“A Threat of the First Magnitude: FBI Counterintelligence and Infiltration from the Communist Party to the Revolutionary Union — 1962-19740,” by Aaron Leonard and Conor Gallagher, has just been released. Jacobin interviews Leonard, who used to be a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which is extreme far left Maoist.
The book details how the FBI not only had informers, sometimes the informers were at very high leadership levels, and even created supposed far left groups that were used to create chaos and splits on the left, while pretending to be leftie. This of course continues today, the shunting off and deflecting of genuine protest into channels where it can be monitored and defused.
Lefties often greatly underestimate the FBI. The Ad Hoc Committee in the 1960s was what we would call an astroturf group today. It wasn’t real, represented no one, was an FBI front, and was so convincing it had real effect.
MU: The Ad Hoc Committee bulletin’s language is, at a very high level, operating with extreme familiarity with Marxism. It speaks the language of the Left. You would have to do a fair amount of studying of Marxist texts to write the kind of polemics that they were writing and be credible to people who are on the left. The FBI manages to do that.
AJL: Exactly. It used to be an article of faith on the Left that the FBI can’t bamboozle us with political line, because they wouldn’t be able to speak the language of the Left. Yeah, they totally can. The Ad Hoc Committee shows that.
I was a member of a far left group similar to RCP once, except it wasn’t Maoist, it was Stalinist. I was a terrible member, fell asleep during indoctrination classes, had an annoying habit of asking questions that contradicted the sacred precepts, and ended up being purged after realizing what they really were. A friend says being purged from groups like that is a badge of honor for some of us. Indeed.
A senior member of that party, who was white, said in complete seriousness that a black member should never be criticized because he is a victim of discrimination and thus apparently inerrant in whatever he did or said. Keep that in mind as you read the next paragraph.
The author discusses Malinovsky, an enforcer for Lenin who sent thousands to prison, torture, and death, and who was tolerated even though he was known to be an informer. Such informers exist today, and are tolerated, and can be hard to dislodge if they are people of color or working class, something the FBI is quite aware of, and exploits to their own ends, according to the author.
In Wright’s case, there were FBI documents basically saying, “this guy is black. This is a group of mostly white radicals. We need to take advantage of this. They’re not going to be willing to kick this guy out of the group because they want their group to be more rooted in the multiracial working class.” You have a chapter about a husband and wife, the Goffs, who were informants. Because they came from a working-class background, nobody wants to call them out.
P.S. I’ve already assumed that some members of that group I was in were and are informers. Reading this interview reinforces my belief.