for the labor
          wars. The result is engagingly
          chronicled by Ted Morgan in "A Covert
          Life: Jay Lovestone, Communist,
          Anti-Communist and Spymaster" (Random

          Lovestone had the credentials for the
          job. As a young Communist in the
          1920's he was deeply enmeshed in the
          party's incessant factional conflicts;
          for a couple of years he headed the
          American Communist Party, until he was
          ousted on Stalin's orders. Like other
          radicals of the time he wound up as an
          anti-Communist crusader.

          Lovestone masterminded an energetic
          assault on European unions and parties
          with communist leanings. In West
          Germany he supported the Social
          Democrats under Kurt Schumacher and
          fostered free trade unions. In France,
          abetted by Irving Brown, another tough
          Communist hater, he helped beat back a
          Communist-inspired effort to derail
          the Marshall Plan, and in Italy
          Lovestone and Brown bolstered
          democratic parties in parliamentary

          Mr. Morgan credits the A.F.L. with
          standing alone from November 1945 to
          the spring of 1948 "in acting against
          Soviet expansion via the trade
          unions." Well, not altogether alone.
          In an audience with Pope Pius XII
          Lovestone announced, "We are
          anti-Communists without any
          reservations or hesitations." The
          startled pope replied, "But Mr.
          Lovestone, I, too, am anti-Communist."

          Although the just-formed C.I.A.
          slipped $10 million to Italy's
          Christian Democrats when the Communist
          Party mounted a serious parliamentary
          challenge in the 1948 elections, the
          agency's relations with the
          contentious Lovestone were always

          The F.B.I. kept close watch on an
          operator with so flagrant a set of
          Communist credentials, and he also had
          run-ins with Congress, the State
          Department and the White House, all of
          which he felt were insufficiently
          aggressive toward Stalin.

          Lovestone's great years came early,
          but he lasted for decades, supplying
          worldwide intelligence to the C.I.A.'s
          fabled and perhaps paranoiac James
          Jesus Angleton. At Lovestone's death
          in 1990, a year before the dissolution
          of the Soviet Union, he was still
          fighting his good fight, leaving
          behind the anomalous legacy of
          ostensibly free trade unions'
          consorting secretly with a spy agency.
          The consolation was that unlike some
          other cold war adventurers, they
          proved good at it.

          How bad these others could be is
          chronicled by Peter Grose in
          "Operation Rollback: America's Secret
          War Behind the Iron Curtain" (Houghton
          Mifflin). His account of American
          forays into espionage in the late 40's
          and early 50's might be humorous, were
          the stakes not so serious. In a plan
          hatched by George F. Kennan, known for
          inventing the policy of containment,
          and backed by the C.I.A. director
          Allen Dulles, the supersecret Office
          of Policy Coordination financed a
          multimillion-dollar campaign of
          sabotage in Soviet-bloc countries. Or
          such was the concept, which failed
          wherever it was tried.

          Front groups with words like
          liberation in their titles were
          cobbled together. Bickering bands of
          émigrés, including sometime fascists
          and Nazi hangers-on, were recruited in
          displaced-person camps and sent on
          impossible missions.

          In Albania, Romania, Poland and within
          the Soviet Union itself the results
          were the same: Eric Ambler as adapted
          by the Three Stooges. The Soviets,
          abetted in some cases by information
          supplied by Kim Philby, the British
          double agent, captured and executed
          most of the infiltrators, and
          Washington was put to the trouble of
          denying all knowledge of its inept

          In sum "Rollback" was not the
          estimable Mr. Kennan's most successful
          project. If it had served as a
          cautionary lesson, it might have
          spared the nation even more dubious
          adventures from Southeast Asia to
          Latin America in decades to come.

          In a more successful and less lethal
          cold war assay, the C.I.A. was waging
          a cultural-political battle that
          roiled the intelligentsia of several
          countries and continues to stir

          The revelation in the late 60's that
          the agency was secretly financing
          seemingly independent intellectuals
          and organizations caused a sensation,
          but it awaited Frances Stoner
          Saunders, in "The Cultural Cold War:
          The C.I.A. and the World of Arts and
          Letters" (New Press), to provide a
          detailed picture of who did what and
          how it was done.

          To combat Comintern propaganda,
          beginning around 1950 Washington
          mounted a counteroffensive aimed at
          challenging a prevailing image of the
          United States as a land whose
          matchless wealth was matched by a
          paucity of culture. With C.I.A.
          support, known fully only to a few, a
          stellar collection of generally
          liberal and assuredly anti-Communist
          intellectuals were recruited for

          Magazines in several countries, most
          notably Encounter in Britain, were
          created and edited with distinction,
          and others, like the influential
          Partisan Review, were subsidized.
          Big-name forums, art exhibits and
          celebratory festivals were organized,
          and the Metropolitan Opera and the
          Boston Symphony were sent on European
          tour. The message was that the United
          States was a fount of cultural

          It worked. The few stars of the
          fellow-traveling circuit like Paul
          Robeson, Lillian Hellman and Howard
          Fast were easily outgunned by an
          imposing array of writers, scholars
          and artists gathered in the Congress
          for Cultural Freedom. A few names:
          Arthur Koestler, André Malraux, Isaiah
          Berlin, Raymond Aron, Mary McCarthy,
          Reinhold Neibuhr, George Orwell,
          Robert Lowell, Bertrand Russell,
          Stephen Spender, Arthur Schlesinger
          Jr., Ignazio Silone, André Gide. While
          the Stalinists tended to be
          middlebrow, this group was weighted
          decidedly toward the highbrow. Ms.
          Saunders gives much of the credit, or
          blame, for the popularity of abstract
          art to its promotion by the C.I.A.

          She leaves little doubt that some of
          the players were in on the C.I.A.
          connection, but even this highly
          critical chronicler does not charge
          that most of the stars knew that the
          Congress for Cultural Freedom was an
          arm of the agency. (Many thought, if
          they thought about it at all, that the
          money was coming from foundations.)
          Nor, despite examples of C.I.A.
          efforts to exert pressure, does she
          make much of a case that the
          luminaries were tailoring their ideas
          to suit agency specifications: they
          were, after all, non-Communist men and
          women of the left to whom championing
          Western values against Stalin's
          despotism came naturally.

          In the fashion of the intellectual
          set, there was plenty of disagreement
          within ranks, notably a fierce fight
          over how to deal or fail to deal with
          the rampages of Senator Joseph R.
          McCarthy. Hard-line anti-Communists in
          the American Committee for Cultural
          Freedom, led by Sidney Hook and
          abetted by the C.I.A. handlers,
          succeeded in blocking a public
          statement attacking McCarthyism, lest
          it get in the way of their primary
          mission to attack Communism, while
          less doctrinaire liberals were
          distressed by the failure to act
          against what they saw as the
          McCarthyite attack on freedom. The
          split led to the American group's

          The exposure of the C.I.A. largess of
          course embarrassed the pro-American
          cause as intellectuals famed for being
          know-it-alls scurried to proclaim
          their ignorance. The sticking point
          was not so much the substance as the
          secrecy: for a group like the
          congress, dedicated to free and open
          discussion, to be revealed as a C.I.A.
          client, with all that implied by way
          of influence or control, did not go
          down easily. Ms. Saunders holds that
          there was certainly influence and
          possibly control.

          Depending on their predilections,
          readers can find cause in these
          histories for cheering or deploring
          America's cold war excursions. The one
          sure constant is that the central
          issue they raise -- what principled
          actions a free country may take in a
          battle with a pronounced enemy of
          freedom -- will not soon, if ever, be


        Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company

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