Harvey Matusow was born in New York City on 3rd October, 1926. His father owned a cigar store. His mother was a Russian immigrant. He later recalled: "There were four in our family - my mother, father, my older brother Danny, and myself. We lived in a middle-class section of the Bronx. Although I grew up in the depression of the early 1930's, it didn't hurt or scar me as it did others. We always had a clean, warm apartment, and I was unfamiliar with the reality of slums and cold-water tenements." (1)
In 1944 he joined the United States Army and during the Second World War he served in France and Germany. According to the The New York Times: "He found what he believed to be the grave of his brother, his only sibling, in Germany, an event he said deeply traumatized him." (2)
Harvey Matusow arrived back in New York in 1946 and considering himself a socialist he joined American Youth for Democracy. The following year he became a member of the American Communist Party. "My first party meeting was memorable. I approached my new found membership in the Communist Party with all the vigor of youth. It was like a new toy and I couldn't get enough of it. The club organizer distributed petitions put out by the Civil Rights Congress for the defense of Eugene Dennis, who had been cited for contempt by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. I accepted my quota of two petitions and within twenty-four hours had them completely filled and had also collected about twenty-five dollars. I returned to party headquarters the following evening to turn in my petitions and get new ones. To my great disillusionment, I found the headquarters closed. There was no meeting and I had to wait a full week." (3)
Matusow appeared in plays and musicals written by people like Clifford Odets and Marc Blizstein. He was also a volunteer worker with People's Songs Incorporated (PSI). The organization run by Pete Seeger, Alan Lomax, and Lee Hayes, published a weekly newsletter, People's Song Bulletin, with songs, articles, and announcements of future performances. Ted Morgan, the author of Reds: McCarthyism in Twentieth-Century America (2003) wrote: "Short, stocky, dark-haired, brash, and garrulous, Matusow was the salesman type. In 1948, he won a trip to Puerto Rico for selling the most subscriptions to the Sunday Worker." (4)
Matusow later admitted that he became disillusioned with communism in 1949. "The mechanical approach toward me that I found in many party leaders, their absolutist attitude, disillusioned me increasingly in the party. I took on a feeling of hurt and envy toward those who were criticizing me. This feeling of hurt grew stronger as I felt that these were attacks upon me. I felt alone again. I resented the attacks, and the people who supported them. This resentment for a few grew to one against the Communist Party as a whole. I became bitter. I found myself agreeing more and more with the growing antagonism toward the Communist Party in the United States. The Cold War was not a factor when I joined the Communist Party in 1946, but in 1949 it was in full swing. The first Smith Act trial of Communist leaders had resulted in a conviction. Apprehension in me was now added to disillusionment." (5)
In February 1950, Matusow decided to become an informer. "What were the emotions I felt as I attended my first Communist Party meeting as an informer, knowing I would report those friends present? I asked myself whether I was going to leave anything out of my first report - and I did. I felt like a man hanging from a cliff, seeing the rope break strand by strand, knowing he is going to fall. I still clung to the remnants of certain friendships - a few which became fewer as the reports became more frequent. I washed away all ties of friendship with one individual after another, until there was none. With each new name I fought myself with a feeling of guilt - of how or when could this ever stop. However, I soon got down to rock bottom, a point which made it easy for me to justify my reporting on my former friends. And my pangs of conscience diminished more and more with the gratifying smiles and thank-you's I received as I turned in my reports." (6)
Matusow was paid $75 a month by the FBI and during this period he named several hundred people as being members of the party. On 6th June, 1950, Matusow sent a message to the FBI that they should keep a close watch on The Weavers as the leader of the group, Pete Seeger, was a member of the American Communist Party. This was untrue as Seeger had left the party soon after the war and was a supporter of Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party. The following month Matusow moved to Los Angeles to spy on political activists. "As I look back upon it, I realize that my reasons for leaving New York were that I could no longer face the friends I had betrayed.... I thought that by changing my physical locale and starting anew - new people, new events, all impersonal I could feel at ease in my reports. I felt that I was no longer betraying what I had formerly believed in."
Rumours began to circulate that Matusow was a spy. On 19th January, 1951, The Daily Worker reported: "The New York County Committee of the Communist Party announced yesterday that Harvey Matisow (sic) had been expelled
from the Tompkins Square section of the C.P. for being an enemy agent. Matisow, upon investigation, was also found
to have engaged in irregularities and misrepresentations during a press drive. His main contacts were among the youth and he is now operating in New York City since his recent return from the Southwest. Matisow is in his middle twenties, medium height, plump, white, has a round face, black hair and eyes." (7)
Matusow also carried out work for Ted C. Kirkpatrick, a former FBI agent and Vincent Hartnett, a right-wing television producer, who had published a booklet entitled Red Channels on 22nd June, 1950. It listed the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed had been members of subversive organisations before the Second World War but had not so far been blacklisted. Matusow's job was to be assistant to the editor of the right-wing journal, Counterattack.
Matusow met Howard Rushmore, a journalist who worked for the New York Journal American. Rushmore agreed to pay Matusow $750 for a four-part article on the American Communist Party. Rushmore was a former party member who had resigned as the movie critic of The Daily Worker after refusing to criticize Gone With the Wind. Rushmore, who had played an important role in McCarthyism, committed suicide six years later after murdering his wife.
Matusow then moved to Dayton, Ohio. According to David Caute, the author of The Great Fear (1978): "Mutusow... fell under the influence of two older professional informers, John and Martha Edmiston, and of HCUA's investigator Donald T Appell. (Edmiston, the financial editor of the Dayton Journal, had testified before HCUA about Communist strikes and infiltration of the armed forces.) Thanks to such connections Matusow was soon taken on the payroll of the Ohio Un-American Activities Commission at $300 a month plus expenses, to spy on radical meetings, to "finger" labor leaders, and to collect old nominating petitions for county elections bearing the names of sponsors of left-wing candidates." (8)
Matusow first appeared before a closed session of the House of Un-American Activities on 8th November 1951. "My first answers to questions were simply yes, sir; no, sir. They were brief and to the point the committee wanted. This was the only way to leave a favorable impression, I thought - by leaving opinion out and putting it in only when it was specifically asked for. I had not been established as an expert; therefore, opinion was kept to a minimum. The way in which I presented my testimony was as deliberate and dishonest as the way I had prepared for it - with self-serving motivations governing both. A few minutes after we started I began to relax. I no longer reached for that frequent glass of water. My clasped hands no longer squeezed each other. In fact, on occasion, I would pull them apart so as to get a more dramatic effect with some sweeping hand gesture. When I had completed the testimony, my ego swelled as committee members and staff employees began to pat me on the back and tell me of my job well done. I accepted the compliments and searched for more. I had now crossed the barrier. I was prepared to testify again and again. There was no turning back." (9)
On 6th February, 1952, Harvey Matusow testified in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Matusow later admitted that he used his testimony to get headlines in the newspapers. For example he told the HUAC that "Communists would use intellectual as well as sexual weakness to recruit people." The following morning the New York Daily Mirror stated: "The Matusow revelations about Communist use of intellectual and of sexual appeals to rope young people into the party's lower echelons pose a new light on the brutishly immoral and completely conscienceless strategies of the red traitors."
Matusow gave the names of several people who he claimed were members of the American Communist Party. This included Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman, members of the very popular, The Weavers. Matusow admitted in his autobiography, False Witness (1955) that this was untrue but Seeger said this ended the career of the group: "Matusow's appearance burst like a bombshell... We had started off singing in some very flossy night-clubs... Then we went lower and lower as the blacklist crowded us in. Finally, we were down to places like Daffy's Bar and Grill on the outskirts of Cleveland." (10)
According to the New York Times: "Among those he (Matusow) accused of Communist sympathies were the State Department, CBS, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Young Women's Christian Association and the United Nations. He said there were 500 Communist teachers in the New York City school system, for which he was a paid consultant. His testimony resulted in the folk singer Pete Seeger's being cited for contempt of Congress." (11)
On 21st July, 1952, Matusow, gave evidence against Alexander Trachtenberg, the head of International Publishers, who was being charged under the Smith Act of publishing information that advocated communist revolution. During cross-examination by Roy Cohn, he gave information that was untrue. Judge Edward J. Dimock in his summing up he gave Matusow credit for providing the crucial evidence that convicted Trachtenberg and the following year he was sentenced to a year's imprisonment.
Harvey Matusow met Elizabeth Bentley on 3rd October, 1952, at the offices of her publisher. Kathryn S. Olmsted argues: "Like her, he had joined the Party out of idealism; also like her, he had abandoned it with a vengeance and become an FBI informer. Matusow admired Elizabeth's spy queen 'gimmick' and had come up with a gimmick of his own. He was, he said, the former leader of the Kremlin's youth movement in America. He had just finished a turn as an investigator for the Ohio Un-American Activities Commission and was about to embark on a lucrative campaign tour for Republican candidates. After some pleasant conversation, the spy queen and the Boy Stalinist made a date for that night. It was Matusow's twenty-sixth birthday. That evening at the Rochambeau restaurant, the two star witnesses enjoyed a long dinner and several drinks. Throughout the meal, a few of Matusow's friends and acquaintances dropped by the table for short chats. Matusow dominated the conversation with long-winded denunciations of the Communist associations of various actors and activists, while Elizabeth nodded amiably in agreement. Her date had burst into national prominence thanks to his talent for exaggerating his own accomplishments, and that night was no exception. One woman who briefly joined the group found him to be 'unstable mentally, an egomaniac, and an intense individual who demands everyone's attention'. When Matusow and Elizabeth were alone, though, he gave her a chance to talk. She told him of the stress she was under. She could not find a job, she complained, because the FBI and Roy Cohn were constantly demanding her testimony, and she had already spent all her money from her book. (12)
Matusow began a relationship with Bentley. He later claimed that she was self-medicating for depression and anxiety: "She used alcoholism to ease her pain and she had a lot of pain." At the end of the evening, he would take her home and "pour" her into bed. Every couple of weeks, they would sleep together, but usually she was too drunk. Matusow claimed that she was upset at her "frivolous treatment" in the press. "She didn't understand the hostility... She never got to the point where she could handle it." Bentley complained about the way she had been treated by the FBI: "She felt that she'd been used and abused." (13) Bentley told her friend, Ruth Matthews that she "should step out in front of a car and settle everything." (14)
Matusow now went to work for Joseph McCarthy. This included making speeches and releasing press statements in support of McCarthy and against his opponents such as Mike Mansfield. In Great Falls, Montana, he made in July, 1954, he made headlines with the claim that: "The Sunday section of the New York Times alone has 126 dues-paying Communists. On the editorial and research staffs of Time and Life magazines are 76 hard-core Reds. The New York Bureau of the Associated Press has 25." (15)
Matusow eventually felt remorse for ruining the careers of his former friends. He went to see Bishop Garfield Bromley Oxnam, the executive secretary of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. He told Oxnam that "I have lied again and again to these committees and I want to ask for forgiveness." Oxnam suggested that Matusow should make this information public. Matusow now wrote an account of his life entitled, False Witness, but the manuscript was rejected by the mainstream publishers. (16)
Oxnam made a speech in Westminster, Maryland, where he stated that Matusow had told him that "he had a religious experience and wished someone would undo all the lies I have told about so many people". Oxnam was now contacted by Angus Cameron and Albert E. Kahn. Both men had been blacklisted because they had refused to testify before the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). They decided to form their own publishing company, Cameron & Kahn. Cameron later recalled: "We decided, hell, we'll get that book, we can make these bastards eat crow." (17)
False Witness was published in February 1955. As Ted Morgan, the author of Reds: McCarthyism in Twentieth-Century America (2003), has pointed out: "Publication was synchronized with a campaign for new trials... at a time when 134 Communist leaders had been indicted under the Smith Act, with eighty-three convictions. Thanks to Matusow, the party could claim that all Smith Act trials were rigged." Matusow admitted that he had named over 200 people as being members of the American Communist Party but admitted that "about 15% was based on hearsay". (18)
Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine said: ''At long last, the shining truth about the false accusers, the half-truth artists, the professional fabricators, the prevaricators for pay is beginning to break up through the dark and ugly clouds of doubt they have so evilly blown up.'' However, Attorney General Herbert Brownell accused Matusow as being ''part of a concerted drive to discredit government witnesses.'' (19)
In the book Matusow claimed he was a FBI agent who had been paid to lie about his former friends and some of these people were in prison because of his testimony, whereas others were blacklisted because of his lies. Matusow also said that Elizabeth Bentley and Louis Budenz were persistent perjurers. (20) John Steinbeck commented in The Saturday Review: "I suspect that government informers, even if they had told the truth, can't survive Matusow's testimony." (21)
He also named Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn as people who had persuaded him to give false testimony. However, these people were not released or removed from the blacklist. Instead, Matusow was charged with "scheming to obstruct justice" in July 1955. He was sentenced to five years in prison. Matusow was released after spending three and a half years in Lewisburg Prison, Pennsylvania. (22)
On his release from prison Matusow was himself blacklisted. Aged 33 he moved to England and became a music impresario. in 1966 established the London Film Makers Cooperative. He also wrote for the Sunday Times, International Times and Oz. (23)
Matusow returned to the United States in 1973, where he joined a Massachusetts commune. In the 1980s he moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he had a clown act on children's television. In 1995 he joined a Mormon community in Glenwood, Utah. He later moved to Claremont, New Hampshire, where he worked in public access TV. (24)
Harvey Matusow died at home on 17th January, 2002, as the result of injuries suffered in a car accident.
The Bronx didn't cheer on the week I was bom. The world ignored me as it did most children. That week lives in sports history: "Push 'em up Tony"- Tony Lazzeri, the second baseman of the New York Yankee baseball team - struck out. The New York Yankees lost the World Series. The Bronx didn't cheer then for its Yankees. And Harvey Matusow was ignored.
There were four in our family - my mother, father, my older brother Danny, and myself. We lived in a middle-class section of the Bronx. Although I grew up in the depression of the early 1930's, it didn't hurt or scar me as it did others. We always had a clean, warm apartment, and I was unfamiliar with the reality of slums and cold-water tenements.
My father was a merchant. He had a cigar store in down-town New York. I remember the store - "Uncle Herman's
Luncheonette" - Uncle Herman, that's my father. Next door to the luncheonette was a labor theater. The hit Broadway
show playing there was "Pins and Needles." Many of the peo-ple who were connected with the show are today blacklisted as progressives. People around the show used to call me "Kid Nickels" - I would get rolls of nickels from their box office for the pinball machines in my father's store. I must have seen about sixty performances of the show, and it had its effect upon me. The show had its political connotations, progressive and reflecting the times, the effects of the depression and the spirited upsurge of the New Deal.
I grew up in the Bronx, and the Bronx was growing too. I continuously exerted myself in childhood games. My over-whelming desire was to be the best, which I was not. I was not a poor student in school but I felt inferior because I was not an A student. As a child I was always striving to over-come the disadvantages I thought I had by not being an A student. Both at home and in school, success was measured by the teacher's markings on my monthly report card.
The name of Harvey Matusow has not been unfamiliar to the American public during these past few years. As one of
the most notorious of the leprous procession of paid informers, ex-Communists and professional witnesses who have lately strutted onto the national stage, Matusow made frequent headlines with his lurid testimony at various Congressional hearings and court trials. Others of his operations were, if less commonly known, scarcely of less consequence. During the 1952 election campaign Matusow acted as a close aide to Senator Joseph McCarthy and campaigned, under the Senator's direction, not only in Wisconsin in behalf of the Senator himself but also in Utah, Montana, Idaho and Washington to help the cause of McCarthy-sponsored candidates in these areas. Prior to the campaign, Matusow worked as a special investigator for the Ohio Un-American Activities Commission and performed similar services for the Board of Education in New York City. For a time Matusow was assistant to the editor of the blacklisting publication, Counterattack.
In 1953 Matusow married the wealthy Mrs. Arvilla Bentley, former wife of Congressman Alvin M. Bentley, and a secret
contributor of large sums of money to Senator McCarthy. As a personal favor to the Senator, Matusow smuggled her out of the United States when it appeared she might be subpoenaed by a Congressional committee investigating some of the Senator's devious financial machinations...
My own special interest in Matusow's career developed in the summer of 1954. Until then I had paid no more attention
to him than to others of his motley colleagues like Louis Budenz, Matt Cvetic and Elizabeth Bentley, upon whose
operations I had periodically commented in my writings. But that summer the press carried certain news dispatches about Matusow which greatly aroused my curiosity. The first of these concerned a public statement by the distinguished churchman Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam to the effect that Matusow had informed him that he - Matusow - had repeatedly lied under oath and now wanted to "undo some of the harm" he had done to others. Soon afterwards the press reported that Matusow had visited the Washington attorney, Russell Brown, a law associate of former U. S. Attorney General Howard McGrath, and had repeated to Brown much of what he had told Bishop Oxnam. It was also reported Matusow had said he was interested in writing a book deahng with some of his activities in the field of blacklisting. Then, in early October, after Corporal Claude Batchelor was sentenced to life imprisonment for his temporary defection to the North Koreans, Matusow released a statement making public a letter to U. S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell declaring he would no longer testify for agencies of a government which had so betrayed its trust to a soldier.
The following day a very frightened me arrived at the Federal Court House in New York. I not only feared my first physical encounter with the FBI but I feared being observed by some party member who might have been in the courthouse. I took a deep drag on my cigarette, put it out in a spittoon in the hall and bolted through the doorway
which said "FBI."
My soul-searching was cut short by the sight of "my" FBI agent. He escorted me down a long corridor that could
have been any business office. It didn't feel like a law-enforcement office. I entered the room where there was another
agent; this made three of us.
On the desk the agents had my dossier. It was not too large. My curiosity nearly killed me. I wanted to know what
was in it. I thought that my dossier was just one of thousands and I envisioned the vast files of the FBI, the kind I had
so often seen in Hollywood pictures. How many names? What was the validity of the information? Am I too late in
offering my services? If they had this much information on me - small fry that I was - surely I couldn't furnish them with new information, I thought. But that wasn't the case.
One of the first questions asked of me was, "You're not doing this to get facts to write a story, are you?" I assured
them I wasn't. And I wasn't. Although I am writing that story now.
It was not so difficult to become an informer. Being a Communist wasn't popular any more. I had joined the Communist Party in 1947, at a time when you could still admit your membership in the party. The Korean War had not yet started; the Internal Security Law of 1950 had not yet been passed.
But in 1950 I felt sure there would be a war. There was little doubt in my mind but that Congress would pass anti-Communist legislation. When I contacted the FBI I cloaked myself in the safety that all informers enjoy when they get on a bandwagon.
Also, for the first time in our history, the informer was a hero. Herbert Philbrick, who had testified in the trial of the
Communist leaders; Elizabeth Bentley, the spy queen; Paul Crouch, Louis Budenz, and others, were all hailed as heroes. I climbed on that bandwagon. It was the easy way up - to let the world know that I was not just another guy.
What were the emotions I felt as I attended my first Communist Party meeting as an informer, knowing I would report
those friends present? I asked myself whether I was going to leave anything out of my first report - and I did. I felt like
a man hanging from a cliff, seeing the rope break strand by strand, knowing he is going to fall. I still clung to the rem-
nants of certain friendships - a few which became fewer as the reports became more frequent.
I washed away all ties of friendship with one individual after another, until there was none. With each new name I fought myself with a feeling of guilt - of how or when could this ever stop. However, I soon got down to rock bottom, a point which made it easy for me to justify my reporting on my former friends. And my pangs of conscience diminished
more and more with the gratifying smiles and thank-you's I received as I turned in my reports.
Shortly after I first contacted the FBI I began to furnish regular written and oral reports. I was paid $70 to $75 a
month, money which was supposed to cover my expenses.
My first reports were oral. They told of Communist Party and Labor Youth League club meetings and included names,
addresses, and telephone numbers of college students, working youth, secretaries, and others in a few miscellaneous job categories.
The FBI wanted the physical description of my friends and the substance of what they said. On occasion, such as May Day, 1950, I took pictures of individuals and identified them at the FBI office.
The major scandal of the time of the spectacular recantation of one of the most energetic informers on the Justice Department's payroll (he had named 216 names), Harvey Matusow.
Matusow had returned to New fork from military service in Europe in 1947, joined the CP in 1947, and quickly dropped out of college. An unscrupulous adventurer with a taste for publicity, he contacted the FBI in 1950 and found it already had a dossier on him. Henceforward the Bureau paid him about $70 a month to attend CP meetings as an informer. Exposure was inevitable and on January 19, 1951, the Dally Worker reported that he had been expelled from the Tompkins Square section of the CP as an "enemy agent." Matusow then took himself off to New Mexico, where he joined the Air Force (henceforward he would describe himself as a "veteran of the Korean war" and - out of ambition, apparently - wrote an angry letter to HCUA denouncing his own presence in the armed forces. By November he was testifying before the Committee as all ex-Communist expert, and the following month he left a bewildered and relieved Air Force.
Moving to Dayton, Ohio, he fell under the influence of two older professional informers, John and Martha Edmiston, and of HCUA's investigator Donald T Appell. (Edmiston, the financial editor of the Dayton Journal, had testified before HCUA about Communist strikes and infiltration of the armed forces.) Thanks to such connections Matusow was soon taken on the payroll of the Ohio Un-American Activities Commission at $300 a month plus expenses, to spy on radical meetings, to "finger" labor leaders, and to collect old nominating petitions for county elections bearing the names of sponsors of left-wing candidates.
The New York County Committee of the Communist Party announced yesterday that Harvey Matisow (sic) had been expelled from the Tompkins Square section of the C.P. for being an enemy agent. Matisow, upon investigation, was also found to have engaged in irregularities and misrepresentations during a press drive. His main contacts were among the youth and he is now operating in New York City since his recent return from the Southwest. Matisow is in his middle twenties, medium height, plump, white, has a round face, black hair and eyes."
Or consider the case of Harvey Matusow, who after seven years in the Party and four years as an informer (against various Communist Youth organizations, folk singers, and the Boy Scouts) repudiated his career as a professional witness in a book, False Witness (1955), in press conferences, and before a grand jury. Between 1951 and 1954, he consulted with and testified for the Justice Department (in the second New York Smith Act trial), the Subversive Activities Control Board, the Permanent Investigations Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, the Internal Security Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the Ohio Committee on Un-American Activities, and the New York City Board of Education. By his own count he had testified in 25 trials and deportation proceedings and identified 180 persons as Communists as he worked his way up from the sticks to the informers' palace-the McCarthy Committee. He also lectured for the American Legion, campaigned for candidates who could meet his fee (he once campaigned for McCarthy himself), wrote for the Hearst papers, and at one point had a radio program with fellow informer Howard Rushmore called Out of the Red. "Pretty good for a mama's boy from the Bronx, wouldn't you say?" he says.
It was his account of his dealings with Senator McCarthy's counsel, Roy Cohn, that got Matusow into trouble. When in 1951 Cohn, then an assistant U.S. attorney in New York, let him know that the prosecution wished to get into evidence at the second Smith Act trial a particularly incendiary passage from Andrei Vyshinsky's Law of the Soviet State, Matusow conveniently allowed as how he not only had read the book but had discussed passages from it with defendant Alexander Trachtenberg - the very one Cohn was after. In his book, Matusow claimed that this was perjury and that Cohn had suborned it.
The freelance ex-Communist professional witnesses included all manner of dubious characters. but none so bewilderingly eccentric as Harvey Matusow. Born in the Bronx in 1926, the son of a cigar store owner and a Russian-born mother, Matusow joined the Army at the age of eighteen, in 1944, serving in France and Germany. It was in the Army that his propensity for not telling the truth was first exposed. He said he could speak French, Spanish, Italian, and German. But when he was handed a passage from a book in German, he couldn't translate it. Mustered out of thc Army in 1946. Matusow was back in New York and drifted into the party, which gave him "a feeling of belonging." Soon he became a paid employee, working in party bookstores and as a switchboard operator at party headquarters. In the summer he went to Camp Unity in Wingdale, New York: lectures in the morning and hootenannies in the evening with party songbooks. On the grounds, a boulder with Lenin's face sculpted into it, a Communist Mount Rushmore. Matusow was in the youth group, which in 1948 morphed into Youth for Wallace. He worked for People's Songs, which ran the cultural part of the campaign. Short, stocky, dark-haired, brash, and garrulous. Matusow was the salesman type. In 1948, he won a trip to Puerto Rico for selling the most subscriptions to the Sunday Worker.
In 1950, he was living with an African-American divorcee and took a job with a Harlem collection agency. The party accused him of "white chauvinism" and demoted him. In a fit of pique, Matusow went to the New York office of the FBI in late March and said he was a disillusioned Communist who wanted to be an undercover informant. He was paid $75 a month to cover expenses and named several hundred persons he knew in the party. Assistant Attorney General William F. Tomkins later said that corroboration had been found for 90 percent of those he named.
In the summer of 1950, Matusow met Craig Vincent at a party affair at the Hotel Albert in New York City. Vincent operated a dude ranch for comrades in the mountains of New Mexico and was recruiting guests. Matusow was invited and went in July. The San Cristobal ranch was eighteen miles north of Taos. Vincent, a Communist lawyer who had run the Wallace campaign in Colorado in 1948, had opened the place in 1949. On March 17, 1950, in Denver, according to congressional testimony, Communist leaders decided that the ranch would be operated for the party. When he testified before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in June 1953, Vincent took the Fifth when asked if the ranch was an adjunct of the party.
With its 160 acres at 7,900 feet, and its unspoiled mountain scenery, San Cristobal was a place where stressed-out party functionaries could unwind in the company of their own kind, sing Spanish Civil War songs, and visit Indian pueblos. One of the regulars was Clinton Jencks, an organizer with Mine, Mill, and Smelter, a Communist-controlled union that was ousted by the CIO in 1950, after a trial that ruled "the Communist Party is in direct control of the union's leadership and dictates to that leadership the policies it shall adopt."
Tall, rangy, and flaxen-haired, Clinton Jencks was sent to southwestern New Mexico in 1947, where he was known by the Mexicans who worked the copper and silver mines as "El Palomino." Jencks merged the scattered Mine, Mill locals into one big local, 890.
Elizabeth first met Harvey Matusow in the offices of her publisher on October 3, 1952. She made a habit of visiting the Devin-Adair offices that miserable fall, seeking payments of her dwindling royalties and encouragement during her "blue periods." One morning, she bumped into a charming young man peddling his own book. An ex-Communist like herself, he wanted to write a book called The Reds Rock the Cradle. Like her, he had joined the Party out of idealism; also like her, he had abandoned it with a vengeance and become an FBI informer.
Matusow admired Elizabeth's spy queen "gimmick" and had come up with a gimmick of his own. He was, he said, the former leader of the Kremlin's youth movement in America. He had just finished a turn as an investigator for the Ohio Un-American Activities Commission and was about to embark on a lucrative campaign tour for Republican candidates. After some pleasant conversation, the spy queen and the Boy Stalinist made a date for that night. It was Matusow's twenty-sixth birthday.
That evening at the Rochambeau restaurant, the two star witnesses enjoyed a long dinner and several drinks. Throughout the meal, a few of Matusow's friends and acquaintances dropped by the table for short chats. Matusow dominated the conversation with long-winded denunciations of the Communist associations of various actors and activists, while Elizabeth nodded amiably in agreement. Her date had burst into national prominence thanks to his talent for exaggerating his own accomplishments, and that night was no exception. One woman who briefly joined the group found him to be "unstable mentally, an egomaniac, and an intense individual who demands everyone's attention".
When Matusow and Elizabeth were alone, though, he gave her a chance to talk. She told him of the stress she was under. She could not find a job, she complained, because the FBI and Roy Cohn were constantly demanding her testimony, and she had already spent all her money from her book. As she told her story, she began to cry.
She angrily contrasted her position with that of her new friend. "You are a man, you are young, you can go out and find a job," she said. "I can't. I have to continue doing this sort of thing." But how many times could she tell the same story? To keep her services in demand, she had to invent new revelations, she said. "I just have to continue to find information to testify about."
At least, that was Matusow's account of the evening. Many people later questioned it. He did not tell anyone about the conversation for more than two years. He and Elizabeth were the only ones present when she allegedly admitted to lying, and she vehemently denied that she had said any such thing. Matusow, on the other hand, would later confess to being a "perpetual and habitual liar.
But, in this particular case, there is much circumstantial evidence to support Matusow's version. The dinner took place right at the time when Elizabeth was most vulnerable. In early October 1952, she was frequently drunk, depressed, and bitter. She had not yet received any assurance from the FBI that her $5o weekly payments would be continued or that her debts would be paid off. She must have felt comfortable with Matusow, whom she called "quite a character." In contrast to the staid anti-Communists who normally took her to dinner, he liked to "do the town" and have fun." And she had, after all, exaggerated her testimony in the Remington case and invented new allegations about the conveniently dead Harry Dexter White. Could she, in a moment of vulnerability and sympathy with her companion, have expressed some bitterness about the constant pressure for new revelations?
At one point in the dinner, according to Matusow, Elizabeth did something that was very consistent with her behavior that fall. She complained that she was not being adequately compensated for her services to the government. The FBI would need to find another witness, she said, because she was "sick of being used." If they wanted her testimony, she said, they would have to pay her for it.
Harvey Matusow, a paid informer who named more than 200 people as Communists or Communist sympathizers in the early 1950's, only to recant and say he lied in almost every instance, died on Jan. 17 at his home in Claremont, N.H. He was 75.
Nancy Graton, a friend, said the cause was complications of injuries suffered in an automobile crash on Jan. 2.
Mr. Matusow, who served 44 months of a five-year sentence for perjury in a federal penitentiary, created a sensation in 1955 when he revealed his many lies in his book False Witness (Cameron & Kahn). Some hailed it for exposing what they regarded as questionable tactics by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and other zealous anti-Communists.
Mr. Matusow began in 1950 by giving the Federal Bureau of Investigation information he had obtained through his membership in the Communist Party. He became an aide to Senator McCarthy, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
He also testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, the Subversive Activities Control Board, the Ohio Un-American Affairs Commission and the Industrial Commission of Texas, among other bodies. In addition, he was a witness in court cases against those accused of being Communists.
Among those he accused of Communist sympathies were the State Department, CBS, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Young Women's Christian Association and the United Nations. He said there were 500 Communist teachers in the New York City school system, for which he was a paid consultant. His testimony resulted in the folk singer Pete Seeger's being cited for contempt of Congress.
Mr. Matusow's often wildly exaggerated approach was suggested by his assertion that The New York Times had 126 Communists on the staff that produced its Sunday sections; at a time that staff had 100 people. He later signed an affidavit disavowing his accusation against The Times...
''I must have looked like a character in a Hollywood melodrama as I lit a cigarette, put it out, lit another one, paced the floor, then got back to the phone,'' he wrote. ''Like a man who commits suicide, once you leap from that building, it's too late to turn back. That's the way I felt about contacting the F.B.I.''
He was assigned to attend party meetings as an informer for $70 a month. He was soon exposed and expelled. He joined the Air Force and wrote an angry letter to the House Committee on Un-American Activities denouncing his own presence, as a former Communist, in the armed forces.
He started testifying before the committee as an ex-Communist expert. After he left the Air Force, his career as an expert anti-Communist began in earnest. Among other things, he worked for Counterattack, a newsletter that blacklisted Communists, wrote an article for the American Legion Magazine titled ''Reds in Khaki'' and tried to smear political candidates who opposed Senator McCarthy in the elections of 1952.
Mr. Matusow married one of the principal contributors to Senator McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade, Arvilla Peterson Bentley.
She was one of around a dozen wives. He is survived by the former Irene Gibson, whom he married last fall, and his daughter, Lisa Susan, Ms. Graton said.
Mr. Matusow eventually recanted most of his name dropping. His perjury conviction resulted from testifying, falsely, a court found, that Roy M. Cohn, as assistant attorney general, had coached him to lie.
Mr. Matusow said he had lived a ''lifelong three-ring circus.'' He called himself Job because of his many travails; he flirted with many religions and lived in communes.
He had a devilish side: he wrote a book on how to sabotage computer systems. But he also tried to help people, like impoverished Indians to whom he persuaded Hell's Angels to deliver food.
Above all, acquaintances said, he was driven by a craving for attention. Brian Kahn, the son of Albert E. Kahn, the editor who persuaded him to write his book about being a professional witness, recalled visiting his apartment years ago and seeing deep piles of newspaper clippings about him.
''Show-off is not enough of a word,'' Mr. Kahn said.
Murray Kempton, the columnist, wrote: ''His every ism has been an affectation born of a morbid love of admiration and the vision of what everyone would say as he walked his garish way.''