Harry Hopkins and FDR’s Commissars
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President Franklin D. Roosevelt saved the American capitalist system. That’s what they taught us in school. The global economic collapse known as the Great Depression had caused a widespread loss of confidence in the free enterprise system. Powerful pressures were exerted in the United States on Roosevelt’s left flank by great numbers of people who were attracted to socialism as the answer to all the country’s economic ills. The various statist solutions that Roosevelt offered for the country’s economic problems, according to this narrative, were in response to this pressure from the left. His programs acted as a sort of safety valve, releasing the pressures built up from the radical fire swelling up from the country’s grass roots.
The problem with this explanation for FDR’s actions is that he used the power of the federal government to stoke the flames of the socialist pressure upon the government. As Abraham Lincoln observed in the first Lincoln-Douglas debate, “He who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.” Roosevelt apparently did his very best to mold public sentiment in favor of a course modeled upon that of the Soviet Union. His main instrument for doing so was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), created by executive order for the purpose of providing government jobs for the unemployed. Many of the jobs he created, it would turn out, were for agitators for socialism, and it began with his choice of Harry Hopkins to head the WPA.
We have previously written about Hopkins’s pro-Soviet activities in the foreign policy arena in “How We Gave the Russians the Bomb,””Harry,”and my review of Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subverision of Roosevelt’s Government. New evidence has come to light that raises some serious doubts about the charges that he was actually a paid agent of the Soviet government, which we will address at the end of this essay. Whether or not he was a Soviet agent, as we shall see from his personnel decisions both as head of the WPA and of Lend-Lease and many of his other actions, he might as well have been one.
Federal Theatre Project
The following passage is from Elizabeth Dilling’s 1936 book The Roosevelt Red Record and its Background:
According to the press (Chicago Examiner 3/21/1936), patriotic American World War veterans numbered among 5,200 persons engaged on the Theatre Project have filed protests in vain with Harry Hopkins, National Administrator of W.P.A., and carried their protest to Congress, concerning the communistic character of the Theatre Project. “They insist that it is useless to appeal to Mrs. Hallie Flanagan, federal director in charge of all theatre projects…and in an affidavit obtained by the veterans Mrs. Flanagan is quoted as saying: ‘I am not interested in the American theatre or American methods. These projects will be patterned after the Russian theatre.’”
“In charges made to Hopkins and repeated to Congressmen, the veterans assert: ‘1. At least 500 members of the Communist Party are enrolled in the municipal theatre units. 2. A pretense of rehearsing is maintained for weeks, and then the play is abandoned with announcement it was found unavailable, the subterfuge permitting the Red sympathizers to draw $103 a month from the Government at least half of which is turned over to the Communist Party of America.’” (page 169)
What is being described here is some of the workings of the Federal Theatre Project (FTP). According to Wikipedia, it was a New Deal organization to fund theatre and other live artistic performances in the United States during the Great Depression. It was one of five Federal One projects sponsored by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The FTP's primary goal was employment of out-of-work artists, writers, and directors, with the secondary aim of entertaining poor families and creating relevant art.
With Hopkins’s choice of Flanagan, his former Grinnell College classmate to head it up, the FTP hardly functioned in such a politically neutral fashion, and Hopkins knew just what he was getting with Flanagan, who was hired from the faculty of Vassar College. This is from Dilling, pp. 164-165:
To quote from the Moscow publication International Theatre (No. 1, 1934, page 52): “Whittaker Chambers’ story ‘Can You Hear Their Voices?’ appeared in the (Communist) New Masses. This is also a story of life on the farms of the American mid-west. This story not only had a deep effect on American revolutionary literature, it also affected American revolutionary dramaturgy. Within two months of its publication Hallie Flanagan and Margaret Clifford, instructors of the theatre at Vassar College, put it into a play on the same title.”
Ben Blake, representative on the Moscow board of the Communist American theatre movement, in his Awakening the American Theatre, says (page 31): “Up at the Vassar Experimental Theatre the intrepid Hallie Flanagan and one of her advanced students, Margaret Clifford, wrote and staged Can You Hear Their Voices?, which told with hard and bitter realism the tale of the impoverished and drought-stricken farmers, hunger-driven to militant action to secure relief from starvation. Their leader finally sends his sons to a Communist workers’ school to learn the basic causes of their misery and how to overcome them… Can You Hear Their Voices? Created a sensation in the American little theatre… Like an American forerunner in another field it was a ‘shot heard ‘round the world.’ It has been staged in at least a dozen languages in scores of cities and many lands.”
A Soviet theatrical performance was given in Moscow in honor of Hallie Flanagan and her work for the revolutionary theatre. And Roosevelt chooses Hallie Flanagan to spend many millions of American taxpayers’ money!
It’s probably just as well that those plays in Chicago never got performed, considering the sort of plays Flanagan favored. More evidence of Flanagan’s Red bona fides can be found on page 163:
The communist New Theatre League in the United States publish, as their own organ, the magazine New Theatre. The editorial board as printed in 1934 issues includes Heinrich Diament, the editor-in-chief of the parent organ in Moscow, The International Theatre, Erwin Piscator of Germany, Seki Sano of Japan, and Leon Moussinac of France, who are also on the board of the Moscow publication, and Hallie Flanagan, Roosevelt’s head of the Theatrical Division of the W.P.A. Arts Project. This should be a matter of interest to those patriotic American taxpayers who are supplying the $27,000,000 initial fund which Roosevelt has granted Hallie and her comrades to expend. Hallie is also on the board of the State University of Moscow summer school for training American students in Communism in Russia during the vacation months.
Federal Writers’ Project
The following is from Dilling, pp. 170-171:
The Writers’ Project is directed by Henry G. Alsberg: a former editor of the revolutionary Socialist weekly The Nation; a director, in 1922, of the American Joint Distribution Committee for Emergency Relief in Russia; a speaker at Anarchist Emma Goldman’s meeting in New York City, February 6, 1934 (Anarchist Freedom, Feb. 1934); a delegate to the communist World Congress Against War in Amsterdam, 1932; member of the International Committee for Political Prisoners (Red revolutionaries), supported by the communist Garland Fund; for a year and a half, supervisor of reports and bulletins for Roosevelt’s F.E.R.A. (NY Times, 7/27/35)
Under Alsberg is as choice a staff of Reds as one could find. One of them is Orrick Johns of the Communist magazine New Masses, who taught at a Communist Party school and served on the Communist Party campaign committee in 1932 (See The Red Network). The New York Times (4/19/36) states that 254 W.P.A. employees are engaged in work on the forthcoming New York City Guide Book under the direction of Orrick Johns, director of the Federal Writers’ Projects in New York City, to serve as a section, when later condensed, for New York City, of a five-volume American Guide which will include guides to each of the forty-eight States.
According to the Washington Herald (2/17/36), the supervision of this American guide is in keeping with the rest of the department. To quote: “The amazing news comes from Washington that Katherine Kellock, wife of the publicity director of the Soviet Embassy, has been named Field Supervisor of 4,600 relief workers who are preparing an ‘American Baedeker’ for the W.P.A. at the enormous cost of $1,500,000.
“This five-volume work, over which those associated with Red Ambassador Troyanovsky will have full authority, will set forth in detail the agricultural and industrial resources of every State in the Union, with maps of railways and highways.
“To put such an undertaking into the hands of a woman whose husband, because of his position, must necessarily be Pro-Russian and Pro-Communist is nothing short of an insult to the American people.
“The fact that Reed Harris, assistant project administrator, is compelled to assure the nation that Mrs. Kellock and her Red co-workers will be kept away from Army reservations, Navy yards, military airports and coast fortifications, is proof-positive that this ‘American Baedeker’ is in the wrong hands.”
One might add that the fact that Reed Harris is “assistant project administrator” and in a position to assure the public should alarm it instead, since his own Red activities resulted in his being ousted from even radical Columbia U., whereupon the Reds staged a riotous demonstration and the Communist-aiding A.C.L.U. threatened legal action, to force his reinstatement, which followed. After that, Harris withdrew voluntarily. He was the hero of the communist National Student League.
This is from page 172 of Dilling:
One is not surprised to learn that anti-Communist Samuel Duff McCoy was dismissed from the Federal Writers’ Project and wired W.P.A. Administrator Hopkins in Washington in vain demanding a public hearing on the grounds his dismissal “was based solely upon my opposition to the Communistic efforts to gain control of the project,” that Hopkins replied that Alsberg had full jurisdiction, and that Orrick Johns, charged by McCoy with being an avowed Communist, in an interview said: “I saw Mr. Alsberg this morning. We have received definite instructions to refuse to discuss the project in any way. The only person who can talk about it is Wm. Nunn, consultant on Project. 1.” (NY American 2/14/36)
Wm. Nunn, of the Prisoners’ Relief Fund of the communist International Labor Defense, contributor to the communist Federated Press Clip Sheet Service, and member of the national board of directors of the A.C.L.U., might be depended upon to “talk” in a satisfactory manner.
The objection might be raised that the Red charges made by Dilling all come from conservative enemies of Roosevelt and the liberal Democrats. Most of what follows from pp. 206-207 is a long quote from far left journalists Robert S. Allen and Drew Pearson (FERA stands for Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the predecessor name of the WPA.):
Hilda W. Smith, Roosevelt’s FERA “Specialist in Workers’ Education,” is at the same time a member of the board of the communistic training school for agitators, Commonwealth College at Mena, Arkansas. The affiliated Summer Schools for Workers, headed by Hilda Smith, received a donation from the communist Garland Fund (Nov. 1934 Fund Report) and, in addition, are financed by the Federal Government Relief Fund with the endorsement of Mrs. Roosevelt. (National Republic 11/35)
To quote the “Washington-Merry-Go-Round” column (10/3/35) written by Allen and Pearson:
“When Hilda Smith was dean of women at Bryn Mawr College, listening to the tribulations of young girls, she thought she had a problem on her hands. But now she has traded that for the immense job of teaching 1,200 teachers how to teach 50,000 workers. Dr. Smith is a mild mannered woman of 50 with graying hair and soft kindly blue eyes. Sometimes she is called Harry Hopkins’ ’professor of Communism.’
“’We don’t teach Communism,’ she says with a faint smiled. ‘But we allow discussion of it provided the other side is presented as well.’
“Her job is to take teachers off relief rolls to teach workers who are on relief rolls. They call it the program for workers’ education, now two years old.”
“Some cities don’t like the idea of having workers discuss political and economic questions. But Hilda Smith’s staff ignores this. They have the 100% backing of Harry Hopkins. In one southern town, permission to use the local school house was denied. So the FERA teacher got his workers together, piled them, plus a blackboard, into his car and drove out into the woods. Here he hung the blackboard on the car and lectured to the class sitting on tree stumps.”
The NY American of 8/8/34 said: “Communistic literature and radical instruction are available to students of the New York Summer School for Workers, 302 35th St., an institution maintained by U.S. Government funds, it was revealed last night. The FERA is paying salaries to 15 teachers, and the 75 students receive lunches and $8 a week from the C.W.A. it was revealed. Students questioned concerning the curriculum asserted they are given so-called revolutionary material for study and also have been told that the government’s economic system should be supplanted with Socialism…they asserted that teaching of Marxism and Socialism were part of their curriculum and that they debated the subject as part of their school work. Hilda Smith of Wash., D.C., principal, denied vehemently that Communism was taught in the school. She admitted certain books dealing with radicalism were available to the students…One of the most popular books in the school, it was said, is What Every Worker Should Know. It is by EARL BROWDER, HEAD OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY, U.S.A.”
An International News Service dispatch of 5/10/35 said: “Nothing whatever to say,’ was the only word from the office of FERA administrator Harry L. Hopkins on the charge of the Federal Grand Jury Association for the southern District of New York that approximately 20,000 students are being taught Communism through federal relief funds…In a letter signed by James H. Burnett, president, the association declared its members had first hand knowledge of subversive activities directed against the American form of government gathered through their service on federal grand juries. The letter reads: ‘Convincing evidence has been brought to our attention that public funds of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration were used to pay adults $8 per week to be taught communism and subversive doctrines. We understand that there are some 20,000 such students in more than twenty schools for workers scattered throughout the country and that the graduates were to become instructors and leaders in activities intended to bring about the overthrow of our government.
Completing our brief survey of the Roosevelt Red agitation apparatus, led by Harry Hopkins, we have more on the previously mentioned “communistic training school” in the town, Mena, Arkansas, that would be made notorious once again in the George H. W. Bush administration as the site of an airport for the alleged smuggling of weapons to anti-Communist fighters in Central America and illicit drugs to U.S. cities. What follows is from pages 192-193 of Dilling.
Commonwealth received $24,800 from the communist Garland Fund between 1924 and 1928. Wm. E. Zeuch, then Commonwealth’s director, became Roosevelt’s chief of the Planning Division of the Department of the Interior. His place as director was taken by Lucien Koch, who was promoted to a “brain-trust” position in the Roosevelt administration in the fall of 1935 (Chicago Examiner 11/11/35) after the investigation, by the Arkansas legislature in February-March, 1935, of the communistic, atheistic, free love, agitational teachings of Commonwealth College had been made public.
Like the “cooperative commonwealth” of Russia, which it claims to emulate, it is supposedly self-supporting, the students working a certain number of hours per day on the farm. But like Russia, it is a failure at efficient self-support and is always scouting for donations with which to keep going.
When [Maxim] Litvinoff (alias Finkelstein and a string of other names) arrived in Washington at Roosevelt’s invitation to arrange for U.S. recognition of the Soviet murder-government, Lucien Koch was director of Commonwealth, and the following telegram was sent to “Mr. Litvinoff in care of Boris Skvirsky, Washington, D.C.”:
“Commonwealth has long recognized Soviet Russia and its tremendous significance to the future of economic planning. It extends greetings and felicitations to Soviet Russia’s able representative and invites him to visit and inspect Commonwealth, a workers’ college at Mena, Arkansas, which supports itself by running a Kolkoz [sic] or collective farm. Wire answers collect. Commonwealth College, Mena, Arkansas.”
While the wire stated that Commonwealth supports itself, another column of the college paper announced that Lucien Koch was in the East begging funds to carry on.
According to the Legislative hearings, $5,000 from the capitalistic Carnegie Fund of New York, contributions from the wealthy Mrs. Leonard Elmhirst Committee, and $100 yearly from radical Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis and his wife, four scholarships from Roosevelt’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration, contributions from various radical unions, including the International Ladies Garment Workers (aided by Mrs. Roosevelt), and individuals from all branches of the Red movement have kept their communistic work going.
The Roosevelt administration is interwoven with the ramifications of Commonwealth College like material interwoven with a red thread.
“They thought we were a little hick school down here that they could close up,” said Charlotte Moskowitz to a visitor of the school, with a toss of her head, referring to the Legislative investigation of Commonwealth, then just closed. “But they found out different! They found we have national and international connections!”
And she was right. She, though still a “Miss”, is the wife of Raymond Koch, brother of Lucien Koch, then director of Commonwealth, who was rewarded by Roosevelt with a Government job after the investigation.
Still Red at Lend-Lease
It was September of 1941. The United States had not yet been attacked at Pearl Harbor, but in a speech December of 1940 President Roosevelt had declared that the U.S. would be the “arsenal of democracy” and Lend-Lease had been established to provide war supplies to Britain. Although the Soviet Union was no more a democracy than was Nazi Germany, they became an ally of the British when Germany attacked it in June of 1941 and, as such, it got in line for the arsenal supplies. Nominally headed by steel executive Edward Stettinius, Lend-Lease was actually run by Harry Hopkins, who was free to be FDR’s closest war aide after serving a short stint as Secretary of Commerce. Hopkins, with his record, was just the man to cozy up to Joseph Stalin. He had already made one trip to Moscow to meet with Stalin as FDR’s personal emissary. The following quote is from the highly laudatory new biography by David L. Roll, The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging of the Alliance to Defeat Hitler:
From his room in the White House, Hopkins assembled a team to accompany [his second] mission, including the controversial colonel Philip Faymonville, to serve as its executive secretary. Faymonville, a West Pointer, was uniquely qualified because he had served in Russia for years, knew the language, and had the confidence of Soviet authorities. However, he was so pro-Russian the War Department was suspicious and suspected him of being a Communist. There were also rumors that he was homosexual. When the Army balked at his appointment to the mission, Hopkins held firm, saying, “You might as well get his papers ready because he’s going over.” (Page 150)
As the [Lord] Beaverbrook-[Averell] Harriman team was preparing to depart Moscow, Hopkins cabled the announcement that Colonel Faymonville had been appointed head of lend-lease in Russia and would be staying on in Moscow. The War and State Departments objected, the embassy staff in Moscow protested, and even Harriman was “shocked.” But Hopkins stuck to his guns. Faymonville was his man in Moscow.
Not only did Hopkins in this new capacity give the same kind of embrace to pro-Communists that he had given at the WPA, but he also gave the same sort of cold shoulder to the anti-Communists. The following Roll account (pp. 129-130) is from the first Hopkins trip to Moscow:
In his memoirs Major [Ivan] Yeaton recalled that he had breakfast alone with Hopkins in the downstairs embassy mess hall the day of the first meeting with Stalin. Yeaton warned Hopkins of the pitfalls that lay ahead in dealing with Stalin, saying he and his henchmen in the Kremlin could not be trusted. He strongly urged Hopkins to require the Soviets to provide verifiable information (e.g., locations of munitions plants, troop dispositions, aircraft production) that would enable U.S. military experts to make an informal judgment of the USSR’s odds of survival in exchange for America’s commitment to provide military and economic assistance. Apparently Yeaton somewhat heatedly questioned Stalin’s integrity and Hopkins abruptly ended the conversation, saying, “I don’t care to discuss the subject further.” Ambassador [Laurence] Steinhart [sic], who overheard the conversation, recalled that Yeaton and Hopkins “pounded the breakfast table until the dishes danced in argument.” From that time forward, Yeaton was convinced that Hopkins “was an enemy of our country” and was not shy in expressing his view.”
The Hopkins advocate Roll shares with his readers no more than that from Yeaton. Fortunately, from the web site of Andrew Bostom, we can get more:
The Harry Hopkins mission to Moscow in July of 1941 gave me the greatest professional shock of my entire career. Within hours after the arrival of Presidential Adviser Hopkins, I sensed that I was in trouble. Members of his mission, with one exception, ignored and avoided me whenever possible. It was as if a Mafia had met, and a “contract” had been put out on me.
When I realized that it was my observations, analyses, and conclusions, which I had forwarded through official channels to the Army chief of intelligence in Washington, that had caused both the British and the White House to blackball me, my first shock and bewilderment turned to anger. How could a series of reports, considered excellent by my military superiors [Note: Appendices 2 and 3 of the Memoirs contain War Department evaluations of Yeaton by his commanders, which document, repeatedly, the “superior value” of his work as an intelligence officer, which was “enthusiastically carried out.”], cause such a different reaction in the White House? I was determined to find out, and the results of my investigation are the basis for this manuscript.
Roll calls the pro-Communist colonel Faymonville “uniquely qualified” on account of his background in Russia, but from the Bostom website we learn this:
Ivan D. Yeaton, who served as a Lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Force, Siberia, from 1919-1920, and subsequently, U.S. military attaché, Moscow, between 1939-1941, was among the most experienced and knowledgeable U.S. officials on Soviet matters. Indeed, Yeaton was classified as a “Communist Specialist” by the World War II and Cold War-era Department of the Army during his tenure as a G-2 (Military Intelligence) officer. “To win this rating” (i.e., “Communist Specialist”), Yeaton observed, in the Foreword to his Memoirs of Army service, from 1919-1953,
I spent three years in intensive study of communist ideology and Russian history and language in three American universities—namely, University of Oklahoma, University of California, and Columbia University. The study period was immediately followed by two years as military attaché and acting air and naval attaché to the Soviet Union in Moscow.
Col. Yeaton’s unique doctrinal and experience-based knowledge of Communist ideology, and the Soviet Union, led him to an uncompromised formulation of the threat aggressive Soviet totalitarianism posed, worldwide, and to the U.S….
Bostom’s entire page makes very informative reading, but here’s a good summing-up paragraph:
Hopkins hagiographers, original (Sherwood, 1948), and most recent (Roll, 2013), alike, have refused to acknowledge Yeaton’s apt evaluation that their lionized “Deputy President” was willfully reckless in administering U.S. Lend-Lease aid to the Soviet Union. Concomitantly, they chose to ignore what Yeaton also recognized about Hopkins—his effusive admiration of Stalin’s totalitarian Communist regime, whose predatory, mass murderous, liberty-crushing “revolutionary” system was antithetical to the ideals of the U.S., and directly threatened American security, which Hopkins was entrusted to defend, not jeopardize.
Still, as we have seen, in the work of a “hagiographer” such as Roll, there is much useful information to be gleaned. The following passage on page 133 concerns a report on the first Hopkins Moscow mission:
By September these parts of Hopkins’s top-secret memo were in the hands of Stalin and the NKVD, allegedly transmitted by Lauchlin Currie, a Canadian born U.S. economist who at the time was working for Hopkins in Washington as a lend-lease administrator.
And who, one might ask, chose Currie for such a sensitive position? We would never be told this by Roll, but Currie was among those who had been identified by Whittaker Chambers, who had defected from the Communists by that time, in 1939 as a Soviet spy to Roosevelt’s security chief Adolf Berle, and Berle had immediately passed the information on to Roosevelt. The details can be found in “FDR Winked at Soviet Espionage.” If Hopkins didn’t know that Currie was a Soviet agent, certainly Roosevelt had every reason to know it, and his continuation in using Currie in such a capacity is at best highly irresponsible and at worst pure treason.
For his part, Hopkins seemed to be most comfortable with men like Currie and Faymonville in his employ…and men like the aforementioned Ambassador Litvinov in his company. This is from page 167 of Roll:
As noted earlier, Hopkins had met Litvinov briefly in Moscow, but through dinner and social occasions arranged by [former Ambassador to the Soviet Union Joseph] Davies, the two of them would quickly establish a close personal confidential relationship.
We would hardly gather it from Roll, but Hopkins’s closeness to the infamous sell-out-to-Stalin Davies night well be as damning as his closeness to Litvinov. We learn from Roll that Davies, who was ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1936 to 1938, remained intimately involved with U.S.-Soviet Union relations through friendship with FDR. According to his index, the Davies name appears on 23 pages of the book, and it almost always appears in a favorable light. Davies is right up there with Hopkins as a cementer of the vital alliance with the Soviet Union throughout the war. Roll never tells us, though, that Davies might as well have been on Stalin’s payroll, such an enthusiastic publicist for the Soviet dictator was he. Not even Walter Duranty of The New York Times did as much to give the American people a favorable misimpression about Stalin’s genocidally oppressive regime. His book, Mission to Moscow, written at FDR’s insistence and published in 1941 endorsed the Moscow show trials and executions—actions that had so disgusted Whittaker Chambers that it drove him out of the Communist Party at the risk of his life. Simon and Schuster, which published Mission to Moscow, sold 700,000 copies. A Hollywood movie was made of the book with further embellishments approved by Davies, generating this principled response:
In an open May 1943 letter, contained in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, critics of the picture stated: "The current movie Mission to Moscow raises a most serious issue; it transplants to the American scene the kind of historical falsifications which have hitherto been characteristic of total propaganda...." The accompanying statement charges that the film "falsifies history and even distorts the very book on which it is based. One of the chief purposes of the film is to present the Moscow Trials of 1936-38 as the just punishment of proved traitors...[the film] glorifies Stalin's dictatorship and its methods...and has the most serious implications for American democracy." John Dewey, who had headed a commission of inquiry into the Moscow trials, published a letter in the 9 May 1943 issue of NYT attacking the film as "the first instance in our country of totalitarian propaganda for mass consumption--a propaganda which falsifies history through distortion, omission or pure invention of facts."
Davies was also one of the major villains in the abandonment by the American government of scores of immigrants to Russia who disappeared into the Soviet Gulag. Davies and Hopkins embraced Stalin at the expense of basic morality even more strongly than did FDR in the matter of the Victor Kravchenko defection as we recounted in a previous
Victor Kravchenko had been a Soviet Lend-Lease official who defected in 1944, while stationed in New York. At the time, the Soviet embassy had tried hard to force Kravchenko’s extradition as a war-time “deserter,” and had engaged the willing intervention of Ambassador Joseph Davies to its cause. What followed was the farce of the FBI having to call up Kravchenko anonymously to tip him off that “the heat was on” from the State Department, and warn him that he should “carefully hide himself.” But Kravchenko’s English was not yet up to such head-spinning machinations, and the FBI agent had to repeat the whole conversation to a friend, who took the appropriate evasive action on Kravchenko’s behalf. Joseph Davies, meanwhile, appealed directly to the president and secretary of state to have Kravchenko sent back to Russia. The moral issue of Kravenchenko’s inevitable execution was elegantly sidestepped by Harry Hopkins, who argued that if he was returned, no one would know what happened to him. Only President Roosevelt had sensed a fast-approaching political calamity; “Will you tell Joe that I cannot do this?” he instructed his secretary, and the defector’s life was spared. (Emphasis added. The passage is from page 275 of The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia by Tim Tzouliadis, 2008)
On the other hand, the three amigos were peas in a pod when it came to the massacre of the Polish officer corps at Katyn Forest. This is from page 268 of Roll. Up to this point, the Germans had been blamed for the massive war crime:
Churchill and the exiled Polish government in London believed the German claims [of Soviet guilt] were true—as they were—whereas Davies, Roosevelt, and Hopkins tended to side with the Soviet Union’s denials. (Indeed, when the Poles exiled in London publicly denounced the Soviets for the massacre, Hopkins responded that they were troublemakers, interested only in preventing their large estates from falling into Russian hands.)
Was Hopkins a Paid Spy for Stalin?
In his prologue, on page 7, Roll writes, “Notebooks from KGB archives were published in 2009 that flatly disprove widely published allegations that Hopkins was a Soviet agent.” He gives no reference at that point, and one is left wondering how any documents, in themselves, could ever prove that someone was not a spy.
We wrote our article concluding that Hopkins was probably a spy in 2011, but the “widely published allegations” we cited were from our 2006 article, and we were unaware of any new developments in the case. We have to wait until page 276 of Roll’s book to be told what these new revelations are. It turns out that they address only what had appeared to be the strongest evidence against Hopkins:
During the 1990s it was claimed in sensation-seeking news stories and at least one well-reasoned scholarly article that Hopkins himself was source 19, the individual who either wittingly or negligently leaked the key decision made at Trident [meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill in which they decided to delay invasion of France ed.] to a Soviet spy. However, in the spring of 2009 Alexander Vassiliev, a former KGB agent who was given unprecedented access to KGB archives, donated his notebooks to the Library of Congress. The notebooks clearly identify source 19 as Laurence Duggan, a Department of State official and nephew of Sumner Welles, who either fell or jumped [or was thrown ed.] from the sixteenth floor of a building in Manhattan in late 1948, ten days after being questioned by the FBI about his contacts with Soviet intelligence.
Roll and apparently the Vassiliev notebooks have nothing to say about the claim by the defector Oleg Gordievsky that Hopkins was in regular communication with Soviet spymaster Iskhak Akhmerov, discussed by Herbert Romerstein here. Nor does he address the charge featured in Diana West’s new book, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character,which had been around since 1999 when The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin was published. The charge is best summed up at viralread.com:
A confidential message from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, reproduced in West’s new book, told Hopkins that a “continuing” investigation had discovered that Russian diplomat (and Comintern agent) Vasily Zarubin had made a payment to U.S. Communist Party official Steve Nelson to help place espionage agents “in industries engaged in secret war production … so that information could be obtained for transmittal to the Soviet Union.” This information had come from a “bug” at Nelson’s home in Oakland, California, through which the FBI first learned of the Soviet effort (code-named “Enormous”) to obtain the atomic secrets of the Manhattan Project. Instead of warning President Roosevelt, however, Hopkins “privately warned the Soviet embassy in Washington that the FBI had bugged a secret meeting” between Nelson and Zarubin, according to documents from the KGB archives smuggled out by Mitrokhin.
We may safely say, then, that the evidence that Roll has presented does not support his assertion that the 2009 revelations “flatly disprove” the various assertions that Hopkins was a Soviet spy. As it happens, there is better evidence that Hopkins was not a spy than Roll presents. First, we have the recent essay of Emory historian Harvey Klehr, “Was Harry Hopkins a Soviet Spy?” Klehr not only endorses the view that Duggan, not Hopkins, was source 19, but he also addresses the issue of Hopkins’s notification of the Soviet embassy that one of their spies was being bugged by the FBI. Klehr doesn’t deny that Hopkins alerted the Soviets, but argues that if he were a spy, he would have passed the information on to his handler, not take the matter to the Soviet ambassador. Klehr sees the action as just one more example of the FDR administration bending over backwards to stay on good terms with its war allies in the Soviet Union.
Still, there is the matter of the charge that Hopkins was in regular communication with the secret spymaster Akhmerov. That one is best countered by the Russian Svetlana Chervonnaya on her web site DocumentsTalk.com. Klehr notes that the charge depends upon Gordievsky’s possibly faulty recollection of what he heard Akhmerov say. Chervonnaya has interviewed the man who was Akhmerov’s supervisor, Lt. Gen. Vitaly Pavlov. Pavlov strongly denied that there was any intelligence connection between Ahhmerov and Hopkins. One can read the interview at her web site. *
So what we are left with is apparently not an actual paid spy for the Soviet Union. But what with actions such as urging that a key defector be secretly sent back to the Soviet Union for certain execution and undercutting FBI spy surveillance by ratting them out to the Soviets, he might as well have been one. Hopkins’s prior record which we detail in the first part of this article demonstrates, furthermore, that his pro-Soviet, pro-Communist deeds were not so much war tactics to curry favor with a vital ally, as Klehr would have us believe, as they were ideologically driven. With a man who had such a strong ideological affinity for them, the Soviets did not need for him to be an agent.
We may note as well that if, indeed, Laurence Duggan and not Harry Hopkins was agent 19, that hardly lets FDR off the hook—nor perhaps his closest associate Hopkins, either. Duggan, like Lauchlin Currie and Alger and Donald Hiss, was on the list of Soviet spies given to Roosevelt through Adolph Berle by Whittaker Chambers in 1939. It was reckless in the extreme, if not treasonous, for FDR to have a man like Duggan in a position to pass on such top-secret information to Stalin. Klehr, like Roll, fails to mention that Roosevelt had every reason to know that Duggan was a Soviet spy.
If Hopkins could tip off the Soviets about surveillance of one of their spies as simply a tactic for furthering the war alliance, it’s hard to say what else he might have done without being labeled a spy himself. Certainly, giving Stalin everything he asked for under Lend-Lease would fall under that category, even if what they asked for helped them make their first nuclear weapon in due time. Maybe Hopkins didn’t know any more than Major George Racey Jordan did what all those things we sent were good for. **
His providing of accommodations for members of a Soviet spy cell, on the other hand, could hardly be justified in that way, but perhaps it could be explained on the basis of his manifest ideological affinity for communists. Now that Stalinist communism has been so thoroughly discredited, it is difficult to appreciate how truly fashionable it was in important circles in this country during its heyday, the 1930s and early 1940s. Eugene Lyons in his classic, The Red Decade, sums it up very well:
The communist influence became literally inescapable. Like the maggots in a cheese, the fellow travelers and stooges and innocents flavored American life. Their professional vocabulary—transmission belts, fronts, fellow-travelers, party line, liquidations, etc.—filtered into the nation’s speech and thought. It added up, indeed, to an inescapable revolution. Started by Moscow, ended by Moscow, when no longer needed, conducted in absolute compliance with rules laid down by Moscow—but draped in the American flag, involving directly or indirectly millions of Americans and the government itself, it was by all odds the most extraordinary hoaxes ever perpetrated on our country by a foreign government. (p. 182)
Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins were active participants in that pernicious hoax. They may not have been paid Soviet agents, themselves, but they could hardly be classified as innocent dupes, either.
* We also find out from that web site that when Hopkins was Secretary of Commerce, he offered a job to the Soviet spy Michael Whitney Straight.
** Roll is at his absolute worst on pages 399-400 in his discussion of the revelations of Major Jordan, drawing heavily upon #6 of the “Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression,” “Impugn motives.” Taking some swipes at Jordan for inconsistencies in his story that could easily be explained by memory lapse he concludes, “that Jordan either lied for publicity and profit or was delusional.” He must hope that no one takes the trouble to read Jordan’s book, which is now online, because no one doing so would ever characterize the man in such an insulting way. Roll also suggests that Jordan’s revelations were not corroborated in any way, but we can readily see that that is not true by reading the exchange between the young congressman Richard Nixon on Andrew Bostom’s previously cited web site. Among the people who corroborated them was the defector Victor Kravchenko, which gives us one good reason why Hopkins would have wanted him shipped back to Russia to be shot.
Roll’s cheapest shot of all—truly a sign of desperation—is this: “Jordan’s credibility was further undermined in the 1960s when he publicly ‘condemned fluoridation as a secret Russian revolutionary technique to deaden’ the minds of Americans.” Not only does Jordan’s public position on water fluoridation have nothing to do with the issue at hand, but apparently Roll is counting on his readers not knowing anything about the dangers of water fluoridation such as revealed in The Fluoride Deception, including its effect on the mind.
January 20, 2014