A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster

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The extraordinary life of Jay Lovestone is one of the great untold stories of the twentieth century. A Lithuanian immigrant who came to the United States in 1897, Lovestone rose to leadership in the Communist Party of America, only to fall out with Moscow and join the anti-Communist establishment after the Second World War. He became one of the leading strategists of the Cold War, and was once described as "one of the five most important men in...

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NY 1999 Hardcover 1st Edition New in New jacket Book. 12mo-over 6?-7?" tall. This is a New and Unread copy of the first edition (1st printing). Photographs. Index. Bibliography.

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A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster

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Overview

The extraordinary life of Jay Lovestone is one of the great untold stories of the twentieth century. A Lithuanian immigrant who came to the United States in 1897, Lovestone rose to leadership in the Communist Party of America, only to fall out with Moscow and join the anti-Communist establishment after the Second World War. He became one of the leading strategists of the Cold War, and was once described as "one of the five most important men in the hidden power structure of America."
        
Lovestone was obsessively secretive, and it is only with the opening of his papers at the Hoover Institution, the freeing of access to Comintern files in Moscow, and the release of his 5,700-page FBI file that biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ted Morgan has been able to construct a full account of the remarkable events of Jay Lovestone's life.
        
The life Morgan describes is full of drama and intrigue. He recounts Lovestone's career in the faction-riven world of American Communism until he was spirited out of Moscow in 1929 after Stalin publicly attacked him for doctrinal unorthodoxy. As Lovestone veered away from Moscow, he came to work for the American Federation of Labor, managing a separate union foreign policy as well as maintaining his own intelligence operations for the CIA, many under the command of the legendary counterintelligence chief James Angleton. Lovestone also associated with Louise Page Morris, a spy known as "the American Mata Hari," who helped him undermine Communist advances in the developing world and whose own significant espionage careeris detailed here. Lovestone's influence, always exercised from behind the scenes, survived to the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union.
        
A Covert Life has all the elements of a classic spy thriller: surveillance operations and stings, love affairs and bungled acts of sabotage, many thoroughly illegal. It is written with the easy hand of a fine biographer (The Washington Post Book World called Ted Morgan "a master storyteller") and provides a history of the Cold War and a glimpse into the machinery of the CIA while also revealing many hitherto hidden details of the superpower confrontation that dominated postwar global politics.

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Editorial Reviews

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
...[A]n enlightening and lively book....It offers a fresh perspective on the 1930s....And, on a lighter note, Mr. Morgan makes you realize that if you've ever had trouble grasping precisely what a Lovestoneite was, there's a perfectly good reason....[T]o get a true understanding...you must read A Covert Life.
The New York Times
Harvey Klehr
Morgan's biography...will undoubtedly stand as the definitive account of the man....The judgment of A Covert Life might best be described as mixed but sympathetic.
Commentary
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Morgan (biographer of Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, William S. Burroughs and Somerset Maugham) turns his attention this time to the not-so-famous but intriguing Jay Lovestone (1897-1990). Born Jacob Liebstein, Lovestone kept reinventing himself, altering not only his name but also his resume, his personality and his ideology. He was a youthful leader of the American Communist Party during the 1920s, when many intellectuals found the Soviet experiment irresistible. Some of the most absorbing passages of the book--helped greatly by recently opened Comintern files to which Morgan had access--concern the ferocious infighting among American Communists. Lovestone and a band of his supporters went to Moscow in 1929 to plead their case before a special Comintern committee headed by Stalin. Lovestone found himself on the wrong side of Stalin, expelled from the American Communist Party and, most frighteningly, stuck in Russia with no friends and without his passport. He escaped Moscow, made his way back to the States and embarked on a successful career as a professional anti-communist. He collaborated especially closely with CIA spymasters, including James Angleton. Of Lovestone's contributions to the Cold War, Morgan writes: "He was the coach rather than the player, the master kibbitzer, the prompter in the box, not the actor in the stage." Morgan does a great job of summarizing Lovestone's work, but, precisely because Lovestone threw himself almost exclusively into that work, there is very little with which to humanize him. Readers looking for more than a symbol of a century's ideological turmoil may find Morgan's Lovestone at once remote and exhausting. (Mar.)
Harvey Klehr
Morgan's biography...will undoubtedly stand as the definitive account of the man....The judgment of A Covert Life might best be described as mixed but sympathetic.
Commentary
Paul Berman
Morgan does tell an amazing tale...filled with astounding characters....[Y]et the most sensational of Morgan's characters is plainly Lovestone himself...who...became..."one of the masterminds of the Cold War."
The New York Times Book Review
Michael Ybarra
In his aptly titled biography...Ted Morgan tries to put flesh on the ghost that Lovestone often seemed to be...[He] comes close to making his book worthwhile. He is the first scholar to burrow into the Lovestone papers at the Hooover Institution, as well as dig into his 5,700 page FBI file and resurrect an oddball cast of spooks and kooks who trailed Lovestone like a marching band after a baton twirler.
The Wall Street Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Pulitzer-winning journalist, biographer, and historian Morgan (A Shovel of Stars: The Making of the American West 1800 to the Present, 1995, etc.) throws scattershot light on 20th-century Communism, labor, and US intelligence through a shadowy figure who passed through all these worlds. Born in Lithuania in 1897, Jacob Liebstein emigrated with his parents to the US at the age of ten and settled on New York's Lower East Side. Caught up in the fervor of the Russian Revolution, he forsook Judaism, took the name Jay Lovestone, and became a member of the American Communist Party. By the age of 29, his workhorse habits, intellect, and zeal had propelled him to the leadership of the party. But in 1929 he was expelled for defying Joseph Stalin in front of the Comintern Congress. Involuntarily detained in the Soviet Union, Lovestone made a hairbreadth escape. After breaking definitively with Communism, in the early 1940s Lovestone linked up with George Meany, in time becoming the AFL leader's foreign-policy adviser and liaison to the CIA. Lovestone retained a talent for intrigue and a conspiratorial mindset that led him to collaborate for more than 20 years with CIA spycatcher James Angleton. Often incurring the antipathy of CIA handlers and other labor leaders, the abrasive but effective Lovestone helped splinter off non-Communist union organizers from Moscow-controlled insurgents in France and Italy, and established free trade unions as a bulwark against Stalin in West Germany. In 1974, this unregenerate Cold Warrior was ousted from his AFL-CIO post when his continuing involvement with Angleton was exposed. Morgan has uncovered much in newly opened archives of the Kremlin, FBI surveillance,and Lovestone's personal papers at the Hoover Institution that will be invaluable to future Cold War historians. But he mixes mindless trivia, say, of his subject's love life, with items of real significance, and he fails to follow up tantalizing points (e.g., he mentions only in passing that Whittaker Chambers was a Lovestone sympathizer in the 1930s). A revealing and yet at times frustratingly truncated biography of an early American dissident from the God that failed. .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679444008
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/16/1999
  • Pages: 402
  • Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 9.61 (h) x 1.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted Morgan is the author of biographies of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Somerset Maugham, and William S. Burroughs, and of the histories A Shovel of Stars and Wilderness at Dawn. He lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


THE
BLOND
BEAST


    As it often happened, the father came first with his oldest daughter to take care of the house, leaving the rest of the family behind. In the great hall of Ellis Island, divided by railings, they inched forward in the endless line, where federal inspectors processed as many as five thousand immigrants a day. Would they get through or be sent back? The father, his scraggly beard covering his shirt collar, had brought his prayer shawl and phylacteries. God did not refuse the pious. But was God present in the midst of this bustle, this polyglot confusion?

    The doctors were the keepers of the gates, one inspecting their eyes, another asking them to cough. Not carrying trachoma or tuberculosis, they were let through, into another line, finding themselves at last before a uniformed man at a desk. Barnet Liebstein was allowed to keep his name, unlike so many others, such as the man who was told an Americanized name to give the inspector but forgot it and blurted out in Yiddish Shane vergesse (I forgot), ending up James Ferguson.

    As for his age, or even his daughter Mary's age, he wasn't sure. In the old country Jews were not given birth certificates; they were nonpersons from the day they were born. He figured he was in his forties, while Mary was in her late teens. Once the rest of the family arrived, he would assign birthdays to all of them.

    The year was 1906, in the second wave of Jewish migration from the Russian empire. In tsarist Russia, which included the Baltic states and part of Poland, Jews were assigned to a large boundaried district called a pale. They were not allowed to own land, or attend universities, or travel outside the district without papers. But they were allowed to serve in the tsar's army. Essentially they were a minority under surveillance, the targets of a sly bureaucracy. Depending on the whim of the tsar, the pendulum swung from repression to relative ease.

    America beckoned, with its policy of open immigration. In 1882 the United States had 100,000 Jews; by 1920 it had 4 million. The great bulk of them came from the Pale, which they fled for practical reasons: to avoid conscription, to travel without an internal passport, to escape a small life as a herring salesman at town fairs.

    One of these immigrants seeking a fresh start was Barnet Liebstein, a pious and orthodox man who took his own food for the crossing because the food on the boat was not kosher, and who did not neglect his prayers amid the stench and blare of steerage. Barnet came from a village too small to figure on most maps: Molchad, in the then Polish (and later Lithuanian) province of Grodno, south of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius and west of the Belorussian capital of Minsk. Barnet was the rabbi of Molchad, a respected figure to whom people came for more than religious services. They came to him in a marital dispute or over a contested inheritance, rather than go to the civil authority.

    But in America he was no longer the head of his community. He was not even the head of a congregation, for there was a glut of rabbis on the Lower East Side, which offered by the time of his arrival in 1906 a readymade Yiddish-speaking quarter, a reconstituted ghetto, not unlike Minsk. Hester Street, where he found a tenement, smelled of garlic and fish and rang with the calls of pushcart peddlers — "I cash old clothes," and "Fresh pike for the Sabbath." Here everyone was poor, and people haggled over a penny. And here the roofs were flat, with clothes on ropes fluttering in the wind.

    Barnet found a place as sexton or shammes in one of the storefront synagogues. He was responsible for its care and upkeep, and lit the candles. In his spare hours he taught Hebrew. Detached from worldly things, uneasy in the new world, Barnet found a refuge in scrupulous orthodoxy. He never shaved his beard. He never touched a coin on the Sabbath, or lit a match, or used gas. He wrapped himself in protective Judaism.

    But Mary had a good business sense; she managed the finances so that in little more than a year they had saved enough money to bring the rest of the family over: Barnet's wife, Emma, who was about five years older than he was and who wore a wig that covered most of her brow, which she continued to wear in New York; and in descending order of birth, Morris, Sarah, Esther, and Jacob. They boarded the Zeeland in Antwerp and arrived in New York on September 15, 1907.

    The family was reunited on Hester Street in the small-roomed building where the tenants moved often, when they found something better or couldn't pay the rent. Jacob, born in 1897, was not quite ten. He was assigned December 15 as a birthday but when asked found it more dramatic to say he was born on Christmas Day.

    Jacob was strikingly different in appearance from his siblings, who were brown-haired, brown-eyed, and more or less olive-skinned. In a childhood photograph he stands barefoot in a park with Sarah and Esther. The sisters are wearing what look like homemade rather than store-bought dresses, and their long, brown hair flows over their shoulders. Between them stands Jacob, in a T-shirt and short pants, flaxen-haired and blue-eyed, with his arms akimbo and one knee bent on sloping ground, suggesting the body language of the man being photographed after climbing Mount Everest.

    With his straight blond hair cut short and his arched eyebrows, the resolute and unsmiling set of his mouth, and the direct stare of his blue eyes, young Jacob looks like a displaced little Aryan, and his expression seems to be saying: "You want to mess with me? You'll get the worst of it." In later years, after being told by Arthur Koestler about a tribe of blond Tatars in Central Asia who adopted the Jewish faith, Jacob claimed he was a throwback to that tribe.

    In the year of Jacob's arrival in New York, President Teddy Roosevelt, then in his second term, was going after the "malefactors of great wealth" and trying to make the Republican Party the party of reform. In New York the union movement was gaining momentum, and the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union led the march. By 1904 there were two hundred thousand Jews in the garment industry. The Socialist Party was on the upsurge, running Eugene Debs for president in the 1900 and 1904 elections. In 1908 Debs came to New York and spoke in Hamilton Fish Park, but Tammany stole the vote with repeaters. By then the Jewish socialists in New York were themselves learning the machinery of electoral politics. Street meetings were a form of free entertainment and a part of neighborhood life. Registering to vote was a ritual of participation. The Jewish socialists grew their own leaders, among them Morris Hillquit, the garment union lawyer who ran for Congress in 1906 and 1908 (losing both times), and Meyer London, a Marxist who was elected to Congress three times, in 1914, 1916, and 1920.

    With the Lower East Side overflowing, the Liebsteins moved to the Bronx, at 2155 Daly Avenue, close to the park and the newly built subway. Barnet and Emma, who by now were called Barney and Minnie, settled in. Barney found a better synagogue, the Ocean Parkway Jewish Center in Brooklyn, where he spent long hours teaching Hebrew. Minnie, as a good Orthodox housewife, cooked and took care of the children and parented by precept: "A Jewish boy doesn't climb trees," and "Why do you play stickball when you could play chess?"

    A harsh decision had to be made. The boys, Morris and Jacob, would be educated while the three girls would work in the needle trades. Sarah went into millinery, the other two into dresses. They found work in the sweatshops, and spent ten hours a day bent over their machines, turning their wages over to their parents to help put the boys through school.

    Morris took courses at the Cooper Union and then enrolled in the New York College of Eclectic Medicine, which took a holistic approach. He set up a practice on Central Park West and founded the Maimonides Hygienic Association, named after the great Hebrew scholar and physician who practiced in twelfth-century Spain. Morris saw himself as a latter-day Maimonides, "a public servant of ailing humanity," as he said. Although bombastic and self-important, he was in some ways ahead of his time, for he recommended proper diet and herbal medicines, and recognized tobacco as a dangerously toxic substance. He was one of the first doctors in New York with a no-smoking sign in the window of his office.

    As for young Jacob, he went to public school until midafternoon and after that to Hebrew school, trading baseball cards as the teacher droned on. His days were followed by long hours of homework in the evening. Of the old country, village life in Molchad, he retained only one or two mental snapshots: his mother baking cookies and selling them at fairs. Mornings, sneaking under the house where the chicken coop was, puncturing eggs with a pin and sucking out the contents.

    Now he was a child of the city, playing stickball in the street, saving soap coupons until he could buy his own roller skates (over Minnie's objections), and when he could get his hands on an extra quarter, renting a bicycle for an hour. His tsidderike (trembling with fear) mama worried herself sick. If he was five minutes late it was a calamity.

    In high school, at Townsend Harris Hall, Jacob's desire for spare change became acute. He needed those pennies and nickels to buy the newspapers and magazines his parents did not read — the Freiheit, the Call, The Masses. Jacob had developed into a strong, well-built young man. A natural pugnacity and the promise of prize money led him to take up boxing. In those days the tenement roof had many uses. Dances were held up there, to the music of a harmonica. Pigeons were kept in makeshift coops. Boxing rings were improvised with clotheslines tied to chimneys, and bouts were advertised in flyers by fledgling promoters. Jacob was billed as "The Blond Bum" or "The Blond Jew." He didn't have a knockout punch, but he was scrappy and fast on his feet, and the money was good — three dollars when he won, two when he lost.

    He was making three more often than two and building up a neighborhood reputation when one sweltering summer evening he took on Dutch Schaefer, a muscle-bound lump of Teutonic granite who outweighed him by twenty pounds and who beat him up so badly that when he got home, swollen-eyed and bleeding, he had to tell his horrified mother that he'd fallen down the stairs. His boxing career came abruptly to a close.

    His father, easygoing, lost in his thoughts, did not try to impose his orthodoxy on the children. Barney never learned English, never became a citizen, and never involved himself in the rough dynamics of American democracy. Jacob turned away from his heritage and his religion, forging his American identity. Jacob's views on religion were sardonic. Once on a train he sat next to a rabbi who asked him what he did for a living. "I'm a pig bristle salesman," he said.

    Jacob's three sisters married and moved out of the house. Mary ran a drugstore at 761 Gravesend Avenue in Brooklyn with her husband, Paul Gavza. They owned the building the store was in and lived above it. Esther and her husband, Louis Matis (shortened from Manishevitz at Ellis Island) ran a pawnshop in Brooklyn. Their three-story house at 703 Ditmas Avenue became a sort of community center, where the warmhearted and welcoming Esther was always ready to feed an army.

    Sarah, the youngest daughter, described as "the most placid of the five kids," married Charles Gray (shortened from Grabow), known as Max. He had plenty of good ideas, but somehow they never panned out. At the time of his marriage to Sarah, he ran Graybow Silk in Paterson, New Jersey. Each year he laid out his capital to buy the silk in Japan. But one year an earthquake wiped out the silkworms and he was ruined.


It was only natural that Socialism should take root among the Jewish immigrants in New York, who by 1910 numbered one million out of a population of four million. Some of these immigrants had been Socialists in Russia, as a way of resisting tsarist injustice. Once in the new world they could laugh at the tsar. On an old Victrola record of Yiddish jokes that Jacob Liebstein remembered, there was one that went "I pray for the tsar — that he should be far, far away."

    But though the tsar was far away, the Jewish immigrants brought with them the deep conviction of a persecuted people that personal liberation depends on the liberation of society. Their own situation as an oppressed minority in the old world made them take up Socialism in the new, where instead of tsarist injustice they had to contend with made-in-America oppression in the form of gouging employers and corrupt political bosses.

    When the Liebsteins arrived on the Lower East Side in 1907, they found a society in ferment, a downtrodden Jewish proletariat looking to the unions for remedies. And though the mark of the shtetl was still on them, and though they spoke in that mishmash of Russian and German and Hebrew known as Yiddish, they soon began thinking in terms of mass action and political goals, for they knew they were in a country where change was not only possible but prescribed.

    When the Liebstein girls went into the needle trades, they were charged for the needles they used and the chairs they sat on. They were fined for being late and had to rent their clothes lockers. If you had three sisters working in the needle trades, as Jacob Liebstein did, conditions in the sweatshops were brought home on a daily basis. Mary, the oldest girl, not only joined the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union but secretly took her brother to the Jewish Socialist Sunday school, where they sang union songs instead of hymns and the sermon consisted of a discussion on piece-good rates.

    Like other Jewish children, Jacob Liebstein learned enough to be bar-mitzvahed, but his true interests were elsewhere. Jacob was drawn to the radical speakers of the day, Big Bill Haywood of the Wobblies, and Emma Goldman the anarchist, who fueled his youthful capacity for indignation. At the north end of Central Park, he was one of the faithful who gathered not only to listen to but also to argue with the soapbox orators. Not to mention the "kitchen table" politicians who held never-ending debates on the issues of the day in one another's homes. It seemed that a good radical was defined by the extent of his stamina for marathon discussion.

    Jacob was also a voracious reader, who went through piles of penny radical papers and nickel magazines, such as Mother Earth, the Daily People, the Freiheit, the Forward, the Call, and The Masses. He spent hours in the library, studying the works of the nineteenth-century thinkers who sought an alternative to the cutthroat capitalism of the industrial revolution.

    Thus was the teenage Jacob Liebstein radicalized, in somewhat the same way that a goose is force-fed, although in his case it was voluntary. His reading told him that, for the first time in the history of man, there were enough goods so that everyone could have a decent standard of living. There should thus be a social system that would distribute the goods and give everyone a fair share. It all seemed perfectly reasonable. Socialism was based on cooperation rather than competition and would lead to a society with no private ownership, where the lion's share of the wealth was not hoarded by a tiny number. Of the thinkers that Jacob studied, Marx had a great impact, for he posited not a utopian but a scientific socialism, and an inevitable progression from capitalism to socialism and communism. It seemed ordained that just as man had evolved from lower forms of life, he would rise through the class struggle to communism.

    But the thinker under whose spell Jacob Liebstein fell was his contemporary Daniel De Leon, then the leading Marxist theoretician in America, who translated Marx and Engels and wrote for the Marxist newspaper The Daily People. De Leon was an immigrant from the Dutch island of Curaçao, off the coast of Venezuela, descended from Sephardic Jews. His father was a doctor prosperous enough to send him to school in Germany and Holland. De Leon came to America in 1876 and studied and taught at Columbia Law School. In 1890 he veered to the left, becoming a Marxist and joining the splinter Socialist Labor Party, which he promptly took over.

    De Leon's central idea was that one powerful industrial union would eventually take over the government via the ballot box. A government of trade unionists would run America. For Jacob Liebstein, knowing the experiences of his three sisters in the sweatshops, this scenario was mightily appealing. Alone, as he saw firsthand from a life of grinding poverty, the workers were feeble, but united with others of their class they would have tremendous power.

    In his plan for an authentic Socialist trade union, the main target of De Leon's attacks was the American Federation of Labor, founded in 1886. He heaped invective on the federation and its leader, Samuel Gompers, whom he called a "labor-fakir." Gompers hit back, saying: "De Leon came of a Venezuelan family of Spanish and Dutch descent with a strain of colored blood. That makes him a first-class son of a bitch." One of De Leon's impulses was to reinvent his past once he became a Marxist. Repudiating his Jewish ancestry, he claimed to belong to an aristocratic Venezuelan family directly descended from Ponce de León.

    In 1905 De Leon was one of the founders of the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World), the kind of radical industrial union he had dreamed of, but he was such a compulsive factionalist and troublemaker that he was drummed out in 1908. He spent his last years brooding over his expulsion and died in 1914. Even though he had failed to build a mass movement, he was a popular figure in New York leftist circles, and The New York Times reported that three thousand people attended his funeral, and that more than fifty thousand lined the streets through which the procession passed. Some were on their knees in prayer. One of those who came to mourn the Marxist intellectual was his disciple Jacob Liebstein.

    Daniel De Leon died in May 1914, and that August, Jacob Liebstein saw a newsboy hawking an extra that had a one-word headline: WAR. By then he had been sufficiently radicalized to declare his opposition to what he thought of as an imperialistic struggle between Britain and Germany to dominate world markets. Soon after, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Socialist Party. Then, in the fall of 1915, he entered City College.

    In many if not most Jewish families, college was not debatable, even though it meant that the boundaries of intellectual inquiry were removed, and that the process of political radicalization might be furthered. Thus, the mother of Morris Raphael Cohen, the renowned City College philosophy professor, said: "If need be, I'll go out as a washerwoman and scrub floors so that my Morris can have a college education." Even with free tuition college was seen as a luxury — but a necessary one. Of course it was understood that parental sacrifice would be matched by good grades; Jacob's oldest friend, Bert Wolfe, whom he met at City College, was told by his mother: "If you ever flunk a single course, out you go."

    When Jacob Liebstein entered City College, the children of Jewish immigrants made up 70 percent of the student body of thirteen hundred. The college, which in 1908 had moved its campus from Lexington and Twenty-third Street to leafy Harlem, at 138th Street and Convent Avenue, where gabled buildings surrounded a grassy plaza, was known as the Harvard of the proletariat. It was in fact — long before open admissions — a meritocracy where only students with good high school grade averages got in.

    Thus, Bert Wolfe, who grew up on Berriman Street in East New York saying "boids" for birds, won the Ward Medal for proficiency in German language and literature and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. In addition, he was an incurable joiner, who belonged to the Clionia Literary Society, the Deutsche Verein, the Philosophical Society, and the Varsity Debating Team.

    Jacob Liebstein also won a prize, as he reported to the alumni secretary in May 1978 after attending the sixtieth reunion of the class of 1918, the best-known member of which was the lyricist E. Y. "Yip" Harburg, who wrote the words to "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" and "Over the Rainbow." "I do not usually go to social gatherings because I believe in Girth Control," Jacob wrote. "Yip was in great shape, he has lost none of his fire or talent.... We survivors of six of the stormiest decades in human history have no complaint.... CCNY deepened my interest in economic, social, and philosophy of law problems. This led me to win the highly coveted philosophy prize awarded by professors Harry Overstreet and Morris Cohen. Of the seventeen in his class, he gave me the prize, a fifty-dollar government bond. I refused to accept it unless the other sixteen students got a passing mark, so that their diplomas would not be held up."

    That Jacob Liebstein was able to pressure Morris Raphael Cohen, a notoriously tough teacher, quick with sarcasm and reticent with praise, into passing the entire class sounds like a bit of sixtieth-reunion hyperbole. But the real revelation in Jacob's letter is that he accepted a fifty-dollar war bond at a time when he was militantly antiwar. Jacob, however, admired Morris Cohen, a fellow disciple of Daniel De Leon. Like Jacob, Cohen had made the leap from religious orthodoxy to social reform.

    Jacob joined the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, then the most radical student organization on campus, founded in 1905 under the sponsorship of Upton Sinclair, who said that "since the professors would not educate the students, it was up to the students to educate the professors." As secretary and then president of the ISS, Jacob tried to avoid a head-on collision with the school administration, hoping to conform to the ISS motto, "Light, Not Heat." He tried to be effective in small, practical ways, such as obtaining jobs for needy students in the library and the student co-op. In 1916, when the streetcar workers went on strike, he took a detachment of ISS members to picket alongside the strikers and collected food for them.

    Then came 1917, a watershed year for the left, the year the United States got into the war. The year the tsar was overthrown in Russia and the Bolsheviks took power and pulled out of the war. For young antiwar militants like Jacob Liebstein and Bert Wolfe, America's entrance and Russia's exit opened a large credit for the Bolsheviks. That April, three days after President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war, the Socialist Party Congress in St. Louis passed a resolution announcing its "unalterable opposition to the war just proclaimed by the government of the United States."

    Jacob Liebstein, as president of the ISS, tried to maintain an antiwar stance without getting into hot water. In a 1917 letter to the Socialist Congressman Meyer London, he expressed disdain for those who "continually yelp their r-r-r-revolutionary position." The ISS was converted into the Social Problems Club, in keeping with the wishes of the board of trustees to "avoid any name that would imply a connection with a political party." The Social Problems Club played the role of loyal opposition, protesting that the school administration had no business pressuring students to buy Victory Bonds but not actually campaigning against the bonds. When the fire-eating prowar evangelist Billy Sunday appeared on campus, the Social Problems Club provided the hecklers.

    In June 1918, after only three years, Jacob graduated from City College. He was twenty years old and five feet, ten inches tall, with a narrow face and a beaky nose. Not exactly handsome, but with the kind of looks that convey vitality. In his half-formed personality grappled the forces of idealism and opportunism, and it was not always possible to discern which side prevailed. Jacob felt strongly about social injustice but also had the schemer's tactical cunning. At City College, in the radicalized climate of 1917, he became a political activist, not as a passing phase (like so many of his classmates) but as a lifetime vocation. Brash and self-assured, quick-witted and outgoing, he was an obvious go-getter, but in what direction would he go?

    His two best friends were Bertram Wolfe and William Weinstein. The third of four children, Bert did well in his studies while working after school as a candy butcher and newsboy on the Long Island Railroad and as a messenger boy for Western Union.

    Bert also liked to play tennis in Prospect Park. One day when Bert was sixteen, his friend Alex Tendler arrived for a game of doubles with a fourteen-year-old girl by the name of Ella Goldberg. She was only about five feet tall, but there was such intelligent curiosity in her brown eyes, and such charm and vivacity in her manner, that Bert was captivated. On the tennis court Ella teamed up with Bert, who said: "Alex tells me you're his girl." "That's a surprise to me," she answered. "If you were my girl," Bert said, "I'd marry you and take you to the Black Forest for our honeymoon."

    Ella soon became Bert's girl, and in 1917, when Bert was twenty and Ella was eighteen, they were married. When they went to the municipal building for the ceremony and Bert kissed the bride, the judge said: "Kissed like a pro." Instead of going on a honeymoon in the Black Forest, they moved into a small place in Brooklyn, and their first guest was Jacob Liebstein. "He had a way with people, an engaging smile, an engaging manner," Ella recalled, "but he always treated me like a man." Ella became his confidante, the one woman he could kid around with, who gave as good as she got, the only one to whom he revealed himself, suspending a natural secretiveness.

    With Will Weinstein it was different. Ella had to fight him off because he had a crush on her. He was at City College too, a year behind Jacob and secretary of the ISS when Jacob was president. Will and Bert and Jacob formed a politically conscious triumvirate and seemed to be conducting some sort of gargantuan discussion that was interrupted but never concluded. At that time Jacob and Will were close friends, though Ella sensed in Will, who was a pontificator and a hairsplitter, a latent jealousy of Jacob, who had more energy and a better mind.

    Ella and Bert and Jacob enrolled in New York University Law School in 1919. They wanted to be union lawyers helping the workers and were filled with confidence that Bolshevik Russia would solve the problems of the world. Eventually the revolution would spread to the United States. It all seemed so logical, so ... right. Overwhelmed by events, all three dropped out of law school to become political militants.

    Jacob Liebstein went through a sea change. Perhaps inspired by Daniel De Leon and his claimed descent from Ponce de León, Jacob resolved to shed his past and his name. When he was naturalized at Bronx Supreme Court on February 7, 1919, he changed his name to Jay Lovestone. Will Weinstein followed suit, becoming Weinstone.

    The change of name demonstrated the change in political direction. Jay had been swept up in the political ferment of the war years, at a time when there were so many soapboxes at Central Park West and 110th Street that it was known as Trotsky Square. The Bolshevik Revolution made a tremendous impression, and now he supported the regime that had overthrown the tsar and brought about the rule of the working class, a regime threatened by a civil war that the allies — France, Britain, and the United States — encouraged. "If it wasn't for the 1917 revolution," he told Ella, "I would have become a lawyer." Instead, he became a career Communist, caught up in the business of the party, wanting to advance within it, maneuvering for position, as one does in any career. The struggle of a young party trying to survive in a hostile climate became his struggle.

    In addition, perhaps thinking it would be preferable not to have any identifiable family ties in case he had to do secret work for the party, Jay made up a little biography for himself, which he dispensed in later years the few times he was interviewed: He had been born in the small town of Naponoch in upstate New York, of a Jewish father and an English mother. His father was a baker and a member of the bakers' union.

    And so, like the quick-change artist who walks offstage costumed as a Spanish Gypsy and emerges moments later as a New England Pilgrim, Jacob Liebstein walked in one door and Jay Lovestone walked out the other — a new man, twenty-one years old, self-invented, a sort of crafty utopian with an Aladdin-like future before him.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
1. The Blond Beast 3
2. Present at the Creation 15
3. Lovestone in Love 30
4. The Chicago Years 48
5. Lovestone Supreme 67
6. In the Jaws of the Bear 84
7. Starting from Scratch 105
8. Lovestone Breaks with Communism 119
9. Lovestone Joins the AFL 141
10. The German Cockpit 156
11. Irving in Orbit 177
12. Lovestone Joins the CIA 195
13. Jay and Jim 244
14. The American Mata Hari 259
15. The Lovestone Intelligence Service 281
16. Lovestone's Second Front 311
17. Decline and Fall 326
18. The Last Years of Lovestone 353
Acknowledgments 373
Sources 375
Index 387
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