This is a story about dupes: Persons easily deceived or used. Specifically, naïve men and women on the political left who were duped into defending the “glorious Russian Revolution,” often at the expense of their own country. Dupes are important. They provide legitimacy, credibility and above all numbers for selected causes. They have done so long before the term “Cold War” entered the language. This book is also about those who eventually saw the error of their ways, about others who never did, and about some who were, and remain, dedicated Marxists.
But first a word about what this book is not. It is not a Cold War relic irrelevant to present time and concerns. What the author reveals is closely connected to our lives, and to our futures. This book will answer many “how did we get here” questions as well as take readers from the Bolshevik Revolution, through the Cold War, and show how the past impinges on the present.
Kengor’s book is almost entirely drawn from primary sources including once-secret Cold War archives in Moscow, Eastern Europe, and the United States, KGB memos, Communist International Party (CPUSA) records, and previously classified FBI papers. Photocopies of some of these documents are included.
In addition to providing readers with access to formerly undisclosed data, the author reveals previously available, but unpublished information liberal news organs choose not to share with the American people.
The author writes, “The Communists targeted naïve individuals—usually on the left and nearly always liberals/progressives—for manipulation. Whittaker Chambers, long time Soviet spy who later renounced Communism, wrote in his memoir, Witness, ’Communists make full use of liberals and their solicitudes.’”
To liberals, “the brave new world” in Moscow seemed to dovetail with the growing progressive movement in the United States. “Liberals saw American Communists as their friends.” They shared portions of the same belief system, i.e. workers rights, redistribution of wealth, expansive federal government, high tax rates for the wealthy and distrust, if not hatred, for capitalism. However, as the archived documents make clear, the puppet masters in Moscow always considered the recruited ones dupes, never friends.
The goal, from the early days of the Revolution, was to spread Communism by using influential elites in other nations. The American effort started in 1919, only months after the establishment of the Comintern in Moscow. (The Communist International (Comintern) was centralized under Moscow leadership and had “uncontested authority” over the Communist Parties established all over the world.)
The author chronicles the progressives – educators, academics, journalists and union organizers — eagerness to come and view the wonders of Communism. And come they did, by the boatloads. The puppet masters prepared lists of liberal university professors and college presidents likely to carry a positive impression back to the states. Documents in the Comintern archives spell out the strategies used on these “arranged” tours.
One of the most important dupes imported to Moscow was the renowned educator John Dewey. Dewey, during his long tenure at Columbia University, influenced the training of generations of public school teachers, and not for the better. Kengor quotes Georgetown University political theorist George W. Casey who observed, “We cannot come close to understanding why our public education system is in such a wretched state without examining John Dewey’s philosophy.”
Dewey was a political progressive who saw education as the fast track for social change. In his view, American democracy would be transformed by education, which would pave the way for social and economic revolution. Dewey was a Communist favorite and wrote widely about his admiration for the Bolsheviks. Yet, for all his appalling credulity, the Moscow show trials proved too much even for Dewey. He and other leftist academics investigated and determined that the trials were orchestrated with predetermined verdicts and coerced confessions to eliminate any potential challengers to Stalin’s power. Even the New York Times reported their conclusions.
The Soviets, of course, then repudiated Dewey. They published a “study” showing that his books lacked scientific validity, no doubt saving Soviet children from the ravages of progressive education.
Kengor describes Communist efforts to trash such liberal icons as Franklin Roosevelt, a fact apparently not remembered by leftists who revere FDR. However, not until after World War II was it known that the Roosevelt administration had been thoroughly penetrated by CPUSA members.
Though there were plenty of liberals within the Roosevelt administration to dupe, the biggest dupe of all turned out to be Roosevelt himself. It was partly due to his own desire to get on with “Uncle Joe,” and partly due to the advice of trusted advisors like Harry Hopkins who, the released documents indicate, was probably working for the Russians. Whatever the causes, Roosevelt badly misjudged Stalin, an error the world has had ample reason to regret.
But this book is no partisan rant aimed at indicting the whole of the Democrat Party. Kengor identifies Democrats “Scoop” Jackson, Sam Nunn, Thomas Dodd, John F. Kennedy, certain key members of the NAACP, Harry Truman, the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, among others who saw through the Communist charade and confronted the evil beneath.
The author credits large portions of his book to investigative work by Democrats who headed the House and Senate Committees that investigated indigenous threats. Democrats launched the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the 1930s, and for nearly all of its 40-year history it was chaired by Democrats. In fact, the author pleads with liberals to read this book, and the original sources from which it is drawn, with an open mind. It is his hope that “the dupery will stop.”
The communists frequently sought to undermine not only individual Democratic presidents, but the Democratic Party en masse. At one point—in an episode either misrepresented or ignored by modern historians and journalists—American Communists targeted the 1968 Democratic National Convention, in part for the purpose of trying to advance their own far-left third party. Bear in mind that they did not target the Republican National Convention that year. It was the Democrats they looked to unravel. In the revolution, it would be the brothers on the left who were put to the wall first.
But it wasn’t only politics and presidents that the Communists sought to disrupt. As the chapter titled “The Hollywood Front,” points out, “There was also the culture, movies and Hollywood. MGM was a target of opportunity every bit as much as FDR.” The list of celebrity dupes is extensive and includes those who realized they had been had and some, like Ronald Reagan, who said so.
However, the most disturbing part of the book is the connection between the past and the present. Although Dupes began as a Cold War Project, the author soon realized that many of the same names appear in recent political history. Among those are Communist Party Member #47544, Frank Marshall Davis, (now deceased), identified by Barak Obama as his mentor; Obama’s Chicago associate Bill Ayers, (founder of the Weather Underground, a 60s group that used violence to achieve political change); and Ayers’ wife Bernadine Dohrn, (once dubbed “the most dangerous woman in America”) who helped her husband launch Barak Obama’s political career. In 2008, a group entitled “Progressives for Obama,” which included Marxist radicals from the same period, helped make him president.
However, Kengor makes a crucial distinction between dupes.
To be sure, in both the Cold War and the War on Terror, certain ill-advised statements by leftist Americans inadvertently helped US opponents. But the statements in the latter have not usually been cued or coordinated as they were so often in the former. It is a big difference, with a notably different kind of adversary. Soviet Communism has long since been dispatched to the ash heap of history. But this doesn’t mean that all the battles from the Cold War past have gone away.
Rather, the rules of engagement have changed since those bomb throwing days.
Education is now the common refuge of the 60s radical left, which searches always for a new generation of disciples. Among the Progressives for Obama, no other field appears in their bios more prominently as teaching.
However, Kengor also points out, these individuals have not forsaken politics.
They did not enter education to teach nonpolitical subjects like math. They went into education to inculcate the nation’s youth into their worldview. They are John Dewey’s disciples to an extreme degree.
Should readers doubt the wisdom of the radicals’ choice of education as the engine for political change, the author offers the following data from the 2008 election:
According to exit polls, those aged eighteen to twenty-nine, who made up one in five voters—or about 25 million ballots –went for Obama by more than 2 to 1: 66 to 32 percent…Even wider was the margin in a related category; first-time voters. They went for Obama 60 to 30 percent. A third related category, single (unmarried) voters, who accounted for one in three voters, went for Obama by 65 to 33 percent.
Readers of Paul Kengor’s book will know the answer to the “How Did We Get Here?” question. Now we need to figure out how to retake our schools and universities and, as the Founders counseled us, educate for liberty once again.
[W]e ought to deprecate the hazard attending ardent and susceptible minds, from being too strongly, and too early prepossessed in favor of other political systems, before they are capable of appreciating their own. George Washington letter to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia January 28, 1795 Topic: Education