Thursday, September 27, 2018

Active measures

“Stalin's Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt's Government” is a book arguing that the administration of Franklin D Roosevelt was too soft on the Soviet Union, the Chinese Maoists and Communism in general. The authors are two Cold War veterans. Or were – both passed away shortly after the book was published in 2012. Medford Stanton Evans was an associate of William Buckley and a chair of the American Conservative Union (ACU), a group opposing any détente with the Soviet bloc. Herbert Romerstein was an ex-Communist who eventually became an investigator for the anti-Communist HUAC and counter-propaganda specialist in the Reagan administration.

While I happen to support FDR's New Deal policies, and also the war time alliance with the Soviet Union, I long suspected that his administration went too far in accommodating Soviet Stalinist demands, in contrast to Winston Churchill. This book confirms the impression. It seems FDR's administration was teeming with Soviet spies, Communist “fellow travelers” and even actual CPUSA members. The issue is still a contentious one. I assume Harry Dexter White and Alger Hiss are near-universally seen as Soviet “assets” today, while other people pinpointed as “Reds” by the authors were exonerated by the proper authorities. The authors believe that the Soviet spy web went all the way up to Harry Hopkins, a close advisor to FDR himself. And while the authors never accuse Roosevelt or Henry Morgenthau (the powerful Secretary of the Treasury) of being Soviet agents sensu stricto, they do believe they were surrounded by such people and more than willing to be duped. The First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, was another conduit of “Red” influence (yes, the book is written in a somewhat annoying 50's jargon). Evans and Romerstein believe that Communist infiltration influenced United States policy at critical junctions, leading to the loss of Poland, Yugoslavia and (most crucially) China. If left completely unchecked, it would have destroyed post-war Germany as well, creating the conditions for a further Soviet advance in Europe. Their main sources include the testimony of turned Soviet spy Whittaker Chambers and the so-called Venona transcripts.

One problem with the book is that it lacks an extensive background chapter. It does contain one chapter about Raymond Robins, Armand Hammer and the US-Soviet collaboration during the 1920's. I think this, and the continuing US-Soviet relation during the 1930's, is the crux of the matter. For whatever reason, the United States (after a short pro-White detour under Wilson) decided to cooperate economically with the Soviets, the first “five year plans” of Stalin essentially being “made in the USA” as detailed in Anthony Sutton's study “Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development 1930-1945”. This decision, presumably taken on economic or geopolitical grounds, would later create openings for the domestic Communists during their “popular front” period (or rather periods in the plural). Competition between the ascending United States and the declining British Empire created others. Without this background, the only “explanation” possible for the “Red penetration” is a kind of conspiracy theory. Evans and Romerstein may complain all they like about “pro-Red” liberals, but how do they explain cooperation on the level of the American bourgeoisie, that supposed bulwark of the “free world”? This also explains the turn-around circa 1948, when President Harry S Truman broke with the Soviet Union and started the Cold War Evans and Romerstein supports. The US and the USSR were now the only superpowers, and turned out to be incompatible…

An interesting question is how all this ties-in with the present situation. The Democrats (ludicrously) claim that Trump is colluding with the Russians, essentially stealing the entire Cold War rhetoric of the McCarthyite-Reaganite right (minus the “Red” designation, but I'm sure they could have appropriated that too, red now being the GOP party color!). Meanwhile, Islamists and no-longer-so-Red China seems to have a lot of “friends in high places”…

New revelations may await us behind the next corner.

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