By Ron Scherer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor. Monitor writer Peter Ford this report.
The Christian Science Monitor
THE Christian Science Monitor's first Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Edmund Stevens, always denied he was a Communist. Newly released documents from the Soviet archives indicate that Stevens joined the Communist Party in the United States.
According to the Russian records, Stevens, who won the Pulitzer in 1950, joined the Young Communist League (YCLUSA) in 1931 and the American Communist Party (CPUSA) in 1938.
The disclosure of Stevens's affiliation is in the book "The Secret World of American Communism," which was released yesterday by the Yale University Press. The information was a surprise to the Christian Science Publishing Society, which had made attempts in the past to determine if Stevens was a Communist.
David Cook, editor of the Monitor, says: "If Stevens did join the party, whether as a youthful experiment, out of a deeper commitment to communism, or as a means of securing an exit visa for his family, the fact should not have been hidden."
Stevens's son, Edmund Jr., who now lives in Boston, hypothesizes that his father may have joined the party in an effort to get his family an exit visa from the Soviet Union. It was a time when Stalin was purging opponents, and many people, including foreigners, felt in danger.
The new book's authors -- Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov -- found the first reference to Stevens in a July 1942 inquiry from Pavel Mikhailovich Fitin, the head of foreign intelligence for the NKVD -- a forerunner of the KGB -- to the Communist International (Comintern). The Comintern directed Communist movements around the world. Stevens at the time was trying to get a visa to enter Russia as an adviser to Gen. Russell Maxwell, an aide to W. Averell Harriman, one of President Franklin Roosevelt's most trusted assistants.
The reply from Comintern informed Fitin about Stevens's Communist affiliation, including the assertion that in 1926 the then-16-year-old belonged to a school organization of Italian fascists for two months in Rome.
Apparently the Comintern pulled out of its files a 1938 letter from Edward Browder, the general secretary of the CPUSA. Mr. Browder stated: "I knew Edmund Stevens when he was working in the American youth movement, and I found his work to be satisfactory. For our part there are no objections to his being given work in Moscow, where he could be useful."
The Comintern said it had no more recent information about him. Mr. Klehr says there is no indication that Stevens did any espionage work for Soviet authorities. …