THE IIA UNTED WOOD: Soviet Espionage in America-The SfaIin Era

THE IIA UNTED WOOD: Soviet Espionage in America-The SfaIin Era

Jacob Heilbrunn

By Alien Weinstein andAlexander Vassiliev. Random House.402 pp. $30

Read Time:
5m 27sec

transnational melange" in the 1990s than it was in the 1890s, when enormous European diasporas in America had their own newspapers, neighborhoods, religious institutions, and political machines. Apart from a pool of Spanish-speakers that would quickly shrink without continual Latin American immigration, there is no single foreign-language bloc comparable to the once-enormous German-speaking population of the United States. To judge from today’s high rates of intermarriage across ethnic and racial lines, not only assimilation but amalgamation is occurring more rapidly than it did in the past. As Kaplan himself notes, "A third of all U.S.-born Latinos and more than a quarter of all U.S.-born Asians in the five-county greater Los Angeles region intermarry with other races. Almost one out of ten blacks in greater Los Angeles intermarries, a percentage high enough to create significant changes in black racial identity in years to come."

Kaplan is much more persuasive when he writes about the secession of elite neighborhoods within regions, "as wealthier Americans increasingly live their lives within protected communities, heavily zoned suburbs, defended corporate enclaves, private malls, and health clubs." Indeed, a case can be made that class divisions are growing in the United States, even as the historic disparities between regions and races continue to narrow. "But what if such wide, rigid class distinctions reemerge—with a deepening chasm between an enlarged underclass and a globally oriented upper class—while the dialogue between ruler and ruled becomes increasingly ritualistic and superficial? Will the form of democracy remain while its substance decays?" The real danger facing the United States may be not that it will be split along regional lines into five or six countries, but that it will fissure along class lines into two nations.

Although weakened somewhat by misleading analogies and apocalyptic pessimism, Kaplan’s tour of his own country is an impressive synthesis of observation and analysis that confirms the author’s standing as one of this country’s leading intellectual journalists. Whether or not An Empire Wilderness is, as advertised in the subtitle, "travels into America’s future," Robert Kaplan has provided a rich and rewarding account of his travels into America’s present.

> Michael Lind is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine.


THE HAUNTED WOOD: Soviet Espionage in America–The Stalin Era.

By Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev. Random House. 402 pp. $30

Decoding Soviet
Espionage in America.

By John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. Yale Univ. Press. 487 pp. $30

One of the peculiarities of the Cold War was that the battle over its causes and consequences began even as it was being waged. On the one side were the orthodox historians who maintained that Soviet aggression was to blame. On the other were the revisionists who argued that the United States was the culprit: our hysterical fear of communism turned the Soviet Union into an enemy and provoked a witch-hunt of innocent Americans at home.

With the collapse of the Soviet empire and the opening of the archives, the revisionist line, never very persuasive, has been given a fresh pasting. These two new books go some way toward clearing up the question of Soviet espionage in the United States. Both show that Stalin and company were treating the United States as an enemy long before the Cold War began.

Weinstein is no stranger to Cold War con

130 WQ Spring 1999

troversies: his earlier work, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case, enraged the American Left by demonstrating that Alger Hiss was in fact a Soviet agent. Vassiliev is a former KGB agent. Based on thousands of classified Soviet documents, their book suggests that New Deal Washington was riddled with Americans spying for the Soviet Union. Congressman Samuel Dickstein, Treasury official Harry Dexter White, State Department official Laurence Duggan, FDR’s personal assistant Laurence Lauchlin—these are just a few of the dramatis personae who figure in Weinstein and Vassiliev’s narrative. The American Left, foremost among its champions the Nation magazine, long maintained the innocence of suspects such as Duggan. But by drawing on Soviet documents, the authors are able to show definitively that Duggan and other spies delivered numerous secret government documents to their Soviet handlers, thereby giving Stalin a window into the workings of official Washington.

While Weinstein and Vassiliev’s book is solid fare, Haynes and Klehr’s is better. Haynes, a historian in the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress, and Klehr, a professor at Emory University, Atlanta, offer a superbly detailed and scholarly examination of Soviet espionage. The authors focus on American decryptions of Soviet cables during World War II. These cables, only recently declassified, indicate that the Communist Party of America did not, as revisionist historians maintain, act independently of Moscow, focusing on social work. Instead, according to Haynes and Klehr, the Venona transcripts "expose beyond cavil the American Communist party as an auxiliary of the intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union."

Defenders of Hiss and other spies argue that the Soviet cables cannot be trusted. They say that the agents, trying to impress their bosses back home, embellished or downright invented sources. Haynes and Klehr say this is bunk. They detail the intricate recruiting process and note that "a faked or exaggerated source would show up quickly and might entail severe consequences for the offending officer. In most cases Moscow expected the delivery of actual or filmed documents of reports written personally by the source."

The implications of these findings are not trivial. Had American spies not handed over atomic secrets, Haynes and Klehr argue, Stalin would not have been able to build the bomb so quickly and might have hesitated before authorizing North Korea’s incursion into the South. What is more, the authors contend, President Harry S. Truman’s efforts to ferret out spies during the late 1940s were no overreaction, but a necessary corrective to years of indulgence toward Soviet skullduggery.

Neither of the books succeeds in plumbing the motivations of Moscow’s American spies. Surely one reason for the readiness of Americans to betray their country was the naive belief that the Soviet Union was the only power in the 1930s standing up to fascist Germany. Nevertheless, these two books shatter the fable of communist innocence in America.

—Jacob Heilbrunn

THE PRIDE OF HAVANA: A History of Cuban Baseball.

By Roberto González Echevarría. Oxford Univ. Press. 464 pp. $35

As a boy in the late 1940s and early ’50s, I whiled away my time poring over sports magazines and baseball books, soaking up the lore and memorizing names, dates, and sta-

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