Willi Münzenberg’s Intellectual Progeny

Lew, one of the most disturbing and challenging books to the court historian status quo regarding the crucial period between the First and Second World Wars is Stephen Koch, Double Lives: Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas Against the West, The Free Press/Macmillian, Inc., 1994 (republished as Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Münzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals, Enigma Books, 2004).

Professor Koch meticulously details the manipulation by the Soviets’ master propagandist Willi Münzenberg of thousands of European and American progressive intellectuals in the inner-war period of the 1920s and 1930s by his vast publishing network and interlocking front organizations under the covert direction of the Communist International (Comintern) and the Soviet secret services of the NKVD and the GRU. He particularly concentrates upon the intellectual elite that fell under Münzenberg’s sway in this cultural war against the West. This includes such eminent persons as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Andre’ Malraux, Andre’ Gide, Pablo Picasso, Dorothy Parker, George Grosz, Lincoln Steffens, John Dos Passos, Bertolt Brecht, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett and Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

This volume shatters myth after historical myth of this critical period.

Münzenberg, Koch states, “developed what may well be the leading moral illusion of the twentieth century: the notion that in the modern age the principal arena of the moral life, the true realm of good and evil, is political.” The notion that — the ethical is the political — and that the highest form of ethical expression was “anti-fascism,” — with the Soviet Union as the publicly-identified, ideologically most dedicated opponent of fascism, thus holding the moral high ground. This myth was actually built upon the basest of lies.

This duplicitous legacy of Willi Münzenberg continues today with our establishment regime media and court intelligentsia’s amoral war against truth in the guise of “fake news,” disinformation and deceit. They too have their bi-coastal cohort of celebrity idiots and narcissistic fools in Hollywood and New York echoing this specious group-think. 

As Koch demonstrates, from the earliest days of the National Socialist regime in Germany, beginning with the Reichstag Fire less than a month after Hitler became Chancellor, a sinister covert relationship between Nazi secret intelligence and their Soviet counterpart existed.

This clandestine cooperation continued throughout the decade. Hitler’s massacre of Ernst Rohm and his S. A. leadership in the Night of the Long Knives. Stalin’s terror purge of CPSU party members, feckless intellectuals, military officers (most notably Field Marshal Tukhachevsky’s betrayal by documents forged in a Gestapo laboratory), and the murder of tens of millions of ordinary Soviet citizens, reaching its culmination in the Hitler-Stalin Non-Aggression Pact of August, 1939. Publicly the Soviet Union and their international Popular Front network (of what were secretly designated “useful idiots” or “Innocents’ Clubs”) preached “anti-fascism.” Covertly Stalin sought accommodation, appeasement, and eventual alliance with Hitler.

Besides fascinating details dealing with the duplicitous Reichstag Fire trials, the Cambridge Five British espionage scandal, the Spanish Civil War as an international component to Stalin’s Great Terror, and finally Münzenberg’s own mysterious murder, one of the most intriguing aspects of Koch’s study involves the use of women espionage agents.

“Many of the ‘Münzenberg-men’ were women.” The Russian writer and historian Nina Berberova writes with astringent authority about a cohort of agents or near-agents, the women whom she calls the “Ladies of the Kremlin.” These were women who became influential figures in European and American intellectual life partly on their own, but above all through the men in their lives. The men, most often, were famous writers, ‘spokesmen for the West,’ Meanwhile, the consorts whom they most trusted were guided by the Soviet services.

“Leading this list were two members of the minor Russian aristocracy: the Baroness Moura Budberg, who was mistress to both Maxim Gorky and H. G. Wells, and the Princess Maria Pavlova Koudachova. Moura Budberg’s links to the Soviets were shadowy, and remained secret for decades, until they were at last exposed by the Russian historian Arkady Vaksberg in his 1997 book, The Gorky Secret. We have more certain knowledge about the Princess Koudachova, who first became secretary, later mistress, wife, and at last widow to the once enormously celebrated pacifist novelist Romain Rolland.

“Maria Pavlova Koudachova was an agent directly under Soviet secret service control. There is some questionable evidence to suggest that she was trained and assigned to Rolland’s life even before she left Russia after the Revolution. . . That she was a secret service operative, however, and one expressly planted in Rolland’s life, cannot be doubted. Babette Gross (common-law wife of Willi Munzenberg) put it to me plainly in the summer of 1989. ‘She was an apparatchik,’ she said flatly. ‘And she ran him.'” (Koch, page 28).

Koch proceeds to discuss other women deep within the Communist apparat, such as the American Ella Winter, and their distinguished men of distinction. In Winter’s case, the men were pioneer muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens, and upon his death, Hollywood screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart, part of Hemingway’s circle immortalized in The Sun Also Rises. Stewart was the Academy Award-winning author of The Philadelphia Story, and one of the highest-paid screenwriters of the day, notes Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley in Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s, Crown Forum, 1998. He was also one of “the most vociferous guardians of the Party line,” especially through the vexatious days of the Nazi-Soviet Pact (Billingsley, page 82).

Upon reading these various accounts a pattern soon develops. The profiles were remarkably similar. The men were all internationally known novelists, artists, playwrights, etc. celebrated for their independence of mind, their supposed integrity of spirit, but in actuality men who were manipulated by their muses.

The technique proved very successful in this inner war period.

There is no reason to believe that the Communist intelligence services ceased to use these agents of influence during the years of the Cold War.

Yoko Ono, phone your office.”

 

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9:27 pm on June 22, 2018