About The Anti-Communist Manifestos
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One of the fascinating questions of twentieth century history is how Russia was transformed, in the perception of America and western Europe, from an ally in World War II into the arch-enemy of the Cold War. Through John Fleming’s perceptive and moving narrative, we come to understand that the motive force behind this sea-change was, to large extent, literary.

There were many accounts, from the 1930s on, of the scope and horror of crimes committed by the Soviet Empire against its alleged enemies and ordinary citizens. The most widely circulated of these were four books written not by neutral western observers, but by former communists who had intimate and, in some cases, guilty knowledge of those crimes: Out of the Night by Richard Krebs (under the pen name Jan Valtin); Darkness at Noon, a novel, by Arthur Koestler; I Chose Freedom by Victor Kravchenko; and Witness by Whittaker Chambers. These books had enormous influence on public opinion in America and in Europe.

Krebs was a German sailor and hard-knuckled communist organizer in the seaports of northern Europe; Koestler was a Hungarian journalist and intellectual, a genius with a sometimes difficult personality; Kravchenko was a Ukrainian engineer and Soviet official whose horrifying experiences of Soviet industrial life in the 1930s led to his eventual defection from the Soviet lend-lease delegation in Washington; Chambers was an American journalist and underground Communist agent, later an informer and witness against Alger Hiss. Three of these men were agents of the Comintern. All four contemplated suicide, and two achieved it. In their own ways, the four authors were martyrs to an awful truth, which in the end haunted or even destroyed their lives.

Fleming’s account of these books and of the dramatic effects of bestsellerdom on their authors is scholarly, perceptive, and humane. It offers brilliant observations on the nature of Stalinism, on the Spanish Civil War, and on the whole period of the Cold War.

Photos, clockwise from top: Whittaker Chambers, Arthur Koestler, Jan Valtin (with dog), Victor Kravchenko. From The Anti-Communist Manifestos.