Russia has a habit of interfering with the U.S. Government; she’s been doing it for decades. As a child my family and I suffered in the aftermath of an earlier version of this interference.
Interference During The New Deal
In the late 1930s and early 1940s my mother and father, both labor lawyers, became pawns in the USSR’s mission to infiltrate Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and influence our government’s policies. My father worked for the National Labor Relations Board, my mother for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They had joined the Communist Party because they believed its goals were closely aligned with those of the New Deal: labor reform, anti-fascism and civil rights. They did not then understand that the Kremlin, through the American Communist Party, promoted these progressive goals for America to hide their real mission of spreading communism around the world.
The Party recruited thousands of American liberals, committed to and zealous about fulfilling the goals of the New Deal. Party members, including my parents, acquired employment in New Deal agencies and hired their Communist colleagues. By way of secret “underground” groups, these zealous government workers provided the Party with privileged information about the policies and procedures of their respective agencies. Some of them knew that their information would be passed on to the Soviets. Others did not know.
Meddling in the 2016 Presidential Campaign
In 2016 the Russians interfered with our political process in new ways: through social media disinformation operations (Russian Active Measures); hacking the computers and email accounts of the Clinton Campaign, DNC and DNCC, later releasing the hacked documents through “online personas”; contacting and linking with the Trump Campaign with the hope of defeating Hillary Clinton; and investing in our economy to gain economic influence in our politics.
Similarities and Differences
There are similarities between the cunning schemes of the USSR in the ‘30s and ‘40s and those committed by the Russians during the presidential campaign of 2016. In both instances the goal was to manipulate and obstruct; the meddling began in secret and was later exposed; and there were people who knew they were providing privileged information to an adversarial foreign government and others who may not have known. There are important differences as well. In my parents’ day, the Russians used left-wing idealists, people committed to lofty principles, to do their bidding. In 2016 they primarily depended on bot farms which distributed disinformation online to unsuspecting, targeted Americans in order to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election,
My Family’s Experience
My parents suffered mightily for their participation in the Communist Party. In 1955 my father was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and, in spite of the fact that he cooperated with the government he was u fired and was never again able to find work in his chosen career.
Our family crisis lasted several years. It was traumatic for all of us and changed our lives forever. I imagine the people caught up in today’s brand of Russian interference have suffered also. As much as I dislike Trump and his brand of politics, I find myself having sympathy for innocent people who might have been caught up in the maelstrom, unaware.
Legacy of a False Promise and The Courier
My memoir Legacy of a False Promise and my novel The Courier delve deeply into the lives of people who were drawn into the drama of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Their stories have relevance to the events of today.