In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage, by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, San Francisco: Encounter Books, 300 pages, $25.95
In 1983 the Indiana University historian Robert F. Byrnes collected essays from 35 experts on the Soviet Union—the cream of American academia—in a book titled After Brezhnev. Their conclusion: Any U.S. thought of winning the Cold War was a pipe dream. "The Soviet Union is going to remain a stable state, with a very stable, conservative, immobile government," Byrnes said in an interview, summing up the book. "We don't see any collapse or weakening of the Soviet system."
Barely six years later, the Soviet empire began falling apart. By 1991 it had vanished from the face of the earth. Did Professor Byrnes call a press conference to offer an apology for the collective stupidity of his colleagues, or for his part in recording it? Did he edit a new work titled Gosh, We Didn't Know Our Ass From Our Elbow? Hardly. Being part of the American chattering class means never having to say you're sorry.
Journalism, academia, policy wonkery: They all maintain well-oiled Orwellian memory holes, into which errors vanish without a trace. Stern pronouncements are hurled down like thunderbolts from Zeus, and, like Zeus, their authors are totally unaccountable to mere human beings. Time's Strobe Talbott decreed in 1982 that it was "wishful thinking to predict that international Communism some day will either self-destruct or so exhaust itself in internecine conflict that other nations will no longer be threatened." A Wall Street analyst who misjudged a stock so badly would find himself living under a bridge, if not sharing a cell with Martha Stewart. But Talbott instead became Bill Clinton's deputy secretary of state, where he could apply his perspicacious geopolitical perceptual powers to Osama bin Laden.
One of the most striking revelations in the exposure of the Jayson Blair disaster at The New York Times was his fabrication of an entire visit to the West Virginia farm of POW Jessica Lynch's family, including detailed descriptions of rivers and cattle herds that did not exist. Lynch's parents read the story, laughed at the ludicrous falsehoods, but made no attempt to correct them. It never occurred to them that there was any point. Anybody who reads papers or watches television news knows how rare corrections are.
That's especially true when the mistake is not a discrete, concrete fact like a misspelled name but a broader error of perspective or analysis. It took decades for the Times to admit that the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting of its Stalin-era Moscow bureau chief, Walter Duranty, was delusionary drivel. Even so, his Pulitzer stands. And the Times has yet to bite the bullet on its correspondent Herbert J. Matthews, the clueless Castro groupie who wrote that the comandante was winning his guerrilla war in Cuba at a time when he actually commanded fewer than 20 men.
Sometimes the refusal to confront errors is simple hubris. But often it masks a queasy reluctance to start down a path of self-examination, for fear of where it will lead. During the final days of the 1990 election in Nicaragua, ABC News released the results of a poll showing the ruling Sandinista Party ahead by 16 percentage points. "For the Bush Administration and the Reagan Administration before it, the poll hints at a simple truth: After years of trying to get rid of the Sandinistas, there is not much to show for their efforts," Peter Jennings gravely informed his viewers. But a few days later, the Sandinistas lost—by 14 percentage points. The "simple truth" was really that the poll, like so much of what ABC and other American news media outlets had been reporting from Nicaragua for the previous decade, was utterly, dumbfoundingly, whoppingly wrong. But if you think that triggered a frenzy of soul searching at ABC—about how the poll could have been so mistaken, about how none of the network's reporters sensed anything askew—then guess again. Instead, Jennings dismissed the subject the next day with a single smirking reference to the inscrutability of Nicaraguans.
What went unreported was a research project conducted during the election by the University of Michigan, which by deploying various groups of student pollsters discovered that Nicaraguans mistrusted foreigners, presumed them active allies of the Sandinistas, and persistently lied to them. That fact had calamitous implications not only for what reporters had been writing about Nicaragua in the previous decade but for the reporters themselves. What had they done to make Nicaraguans view them as a foreign auxiliary of the Sandinista Party? Could it be that journalists covering Nicaragua had a (gasp!) ideological bias in favor of the Sandinistas? And could it be a coincidence that you're probably reading about this study for the first time?
The end of the Cold War has produced many such numbing silences. The speed with which the Soviet empire imploded and the economic ruin and popular revulsion that were revealed have made it clear that baby boomer intellectuals and journalists, viewing the world through the distorted lens of Vietnam, overwhelmingly got it wrong. Peasants ate less and were slaughtered more on the other side of the Iron Curtain; the jails were fuller; the KGB's list was a lot longer and a lot deadlier than Joe McCarthy's. A team of French historians calculated the worldwide death toll of communism during the 20th century at more than 93 million. When Hoover Institution historian Robert Conquest used newly available data from the Soviet Union to update The Great Terror, his account of Stalin's murderous purges of the 1930s, his publishers asked for a new title. "How about I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?" Conquest suggested.
The Conquest anecdote comes from In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage, an improbably riveting dispatch from the battlefields of historiography by scholars John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr.
Chilling and often perversely funny, it details the intellectual sleight of hand to which many American historians of communism and the Soviet Union have resorted as newly revealed archives in Moscow and Washington suggest they were, well, fucking fools.
Their efforts haven't been very successful. As Haynes and Klehr note, the world's final redoubt of communism is not Havana or Pyongyang but American college campuses: "The nostalgic afterlife of communism in the United States has outlived most of the real Communist regimes around the world….A sizable cadre of American intellectuals now openly applaud and apologize for one of the bloodiest ideologies of human history, and instead of being treated as pariahs, they hold distinguished positions in American higher education and cultural life."
Bold words, especially in academia, where suggesting somebody has communist sympathies—even if he's carrying a bloody hammer and sickle in one hand and Trotsky's severed head in the other—instantly draws gleeful cries of "McCarthyism!" I say, if this be blacklisting, make the most of it:
? Miami University's Robert W. Thurston, in his 1996 book Life and Terror in Stalin's Russia, rejects the overwhelming evidence that Stalin's purges took the lives of millions. He concedes only 681,692 executions in the years 1937 and 1938, and a mere 2.5 million arrests. Even using those low-ball figures, that means that nearly one of every 20 adult Soviet males went to prison and that more than 900 of them were executed per day. Nonetheless, Thurston says Stalin has gotten a bad rap: There was no "mass terror…extensive fear did not exist…[and] Stalin was not guilty of mass first-degree murder."
? Theodore Von Laue, a professor emeritus of history at Clark University, goes further in a 1999 essay in The Historian. He says it's the damnable Russian peasantry that ought to be begging poor Stalin for forgiveness: "He supervised the near-chaotic transformation of peasant Eurasia into an urban, industrialized superpower under unprecedented adversities. Though his achievements were at the cost of exorbitant sacrifice of human beings and natural resources, they were on a scale commensurate with the cruelty of two world wars. With the heroic help of his uncomprehending people, Stalin provided his country, still highly vulnerable, with a territorial security absent in all history." And Stalin was no mere poet, Von Laue adds, but a damn fine technocrat too: "The sophisticated design of Soviet totalitarianism has perhaps not been sufficiently appre-ciated."
? Columbia's Eric Foner, a past president of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians, staking his bid as founder of what might be called the Smiley-Face School of History, denounces "the obsessive need to fill in the blank pages in the history of the Soviet era." He wasn't talking about pesky American historians using the Freedom of Information Act to ferret out new horror stories about J. Edgar Hoover but about a Moscow exhibition on the Soviet gulag. What possible good could come of learning the details of that?
Foner, Von Laue, and Thurston are not lone nuts, the academic equivalents of Mark Lane and Ramsey Clark, but important revisionist historians. The revisionists, mostly baby boomer survivors of the New Left, have been conducting their own Cold War with traditionalist historians for nearly four decades. Unlike in the rest of the world, in academia their side was victorious. Since the 1970s, it's been an article of faith in historical journals and university presses that the United States rather than the Soviet Union posed the greatest threat to world peace and political freedom.
The revisionists' dominion over the domestic side of Cold War history has been even more total. That's been written as melodrama, with the U.S. Communist Party, or CPUSA—a collection of amiable folk singers, brave anti-segregationists, and Steinbeckian labor organizers—trying to rescue the maiden of American democracy from the railroad tracks where McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) had tied her down. The revisionists reluctantly gave some ground on the nature of the Soviet Union as Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost allowed some ugly facts to bubble to the surface, but they were adamant on the U.S. side: The Communist Party was just a lefty variant of the Republicans and Democrats, and people like Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs were innocent martyrs, the victims of a demented witch hunt.
That myth was reduced to rubble by a series of crushing blows in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. First, in 1992, the post-Soviet government of Boris Yeltsin threw open the Communist Party's records, including the enormous collection of documents held by the Communist International, or Comintern, which directed the affairs of foreign Communist parties during the first half of the century. Two years later, the Russian SVR, the cash-strapped successor to the KGB, allowed brief and limited access to some of its old files to a handful of Western historians in return for a substantial gratuity. And finally, in 1995, the U.S. government released thousands of KGB cables intercepted and decoded in the 1940s in a top-secret operation known as Venona. In all, some 2 million pages of new documents became available, a historical payload of unfathomable proportions and inestimable impact.
The new picture of American Communists that emerged looked nothing like the one painted by the revisionists. The CPUSA was founded in Moscow, funded from Moscow (as late as 1988 Gus Hall was signing receipts for $3 million a year), and directed by Moscow; the Comintern reviewed everything from the party's printing bills to its public explanations of the nuances of the Hitler-Stalin pact, and the slightest misstep could bring scorching rebukes.
Worse yet, it really was a nest of spies: Hundreds of CPUSA members had infiltrated the American government and were passing information to the KGB. They honeycombed the State Department and the Office of Strategic Services. Virtually all of the revisionists' martyrs really were spilling secrets to the Kremlin, including Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, and a pair of Roosevelt aides, Harry Dexter White and Laurence Duggan, who died (White of a heart attack, Duggan of a jump or fall from a window) after being questioned by HUAC. The CPUSA would do literally anything for Moscow, even kill: Party members were intimately involved in assassination plots against the heretic Bolshevik Leon Trotsky, and later they would assist in unsuccessful KGB plots to break his murderer out of jail. More than 350 spies, nearly all CPUSA members, are identified in the Venona cable traffic alone. One KGB cable gave Earl Browder, the party chief from 1930 to 1945, credit for personal recruitment of 18 spies. Another wondered how the KGB would ever operate in the United States without the help of the CPUSA.
If a similar treasure trove of documentary evidence about the Civil War had been uncovered—say, establishing that Lincoln's government had been riddled with Confederate spies and that several of his cabinet members were secret slaveholders—half the university presses in America would have burned out from overuse. But the revelations of CPUSA peonage to Moscow have produced only a handful of books from U.S. historians. Among the most notable have been three by Klehr and Haynes: The Secret World of American Communism, The Soviet World of American Communism (both co-authored with Russian documentarians), and Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America.
Klehr, who teaches at Emory University, and Haynes, a historian with the Library of Congress, were among the first American scholars to examine the Communist Party archives thrown open in Moscow. Though traditionalist historians with a leery view of American Communists, they were hardly McCarthyite mad dogs. As recently as 1992, in The American Communist Movement: Storming Heaven Itself, they scoffed at the idea that the CPUSA was a colony of would-be Borises and Natashas. "Espionage was not a regular activity of the American C.P.," they wrote. "The party promoted communism and the interests of the Soviet Union through political means; espionage was the business of the Soviet Union's intelligence services. To see the American Communist Party chiefly as an instrument of espionage or a sort of Fifth Column misjudges its main purpose."
What they found in the Moscow archives convinced them otherwise. However many fluffhead folk singers and guilt-tripping Hollywood glitterati it may have contained, the CPUSA, they wrote three years later in The Secret World of American Communism, was also "a conspiracy financed by a hostile foreign power that recruited members for clandestine work, developed an elaborate underground apparatus, and used that apparatus to collaborate with espionage services of that power."
For conceding their mistake, Klehr and Haynes have undergone the intellectual equivalent of a Stalinist show trial by their fellow historians. A constant stream of articles in academic journals and lefty magazines—even an entire conference sponsored by New York University's International Center for Advanced Studies—has pilloried them for everything from "triumphalism" (that is, they're glad Stalin didn't win the Cold War; can you imagine a historian of World War II being drummed out of the profession for expressing gratitude that Hitler didn't win?) to accepting funding from conservative foundations (which, unlike the tens of millions of dollars the CPUSA took from the Kremlin, might come with secret strings attached) to starting the Vietnam War, destroying affirmative action, and dismantling the welfare state.
That bit about Vietnam came from a piece co-authored by Ellen Schrecker of Yeshiva University, who in a movement rich with unintentional self-parody nonetheless towers above the rest. We might even call her the Lucille Ball of anti-anti-communism, though, to be sure, she would never be so gauche as to associate with a pre-revolutionary Cuban like Ricky Ricardo. A prodigious apologist, Schrecker in one article conceded that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg delivered atomic secrets to the Soviets, then plaintively demanded: "Were these activities so awful?" She also coined the immortal phrase "non-traditional patriots" for the Rosenbergs, a felicitous way of saying that they lived in the United States but were loyal unto death to the Soviet Union.
Her accusation that Haynes and Klehr were a fascist Leviathan with their tentacles writhing in every right-wing plot of the past four decades appeared in The Nation, which, because it has 70 years of Stalinist apologias to justify, unsurprisingly offers some of the most die-hard resistance to the new Cold War scholarship. It also has contributed some hilarity to the debate, including then-editor Victor Navasky's argument that the word espionage was "out of context" when applied to American Communists during the Cold War. It would be more appropriate, he wrote, to say that "there were a lot of exchanges of information among people of good will."
There's no arguing with at least one part of that sentence: "a lot." One of those people of good will, KGB officer Itzhak Akhmerov, reported back to his bosses that CPUSA spies in America had provided him with enough U.S. government documents between 1942 and 1945 to fill 2,766 reels of microfilm. It apparently was a pretty one-sided exchange, since Akhmerov does not list any Soviet documents that he offered in return.
Ultimately, though, Navasky and The Nation turn from amusing to tendentious to dishonest as they twist and turn to avoid painful truths—none, apparently, as distressing as the guilt of Alger Hiss, the New Deal aristocrat who pumped State Department secrets to the Soviets for more than a decade. The case against Hiss, the left's protests notwithstanding, has always been overwhelming. Whittaker Chambers, a courier for a spy ring of Washington Communists that reported to Soviet military intelligence, identified Hiss as his contact. A former KGB agent confirmed it.
Numerous witnesses, including maids of both families, reported seeing the men together regularly, and auto registration records supported Chambers' claim that Hiss gave him a car to aid in his transport of documents filched by the spy ring. Chambers produced dozens of summaries and copies of State Department documents, all either in Hiss' handwriting or typed on his typewriter. Though the statutes of limitations made it difficult to try Hiss for espionage, he was convicted in 1950 of lying about his relationship to Chambers.
The fall of the Soviet Union has driven even more nails into Hiss' coffin. A KGB cable in the Venona files identifies a spy code-named "Ales" at the State Department whose biographical details match only Hiss. Meanwhile, an interview with another State Department spy—Noel Field, who fled behind the Iron Curtain when he fell under suspicion in 1949—was discovered in the archives of the Hungarian security police. Field related how his friend Hiss, unaware that Field was already spying for the KGB, had tried to recruit him as a source for Soviet military intelligence. The same story of the encounter between Field and Hiss (which dismayed the Soviets as a security lapse) turned up in KGB files in Moscow.
Writing in The Nation, Navasky dismisses all the new documents as contrivances, misunderstandings, and KGB braggadocio. What's really important, he says, is that in 1992 Hiss asked Dmitri Volkogonov, a disillusioned former Soviet general who was Boris Yeltsin's adviser on military affairs, to search intelligence archives for material on Hiss. Volkogonov replied that he had "carefully studied many documents from the archives of the intelligence services of the USSR as well as various information provided by the archives staff….I can inform you that Alger Hiss was never an agent of the intelligence services of the Soviet Union." Case closed, Navasky declares, though allowing casually that "Volkogonov later agreed with a persistent reporter that perhaps he should have qualified his declaration of Hiss' innocence because it's impossible to prove a negative."
Here's what Volkogonov actually said. He spent only two days on the "search" for documents and mostly relied on the word of KGB archivists. He didn't make any inquiries at all of Soviet military intelligence, the agency for which Hiss worked. And he had no idea the case was so controversial in the United States; he was just trying to do a favor to an old man near death. "What I saw gives no basis to claim a full clarification," Volkogonov admitted. "There's no guarantee that it was not destroyed, that it was not in other channels…Honestly, I was a bit taken aback. [Hiss' attorney] pushed me hard to say things of which I was not fully convinced."
If it seems that Navasky has turned Volkogonov's words upside down, that's not surprising, because Navasky has always lived in an upside-down universe where the moral flaw is not allegiance to a mass murderer like Stalin but turning away from him (to "crawl through the mud," in Navaskyspeak). The Nation has no harsh words for Paul Robeson, who refused to intervene for Russian friends who were about to be purged—only for those, such as Elia Kazan, who denounced Stalin and his American quislings. When some Afghan peasant finally points out Osama bin Laden's cave, count on Navasky and The Nation to call him a dirty squealer and to explain that a few airplanes crashing into skyscrapers now and again are a small price to pay for the preservation of personal politesse.
The whole "squealer" ethos is not only stupid—what kind of moron would not have wanted Mafia turncoats to testify against John Gotti?—but fraudulent. At a press conference last summer, I listened to the playwright Chris Trumbo argue that Elia Kazan should have been denied an Oscar for naming Hollywood Communists to HUAC. During World War II, when the Soviet Union and the United States were allied against Hitler, Trumbo's Communist father, Dalton, also named names, secretly pointing the FBI to Hollywood figures he believed were suspiciously anti-war. But there was no suggestion during the press conference that his screenwriting Oscar be revoked. Likewise, Trumbo's intellectual fellow travelers in academe and journalism have built entire careers on denouncing spying by the FBI and CIA but are blithely unconcerned about KGB espionage. The standard excuse, as Ellen Schrecker has written several thousand times, is that "McCarthyism did more damage to the Constitution than the American Communist Party ever did."
If that's true, it's not for want of trying by the CPUSA. If Franklin Roosevelt had died just nine or 10 months earlier, his third-term vice president, Communist sympathizer Henry Wallace, would have become president. Wallace once said that if he were president he would appoint Harry Dexter White treasury secretary and Laurence Duggan secretary of state. Both of them, we now know unambiguously from Venona cables, were Soviet spies.
More broadly, people like Schrecker can't or won't understand that their culture of denial is what created McCarthyism. It was the palpable indifference of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations toward Communist penetration of the American government that finally triggered the backlash led by HUAC and McCarthy. McCarthy's accusation that Roosevelt ushered in "20 years of treason" is an absurd exaggeration. But if Roosevelt didn't deserve to be executed as a spy, he most certainly ought to have been horsewhipped for his cavalier dismissal of Whittaker Chambers' accusations. As early as 1939, Chambers warned Roosevelt about Alger Hiss and named at least 12 other U.S. officials who would later be proved Soviet spies. Roosevelt airily told his aides that Chambers could "go fuck himself." The spies kept passing secrets to Moscow for another nine years, until HUAC began making noises about the case. Chambers' warning was only one of several by regretful spies during that period that first Roosevelt and then Truman ignored. Truman was so lackadaisical that the military code breakers working on the Venona Project kept it secret from him for fear word would leak back to the Soviets.
Fifty years later, the pattern is repeating itself. The character assassinations and lies of the die-hard defenders of American communism have given rise to a movement to rehabilitate McCarthy and other bully-boy anti-communists of the 1940s and '50s. Some efforts of this movement, such as George Washington University historian Arthur Herman's Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator, are relatively judicious attempts to correct some of the exaggerations about McCarthy—for instance, the widely repeated but totally erroneous claim that he never correctly identified a single Communist. Others, such as conservative attack-blonde Ann Coulter's Treason, attempt a radical makeover. McCarthy (who accused everybody from Harry Truman to George Marshall of secret Soviet sympathies) was actually too charitable, Coulter argues; he was too tenderhearted to say, as she does, that all liberals—everybody from Lyndon Johnson to Tom Daschle—are traitors at heart. "Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy," Coulter writes. "This is their essence."
That's idiotic, to be sure, but no more so than American University historian Anna Kasten Nelson's argument that Venona isn't important because there are all kinds of good reasons a perfectly innocent person might be secretly passing microfilm to a KGB agent. (No, she doesn't list any of them.) "It is time to move on," she wrote recently, instead of "rehashing old debates" (because, you know, historians get bored with old stuff). Then there's the psychobabble contention of Bard College's Joel Kovel that J. Edgar Hoover hunted spies not because foreign espionage is against the law but because he had some previously undiscovered Freudian condition in which anti-communism "might be interchangeably a womb or anus." Writing stuff like that amounts to handing the Coulters of the world a loaded gun and daring them to pull the trigger. As somebody once said: Have you no sense of decency, Sir?
Foner and Trumbo reply to Garvin
Eric Foner and Christopher Trumbo have responded to Glenn Garvin's article:
I hope the rest of reason is more accurate than Glenn Garvin's review "Fools for Communism" (April), which references me. Garvin says "Foner 'denounces 'the obsessive need to fill in the blank pages of the Soviet era.'"
He is referring to an article I wrote after teaching in Russia in 1990. I did not "denounce" the focus on the Soviet past among the people I met in Moscow at all—I reported it, as part of a discussion of a museum exhibition on one of Stalin's prison camps and, more generally, of how Gorbachev's policy of "openness" had unleashed a wide-ranging discussion of history. As a historian I applaud all efforts to uncover forgotten or suppressed aspects of the past. How this qualifies me as one of the historians supposedly "in denial" about Soviet history is difficult to understand.
It is unclear if this misrepresentation stems from the book under review or is the invention of the reviewer. Either way, it does not reflect well on your generally interesting magazine.
DeWitt Clinton Professor of History
New York, NY
Glenn Garvin writes, "During World War II, when the Soviet Union and the United States were allied against Hitler, [Christopher] Trumbo's Communist father, Dalton, also named names, secretly pointing the FBI to Hollywood figures he believed were suspiciously anti-war. But there was no suggestion during the  press conference [about Hollywood and the blacklist] that his screenwriting Oscar be revoked."
The assertion that Trumbo pointed "the FBI to Hollywood figures he believed were suspiciously anti-war" is a product of Garvin's fecund imagination. There is no evidence to support it. The only reference to Trumbo's speaking to the FBI that I know of can be found in his published letters, Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo, 1942-61 (M. Evans & Co.). Anybody sufficiently interested in Garvin's garbled thesis can find enlightenment on page 26 of that volume.
Finally, at the press conference Garvin attended, there was no suggestion that anybody's Oscar "be revoked." Revoking Oscars originates with Garvin. And by the way, Dalton Trumbo was given two of them?for motion pictures he wrote using a pseudonym during the time he was blacklisted and unable to find work using his own name.
Beverly Hills, CA
Glenn Garvin replies: If anything, both the book In Denial and my review soft-pedal the?tone of Foner's essay, which appeared in the December 1990 issue of Harper's. The air of bitter disappointment was palpable as Foner described young Russians who admire Abraham Lincoln but "paint the history of the Soviet era in the blackest hues, reclassifying every top leader between Lenin and Gorbachev as either criminal or incompetent." Worse yet, he wrote, the Russians were turning away from distinctions between bourgeois and socialist ideologies in favor of something he referred to, contempt practically dripping from the quotation marks, as "universal human values." Foner sounded like nothing so much as a jilted paramour as he complained of "this love affair with America."
As for Christopher Trumbo, I am astonished to find myself in agreement with him: Everybody, including his father's leftist admirers, should read Dalton Trumbo's 1944 letter to the FBI reprinted in Additional Dialogue. In it, he boasts of having provided the FBI with letters from writers who are "1) anti-war, 2) anti-Semitic, 3) in the process of organizing politically, 4) distributing pamphlets to further their cause and corresponding with persons detained by the Federal government, and 5) of the opinion that the Commander in Chief of American forces is 'the greatest criminal incendiary in history.'" He adds, "I share with the men of your organization a sincere desire to see an end to all such seditious propaganda as criminal slander of the Commander in Chief, defeatism, pacifism, anti-Semitism and all similar deceits and stratagems designed to assist the German cause." He closes by noting that he's including more letters and begging the FBI not to tip off the writers about what he has done, presumably so he can keep ratting on them.
I will concede Christopher Trumbo one technical point. Although he continues to object to the decision to give Elia Kazan a lifetime achievement Oscar, he did not use the word revoke. The importance of the distinction eludes me, but I am inclined to be charitable to a man whose father was not only one of Stalin's loudest apologists but also one of J. Edgar Hoover's pet rats. Talk about a childhood of mixed signals.