INVESTIGATIONS: Of Cells & Onionskins

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Owen Lattimore arrived first with his wife, took a seat in the front row of the big, marble-walled caucus room in the Senate Office Building. He waved to friends, clasping his hands above his head like a boxer. Big Senator Joe McCarthy came in and sat down behind the committee table. By the time a rumpled man had taken his seat at the witness table, spectators filled every aisle, teetered and craned from the ledges around the walls.

Louis Budenz, glancing warily right & left, began testifying in a casual tone. He retold the history of his own ten years as Communist Party functionary and managing editor of the Daily Worker. He mentioned the Institute of Pacific Relations, which was not, he added, a Communist organization but one that had been infiltrated by Communists. "First there was Frederick Vanderbilt Field," said Budenz. "With him was associated Philip Jaffe, who was connected with Field surreptitiously in the publication of China Today . . . Mr. Jaffe and Mr. Field are to my knowledge Soviet espionage agents. In this cell was also Owen Lattimore."

The three wire-service men jumped up, and pushed their way to the door. A hum of excitement swept the crowded room.

Zeal & Conspiracies. There was a conspiracy, said Budenz, designed to influence U.S. policy toward China. "Mr. Lattimore can be placed in that conspiracy." Budenz testified that he did not know Lattimore, had never met him. But Budenz testified to U.S. Politburo meetings that he himself had attended. At a 1937 meeting, said Budenz, "Field commended Mr. Lattimore's zeal in seeing that Communists were placed as writers in Pacific Affairs ... It was agreed that Mr. Lattimore should be given general direction of organizing the writers and influencing the writers in representing the Chinese Communists as agrarian reformers . . ."

In 1944, when Lattimore, as OWI chief in the Pacific, accompanied Henry Wallace to China, Jack Stachel, a top Communist functionary, "advised me to consider Owen Lattimore as a Communist. To me, that meant to treat as authoritative anything that he said."

Lattimore's name was one of perhaps 1,000 which Budenz, as the Worker's managing editor, had to keep in his head because to print them would risk disclosure. They were not "small fry" but "large-sized" individuals whom the Worker was to treat with respect. Politburo instructions were issued on onionskin documents "so secret that we were instructed not to burn them, but to tear them in small pieces and destroy them through the toilet." In these documents, "L or XL in Far Eastern affairs referred to Mr. Lattimore. I was so advised by Jack Stachel."

The Senators began to question the witness. Did Budenz know—of his own knowledge—that Lattimore was a Communist? Replied Budenz: "Outside of what I was officially told by the Communist leaders, I do not know."

What about McCarthy's charge that Lattimore was "the top Russian espionage agent in the U.S.?" Said Budenz: "To my knowledge, that statement is not technically accurate."

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