In This Review

Secret Cables of the Comintern, 1933-1943
Secret Cables of the Comintern, 1933-1943
By Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov, Harvey Klehr, and John Earl Hayne
Yale University Press, 2014, 320 pp.

This compilation of historical documents on the Communist International (Comintern), the Soviet tool for controlling foreign communist parties, represents the latest contribution to Yale University Press’ invaluable Annals of Communism series. Klehr and Haynes have taken a massive original Russian text by Firsov, a Russian archivist, and boiled it down into a well-synthesized volume. So well do the authors compress, integrate, and discuss the material that the text has the flow of a full-blown history. Although the international communist movement’s abject servility to Joseph Stalin has been well documented, it is still stunning to read about the contortions that communists all over the world undertook to placate the Soviet leader: first resisting the rise of fascism, then applauding Stalin’s 1939 deal with Adolf Hitler, then explaining away Stalin’s purges, and ultimately swallowing even the expedient abolition of the Comintern itself during World War II. The documents reveal an interesting form of consistency: the language and ideas conveyed in these secret communications closely parallel those of the public speeches and propaganda broadsides of the Soviet regime.