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Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals Paperback – 22 Jan 1996
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From the Back Cover
‘An extremely clever book, entertaining, despite its often hideous subject matter, on the Soviet ‘apparatus’ and its dirty work in the west. Stephen Koch's huge cast of remarkable characters is headed by Willi Münzenberg, German comrade of Lenin from pre-Revolutionary days, found hanged in a remote forest after the Nazi conquest of France in 1940. Münzenberg's skill was organisational. He was a Bolshevik Hearst or Murdoch. Newspapers, magazines, books, plays, films appeared in the west at his instigation… the fellow-travelling innocents who joined the front organisations he controlled included some of the major names in 20th-century culture – Mann and Gide, Hemingway and Eluard. Bad-tempered Sinclair Lewis and wise-cracking Dorothy Parker. His lieutenant Otto Katz was the friend of Kafka and Marlene Dietrich, Brecht and Fritz Lang, and mobilised Hollywood for Stalin.’
ANGUS CALDER, 'Scotland on Sunday '
‘An excellent history of soviet propaganda in the west under Stalin… Koch, to his credit, has not taken a single rumour for granted. This is an excellent example of both scholarship and detective work, sourced from newly-opened archives in Germany and Russia’
ANNE McELVOY, ' The Times'
‘Riveting – As a classic example of conspiracy theory, Stephen Koch's account of Willi Münzenberg and the Soviet propaganda machine of the 1920s and 30s is hard to beat.’
AC GRAYLING, 'Financial Times'
‘This story is a compelling one … It is unlikely that a more compelling account of the subject will be written than this, and Koch writes well, and with gusto.’
PHILIP MARSDEN, 'Spectator'
About the Author
Stephen Koch is chairman of the Writing Division of the School of Arts at Columbia University, New York. He lives in Manhattan. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Stephen Koch's book, now available in its second printing (may there be a third!) highlights the communist undercover propaganda activities in the West that formed Moscow's ideological spearhead in the 1920s and 1930s. It tells the often tragic stories of the men and women doing the work who thought they were helping to create a better world and often ended up dangling from Stalin's gallows or as non-entities in the endless plains of the Gulag.
In the early days of the Bolshevik empire, this propaganda was aimed primarily at the capitalist countries, it was to promote the cause of the forgotten masses, to fight the lost but glorious causes of victims like Sacco and Vanzetti, to eliminate local rivals and to establish goodwill in intellectual circles. Capitalism was, obviously, the class enemy number one, but intially the campaign lacked a political foe, although Italian fascism, another liberatory ideology that sprang up after the first World War had at least given the enemy a name.
From that point of view, Hitler's sudden rise in Germany, spurred by the Depression which struck Germany hardest of all industrialized nations, was a godsend for communist cause. Now there was a way for Moscow to get a free entry ticket into the ruling circles of the Capitalist world. Stalin could now sell to the society he was trying to eliminate a glossy magazine describing Hitler's evil deeds, and the pitch was made so much easier because the claims could be verified on the spot - not many people toured the Soviet Union unaccompanied by local "guides", but anyone, more or less, was able to travel to Berlin or into the German provinces to view the astonishing - and to many people threatening - changes that were taking place there. For most observers it was preferable to get their goosebumps closer to home, in an environment they knew fairly well rather than attempt to satisfy their curiosity by visiting the Red Empire.
The person who had forged Moscow's propaganda organization abroad from the very beginning and who had immediately identified the new objectives by producing the "Brown Book" which blamed the Reichstag fire on the Nazi's themselves, was Willi Muenzenberg, a man born in Germany and one of Lenin's personal aides. Stalin supplied him with whatever means he needed to seduce the intellectual elites, both in Europe and in America, leaving to Willi the choice of the treatment - money, women, publicity - to be aplied in each particular case, be it Bertolt Brecht or Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway or Picasso, André Malraux or the Mann family.
Anything that would disparage Hitler and his ideas would be used to advantage; the result was a world-wide political constellation of strange bedfellows, fundamentally opposed to each other. At a critical moment it created a common groundswell which engulfed the center of Europe and pushed the rest of the continent to the edge of an abyss where it was to remain for half a century. To achieve his ends, Willi and the all-too-willing writers he had bought in one way or another were not afraid to use the Lie on a grand scale. Paris was their HQ. According to Stephen Koch, Malraux' report of a trip to Berlin he undertook in early 1934 to secure the release of Dimitroff was a fabrication and a fraud (p. 129f). Koch states that the "Oberfohren memorandum", supposedly a German account of the horrors perpetrated by the SA and published in the Manchester Guardian, was a "pure piece of black propaganda" (p. 157) written by one of Münzenberg's men. Countless other such fabrications were circulated and poisoned the soul of western culture and civilization.
By 1939, once the Hitler-Stalin pact had allowed the great European War to start, however, Muenzenberg became expendable like so many other communists who fell from grace. Stalin eliminated the international activities which Moscow had so strongly promoted for more than two decades. When the German army moved into France, Willi fled south from Paris but never reached a safe haven in Switzerland or Spain. Many months later, his dead body was found in a forest on his escape route. Stephen Koch is hesitant as to how Willi died, whether by his own hands or by those of Stalin's men. He also allows for a Blitzaktion of the Gestapo, but this is unconvincing, because the Wehrmacht had not yet reached that area and even if the Germans had been looking for him and had been aware of his whereabouts in those tumultuous days of the collapse of France, they would certainly not have failed to interrogate such an important personality before any act of revenge, whereas the Soviet Union, for both political and tactical reasons, would have been most eager to silence him at the first opportunity.
In spite of a few questionable theses, "Double Lives" is a highly recommendable book which can be placed alongside Christopher Andrew's "Mitrokhin Archive" and Stéphane Courtois' "Black Book of Communism" without any reservations.
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He particularly concentrates upon the intellectual elite that fell under Munzenberg's sway in this cultural war against the West.
This includes such persons as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Andre' Malraux, Andre' Gide, Pablo Picasso, Dorothy Parker, George Grosz, Lincoln Steffens, John Dos Passos, Bertolt Brecht, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett and Sidney and Beatrice Webb.
This volume shatters myth after historical myth of this critical period.
Munzenberg, Koch states, "developed what may well be the leading moral illusion of the twentieth century: the notion that in the modern age the principal arena of the moral life, the true realm of good and evil, is political."
The notion that - the ethical is the political - and that the highest form of ethical expression was "anti-fascism," - with the Soviet Union as the publicly-identified, ideologically most dedicated opponent of fascism, thus holding the moral high ground.
This myth was actually built upon the basest of lies.
As Koch demonstrates, from the earliest days of the National Socialist regime in Germany, beginning with the Reichstag Fire less than a month after Hitler became Chancellor, a sinister covert relationship existed between Nazi secret intelligence and their Soviet counterpart.
This clandestine cooperation continued throughout the decade: Hitler's massacre of Ernst Rohm and his S. A. leadership in the Night of the Long Knives; Stalin's terror purge of CPSU party members, feckless intellectuals, military officers (most notably Field Marshal Tukhachevsky's betrayal by documents forged in a Gestapo laboratory), and the murder of tens of millions of ordinary Soviet citizens, reaching its culmination in the Hitler-Stalin Non-Aggression Pact of August, 1939.
Publicly the Soviet Union and their international Popular Front network (of what were secretly designated "useful idiots" or "Innocents' Clubs") preached "anti-fascism."
Covertly Stalin sought accommodation, appeasement, and eventual alliance with Hitler.
Besides fascinating details dealing with the duplicitous Reichstag Fire trials, the Cambridge Five British espionage scandal, the Spanish Civil War as an international component to Stalin's Great Terror, and finally Muzenberg's own mysterious murder, one of the most intriguing aspects of Koch's study involves the use of women espionage agents.
"Many of the `Muzenberg-men' were women. The Russian writer and historian Nina Berberova writes with astringent authority about a cohort of agents or near-agents, the women whom she calls the `Ladies of the Kremlin."
These were women who became influential figures in European and American intellectual life partly on their own, but above all through the men in their lives. The men, most often, were famous writers, `spokesmen for the West,' Meanwhile, the consorts whom they most trusted were guided by the Soviet services.
"Leading this list were two members of the minor Russian aristocracy: the Baroness Moura Budberg, who was mistress to both Maxim Gorky and H. G. Wells, and the Princess Maria Pavlova Koudachova. Moura Budberg's links to the Soviets were shadowy, and remained secret for decades, until they were at last exposed by the Russian historian Arkady Vaksberg in his 1997 book, The Gorky Secret. We have more certain knowledge about the Princess Koudachova, who first became secretary, later mistress, wife, and at last widow to the once enormously celebrated pacifist novelist Romain Rolland.
"Maria Pavlova Koudachova was an agent directly under Soviet secret service control. There is some questionable evidence to suggest that she was trained and assigned to Rolland's life even before she left Russia after the Revolution. . . That she was a secret service operative, however, and one expressly planted in Rolland's life, cannot be doubted. Babette Gross (common-law wife of Willi Munzenberg) put it to me plainly in the summer of 1989. `She was an apparatchik,' she said flatly. `And she ran him.'" (Koch, page 28).
Koch proceeds to discuss other women deep within the Communist apparat, such as the American Ella Winter, and their distinguished men of distinction.
In Winter's case, the men were pioneer muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens, and upon his death, Hollywood screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart, part of Hemingway's circle immortalized in The Sun Also Rises.
Stewart was the Academy Award-winning author of The Philadelphia Story, and one of the highest-paid screenwriters of the day, notes Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley in Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s, Crown Forum, 1998. He was also one of "the most vociferous guardians of the Party line," especially through the vexatious days of the Nazi-Soviet Pact (Billingsley, page 82).
Upon reading these various accounts a pattern soon develops.
The profiles were remarkably similar.
The men were all internationally known novelists, artists, playwrights, etc. celebrated for their independence of mind, their supposed integrity of spirit, but in actuality men who were manipulated by their muses.
The technique proved very successful in this inner war period.
There is no reason to believe that the Communist intelligence services ceased to use such agents of influence during the years of the Cold War.
"Yoko Ono, phone your office."
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