Sunday, June 15, 2008


The Big Decision: The Story of Matt Cevetic, Counterspy by Matt Cvetic (self published circa 1959)

Matt Cevetic was the "I" in the "I Was a Communist For the FBI" franchise of the '50s which went from a series of "as told to" articles in The Saturday Evening Post to a film (nominated for the documentary Oscar despite the fact it was a narrative film starring Frank Lovejoy!) and a radio show starring Dana Andrews. A mild mannered civil servent, Cvetic was recruited by the FBI in the early '40s to keep tabs on CPUSA's Pittsburgh franchise. They canned him in 1950 for his alleged erratic, alcohol-fueled behavior. He nonetheless spent the next several years as a successful "professional witness" for the HUAC and related concerns until the fad ran its course.

Little of this appears in The Big Decision, the self-published memior by an apparently embittred former media darling. As Cvetic tells it, all he really wanted to do was join Army Intelligence. But the FBI played on his fear of THE RED KNOCK--the dreaded sound of Red fists pounding on the door of every loyal American the morning after the Big Takeover (!). He knew it meant sacrifices. Not only would he not go on the FBI payroll until he was a full-fledged Party member, he couldn't tell a soul--he would risk "savage Communist reprisals in the form of brain washing (?), torture, or even death at the hands of vicious Red inquisitors," no doubt in a secret torture chamber in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh.

He drove his friends away with his regular spouting of the ever-changing Party Line. His wife left him: "I'm not going to have people point at me and say: There goes a Commie's wife." His father stopped talking to him. His brothers hated him. Only his long suffering, albeit bewildered mother continued to accept him. Even love eluded him--a promising relationship with a waitress at the local beanery ended when her father told him "I'd rather see my daughter 6 feet under than married to a Communist skunk like you." And naturally, Cvetic was too American to engage in any immoral dalliance with an of his fairer Party Comrades. "Those scheming Reds with their loose morals sickened me." You'd think the FBI would prefer unattached recruits for this kind of work.

As Cvetic tells it, life in the Party is no piece of cake. The Party may not have a monopoly on paranoia, but don't tell them that. Accusing one another of being an FBI informant is a standard past time. Leaving was frowned upon--Cvetic is always alluding to the suspicious "suicides" of former members and suspected informants. And the things the "Red lice" say, like "when the Communist Revolution starts... I'm sure as hell going to enjoy torturing and butchering the clergy and tossing their bodies in the Ohio River"--it's enough to make any good, loyal American like counterspy Cvetic puke! (Luckily, he doesn't) Even the Soviets weren't to happy with their stateside vanguard. One Russian Red confided in Cvetic that 90% of the American Communists would need to be liquidated after the revolution--"If their own country can't trust them how can we?" So much for getting in on the ground floor

It's pretty hard to take Cvetic seriously. For someone infiltrating a supposedly ruthless, violent organization, stunts like living in a hotel under an assumed name near party HQ or sneaking off to take Communion seem like the recipe for a short career. And Cvetic never quite explains what horrible crimes and vital intelligence he's uncovering. It's not like he's in some secret cell--he has an office in Party HQ in downtown Pittsburgh! But to listen to him tell it, his testimony sent dozens of Reds to jail, making our lives safe for apple pie and the installment plan.

It's all great kitsch in the J. Edgar Hoover tradition of breathless exposes of Commies In Your Back Yard. But it would be nice to know the real story.


Anonymous said...

your slander and disrespect for Mr Cvetic is a pity & a shme.
your biuas against freedom fighters is obvious and your party affiliation is manifest in your rant.
Communism was and is a real enemy to the freedoms of all Americans. Matt Cvetic was & is a true American Patriot No he was Not a Drunk in 1950 & he was not a drunk in 1957 when I knew him. You have attempted to slander the reputation of a great man with your false words of hate.

John Marr said...

hee hee hee!