Books by Harvey Klehr

Released: May 1, 1999

This first comprehensive analysis of the 3,000 telegrams between Soviet spies in the US and their superiors in Moscow, decoded shortly after WWII, may well, as the authors believe, "change the way we think about twentieth-century American history." The Venona transcripts, while revealed in part to the Soviets by agents like Kim Philby, were one of the most closely guarded US secrets, since the US didn—t want the Soviets to understand the full extent of the damage they had sustained. In one of the extraordinary revelations of this book, the authors, Haynes (History/Library of Congress) and Klehr (Politics and History/Emory Univ.) note that Army Chief of Staff Omar Bradley denied President Truman direct knowledge of the project for fear of a leak, while informing him of the substance of the messages. Moreover, the information could not be used in prosecutions of those guilty of espionage. The consequence was the growth of the widespread belief that the very existence of the charges were evidence of anti-Communist paranoia. The authors, who have previously written seminal analyses of Soviet activity in the US (The Soviet World of American Communism, 1998, etc.), use the decrypts to show how extensive Soviet espionage actually was. In addition to the nuclear spies and top agents like Alger Hiss, who presided at the first session of the United Nations, and Harry Dexter White, the number two at the Treasury, the transcripts identify 349 US citizens and other residents who had a covert relationship with Soviet intelligence. There were 11 well-placed spies in the Treasury, 15 in OSS, many in other key departments. In fact, the authors have changed their view of the Communist Party of the US, which they conclude "was indeed a fifth column working inside and against the United States in the Cold War." The reverberations from this cool, balanced, and devastating appraisal will be heard for many years to come. (30 illustrations) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1998

With the publication of this book, the debate about whether the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) was a genuinely home-grown movement or a tool of the Soviet Union has been finally answered. Based on the archives of the Communist International (Comintern) in Moscow, Klehr and Haynes (coauthors of The Secret World of American Communism, not reviewed) and Anderson (a Russian archivist) make it clear that, throughout the period from its founding in 1919 until the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943, the CPUSA was heavily funded by the Soviet Union, which selected and paid its leaders, and dictated its strategy. The volume doesn't purport to be a comprehensive history of the party but concentrates on the relationship with Moscow. It is clear that that subordination damaged the ability of the party to make the alliances and adjustments that would have increased its already considerable influence in the labor movement, where by the end of WW II Communists led or helped lead 18 CIO affiliates. While large numbers of individual members became disillusioned and resigned, the party obediently followed every twist in Soviet strategy, from the Nazi-Soviet Pact to its repudiation when Germany attacked the Soviet Union. Most shameful of all, the authors note, there is not a single document in which an official of the CPUSA tried to save anyone from Stalin's purges. Indeed, there were occasions in which they leveled accusations that sent Americans to the Gulag. This belief in Soviet perfection ``gave American Communists strength,'' convincing them that it was possible to create an American utopia; the Khrushchev revelations about Stalin's crimes lost the party more than three-quarters of its membership. This is one of those seminal books that do not merely contribute to a debate, but effectively end it. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 19, 1996

Intriguing account of an all but forgotten episode in Cold War history, by two leading scholars of the period. In February 1945, acting on a tip, the head of the South Asia division of the Office of Strategic Services, bought a copy of a small-circulation, leftist magazine called Amerasia. In its pages he found a story on British-American political relations in newly liberated Indochina—a story in his own words, taken from a classified State Department report that only a few senior government analysts had access to. When government agents raided Amerasia's New York office, they found an array of official documents, some marked ``Top Secret,'' and a trail of evidence showing that near-amateur spies had infiltrated the government with astonishing ease. Granted access to FBI files, Klehr (Politics/Emory Univ.; The Secret World of American Communism, 1983, etc.) and Radosh (History/Adelphi Univ.; The Rosenberg File, 1983) tell what happened next: Of the journalists and government officials charged with espionage, none was convicted, thanks largely to inept prosecution; only two of the half-dozen defendants were punished at all, and then only for unauthorized possession of federal documents. The case would quietly resound for the next few years, until Joseph McCarthy, ``an obscure first-term Republican senator of little distinction,'' revived it with a vengeance in his crusade to rid America of the Red Menace. McCarthy's campaign, the authors point out, was flawed by zealousness and a disregard for constitutional niceties, but it had a basis in reality, as the Amerasia case showed; as the authors remark, ``not everyone accused of disloyalty or espionage was innocent—regardless of whether the perpetrator could be legally convicted.'' This academic study is uncommon for its liveliness and important for all students of the Cold War at home. Read full book review >