The Secret World of American Communism

Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov; Russian documents translated by Timothy D. Sergay

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September 25, 1996
380 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
16 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300068559
Paper

Also available in:
Cloth

For the first time, the hidden world of American communism can be examined with the help of documents from the recently opened archives of the former Soviet Union. By interweaving narrative and documents, the authors of this book present a convincing new picture of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), one of the most controversial organizations in American public life. Heated debates about whether the Communist Party harbored spies or engaged in espionage have surrounded the party from its inception. This authoritative book provides proof that the CPUSA was involved in various subversive activities. At the same time, it discloses fascinating details about the workings of the party and about the ordinary Americans and CPUSA leaders who participated in its clandestine activities.

The documents presented range from letters by Americans wishing to do international covert work for the Soviet Union to top secret memos between the head of Soviet foreign intelligence, the Comintern, and the CPUSA. They confirm that

--the Soviet Union heavily subsidized the CPUSA and that some prominent Americans laundered money for the Comintern;

--the CPUSA maintained a covert espionage apparatus in the United States with direct ties to Soviet intelligence;

--the testimony of former Communists concerning underground Communist activity in the United States can be substantiated;

--American Communists working in government agencies stole documents and passed them to the CPUSA, which sent them on to Moscow;

--the CPUSA played a role in atomic espionage;

and much more.

An engrossing narrative places the documents in their historical context and explains key figures, organizations, and events. Together the narrative and documents provide a revealing picture of American communism and convey the contradictory passions that drew so many Americans into the Communist movement and eventually tore that movement apart.

Harvey Klehr, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Politics at Emory University, is also the author of The Heyday of American Communism. John Earl Haynes is a specialist in twentieth-century American history at the Library of Congress. Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov is former head of the Comintern Archive at the Russian Center for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Recent History. All three are working on additional volumes about communism in America.

"The book is explosive and important. It will result at last in an accurate assessment of the role of the CPUSA in American history."—Richard Gid Powers, author of Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover and Not Without Honor: The History of American Anti-Communism

"An indispensable part of all serious study of the history of communism in America."—Edward Jay Epstein, author of The Assassination Chronicles

"The story told by this book is as gripping as a spy thriller, as sobering as a douse of water."—Roger Kimball, Wall Street Journal

"A formidable achievement in archival research. No one will be able to write about the cpusa in the future without reference to this volume."—Maurice Isserman, Nation

"A memorable, powerful book. . . . One of this year's most significant books about twentieth-century American political history."—David J. Garrow, New York Newsday

"A rich vein of new information about the nature and the extent of the Soviet political attack on the United States."—Anthony Cave Brown, Washington Post Book World

"A valuable work. . . . It amply vindicates the conviction of anti-Stalinist liberals that liberalism and communism had nothing in common."—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., New Republic

"This book contains the first new revelation about American Communism in a generation. It is superbly edited and admirably presented. No one interested in the history of the American Communism can afford to miss it."—Theodore Draper

"[This book] supplies interesting and useful information on important chapters in CP [Communist Party] history, such as the role of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War."—Todd Chretien, Socialist Worker

"In short, the book makes a powerful case for its views on the satellite character of the American Communist Party, especially its high leadership ranks."—Irving Lous Horowitz, Orbis

"This is a sound, scholarly approach."—R.J. Mitchell, Choice

"This book is for the extraordinary people, the intellectual class, those who continue to believe in the moral goodness of the good old cause. For them it is required reading."—Irving Louis Horowitz, Orbis

"The authors . . . have pulled off a formidable achievement in archival research. No one will be able to write about the C.P.U.S.A. in the future without reference to this volume. . . . Klehr, Haynes and Firsov are, in short, worthy opponents in what has been, and, I expect, will remain hotly contested historical terrain."—Eric Breindel, National Review

"Although Klehr, Haynes, and Firsov present startling evidence, they do so in a restrained, scholarly manner. . . . By calling into question two decades of revisionist CPUSA scholarship, [the authors] have forced students of politics to begin a major reassessment of the party's role."—James G. Ryan, Review of Politics

"The real story is now emerging form the Russian archives, and this fascinating collection of documents will help change our views of the Communist effort in America. It is splendidly done."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"This promises to be only the first in a series of volumes that will exploit the new Russian documentation in order to reassess various aspects of the CPUSA's historical role. The Secret World of American Communism bodes well for the series. It is a provocative, engaging study—a welcome addition to the historical literature on the subject."—Mark J. White, Slavonic Review

"The opening of archives in the former Soviet Union has created a potential gold mine for historians. The editors of the work under review have struck a rich vein and used it to produce a fascinating volume. . . . This handsomely produced volume, full of scholarly insights, is a splendid addition to the literature on the communism in the United States."—Peter G. Boyle, The Historical Association

"The opening of archives in the former Soviet Union has created a potential gold mine for historians. The editors of the work under review have struck a rich vein and used it to produce a fascinating volume. . . . This handsomely produced volume, full of scholarly insights, is a splendid addition to the literature on communism in the United States."—Peter G. Boyle, History

"For anyone even vaguely interested in either the Soviet Union of the American Left, the book is a gold mine of information about the internal workings of the Comintern and the CPUSA. . . . This is a first-rate book. It blends documents and analysis effectively and seamlessly. and it is a rarity in academic life—an utter delight to read."—Charles Hauss, University of Reading, U.K. (Perspectives on Political Science)

"The Secret World of American Communism may be described as a stimulating and controversial contribution to a continuing debate."—Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, Labour History Review

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