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Joseph Keller

Politics of the Spy Scare

(23 August 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 34, 23 August 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Spy scares are a standard and well-worn part of the political techniques of all reactionary regimes. They are whipped up artificially for the purpose of smearing political opposition and providing a pretext for its suppression.

The current spy scare in this country is no exception. It is strictly politically motivated. It is intended to whip up “anti-communist” and war hysteria among the more gullible section of the public nourished on the cloak-and-dagger type of popular spy fiction and movies.

Truman, it is true, is now squealing “red herring” because the Republican-controlled Congressional committees have turned his spy scare into a smear of the Democratic administration itself. But that is only an ironic and incidental aspect of the spy hysteria being generated by Washington.

The fact is that the Truman Administration for the past three years has been building up a spy scare as part of its “cold war” propaganda against the Soviet Union. The spy scare is a natural complement of Truman’s highly-publicized “loyalty purge” of government employees, his political blacklist of “subversive organizations” and the frame-up now being attempted against 12 indicted Communist Party leaders.

It was, in fact, Truman’s Department of Justice and FBI which introduced the testimony of self-confessed former GPU agents before the Federal Grand Jury that indicted the CP leaders. But after getting the Grand Jury steamed up over the spy testimony, the government recommended that the Stalinists leaders be framed under the infamous Smith “Gag” Act for the patently false charge of “advocating overthrow of the government by force and violence.”

By this procedure, the Truman Administration hoped to avoid the necessity of producing evidence in court which, if closely investigated, might prove embarrassing to the Democratic Administration.

For, of course, during the wartime honeymoon between Washington and the Kremlin, there was a considerable free interchange of information and collaboration of their intelligence services. Not that they didn’t try to hold out on each other and do considerable spying on each other. But that was understood and winked at by both sides.

Principally, the American and Russian intelligence services co-operated in tracking down working class revolutionists and suppressing anti-capitalist movements in Europe. In this country, the Stalinists were the chief wartime agents of the government in putting the finger on militants in the unions.

Neither the Roosevelt nor the Truman administration was greatly disturbed about the known criminal activities of Stalin’s secret agents on American soil as assassins of Stalin’s political opponents. There was the case of the murder of Walter Krivitsky in Washington itself. And most flagrant of all, the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico, long known by the FBI to have been prepared, in part, in this country according to the self-implicating confessions of former GPU agents Louis Budenz and Elizabeth Bentley.

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