Our readers and Ellen Schrecker and Maurice Isserman on "The Right's Cold War Revision."




Pleasantville, N.Y.

Ellen Schrecker and Maurice Isserman ["The Right's Cold War Revision," July 24/31] state that Judge Irving Kaufman's sentencing speech blaming the Rosenbergs for causing the Korean War (by giving the Russians the A-bomb years before they would otherwise have had it) contained "a kernel of truth." At a meeting in Moscow in April 1950 with Kim Il Sung, Stalin explained that he was acquiescing in the invasion of South Korea primarily for two reasons: the recent victory of the Chinese Communists in their civil war and the new US policy of nonintervention on the Asian mainland. Possession of the A-bomb was last on Stalin's list, understandably because Russia then had only one or two bombs and no delivery system. As for David Greenglass, the Los Alamos machinist recruited for espionage by his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg, Soviet archives confirm that he was strictly an also-ran on the roster of atomic spies. Kaufman's sentencing speech survives as one of the most vicious ideological documents of the domestic cold war. Does Schrecker and Isserman's "kernel" of support for it also extend to President Eisenhower's charge that "by immeasurably increasing the chances of atomic war, the Rosenbergs may have condemned to death tens of millions of innocent people all over the world"?




Atlanta; Kensington, Md.

We are gratified that Maurice Isserman and Ellen Schrecker think that our arguments about Communist espionage "must be taken seriously." And we thank them for their generally civil tone. But while accepting the CPUSA's role in espionage, they still flinch from the implications. They insist that with espionage "context counts." Pointing out that the United States and the USSR were allies during WWII, they ask why historians have not pursued Britain's spies in Washington in that era. "If we were to learn their identities," they ask, "would we excoriate them as much as we do the folks who leaked information to our other wartime ally, in the Kremlin?" Although there is no evidence of these British spies, do they really mean to suggest that spying on behalf of Churchill (unethical and illegal as it would have been) is the equivalent of doing so on behalf of Stalin? Surely context counts here as well. And as for depicting espionage as only "leak[ing] information to…our wartime ally," a number of those engaged in espionage were cooperating with Soviet intelligence in the thirties, before we were allies, while others continued to do so after the cold war began and when we were adversaries.

Schrecker and Isserman suggest that in 1943 there were no "crystal-clear vistas, in which all the actors knew then what we now know–about Stalin, about the Soviet Union." There was, in fact, plenty of evidence. After Stalin's terror, the Moscow Trials and the Nazi-Soviet Pact, most observers did not have to wait until Khrushchev's 1956 speech to notice the monstrous crimes of the Stalin regime. For good reasons, the United States was allied with the USSR to defeat Germany, but that did not make the Soviet Union the moral equivalent of a democracy.

We agree with Schrecker and Isserman, and have written, that the entire history of the CPUSA should not be reduced to a criminal conspiracy. But whatever else it was, the CPUSA was, as an organization, intimately involved in espionage against the United States and cooperated with Soviet intelligence. In her recent book on McCarthyism, Schrecker noted that "as communists these people did not subscribe to traditional forms of patriotism; they were internationalists whose political allegiances transcended national boundaries." Don't Schrecker and Isserman agree that such a view of national loyalty provides an excellent rationale for the government effort to exclude Communists from sensitive positions? An extended discussion can be found on the web at: www.johnearlhaynes.org/page47.html.






New York City; Clinton, N.Y.

In our article, we suggested that the successful Soviet detonation of a nuclear device in August 1949, "along with the Communist victory in China a…month later…nudged Kim Il Sung a fatal step or two closer to his long-contemplated decision to invade South Korea" the following summer. Walter Schneir apparently believes we have capitulated to cold war hysteria in making this argument. Our source, however, is the decidedly unhysterical historian Bruce Cumings, who argues in his authoritative Origins of the Korean War that the Soviet nuclear test "rumbled through the communist world, having especially significant effect in Korea where, combined with the Chinese victory, it emboldened the leadership."

We also suggested that discussions about Soviet espionage in World War II would benefit from some "intellectual fine shading." Rather than view spies as "moral monsters," we might want to pay more attention to historical context in order to understand their motivation. "Context counts," we suggested. But Harvey Klehr and John Haynes are not impressed by our hypothetical counterexample of Americans spying on behalf of Churchill in World War II. Consider then a more recent and unhypothetical example. The New York Times reported on September 2 that Hillary Clinton had quietly intervened to keep Jonathan Pollard from being transferred to a harsher federal prison. Pollard is currently serving a life sentence stemming from his 1986 conviction for spying on behalf of Israel. According to the Times, Pollard's supporters (who are identified by the reporter as consisting mostly of "Jews on the right"), feel he deserves clemency because he "simply passed along information to an ally that was already receiving United States intelligence through official channels." Here is an argument, from the right, that "context counts."

Haynes and Klehr correctly point out that Soviet espionage efforts predated the wartime alliance of the United States and the Soviet Union. However, in the thirties Washington was chiefly of interest to Soviet agents as a kind of "listening post" from which information could be gleaned about places of more interest to the Kremlin, like Berlin. Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev argue persuasively in their recent book, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America, that what the men and women drawn into the Soviet espionage network in the United States in the 1930s shared in common was a "romantic antifascism." Those sentiments were only reinforced during World War II when the Red Army was carrying the brunt of the war against the Wehrmacht, and even Life magazine would compare the NKVD (the principal Soviet espionage agency) favorably to the FBI. Does any of this justify spying on behalf of the Soviet Union? No. Does it help explain it? We think it does.

Finally, Klehr and Haynes wonder if we agree that Communists should have been excluded from "sensitive positions" in the government during World War II, given what we now know about the participation of many of them in Soviet espionage efforts. Perhaps, although it's not a simple question. If J. Robert Oppenheimer (whose brother, girlfriend and wife were all Communists, and who was certainly close to the party himself) had not filled the supersensitive position of director of the Manhattan Project, it is quite possible that the United States would not have developed an atomic bomb as soon as it did.

We do not believe, however, that firing kindergarten teachers, biologists, librarians, screenwriters and longshoremen for their Communist sympathies did anything to strengthen US national security in the postwar years. We trust that Klehr and Haynes agree with us on that point, although all too many cold war liberals in the fifties did not.







Readers of Michael P. Rogin's review of Frances Stonor Saunders' The Cultural Cold War ["When the CIA Was the NEA," June 12] might be interested in another dimension of the Congress for Cultural Freedom's activities seldom cited–the CCF's efforts throughout the fifties to influence Third World politics and its interpretation in the United States. The long-term impact of such efforts was less on Third World intellectuals than on US academia–notably in the field of modernization and development studies–and the media, where the political thrust of the CIA-backed CCF shaped the approach to Third World regimes.




Providence, R.I.

The CCF mobilized support for its objectives in conferences designed to attract Third World intellectuals. They met in Italy, India, Burma, Japan, Nigeria, on the isle of Rhodes, to listen to anti-Communist luminaries–including James Burnham and Edward Shils–denounce radical change and the alleged economism of Asian and African leaders. Committed to undermining the impact of anti-imperialist struggles, CCF organizers brought their message home, shaping the parameters of modernization and development studies that spread across US campuses. They provided legitimation for US policy in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia in the sixties, seventies and eighties. The approach is anything but dead. Additional information can be found in my study Development Against Democracy.




New York City

The CIA's game continued well past CCF's public exposure. Changing its name to the International Association for Cultural Freedom, it went on with less fanfare until 1979. We know about only a small fraction of the thousand (or more) volumes secretly funded and passed off as disinterested scholarship; a vigorous discussion has recently begun in the Organization of American Historians to uncover more evidence. Saunders pinpoints postrevelation meetings of hardened loyalists in London and Paris, including Raymond Aron, Daniel Bell, Edward Shils, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Ignazio Silone, in which the reorganization presumably took shape. (Sorry, Christopher Hitchens ["Minority Report," June 12], the Italian writer-critic's previous past was indeed far better than Alex Cockburn paints it ["Beat the Devil," June 5], but like Encounter, Silone's Tempo Presente was a CIA outlet.)




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