MEN WITHOUT FACES (305 pp.)Louis BudenzHarper ($3.50).
I CHOSE JUSTICE (458 pp.) Victor KravchenkoScribner ($3.75).
SEEDS OF TREASON (270 pp.)Ralph de Toledano & Victor LaskyFunk & Wagnalls ($3.50).
"Americans may be experts in mechanical know-how," writes onetime Communist Louis Budenz, "but they are babes in the woods when it comes to conspiratorial know-how." In Budenz' Men Without Faces and a procession of other new books with similar theme, the American of 1950 can learn a great deal of how Communism conspires:
Most of what Budenz had to say about his experience as managing editor of the Daily Worker and accomplice of the secret Soviet apparatus in the U.S., he told in his first book, This Is My Story. But if not so sensational or dramatic, his new book is a useful guide to domestic Stalinism. Here are intimate details on how the party worms its way into trade unions, dragoons "innocent" intellectuals into front groups, keeps rank & filers dizzy with endless meetings, and chains its functionaries to rigid adherence to the Moscow line. Among Budenz' recollections: how Daily Worker staffers would quake in fear of being reprimanded by undercover Moscow agents for some infinitesimal deviation from Stalinist orthodoxy.
Libel in France. When Victor Kravchenko published the bestselling story of his career as a onetime Soviet bureaucrat, I Chose Freedom, a French Communist weekly called him a "liar" and a U.S. secret agent. Kravchenko sued for libel, and in a Parisian courtroom whose atmosphere often resembled a low-comedy brawl there was, nonetheless, enacted a deadly serious debate between the ideologies of two worlds. Largely because of impressive testimony given by a number of former inmates of Russian slave-labor camps, Kravchenko won his case and token damages of 3 francs. His second book, though ineptly written and frequently too discursive, makes engrossing reading whenever he gets out of the way and lets the court record speak for itself.
Perjury in the U.S. Seeds of Treason is a reconstruction by two Manhattan journalists of a case built around another courtroom trial: the case of the U.S. v. Alger Hiss. By doing some leg work on the famed "tragedy of history" that caught up Hiss and Whittaker Chambers, Reporters Lasky and De Toledano have dug up some highly readable material on the early lives of both men and put together one of the spring's non-fiction bestsellers. (Chambers willingly cooperated, but one of Hiss's lawyers told Lasky and De Toledano that he could not expose his client to "red-baiters.") Frankly sympathetic to Chambers, the book gives an orderly and credible, if hurried, account of the story behind the mass of testimony on which Hiss was convicted of perjury.
For U.S. students of the Communist conspiracy there is more to come. Scheduled for 1950-51 publication: books by Hede Massing, former wife of Gerhart Eisler, by onetime Communist spy Elizabeth Bentley, and by Whittaker Chambers.