I.F. Stone: case not closed

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Commentary declared "case closed" on the accusations that liberal muckraker I. F. Stone (website, Wikipedia) spied for the Soviets, asserting that "Charges about Stone's connections with the KGB have been swirling about for more than a decade, prompting cries of outrage among his passionate followers. Until now, the evidence was equivocal and subject to different interpretations. No longer:"

To put it plainly, from 1936 to 1939 I.F. Stone was a Soviet spy.

That Stone chose never to reveal this part of his life strongly suggests that he knew just how incompatible it would be with his public image as a courageous and independent journalist. His admirers, who have so strenuously denied even the possibility of such an alliance, have no choice now but to reevaluate his legacy.

D. D. (American Radical) Guttenplan's "Red Harvest" at The Nation observes that the accusers "can't be relied on to acknowledge internal evidence that contradicts their thesis," but also that "their command of the external evidence--the overall historical context--is even less convincing." Guttenplan lays out the details quite convincingly, and Eric Alterman notes that the accusation against Stone suffers from a massive definitional failure:

Stone did not obtain any secret information of any kind, nor even any government information of any kind, much less that related to military or naval affairs. He had access to none during the course of his work as a well-known radical journalist and there is no indication whatsoever that he ever attempted to secure it surreptitiously. (In fact, Stone's famous methodology--one that has inspired tens of thousands of bloggers today--was to find information about official malfeasance that was available on the record in published government documents, but that went largely ignored by the then-MSM.)

The fact that "Stone had a few conversations with Soviet agents who were working undercover in order to help them identify people in Berlin who might be helpful in opposing Hitler and the Nazis" is hardly criminal, especially considering that "Stone's decision to aid the Soviets against the Nazis was exactly the same one made by the United States government after Hitler's Barbarossa invasion."

Stone's accusers do not mention that, "for literally decades after World War II, the FBI maintained a constant watch on Stone's actions, and particularly during the height of the McCarthy-era hysteria, were never able to locate a single questionable action from the standpoint of his loyalty to his country or his principles."

So what do we have? I think the following: A man of avowed anti-Fascist sympathies, and to my mind, still-foolishly naïve about Stalin and the Soviet Union, agreed on a couple of occasions to help those whom he believed to be actually fighting fascism, while his own country, still mired in childish isolationism, preferred to look away. He stopped, however, immediately following the Hitler-Stalin pact of August 1939...

Alterman concludes that "nothing the authors claim to have uncovered would be used by a careful historian, unmotivated by either anti-Stone or anti-liberal animus, to declare Izzy Stone to have been a 'spy':"

They say, "case closed." I say, lucky for them that it's impossible to libel a dead man.


update (5/19 @ 12:59pm)
For those who are highly motivated, the Wilson Center's Cold War International History Project has posted all 1,115 pages of the Vassiliev Notebooks (h/t: pha7boy at SlashDot).

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on May 18, 2009 9:31 PM.

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