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A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone. Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster

Morgan, Ted

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ISBN 10: 0679444009 / ISBN 13: 9780679444008
Published by Random House, New York, 1999
Condition: very good, very good
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About this Item

416, illus., sources, index. A biography of Jay Lovestone, who, though once an ardent member of the Communist party, became disenchanted with Stalin and worked assiduously to keep trade unions in America and Europe free from Communist control. In Europe, he ran his own secret spy organization before the CIA charter. Afterward, he was probably backed by that organization. A New York Times Notable Book of 1999. Bookseller Inventory # 46965

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Bibliographic Details

Title: A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone. Communist, ...

Publisher: Random House, New York

Publication Date: 1999

Book Condition: very good, very good

Edition: First Edition. First Printing.

About this title


The extraordinary life of Jay Lovestone is one of the great untold stories of the twentieth century. A Lithuanian immigrant who came to the United States in 1897, Lovestone rose to leadership in the Communist Party of America, only to fall out with Moscow and join the anti-Communist establishment after the Second World War. He became one of the leading strategists of the Cold War, and was once described as "one of the five most important men in the hidden power structure of America."
Lovestone was obsessively secretive, and it is only with the opening of his papers at the Hoover Institution, the freeing of access to Comintern files in Moscow, and the release of his 5,700-page FBI file that biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ted Morgan has been able to construct a full account of the remarkable events of Jay Lovestone's life.
The life Morgan describes is full of drama and intrigue. He recounts Lovestone's career in the faction-riven world of American Communism until he was spirited out of Moscow in 1929 after Stalin publicly attacked him for doctrinal unorthodoxy. As Lovestone veered away from Moscow, he came to work for the American Federation of Labor, managing a separate union foreign policy as well as maintaining his own intelligence operations for the CIA, many under the command of the legendary counterintelligence chief James Angleton. Lovestone also associated with Louise Page Morris, a spy known as "the American Mata Hari," who helped him undermine Communist advances in the developing world and whose own significant espionage career is detailed here. Lovestone's influence, always exercised from behind the scenes, survived to the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union.
A Covert Life has all the elements of a classic spy thriller: surveillance operations and stings, love affairs and bungled acts of sabotage, many thoroughly illegal. It is written with the easy hand of a fine biographer (The Washington Post Book World called Ted Morgan "a master storyteller") and provides a history of the Cold War and a glimpse into the machinery of the CIA while also revealing many hitherto hidden details of the superpower confrontation that dominated postwar global politics.


A Covert Life tersely chronicles the life of one of the more obscure warriors of the cold war. Jay Lovestone, born Jacob Liebstein, cut his teeth as a youth in the leftist street culture of New York's Lower East Side. Although present at the formation of the U.S. Communist Party in 1919, he was forced out of the Comintern in 1929 by Stalin's political maneuverings. By the end of the Depression, Lovestone broke cleanly with the Soviets and, after World War II, founded the Free Trade Union Commission, an AFL-backed movement that organized noncommunist labor unions outside of the United States. He also developed an intelligence-gathering unit within the organization that traded information with the CIA until the mid-1960s.

Lovestone lived a fairly reclusive life, shunning the spotlight that some of his more colorful colleagues and coconspirators, such as James Jesus Angleton and George Meany, craved. As a result, Ted Morgan's biography emphasizes Lovestone's political fights both within the Communist Party and against it. Although Morgan believes that his subject's anticommunist beliefs were genuine, one finishes A Covert Life with the conclusion that Lovestone's motivations lay in his obsessive love of political intrigue rather than the ideological passions that moved both the far left and extreme right for much of the 20th century. While the book doesn't dwell in what Vivian Gornick called "the romance of American communism," it does present a precise portrait of how this ideology was stifled and how the American labor movement aided the intelligence community in combating Soviet influence over international labor. --John M. Anderson

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