February 20, 2013
ONLY IF THERE WERE NO WITCHES WOULD WE NOT NEED WITCH HUNTS:
[A] new book, Benn Steil, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, deals with White's activities as a Soviet spy. He has also published an excerpt as a major article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, (available for purchase on the magazine's website), titled "Why a Founding Father of Postwar Capitalism Spied for the Soviets."
Steil's article is of importance for two reasons. First, it brings to the mainstream what many of us have known for years--that the New Deal administration was heavily penetrated by Soviet spies, many of them American citizens who were working for Stalin's intelligence agencies. Indeed, this is the focus of a new book, M. Stanton Evans and Hebert Romerstein's Stalin's Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt's Government, which fills in the broader picture. The most well-known, of course, is Alger Hiss. But he was merely the tip of the iceberg.
Second, since others who found evidence in the Venona papers and Alexander Vassiliev's KGB papers of White's espionage, the former Treasury undersecretary's reputation was defended by many writers who saw that charge as mere anti-Communist slander. Stephen Schlesinger, for example, writes that "Among historians, the verdict about White is still unresolved, but many incline toward the view that he wanted to help the Russians but did not regard the actions he took as constituting espionage." In a letter to The New York Times, White's daughter argues that "The content and provenance of all these documents have been studied in depth by serious scholars and have been found to raise as many questions as they answer. However they are interpreted, it can by no means be said that they establish my father's guilt." She then adds that "It should also be remembered that White himself vigorously and eloquently denied the accusations against him." And James J. Broughton authored an entire article devoted to exonerating White.
With the publication of Steil's book and article, we know that White, whom Steil points out had "by 1944 achieved implausibly broad influence over U.S. foreign and economic policy," sought to implement what Steil calls "a far more radical reordering of U.S. foreign policy, centered on the establishment of a close permanent alliance with...the Soviet Union." In this regard, he was on the same wavelength as his friend Henry A. Wallace, who had said he would appoint White to the Cabinet if he was to become president.
To accomplish this aim, White did more than Wallace. He took the next step, and from the 1930s on, "acted as a Soviet mole, giving the Soviets secret information and advice on how to negotiate with the Roosevelt administration and advocating for them during internal policy debates." Steil goes so far as to argue that White "was arguably more important to Soviet intelligence than Alger Hiss."
Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2013 6:25 PM