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Ron Radosh

I.F. Stone: Soviet Spy

April 22nd, 2009 - 4:09 pm

In my very first week of blogging, I wrote about the revered late left-wing journalist, I.F. Stone. Sure, Izzy charmed a lot of his supporters. But as I noted, he was most well known for being an apologist for Stalinism, and a journalist who at the time of the Korean War, perpetrated Soviet disinformation that the war was started by South Korea with the backing of the United States.

Until now, there has been only highly circumstantial evidence indicating that for several years Stone may have been a KGB agent. Now, John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev in their soon to be published book, Spies:The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, present new evidence that indeed this was the case. Actual KGB files they examined, scrupulously copied from the originals by Vassiliev, offer us proof that from 1936 to 1938, Stone was in fact a Soviet agent. The chapter giving the data now appears on the website of Commentary magazine.

There is simply no more room for doubt. As the New York KGB station agent reported in May of 1936, “Relations with ‘Pancake’ [Stone's KGB name] have entered ‘the channel of normal operational work.’” For the next few years, the authors write, “Stone worked closely with the KGB” as a talent spotter and recruiter of other people for KGB work, including William A. Dodd, Jr., son of the US Ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. He also worked with the American Communist Victor Perlo, who while an economist at the War Production Group, led a Soviet espionage apparatus. Perlo compiled material for Stone that he could use in journalistic exposes beneficial to the Soviets.

The Stone revelations cannot help but tarnish Stone’s reputation among the legion of his former supporters.  Finding some humor in this, Marty Peretz, writing today in his TNR blog, says the revelations are “devastating. Poor Izzy! He will always have attached to his adopted name his code-name, ‘Pancake.’ (His real name was Feinstein.)”

But, as one expects, the folks at The Nation remain adamantly in denial. Eric Alterman wasted no time rushing to the web, on the site of Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, to declare, as the headline puts it, “I.F.Stone Was No Spy.” Alterman argues that Stone could not be a spy, because the dictionary definition of a spy does not fit Stone!  Spies, according to the dictionary, have to give military or naval secrets.  So talent spotting, acting as a courier for other spies, relaying information to KGB agents, and giving the KGB information he found that the Soviets might find useful is not spying.

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