Magazine article The Spectator

Orders from Moscow

Magazine article The Spectator

Orders from Moscow

Article excerpt

When Josef Stalin pronounced that `from the very start' the second world war had been an `anti-fascist war of liberation' he presented the CPUSA, the American Communist Party, with a terrible problem. How could they say they were sorry for having faithfully followed an earlier Stalin line which now made them look wholly without principle? From 1939, when Berlin and Moscow signed their pact, the CPUSA obediently referred to the enemies of the Germans as 'Imperialists', attacked Roosevelt as a warmonger, opposed aid to Britain, and called strikes in factories making war equipment.

In 1941, when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, the CPUSA equally obediently called for resolute anti-German action. But Stalin's 'always' presented the editor of the CPUSA's Daily Worker with a problem which he put to his masters in Moscow.

We have discussed the issue among ourselves and we agree with Comrade Stalin's opinion. But we have not yet acknowledged publicly that we were previously in error . . . So we come off as if we are hushing up this mistake in the party.

Naturally he couldn't say that `the mistake' was wholly the result of heeding Moscow's instructions. His Soviet handler made the position plain:

Regarding the erroneous assessment of the second world war as imperialist, it is perfectly obvious that the leaders of the CPUSA should be guided by the relevant instructions of Comrade Stalin.

As for the apology, the CPUSA could `choose the form and the time.' The Soviet World of American Communism is the latest volume in a meticulous and absorbing series which reveals Moscow's total domination of its American outpost. The series is based on a mountain of Soviet documents available in Moscow since 1991, stretching from 1919 to 1994 and including, for example, the hand-written receipts for the $3 million transmitted to the CPUSA during just one year in the Reagan period when the Party was down to 1,000 members. (In the late Thirties it had perhaps 70,000.)

During most of those years Moscow paid many of the American bills - `Moscow gold' was a fact. While all members of the Party agreed with the poet Tilly Olsen that the Soviet Union was 'a heaven ... brought to earth in 1917 Russia', most of the American comrades participated in trade union organising, anti-racist work, and publishing. But there was also the secret branch which spied for Moscow. Here, Senator Joseph McCarthy became the CPUSA's best friend: by smearing many loyal Americans, including President Truman, as either subversive or helpful to subversives, he made it possible for liberal Americans to believe - as some still do that the alleged sins of the Party were `just McCarthyism'. This volume and others already published, such as The Secret World of American Communism, show that the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, and many others were Soviet agents, just as their accusers many of them ex-Party colleagues claimed. …

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