Red and Black Tragedy, Part II

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After presenting letters detailing all the wonderful things the “various peace movements in the CP, USA” were up to, posing the idea of a “Negro magazine dealing with theoretical questions” [1] and asking for $300,000 and health care treatment in the Soviet Union for CPUSA’s aging leaders, Jackson started complaining about the leadership of the Party’s National Executive Committee and said that the Party’s policies toward the “Negro question” needed to be updated. As recounted by Ronald Radosh, based on the FBI files, Suslav then

tells the comrades that the Party has to give up its thesis that American blacks composed a separate nation and had to fight for the right of self-determination for its majority in the black belt of the South. Suslov, who under Brezhnev would become the chief ideologue of Moscow, told them they cannot make policy based on 30 year old Comintern directives, at a time when American blacks lived in urban areas and were fighting for Civil Rights and desegregation. He gave them the go ahead to get involved in the freedom movement that was then beginning to emerge, and join its fight in order to try and give it direction.

Thereafter, O’Dell was assigned by the Party to infiltrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and work his way to becoming one of Dr. King’s top advisors.

King had a natural revulsion to the inherent violence of Soviet Communism. As he wrote to his future wife, Coretta Scott, in 1952, he preferred Edward Bellamy-style utopianism to Communism:

I think you noticed that Bellamy emphasized that the [change] would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. This, it seems to me, is the most sane and ethical way for social change to take place. This, it will be remembered, is one of the points at which socialism differs from communism, the former [illegible] emphasizing evolution and the latter revolution. Communist would insist that the means justify the end. So if lulling a thousand people will bring about a good end the act is ethically justifiable. It is at the point that I am radically opposed to communism. Destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends. The mean does not necessarily justify the end, for, I would insist that the end is pre-existent in the mean. [King to Coretta Scott, 18 July 1952, in Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers: 6:123–126]

After his early successes in attaining his Civil Rights goals, Dr. King’s emphasis shifted toward more radical economic and political demands, the most noteworthy of which being his April 4, 1967 speech demanding an end to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, proclaiming the U.S. government as “The Greatest Purveyor of Violence in the World Today.” What prompted Dr. King to speak out against the Vietnam war was an article and photo essay run in the January 1967 edition of Ramparts magazine entitled “The Children of Vietnam,” which claimed that (from 1961 up until the time the article was written) nearly half-a-million children had been killed as a result of American actions, particularly the use of napalm, and presented 22 photographs purporting to show children injured by American bombs. A problem with the story became immediately apparent when it was reported that the statistic the authors — one-time card-carrying Communist Benjamin Spock [2] and “New” Left Marxist William Pepper — cite for the number of children killed by US forces was fraudulent. Pepper claimed to have gotten a large pre-1963 death number from Hugh Campbell, former Canadian member of the International Control Commission in Vietnam, who was monitoring the war, but when Campell was asked about Pepper’s claims by the Associated Press, Campell stated that he said no such thing (Leroy F. Aarons, “High Figure Is Put On Vietnam War’s Toll of Civilians,” The Washington Post, December 23, 1966).

When I sent a copy of the essay to General Ion Mihai Pacepa, former chief of Communist Romanian intelligence and the highest-ranking Soviet-bloc intelligence official ever to have defected to the United States, and asked if the authors lied about the statistics, then what else might they have about, he responded:

I saw hundreds of very similar pictures showing so-called children victimized in Vietnam that my Romanian service, the DIE, got from the [Soviet-run and financed] Stockholm Conference and from the KGB. They were all produced in the KGB’s photo labs … The Disinformation department of the Stockholm Conference and the Disinformation department of the KGB sent them to my Disinformation Department, to be used in various disinformation operations. Most of these pictures were further sent by my DIE to the Italian, Greek, and Spanish Communist Parties, whose logistic and propaganda departments were serviced by Bucharest. The CPUSA was serviced by the KGB. Ramparts was also directly connected with the KGB.

According to Clarence Jones, the King advisor who helped put together the “I Have a Dream” speech, King had turned down Jones’s moderate drafts for a Vietnam speech and opted for the advice given by more radical advisors (Jones discussed this at a February 29th, 2012, event hosted by Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century at New York City’s New School, an event the author of this report attended. Radical overtones are apparent in King’s flawed retelling of the Vietnam War’s history, which contained many of the false anti-war clichés of the time. (A transcript and audio of the speech is available here. Dr. King’s history of the war can be fact-checked with the video and transcript of a July 27, 2004 event, “Viet-Myths” conference.)

Though O’Dell had succeeded in distracting King from his vital Civil Rights work, it was not before King and the authentically American Civil Rights movement dealt the legal and political death blow to national shame of segregation. The promise of Civil Rights to all Americans was realized – and it was done so without a Communist Revolution. The Party had failed.


1. Two years later, Jackson would co-found Freedomways — a magazine in which, as stated by Paul Buhle in the Marxist-Leninist Monthly Review, “no one wrote more often … essays and unsigned editorials alike” than Jack O’Dell – and Jackson would serve as the managing editor from 1961-86.

2. Spock’s sister, Hiddy told his biographer, “He actually showed me his membership card in the Communist Party.” [Thomas Maier, Dr. Spock: An American Life, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998, pg. 111.]

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  • richard sherman

    Wonderful journalism that the mainstream media will never touch because they love the Communist blood soaked ground( 100 million dead and counting) that Robeson walked on

  • patriotwork

    Blacks were used and are used by the left; under communism all are used; all, if equal, are equally nothing.

  • clarespark

    While I was at Pacifica Radio, the CPUSA was ever a strong presence. Jack O'Dell was the President of the Board of Directors while I was Program Director of KPFK, and it was the CP that organized against my integrationist strategy in addressing the problems of minorities: I was purged because members of the anti-Stalinist Left could be heard on the air. I wrote about my adventures at Pacifica here:…. Important to know that the progressive white liberal foundations, along with Berkeley radicals, walked hand in hand with the CP. We can't ignore the lingering effects of the Popular Front, which still afflicts the Democratic Party.

    • mlcblog

      I also attest to this fact, that the CP USA was intricately involved with Pacifica and had tentacles throughout the Bay Area. I myself was influenced by an older woman, a seemingly nice housewife and mother, if a bit odd. She handed me I.F. Stone's Weekly each and every week which I read, at first with abhorrence – my natural Girl Scout conscience was affronted, and then with more resignation. Once, when I saw yet another envelope she was mailing to Gus Hall in SF I asked about it, and she just blew it off, saying if she writes to him that doesn't mean she is a communist. What an education I had, as I followed through the ranks of the 1960's protest movement, becoming an organizer for a few years before life intervened and I was later able to come to my senses about how wonderful this country is and how superior a free enterprise system is (capitalism is a weak word coined by Marx himself in order to make his point). Long live the USA and its freedoms. Our founding fathers were nothing less than brilliant. We are designed for prosperity and success and can withstand the likes of these sluggards and troublemakers if we just stand up to them and their insanities, such as govt regulations and taxing us out of business.

      In a You Tube I just reviewed, Mr. Hall says that socialism is the next step after capitalism and better and inevitable. Fie!

  • ArkAshamedOBill

    The Martin Luther King Jr. account is severely flawed. Mr. Mitsotakis needs to check the epilogue of Joe Morgan’s “Reds,” which draws heavily from David Garrow, and Richard Gid Powers’s “Broken.” This piece fails to mention King’s strategist and principal adviser, Stanley David Levison, a Party member until at least 1963 (according to FBI informants). Powers says that JFK and RFK contronted King with Levison’s and O’Dell’s Communism in 1963 and obtained King’s promise to sever his relations with them. King evenutally cut off O’Dell but never broke with Levison. It was Levison who persuaded King to support the Communist victory in Indochina. King’s association with O’Dell and Levison obviously contradicted the anti-Communism necessary for a commitment to democratic principles, and his desire to replace free market capitalism with a social democratic welfare state was a profound rejection of the principles of the American Founders.

    • mlcblog

      MLK was also influenced later on in such unpatriotic positions as opposing the war in Vietnam, when the vast black populace and general populace was still patriotic. The anti-American stance of the communists I believe had a lot to do with his later position on the war. It was so out of character with MLK's early conscientiousness.

  • Iratus Vulgas

    Liberals have a strange attitude towards the rise and fall of Communism. They seem to treat it like a bad dream from which we awoke, and therefore perhaps didn't really happen. But how telling it is that the Left views the death and destruction that Communism created is but a minor blip on their political radar.

    • mlcblog

      ..and they also say, when it fails….again, that it just wasn't tried right. That it needs a fair chance.

  • Ghostwriter

    If Communism succeeded in America,then ALL Americans would be unfree and impoverished. The Communists didn't really care about black people at all. They just wanted to use them as a tool to attack America. Black people would have been impoverished even further if communism has succeeded.

    • Ghostwriter

      I meant had.

  • cynthia curran

    Brown is the new black since Hispanics are growing Occupy and other groups on the left including the communists party seen them as the new black. They are also using blacks and the next group which there are a few are Asians.