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Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals Paperback – August 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Stephen Koch is chairman of the Writing Division of the School of Arts at Columbia University, New York. He lives in Manhattan.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 442 pages
  • Publisher: Enigma Books; Revised edition (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1929631200
  • ISBN-13: 978-1929631209
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,398,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By anarchteacher on April 20, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Double Lives, Professor Koch meticulously details the manipulation by the Soviets' master propagandist Willi Munzenberg of thousands of European and American progressive intellectuals in the inner-war period of the 1920s and 1930s by his vast publishing network and interlocking front organizations under the covert direction of the Communist International (Comintern) and the Soviet secret services of the NKVD and the GRU.

He particularly concentrates upon the intellectual elite that fell under Munzenberg's sway in this cultural war against the West.

This includes such persons as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Andre' Malraux, Andre' Gide, Pablo Picasso, Dorothy Parker, George Grosz, Lincoln Steffens, John Dos Passos, Bertolt Brecht, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett and Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

This volume shatters myth after historical myth of this critical period.

Munzenberg, Koch states, "developed what may well be the leading moral illusion of the twentieth century: the notion that in the modern age the principal arena of the moral life, the true realm of good and evil, is political."

The notion that - the ethical is the political - and that the highest form of ethical expression was "anti-fascism," - with the Soviet Union as the publicly-identified, ideologically most dedicated opponent of fascism, thus holding the moral high ground.

This myth was actually built upon the basest of lies.

As Koch demonstrates, from the earliest days of the National Socialist regime in Germany, beginning with the Reichstag Fire less than a month after Hitler became Chancellor, a sinister covert relationship existed between Nazi secret intelligence and their Soviet counterpart.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By on January 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is the kind of book that makes you ask yourself every few pages "did you know that?!", "how come I didn't know this!", and "how come nobody talks about this!"
It is really a good portrait of those grim times in Europe. It exposes the workings and everyday life of the real spies. It gives the "bad guys" you heard about or saw only in movies a real face. Full of detail that does not bore but expand the palette of colors.
Even if you are not interested in history or politics you should read this. I have tried to find other books on Muezenberg and I recently came across "The Red Millionaire" by Sean McMeekin, which I intend to read soon.
I think more investigating journalism should be done about other dark myths of our recent history. We have to look more critically at the people who want to mold our minds.
This is a very valuable book.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Dunskus on April 12, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone interested in the ideas that have shaped the cultural and political face of the 20th century should read this book, because it sheds an uncompromising light on the activities which went on behind the scenes and identifies the strings which were being pulled to move the actors on the stage. More often than not the players remained completely unaware of the objectives they helped to promote, and their public was led by the nose, impressed by the cultural celebrities that showed them the way.

Stephen Koch's book, now available in its second printing (may there be a third!) highlights the communist undercover propaganda activities in the West that formed Moscow's ideological spearhead in the 1920s and 1930s. It tells the often tragic stories of the men and women doing the work who thought they were helping to create a better world and often ended up dangling from Stalin's gallows or as non-entities in the endless plains of the Gulag.

In the early days of the Bolshevik empire, this propaganda was aimed primarily at the capitalist countries, it was to promote the cause of the forgotten masses, to fight the lost but glorious causes of victims like Sacco and Vanzetti, to eliminate local rivals and to establish goodwill in intellectual circles. Capitalism was, obviously, the class enemy number one, but intially the campaign lacked a political foe, although Italian fascism, another liberatory ideology that sprang up after the first World War had at least given the enemy a name.

From that point of view, Hitler's sudden rise in Germany, spurred by the Depression which struck Germany hardest of all industrialized nations, was a godsend for communist cause. Now there was a way for Moscow to get a free entry ticket into the ruling circles of the Capitalist world.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Reed on February 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
As archives and witnesses in formerly Communist lands have become available to historians, we better understand the significance played by Western intellectuals promoting the Soviet agenda. In Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals (New York: Enigma Books, 2004; completely revised and updated), Stephen Koch details the tangled web of espionage and subversion spun by one of Lenin's and Stalin's premier agents, Willi Munzenberg, a German communist who "covertly directed propaganda operations in the West" (p. 5). He mastered both the arts of spreading propaganda and enlisting fellow travelers, shaping public opinion through various "Popular Front" mechanisms to garner support for the Soviet position.
"He wanted to instill the feeling, like a truth of nature, that seriously to criticize or challenge soviet policy was the unfailing mark of a bad, bigoted, and probably stupid person, while support was equally infallible proof of a forward-looking mind committed to all that was best for humanity and marked by an uplifting refinement of sensibility" (p. 15). He did so by co-opting public opinion in democratic countries and then denying he'd actually done so. "He organized in all the media: newspapers, film, radio, books, magazines, the theater. Every kind of `opinion maker' was involved: writers, artists, actors, commentators, priests, ministers, professors, `business leaders,' scientists, psychologists, anyone at all whose opinion the public was likely to respect" (p. 15).
He shrewdly manipulated scores of left-leaning intellectuals, fellow travelers whom he disdainfully called the "innocents." He played upon man's hunger for righteousness, for an inner sense of making the world a better place.
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