Who did What to Whom
Thomas Nycroft on June 27, 2000 at 08:43:22:
Why were the Field brothers arrested?
It is clear that Stalin was afraid that Eastern European communist
countries would not stay loyal to the Soviet Union. He knew that the
Soviet Union was oppressiuve, and so patriotic Poles, Czechs, etc.
would want to resist its demands. The revolts that occurred later in
Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, as soon as controls were
lifted slightly, shows that he was right. And so it makes sense that
Stalin not only got rid of non-communists (his failure to assist
during the Watrsaw Uprising being an early example), but of communists
who had spent the war years in the West, as happened in conjunction
with the Field case. And Tito was a model of an independent communism
that Stalin feared.
But that does not mean that Stalin did this purging all by himself in
a vacuum. The fact is that there had been peace for a couple of years
before the Cold War got going. Each side was healing its ghastly
wounds. While Churchill can be said to have begun the Cold War
psychologically when he directed his "Iron Curtain" speech at
Americans shortly after the war, documents show that the big push for
the Cold War began quite late, in 1948, with the predictable fall of
Czechoslovakia to communism as the pretext for Marshall, Forrestal,
and others to announce the great red peril, and get the Cold War into
We all know that this was not seen as a tragedy by many Western power
brokers, but a good thing. Some say it served what Eisenhower later
called the "military-industrial complex." Some might not go so far,
and would say that it was necessary for capitalist nations to take an
aggressive stand against the now-expanded communism in Europe. I have
yet another interpretation, which I will go into later. Regardless,
the West was not going to sit by while Stalin ran his new empire. They
would respond not only militarily and diplomatically, but subversively.
Sherlock Holmes once said to Watson, "And then there was the curious
incident of the dog in the night-time." "The dog did nothing in the
night-timre," retorted Watson. "That was the curious incident!"
replied Holmes. Along that line, we know of little if any effort by
the West to destabilize the Soviet Union in the post-war yars (or
before). Yes, we spied on them, but that is not the same thing.
The West surely attempted to disrupt the Soviet Union. The first rule
in being divisive is to use the target's weaknesses. (For example, you
don't try to bring Clinton down by accusing him of illegal break-ins,
and you don't bring down Nixon with a sex scandal.) Stalin was a
dictator and indeed was in continual fear of plots against him. So the
best way to upset him was to play on his fear. ("Elementary, my dear
Watson!") There would have been something wrong with Western cold
warriors if they didn't in fact do this.
I assert that this indeed happened. If one looks at the story of
Slansky in Czechoslovakia, one sees hesitation and backtracking from
Stalin. It was as if someone was pushing him one way, and he was
resisting. Note that in both the Rajk trial in Hungary in 1949 and
the Slansky trial in 1952, the principals were not peripheral
Westernized communists, but loyal hardened government officials of
these countries. In trying them, he caused the maximum confusion and
destruction. On top of that, most of the defendents in these trials
were Jewish, which was destabilizing since the communist parties of
both Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were generally dominated by
Jews at the upper levels.
Certainly Stalin knew that fear was a good way to keep people in line,
but this behavior was destructive to both Eastern Europe and to him.
Stalin has been called paranoid, but I know of no information that
shows him to be clinically so. He was generally rational but
extremely ruthless as far as I can tell. Would Stalin lie to his
associates that the Field brothers were American spies, so that he
could get rid of certain communists and put fear into the rest? It
doesn't ring true to me on a human level; it would have been so
confusing and disruptive to his own authority. It certainly seems
more like a panic reaction to fears that kept on popping up. I assert
that someone was feeding those fears to Stalin.
I suggest that information was planted by the West to make it appear
that the Field brothers were actually American spies. Although those
were dangerous times, it really was not a likely thing that either
would be arrested, except as a way to put the Soviet Union on the
defensive. There is no reason the Field brothers should have
anticipated it, since mighty few people were thinking of that, either
then or since.
I think it is better to see the Field case not as an example of
paranoid tyranny, but rather as part of the cold war against the
Soviet Union. Although "Trapped in the Cold War" is more a gripping,
beautifully written account of a prison experience than a political
treatise, I think it should still be read with this in mind.
This is not the view of the authors. However,
it was expressed in the 1974 British book "Operation Splinter Factor",
which is in the bibliography. That book argued that Allen Dulles had
his acquaintance Noel Field arrested out of pique -- that he felt he
had been used by Noel and his communist contacts at the end of World
War II, and also to cause turmoil in Eastern Europe that would bring
on a revolt.
This remarkable book makes quite a convincing case. Perhaps that is
what Dulles thought. I think it is correct in making the Field case a
Western operation. Maybe that is the main point to consider in all
However, I think that that book intentionally only told only half of
what happened. Rather, it was a way to stick it to the Americans
again, while boasting of a successful operation. I go further down
this path, into an area few are willing to follow.
I assert that by the end of World War II, the US (under FDR) and the
USSR were about to make a loose alliance to develop the world.
Despite their different systems, both had the same belief in progress
and development. That left Britain, a small island that necessarily
believed in exploitation and finance as the way to power, and had
practised that for centuries, out in the cold. To make things worse,
the US and USSR believed in dismantling colonialism, Britain's life
blood. And so Britain set to switch things around. It had already
made an alliance with New York finance, and it was also influential
via the Council on Foreign Relations, which was a copy of Britain's
Royal Institute of International Affairs.
And so the Cold War was born, with the US and USSR at dagger's ends,
and Britain the friendly intermediary. One could say that Britain
quietly allied itself with the US against the USSR, and with the
unwitting USSR against the US. In the end, the Cold War wrecked both
major powers. (If you don't see that it wrecked America's potential,
look a little harder.)
So how was the Field case contrived? "Operation Splinter Factor" says
Jozef Swiatlo, the Polish official who both arrested and sprung
Hermann Field, was a British agent and then an American agent.
I would suggest that there was more: When British intelligence
realized in the late 1940's that Kim Phiby was working for the Soviet
Union, they decided to make use of this knowledge rather than waste it
by firing him. They put him in charge of intelligence communication
between London and Washington. I think that London then sent messages
to its partners in Washington declaring the Fields as American spies,
and he passed these on to Moscow.
Whatever the origin of these events, the East European spy trials have
been called by one commentator a key to the downturn and collapse of
communism. The Field case is a key to the spy trials, so the case is
far more important than is generally realized, even if the Field
brothers were victims not agents -- in either sense of the word. It
is too bad that this book has yet to receive the attention it
deserves, esthetically and politically.