As part of its plan to achieve a worldwide communist revolution, the USSR employed a German communist and publisher to recruit Western intellectuals - among them Gide, Hemingway, Malraux, Dos Passos, Brecht, Dorothy Parker and Lillian Hellman. Koch examines the role played by these writers in the covert and propaganda operations carried out by the USSR between the 1930s and the 1960s. He shows how many idealistic sympathizers, motivated by anti-fascist feelings, became embroiled in a web of terror and deceit and found themselves party to the most debased of Soviet actions, such as the collaboration between Hitler and Stalin in the elimination of their political enemies (a secret clause of the Nazi-Soviet pact).
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An often fascinating--if sometimes aggravating--history that explores how the Soviet Union tried to shape Western cultural opinion in the 1920's and 1930's. Koch (Writing/Columbia; The Bachelors' Bride, 1986, etc.) uses the story of the relatively obscure Communist propaganda master Willi M nzenberg as ``an Ariadne's thread through much in twentieth-century politics.'' M nzenberg--a German publisher and politician who operated largely in France (where he died mysteriously in 1940)--headed a huge media consortium of newspapers, magazines, and film companies, covertly financed by the USSR, that guided Western fellow travelers and propaganda fronts. Luminaries targeted as agents of influence--many of whom enlisted in the service of anti-Fascism--included those who broke quickly with this apparatus (John Dos Passos, Andr Gide); the more easily hoodwinked (Ernest Hemingway, Romaine Rolland, Andr Malraux); and diehard believers (Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Lincoln Steffens, Bertolt Brecht). M nzenberg's phrase for his network- -``Innocents' Clubs''--only begins to hint at the cynicism of the Soviet regime that exploited it. According to Koch, Stalin used the anti-Fascist movement as a cover while he and Hitler made arrangements through their secret services to crush domestic enemies. But the trouble with this grand conspiracy theory is that much of it rests on speculation--particularly when Koch discusses how M nzenberg's right-hand man, Otto Katz, spun a web of espionage that ensnared Bloomsbury's John Strachey, the notorious Cambridge spy ring, and, in America, Whittaker Chambers and his friends Alger Hiss and Noel Field. Here, Koch resorts to words like ``must have,'' ``probably,'' and ``almost certainly,'' indicating that his hunches will be borne out by the opening of Eastern European and Soviet archives. Koch rightly claims that those who led ``double lives'' are crucial to ``the moral life of this century''--but his work rests on too much guesswork, as well as on invective against mostly idealistic, if deluded, 30's liberals. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Brimming with revelations, Koch's astonishing and riveting expose focuses on Willi Munzenberg (c. 1888-1940), a German Communist, founding Bolshevik, Stalin henchman and director of Soviet covert propaganda operations aimed at the West's intelligentsia. Operating out of Paris, where he lived until his murder or suicide, he ran a vast network of controlling newspapers, film companies, magazines and political groups. Munzenberg's propaganda machine, by this account, orchestrated the worldwide campaign on behalf of convicted Italian-American anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, bolstered Soviet movie director Sergey Eisenstein's reputation in the West, infiltrated England's Bloomsbury coterie and forged links with the infamous Cambridge spy ring of Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess and associates. Koch, who heads the writing division at Columbia University's School of the Arts, presents persuasive evidence that Munzenberg's apparatus funded painter Georg Grosz and movie director Erwin Piscator and manipulated a host of writers, artist, journalists, Hollywood performers and public figures, among them Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Andre Gide, Dorothy Parker, Andre Malraux, Felix Frankfurter and Bertolt Brecht. We're shown that many of those targeted did not even suspect they had been singled out by Stalin's operatives. Drawing on Russian archives, interviews and U.S. dossiers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Koch builds a plausible case that Munzenberg's "anti-fascist campaign" served as a cover for a collaboration between the German and Soviet secret services--a collaboration that began years before the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact and helped each dictatorship wipe out its domestic enemies. This real-life spy thriller unveils a major chapter in Soviet espionage.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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