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His name was Matt Cvetic. And he was a communist. Or so others thought, as shown in the film I Was a Communist for the FBI.
In actuality, Cvetic was working undercover to expose communist workings in Pittsburgh under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, of the 10 million people living in that city, 2,875 claimed to be members of the Communist Party.
While the number may not have been that significant, Cvetic found that the communist party had means of using front companies and manipulation for increasing their reach and recruiting non-communists to serve their purpose.
Cvetic recorded, “I’ve talked to many liberals who thought sincerely that they were ‘using’ the communists as their tools in striving for a worthy goal. The truth is that the communists laughed behind their backs at the childishness of such a notion.”
According to him, the Communist party had several tactics including planting their members in organizations, spreading discord, and monopolizing public meetings to limit dissent.
The undercover work was dangerous. As Cvetic recalled, “I heard of one party member who’d been found hanged under peculiar circumstances. He was officially listed as a suicide, but the other party members have a sarcastic emphasis to the word ‘suicide’ when they used it in referring to his death.”
What began in 1941 ended in 1950 for Cvetic when he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee to out members of the communist party. Cvetic claimed to have supplied the FBI with “over 30,000 pages of exhibits, letters, press releases, pamphlets, and other propaganda publications” and approximately one thousand communist member names.
His story was later sold to the Saturday Evening Post and published in three parts entitled I Posed as a Communist for the FBI. The rights to his story were purchased by Warner Brothers a few months after its publication for $12,500.