RE: anti-coms, anti-anti-coms and so forth

Grover Furr (
Wed, 8 May 1996 14:49:18 -0400

Jeff Apfel wrote:

>I find it interesting that much of what Grover has contributed here by way of,
>for want of a better term, the hidden history of communist influence in American
>life in the 50s and 60s parallels the very things the Right has been saying all
>along. For example, the Right has been crowing of late that, at long last, the
>so-called Venona cables are providing much weight to its long-held view that
>Alger Hiss and many other anti-anti-communist icons were indeed Soviet agents.

>Am I missing something here or do I detect a note of convergence between Grover
>and the Right, the basic difference being Grover's celebration of, and the
>Rights's continued denigration of, this history?

Let me begin with I.F. Stone, who is implicated in the so-called
Venona cables, and whose _Newsletter_ was an important part of
political awakening for many people, myself included, during the '60s.

Stone was _not_ a Cold Warrior. He didn't believe that the
Soviets were "evil" and the US and capitalists generally basically
"good." After '48 or so, this stance would mean you'd be called a
communist by certain forces.

It's what I called, in an earlier post, the "Gleichschaltung" --
fascist-type "co-ordination" -- of American culture by mutual consent
of liberals and conservatives. In the CIO, it was Democrat
anti-communist union sellouts doing the Red-baiting; in the Senate, it
was mainly the Republicans.

It'd be hard to convince me that Stone was a "Soviet agent". He
was _never_ a Marxist in his analysis. But he supported Communist
causes and causes that Communists supported -- as, in the '60s, all of
us who supported the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements did
as well. Only he did it in the '40s and '50s, at a time when support
for such causes immediately brought suspicion that one was a secret
C.P. member if not a spy.

I think this is the central issue of the Venona documents, at
least insofar as I've read about them (I haven't seen them, and
certainly descriptions by the Right -- e.g. Accuracy In Media -- of
what they say should not be mistaken as objective analysis by

Personally, I think this was a great weakness of Stone's -- he
was probably NOT a "traitor" in this sense, and too bad! What the
Communist movement called "proletarian internationalism" and
supporting its "home base", the USSR, was called "treason" in the

Part of the problem is the dishonest use of the term "Soviet
agent" by the Right today (but not only by them in the '50s). What
exactly constitutes one as a "Soviet agent"? That you carry a
Communist Party card? Please! That a person employed by the Soviet
Embassy gave you $50? That you had 300 conversations with that person
and s/he paid for dinner, or bought 500 subscriptions to your
magazine, or gave you $1000?

You can see all this at work in the latest AIM Report. Claiming
to prove that Stone was a "Soviet agent," it actually could be used to
prove _the opposite._ It all depends on what you mean by "agent."

By the post-WWII period, the Soviets and the Communist Parties
which followed them had long since abandoned the call for revolution,
the dictatorship of the proletariat, communism, and so on, and were
instead fighting for reforms of various kinds. As a result, many
people worked with the Communist party who were interested solely in
the reforms. People actually _joined_ the Communist party without
agreeing with the goal of communism, or even knowing about it!

As late as 1966 you could join the Communist party simply by
signing a card and sending in $2.00. I joined the DuBois Clubs --
which is what the Young Communist League was calling itself then (I
didn't know it, by the way) -- along with the whole Princeton SDS
chapter, exactly that way.

My point here is that you have to have quite an "elastic"
definition of "Soviet agent" to cover people who were as
anti-Marxist and critical of the Soviet Union time and again (while
also being an "anti-anti-communist") as I.F. Stone. I say this not to
praise him, but just to state the facts as I see them.

Stone criticized the USSR _vehemently_, many times. Of course,
one could say that this was just his "cover." By that logic Jesse
Helms may well be a Soviet agent -- the last one, with the "best
cover!" No, Stone was _anything_ but "loyal" to the USSR.

If it turns out -- as it has not yet -- that some day irrefutable
proof comes to light that Stone was having regular conversations with
somebody employed by the Soviet embassy, telling them what he had dug
up in his researches, and accepting payment for that -- would that
mean he was a "Soviet agent"? Well, if you change the word "Soviet"
for "French", would it mean he was a "French agent"? See what I mean?

As for Alger Hiss -- to tell the truth, I don't know. He sure
might have been a Communist party member who infiltrated the executive
branch. I have been told by ex-CP'ers that Harry Dexter White most
certainly _was_ a CP member. No doubt there were others -- I certainly
hope so!

As for the Rosenbergs, my own feeling is that they may well have
been trying to get ahold of atomic secrets for the USSR, and a noble
cause it was, too! But the little I've studied this suggests that they
failed -- or at least that they were not the ones who finally got
them, IF they were stolen at all.

I'm sure they saw themselves as loyal to the working class of the
world, rather than to the plutocrats who ran and still run the US, and
therefore as "patriots" of a different kind. So there were different
meanings of "patriotism" and "treason" -- as we also discovered during
the '60s, when anybody who supported the Civil Rights movement could
be called a "communist" and anybody who opposed imperialist murder
could be called a "traitor."

The problem was that the Communist party was committed to hiding
all this (and may still be, I don't know), so the Rosenberg defense
made a big deal about the Rosenberg's being "loyal Americans", who
would never have done such a thing. I believe this was hogwash, but
I'd have trouble proving it.

I think this kind of thing is a measure of how far the Communist
movement, including that in the USSR, had degenerated from its
original, proud goals of revolution and communism by the '40s.

Grover Furr