WASHINGTON (AP) Papers that had been stashed in Siberia since Americas Red Scare detail Communist Party efforts to recruit blacks in Harlem, steal State Department secrets and organize sharecroppers.
Threaded through the nearly half a million pages retrieved by the U.S. government is information on Soviet financing of the Communist Party in America and an ambassadors letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, sent to Moscow by a mole at State.
Experts on the history of the Communist Partys often-hidden activities in the United States say the records, copied in Russia by the Library of Congress, provide an unprecedented view of the radicals at work in the 1920s through 1940s.
This is the most complete archive of American Communist Party materials scholars have ever had available, said Harvey Klehr, history professor at Emory University.
The collection includes letters by and about John Reed, the radical American journalist and early Soviet hero.
Best known for his book Ten Days that Shook the World, an eyewitness account of the Russian revolution that was the subject of the movie Reds,Ý Reed helped organize the Communist Party in the United States and is the only American known to be buried at the Kremlin.
In a 1920 letter to a friend, Reeds wife, Louise Bryant, spoke of her typhoid-stricken husbands death in Moscow and how she watched Soviets pass his grave.
I have been there in the busy afternoon when all Russia hurries by, she wrote. Once some of the soldiers came over to the grave. They took off their hats and spoke very reverently: What a good fellow he was! said one. He came all the way across the world for us. He was one of ours.Ý
Most of the newly opened records were sent to the former Soviet Union by communist organizers in the United States.
They were shipped there for safekeeping and to keep Moscow abreast of U.S. activities, said Klehr, author of several books on communists in America.
He said scholarly works on the U.S. party over the past 50 years have been handicapped by piecemeal records, but the new collection fills in many blanks.
John Earl Haynes, a historian at the Library of Congress, first peeked at the records in 1993, following negotiations with Russian archivists.
I really did have to blow off the dust, Haynes said.
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These are records created in America by Americans, mostly about Americans. Now some people may think they were not particularly good Americans, but theyre American records.
The records contain further evidence that communists had infiltrated the State Department in the 1930s.
Included are letters from two U.S. ambassadors in Europe to Roosevelt and a senior State Department official. Thanks to a mole in the department, the confidential correspondence, concerning political and economic matters in Europe, ended up in the hands of Soviets.
Other materials highlight communist attempts to organize sharecroppers in the South in 1934 and blacks, other minorities and even children in Harlem.
Communist staff workers at a farm school organizing sharecroppers in St. Louis wrote to their superiors: The students were given names and addresses in St. Louis to cover their identities.
From the partys perspective, blacks were the most oppressed section of the American population and therefore were prospective recruits.
The partys Harlem organizer in 1934 reported on efforts to develop a proletarian backbone in the broad movement for Negro liberation.
He said 20 children in Harlem were being brought into the cause and party officials were looking into getting them uniforms. Working with children has possibilities of development into a mass movement, he wrote.
Mark Rosenzweig, chief librarian of the New York-based Reference Center for Marxist Studies, which is affiliated with todays Communist Party in America, says the partys work with blacks is a source of pride.
Whatever documentation we can recover about this enriches the story of the party, which is often reduced to a kind of Cold War caricature, he said.
But he said hes disturbed that the party was not appraised of the project to open our records.
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