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The 'Red' White but Not True Blue: The Truth about Harry Dexter White -- Soviet Agent

As part of his work, he: stole documents which he gave to Whittaker Chambers when he was working for the Soviets in the 1930s; believed it was his duty to give the Soviets what they could not legally obtain during the years of the wartime alliance; favored a pro-Soviet foreign policy; and when he had a chance, used what powers he had to help Stalin’s regime out. In postwar Germany, White  maneuvered to give the Soviet currency plates that were in Western hands, so they could print their own currency and undermine the stability of German currency in the Western sector. This allowed the Soviets to raid “the U.S. Treasury for $300-$500 million, roughly $4.0-$6.5 billion in today’s dollars.”

White might have actually been appointed by President Harry S Truman as the first head of the IMF, created at the Bretton Woods conference, but as Neil writes, J. Edgar Hoover nipped it in the bud. The FBI director told the president that they had evidence White was a “valuable adjunct to an underground Soviet espionage organization,” and that his appointment could undermine the new banking institution.

White later left government, working for Henry A. Wallace’s presidential campaign, the pet public cause of the American Communist Party, believing as Neil puts it: “The 1917 Russian Revolution had been a seminal event in the history of the struggle for human freedom.” As I noted earlier, had Wallace actually won the election, he would have made White Secretary of the Treasury, and the United States would have had a Soviet dupe as president and a Cabinet official who was an actual Soviet agent.

As an official of the U.S. working for the Soviets, Harry Dexter White betrayed his country, giving Stalin information useful to his regime when negotiating with the United States on issues such as securing a more favorable loan term than the U.S. wanted to grant Moscow, and also worked to put other pro-Soviet elements into the U.S. government. When people like White recommended friends for appointments, they were invariably pro-Communist. The goal, as always, was to “shape U.S. Government policy in the Soviet government’s interest,” or so Whittaker Chambers said back in 1953.

So White, who created or helped create a “global free-trade architecture,” believed instead in a state-dominated centralized economy, and thought or hoped that the private enterprise system would continue no longer than five to ten years after the end of World War II, after which it would not survive “as a capitalist island in a world of state trading.”

Fortunately, Harry Dexter White’s predictions were as wrong as the actions he took as a Soviet agent were immoral. What we have learned from White’s hidden career is that Stalin’s agents came in all forms, and the type of individual least expected to be one of his intelligence assets was actually one of his most important. Those who warned about Communist infiltration were correct in their fears and in their arguments. The Red-baiters, and not the Reds, had it right.