Back to Sines & Cosines



"The fight over the nature of American Communism is a fight about the nature of American culture today," says political scientist Harvey Klehr in an interview about his book "The Soviet World of American Communism."

Members of the American Communist Party followed Moscow's dictates lock-step, despite knowing the bloody path the Soviets were taking. That's the view Harvey Klehr takes in his new book "The Soviet World of American Communism" (Yale University Press). Klehr, a professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta, has spent his career studying radical movements. In the summer of 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Klehr became the first Western scholar to visit the archives of the Communist International, or Comintern, in Moscow. He was seeking to expand the scant documentary evidence on the ties between the Communist Party of the United States of America and the Soviet Union. In those first days, the Russians were eager to prove how open and democratic they were, and Klehr returned to America with armloads of documents, some marked top secret.

In 1995, on the basis of the Comintern documents, Klehr and two colleagues published "The Secret World of American Communism," detailing Soviet-sponsored espionage in the United States. In "The Soviet World of American Communism, Klehr, John Earl Haynes and Kiril Mikhailovich Anderson look at the American communist movement in the years between 1919 and 1943, and how it faithfully followed Moscow's zig-zaging Party line.

"This book is really about the people who were the core of the Party," Klehr says. "Not just the leadership, but the long-term membership. There were a lot of people in the membership who were in the Party for years and years and years, and they went through change of line and change of line. And these people had to have known the nature of the Party."

What follows is a transcript of my interview with Klehr.

Stalin's pic from the J.V. Stalin Archive