This is the most recent installment of exclusive interviews with Dr. Paul Kengor, professor at Grove City College, on his book revealing how communists, from Moscow to New York to Chicago, have long manipulated America’s liberals/progressives. Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century is based on an unprecedented volume of declassified materials from Soviet archives, FBI files, and more.
Larry Schweikart, author of A Patriot’s History of the United States, calls Dupes “a great contribution.” Burt Folsom, author of New Deal or Raw Deal, says Dupes is “so fascinating and so revealing that I couldn’t put it down.” Fred Barnes calls it “an incredibly important book.”
Big Peace: Professor Kengor, last week we discussed FDR and Harry Hopkins. Hopkins, as you’ve shown, may have been a communist loyal to the Soviet Union, and not the “progressive” we assumed was loyal to President Roosevelt.
Kengor: As I said, some of the “progressives” weren’t really progressives but were communists exploiting the progressive label to dupe progressives. They did this quite cynically and successfully, whether from CPUSA headquarters in New York or Comintern headquarters in Moscow. It’s fascinating, and would be hilarious if not so sad, that the Soviets even took to referring to Stalin as a progressive. In fact, the Soviet Ministry of Education–which, for the record, adored John Dewey, the leading progressive educator in America–framed Stalin as “the great leader of the Soviet people and of all progressive mankind.”
You can see that Soviet education was likewise filled with progressive nonsense.
Big Peace: Joe Stalin, great progressive, leader of progressives everywhere?
Kengor: That was the party line. Likewise, some self-proclaimed “progressives” serving FDR weren’t actually progressives but were communists masquerading as progressives in order to penetrate, manipulate, and influence the administration. Alger Hiss is an infamous example, as were Lauchlin Currie, Harry Dexter White. They preyed upon genuine progressives, who they duped–as they duped the president himself.
Hopkins is one of those who may have been a closet communist masquerading as a progressive. That’s what some believe, especially experts who have dissected the Venona transcripts. As I lay out carefully in Dupes, with all the sources and footnotes, Hopkins may have been “Agent 19.”
Big Peace: You continue to be cautious, using words like “may have.” Others are more certain.
Kengor: Yes. The leading authority on Venona, Herb Romerstein, who himself was once a communist, who remains America’s top expert on the communist movement, and to whom I dedicate the book, is convinced that Hopkins served the other side. “He was a dedicated Soviet agent,” Romerstein told me categorically. “He was both a spy, that is, he supplied information, and an agent of influence.” Hopkins was not a dupe, says Romerstein, but one who sought out dupes, even in the White House.
Big Peace: Not only in the White House but the Oval Office?
Kengor: Hopkins was the president’s right-hand man, chief political adviser, confidant, troubleshooter, and sometimes diplomat. FDR saw him more than any aide. “You’ll learn what a lonely job this is,” said a vulnerable FDR to presidential aspirant Wendell Wilkie, “and you’ll discover the need for somebody like Harry Hopkins, who asks for nothing except to serve you.”
The common claim is that Hopkins alone wielded more power than the State Department. He accompanied Roosevelt to the major conferences of World War II: Casablanca, Tehran, Yalta. Nowhere was he more instrumental than on policy toward Stalin’s state, especially via the Lend-Lease program. He was sent to Moscow to negotiate with Stalin.
I can’t go into all that here, including really remarkable material on Hopkins’ possible assistance to the Soviet a-bomb, namely through securing uranium. It requires too much nuance and sensitivity to deal with adequately here. These are significant charges, and I always, always, always want to be fair to people.
Big Peace: On page 165 of Dupes, you have a startling quote from FDR accepting really bad advice from Hopkins on Stalin, even as a shrewder adviser was trying to warn him.
Kengor: That quote has been deliberately ignored by FDR’s academic hagiographers. The shrewd adviser was William Bullitt, FDR’s first ambassador to the USSR, who had been so gushingly pro-Bolshevik that he planted a literal kiss on Stalin’s cheek. Mercifully, Bullitt came around, awakening to the unmistakable death stench that was Stalinism. No longer ambassador, he warned FDR not only of communists abroad but within his midst–of a Stalinist “Fifth Column.”
But here again, much like another adviser (George Earle) trying to warn FDR on the Katyn massacre, this wasn’t what the president wanted to hear. FDR replied: “Bill, I don’t dispute your facts [or] the logic of your reasoning. I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of man. Harry [Hopkins] says he’s not and that he doesn’t want anything but security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.”
Big Peace: “If I give him everything I possibly can?” “Noblesse oblige?” “Will work with me for a world of democracy and peace?” FDR was referring to Stalin?
Kengor: Yes. In another context, by the way, FDR said Stalin had taught him something about “the way in which a Christian gentleman should behave.” Breathtaking stuff, truly astonishing.
Anyway, a stunned Bullitt argued with the president, informing the Hyde Park patrician that he was not dealing with a British Duke but with “a Caucasian bandit, whose only thought when he got something for nothing was that the other fellow was an ass.” Uncle Joe’s jackass, if you will.
Bullitt tried to tell FDR that there was no “factual evidence” that Stalin was a good man. FDR, however, felt differently. He saw Stalin as a “kind” man, a gentleman, one he could work with to advance democracy and peace. The president concluded to Bullitt: “It’s my responsibility, not yours, and I’m going to play my hunch.”
Big Peace: In your book, you have a long footnote detailing all the FDR biographers who ignore this quote or remove the Harry Hopkins portion.
Kengor: The line, “Harry [Hopkins] says he’s not,” is replaced by an ellipsis; that is, by the rare FDR chronicler who even bothers to acknowledge even a portion of the larger quote. It’s too damning. To acknowledge the Hopkins’ line is just too much for Roosevelt’s torch-carriers. Even worse in their eyes is that such truths might validate allegations of anti-communists who have long maintained that FDR was duped by men sympathetic to or serving Joe Stalin.
This is how the liberal bias in academia (not to mention journalism) is manifested. They simply ignore or bury information that distorts their preferred reality.
Big Peace: Let’s wrap up like we did the last interview. Tie this to your point on progressives, past and present. This is the big-picture issue.
Kengor: There’s a major lesson in this, which applies acutely today, as we again struggle to deal with “progressives” and communists who are suddenly surging under Barack Obama, after being basically dead after eight years of Ronald Reagan and the death of the USSR. Once again, it’s difficult to tell when the progressives are liberals being duped by communists or are actually closet communists duping liberals as they masquerade as progressives. Look at the group, Progressives for Obama, spearheaded by ’60s radicals like Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, and Mark Rudd. Are they really progressives, or are they simply seizing the label to advance an agenda similar to what they advocated as communists?
And amazingly, these far-left elements are only resurgent because of the utterly oblivious moderates and independents who voted Obama president, in a landslide, in November 2008–as we covered in a previous “Big Dupes.”
So, we must look carefully to try to discern the wolves in sheep’s clothing. It’s when we are fooled, misled, deceived, duped, that a tiny fringe minority like the communists are able to gain influence they’d otherwise never have openly and honestly, whether in the 1930s or today.