The Guardian has long described itself as an "independent radical newsweekly." If the publishers, Weekly Guardian Associates, later the Institute for Independent Social Journalism, Inc., wanted to be more exact, they would call their tabloid an "independent Marxist-Leninist newsweekly." Launched as the National Guardian in October 1948 by James Aronson, Cedric Belfrage, and John McManus, the paper was closely associated with the 1948 Progressive party candidacy of Henry Wallace and also with the American Labor party, on whose ticket John McManus ran for governor of New York in 1950 and 1954.
The Guardian was allied with the Daily Worker in opposing U.S. action in the Korean War, and was among the first publications to oppose U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Contributors have included pro-Communist writers such as Agnes Smedley and Anna Louise Strong. It also carried regular Vietnam War dispatches from Wilfred Burchett, often located behind Communist lines. Burchett, who died in Sofia, Bulgaria, in September 1983, was a significant influence in the Guardian editorial policies, and closer scrutiny of his background is warranted.
Robert Marine, an Australian historian and author of The Petrov Affair: Politics and Espionage ( 1987), has produced a detailed report on Burchett under the auspices of the McKenzie Institute for the Study of Terrorism, Revolution and Propaganda of Toronto, Canada. He notes:
Wilfred Burchett, however, did not completely commit himself to the Communist cause (at least in public) until the Cold War. . . . His book from this period, Cold War in Germany, shows him now a convinced, credulous and often vicious Stalinist. . . . The Allied sectors of Germany are described as being in the grip of a Nazi revival . . . under the dominance of industrial barons and feudal landlords. By contrast Soviet policy in Germany is portrayed as staunchly for peace and the Soviet sector as a haven of genuine culture and nursery of progressive land reform. It was not for nothing that Cold War in Germany was nominated for a Stalin prize. 1
Burchett is most notorious for his false reports of American use of germ warfare in the Korean War and for his collaboration in the brainwashing of American POWs. In May 1952 Burchett reported to the world his own version of conditions in Communist-controlled POW camps, claiming: "This camp looks like a holiday resort in Switzerland. The atmosphere is also nearer that of a luxury holiday resort than a POW camp." 2 According to Manne, Burchett reported that: