The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that "peace" seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world. Most of these analyses lack any larger conceptual framework for distinguishing between what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history, and are predictably superficial. Gorbachev were ousted from the Kremlin or a new Ayatollah proclaimed the millennium from a desolate Middle Eastern capital, these same commentators would scramble to announce the rebirth of a new era of conflict.
This view dominated public and political discourse in the immediate post-World War II decades. After the s public support for this assumption declined but remained strong.
Among scholars, however, Soviet espionage and American communism were distinctly separate activities and linkage between the two was seen as weak or nonexistent. As a consequence, there was little overlap between the historiography of the two fields of study. This paper will review these separate historiographic traditions and how in the late s the two partially merged and appear likely to remain linked for the foreseeable future.
The Historiography of Soviet Espionage in the United States Given the intense public and governmental concern about Soviet espionage in the early Cold War it is not surprising that a vast literature on the subject has accumulated.
What is surprising, however, it that very little of it has been written by historians, political scientist, or others trained in professional scholarship.
Journalists, popular writers, and polemical advocates produced most of the books and essays on Soviet espionage in America, along with a considerable body of memoir and autobiographical writings by people involved in espionage or internal security.
A few example are: A Generation on Trial: Prior to the s there were, in fact, few scholarly books on the history of Soviet espionage. Many academics no doubt shied away from the issue because of the scarcity of primary sources and sensationalistic aspects of the topic.
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He subjected the testimony of leading defectors from Soviet espionage and the Communist Party to a skeptical examination that assumed their testimony was suspect unless unimpeachable documentary corroboration was readily available.
The extravagance of her claims about her espionage contacts, the vagueness of her testimony about the content of the secret material that she allegedly received, the absence of corroboration for most of her story, and above all, her evasiveness as a witness, all combine to raise serious doubts about her reliability.
One does not write a history of what one believes to have been largely mythical. Caute, Theoharis, and others, consequently, wrote not about Soviet espionage but about McCarthyism and what they regarded as manufactured anti-Communist panic about a non-existent link between the American Communist party and Soviet espionage, with the latter treated as insignificant in extent or importance.
Both books withstood angry assaults: Notably, however, no scholars produced a comprehensive response to either book. No historian went over the huge body of evidence that Weinstein, Radosh, and Milton reviewed and wrote a scholarly book setting out the case for the innocence of Alger Hiss or Julius Rosenberg.
Even though a logical conclusion was that Soviet espionage might have been more serious than the prevailing consensus, its full scope remained shrouded. And, despite the lack of competing comprehensive scholarly books taking a contrary stance, a still-significant number of historians continued to insist that Julius Rosenberg and Alger Hiss were innocent.
Nor did the two books stimulate other professional historians to a greater interest in studying the history of Soviet espionage.
Despite her central role in persuading the American public that Soviet spies had thoroughly penetrated the government, there was no scholarly biography of Bentley.
Nor did scholars produce an in depth study of the defector Louis Budenz, the convicted spies Jack Soble and Judith Coplon, the complex Amerasia affair, or the Gouzenko case in Canada with its American implications.
Prior to the s and the collapse of Soviet communism, writing about the history of Soviet espionage in America in the Stalin era remained largely the province of journalists, popular writers, and memoirists. The prevailing academic consensus at the end of the s, while shaken by Perjury and The Rosenberg File, remained committed to a minimalist view of Soviet espionage and saw little involvement by the CPUSA.
The entirely separate historiography of the American Communist movement sustained and supported this belief. It was a thorough survey based on a close reading of the radical press as well as the leaflets, statements, and proclamations put out by the various groups and individuals involved.The main theorist of anarcho-communism, Peter Kropotkin, argued that a revolutionary society should "transform itself immediately into a communist society", that is should go immediately into what Marx had regarded as the "more .
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