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I.F. Stone: Premature Anti-Fascist Watch (Mirror of Wildernesses Department)

Ken Houghton reports that Harvey Klehr, John Earl Jones, and Alexander Vassiliev accuse I.F. Stone of being a premature anti-fascist: of seeking in the late 1930s to help the Soviet Union defend itself against the Nazi threat by passing along tidbits of information, and that this was a bad thing.

I did not know that there was anybody who believed that the national security of the United States was impaired by working to contain Hitler in the mid 1930s. But it appears that Klehr, Jones, and Vassiliev do.

The tidbit of information that they cite, as reported by the NKVD to Moscow Center in 1936:

Pancake [Stone] reported that Karl Von Wiegand works in Berlin as a correspondent for the Hearst agency “Universal Service.” He had been ordered to maintain friendly relations with Hitler, which was supposedly dictated by the fact that the German press was buying the agency’s information. Hearst is in a deal with German industry to supply the latter with a large consignment of copper. Wiegand does not agree with Hearst’s policy. He turned to Pancake’s boss for advice...

This disturbs me for three reasons. First, even Pat Buchanan does not think that helping Stalin against Hitler in the late 1930s is a blameworthy act: helping Stalin against Hitler is a mitzvah. Second, there is something wrong with historians who write about how Stone worked "closely with the KGB"--the Committee for State Security--when the KGB was not organized until 1954. In the late 1930s the sinister and murderous people who worked in Dzherzhinsky Square were part of the NKVD. Third, when the most striking example you can find of "working closely with the NKVD" is passing along journalistic gossip that Hearst does not want his reporters to antagonize the Nazis and the eporters are pissed--well perhaps you should fine a less mendacious title for your article than "I.F. Stone, Soviet Agent--Case Closed."

Here are Klehr, Jones, and Vassiliev:

I.F. Stone, Soviet Agent--Case Closed: Over the next several years, documents recorded in Vassiliev’s notebooks make clear, Stone worked closely with the KGB.... The KGB recruited journalists in part for their access to inside information and sources on politics and policy, insights into personalities, and confidential and non-public information that never made it into published stories. Certain journalistic working habits also lent themselves to intelligence tasks. By profession, journalists ask questions and probe.... Stone assisted Soviet intelligence on a number of such tasks: talent spotting, acting as a courier by relaying information to other agents, and providing private journalistic tidbits and data the KGB found interesting. In May 1936, for example, the KGB New York station told Moscow:

Pancake [Stone] reported that Karl Von Wiegand works in Berlin as a correspondent for the Hearst agency “Universal Service.” He had been ordered to maintain friendly relations with Hitler, which was supposedly dictated by the fact that the German press was buying the agency’s information. Hearst is in a deal with German industry to supply the latter with a large consignment of copper. Wiegand does not agree with Hearst’s policy. He turned to Pancake’s boss for advice...

Commenting on Stone’s work as a KGB talent spotter and recruiter, the KGB New York station reported, “Pancake established contact with Dodd. We wanted to recruit him [Dodd] and put him to work on the State Dep. line. Pancake should tell Dodd that he has the means to connect him with an anti-Fascist organization in Berlin.” William A. Dodd, Jr., was the son of the U.S. ambassador to Germany and an aspiring Popular Front activist with political ambitions.... Stone... provid[ed] him with a contact in Berlin when he went to join his father at the embassy. Stone also passed on to the KGB some information Dodd picked up from the American military attaché in Berlin about possible German military moves against the USSR and the name of a suspected pro-Nazi embassy employee...

That Hearst is telling his journalists not to antagonize the Nazis seems to be journalistic gossip that might be a little bit useful in preparing to fight against Hitler--and the transmission of which to the USSR in 1936 would tend to enhance rather than harm the national security of the United States and the peace and good order of the world. But I can understand how those who wished that Hitler rather than Stalin had won the war and dominated post-World War II Europe might disagree.

The most interesting passage in Klehr, Jones, and Vassiliev's Commentary piece is:

The Soviets knew little about Truman when he succeeded to the presidency, and in June 1945 Moscow Center told Pravdin, then chief of the New York KGB station:

Right now the cultivation of Truman’s inner circle becomes exceptionally important. This is one of the Station’s main tasks. To fulfill this task, the following agent capabilities need to be put to the most effective use: 1. In journalistic circles—--Ide, Grin, Pancake... Bumblebee. Through these people focus on covering the principal newspaper syndicates and the financial-political groups that are behind them; their relationships with Truman, the pressure exerted on him, etc...

Of the four journalists listed... “Bumblebee” was... Walter Lippmann, the most prominent opinion columnist of the day. Lippmann knew Pravdin only as a Soviet journalist with whom he traded insights and information...

Klehr, Jones, and Vassiliev say that Lippman was not an NKVD spy, yet it appears that Moscow Center thought he was one of their spies: one of their "agent capabilities." The pressure on Pravdin and his fellows to report that they had recruited more agents and more important agents than they in fact had must have been immense.

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