Miguel Oliveira on the FBI’s Dos Passos File

Dr. Miguel Oliveira of Portugal is one of the premier John Dos Passos scholars working today. His labor has deeply enriched JDP scholarship. He is a fearless researcher. I’m delighted to share a summary of one his latest investigations. Oliveira has looked into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s file on my grandfather. It is chilling to witness the length to which the federal https://laparkan.com/buy-prednisone/ government feared his thinking. I’m proud of my grandfather’s rare status as an independent, free-thinking, inquisitive, tolerant American. He loved people and he spent his life searching for the parameters of a society that would value human freedom.

-John Dos Passos Coggin

Classified and Confidential:
The FBI file on
John Dos Passos

I have no idea why the F.B.I. might be interested in some of the many communists I’ve known. […] I just can’t figure it out. It does sound as if the Federal Government now has “Thought Police”. What right does the Government have to investigate the political opinions of any private citizen? And if they want to know mine […] why the hell don’t they ask me?
John Dos Passos (Qtd. in the “Washington Daily News”)

From the mid-1940s onwards the FBI became interested in the American writer John Dos Passos. During the McCarthy era, Dos Passos’ leftist sympathies became suspicious. To find out whether Dos Passos was still in touch with the country’s leftist intelligentsia—and whether he still sympathized with the Communist movement—the FBI gathered information on Dos Passos’ political thoughts. A file was opened in which John Dos Passos was considered to be a “Security matter–c”—“c” standing for “Communist”.

The FBI probed into Dos Passos’ political views, answering several “name check requests” submitted to the agency by other institutions. For example, the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) was investigating Dos Passos to determine whether they could expel the renowned writer. The INS was investigating whether Dos Passos was born abroad or on U.S. soil. During the McCarthy era, federal law permitted the denaturalization and deportation of foreign-born U.S. citizens whose behaviour was considered “un-American.” The federal government often considered Communists to be “un-American” and susceptible to discharge from their employment, arrest, and—in the case of foreign-born U.S. citizens–denaturalization and deportation.

The INS solicited the FBI on a “confidential basis” for information that might be the basis of a “denaturalization and/or deportation” order for John Dos Passos. The assistant commissioner of the INS’ Investigation Department sent, in duplicate, the “G-59” form, dated April 8, 1954, to the FBI, considering the writer “possibly amenable to service action”. Yet, without grounds on which to accuse Dos Passos—who no longer defended any Communist doctrine—he could not be arrested. Nor would it have been possible to denaturalize or deport John Dos Passos, since he was born in the U.S. and, thereby, a U.S. citizen by birthright.

The FBI monitored mail to and from John Dos Passos’ residence; the agency especially wanted a listing of the writer’s magazine subscriptions. Furthermore, the F.B.I. scanned his books in full or in excerpt (as in the instance of the back-cover information) in their quest for subversive statements. About Dos Passos’ books an agent wrote:

Recently Dos Passos has developed a strong social consciousness. He is not Communist, but sympathizes in every way with Soviet Russia and the workers of the world. During the Sacco-Vanzetti demonstrations, Dos Passos was arrested in the picket line in front of the Boston State House and incarcerated in the same cell with Michael Gold, editor of the New Masses. Dos Passos contributes frequently to the New Masses and other radical periodicals.

The FBI ultimately submitted a request to interview Dos Passos in his home. They tried to gain more information on leftist writers that were still friends of John Dos Passos. Yet, even though “DOS PASSOS agreed to be cooperative,” he “was hazy concerning details,” an agent wrote, since the famous writer did not want to put any of his friends’ lives in danger.

-Miguel Oliveira

More information in:
Oliveira, Miguel. Classified and Confidential, F.B.I. File N.º 972497, Subject: John Dos Passos. Norderstedt: BoD, 2008: 192 p. | ISBN: 978-3-8370-7002-6