One such was the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR). Founded in 1925, allegedly as an intellectual forum for the discussion of economics and policy, it had perhaps innocent beginnings. In any case, it was soon infiltrated and subverted by Soviet espionage agents, if it was not founded by them.
Front organizations typically had members who fell into various categories: the ‘dupes’ who were unaware of the group’s true nature and believed that they were simply working for some noble-sounding humanitarian goal; the ‘sympathizers’ who neither members of the Communist Party of America (CPUSA) nor Soviet agents, but who were inclined to support communism; those who were party members; and those who were employed by a Soviet intelligence agency like the NKVD, MGB, or KGB.
People in any of those categories could be immigrants or citizens born in the United States. The term ‘fellow traveler’ was sometimes also used.
To be a member of the CPUSA was not merely holding a set of political views or voting for certain candidates. It was not like being a Republican or a Democrat.
The CPUSA stated explicitly that it sought a “violent” revolution in the United States. To be a member was to advocate violence, to advocate the overthrow of the United States government, and to advocate the elimination of the political liberties which citizens enjoy.
Historian Willmoore Kendall writes:
The IPR found room in its organization not merely for a wide range of Communist sympathizers and dupes, but for Communist espionage agents a well - Michael Greenberg, for example, a British-born Communist who in 1941 became managing editor of IPR’s Pacific Affairs. (By 1942, Greenberg was the proud occupant of an office in the White House.) IPR’s reliance on persons with Communist affiliations who also had close ties with the State Department is fully documented in the IPR hearings.
Three main sources of information revealed the extent of the Soviet espionage network inside the IPR. First, investigations by the FBI and other American law enforcement agencies uncovered, bit by bit, links between IPR associates and Soviet spies. Second, some members of the international communist conspiracy defected and revealed information about IPR members and friends. Third, when the Cold War ended between 1989 and 1991, previously classified documents became available: from both sides.
Of the various front organizations operated in the United States by the Soviet Union, the IPR was particularly relevant to the situation in China. Starting in the 1920s, there was an internal struggle between Mao’s communists and Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists. It was a civil war.
Stalin’s USSR supported Mao, and the United States lukewarmly supported the nationalists. Stalin tasked the IPR with weakening U.S. support for Chiang Kai-shek, by influencing the thinking of policymakers, and with providing the Soviets with classified information about the situation in China, by stealing confidential documents from various government agencies which had been infiltrated by IPR operatives.
The fact that Mao gained control over China - a fact which caused the deaths of millions - is due in part, but not in whole, to the communist infiltration of the IPR.