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Victor Perlo

Victor Perlo

Victor Perlo, the son of Samuel Perlo, was born in New York City on 15th May, 1912. His Jewish parents had emigrated from Russia to the United States in their youth. His father was a lawyer and his mother a teacher.

Perlo studied mathematics at Columbia University. (1) While a student he joined the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA). He graduated in 1933 and later that year he married Katherine Wills. Perlo also found work as a statistical analyst and assistant to a division chief at the National Recovery Administration (NRA). (2)

In 1934 Harold Ware, a consultant to the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) and a member of CPUSA, established a "discussion group" that included Victor Perlo, Alger Hiss, Nathaniel Weyl, Laurence Duggan, Harry Dexter White, Abraham George Silverman, John Abt, Nathan Witt, Marion Bachrach, Julian Wadleigh, Lee Pressman and Henry Hill Collins. Ware was working very close with Joszef Peter, the "head of the underground section of the American Communist Party." It was claimed that Peter's design for the group of government agencies, to "influence policy at several levels" as their careers progressed". Weyl later recalled that every member of the Ware Group was also a member of the CPUSA: "No outsider or fellow traveller was ever admitted... I found the secrecy uncomfortable and disquieting." (3)

Whittaker Chambers was a key figure in the Ware Group. He later argued: "I do not know how many of those young men and women were already Communists when Ware met them and how many joined the Communist Party because of him. His influence over them was personal and powerful.... But, by 1934, the Ware Group had developed into a tightly organized underground, managed by a directory of seven men. In time it included a number of secret sub-cells whose total membership I can only estimate probably about seventy-five Communists. Sometimes they were visited officially by J. Peters who lectured them on Communist organization and Leninist theory and advised them on general policy and specific problems. For several of them were so placed in the New Deal agencies (notably Alger Hiss, Nathan Witt, John Abt and Lee Pressman) that they were in a position to influence policy at several levels." (4) Collins became treasurer of the Ware Group.

Hope Hale Davis and her husband, Karl Hermann Brunck, were both members of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). They were invited to the home of Charles Kramer, for their first meeting. Also in attendance were Victor Pero, Marion Bachrach and Mildred Kramer. Kramer explained that the CPUSA was organized in units. "Charles... explained that... we would try to limit our knowledge of other members, in case of interrogation, possible torture. Such an idea, he admitted, might seem rather remote in the radical Washington climate, but climates could change fast. In most places members of units knew each other only by their Party pseudonyms, so as not to be able to give real names if questioned."

Kramer explained that as members they were expected to contribute money to the CPUSA: "Basically they would be ten per-cent of our salary, plus occasional extras. We had been warned of this... Charles was explaining that more was expected of us as a privileged group. Our salaries - even in the Depression - were far above the average comrade's. We were permitted - in fact, urged - to win career advancement, usually impossible for open activists. Extra assessments from us would help support comrades who could not make public appeals for funds. While rallies in Madison Square Garden could collect money for such causes as the Scottsboro Boys, there were unknown comrades in the South living on almost nothing - eating with the sharecroppers they were trying to organize - alone and always in danger of being beaten up or shot. We could think of our money going to help them."

Kramer also told the group that in future they should obtain their copies of the Daily Worker and the New Masses from him instead of newsstands. "We must keep away from any place where leftists might gather. We must avoid, as far as possible, associating with radicals, difficult as that would be in Washington." Even outspoken liberals such as Jerome Frank and Gardner Jackson "were out of bounds". Kramer added "we couldn't go near any public protests or rallies."

Hope Hale was encouraged to get articles on politics published in national magazine. Marion Bachrach told the group that she had recently had an a piece published in Atlantic Monthly. Bachrach was currently working on an article on education: "Marion reported that she was writing a profile of a typical American teacher, one lucky enough to be still employed. A quarter of a million teachers had no job, and a huge number worked without pay. In eighteen states they were paid in IOU vouchers called scrip, for which they could never get the stated value. Low as salaries already were, they were constantly being cut. Even so, Chicago owed back salaries amounting to $28 million. Marion's figures showed that at least 200,000 children couldn't go to school for lack of clothes. And there would be many more, she said, but for the teachers themselves. In New York City alone they had given over $3 million to buy hot lunches, shoes and so on, for the children who otherwise wouldn't be able to come to school. Marion planned to show the teacher in her everyday life, handing out her own lunch to hungry-eyed kids around her desk, slipping a sweater or a pair of socks to a cold child in the cloakroom. If teachers hadn't made these sacrifices the country's educational system would have fallen apart totally in the past five years." Bachrach said she hoped to get the article published in Scribner's Magazine. (5)

In June 1935, Victor Perlo moved to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board where he was an analyst for the Home Owners' Loan Corporation. Harold Ware died on 14th August, 1935, following injuries received in a car accident in Harrisburg. Perlo believed that he should succeed Ware as leader of the Ware Group. Joszef Peter disagreed and thought that Nathan Witt should be leader. This created conflict in the group and Peter feared this posed a threat to the existence of this spy network.

Whittaker Chambers explained in Witness (1952) that he was asked by Peter to sort out the dispute: "A crisis, he said, had developed in the Group. Victor Perlo believed that he should succeed Ware as Group leader. He was being stubborn and surly about it. All the other members of the leadership believed that Nathan Witt was Ware's natural heir. A deadlock had resulted, for, though the rest might easily have outvoted Perlo, they did not wish to risk trouble in the Group by alienating him. Peters was also for Witt. So was I. But Peters did not wish to use his authority to act against any member of the Group in favor of another member. Peters asked me if I would come in and, since my personal authority was high with the Group, give my reasons why I was for Witt."

Chambers told Perlo: "I said that we must first of all treat the problem that had arisen as Communists, without personalities, and bearing in mind the peculiar nature of underground work and its unusual requirements, especially in the personal character of leadership. I asked Perlo's pardon for observing that he was a tense and nervous man, and that his very belief in his own qualifications for leadership, while perhaps quite justified, would actually be a handicap so long as it was not shared by the rest of the Group. Of course, we Communists did not believe in any mystical rightness of majorities over minorities, but we did believe in practical solutions to practical problems. Witt was acknowledged to be quiet, firm and solid. He had the confidence of all the members of the Group except Perlo. Therefore, I was for Witt. Perlo, of course, was unconvinced, but he agreed to abide by discipline. Thereafter, he would scarcely speak to me." (6)

Jacob Golos took over from Chambers after he left the Communist Party of the United States of America. He now established a new network headed by Perlo. In November 1939, Perlo went to work for Harry Hopkins as a senior economic analyst in the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce. In 1940 Perlo moved to the Office of Price Administration. Perlo was now a regular supplier of government documents. (7)

After Golos died in November 1943, Elizabeth Bentley became Perlo's new contact. A strong supporter of Joseph Stalin he would ask Bentley: "Is Joe getting the stuff safely?" At nearly every meeting he would ask if Stalin had personally seen the documents. (8) Allen Weinstein, the author of The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999), has claimed that according to his Soviet controller, Iskhak Akhmerov, Perlo was his most important agent. (9)

Victor Perlo divorced his wife in 1943 and they had a bitter dispute over the custody of the daughter. In April 1944 she sent a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt naming her husband and several members of his group, including Henry Hill Collins, Harold Glasser, John Abt, Nathan Witt and Charles Kramer, as Soviet spies. Although she was interviewed by the FBI the people named were not arrested. Kathryn S. Olmsted has argued: "Possibly, the men of the FBI discounted the tale of an unstable, vengeful ex-wife. Or perhaps the tale of Russian espionage did not seem so sinister in 1944, when the brave Soviet allies were battling the Nazis. In any event, Katherine Perlo failed in her quest to destroy her ex-husband, and Elizabeth Bentley survived to spy another day." (10)

Iskhak Akhmerov, the most senior Soviet agent in the United States did take the letter very seriously. However, Perlo now held the important post of special assistant to the director of the Bureau of Programs and Statistics of the War Production Board (WPB). In a message sent to Moscow on 17th September, 1944, Akhmerov wrote: "Some months ago you wrote to me to stop the connection with Perlo for a while, because his ex-wife threatened in a letter to compromise him. I cannot afford to cease the connection with him because... it will be next to impossible to organize the group's work and to establish the connection with its valuable members without his active help... he settles everything... He is undoubtedly the most active one in the group." (11)

In July 1948 Elizabeth Bentley appeared before the House of Un-American Activities Committee and during her testimony named several people she believed had been Soviet spies while working for the United States government. This included Victor Perlo, Harry Dexter White, Abraham George Silverman, Harold Glasser, Nathan Witt, Marion Bachrach, Julian Wadleigh, Henry Hill Collins, Charles Kramer and Lauchlin Currie. Perlo was one of those who took the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer most of the committee's questions. (12)

Victor Perlo lost his government job but was never charged with spying. According to the New York Times his refusal to testify caused him problems: "Mr. Perlo had difficulty finding work after his loyalty was first challenged in 1947 and then in hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1948 and the Senate Committee on Internal Security in 1953. But he later developed a business as an economic consultant and university lecturer... He was known for his analysis of the political economy of American capitalism, comparative economic systems and what he called the economics of racism in the United States." (13)

Books published by Victor Perlo include Trends in the Economic Status of the Negro People (1952), The Income Revolution (1954), The Empire of High Finance (1957), Robbing the Poor to Fatten the Rich (1972), The Unstable Economy (1974), The Economics of Oil Production (1974), Economics of Racism: Roots of Black Inequality (1975), Dynamic Stability: the Soviet Economy Today (1980) and Super Profits: Modern U.S. Capitalism (1988).

Perlo served as the chief economist of the Communist Party of the United States of America. He remained a strong supporter of Joseph Stalin. In 1992, after the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union he denounced Mikhail Gorbachev as an "opportunistic petty-bourgeois capitulation to capitalism". (14)

Victor Perlo died on 1st December, 1999 at his home in Croton-on-Hudson.

Elizabeth responded to the Soviets' orders to turn over her sources by simply ignoring them and continuing to expand her own spy network. Shortly after 1944 began, Browder told her that he had another group of agents ready to deliver information to her. Their current handler, attorney John Abt, was an organizer of labor's political action committee, the CIO-PAC, and could no longer risk any involvement in espionage. Although Golos had planned to take over the spy ring, he died before he could. Browder wanted Elizabeth to be the group's new courier and controller.

In March 1944, Elizabeth had her first meeting with the "Perlo group." On a rainy afternoon in his Manhattan apartment, Abt introduced her to Charlie Kramer, Edward Fitzgerald, Harry Magdoff, and Victor Perlo. She soon learned that there were five more sources who shared information with the group.

The four members of the group she met that day held various jobs in the government: three of them worked for the War Production Board, while Kramer was a staff member of Senator Harley Kilgore's Subcommittee on War Mobilization. Perlo was their undisputed leader.

Perlo's parents had been Russian Jews who had fled to the United States, and the young statistician had an almost reverential awe for the new leaders of his ancestral homeland. One Communist acquaintance remembered him as a dogmatic Leninist who condemned "fuzzy-minded liberals" for promoting inadequate reforms that only delayed the moment when the workers would seize power. At his first meeting with Elizabeth, Perlo asked her anxiously, "Is Joe getting the stuff safely?" At nearly every meeting he would ask if Stalin had personally seen the documents." (In 1992, after the collapse of the country for which he had sacrificed so much, Victor Perlo would denounce Mikhail Gorbachev's "opportunistic petty-bourgeois capitulation to capitalism" and pine for the days of Stalinist order.) His enthusiasm for "Uncle Joe" caused headaches for his fellow agents. For example, he insisted upon publicly accosting fellow spy George Silverman and demanding if he had "anything for Joe." But despite his reputation as a "bull in a china shop," Perlo was indispensable to his spymasters...

At the War Production Board, Perlo gathered information on aircraft production. Magdoff and Fitzgerald also contributed data on industrial production from the WPB, while other members of the group transmitted intelligence from the oss, the Treasury Department, and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration." Kramer added information from congressional investigations of multinational corporations."' When the Soviets impatiently ordered him to give them fewer tales of capitalist perfidy and more intelligence about U.S. foreign policy, he lost his enthusiasm for helping them." Like Remington, Price, and other idealists caught in Elizabeth's web, Kramer discovered that the men in Moscow who wanted his documents were not the romantic People's Warriors he wanted them to be.

Elizabeth's connection with the Perlo group very nearly led to her arrest and exposure. Just one month after she began meeting with Perlo, the FBI learned that it had good reason to begin tailing him. In April 1944, President Roosevelt received a letter naming Victor Perlo and several other Bentley sources as Soviet spies.

The FBI determined that the letter had been written by Perlo's recently divorced wife, Katherine Wills Perlo. A diagnosed schizophrenic, Katherine had lost a bitter battle for custody of their daughter. When agents confronted her, she confirmed the contents of her letter.

But the Perlo letter did not ignite the enthusiasm of the bureau the way Elizabeth's confession later would. There were no urgent telegrams in the middle of the night; no one assigned dozens of agents to follow and bug the people named in the letter. Possibly, the men of the FBI discounted the tale of an unstable, vengeful ex-wife. In any event, Katherine Perlo failed in her quest to destroy her ex-husband, and Elizabeth survived to spy another day.

Victor Perlo (1912-99), like Weyl, was an original member of the Ware Group. He graduated from Columbia University in 1933 with bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics and statistics. Perlo served the Roosevelt administration in various agencies, including the NRA. He left government in 1937 to work for the Brookings Institution, then returned in 1939, working for Harry Hopkins at the Department of Commerce. In 1940 Perlo moved to the Office of Price Administration and by 1943 he was chief of the Aviation Section of the War Production Board. After the AAA purge in 1935 and Ware's death, the Ware Group re-formed under the leadership of John Abt, then Victor Perlo. Mrs. Katherine Perlo, the estranged wife of Victor Perlo, confirmed the existence of the Perlo Group in an anonymous letter to the White House as well as the FBI in 1944, naming Abt, Collins, Kramer, and Witt, and others, as members of the Group.'' In addition, Perlo was named as a Soviet agent by Elizabeth Bentley. When he was called before congressional committees investigating Soviet espionage in the 1930s and 1940s, Perlo invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to provide answers. From the 1960s until his death, Perlo served as the chief economist of the Communist Party in the United States. He was also a board member of the party.

At last Peters joined me. He was worried. A crisis, he said, had developed in the Group. Peters asked me if I would come in and, since my personal authority was high with the Group, give my reasons why I was for Witt.

I went in. I said that we must first of all treat the problem that had arisen as Communists, without personalities, and bearing in mind the peculiar nature of underground work and its unusual requirements, especially in the personal character of leadership. Therefore, I was for Witt.

Perlo, of course, was unconvinced, but he agreed to abide by discipline. Thereafter, he would scarcely speak to me. Later, according to Elizabeth Bentley, he rose to the leadership he coveted in her espionage group.

One major group of American sources for Soviet intelligence had become a "lost tribe" for a time during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Some of its members, including John Abt and Victor Perlo, had taken part during the thirties either in Harold Ware's Group or Whittaker Chambers's (CRU military intelligence) Washington networks or both. Chambers's defection in 1938 and the consequent fear of exposure doubtless caused several in the group to curtail cooperation for a time.

A shortage of Soviet operatives in the United States during this period coincided with the purges underway in the USSR. The result was an unusual situation: a significant number of American sources pursuing a tiny cadre of professional Soviet intelligence operatives. In 1939-40 alone, Moscow recalled seven experienced case officers from the United States, leaving a number of highly placed intelligence sources within the government without couriers or contacts. Until the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941, moreover, the few Soviet operatives still on U.S. soil were more likely to be pursuing Trotskyists and Nazi-fascist agents in their own midst than Roosevelt Administration secrets.

With the emergence of an anti-Nazi wartime alliance of the United States, England, and the Soviet Union beginning in the summer of 1941, NKVD and GRU interest in classified materials related to the war effort increased dramatically.

We set out for our first Party meeting on a mild winter evening. To passersby we must have appeared as we were meant to - just one more strolling pair of lovers. "Act as if you're visiting us socially," Charles had murmured, bending over my desk with his finger on a line of milk-price figures.

As we walked I must have said it felt strange to go to a meeting on the very Euclid Street where at age eighteen I had lived with my mother in a "light housekeeping" room. Refusing to go to Iowa university as a poor "town girl" I wanted to be "independent." But Mother had come with me to Washington.

The Kramer apartment was not in one of those row houses, where everyone sees who comes and goes. In a modern building, with an unusual entrance at the back, it seemed almost too obviously suited for conspiratorial purposes.

There was no lobby, just a bare, open stairway, where we found Charles leaning over the fourth-floor railing. As we reached the top he greeted us with a warm smile I had never seen before.

In the office I had first met him as a morose man named Krevisky. The change to Kramer had not caused much comment, perhaps because he never took part in the camaraderie of the staff. Among all these vocal New Dealers his silence had made me curious. When I came to know him better I would realize that he had to keep his lips shut tight to hold in his rage and scorn.

Inside the apartment his wife Mildred was waiting, a shy southern girl with ash-blond hair and the pallor of the Appalachian children whose pictures we had been publishing in our articles about how Subsistence Homesteads would better their lot. Beyond her, in the light of a bridge lamp, a boy knelt trying to untie a bundle wrapped in brown paper. He looked up distractedly, biting his lip and brushing back his hair, when Charles spoke his name, Victor Perlo. A mathematical prodigy, he had been at City College in New York with Charles. Now at age twenty-one he was a full-fledged statistician. The other member of the unit, Marion Bachrach, looked small and hunched in a deep canvas sling chair. But her face was fine-featured, with intelligent brown eyes and smiling, receptive lips.

Charles began talking in an assured voice I hardly recognized as his. He explained that though there might be changes - a comrade had already been drawn away to head another unit - we would try to limit our knowledge of other members, in case of interrogation, possible torture. In most places members of units knew each other only by their Party pseudonyms, so as not to be able to give real names if questioned. But here in Washington, where the New Dealers were always meeting one another socially, we'd run the opposite risk, of using the Party name at the wrong time. But though they would be used only on official records, we should each choose one now.

I listed myself as Mary MacFarland, after my strong-willed, talented musician aunt who had died in Mother's arms at the age of twenty. To me she was a romantic figure; for exactly the opposite reasons Hermann chose the unremarkable name, Walter Becker.

Continuing about precautions, Charles warned us that Marion's husband, who as a nonmember must be kept in ignorance, caused practical problems. Marion had made every effort to bring him close enough to recruit, but though sympathetic he had the typical liberal's fear of committing himself. Charles turned to Marion. "is that a fair statement?"

"Let's just put it," Marion said, "that he's a wise old bird."

Charles smiled, but in a strained way. Even I, new to the Party, felt a slight shock. It would take a while to learn that under Marion's mischief was a dedication deeper than that of many comrades who religiously parroted the official line.

She would rise to the next-to-highest national rank in the Party, be indicted under the Smith Act, and escape trial only by death. Charles went on to say that Marion was a writer who had published in Atlantic Monthly. We would hear later about her project.

But first came collection of dues. Basically they would be ten per-cent of our salary, plus occasional extras. We had been warned of this. It had given Hermann some concern, since he sent a regular stipend to his friend Ernst, who was on the last lap of his doctorate in chemistry. But we could manage, I was sure. Mary and I had proposed a consumer column to McCall's magazine which they seemed about to take. And in free-lancing I had ranged from Snappy Stories to the New Yorker.

Charles was explaining that more was expected of us as a privileged group. We could think of our money going to help them.

I hardly needed his persuasion any more, I suppose, than my mother had needed the minister's persuasion to find somehow an extra quarter or half dollar for a foreign missionary. And Party dues of ten percent-thirty dollars out of my three hundred a month seemed quite normal to one whose mother tithed. She had given to the Lord's work ten percent of an income that was sometimes as low as fifteen dollars a month, even including what my oldest brother earned by chopping wood for neighbors.

Hermann was taking out his penknife; he cut the cord that Victor Perlo had been struggling to untie. (When he told me later that he had seen the address - John Smith on Third Street northeast I had visions of a murky cellarway over beyond the Capitol. A dark figure was emerging with this bundle, hurrying across the sidewalk, glancing over his shoulder, tossing his burden into a shabby black coupe and speeding away. One day I would take my turn at being that dark figure.)

On the floor were stacks of the Daily Worker, the thick red Communist, the red and white Communist International, the violent black and white New Masses, and the mimeographed agitprop bulletin.

Hermann declined New Masses, saying he had bought it at the newsstand on Pennsylvania Avenue. Charles told him sharply never to go there again. We must keep away from any place where leftists might gather. We must avoid, as far as possible, associating with radicals, difficult as that would be in Washington. Even liberals, outspoken ones such as Gardner Jackson, Charles said, looking my way, were out of bounds. This saddened me. Pat had been so kind a friend.

Obviously, Charles added, we couldn't go near any public protests or rallies.

This disappointed me, remembering Trafalgar Square, feeling part of a huge crowd unified in the same uplifting urgency. But these directives carried their own charge, setting our group apart, preparing us to face our own hard challenges.

The literature we had to buy cost almost ten dollars. This, plus the dues, almost exactly equalled the wages I paid Mamie, the cheerful woman who now brought Claudia home for lunch and put her to bed. Hermann had insisted on hiring her after going once with me to pick up Claudia after work. Sitting on the nurse's lap she had seemed quite contented, but at her first sight of me large round tears had spurted from her eyes, splashing on the floor. Mamie must stay, whatever else we gave up to the Party.

When Victor Perlo had bundled up the leftover literature, he gave a report on the national news, starting with Roosevelt's appointment of Joseph P. Kennedy as chairman of the new Stock Exchange Commission. He called it a capitulation to the most vicious political elements. A Wall Street operator himself, Kennedy had made his millions in bootlegging. Such facts were probably a fraction of the truth, Vic said; but enough to rid us of the illusion that FDR was "any better than a glorified ward heeler."

These words were painful to hear. I knew Roosevelt was a politician, but nothing I learned about his compromises could keep his voice from stirring me physically. Sometimes I spent a night in erotic, idolatrous contact with him, waking to a sense of privilege which might stay with me for days. When I told Hermann about my dream he did not laugh. He envied me in a way; he himself could not remember ever having dreamed. Because I was a posthumous child, he said, I was even more vulnerable than most, but the whole population right now felt a childlike need of a father figure. I resisted this. I had no wish to share that private intimacy with 120 million people.

Marion reported that she was writing a profile of a typical American teacher, one lucky enough to be still employed. Even so, Chicago owed back salaries amounting to $28 million.

Marion's figures showed that at least 200,000 children couldn't go to school for lack of clothes. In New York City alone they had given over $3 million to buy hot lunches, shoes and so on, for the children who otherwise wouldn't be able to come to school.

Marion planned to show the teacher in her everyday life, handing out her own lunch to hungry-eyed kids around her desk, slipping a sweater or a pair of socks to a cold child in the cloakroom.

If teachers hadn't made these sacrifices the country's educational system would have fallen apart totally in the past five years.

Charles asked dubiously where she planned to publish this. In the Atlantic, Marion hoped, or Scribner's. Vic waved his hand urgently. When he got the floor he asked why she should glorify a group of fuzzy-minded liberals who were only postponing the moment when the workers would seize the means of education. He moved that the comrade point this out, showing how piecemeal charity was reactionary reformism; that these inequities could not be corrected under capitalism.

"But if she put that in," I asked before I could stop myself, "where could she publish her piece?"

"Exactly." Marion's grateful glance may have begun the collaboration that would bind us so close. She said that what Vic had outlined would fit into the Sunday Worker but would come as no surprise to its readers. Whereas she could reach a wider audience, one less political. And mightn't such readers one day become important to us? Having them friendly - or at least not hostile could make a crucial difference when the chips were down.

Charles thought she had a point there. The Party needed to "neutralize" potential class enemies. But Vic insisted that any valuable material we had must be used to strengthen the voice of the Party.

Hermann said in his reflective way that he was struck by how often the Times quoted quite radical statements by New Dealers. Didn't that suggest that the middle class at the moment was more ready to listen than we might assume? He proposed that our comrade use her material doubly. She could first follow her strong impulse, then afterward put her facts into form for Party publication.

"That's the second Gordian knot he's cut tonight," Marion cried.

The group agreed on a plan to have editorials ready to go into Party publications when Marion's article was published, calling attention to it and making any points that seemed strategically desirable.

It was the sort of consensus that Hermann often brought about during the next few months. Soon he would be put in charge of a new unit of high-powered, neurotic economists...

On the way home Hermann was silent at first. I wondered what Charles had asked him to do. But from now on we would have to have secrets from each other.

I couldn't hold back my relief at the prediction of Hitler's downfall. And I remember the doubtful way Hermann said he hoped they were right. But ever since 1924 he had heard the line, "Hitler can't last."

I suggested the Party might know things that we didn't know. There was Claud's dispatch in The Week about the illegal publications that kept appearing, in spite of Hitler. Sometimes a folded mimeograph would have "Horoscope" outside, and inside would be items of world news that had been suppressed in the newspapers.

Hermann agreed that this sort of mass operation was encouraging, and the great reason for working in the Party. But it may have been then that he spoke worriedly about the engineer's letter. What would happen if it landed in the hands of someone with poor judgment? Suppose this comrade met the engineer and thought from something he said that he was ready to be recruited. Whereas in fact the engineer was a Trotskyist, say, rabid against the Party. Wouldn't he betray the Consumers' Counsel rather than miss a chance to damage the Party? Our office was already suspect because of vocal liberals like Howe and Jackson. If it got out that a letter to the Consumers' Counsel had been given to the CP, the fat would be in the fire. A lot of powerful people were looking for just such an excuse to get rid of the whole group and put in their own puppets.

That was frightening. But surely, I said, the Party would understand the danger and be careful. Hermann hoped they would, but they were human, with built-in fallibility. I refused to let my spirits be damped. "We've joined," I said, "so we've got to trust them." And he agreed.

After a silent step or two, I suddenly stopped short on the sidewalk. The letter had not even been addressed to us. It had been passed on by the Consumer Board of NRA. Hermann laughed, saying that NRA might as well be hung for a lamb as a sheep. He had been talking out of fatigue, he said. The meeting, like all meetings, had been tiring.
Tiring? In my mood the word was unthinkable.

Arthur Koestler's memoir, Arrow in the Blue, describes his first meeting with a group of comrades as "one of those rare moments when intellectual conviction is in complete harmony with feeling, when your reason approves of your euphoria, and your emotion is as lover to your thought." It was true for me that night, though I couldn't have analyzed it if I had tried - though I wish I had. I just told Hermann that I'd never been so stimulated in my life. That delighted him. We hurried home newly elated toward another night together.

Victor Perlo, a Marxist economist whose career was damaged by accusations during the Red scare of the late 1940's and early 1950's that he spied for the Soviet Union in Washington during World War II, died Dec. 1 at his home in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. He was 87.

Mr. Perlo had difficulty finding work after his loyalty was first challenged in 1947 and then in hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1948 and the Senate Committee on Internal Security in 1953.

But he later developed a business as an economic consultant and university lecturer and wrote 13 books. He was known for his analysis of the political economy of American capitalism, comparative economic systems and what he called the economics of racism in the United States.

In one job after the initial accusations, Mr. Perlo worked on the campaign of Henry A. Wallace, the Progressive Party's presidential candidate in 1948.

From the 1960's until his death, Mr. Perlo, who had a master's degree in mathematics from Columbia University, served as the chief economist of the Communist Party in the United States. He was also a board member of the party.

Mr. Perlo, who worked as an economist in government agencies during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, denied at the Washington hearings that he had spied for the Soviet Union. But like many who were questioned then by Congressional committees, he invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to provide some answers.

During one hearing in which he sparred with Senator William E. Jenner, the Indiana Republican who led the Internal Security Committee, Mr. Perlo said he did not want to discuss his reasons for invoking his constitutional privilege. But his wife Ellen said last week that her husband had not wanted to begin a line of response that might lead to his being required to testify against others.

At the time of the hearings, Mr. Perlo said in a statement that ''the dragging of my name through the mud is part of a big Roman circus.''

Mr. Perlo discovered he had a security problem in 1947 when he was denied a passport he needed to become treasurer of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees in Europe. He had resigned a post at the Treasury Department and suddenly found himself unemployed. The next year, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee on the basis of a 1945 memorandum from a federal agency in which a woman who said she had been a courier between Communist espionage groups named Mr. Perlo as the head of one of the groups.

Mr. Perlo published his first book, ''American Imperialism,'' in 1951; his most recent, ''Economics of Racism II'' (International Publishers), came three years ago. He taught at the New School and at the College of New Rochelle and lectured at Harvard and other universities.

Besides his wife, Mr. Perlo is survived by a daughter, Kathy, of Dundee, Scotland; two sons, Stanley of Ithaca, N.Y., and Arthur of New Haven; three grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

(1) Joseph B. Treaster, New York Times (10th December, 1999)

(2) Christina Shelton, Alger Hiss: Why he Chose Treason (2012) page 77

(3) Nathaniel Weyl, interview with US News & World Report (9th January, 1953)

(4) Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952) page 343

(5) Hope Hale Davis, Great Day Coming: A Memoir of the 1930s (1994) pages 68-76

(6) Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952) page 379

(7) Christina Shelton, Alger Hiss: Why he Chose Treason (2012) page 77

(8) Elizabeth Bentley, Out of Bondage (1951) page 240

(9) Allen Weinstein, The Hunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America (1999) page 226

(10) Kathryn S. Olmsted, Red Spy Queen (2002) page 67

(11) Iskhak Akhmerov, memorandum to Moscow (17th September, 1944)

(12) Kathryn S. Olmsted, Red Spy Queen (2002) pages 140-141

(13) Joseph B. Treaster, New York Times (10th December, 1999)

(14) John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (2000) page 129

Ellen Perlo, 102 advocate for equality, peace, justice and socialism

When, as a student, she walked on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in the 1930s even her best friend didn’t want to be seen with her. That was because Ellen Perlo often walked and talked with S.I. Hayakawa, a linguist who was, at that time, a young teacher at the university.

It was a time of intense anti-Japanese racism but Ellen ignored the social consequences of associating with someone who was Japanese. Then, as for the rest of her life, she was an advocate for equality, peace, justice, and socialism. Then, as for the rest of her life, she never flinched in these beliefs or in doing what she had to do to back them up.

Ellen Perlo was born March 23, 1916. She died peacefully this month toward the end of her 102- plus years of living.

When I was 21 years old, in 1971, I had the privilege of working with Ellen Perlo on the staff of World Magazine. There, during talks at lunchtime and in the office all day long, actually, I learned about her involvement in so many of the important struggles of the 20th century.

Her first plunge into politics took place in the mid and late 1930’s when she worked tirelessly to build support in the United States for the democratic government of Spain. The people of that country were heroically resisting an attempted takeover by their own military which was operating with the open support of Italian fascists and the Nazis in Germany. The Spanish Civil War raged on from 1936 until 1939 with the eventual victory of the fascists. “We were deeply involved in that fight,” Ellen told me and my co-workers, “because we were terrified that fascism if it was not stopped in Europe, would surely come to our shores here.”

By 1942 much of the world was engulfed in World War II. It was then that Ellen married Victor Perlo, who went on to become a famous and internationally-known Marxist economist. When the war ended the right-wing politicians and the big corporations in the U.S. launched a horrific red scare. It was their desperate attempt to stop the growth of what was becoming a powerful and growing movement in the U.S. of the working class and its allies. Ellen’s husband, Victor, was blacklisted from employment, harassed by the FBI and dragged before congressional committees. He was denied the right to travel abroad.

“None of that scared me one bit. It made me angry though and it made me more anxious than ever to fight,” she told us during those lunchtime discussions. “They thought we might stop working for and with the American Labor Party,” she said. “But I continued my involvement with it. I went out of the house and actively worked to defend all the Smith Act victims.”

The Smith Act victims were members of the Communist Party and leaders who were jailed not for any actions they had taken but simply for their beliefs.

Ellen was always there, it seemed, on the front lines when putting herself on the line could make a difference. When Paul Robeson and people attending his concert were attacked in 1949 in Peekskill, New York, Ellen, of course, was there, unafraid and standing up to the right-wing mobs who attacked the concert-goers.

She was unafraid again to stand up when the Rosenbergs were being persecuted and when they were executed on false charges. She protested their execution in the nation’s capital itself as well as at frequent rallies and demonstrations across the country.

Needless to say, all of these activities did not help alleviate the extreme financial hardships with which she was faced. But yet she remained unafraid and strong.

And when the repression and the attacks were at their worst, in the 1950s, her actions were at their boldest and strongest. Unafraid again, she joined the Communist Party as had other heroes like W.E. B. Dubois in those years. Ellen told us during those lunch hours, how much of a hero he was to her.

Ellen was far more than a devoted and loving wife to Victor, her husband. She was all that but she was also a full-fledged partner in his research and work. Between 1951 and his death in 1999, the two produced countless books on the U.S. economy and U.S. imperialism, the economics of militarism, the economics of racism, and comparative studies of socialism and capitalism. Ellen edited volumes of Victor’s works, even after his death.

There was a second Ellen Perlo. That was the artist side of her. A graduate of NYU with a degree in fine arts, Ellen painted spectacular landscapes in watercolor, later moving on to ceramics, textiles and other media

She put those talents to use in so much of the literature we produced when she was, with me and many others, involved in the movement for friendship with the German Democratic Republic.

Travel bans and scares? What travel bans and scares? No sooner had the Supreme Court restored Victor’s right to travel in 1960 than Ellen and Victor both were traveling all over the socialist world, including to the socialist countries to which travel had been restricted. Ellen was a force for bringing artists and their work to the socialist countries and vice versa. She was responsible for literally helping to explode the myth that there was no real art in the socialist world and in the process she brought people together, helping lay the foundations for peace rather than war.

Ellen was a lifelong peace activist, and from the 1960s forward, a member of Women’s Strike for Peace, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and WESPAC (Westchester Peace Action Coalition). Ellen chaired the artist’s club of the Communist Party in New York in the 1970s and 80s and later chaired the Northern Westchester club.
As young activists all those years ago we benefitted from her leadership. As seasoned veterans, we cherish her memory and try to live her legacy. As a human race, we are all better for having had Ellen Perlo among us.

Perlo group

  • Victor Perlo
  • Edward Fitzgerald, War Production Board
  • Harold Glasser, Director, Division of Monetary Research, United States Department of the Treasury War Production Board Advisor on North African Affairs Committee
  • Alger Hiss, Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs United States Department of State
  • Charles Kramer, Senate Subcommittee on War Mobilization Office of Price Administration National Labor Relations Board Senate Subcommittee on Wartime Health and Education Agricultural Adjustment Administration Senate Subcommittee on Civil Liberties Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee Democratic National Committee , United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
  • Harry Magdoff, Statistical Division of War Production Board and Office of Emergency Management Bureau of Research and Statistics, WTB Tools Division, War Production Board Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, United States Department of Commerce , Foreign Economic Administration United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
  • Allen Rosenberg, Board of Economic Warfare Chief of the Economic Institution Staff, Foreign Economic Administration Senate Subcommittee on Civil Liberties Senate Committee on Education and Labor Railroad Retirement Board Councel to the Secretary of the National Labor Relations Board
  • Donald Wheeler, Office of Strategic Services Research and Analysis division

See also

  • Hearings Regarding Communist Espionage in the United States Government (Alger Hiss Case), Part 1. Committee on Un-American Activities, US House of Representatives. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1948 pp. 677–686 693-701. —Testimony of August 9, 1948.
  • Hearings, Interlocking Subversion in Government Departments — Part 7. Judiciary Committee Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, US Senate. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1950 pp. 383–459. —Testimony of May 12, 1953.

Vanguard News Network

Many people believe that president Harry Truman was a decent, honest guy — you know, “the buck stops here” and so forth. Well, no. Truman was a traitor, like all liberals. He had no sense of, and no concern for, national security matters. There were at least 2 Soviet spy groups operating in America circa [&hellip]

All books have pluses and minuses. This book does, too. On the minus side, there are a few factual mistakes in the book. For example, the author calls the spy Alger Hiss a Jew. As far as I know, he wasn’t a Jew. Granted, maybe the author knows something that I don’t and Hiss was [&hellip]

(Above: Herbert Aptheker [1915-2003], a well-known Jewish author and activist, circa 1965. He was famous for being a tireless defender of the Soviet Union, no matter how much blood was being spilled by Stalin). Of all the Jewish Marxists I’ve mentioned here, somehow I’ve barely mentioned Aptheker — a major oversight to be sure. Lots [&hellip]

Comments Off on Herbert Aptheker, Jewish Marxist and Race-Baiter Par Excellence

(Above: a notorious top Marxist and Jew, Victor Perlo [1912-1999], with his wife. He worked at the U.S. Treasury Department and he was one of the founders of the UN. Not surprisingly, Perlo headed a Soviet spy ring in the U.S.). As I’ve said before, the UN was founded by communists and Jews (often they [&hellip]

Comments Off on And You Thought the UN Was Normal and Reasonable. Guess Again!

Send letters, packages, review copies and donations to: A. Linder
POB 101
Kirksville MO 63501

George A. Meyers, Victor Perlo collections to be celebrated

FROSTBURG, Md. – Friends and family of George A. Meyers and Victor Perlo, outstanding Communist leaders who died in recent years, will travel to Frostburg State University (FSU) Oct. 19 for a celebration of book collections in the school’s library named in their honor.

The day will include the dedication of a plaque inscribed with the names of those who have donated books, pamphlets, and other memorabilia of the progressive and socialist movement to the Meyers Collection.

The Victor Perlo Collection will be formally handed over by his widow, Ellen. Tim Wheeler, editor of the World, will speak on behalf of the Friends of the George A. Meyers Collection.

The George A. Meyers Collection was established in 1991 when Meyers donated the 4,000 books in his personal library to FSU less than 10 miles up Georges Creek from the coal mining town, Lonaconing, where he was born. FSU was established through contributions by the coal miners of Georges Creek.

Dr. David Gillespie, chief librarian at the university, conceived the idea of establishing a collection devoted to Marxism, the CPUSA, the labor movement, civil rights and all the other working-class causes Meyers had devoted his life to. The collection mushroomed with 35 individuals donating all or part of their libraries.

In a letter inviting participation in the Oct. 19 event, Gillespie writes that the collection not only includes thousands of books but also a unique and very valuable pamphlet collection of more than 8,000 publications by the CPUSA and other organizations.

There are also posters, political buttons, labor badges and hundreds of photographs that have been painstakingly catalogued by staff and volunteers.

“A recent gift by Ellen Perlo added depth to the economic works already in the collection,” Gillespie continued. Victor Perlo, an internationally recognized economist, published thirteen works in seven languages.

Gillespie said that in the years since it was established, the George A. Meyers Collection has proven itself an invaluable resource. “Just today, we got a request through Inter-Library Loan from a scholar at Johns Hopkins University for a pamphlet about Filipinos in the U.S. by the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born,” Gillespie said. “It may be the only copy of that pamphlet still in existence. We get four or five requests like that each week.”

Nat DeBruin, the archivist in charge of the collection told the World, “We have a graduate student from West Virginia University who has come here six times doing research for his dissertation on the life of George A. Meyers. There is such a wealth of material, he decided to narrow it down to the Smith Act trial and George’s years of incarceration.”

History students at a local high school, as a class project each year, write a book on some aspect of local history. “In 2001, they picked the Great Depression of the 1930s and its impact on Allegany County,” DeBruin continued. “They used the Meyers Collection as a source of information on George Meyers and his role in the organizing of the Textile Workers Union at the Celanese plant. It was incorporated into their paperback book.”

Two art classes, one at FSU and the other at Allegany College of Maryland, have used posters, mostly from the Perlo Collection, to study graphic and visual art “and how you can get the message across with images rather than words,” DeBruin said. They were especially impressed by a poster of the great farm worker leader, Cesar Chavez, and by Soviet posters given by the Perlos. The family of working-class artist, Ralph Fasanella, has donated a set of autographed reproductions of his art which are displayed in the library.

Last January, National Public Radio requested material from the Meyers Collection for a feature story on the Appalachian poet, Don West. “We provided them with pamphlets and other materials on West,” DeBruin said. The Cleveland Plain Dealer also relied heavily on the Meyers Collection for a feature story on the Communist Party of Ohio, DeBruin said. “This collection is definitely being used.”

As the collection grows, so do the costs of maintaining it. One purpose of the Oct. 19 celebration is to help raise funds to establish a permanent endowment with the Frostburg State University Foundation . “We currently have a little more than &#0368,000 toward our goal of &#03675,000,” Gillespie said.

Victor Perlo - History

By Dr. Svetlana Chervonnaya

Anatoly Gorsky’s 󈬇 December 1949 report to General S.R. Savchenko” – also known as “Gorsky’s List” – is not the only puzzle Alexander Vassiliev, the Russian co-author of Allen Weinstein’s The Haunted Wood, produced in the course of his London libel suit against Frank Cass & Co., Ltd. to support his claim that he had seen the name of Alger Hiss in KGB (now SVR RF) intelligence files during his research. Another puzzling document Vassiliev brought into court – one which for the sake of convenience we will call the “Perlo List” – dates back to the same month of March 1945 when Anatoly Gorsky, then the NKGB intelligence station chief (“rezident“) in Washington, D.C., wrote the March 30 “Ales” cable to Moscow, now commonly known as Venona No. 1822.

According to Dr. David Lowenthal, the “Perlo List” was not produced in a pre-trial deposition (the way Gorsky’s December 1949 report, now known as “Gorsky’s List,” had been), but “was entered late in trial preparations,” and was then included in one of the collections of documents available to jurors in the libel case – such collections are called “jury bundles” by English courts (this one was in Jury Bundle 3). The name and pagination of the “Perlo List” were penciled-in additions to the otherwise typed Jury Bundle’s Table of Contents, suggesting it was received extremely late, probably in early June 2003.

The “Perlo List” included in Jury Bundle 3 consisted of several variants of the same document. They were:

1) Alexander Vassiliev’s hand-written notes of the document (found on page 309A of Jury Bundle 3), 2) A clean typed copy of the same document (found on page 309E), and 3) A handwritten Russian title of the document together with its English translation (found on page 309D).

The English translation of the title of the document supplied by Vassiliev, as included on page 309D, reads, “A list of persons who according to Raid have been cooperating with the Russian intelligence service apart from those he is working with regularly at present. Dated 15.03.45.” However, a verbatim translation of the full Russian title would read somewhat differently: “A list of persons who according to Raid have been cooperating with intelligence except for those he is working with regularly at present. Dated 15.03.45.” (In an exact transliteration from the Cyrillic alphabet into Latin letters, the Vassiliev’s title reads: “Spisok litz, kotorye po svedenijam Rejda sotrudnichajut s razvedkoi, krome tekh, s kem on v n.[astojaschee] vr[emya] regulyarno rabotaet. Ot 15.03.45.“)

Before proceeding to the document itself, I would like to say a few words about the pseudonym “Raid,” and about the man hidden behind it.

The Russian word “Rejd” has several meanings: (1) (maritime) a safe off-shore anchorage (2) (military) a hit-and-run raid by mobile military forces attacking an enemy from the rear (3) (police) a swoop or spot check.

Venona translators spelled this cryptonym as “Rajder” or “Raider” (see Venona Washington to Moscow No. 3707, June 29, 1945 for “Rajder,” and Washington to Moscow No. 3708, June 29, 1945 for “Raider”). However, to be more precise than the Venona translators, the Russian noun “rejder” is a derivative of the military meaning of the Russian word “rejd,” and denotes not just a person who participates in a raid but also a battleship engaged in autonomous operations against enemy transport and commercial vessels. Most probably, in mistranslating the Russian pseudonym “Rejd,” the Venona translators assumed they were dealing with a codename that referred to a soldier on a raid, rather than to either a spot check or a battleship! In any event, “Raid” (as “Raider”) can be found in Venona decrypted cable traffic beginning on May 13, 1944 the Venona translators identified the individual in question as Victor PERLO.

Victor Perlo (1912 – 1999) was an American Marxist economist known for his analysis of the political economy of American capitalism and comparative economic systems. After receiving a master’s degree in mathematics from Columbia University in 1933, Perlo worked at a number of New Deal government agencies, among a group of economists known as “Harry Hopkins’ bright young men.” The group worked, among other things, for creation and implementation of the WPA jobs program, and helped push through unemployment compensation, the Wagner National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and Social Security. During World War II, Perlo served in several capacities, working first as chief of the Aviation Section of the War Production Board, then in the Office of Price Administration, and later for the Treasury Department.

Victor Perlo was only 35 when, in 1947, his loyalty to the United States was challenged by federal investigators for the rest of his life, he had difficulty finding work. Over a number of years, U.S. security officials pieced together a picture of Perlo based on testimony by Americans who had formerly been involved with Soviet intelligence services, and on the contents of intercepted 1944 and 1945 NKGB cables that were decrypted after the war by the Venona Project.

In late 1945, Elizabeth Bentley told the FBI that Perlo had been the leader of a group of wartime spies for the Soviets, and in 1948 Whittaker Chambers told the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) that Perlo had also been part of a Communist “informational” group in the 1930s. Subsequently translated Venona cables offered various details about the so-called “Perlo Group,” a wartime association of eight or more mid-level government employees. (The true status and function of the “Perlo Group” is discussed later in this piece.)

In 1948, Perlo was called to testify before HUAC, and in 1953, he testified before the Senate Committee on Internal Security. At both hearings, Perlo denied that he had spied for the Soviet Union, and invoked the Fifth Amendment as a reason for not answering some of the questions put to him. After Perlo’s death in 1999, his wife, Ellen Perlo, told The New York Times that her husband “had not wanted to begin a line of response that might lead to his being required to testify against others.”[1] From the 1960s until his death, Perlo served as the chief economist of the Communist Party of the United States and as a member of its National Committee.

Although relegated to the political fringe in his own country, Perlo merited a full-length article in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, which celebrated his achievements as a “progressive” economist and writer. Perlo’s first book, American Imperialism, was published in the Soviet Union in 1951. Twelve more books and many articles and pamphlets followed, all of them translated into Russian and a number of other languages. Perlo traveled to the Soviet Union and Cuba on several occasions, and in 1977 spent seven weeks touring the Soviet Union, traveling more than eight thousand miles around the USSR.

For several decades, Perlo’s works were on the required reading lists of Soviet economics and history students, and his name was well known among Russian professional historians and economists within the “USA studies” field. Meeting Victor Perlo in Moscow in 1977 in an academic setting, I would have been greatly surprised if someone had told me that, decades later, I would be discussing him in a very different context. The record of Victor Perlo’s 1977 Soviet trip, as well as his personnel file, is still off-limits and marked “classified” at the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History.

The “Perlo List”

For the convenience of further discussion, as mentioned before, I will hereafter call the notes of the “Raid” document, produced by Alexander Vassiliev in the course of his libel suit, the “Perlo List.”

Although Allen Weinstein entirely ignored “Gorsky’s List,” which is not even mentioned in The Haunted Wood (hereafter THW), the “Perlo List” was alluded to in passing on page 229 of the book, though cited there merely as an illustration of Anatoly Gorsky’s concern in March 1945 about “a general indifference to normal intelligence methods among virtually all the Washington sources”:

“… all of them know each other as compatriot-informers [Communists and sources of information] as well as being aware of what work every one of them carries out…. In a conversation with me, [Harold Glasser] (the document itself says “Ruble” this is a substitution by Weinstein – S.Ch.) named more than a dozen names [of those] who are known to him as informers [sources of information]. [Victor Perlo] (another Weinstein substitution the document itself says “Raid” – S.Ch.) gave us a list including fourteen men definitely connected with the groups.…” (emphasis added)

We can only guess about the composition of these “groups,” since Weinstein chose to omit discussing them in THW. However, even as printed, Weinstein’s description of the information that Gorsky had received from “Raid” (Perlo) goes beyond the “Perlo List” title brought into court by Vassiliev – “A list of persons who according to Raid have been cooperating with intelligence except for those he is working with regularly at present” (emphasis added). According to Weinstein’s THW footnote citing this passage (which attributes it to SVR File 45100, vol. 1, pp. 100-102), this quote comes from a different cable that Gorsky sent to Moscow in mid-March 1945, and not from the transmitted “Perlo List” itself (the document Vassiliev produced in his London libel suit). The pagination in the notes Alexander Vassiliev presented at his London trial clearly identifies the “Perlo List” document as coming from page 91 of NKGB intelligence file 43173, vol. 1 it was written 10 days after Gorsky’s March 5, 1945 “Ales” cable, which Vassiliev also brought into court (and which, according to his notes, appears on pages 88-89 of the same file).

Since Weinstein presumably had access to all these documents – Vassiliev’s archival research, after all, had specifically been undertaken to provide Weinstein with actual Soviet historical intelligence material he could use in a collaborate Russian-American book – we can only guess why Weinstein would choose to ignore the “Perlo List” itself, a highly unusual list with 14 American names written out “in clear.” The “Perlo List” and “Gorsky’s List” are indeed the only two known NKGB compilations of undisguised American names, and must both be taken seriously as important potential references for identifying and verifying Soviet codenames.

We can only guess if, for some reason, Weinstein might somehow have missed seeing the “Perlo List.” For its source file – 43173 – a so-called “general correspondence file” which, according to THW footnotes, has more than 14 volumes, is the one file cited most often in the entire tome. And not only this, THW actually quotes from a document also found on pages 88-89 of file 43173’s volume 1 – quotes, that is, from the document almost immediately preceding the “Perlo List” in the file, as well as from other documents on pages 95 and 98 of the same volume (and indeed from many others in addition).

As we begin to examine the “Perlo List” document itself, the first thing that strikes the eye is a distinct and visible difference between the document’s title as provided by Vassiliev (“A list of persons who according to ‘Raid’ have been cooperating with the Russian intelligence service apart from those he is working with regularly at present. Dated 15.03.45”) and the reference to it in THW. The Russian phrase properly translated as “cooperating with intelligence” (“sotrudnichajut s razvedkoi”) covers a wide range of varying degrees of contact – from a formal agent relationship down to an unknowing and indirect sharing of information (in intelligence parlance, “a sub-source who is used blind”) – and is thus a far shot from the agent status implied by calling someone “definitely connected.” Besides, as he does throughout the book, Allen Weinstein changes the pseudonym found in Vassiliev’s notes into a name identified by the Venona translators.

The reasons behind Allen Weinstein’s omitting the “Perlo List” look even stranger when you realize that, on its surface, the document seems to provide direct evidence of Alger Hiss’s connection to Soviet intelligence. On the other hand, Andrew Monson, defense lawyer in the London libel trial, found what he considered a compelling reason for the omission – the same “Perlo List” also contains evidence that seems to exonerate Alger Hiss. Monson said, in his summary charge to the jury:

“We found that the authors [of THW] failed to tell their readers about a document [the “Perlo List”] which contradicted Whittaker Chambers’s claim that Victor Perlo had been a member of the Ware group alongside Alger Hiss. The [Chambers] claim is at page 39 [of THW, and is also found in Weinstein’s Perjury, revised edition, page 125]. Perlo denies he ever worked with Alger Hiss.” [David Lowenthal files].

Perlo’s explicit denial that he had ever worked with Alger Hiss directly contradicts Whittaker Chambers’ claims, repeated by Weinstein. Four years after David Lowenthal noted this glaring discrepancy in a History News Network posting (HNN, May 2, 2005), it remains unexplained.

It is unclear why the “Perlo List” is in English rather than Russian. The most probable explanation is that the document was received by the NKGB in English, and then recorded in the file in its original language – and that Vassiliev therefore himself initially copied it out in English. This idea is supported by the fact that Gorsky is known to have sent another English language report to Moscow at about the same time (this second document was also brought into court by Vassiliev and is also found on page 309A of Jury Bundle 3 furthermore, a note by Vassiliev referenced the other English language document to page 104 of the exact same SVR file). This also probably means that these particular reports were not cabled but instead sent with the diplomatic pouch, and for this reason were decades later discovered sitting in a Russian archival file in their English original.

The full “Perlo List” document is reproduced below, just as it looks in the clean-typed copy on Jury Bundle 3, page 309E, together with its title translated into English (either by Vassiliev himself or conceivably by a court translator) from the original Russian found in Alexander Vassiliev’s notes. (The handwritten copy, with the title in Russian, appears on page 309A of Jury Bundle 3):

p. 91 “A list of persons who according to Raid have been cooperating with the Russian intelligence service apart from those he is working with regularly at present. Dated 15.03.45.”

[Name] Agency Present Connection Did I ever work with? Does he know I have a connection?
Irving Kaplan FEA Has No Yes
Bela Gold FEA Has No No
Gregory Silvermaster Treasury Procurement Has No No
George Silverman Army Air Forces Think he has Yes Yes
Alger Hiss State -//- No Don’t know
Donald Hiss -//- (may have left) Don’t know Yes Yes
Charles Flato Property Disposal Board None Yes (dropped) Yes
Charles Seeger Pan American Union None Yes (dropped) Yes
Joseph Gillman WPB Think none No Probably
Herbert Schimmel Senator Kilgore Yes, with Blumberg No Probably
Frank Coe Treasury Yes Yes Yes
David Weintraub UNRRA Think so No Yes
Van Tassel Senator Murray Yes, probably with Schimmel No No
Henry Collins Think at Senate Don’t know Yes Yes

Comments and Analysis:

Since the “Perlo List,” as it appears in Alexander Vassiliev’s Jury Bundle notes, contains 14 names, we can reasonably assume that it may well be identical to the “list including fourteen men definitely connected with the groups” mentioned on page 229 of THW.

For the convenience of further discussion, I have compiled a comparative chart linking the names on the “Perlo List” to names found on other lists:

The initial 1930s “Ware Group,” as alleged by Chambers
The so-called “Silvermaster Group” The so-called “Perlo Group” The so-called “Perlo List” The so-called “Gorsky’s List”
Henry Collins, then at the National Recovery Administration Henry Collins/Think at Senate �th,” said to be part of “Karl’s Group”
George Silverman, then at the Railroad Retirement Board George Silverman George
Army Air Forces
“Aileron,” said to be part of “Karl’s Group” (though with his 1944-1945 Army Air Force affiliation)
Victor Perlo, then at the NRA Victor Perlo “Raid,” a.k.a. “Eck,” said to be part of “Sound and Myrna Groups”
Alger Hiss, at the State Department beginning in the fall of 1936 Alger Hiss/State “Leonard,” said to be part of “Karl’s Group”
Donald Hiss, at the Interior Department from May 1935 to June 1936 at the Labor Department from June 1936 to June 1938 at the State Department from February 1938 until March 26, 1945 Donald Hiss/ State (may have left) “Junior,” said to be part of “Karl’s Group”
Charles Flato, at the Office of Economic Warfare during World War II Charles Flato/
Property Disposal Board
“Bob,” said to be part of “Sound and Myrna Groups”
Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, at the Treasury Department until mid-1942 then at the Farm Security Admin. Gregory Silvermaster/
Treasury Procurement
“Robert” a.k.a. “Pal,” said to be part of “Sound and Myrna Groups”
Frank Coe Frank Coe/Treasury “Peak,” said to be part of “Sound and Myrna Groups”
William/Bela Gold Bela Gold/FEA (Foreign Economic Admin.) “Acorn,” said to be part of “Sound and Myrna Groups”
Irving Kaplan Irving Kaplan/FEA “Tino,” said to be part of “Sound and Myrna Groups”
Charles Seeger/
Pan American Union
Joseph Gillman/WPB (War Production Board)
Herbert Schimmel/ Senator Kilgore
David Weintraub/ UNRRA (United Nations Relief & Reconstruction Admin.) “Buck” (“Bak”), said to be part of “Sound and Myrna Groups”
Van Tassel/ Senator Murray

This chart makes it obvious that by no means do all of the 14 names on the “Perlo List” have any connection to any known groups.

Five of the names (Silvermaster, Silverman, Coe, Gold, Kaplan) match the names of people who, according to Venona and other documentary and oral sources, belonged to the “Silvermaster Group.”

One name (Flato) was listed by these same sources as having belonged to Victor Perlo’s own group.

Ten of the names also appear on Anatoly Gorsky’s voluminous “Failures in the USA List” – with six of the 10 said to have been members of the most numerous “Sound and Myrna Groups” (these were the cover names of Jacob Golos and Elizabeth Bentley), and four whose names were found within “Karl’s Group,” most controversial of all the groups.

Four of the 14 names on the “Perlo List” not only do not appear on any known list of groups, they also do not appear in any Venona decrypted cable traffic, or in The Haunted Wood, or in any of three books by Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, The Secret World of American Communism (1995) The Soviet World of American Communism (1998), or Venona (1999).

Who, we may now ask, were these four people?

“Charles SEEGER/Pan American Union” was Charles (Louis) Seeger (1886-1979), a well-known composer and musicologist. Seeger, a Harvard graduate, created a music department at the University of California at Berkeley between 1912 and 1916, but was dismissed for publicly opposing America’s entry into World War I. He later taught in New York at Julliard and the New School for Social Research (1931-1935), and after World War II at the University of California at Los Angeles and at Yale. In 1930, he founded the New York Musicological Society, which in 1934 evolved into the American Musicological Society.

In addition to his teaching posts, Seeger, from 1935 to 1953, acted as a technical adviser to the New Deal’s Resettlement Administration (1935-1938), as the Deputy Director of the Federal Music Project of the WPA (1938-1941), and as chief of the music division of the Pan American Union (1941-1953). A member of the Composers Collective of New York, he also voiced his “progressive” opinion about society in the Daily Worker, using the pseudonym “Carl Sands.”

Charles Seeger’s son, folksinger (Peter) Pete Seeger, who was well known for his own Communist beliefs, used to say that it was his father who got him “into the Communist movement,” but that, having done so, his father “backed out around 1938.”[2]

According to the “Perlo List,” Charles Seeger had once “worked” with Victor Perlo, but had then “dropped” out, and, at the time of this list’s compilation, had “no connection.” It is difficult to figure out what might “work with” mean in the case of Seeger, or for that matter with any of the three individuals who follow. To me, this looks like some pre-World War II American Communist Party connection – and thus quite possibly a misunderstanding between Victor Perlo and his 1945 Soviet contact, Anatoly Gorsky. (See a more extensive discussion of this possibility later in this analysis.)

“Joseph GILLMAN/WPB” is most probably Joseph M. Gillman (1898-?), New Yorker, Marxian economist and writer, author of The Falling Rate of Profit: Marx’s law and its significance to twentieth-century capitalism (Cameron, 1958) and Prosperity in Crisis (Marzani & Munsell, 1965). In the late 1950s, he also wrote in The Promethean Review (N.Y. Liberty Book Club).

According to the “Perlo List,” Gillman had no “connection” with Soviet intelligence at the time the list was put together, and had never “worked” with “Raid,” but was aware of the latter’s “connection.” The “Perlo List” does not offer any plausible explanation of why Gillman’s name even appears on the list.

“Herbert SCHIMMEL/Senator Kilgore” was Herbert Schimmel, who had a doctorate in physics (University of Pennsylvania, 1936 ) and, who in the 1940s, was a consultant with the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on War Mobilization, a subcommittee of the Military Affairs Committee, then commonly known as the Kilgore Committee the subcommittee was dissolved in September 1946. In 1938, Schimmel was the co-author of a monograph (with George Perazich and Benjamin Rosenberg), “Industrial instruments and changing technologies,” for the National Research Project on Reemployment Opportunities and Recent Changes in Industrial Technologies (Philadelphia, WPA, National Research Project).

According to FBI investigative files from 1945 to 1948, Schimmel maintained a friendly relationship with George Perazich, who was said to have belonged to the so-called Perlo Group, as well as with other Perlo Group members, particularly Harry Magdoff. The FBI files also indicate social contacts between Schimmel and Henry Collins (in 1942, Collins listed Schimmel among his references in an application for a job with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation), as well as professional contacts between Schimmel and Charles Kramer, Victor Perlo, and Irving Kaplan. [See, for instance, The FBI Silvermaster File, No 65-56402, vol. 80, serials 1751-1815, PDF pp. 102-103 vol. 81, serials 1816-1862, PDF p. 126 vol. 084, serials 1908-1908x, PDF 16 vol. 088, serials 1938, PDF p. 91.] However, there is no indication that Schimmel had ever been a source for, or a contact of, any branch of Soviet intelligence.

According to the “Perlo List,” Schimmel was still “connected” at the time of its writing, had not worked with Perlo, but “probably” was aware of the latter’s connection. Perlo asserts in the list that Schimmel’s connection was “with Blumberg” most probably, this would have been Albert (Al) E. BLUMBERG, who was a Johns Hopkins professor until 1937, when he became a full-time CP USA functionary. In 1939, Blumberg became chairman of the party’s Maryland branch. According to Al Blumberg’s personnel file in the Comintern collection, Blumberg, by May 19, 1943, was the Washington, D.C. legislative representative of the National Committee of the CP USA. In the early 1950s, he headed a “Sector on Legislature” of the party’s Central Committee.

According to a November 2, 1955 reference in Blumberg’s file, he was, in late 1954 and early 1955, part of the party’s leadership, with responsibility for “legislative issues, defense of communists in courts, press.” A February 26, 1957 reference describes Blumberg among “the representatives of a right-wing grouping within the party.” Blumberg nevertheless became head of the party’s Legislative Department on July 27, 1957. Not a single reference in Blumberg’s Comintern file, which spans a 22-year period, from April 1941 to April 1963, and none of the mentions of Blumberg in CP USA files, convey the idea that Blumberg ever had any party “underground” functions or connections of any kind.[3]

“Van TASSEL/ Senator Murray” was Alfred J. Van Tassel, who would later work at the United Nations Technical Assistance Administration as chief of the economics section, special projects division, where he organized and coordinated United Nations training seminars and demonstration centers around the world. When called to testify before a 1952 Senate Internal Security Subcommittee hearing investigating “Communist infiltration in the U.N.,” he took the Fifth Amendment, when asked whether he was a Communist Party member. Another witness that day, Stanley Graze, one more American working in the U.N.’s TAA economic and trade section and who also cited his Fifth Amendment rights when questioned about Communist Party membership, appears as “Dan” on the Gorsky “Failures List,” where he is said to have been a member of the “Sound and Myrna Groups.”

According to Victor Perlo, Van Tassel was still “connected” (“probably with Schimmel”) at the time of the list’s writing, but had never “worked” with Perlo and was not aware of the latter’s “connection.” If Van Tassel “was connected” “probably with Schimmel,” who was himself “connected” “with Blumberg,” who, since 1937, had been a full-time open Communist Party functionary – the only logical conclusion one can make is that Perlo was describing some Communist Party (or fellow traveler) relationship, and that there indeed was some kind of misunderstanding between him and Gorsky.

When it comes to Alger Hiss, the “Perlo List” becomes even murkier.

On its surface, the very presence of Alger Hiss’s name on a “list of persons who according to ‘Raid’ have been cooperating with intelligence,” might be pounced upon by some scholars as new and further corroboration of Alger Hiss’s “guilt.” The situation, however, is immediately complicated by “Raid”s presumed “ditto marks” (“-//-“) in answer to the question about “present connection,” meaning, any present connection “with [Soviet] intelligence” – to cite the language used in Vassiliev’s title. The name just above Alger Hiss’s on the “Perlo List” is George Silverman, about whom Perlo says “Think he has” a present connection if the marks just below that are in fact ditto marks, then it would certainly seem that Perlo is also making the same assertion about Alger Hiss the meaning of the marks, however, is not altogether definite.

On the other hand, Perlo’s definite “No” in answer to the question, “Did I ever work with?” – where “work,” as used by Soviet intelligence, is a known euphemism for “engaging in intelligence activity” (or in this case, more probably, Communist Party “informational work”) – is a clear refutation of Whittaker Chambers’ allegation that Alger Hiss had once been a member of the so-called “Ware Group” within the New Deal’s Agricultural Adjustment Administration. At the HUAC hearings on August 25, 1948, Chambers testified:

The members of that [Hal Ware] group, when I first came to know them, were Henry Collins, Alger Hiss, Donald Hiss, Charles Kramer or Krevitsky, Victor Perlo, John Abt, Nathan Witt – it seems to me I have forgotten one – Lee Pressman, of course.

Lee Pressman – according to Nathaniel Weyl – was not the only name Chambers had forgotten. The sole corroboration ever offered for Chambers’ “Ware Group” allegation about Alger Hiss came from Nathaniel Weyl, who testified, on February 23, 1953 in an Executive Session of the U.S. Senate Security Hearings (U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations, Washington, D.C.), that he had been “in the same Communist cell with Alger Hiss.” Weyl further said that he, Lee Pressman, and Alger Hiss “were among the eight or nine people who met with the first meeting of that organization.”

Since Victor Perlo is undisputedly an original member of the so-called “Ware Group,” his evidence that Hiss was not a group member is a strong refutation of the Chambers and Weyl allegations. Simultaneously, Perlo’s assertion offers belated corroboration of Alger Hiss’s statement at the HUAC hearings of August 16, 1948, that he had not known Victor Perlo under the circumstances Chambers had described.

The “Perlo List” assertions about Donald Hiss are even murkier than those about Alger Hiss. Although Victor Perlo was even less certain of Donald Hiss’s “present connection” than he was of Alger’s – he said “Don’t know” of Donald as opposed to “Think he has” of Alger – Perlo also said that he used to “work with” Donald – and that Donald was aware of Perlo’s own “connection” to Soviet intelligence. Aside from an allegation by Chambers, Perlo’s assertions find no support in other publicly available testimonies and oral stories.

For instance, according to an FBI Washington Field Office (WFO) report dated February 19, 1942,[4] Donald Hiss “is carried as a subject in the case of Jay David Whittaker Chambers [who] has stated that Donald Hiss was a member of the Harold Ware group in the communist underground in Washington in mid-30s.” Ten years into the investigation, however, the Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office reported to J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, on January 1, 1952, “Re Subject: Donald Hiss,”[5] that: “The unsubstantiated allegations of Whittaker Chambers that the subject was a member of the Communist Party underground unit are the pre-eminent charges.”

The same report went on to summarize earlier findings and to remind Hoover that Chambers himself had essentially cleared Donald Hiss: “Chambers also reiterated on several occasions that he was unsuccessful in obtaining the services of the subject and that Donald Hiss furnished no confidential information or documents to Chambers or as far as Chambers knows to anybody else…. There has been no allegations of espionage at any time.”

Publicly available Russian files offer not even a single shred of archival evidence either that Alger or Donald Hiss were members of the so-called “Ware Group” or that they had any kind of affiliation with the Communist Party. My several years of concentrated research in the Moscow-based files of the American Communist Party and Comintern, as well as in the files of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Russian diplomatic files, and the files of VOKS (the Soviet Society for Cultural Contacts) have indeed produced Comintern and Russian party personnel files, CP USA and/or Comintern records, Soviet records of meetings, confidential profiles and/or references to most of the alleged members of the “Ware Group” – with the notable exceptions of Alger and Donald Hiss.

The files I have examined contain references to Harold Ware, John Hermann, John Abt, Lee Pressman, Victor Perlo, Henry Collins, and Nathaniel Weyl. Some of these men appear as Communist Party members (Ware, Hermann, Abt, Pressman, and Perlo), and some appear additionally as Soviet confidential contacts and sources of information (Abt, Pressman, Perlo). The one reference to Collins is an American Communist Party description of him to the Soviets in 1948 as a “progressive and reliable person.”

There is no mention of Alger and Donald Hiss in CP USA files either as open or as “undisclosed” (“neglasny”) Communist Party members, or as members of any of the many Communist front organizations. I have not discovered a single instance of their names appearing on numerous support lists of various Communist Party causes and front campaigns. Neither do their names occur as participants in any Communist-related activities or associations. Similarly, their names do not appear among Soviet confidential contacts or as subjects of queries, etc., in any publicly accessible Soviet party, diplomatic, or “cultural” files.

Considering the huge volume of CP USA files, the chance that some pages related to Alger Hiss or Donald Hiss had, at some point, been sought, identified, and then purposefully removed from this archive, seems close to nil.

Looking back after six decades – and with all the major participants having left the scene – it is difficult to try to ascertain what was really behind the puzzle list that “Raid” – Victor Perlo – wrote for Anatoly Gorsky in March 1945. As has already been said, however, the Pandora’s Box associated with the data gathered for The Haunted Wood has more to offer than just the Vassiliev notes that turned up in a London courtroom Jury Bundle.

Other items in this box include English translations of a few chapter drafts that Alexander Vassiliev, at one point, roughed out for his American co-author, Allen Weinstein – drafts that incorporate extracts from various other KGB documents he had been shown for Weinstein’s later use. In the spring of 2002, the late John Lowenthal shared these drafts with me, asking for evaluation and comments.

One of the chapters, as it happens, sheds some light upon the nature of the relationship that both Victor Perlo and the so-called “Perlo Group” had with Soviet intelligence. The chapter quotes, at some length, 1944 reports by Vassily Zarubin, the NKGB intelligence resident in North America from 1942 to 1944, to his Moscow boss, Vsevolod Merkulov, the head of the NKGB. Zarubin in these reports offers detailed information about “the group of ‘Eck'” – “Eck” being the cover name the NKGB used for Victor Perlo before September 2, 1944.

Zarubin informs Merkulov that “the group of ‘Eck'” had at one time been “one illegal communist cell” (this and the following quotes are from the translation of Zarubin’s report), which had operated under the supervision of CP USA functionary Joseph Peters (“Storm”). Since Zarubin knew “Storm” “as a man, connected with the neighbors” – meaning, in this case, with Soviet military intelligence, he had originally “supposed that all the group belonged to the neighbors.” However, upon further checking, Zarubin learned from “Helmsman” – that is, from none other than the head of the CP USA, Earl Browder – that Browder had been “getting materials of this group and a part of them he passed us sometimes through ‘Sound.'” (“Sound” was the NKGB’s “illegal” sub-resident, Jacob Golos.)

Having learned these details, Zarubin was able to report to Merkulov, upon his return to Moscow in the fall of 1944, that “even if this group had been used by ‘Storm’ for the neighbors in the past, it went only by the compatriot line and none of the group’s participants knew about it, was not connected directly with the neighbors and the latter don’t know the people of the group.”[6]

To restate this in more idiomatic English – Zarubin was reporting that, even if J. Peters had previously been in the habit of turning over information he had received from the “Perlo Group” to the GRU, the group itself, which was composed only of local American Communist Party members and party fellow travelers, never knew what Peters was doing that it had not been chartered by the GRU and that in fact it had never had any knowing or direct link to the GRU. Moreover, GRU officers who received “Perlo Group” information through Peters were never told, and did not know, any of the names of the members of the group. The “Perlo Group,” that is to say, had been “used blind,” a Soviet intelligence phrase for Americans who had become unknowing sources of information.

Vassily Zarubin left the United States in the early fall of 1944, and Anatoly Gorsky immediately stepped into his shoes. It is not clear whether there was even any overlap between Zarubin’s tenure and Gorsky’s. Zarubin’s explanations, after returning home, cast serious doubt on the idea that “Raid,” that is, Perlo, was even speaking the same language Gorsky was, and on whether, in view of the information developed by Zarubin, Perlo was indeed even in a position to be fully aware of the nature of the questions Gorsky presumably put to him. If, for instance, Gorsky asked him, “Did I ever work with” so-and-so, Perlo would definitely hear this as a question that related to his work on the “compatriot line,” that is, on the American Communist Party line.

I will conclude this analysis by citing one further highlight provided in the same Vassiliev draft chapter that substantiates this conclusion of Perlo’s “unknowingness.” Recall that in reporting on Herbert Schimmel, Perlo’s answer to the question about Schimmel’s “present connection” was, “Yes, with Blumberg.” Remember also that the “Perlo List” was prepared on March 15, 1945. Now contrast that with an intelligence document cited by the Vassiliev chapter that reports on a late July 1945 discussion of plans “to approach Albert Blumberg, communist representative in Washington and Baltimore,” with the idea of “his recruitment” into Soviet intelligence.[7]

In other words, Blumberg was being discussed as a target for recruitment four months after Perlo had identified a Schimmel “connection” with Blumberg, so, when putting together his list four months earlier, Perlo presumably may only have been discussing a “compatriot line” “connection.” (There is, by the way, no evidence that Blumberg ever was actually recruited by Soviet intelligence.)

After all this sifting and comparison, we may still only guess why Allen Weinstein chose not to quote the “Perlo List” in The Haunted Wood. We have already pointed out that the document is troublesome to those convinced of Alger Hiss’s guilt, since it seems both to implicate and to exonerate him. When, however, the “Perlo List”‘s absence from The Haunted Wood is paired with Zarubin’s report on the status and function of the “Perlo Group,” another document which also did not manage to make it into The Haunted Wood, one possible answer for Weinstein’s omission seems to spring into focus.

For what Zarubin had discovered about the “Perlo Group” goes to the core of the whole hotly disputed issue of the true nature of the relationships between American Communist-leaning New Dealers and Soviet intelligence services in the 1930s. Once he became privy to this story, Allen Weinstein chose to keep the Pandora’s Box entrusted to him tightly closed.

1. Quoted in “Victor Perlo, 87, Economist for Communist Party in U.S.,” by Joseph B. Treaster, an obituary in The New York Times, December 10, 1999.

2. Pete Seeger himself backed out after Khrushchev’s 1956 speech.

3. Albert Blumberg personnel file, RGASPI, fund 495, description 261, file 5504 (part of a folder with files 5530 – 5500) CP USA files, 1937-42, RGASPI, fund 515, description 1.

Economics of Racism, USA

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Early years

Victor Perlo was born May 15, 1912 in East Elmhurst, Queens county, New York. Perlo was the son of ethnic Jewish parents who had both emigrated in their youth to America from the Russian empire. [ 1 ] His father, Samuel Perlo, was a lawyer and his mother, Rachel Perlo, was a teacher. [ 1 ]

Perlo received his Bachelor's degree from Columbia University in New York City in 1931 and Master's degree in mathematics from the same school in 1933. [ 2 ]

Late in 1932 or early in 1933, while still a student at Columbia, Perlo joined the Communist Party USA, an organization with which he was affiliated throughout his life. [ 1 ]

Perlo married his first wife, Katherine, in 1933 and divorced in 1943. Subsequently, he married his second wife, Ellen, with whom he remained for the rest of his life. The couple had three children, a girl and two boys. [ 3 ]

Perlo had varied interests, which included tennis, mountain climbing, and chess. He was also a talented pianist.

Governmental career

After his graduation from Columbia in 1933, Perlo went to work as a statistical analyst and assistant to a division chief at the National Recovery Administration (NRA), remaining at that post until June 1935. Perlo then moved to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board where he was an analyst for the Home Owners' Loan Corporation, establishing statistical analyses for properties mortgaged to the corporation and projecting long term financial accounts. [ 4 ] Perlo worked in that capacity until October 1937. [ 1 ]

In October 1937, Perlo left government service to work in the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank established in 1916, where he stayed as a researcher for more than two years. [ 1 ] In November 1939, Perlo went to work in the US Department of Commerce, where he worked as a senior economic analyst in the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce. [ 4 ]

Perlo moved to the Office of Price Administration (OPA) in November 1940, where he was head of the economic statistics division. [ 1 ] There Perlo engaged in the study of inflationary pressures in the American economy, particularly with the advent of World War II, which helped provide documentation enabling the institution of price controls. [ 4 ]

Perlo remained in that capacity until leaving to become head of the aviation section of the Bureau of Programs and Statistics at the War Production Board (WPB). Perlo's work at the WPB involved analysis of the various economic problems of aircraft production. [ 5 ] In September 1944 he was made a special assistant to the director of the Bureau of Programs and Statistics of the WPB. [ 1 ]

During his time in the federal bureaucracy, Perlo was a contributor to the Communist Party's press, submitting articles on economic matters under a variety of pseudonyms. [ 1 ] He also secretly assisted I.F. Stone in gathering materials for various journalistic exposés. [ 1 ]

About December 1945, Perlo went to the U.S. Treasury Department, where he worked in the Monetary Research department. [ 6 ] There he was an alternate member of the Committee for Reciprocity Information, which took care of technical work relating to trade agreements under the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act and doing preparatory work for the International Trade Organization. [ 6 ]

Perlo left government service in 1947, resigning in the midst of an investigation over whether his continued employment represented a security risk. [ 7 ]

Career after government

In 1948, Perlo obtained a position as an economist for the Progressive Party, assisting the Presidential campaign of former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Vice President Henry Wallace. [ 8 ]

In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. [ 9 ]

Death and legacy

He died on December 1, 1999 at his home in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. He was 87 years old at the time of his death. [ 3 ]

Victor Perlo's papers are housed in the special collections department of Lewis J. Ort Library at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland.


Victor Perlo headed the Perlo group. Perlo was originally allegedly a member of the Ware group before World War II. After receiving a master's degree in mathematics from Columbia University in 1933, Perlo worked at a number of New Deal government agencies among a group of economists known as “Harry Hopkins’ bright young men.” The group worked, among other things, for creation and implementation of the WPA jobs program, and helped push through unemployment compensation, the Wagner National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and Social Security. During World War II, Perlo served in several capacities, working first as chief of the Aviation Section of the War Production Board, then in the Office of Price Administration, and later for the Treasury Department. Perlo left the government in 1947. Perlo also worked for the Brookings Institution and wrote American Imperialism. Perlo's code name in Soviet intelligence was "Eck" and "Raid" appearing in Venona project as "Raider".

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