During the 1930s, America’s attention was captured by the misery of the Great Depression, caused by government efforts which turned what would have been a momentary downturn into an enduring economic catastrophe.
During both decades, few people were aware of a steady effort by the USSR to plant operatives in various social and governmental institutions inside the United States. These “moles” worked for various Soviet intelligence agencies, and constituted a huge, if largely undetected, threat to millions of lives.
These spies were coordinated, in part, by the Communist Party (CPUSA), which was not merely a political party espousing various policies and candidates, but was rather a terrorist organization, espousing an explicitly “violent” overthrow of the U.S. government. The CPUSA’s documents specifically used the word ‘violent’ in its call for revolution.
These Soviet agents stole government secrets and sent them to Moscow. They also influenced American policy decisions, as historian Stan Evans and Herbert Romerstein write:
In sum, as shown by a now substantial mass of data, a powerful and devious enemy had by the middle 1940s succeeded in planting myriad secret agents and sympathizers in offices of the U.S. government (and other posts of influence) where they were able to serve the cause of Moscow and betray America’s national interests. The American people were blissfully ignorant of this danger, while a sizable number of high officials were either indifferent to the problem or in some cases complicit with it. A more alarming scenario for the safety and security of the nation would be hard to imagine.
One Soviet agent, Alger Hiss, had worked his way up to an influential role in the State Department, and had regular face-to-face meetings with President Roosevelt.
FDR, whose health was failing, relied increasingly on various advisors, who essentially made many of his policy decisions for him. Alger Hiss, a Soviet operative, was directing policy. American diplomacy in the mid-1940s sometimes favored the interests of the USSR over the security of the United States.