Joseph McCarthy is the most unjustly demonized individual in American history.
In February 1950, McCarthy, a Republican senator from Wisconsin, launched a massive campaign against alleged Communists and Soviet agents working for, and perhaps spying on, the U.S. government. In Senate hearings stretching across much of the first half of the 1950s, he accused numerous U.S. government employees, including many in the State Department, of being Communists or even agents of Soviet Intelligence. He was bitterly opposed by powerful members of the Senate, by numerous high-ranking officials within both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, and by the overwhelming preponderance of the press corps. He was finally censured by the U.S. Senate in December 1954 and died, possibly of effects of alcoholism, several years later. He was forty-eight.
The demonizations, then and now, involve charges that McCarthy lied, badgered, intimidated, victimized innocents, and fanned the flames of a massive anti-Communist hysteria. A typical account of his methods is provided by History.com’s “This Day in History,” which claims, “In widely publicized hearings, McCarthy bullied defendants under cross-examination with unlawful and damaging accusations, destroying the reputations of hundreds of innocent officials and citizens.”1
The pejorative term “McCarthyism” was coined by his critics to denote “The practice of making accusations of disloyalty, especially of pro-Communist activity, in many instances unsupported by proof or based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.”2
Even historians who investigate and expose Soviet espionage penetration of the U.S. government claim that “McCarthy’s charges were, in fact, based on thin evidence” and that he “use[d] anticommunism for partisan purposes.”3
Finally, some FBI agents who actively pursued Soviet spies join in the chorus of criticism: “I . . . was more interested in countering the activities of the Soviet KGB and GRU. . . . McCarthy’s star chamber proceedings, his lies and overstatements hurt our counterintelligence efforts.”4
But evidence accumulated from a variety of sources—including Soviet archives—since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s shows that McCarthy’s charges were, in numerous cases, neither false nor hysterical—but correct.
It is time to examine the new evidence objectively and to reassess McCarthy, his activities, and Soviet espionage penetration of the U.S. government. In so doing we perform an act of justice to a wrongly maligned man, gain greater knowledge of the Cold War’s early days, and sound a warning regarding possible espionage within and against the U.S. government by current or future enemies.
To reassess McCarthy accurately requires knowledge of (1) the murderously evil nature of Communism, (2) the massive Soviet espionage penetration of the U.S. government, and (3) the specifics of numerous cases regarding McCarthy’s efforts to expose that espionage.
Regarding the first of these, readers are encouraged to read my recent essay, “The Socialist Holocaust and its American Deniers,”5 and its sources, especially The Black Book of Communism, which provides data taken, in part, from the files of numerous former Communist regimes, including the Soviets. Suffice it to say here that, worldwide, Communism has been responsible for the murder of one hundred million innocent civilians.6 More, it has done so in strict adherence to its cardinal principle: Because members of the owning class cruelly exploit members of the working class, the former must be expunged in ruthless class warfare.
Items two and three—Soviet espionage penetration of the U.S. government and details regarding McCarthy’s efforts to expose it—are the focus of this essay.
Soviet Espionage Penetration of the U.S. Government
The Soviets targeted the Communists’ main ideological enemy, the capitalist United States, even during World War II, when the two nations were supposedly allied in a death struggle against fascism. Soviet agents achieved widespread penetration of the American government, spying, stealing secrets, ultimately supplying data enabling Stalin’s blood-drenched regime to develop an atomic weapon years earlier than otherwise.
The story reads like a spy thriller.
A good place to begin is in 1937–38 when an American Communist and courier for the GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence) named Whittaker Chambers (Soviet code-name “Karl”) decided to drop out of espionage. Over time, Chambers had grown appalled by Stalin’s mass murder and by the reaction of the American Communist Party (CPUSA)—which blindly followed the Soviet line.7
Fearful for his life and that of his wife, Chambers retained copies of stolen State Department documents, which he termed his “life preserver.” These papers came from several valued sources—one of whom was Chambers’s friend and a fellow American Communist. Chambers hid the material with his wife’s nephew—and he and his family dropped out of sight.8
The primary source (and friend) was State Department official Alger Hiss.9
In 1939, when the Soviets signed a nonaggression pact with National Socialist Germany, thereby becoming an ally of Hitler, Chambers became convinced that the Soviet Union was a dangerous enemy whose espionage activities should be revealed to American counterintelligence. Anti-Communist journalist Isaac Don Levine arranged for him to meet Assistant Secretary of State Adolph Berle, FDR’s top adviser regarding internal security.10
Berle’s notes show that he appreciated Chambers’s emphasis on espionage against the United States, not merely on covert association with the CPUSA. Berle made a list of U.S. government employees Chambers named as Soviet agents. These individuals included, among others, State Department official Hiss (“Lawyer,” “Ales”), Treasury Department official Harry Dexter White (“Richard”), and an assistant to President Roosevelt, Lauchlin Currie (“Page”).11
But FDR brusquely rebuffed Berle’s mention to him of Chambers’s allegations (this at a time when the Soviets were allied with Hitler),12 and Berle did not send his notes of the meeting with Chambers to the FBI until 1943.13
In the meantime, while U.S counterintelligence idled, Stalin’s agents engaged in massive espionage against America. As but three examples:
1. The Nathan Silvermaster group: Silvermaster (“Pal”) was a Treasury Department official who headed a spy network that included both Currie and White, as well as George Silverman (“Eleron”), an analyst for the U.S. Army Air Force, who provided information regarding American military aviation; Frank Coe (“Pick,” “Peak”), director of the division of monetary research in the Treasury Department; and Solomon Adler (“Sax”), the Treasury Department’s representative in China. Coe, Adler, and White aided the Communist cause by using their authority to delay delivery of a large Congressionally approved gold loan to China’s Nationalist government, then fighting Mao Tse-tung’s forces. The delay caused China’s monetary unit to depreciate in value, and the ensuing inflation undercut public support for the Nationalist government, hindering its fight against Communism.14
2. The Victor Perlo group: Perlo (“Raid”) was a senior economist in the War Production Board, supervising U.S. military industrial production. His group included several Soviet sources. One of them, Harold Glasser (“Ruble”), was a senior Treasury Department economist. Another, Charles Kramer (“Mole”), was a U.S. congressional staff member. A third, Duncan Lee (“Kokh”), was a lieutenant colonel in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the CIA, and an aide to its director, William Donovan.15
3. Atomic bomb espionage: Although U.S. counterintelligence efforts were more stringent to protect the Manhattan Project, the top-secret effort to develop an atomic bomb before the Nazis, they were risibly lax regarding Communists. As one example, J. Robert Oppenheimer, known since late-1942 to the FBI as a secret member of the CPUSA, was appointed scientific/administrative head of the atom bomb project.16 This decision, in light of Oppenheimer’s expertise and the fact that he was not actively cooperating with Soviet Intelligence, was perhaps a risk worth taking. Nevertheless, Soviet intelligence agents permeated the Manhattan Project.
Klaus Fuchs (“Rest”), a German physicist, Communist, and major contributor to the Manhattan Project, supplied the Soviets important information regarding “Enormoz,” Soviet code name for the project.17 Likewise, Theodore Hall (“Mlad”), a young American physicist and Communist, was a valuable source of information.18 Above all, there was the spy ring headed by Julius Rosenberg (“Liberal”), an American engineer, Communist, and a longtime agent of Soviet Intelligence. Rosenberg induced his wife’s brother, David Greenglass (“Bumblebee”), an American Communist and machinist working on the “Enormoz” project in New Mexico, to pass along secrets to their Soviet spymasters.19
John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, two leading experts on Soviet espionage, concluded: “[N]umerous secret Communists and Soviet sympathizers eagerly volunteered to deliver American military, technological, and diplomatic secrets to Stalin.”20
During the war years, American counterintelligence assets necessarily were focused on defeating fascism. Nevertheless, it is shocking how slowly American efforts unfolded against Stalin’s espionage barrage, especially given that from August 1939 until June 1941, the Soviets and Nazis were allies.
As but one example of American laxity, in 1944, Katherine Perlo, Victor’s ex-wife, sent a letter to President Roosevelt exposing Perlo’s espionage activities against the U.S. government and naming names. We know today that the Justice Department received her letter. But it was “ignored both by those in the White House assigned to security matters and by American counter-intelligence agents.”21
It was not until 1945, after the war had ended, that two momentous events finally shocked U.S. counterintelligence into activity against the Soviets.
The first was the defection in Canada of Igor Gouzenko, a code clerk for the GRU. He brought with him GRU documents supporting his claims about Soviet espionage. At first, Canadian authorities paid no attention; but, eventually, numerous Canadian Communists were tried, convicted, and incarcerated for espionage, including a Communist Party Member of Parliament.22
Although Gouzenko’s information referred largely to Canadian spies, he also provided data regarding atomic bomb espionage and claimed that an assistant to the U.S. secretary of state was a GRU agent—a likely reference to Alger Hiss. After several weeks of his testimony, the Canadian prime minister flew to D.C. to brief President Truman.
The Gouzenko case thrust Soviet espionage to the forefront of American awareness. His documents established how deeply Soviet agents had penetrated Western governments, American as well as Canadian.23
But the case that most effectively augmented the termination of Soviet espionage was that of Elizabeth Bentley (“Myrna”). She and her former boss, Jacob Golos (“Sound”), ran a network of sources for Soviet intelligence. In October 1945, fearful of both FBI identification and KGB assassination, Bentley approached the FBI and turned state’s evidence. Her biographer, Kathryn Olmsted, wrote, “In the end, she would sign a 107-page statement naming more than eighty alleged Soviet spies in the United States.”24
Many of those Bentley named were individuals she knew personally and who had previously been identified as Soviet agents by Chambers and Katherine Perlo.25 One shadowy contact of Golos’s she engaged sparingly, and knew only as “Julius,” turned out to be of immense importance. Her physical description matched that of Julius Rosenberg, although it took the FBI five more years to identify his key role in Soviet atomic espionage.26 Further, one of her sources, Charles Kramer, had informed her that the GRU had a prominent agent in the State Department named “Hiss.”27
Although it took years to clear out the rat’s nest of Soviet agents in the U.S. government, Bentley’s confession was the beginning of the end for them. A few were indicted, convicted, and incarcerated. Alger Hiss, in 1950, was convicted of perjury regarding denial of handing copies of government documents to Chambers.28 He served three years in a federal penitentiary.
The initial evidence upon which Hiss was convicted is, in itself, damning. For example, Chambers testified under oath that he personally knew Hiss to be a GRU agent in the 1930s. Hede Massing (“Redhead”), another Soviet agent turned state’s evidence, similarly testified under oath that she personally knew Hiss to be a Soviet agent. Chambers produced his “life preserver,” copies of stolen State Department documents, some written in Hiss’s handwriting and some typed on Hiss’s personal typewriter.29
But today we have additional evidence culled from Soviet, Hungarian, Czechoslovak, and American archives, all pointing—despite Hiss’s lifelong protestations of innocence—to his culpability.30
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried, convicted, and executed for their role in providing the Soviets information regarding the atomic bomb. The testimony of Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, was part of a strong case built by prosecutors establishing Julius Rosenberg as the leader of a spy ring determined to provide the Soviets with U.S. data regarding the atom bomb. The case against Ethel was weaker, and many, including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, resisted imposition of the death penalty on her. But the year was 1951, and Judge Samuel Kaufman, alarmed by the Communist invasion of South Korea, and by a Soviet Union now armed with nuclear weapons, nevertheless imposed that penalty.31
In this case, too, later evidence, emerging after the collapse of the Soviet Union, corroborated the culpability of Julius Rosenberg. The strongest is a book by KGB officer Alexander Feklisov (“Kalistrat”), an unreconstituted Communist and supporter of the Soviet cause, who provided information regarding his personal supervision of the Rosenberg spy ring, portraying them as heroes and martyrs in a noble quest.32
Nevertheless, most American agents of Soviet Intelligence never suffered legal penalty. Instead, under remorseless FBI pressure, many either resigned from or were forced out of U.S. government employment.
Even today, some of McCarthy’s critics deny the extent, or even the existence, of Soviet espionage on the part of CPUSA members. But given the evidence now available, this position is impossible to uphold honestly. Evidence from numerous sources definitively establishes a massive Soviet espionage barrage, employing numerous CPUSA partisans, against the United States government.
One such source is the Soviet archives, from which much information has been culled. Another is the Venona Project, a top-secret World War II enterprise in which U.S. Military Intelligence agents—distrusting Stalin—cracked the Soviet code and, for several years, decrypted and read numerous Soviet cables; Venona was declassified by President Clinton in 1995. A third is a trove of FBI files made accessible under the Freedom of Information Act.
But McCarthy’s most knowledgeable critics have never denied Soviet espionage. Rather, they always claimed (and still do) that by the time McCarthy burst onto the anticommunist public scene in 1950, the purge of Soviet agents and identified Communists at State and other government bureaus was complete. All McCarthy could do, and did, they claim, in order to make a name for himself was smear and ruin the reputation of scads of innocent persons. This charge, in 2016, remains the conventional wisdom regarding McCarthy.
In truth, one part of this charge is accurate: By 1950, most Soviet agents and many identified Communists had been allowed to resign quietly from U.S. government employment.33
But most is not all. Were there still Soviet agents and known Communists working for U.S. government agencies? Before answering this question, several important points must be made, establishing a context.
Important Background Truths
Desiring to protect the reputations of those not yet proven to be Communists or Soviet spies, McCarthy did not name names in public hearings.34 For example, he would bring to the attention of the Senate and/or the public details of case number 17, seeking to show Communist loyalties without divulging the individual’s name. In the absence of knowing the individual’s identity, it was exceedingly difficult for journalists or historians to fact-check the specific accusations. Related, some of McCarthy’s hearings were held in executive session, records of which were sealed by the Senate for fifty years, not opened to the public until 2003.
Today, from some of the above sources, especially FBI files, we know the identities of the parties involved as well as a great deal of the security intel then available on them. We know, therefore, what McCarthy knew.
Second, strongly suspected in McCarthy’s day and known with absolute certainty in ours, the CPUSA was controlled from Moscow and was an instrument of Soviet policy.35 For example, when the Soviets signed a nonaggression pact with Hitler, the CPUSA continued to take orders from Moscow and opposed U.S. aid to those battling Nazi Germany. Haynes and Klehr, based on extensive research in Soviet archives, wrote, “The essence of American communism was loyalty to Stalin.”36
Third, hundreds of CPUSA members worked for and spied on the U.S. government, reporting information to Soviet Intelligence.37 Haynes and Klehr noted, there were “hundreds of American Communists who abetted Soviet espionage . . . the party chief himself [Earl Browder (“Helmsman”)] knowingly and purposely assisted Soviet spies . . . espionage was a regular activity of the American Communist Party.”38
CPUSA membership on the part of U.S. government employees, although not prima facie evidence of spying, meant loyalty not to the United States but to the Soviet Union—and it meant the distinct possibility of spying. In brief, CPUSA membership by government officials constituted a substantial security risk.
McCarthy sought merely to remove such individuals from government employment—not to incarcerate them in Leavenworth, nor deny them employment in innocuous private-sector jobs unrelated to defense or government secrets, nor to hound or besmirch them in perpetuity—but only to fire them from their government posts.
McCarthy had the funny idea that neither Soviet agents nor known Communists should be working for the U.S. government.
In February 1950, when McCarthy launched his public crusade, were there still extensive security breaches within the U.S. government and/or cognate intergovernmental agencies, involving Soviet agents, known Communists, or suspected Communists?
The answer is unequivocally “yes.”
In May 1950, for example, as public furor over McCarthy’s efforts swelled, Soviet agent Solomon Adler (“Sax”) was still employed at the Treasury Department. It was only now that he fled, first to his native England, but eventually to his true homeland, Communist China, where he faithfully served the Mao Tse-tung regime that he had helped instate.39 Adler had been identified as a Soviet agent by both Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley,40 a charge later confirmed by research into Soviet archives.41
William Remington was case number 19 on McCarthy’s initial Senate presentation. Remington had been identified by federal sleuths as an active Communist while in college and when subsequently working for the Tennessee Valley Authority. He had been named as a Soviet agent by Elizabeth Bentley,42 to whom he had passed information regarding airplane production.43 Eventually he was tried, convicted, and incarcerated for perjury regarding his involvement in the CPUSA.44 After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a recovered KGB memo listed Remington, among forty-two others, as Soviet spies likely exposed by Bentley to U.S. authorities.45 In 1950, he was working for the U.S. Commerce Department.46
Annie Lee Moss is often portrayed as the quintessential McCarthy victim. She was a black woman, seemingly frail, who had been employed as a cafeteria worker. She denied any involvement with the CPUSA. But FBI agent Mary Markward, who, starting in 1942 and continuing for seven years as a deep cover spy inside the CPUSA, had identified Moss as a CPUSA member; and the FBI shared this information with other government agencies. Despite this, in 1950, she obtained a post as code clerk for the U.S. Army Signal Corps and received appropriate security clearance, handling sensitive material, some of it in plain text. She was still at this position when McCarthy investigated her in 1954.
She claimed a case of mistaken identity, arguing that three women named “Annie Lee Moss” were in the Washington, D.C., phone directory. Her claim was false—there was an “Anna Lee Moss,” an “Annie Moss,” and an “Annie L. Moss,” the last being the woman in question. More to the point, the Annie Lee Moss who was a code clerk for the Army and who was called before McCarthy’s committee had been described by Markward as a cafeteria worker, had lived for a time with a Hattie Griffin, and received the Daily Worker, the Communist newspaper. The Moss testifying to McCarthy’s committee acknowledged she had been a cafeteria worker, had lived with Hattie Griffin, and received the Daily Worker. Finally, she professed having lived at 72 R Street, an address that matched FBI records regarding her place of residence.
The FBI—and McCarthy—had the right Annie Lee Moss. Far from being an innocent victim, she was a CPUSA member working for the U.S. government, handling confidential material.47
Frank Coe (“Pick,” “Peak,”), like Adler, had helped retard U.S. aid to Chiang Kai-shek, thereby abetting the Communist cause in China. In 1950, he worked for the International Monetary Fund, an intergovernmental agency founded in large part by his former superior at the Treasury Department, Harry Dexter White, who was also a Soviet agent.48 In that year, American pressure finally forced him out. Coe was called to testify at the McCarthy hearings regarding his work for the Communist cause and pleaded the Fifth Amendment. In 1958, he moved permanently to Communist China, working there for Mao’s regime. In 1959, he wrote essays supporting a “massive Maoist purge of Chinese society”—euphemism for mass murder—claiming that indoctrination in Marxist-Leninist theory had substantially increased Chinese economic production.49 Like Adler, Coe had been identified as a Soviet apparatchik by both Chambers and Bentley,50 accusations later confirmed by Venona decrypts.51
McCarthy’s 1953 investigation into security laxity at Fort Monmouth—a network of labs spread among several New Jersey towns—revealed egregious leaks of confidential information. Anti-aircraft systems, missile detection, radar, and other advanced electronics for the military were researched there. Security personnel at Monmouth repeatedly had reported their suspicions to U.S. government superiors but been persistently overruled.52
Because of such laxity, substantial amounts of classified information were stolen and transmitted to the Soviets. As one example, a McCarthy staffer tracked down (in West Germany) an East German defector, a technician named Harald Buettner, who signed a notarized statement swearing that, when employed at a Soviet scientific installation in 1950, he had witnessed stolen material from Fort Monmouth.53 Further, subsequent to McCarthy’s hearings, a Soviet defector (“Andrivye”) informed congressional investigators that vast amounts of information pertaining to U.S. radar had been smuggled into Soviet hands, largely from Monmouth.54
Finally, a U.S. Army Intelligence officer acknowledged that “our latest Signal Corps developments were appearing in the hands of the North Korean Communists”55—and, presumably, aiding them in killing U.S. military personnel during the Korean War.
How did this happen? For one thing, numerous employees at Monmouth treated confidential secrets as personal property, reproducing documents and then taking them home. “Literally thousands of official papers . . . had gone missing from the complex.”56 Further, the CPUSA had established a group in the Monmouth vicinity named the Shore Club, including former Monmouth employees, whose purpose, according to substantial testimony, was to pry information out of Monmouth.57
Monmouth crawled with suspects. Aaron Coleman, for example, a childhood schoolmate of subsequently convicted Soviet agents Julius Rosenberg and Morton Sobell,58 admitted having attended a Young Communist League meeting with Rosenberg, and Rosenberg himself claimed to have had contact with him while at Monmouth. Coleman was one of many Monmouth employees in the habit of taking home classified documents. In 1946, security agents, suspicious of his activities, searched his home and found forty official documents, some of a confidential nature.59 When McCarthy opened his investigation, Coleman still worked at Monmouth, although on a basis of restricted security, and had open access to workers with security clearance.
Ruth Levine was another suspicious character. She had worked for the Federal Telecommunications Lab (FTL)—a Monmouth affiliate—for a decade, held a top-secret security clearance, and had been accused by former Communist John Saunders (and other witnesses) of belonging to a Communist cell at FTL. Questioned at the hearings whether she belonged to the CPUSA or had ever engaged in espionage, Levine refused to answer, consistently pleading the Fifth Amendment. Because of the McCarthy hearings, Levine was finally sacked from her position at the FTL.60
Coleman and Levine were merely two major security risks at Monmouth; McCarthy’s hearings identified others.61
McCarthy, therefore, had abundant reasons to be concerned regarding the security problem at Monmouth. The fiasco is summed up in a public exchange between the senator and Andrew Reid, Monmouth’s longtime security chief. McCarthy: “[H]ave you repeatedly furnished information on individuals who you considered to be very dangerous to the security of this country, and discovered that they were kept on year after year even after you had supplied the complete facts on them?” Reid: “Yes, sir.”62
In addition to exposing Adler, Remington, Moss, Coe, and the security debacle at Fort Monmouth, McCarthy exposed various instances of severe laxity on the part of the U.S. government. But the foregoing is sufficient to establish the conclusion.
McCarthy may well have been mistaken in some cases; he was a hard-drinking, two-fisted, pugnacious political street fighter; he was, at times, impulsive, sloppy, and loudly bombastic. He was a flawed champion for a noble cause. But in battle after battle after endless security battle—he was right.
The Causes of McCarthy’s Demonization
Why, then, the endless denunciations of McCarthy and the widespread use of the epithet “McCarthyism” as a pejorative? There are several reasons.
One is that, as noted, the full data necessary to assess his cases was locked away in archives of both Cold War adversaries until at least the mid-1990s. It is only in the past twenty years that this information, a little at a time, has become accessible to researchers.
A second is that government agencies did on occasion during this era treat as a crime the mere holding of communist views. This is evident in some of the hearings held by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), especially in its investigation of Communists in Hollywood. During this era, Hollywood was rife with CPUSA members and other advocates of communism. But these are not necessarily one and the same. To be a member of the Communist Party during the Cold War was to be an active supporter of America’s enemy, the Soviet Union. Evidence that an American was a member of the CPUSA was legitimate cause for government investigation and, potentially, charges of espionage or treason. But merely advocating communism—or even persuading others to embrace it—is not properly regarded as a crime. It is neither morally nor legally akin to stealing U.S. government secrets, providing them to a military enemy, thereby materially strengthening the enemy and exacerbating the danger to the lives of U.S. citizens.
This critical distinction is often lost on people, and so McCarthy, as an avatar of anticommunism, lends his name to an entire era, including its governmental abuses.
Nevertheless, something still does not add up here. Some other factor is necessary to explain the hysterical anti-McCarthy denunciations and ongoing propaganda.
Why have so many U.S. journalists and intellectuals—from the 1950s and to this day— vehemently denounced McCarthy? Given the information now available, why do so many refuse to acknowledge and publicly discuss the massive Soviet espionage penetration of the U.S. government—and the fact that McCarthy was so often right? Why do journalists and intellectuals persist in virulent outrage against this man?
Clearly, McCarthy struck a nerve in many. But what nerve?
His own words provide a clue: “[Y]ou cannot offer friendship to tyrants and murderers . . . without advancing the cause of tyranny and murder.”64 Or, even more forcefully: “[C]o-existence with Communists is neither possible nor honorable nor desirable. Our long-term objective must be the eradication of Communism from the face of the earth.”65
Whatever his flaws, McCarthy’s principled opposition to Communist totalitarianism represents the essence of his character.
What is the essence of his critics’ character? This is revealed in their words, some of which I discuss in “The Socialist Holocaust and its American Deniers” (TOS Fall 2016). Here are a few indications:
Regarding American opposition to the Soviet Union, Professor Ellen Schrecker (Yeshiva University) wrote, “the fervid anticommunism of the early Cold War did tap into something dark and nasty in the human soul.”66
Political historian David Caute argued that “American capitalism, business, free enterprise, prosperity and liberty had little to fear from domestic Communism.” To ascertain “the real sources of the ‘anti-Communist‘ hysteria,” we must “look toward the unassimilated alien, the hyphenated American still carrying the contagion of Old-World Socialism, that creeping, gradualist, Fabian New Dealism, which posed so insidious a threat to unbridled Business, big or small.”67
Professor Joel Kovel (Bard University) states that “anti-Communism is an exploitation of the deep structures of racism for the purpose of managing threats to capitalist rule.”68 As Haynes and Klehr explain, according to Kovel, it was not communism but rather American Cold War anticommunism that “plunged the world into a nightmare: ‘millions of innocents lie dead, [and] whole societies have been laid to waste.’”69
The title of Professor Schrecker’s book—Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America—displays succinctly the assessment of all of these academics, and many more, toward McCarthy.
McCarthy’s major enemies are (for the most part) either supporters of communism or sympathetic to it, or, at the very least, unwilling to recognize its murderous totalitarian nature. This is the dirty little secret of the anti-McCarthy hysteria that continues to permeate both American history texts and contemporary journalistic references to him.
Historians routinely reassess past events on the basis of new evidence. Such work is essential to their profession. A wealth of important and pertinent data has become available during the past twenty years, including McCarthy’s papers, which were unsealed by the Senate in 2003. Where are the scholarly studies finally telling the whole truth about this cruelly demonized figure? Where is the attempt to set right the historic record about this unjustly vilified patriot? Except for the excellent biography Blacklisted by History by journalist M. Stanton Evans, such studies do not exist.
Because of the dirty little secret mentioned above. American journalists and intellectuals have romanticized socialism—full socialism, real socialism—so much that they cannot bring themselves to see that communism is evil and that a man who exposed this evil within the U.S. government is a hero for having done so. They recognize and properly denounce the murderous totalitarianism of race-based socialism (National Socialism, aka Nazism)—but obdurately refuse to do so regarding the equivalent evils of class-based socialism (Communism). Instead, they are unrestrained in their vicious denunciations of the courageous man who typifies and symbolizes American opposition to this murderous creed.
And so, in his day, McCarthy was laid low by his enemies—but not before he did substantial damage to the Communist cause. His enemies continued—and to this day continue—to besmirch his reputation. But despite all they did and do, they cannot expunge the positive aspects of his career.
Evans, the biographer who researched McCarthy most widely and deeply, penned him a fitting epitaph: “In the end he perished, politically and otherwise, in the rubble he pulled down around him. Yet when the final chapter in the conflict with Moscow was written, amid yet another pile of rubble, he was not without his triumph.”70
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1. “This Day in History: December 2, 1954, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mccarthy-condemned-by-senate. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
2. Dictionary.com. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
3. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Early Cold War Spies: The Espionage Trials That Shaped American Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 40, 1.
4. Robert Lamphere and Tom Schachtman, The FBI-KGB War: A Special Agent’s Story (London: W. H. Allen, 1987), 137.
5. Andrew Bernstein, “The Socialist Holocaust and Its American Deniers,” The Objective Standard 11, no. 3 (Fall 2016): 84–94.
6. Stephane Courtois et al., The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 4.
7. Allen Weinstein, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case (New York: Random House, 1997), 272–79; Whittaker Chambers, Witness (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1952), 34–42; Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America—The Stalin Era (New York: Modern Library, 1999), 44–45 and 46–47. Much of the information in The Haunted Wood is based on research into KGB files, briefly opened in the 1990s. Soviet code names, generally not discovered until years after the early Cold War period, are provided in The Haunted Wood, xi–xviii.
8. Weinstein, Perjury, 277, 279, and 283.
9. Chambers, Witness, 40–41; Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, 44–45.
10. Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, 47–48.
11. Weinstein, Perjury, 292–93; John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 90–91. Levine also made a list of those named by Chambers. White’s name appears on his list; it does not show up on Berle’s. Chambers, in his book, lists White as a Soviet agent but believed it possible he had not mentioned him to Berle.
12. Isaac Don Levine, Eyewitness to History: Memoirs and Reflections of a Foreign Correspondent for Half a Century (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1973), 197–98. Discussed at www.conservapedia.com/Alger_Hiss. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
13. Weinstein, Perjury, 293.
14. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 66–67.
15. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 67–68.
16. M. Stanton Evans, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight against America’s Enemies (New York: Crown Forum, 2007), 316–19.
17. Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, 185–90; Lamphere, The FBI-KGB War, 132–60.
18. Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, 195–97.
19. Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, 197–202; Lamphere, The FBI-KGB War, 178–207.
20. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 68.
21. Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, 225–26.
22. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 52–56.
23. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 48–57.
24. Kathryn Olmsted, Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 100.
25. Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, 94–96.
26. Lamphere, The FBI-KGB War, 38–39; Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 65.
27. Olmsted, Red Spy Queen, 100–101.
28. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 119–29.
29. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 92–130.
30. Haynes and Klehr, Venona, 170–73. In the controversy still surrounding Hiss’s guilt, one undeniable point must be emphasized: “Ales” was a Soviet code name for a State Department official who was a GRU agent. This is usually taken to refer to Hiss. In the unlikely event that Hiss is indeed innocent, then, in justice, his name must be cleared. But then “Ales” refers to some other ranking State Department official spying for the Soviets.
31. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 143–46 and 166–76. The definitive case for the guilt of the Rosenbergs is Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton, The Rosenberg File, 2nd ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), passim.
32. Alexander Feklisov and Sergei Kostin, The Man behind the Rosenbergs (New York: Enigma Books, 2004), passim.
33. Haynes and Klehr, Venona, 128.
34. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 201–4. Given the mythology that McCarthy, in public, recklessly “named names,” thereby smearing the reputations of innocent persons, the truth is shocking: It was McCarthy’s enemies in the Senate who repeatedly called upon him to publicly name names, a procedure McCarthy was extremely reluctant to do. He desired hearings in executive sessions, privately, with thorough investigations into the activities of the suspects to determine whether, in fact, they were Communists and/or Soviet spies. He did not want to go public with names until and unless the guilt of such suspects was established.
35. John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Kyrill Anderson, The Soviet World of American Communism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 4–12 and passim.
36. Haynes, Klehr, and Anderson, The Soviet World of American Communism, 87.
37. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 11; John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Fridrikh Firsov, The Secret World of American Communism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995), 4–15, 96–118, 205–26, and passim.
38. Haynes and Klehr, Venona, 7.
39. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 326–29.
40. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 327; Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 81.
41. Haynes and Klehr, Venona, 444; Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, 78, 158.
42. Bentley, whose veracity was widely criticized at the time, was fully vindicated decades later both by information unearthed in Soviet archives and, especially, by declassification of the Venona decrypts. “Venona and these other archival evidence showed that Elizabeth Bentley had told the truth and those she identified as Soviet sources were just what she said they were: spies who had assisted Soviet espionage against the United States.” Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 82–89; quote on 89; Haynes and Klehr, Venona, 163.
43. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 73–74.
44. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 73–79.
45. Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 79.
46. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 329–30; Haynes and Klehr, Early Cold War Spies, 73–79.
47. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 528–41.
48. Haynes and Klehr, Venona, 9–10, 138–40.
49. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 42–43; Haynes and Klehr, Venona, 90, 117, 128, and 143–44.
50. Haynes and Klehr, Venona, 143–44.
51. Haynes and Klehr, Venona, 143.
52. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 505–6.
53. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 510–11.
54. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 510. Related, KGB spymaster Feklisov (Kalistrat) spoke of an “unknown radar source” in the United States who supplied thousands of pages of secret data to the Soviets; Evans, Blacklisted by History, 510.
55. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 506.
56. Blacklisted by History, 510.
57. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 506.
58. For years, Sobell publicly proclaimed his innocence. Finally, in 2008, at age ninety-one, he admitted to the New York Times that, during World War II, he had transmitted U.S. military secrets to the Soviets (Sam Roberts, “Figure in Rosenberg Case Admits to Soviet Spying,” New York Times, September 11, 2008). Earlier, Soviet spymaster Alexander Feklisov had acknowledged Sobell as a Soviet agent (Feklisov, The Man Behind the Rosenbergs, 132). Discussed at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton_Sobell. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
59. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 507.
60. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 509.
61. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 506–9.
62. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 512.
63. One such instance was his blanket denunciation of General George Marshall, especially ascribing to him pro-Soviet motives. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 411–24.
64. Norman Graebner, The New Isolationism: A Study in Politics and Foreign Policy since 1950 (New York: Ronald Press, 1956), 227. Quoted in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_McCarthy. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
65. Quoted in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_McCarthy. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
66. Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1998), 46.
67. David Caute, The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge under Truman and Eisenhower (New York: Touchstone Books, 1979), 21.
68. Joel Kovel, Red Hunting in the Promised Land: Anti-Communism and the Making of America (New York: Basic Books, 1994), 74, 95, and 233. Quoted in Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 52.
69. Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 52.
70. Evans, Blacklisted by History, 605.