To follow up my post a few days ago, I thought I should note Ron Radosh's comments on Howard Zinn's FBI file. Radosh grew up in the world of American commnists, and has studied the Party's history closely, so he knows the turf.
So what is in these files? First, the FBI had evidence that Zinn was a member of the Communist Party of the United States, and lied about his membership when being interviewed by FBI agents. The first file on the subject appeared in March of 1949, when an informant noted "that he (ZINN) is a Communist Party member and attends meetings five days a week." Zinn was then employed by the American Labor Party, which itself gives credence to the informant's report. By that date, the ALP- created in the early forties to give NYC labor a left-wing ballot on which to vote for FDR-had been taken over lock, stock and barrel by the CP. It never would have hired non-Party members as full time employees.
Another informant described Zinn as a "person with some authority" in the CP group to which they belonged. Zinn, he said, taught a course for his comrades on "basic Marxism." On June 12, 1957 another informant told the Bureau that when he was transferred to the Williamsburgh branch of the Party in 1949, "HOWARD ZINN was already a member of that section." It was his impression that "ZINN was not a new member, but had been in the CP for some time."
Zinn, however, denied he was a Communist when questioned by the FBI in 1953. It is important to note here that unlike those who testified before Congressional investigating committees, Zinn was not under oath. The reason Zinn denied his membership was the same as that for other Communists. The Party instructed them not to, even when asked to testify before committees like HUAC. As some of the Hollywood Ten members revealed years after their own investigations, if they said they were Reds, that would only prove that the Red-baiters were right when they called them Communists! It would undermine their pose as good liberals, who were only taking pro-Soviet positions because they genuinely believed in them, not because it was the Party line.
Read the whole thing. Radosh makes a strong case that it was Zinn, not the FBI's informants, who lied about Zinn's party membership.