I reviewed another of Budenz’s book here. Budenz was Communist agent in the US before changing his mind and speaking out against communism. I’ll have a few more reviews of books like this before I write something up on all of them.
In this book (which I’m pretty sure used to be available in full view, but apparently is not any longer), Budenz goes to great lengths to emphasize that the Communists in the US were actively and knowingly serving Stalin.
Much of the book is also devoted to explaining how Communists in the US worked. However, for readers of this blog, his analysis is very easy to summarize. Through various well-placed agents and operatives in The Cathedral, a relatively small numbers of Communists were able to have an out-sized influence on American opinions and policies. The Cathedral at the time includes significant union membership, but is otherwise the same as today’s. The best example in the book is a meeting at the University of California that is sponsored by the University and includes Communists and movie industry types and is devoted to getting FDR re-elected. The meeting was chaired by this dude. From that initial meeting eventually sprang "the Progressive Citizens of America and finally the Progressive Party."
One also can’t help but being struck by the fact that the goals of the Communists consistently line up with the goals of the "non-Communist" progressives. In the early thirties, the goals of the Communists (as received from the Stalin) were fourfold according to Budenz: "defense of the Soviet Union, the Red conquest of China, social insurance and self determination in the Black Belt [of the US]." Interestingly (and potentially surprising depending on your views) all of these goals were achieved with the help and support of the US government (the last two goals were part of a broader Communist goal at the time to establish a separate "Negro republic" in the US, which was obviously not achieved, though it was abandoned by the Communists).
Budenz is particularly critical of "campaigns being launched [by the Soviets] in the name of democracy to create sedition among the youth, the Negroes and Mexican-Americans." Throughout the book there are numerous examples of the Communists referring to themselves as democrats (see e.g. the Wikipedia entry for "American Youth for Democracy" which automatically re-directs to the Young Communist League USA – there’s no difference anyway) and progressives or loving Jefferson and Lincoln.
There are lots of other good little historical tidbits. For example, Budenz remembers being particularly excited when FDR commuted the sentence of Earl Browder (Wikipedia has nothing on this other than noting that Browder, who ran the CPUSA, later supported FDR and the New Deal).
Budenz has some weird interactions with Harry Hopkins (per Wikipedia: "one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s closest advisers" – indeed), even though Hopkins knew Budenz was a Communist. Hopkins was apparently very interested in Budenz’s thoughts on Stalin. Maybe it’s cause he wanted to make out.
Frederick Vanderbilt Field‘s (yeah, that Vanderbilt) name comes up in a lot of interesting circumstances too.
When one reads lots of these narratives of former Communists, one is struck by the human ability to rationalize. This time period is particularly interesting, because many of these people initially joined the Communists to fight the Fascists. Then, the Communists and Fascists embrace each other, so they all find a way to support Fascism, largely by hating the US or Britain. Then the Communists and Fascists break so they hate Fascism again, but they have to embrace the US and Britain. They’re all smart people by all objective measures of intelligence, and yet they’re idiots. Sadly, they did tremendous damage to so many others’ lives.