Something to Fear
The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial, by Scott Martelle (Rutgers, 296 pp., $26.95)


Martelle also writes that one defendant, Gil Green, acknowledged that he had, in a speech, urged the use of violence to attain the party’s goal of achieving Communism in America. Green, he writes, “admitted that he had at times advocated violence — though only . . . if, ‘heaven forbid, America becomes the victim of a fascist dictatorship and change became impossible by orderly, majority, and, above all, democratic means.’” Martelle accepts this as a solid explanation. He ignores what he has, earlier in the book, demonstrated: that, hard as it is to comprehend, in 1949 the CPUSA believed that the U.S. was most of the way to fascism already, and that Pres. Harry S. Truman was the leader of the Wall Street warmongers who desired war with the USSR and the head of an essentially fascist government. Thus Green’s own words reveal that the prosecution was indeed correct in its assertion that the Communists were advocating force and violence, necessary because they lived in a fascist America.

Another defendant, Carl Winter, admitted that — in Martelle’s paraphrase — “the new communist government might have to use force to dissolve class distinctions and against the ‘repressive’ police forces.” According to Martelle, the defendants’ “long-winded answers decrying capitalism and the failures of the modern state to defend the poor and minorities reinforced [the prosecution’s] argument that these men were dangerous radicals bent on sowing the seeds of revolution.” Of course it did — because they were. After the guilty verdict came in, a few of the convicted defendants fled while on bail, and hid out for years. One of them was World War II hero Robert Thompson, who had received the Distinguished Service Cross. He came to the home of another underground party cadre, Carl Ross, asking to be put up in a safe house. He told Ross it was important that he, Thompson, stay free because he was both a senior CP leader and had military experience in both World War II and the Spanish Civil War, and he would be needed to lead U.S. Communist guerrillas against the American fascist regime, or during World War III should war break out between the U.S. and Russia.

So when key FBI informants — including ex-Communist Louis Budenz and Herbert Philbrick, an FBI infiltrator into the party — testified that, in the event of domestic repression, they would have become underground saboteurs, they were telling the truth. John Gates and Gil Green, two of the defendants who contended that that was not true, were both lying.

Years after the trial, I came to know John Gates. As I sat with him by a swimming pool in upstate New York one summer, he told me that going to prison was the best thing that had happened to him, because it was there that he both discovered America and learned the need to break away from the sectarian Communist world. In prison, he said, he had time to read and think. Later, after Khrushchev’s speech denouncing Stalin and after the Soviet invasion of Hungary, Gates led those American Communists who wanted to change the CP into a democratic organization. Gates would soon leave the party’s ranks and, eventually, go to work for David Dubinsky’s anti-Communist ILGWU garment-workers’ union, where he saw himself for the first time helping patriotic American workers with their real problems. Like Sidney Hook, Gates proudly defined himself as an anti-Communist social democrat, and strongly defended the U.S. war in Vietnam.

How unfortunate that writer Scott Martelle, unlike John Gates, still sees the U.S. during the Cold War years as a repressive power bent on stifling the free speech of innocent revolutionaries.

– Mr. Radosh, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, blogs regularly at He is the author of a memoir, Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left.

August 29, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 16

Books, Arts & Manners
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
The Bent Pin  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .