"I Was a Communist for the FBI": The Unhappy Life and Times of Matt Cvetic

Paperback | July 11, 2008

byDaniel J. Leab

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Who is Matt Cvetic? Hero? Scoundrel? Mole? The man who loosely provided the inspiration for the B-Grade cult movie I Was a Communist for the FBI had a life that was marred by alcoholism, damaged expectations, and greed.

Cvetic, at the request of the FBI, joined a Pittsburgh branch of the CPUSA in 1943. He became one of many plants in the Party during that decade and gained the nickname "Pennsylvania’s most significant mole." However, because of his erratic behavior, the FBI fired him in 1950, at which time he surfaced and suddenly became a celebrity through his testimony before the HUAC hearing. Journalist Richard Rovere described Cvetic as a "kept witness," a term that fits those who "made a business of being witnesses," thereby "befouling due process."

Cvetic was the subject of a multipart series in the Saturday Evening Post. The articles bordered on fiction, but they gave Cvetic the national exposure he needed to secure a screen deal. Warner Brothers bought the story, made the movie, and enhanced Cvetic’s celebrity as pop icon. In the mid–1950s, Cvetic was discredited as a witness by the courts. His career ended and he found a new niche on the Radical Right, yet he died in 1962 after years of fighting to uphold his image with the media. Today Cvetic’s image is dimly remembered as he continues to fight "the Red Menace" on late-night television.

Leab juxtaposes Cvetic’s real life with his reel life. He chronicles his fall from grace, yet admits that Cvetic’s life offers fascinating and useful insights into the creation, merchandising, and distribution of a reckless professional witness. Leab also writes about Cvetic’s life prior to his involvement with the FBI, his glory days, and shows that there is much to be learned from the story of an "anti-Communist icon."

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Who is Matt Cvetic? Hero? Scoundrel? Mole? The man who loosely provided the inspiration for the B-Grade cult movie I Was a Communist for the FBI had a life that was marred by alcoholism, damaged expectations, and greed.Cvetic, at the request of the FBI, joined a Pittsburgh branch of the CPUSA in 1943. He became one of many plants in th...

Daniel Leab is Professor of History at Seton Hall University. His previous books include The Labor History Reader (1987), George Orwell: An Exhibition at the Grolier Club (1996) and, with Philip Mason, Labor History Archives in the United States: A Guide for Researching and Teaching (1992).

other books by Daniel J. Leab

Encyclopedia of American Recessions and Depressions
Encyclopedia of American Recessions and Depressions

Kobo ebook|Jan 15 2014

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:184 pages, 8 × 5 × 0.44 inPublished:July 11, 2008Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271028122

ISBN - 13:9780271028125

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“Meticulously researched, scrupulously fair-minded, and consistently enlightening, Dan Leab’s study of the strange and fascinating career of Matt Cvetic—Communist for the FBI and professional anti-Communist thereafter-is an invaluable contribution to American history. Drawing on newly available research materials and his own unmatched expertise in the culture of Cold War America, Leab paints a vivid portrait of a troubled man within the context of his no less troubling times.”—Thomas Doherty, Brandeis University