FDR Tipped Pro-Soviet Hand Early

What follows is an extraordinarily revealing passage from the 1963 book by former U.S. Representative Martin Dies, Democrat of Texas.  The book is entitled simply Martin Dies' Story.  For seven years, beginning in 1938, he was the chairman of the Special Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives.  The purpose of the committee was to investigate subversive activity within the United States, and they discovered a great deal of it, in spite of the fact that "...the majority of the administration, following the President's lead, were frankly, openly, and actively hostile.  Never did the administration cease its efforts to destroy the Committee."

Readers of "FDR Winked at Soviet Espionage" will recall that in September of 1939, Communist Party defector Whittaker Chambers had delivered a detailed report to the White House through Roosevelt's security adviser, Adolf Berle, of a Soviet spy ring operating throughout the highest reaches of the government.  The remarkable thing about Roosevelt's dismissive reaction to Dies' charge in the meeting detailed here, that numerous Communists in the government were carting off state secrets to the Soviet Union, is that we know through Chambers' later testimony and journalist Isaac Don Levine's corroborating report that Roosevelt had been given more specific evidence of precisely such espionage activity than Dies and his committee were ever able to uncover.  

The reader should further bear in mind that the meeting described took place at a time that the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact was in force, meaning that at that time Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were essentially allies. The pact had been signed in August of 1939.  In December 1939 the Soviet Union had been expelled from the League of Nations for its unprovoked attack on its small neighbor, Finland.  In 1940 it had gone on to invade and conquer Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The following passage is at the conclusion of Chapter XIII, from page 143 to page 148:

In 1940, I wired the President appealing for the cooperation of Government law enforcement agencies in anti-fifth-column activities.  The President telephoned my home in Orange, said he appreciated the telegram, wanted to review the situation and asked if I could leave for Washington that evening.  Full of hope engendered by his friendly tone, I arrived for our scheduled 12 o'clock meeting, and cooled my heels for nearly an hour.  Finally, the door opened and out walked Gardner Jackson, the man who had paid David Mayne for the forged [William Dudley] Pelley letters with which Representative [Frank E.] Hook had hoped to destroy the Committee.*

I went in and Roosevelt had a stenographer take down the conversation.  I asked if that wasn't rather unusual and he said, "Well I think it is best for everyone."  I said, "That's fine--if I can get a copy of it."  "You can get a copy of it," the President said.

We had established the fact that thousands of Communists, and their stooges and sympathizers were on the Government payroll, and I said, "Mr. President, we must do something about this.  Here is a list of many of these people.  We have their membership records in Communist-controlled organizations.  If you understand the Communists as well as I do, you will know that they are in the government for one purpose alone, and that is to steal important military and diplomatic secrets to transmit them to Moscow."

The President was furious.  I was surprised at his anger.  He called me "Mr. Congressman"--he had called me "Martin" before--"Mr. Congressman, you must see a bug-a-boo under every bed."  "No, I never look under the bed," I replied.  "Well," he said, "I have never seen a man that had such exaggerated ideas about this thing.  I do not believe in Communism any more than you do, but there is nothing wrong with the Communists in this country.  Several of the best friends I have are Communists."

We conferred for more than an hour and I told in detail what was going on inside the Government.  I told him that the Communists were stealing everything they wanted from Government files, that while the Axis powers were our immediate threat, in the long run Communism would become the greatest menace that ever confronted the free world.  I reviewed for him our findings on Communist control of labor unions and front organizations, and warned that if the Soviets stole our industrial, military, scientific, and diplomatic secrets and got financial aid from us, she would in time be as strong as or stronger than the United States.

The President said, "I do not agree with you.  I do not regard the Communists as any present or future threat to our country, in fact I look upon Russia as our strongest ally in the years to come.  As I told you when you began your investigation, you should confine yourself to Nazis and Fascists.  While I do not believe in Communism, Russia is far better off and the world is safer with Russia under Communism than under the Czars.  Stalin is a great leader, and although I deplore some of his methods, it is the only way he can safeguard his government."

The President said I had harmed the Democratic party and the cause of Liberalism.  I politely disagreed and pointed out that while the Communists had used the Liberals to promote their purposes, the Liberals in time would find that Communism was more reactionary than any political movement the world had known.  I warned him that the avowed objective of Communism is world conquest, and that the theft of our secrets and the use of our technics and money would make Russia a world menace.

Our views were so far apart that it was useless to argue further.  Nevertheless I did ask the President to instruct the Justice Department and other Federal agencies to cooperate with our Committee so that we could coordinate our activities.  He promised to talk to Attorney General Jackson and arrange a conference with a representative of the Committee to agree upon cooperation and coordination.  I designated Representative Voorhis, (D.-Calif.), since I was not too popular with the Attorney General.  Nothing was accomplished because the Administration would not agree to any investigation of Communists in labor unions, Government service, or front organizations.

I did not receive the promised transcript of the conference and telephoned the President's secretary.  On my third call Secretary McIntyre advised that the President had decided not to release any copies.  It is unfortunate that the President did not keep his word, because the views which he expressed that day would shed much light on subsequent events.  They would explain his concessions to Stalin and post-war policies with regard to Soviet Russia.

Some of the Roosevelt-Stalin correspondence has been published in Moscow, from which the following paragraph is a summary of excerpts:

Harry Hopkins had visited Moscow in July 1941.  As early as August 1941, the President was applying diplomatic pressures to Finland to come to terms with the Soviet Union.  In early November 1941, he had promised Stalin to furnish all items of military equipment, munitions and raw materials which Stalin had requested.  He had directed that "to obviate any financial difficulties," shipments to the value of one billion dollars would be made immediately without strings and without interest.  By mid-February 1942, he had doubled this credit and of course it ultimately totaled eleven billion taxpayers' dollars which will never be repaid.  By October 7, 1942, Stalin was asking for monthly delivery of "at least the following: 500 fighter planes, 8,000 to 10,000 trucks, 5,000 tons of aluminum, and 4,000 to 5,000 tons of explosives."  By January 13, 1943, Stalin was arrogantly rejecting the idea of General Omar Bradley visiting the USSR and hinting bluntly that he saw no reason for General George Marshall to come. "There should be no uncertainty in this matter," he stated.  On April 21, 1943, Stalin was furious over the completely true charge that the Soviets had murdered 15,000 Poles in Katyn Forest.  So the facts were suppressed until the Congressional investigation in 1952.

I doubt if President Roosevelt ever had a more sincere and devoted friend, or a more ardent admirer than Archbishop (later Cardinal) Francis Spellman.  In a biography of Cardinal Spellman published in 1962, there is included a memorandum from the Archbishop's files, covering his hour and a half conference with the President on September 8, 1943.

His aide memoire is completely in accord with the opinions Roosevelt expressed to me over the years.  Specifically, the President had said that Russia was our natural ally; that the Russian people were much better off than they had been under the czars; and that he thought that the Russians would get about forty percent of the world, and the capitalist regimes would retain sixty percent.

Cardinal Spellman noted that Roosevelt told him the world would be divided into spheres of influence; China would get the far East; the United States the Pacific; Britain and Russia would share Europe and Africa; Russia would predominate in Europe.  He also reported that Roosevelt believed he was better fitted to come to understanding with Stalin than was Churchill; that Stalin would certainly receive Finland, the Baltic States, the eastern half of Poland and Bessarabia; that there was no point to opposing Stalin, because he had the power and it was better to give them gracefully; that it was not absolutely sure whether Stalin would be satisfied with these boundaries.

Roosevelt thought it probable that Communist regimes would expand, but that there was nothing that could be done about it; that the European countries would have to undergo tremendous changes in order to adapt to Russia, and he hoped that in ten or twenty years the European influence would make the Russians less barbaric.

The Archbishop wrote that Roosevelt hoped the Russians would get 40% of the capitalist economy in Europe; and the capitalists would retain only 60% of their system, and so an understanding would be possible, and that was the opinion of [Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim] Litvinoff.

There are those who would argue that the subversion could not have been as bad as Dies claimed that it was, or the FBI would have discovered it.  But the FBI is the agency being referred to when Dies appealed "for the cooperation of Government law enforcement agencies in anti-fifth-column activities."  That was precisely the problem.  Taking their orders from the chief executive, when it came to subversion of the Communist stripe, the FBI was sitting on its hands.  We have since learned, thanks in large part to the analysis of decrypted Soviet cable traffic, that Soviet infiltration of the United States government was actually even worse than Dies thought it was.  Here is how historian Thomas Fleming summed it up on page 319 of his 2001 book, The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War within World War II:  

There was scarcely a branch of the American government, including the War, Navy, and Justice Departments, that did not have Soviet moles in high places, feeding Moscow information.  Wild Bill Donovan's Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, had so many informers in its ranks, it was almost an arm of the NKVD.  Donovan's personal assistant, Duncan Chaplin Lee, was a spy.


* Reference is to a truly shameful episode earlier in 1940, recounted on pp. 119-123, in which an attempt was made to destroy Dies' reputation by linking him to Pelley, a very prominent pro-Nazi American of the day, through letters from Pelley describing friendly relations between the two men.  The letters were later proved to be forgeries.  The encounter described here carries with it the very strong implication that Roosevelt himself was behind this disgraceful endeavor.

David Martin

April 15, 2007



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