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Book Reviews
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I Was A Communist for the FBI: Matt Cvetic - A Review
James Wudarczyk - posted September 24, 2006.

R. E. “Gus” Payne, I Was A Communist for the FBI: Matt Cvetic, Bloomington, Indiana: Author-House, 2004.

Payne’s treatise on the subject of Matt Cvetic is a very thin book of 79 pages that portrays the Pittsburgh legend as a tortured soul, who spent nine years of his life between 1941 and 1950 as a genuine American hero. As the author notes, “Cvetic was a child of his age but he was more than that, he was one of those few great Americans in our history who came along just in time.” Although in recent years there have been a number of books very critical of Cvetic’s role in the Cold War, Payne’s book is staunch defense of Cvetic, J. Edgar Hoover, Ronald Reagan, and others, who dedicated their efforts to defeat a foreign and subversive ideology that sought to undermine American principles.

According to Payne, “The truth is that no matter how often or how many writers find fault with Cvetic, he was by the strictest standards applied, an extremely valuable undercover agent for the FBI.” He points out that some of Cvetic’s weekly reports ran 50 pages or more. These reports were obviously very detailed. In his book, Payne wrote: “Contrary to some reports I have read, Cvetic was a trusted member of the party up until the time he left. Although after he surfaced, Nelson and others claimed that they had been aware of this FBI snitching for some months, a desperate brag, no doubt. Most assuredly, had they been aware of his FBI affiliation, they certainly would not have let him leave CP headquarters with nearly a hundred pounds of documents, including the party’s bank statements, minutes of meetings, correspondence, confidential notes, and names and addresses of members and fellow travelers.” Elsewhere in the book, the author notes that Matt Cvetic had records from more than 3,000 Communist Party meetings he attended as an agent for the FBI.

When the Lawrenceville Historical Society published its second volume, A Doughboy’s Tale … and More Lawrenceville Stories, a chapter on Matt Cvetic’s role in the exposing of the Lawrenceville Club, a communist front group, was included. A Doughboy’s Tale, Payne’s book, and Cvetic’s The Big Decision help to fill in missing gaps in the period of national history that also had local implications.

In addition to Cvetic’s role in exposing communism, the author includes speeches by John Kennedy, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and John Wayne, as well as a bibliography of reading materials and a list of movies dealing with the Cold War.

The basic premise of the Payne treatise is that the Communist Party was actually an instrument of a foreign power, and Cvetic’s role in the exposing of this national threat was inspired by pure patriotism, not personal gain. While the author sheds a number of interesting stories and bits of information of Cvetic, this work is hardly a definitive source on the subject of the man who was a communist for the FBI. Nevertheless, every bit of information helps serious researchers of Lawrenceville history to fill in a few more pieces of the puzzle of our local heritage.

Although the book is thin, there are a number of interesting bits of information brought to life by the author. For example, he notes, “A radio show featuring Dana Andrews as Cvetic ran from April 23, 1952 until October 14, 1953. The show had an incredible budget of $12,000 a week, an amount unheard of to produce a radio show during that period. The show always ended with Andrews as Cvetic saying, ‘I am a Communist for the FBI, I walk alone.’”

Payne also addresses the issue of Cvetic and his Catholic faith. “In Cvetic’s own book, The Big Decision, he tells of his relationship with Father Daniel Lawless. According to Cvetic, Lawless blessed him and bestowed a ‘special dispensation to give up attending Mass and receiving sacraments.’ Lawless confirmed Cvetic’s version of this disclosure in an interview, claiming he frequently prayed with Matt and consoled him during episodes he feared being exposed by his comrades. Lawless said Cvetic was terrified at times, and he sought comfort in his religion and with his priest.”

Payne’s book will not change the mind of anyone who is adamant in his belief that the war on communism was the result of pure paranoia. However, Payne’s book will shed additional light for those only vaguely familiar with Matt Cvetic and his times.

Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864)

Born on July 4, 1826, while the country celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence, Stephen Foster has become Lawrenceville’s most famous native son. He was the son of William Barclay Foster, founder of Lawrenceville and Eliza Tomlinson. Foster’s parents moved to Allegheny City (now Pittsburgh’s North Side) when Stephen was very small.

He developed a love for music at a very tender age of about three or four, and from that point forward there was no stopping him. Foster is considered by many to be the world’s foremost composer, and is the only person to have written two state songs – “My Old Kentucky Home” (Kentucky) and “Swannee River” (Florida). A third song “Oh! Susanna” was considered by the state of California as being their state song, but it was rejected.

Today he is considered the founder of “Pop Music” and his works are played throughout the world. There are many books written on Stephen Foster and the University of Pittsburgh maintains the Stephen Foster Memorial Center in his honor. It is located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh close to the Cathedral of Learning.


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