How Communists Operate: An Interview with J. Edgar Hoover

Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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This story originally appeared in the August 11, 1950, issue of U.S.News & World Report.

Editor's Note: What should a citizen know about subversive activities? What should he do?

Is there any danger to the U.S. in the mild-mannered acquaintance who insists that Russia is the only true democracy?

President Truman recently asked that organizations and individuals report to the FBI all information "relating to espionage, sabotage and subversive activities."

To get an inside view of some of the problems which the President's request raised, U.S. News & World Report put a series of questions to J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI. The questions and his replies follow.

J. Edgar Hoover has headed the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 26 of his 55 years.

Study at night won him two law degrees by 1917, in his native Washington, D.C.; then the Justice Department hired him. He rounded up alien subversives after World War I, and in 1921 was appointed assistant chief of the FBI by Harlan Stone, then Attorney General and later Chief Justice. He became Director in 1924.

In World War II, espionage and sabotage were special FBI targets, and after the war the Communist infiltration. Also there was the loyalty check on 2.5 million U.S. employes plus the 120 major laws under the FBI's specific guard.

Q Do you think, Mr. Hoover, that Communists are basically agents of a foreign country, or do you draw a distinction between those who are philosophical Communists and those who are tools of the Communist spy rings?

A The teachings of Communism are directed toward one final result—world revolution and the triumph of international Communism. The achievement of this aim would mean the violent and complete destruction of the American Government. Any person who subscribes to these teachings, regardless of his reason, is working against American democracy and for the benefit of international Communism's chief leader, Soviet Russia. The "philosophical Communist" who advocates Marxism-Leninism might just as well be working as an agent of a foreign power because he is aiding its cause. He is, in fact, however, being "played for a sucker" by the Communists, who consider him a "dupe," a person not to be trusted but only to be used and then discarded.

Q Do your investigations show that the basic allegiance of a Communist is to a foreign government rather than our own Government?

A Most emphatically. As I mentioned in my previous answer, the ultimate loyalty of fully indoctrinated Communist Party members is to Moscow. Stalin is represented as the foremost leader of international Communism, the omnipotent oracle from whom all wisdom flows. The Communist Party is today a Trojan horse of disloyalty, coiled like a serpent in the very heart of America.

It may mouth sweet words of "peace," "democracy," "equality," and flourish gay slogans of "international solidarity" and "brotherhood of men," but its body and feet are from the Russian bear. Wherever the Trojan horse of Communist fifth columns has walked, the indelible footprints of Russian imperialism remain behind.

Q How do the Communist "cells" operate? Are these the training units out of which larger numbers of Communists are recruited?

A The basic unit of the Communist Party is the club. These clubs may be "shop" or "industrial" clubs, that is, Communist units within a special manufacturing or industrial plant, or "neighborhood" clubs, drawing members from residential areas. These clubs are co-ordinated through an elaborate apparatus, from ward, city, county, State and district organizations to national headquarters in New York City. Because of security reasons, they have now been divided into small groups consisting of three to five members. In these clubs the Communist Party conducts its basic and fundamental activities: instruction in Marxism-Leninism; organization of pressure campaigns; the passing out of leaflets and handbills; the circulation of petitions. Here Communist literature is sold; dues collected; instructions received from "higher officials" disseminated. The club is the basic operating unit of the Communist Party. Through the club, of course, new members are recruited and indoctrinated.