Isador Feinstein Stone was born in Philadelphia on 24th December, 1907. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia who owned a store in Haddonfield, New Jersey. He studied philosophy at the University of Pennsylvaniaand while a student he wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
After leaving university he joined the Camden Courier-Post. Influenced by the work of Jack London, Stone became a committed radical journalist. A member of the Socialist Party of America, Stone campaigned for Norman Thomas in 1928.
In the 1930s he played an active role in the Popular Front opposition to Adolf Hitler. Stone moved to the New York Post in 1933 and during this period supported Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. His first book, The Court Disposes (1937), was a defence of Roosevelt's attempt to expand the Supreme Court.
After leaving the New York Post in 1939, Stone became associate editor of The Nation. His next book, Business as Unusual (1941), was an attack on the country's failure to prepare for war. Underground to Palestine (1946) dealt with the migration of Eastern European Jews at the end of the Second World War. In 1948 Stone joined the New York Star. Later he moved to the Daily Compass until it ceased publication in 1952. A critic of the emerging Cold War, Stone published the Hidden History of the Korean War (1952).
Inspired by the achievements of George Seldes and his political weekly, In Fact, Stone started his own political paper, the I. F. Stone's Weekly in 1953. Over the next few years Stone led the attack on McCarthyism and racial discrimination in the United States. Stone remarked: "There was nothing to the left of me but The Daily Worker." Arthur Miller later recalled: "Apart from I.F. Stone, whose four-page self-published weekly newsletter persistently examined the issues without obeying the rule that every question had to be couched in anti-Communist declarations, there was no other journalist I can now recall who stood up ro the high wind without trembling.. With the tiniest Communist Party in the world the U.S. was behaving as though on the verge of bloody revolution."
Stone was a passionate supporter of the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who killed President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on 22nd November, 1963. In the first issue after the assassination Stone wrote: "It is always dangerous to draw rational inferences from the behavior of a psychopath like Oswald."
On the publication of the Warren Commission Report Stone defended it in the I. F. Stone's Weekly, stating that "I believe the Commission has done a first-rate job, on a level that does our country proud and is worthy of so tragic an event. I regard the case against Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone killer of the President as conclusive." However, as John Kelin has pointed out in his book, Praise from a Future Generation, at the time Stone wrote this article: "the Warren Report had just been published and the twenty-six volumes of supporting evidence and testimony were still not available".
Stone then went on to criticise those who had argued that there had been a conspiracy. After attacking the work of Mark Lane he turned on Bertrand Russell, who he described as "my dear and revered friend". He suggested that Russell had dismissed the conclusions of Warren Commission report without even reading it. This was completely untrue. As Russell's assistant, Ralph Schoenman, later pointed out, he had been provided a copy of the report a week before its official release date.
Stone then went onto to look at the role played by Thomas G. Buchanan, Joachim Joesten and Carl Marzani, in the two books that had already been published arguing that there had been a conspiracy: "The Joesten book is rubbish, and Carl Marzani - whom I defended against loose charges in the worst days of the witch hunt - ought to have had more sense of public responsibility than to publish it. Thomas G. Buchanan, another victim of witch hunt days, has gone in for similar rubbish in his book, Who Killed Kennedy? You couldn't convict a chicken thief on the flimsy slap-together of surmise, half-fact and whole untruth in either book… All my adult life as a newspaperman I have been fighting, in defense of the Left and of a sane politics, against conspiracy theories of history, character assassination, guilt by association and demonology. Now I see elements of the Left using these same tactics in the controversy over the Kennedy assassination and the Warren Commission Report."
Ray Marcus, who was a devoted follower of I.F. Stone had had subscribed to his journal since its first edition in January 1953, was deeply shocked by this article. Marcus later recalled: "What was totally lacking in I. F. Stone's comments was any evidence of the critical analysis he normally employed on assessing official statements." On 8th October, 1964, Marcus wrote Stone a long letter outlining the flaws in the Warren Commission Report. Marcus argued that in order to accept the Warren Commission's lone-gunman scenario, one must accept fifteen points as true. These points were explained in an eight page letter. Marcus never received a reply.
In 1964 Stone was the first American journalist to challenge the account provided by President Lyndon B. Johnson of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Throughout the 1960s Stone exposed the futility of the Vietnam War. The I. F. Stone's Weekly had a circulation of 70,000 but ill-health forced Stone to cease publication in 1971.
Isador Feinstein Stone continued to write about politics until his death on 17th July, 1989.
I have been a newspaperman all my life. In the small town where I grew up, I published a paper at fourteen, worked for a country weekly and then as correspondent for a nearby city daily. I did this from my sophomore year in high school through college, until I quit in my junior year. I was a philosophy major and at one time thought of teaching philosophy, but the atmosphere of a college faculty repelled me. While going to college l was working ten hours afternoon and night doing combination rewrite and copy desk on the Philadelphia Inquirer, so I was already an experienced newspaperman making $40 a week—big pay in 1928 I have done everything on a newspaper except run a linotype machine.
I had become a radical in the ‘20s while in my teens, mostly through reading Jack London, Herbert Spencer, Kropotkin and Marx. I became a member of the Socialist Party and was elected to the New Jersey State Committee of the Socialist Party before I was old enough to vote. I did publicity for Norman Thomas in the 1928 campaign while a reporter on a small city daily, but soon drifted away from left-wing politics because of the sectarianism of the left. Moreover, I felt that party affiliation was incompatible with independent journalism, and I wanted to be free to help the unjustly treated, to defend everyone's civil liberty and to work for social reform without concern for leftist infighting.
The most subversive force in America today is Joe McCarthy. No one is so effectively importing alien conceptions into American government. No one is doing so much to damage the country's prestige abroad and its power to act effectively at home. If "subversion" is to be met by deportation, then it is time to deport McCarthy back to Wisconsin. Families are being broken up, long-time residents driven into exile, men face permanent detention, on charges which are far more tenuous than those made against McCarthy by the Senate inquiry.
Apart from I.F. Stone, whose four-page self-published weekly newsletter persistently examined the issues without obeying the rule that every question had to be couched in anti-Communist declarations, there was no other journalist I can now recall who stood up ro the high wind without trembling.. With the tiniest Communist Party in the world the U.S. was behaving as though on the verge of bloody revolution.
Great issues are rarely resolved by frontal assault; for every abolitionist prepared to challenge slavery as a moral wrong, there were dozens of compromising politicians (including Lincoln) who talked as if the real issue were states' rights or the criminal jurisdiction of the Federal courts or the right of the people in a new territory to determine their own future.
In the fight against the witch mania in this country and in Europe, there were few enough to defend individual victims but fewer still who were willing to assert publicly that belief in witchcraft was groundless. So today in the fight against McCarthyism. To doubt the power of the devil, to question the existence of witches, is again to read oneself out of respectable society, to brand oneself a heretic, to incur suspicion of being oneself in league with the powers of evil.
There can be no real peace without a readiness for live-and-let-live, i.e. for coexistence with Communism. The world is going socialist in one form or another everywhere; Communism is merely the extreme form the movement takes when and where blind and backward rulers seek by terror and force to hold back the tide.
There must be renewed recognition that societies are kept stable and healthy by reform, not be thought police; this means there must be free play for so-called subversive ideas - every idea subverts the old to make way for the new. To shut off subversion is to shut off peaceful progress and to invite revolution and war.
Amid the hand-wringing over Little Rock by the so-called Southern moderates, and the conferences in the White House to negotiate withdrawal of troops, and to let Faubus save face, it is forgotten that for the Negro the law never looked more truly majestic than it does today in Little Rock where for once the bullies of the South have been put on notice that they cannot take out their venom on the Negro and his children.
Quite different is the scene through white Southern eyes. The white South feels like an oppressed minority because the white North has interfered to prevent it from oppressing its Negro minority. The white South feels a victim of injustice, misunderstanding and brute force. That these are exactly what it visits on the helpless Negro who steps out of line merely illustrates the capacity of human beings to go on doing to others what they violently object to when done to themselves.
Why is J. Edgar Hoover so venomous and suspicious about anyone who seeks to help the Negro? Why does he, so vocal on the dangers of Communism, never raise his voice on the dangers of racism, though a sense of rankling injustice on the part of a newer Negro generation may some day tear our great cities apart? Year after year his testimony chimes in with Southern racist' attempts to picture the Negro's struggle for justice and equality as a Red Plot.
The C.I.A. is an intelligence organization run from the rather stuffy conventional wealthy businessman's point of view. It is staffed, from the top down, by Wall Streeters, Ivy League dilettantes, superannuated colonels from the armed forces and scholars, whose loyalty can be kept certified only by a fanatical anti-Communism. The main lesson of the Cuban fiasco is that an organization of this kind cannot be relied upon to know what ordinary people are thinking. But President Kennedy does not seem to have learned that lesson at all. In replacing Allen W. Dulles by John A. McCone, he picked a man who is if anything considerably less literate and less knowledgeable than Dulles, and fully as incapable of understanding the resentments and the aspirations that are the dynamic factors in today's world.
Mr McCone's rising fortunes, financial and political, have been associated with the war and the arms race. In 1937 he helped to form the Bechtel-McCone-Parsons Corporation, a construction and engineering firm. In January 1941 he organized and became the president of the California Shipbuilding Company; the Bechtel concern was then given a management contract to run the shipbuilding company. After the war the General Accounting Office told a House Merchant Marine Committee investigation that the company had made $44,000,000 on an investment of $100,000. The same committee a few months later complained that Mr McCone's company was paid $2,500,000 by the government to take over a shipyard costing $25,000,000 and containing surplus material costing $14,000,000.
Mr McCone did not confine his interests to shipbuilding. Bechtel-McCone-Parsons also built a huge installation at Birmingham, Alabama, during the war for the air force andbecame a leading construction firm for the A.E.C. Mr McCone also organized a private shipping company which did a big transport business for some of the largest A.E.C. contractors, firms like Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. These diverse enterprises had a common stake in armament expenditure, and Mr McCone made his debut in public service as a member of Truman's Air Policy Commission which in 1948 advocated a stepped-up indefinitely prolonged arms race. The report became the bible of the aviation lobby. His views recommended him to the alarmist Secretary of Defence Forrestal who made Mr McCone his deputy. In 1950-51 he was Under-Secretary of the Air Force.
With the Democrats out, Mr McCone returned to California and Republican politics. There his principal associations, political and religious, were of the right. He became a major money raiser for former Senator Knowland, often referred to as the Senator from Formosa, and he was close to Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles, not one of the more liberal members of the American hierarchy. In 1958, Admiral Strauss picked Mr McCone to succeed him as Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission; they shared the same hostility to public power and to cessation of nuclear testing. At his nomination hearing, one of the exhibits was an angry letter Mr McCone had sent in 1956, as a Caltech trustee, to ten Caltech faculty members (including Harrison Brown and a Nobel laureate in physics) for releasing a statement supporting Adlai Stevenson's proposal for a ban on H-bomb testing. Mr McCone, a friend and admirer of Edward Teller, accused the ten professors of echoing Soviet propaganda in what he called an attempt `to create fear in the minds of the uninformed that radioactive fallout from H-bomb tests endangers life'.
To control the nation's intelligence is to be in a position to shape decisions of war and peace. The C.I.A. is an enormous bureaucracy, with millions at its disposal to corrupt men abroad and perhaps at home; a rival, shadow State Department with a foreign policy even less enlightened. Its network of cloak-and-dagger operatives abroad move in a murky realm where provocations can make peace untenable. The U-2 was one sample. The Joint Intelligence Board over which Mr McCone will also preside coordinates all the multifarious snooper organizations of our government - there must be half a dozen beside the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. - and also our growing para-military agencies which can engage secretly in war. Mr Kennedy could not have made a more appalling choice for so crucial a post.
Norman Thomas, spoke if them as "secular saints" - this handful of young Negroes in their teens and early twenties. They and a few white sympathizers as youthful and devoted as themselves have begun a social revolution in the South with their sit-ins and their Freedom Rides. Never has a tinier minority done more for the liberation of a whole people than these few youngsters of C.O.R.E. (Congress for Racial Equality) and S.N.C.C. (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee).
There was a fairytale quality about the inaugural and there was a fairytale quality about the funeral rites. One half expected that when the lovely princess knelt to kiss the casket for the last time, some winged godmother would wave her wand and restore the hero whole again in a final triumph over the dark forces which had slain him. There never was such a shining pageant of a presidency before. We watched it as children do, raptly determined to believe but knowing all the time that it wasn't really true.
Of all the Presidents, this was the first to be a Prince Charming. To watch the President at press conference or at a private press briefing was to be delighted by his wit, his intelligence, his capacity and his youth. These made the terrible flash from Dallas incredible and painful. But perhaps the truth is that in some ways John Fitzgerald Kennedy died just in time. He died in time to be remembered as he would like to be remembered, as ever-young, still victorious, struck down undefeated, with almost all the potentates and rulers of mankind, friend and foe, come to mourn at his bier.
For somehow one has the feeling that in the tangled dramaturgy of events, this sudden assassination was for the author the only satisfactory way out. The Kennedy Administration was approaching an impasse, certainly at home, quite possibly abroad, from which there seemed no escape. In Congress thePresident was faced with something- worse than a filibuster. He was confronted with a shrewdly conceived and quietly staged sitdown strike by Southern committee chairmen determined to block civil rights even if it meant stopping the wheels of government altogether.
The measure of their success is that we entered this final month of 1963 with nine of the thirteen basic appropriation bills as yet unpassed, though the fiscal year for which they were written began last 1 July and most of the government has been forced to live hand-to-mouth since. Never before in our history has the Senate so dragged its heels as this year; never before has the Southern oligarchy dared go so far in demonstrating its power in Washington. The President was caught between these old men, their faces set stubbornly towards their white supremacist past, and the advancing Negro masses, explosively demanding `freedom now'. Mr Kennedy's death, like those of the Birmingham children and of Medgar Evers, may some day seem the first drops portending a new storm which it was beyond his power to stay.
In foreign policy, the outlook was as unpromising. It was proving difficult to move towards coexistence a country so long conditioned to Cold War. Even when Moscow offered gold for surplus wheat, it was hard to make a deal. The revolt in Congress against foreign aid illustrated how hard it was to carry on policy once tense fears of Communism slackened even slightly. The President recognized the dangers of an unlimited arms race and the need for a modus vivendi if humanity was to survive but was afraid, even when the Sino-Soviet break offered the opportunity, to move at more than snail's pace towards agreement with Moscow. The word was that there could be no follow-up to a nuclear test ban pact at least until after the next election; even so minor a step as a commercial airline agreement with the Soviets was in abeyance. The quarrel with Argentina over oil concessions lit up the dilemma of the Alliance for Progress; however much the President might speak of encouraging diversity, when it came to a showdown, Congress and the moneyed powers of our society insisted on `free enterprise'.
The anti-Castro movement our C.I.A. covertly supports was still a spluttering fuse, and in Vietnam the stepping up of the war by the rebels was deflating all the romantic Kennedy notions about counter-guerrillas, while in Europe the Germans still blocked every constructive move towards a settlement in Berlin.
Abroad, as at home, the problems were becoming too great for conventional leadership, and Kennedy, when the tinsel was stripped away, was a conventional leader, no more than an enlightened conservative, cautious as an old man for all his youth, with a basic distrust of the people and an astringent view of the evangelical as a tool of leadership. It is as well not to lose sight of these realities in the excitement of the funeral; funerals are always occasions for pious lying. A deep vein of superstition and a sudden touch of kindness always lead people to give the departed credit for more virtues than he possessed. This is particularly true when the dead man was the head of the richest and most powerful country in the world, its friendship courted, its enmity feared. Everybody is 'anxious to celebrate the dead leader and to court his successor. In the clouds of incense thus generated, it is easy to lose one's way, just when it becomes more important than ever to see where we really are.
The first problem that has to be faced is the murder itself. Whether it was done by a crackpot leftist on his own, or as the tool of some rightist plot, Van Der Lubbe style, the fact is that there are hundreds of thousands in the South who had murder in their hearts for the Kennedys, the President and his brother the Attorney General, because they sought in some degree to help the Negro. This potential for murder, which the Negro community has felt for a long time, has become a national problem. But there are deeper realities to be faced.
Let us ask ourselves honest questions. How many Americans have not assumed - with approval - that the C.I.A. was probably trying to find a way to assassinate Castro? How many would not applaud if the C.I.A. succeeded? How many applauded when Lumumba was killed in the Congo, because they assumed that he was dangerously neutralist or perhaps proCommunist? Have we not become conditioned to the notion that we should have a secret agency of government - the C.I.A. - with secret funds, to wield the dagger beneath the cloak against leaders we dislike? Even some of our best young liberal intellectuals can see nothing wrong in this picture except that the 'operational' functions of the C.I.A. should be kept separate from its intelligence evaluations! How many of us - on the left now - did not welcome the assassination of Diem and his brother Nhu in South Vietnam? We all reach for the dagger, or the gun, in our thinking when it suits our political view to do so. We all believe the end justifies the means. We all favour murder, when it reaches our own hated opponents. In this sense we share the guilt with Oswald and Ruby and the rightist crackpots. Where the right to kill is so universally accepted, we should not be surprised if our young President was slain. It is not just the ease in obtaining guns, it is the ease in obtaining excuses, that fosters assassination. This is more urgently in need of examination than who pulled the trigger. In this sense, as in that multi-lateral nuclear monstrosity we are trying to sell Europe, we all had a finger on the trigger.
But if we are to dig out the evil, we must dig deeper yet, into the way we have grown to accept the idea of murder on the widest scale as the arbiter of controversy between nations. In this connection, it would be wise to take a clear-sighted view of the Kennedy Administration because it was the first U.S. government in the nuclear age which acted on the belief that it was possible to see war, or the threat of war, as an instrument of politics despite the possibility of annihilation. It was in some ways a warlike Administration. It seems to have been ready, soon after taking office, to send troops into Vietnam to crush the rebellion against Diem; fortunately both Diem and our nearest Asian allies,notably the Filipinos, were against our sending combat troops into the area. The Kennedy Administration, in violation of our own laws and international law, permitted that invasion from our shores which ended so ingloriously in the Bay of Pigs. It was the Kennedy Administration which met Khrushchev's demands for negotiations on Berlin by a partial mobilization and an alarming invitation to the country to dig backyard shelters against cataclysm.
Finally we come to the October crisis of a year ago. This set a bad precedent for his successors, who may not be as skilful as he was in finding a way out. What if the Russians had refused to back down and remove their missiles from Cuba? What if they had called our bluff and war had begun, and escalated? How would the historians of mankind, if a fragment survived, have regarded the events of October? Would they have thought us justified in blowing most of mankind to smithereens, rather than negotiate, or appeal to the U.N., or even to leave in Cuba the medium-range missiles which were no different after all from those we had long aimed at the Russians from Turkey and England? When a whole people is in a state of mind where it is ready to risk extinction - its own and everybody else's - as a means of having its own way in an international dispute, the readiness for murder has become a way of life and a world menace. Since this is the kind of bluff that can easily be played once too often, and that his successors may feel urged to imitate, it would be well to think it over carefully before canonizing Kennedy as an apostle of peace.
Ray Marcus was a charter subscriber to I.F. Stone's Weekly, which first appeared in January of 1953. In its inaugural issue I. F. Stone wrote that the Weekly was "an attempt to keep alive through a difficult period the kind of independent radical journalism" represented by such by then defunct papers as PM, The New York Star, and The New York Daily Compass, each of which had once employed him. The "difficult period" was, of course, the anti-communist hysteria of the early 1950s. Stone modeled his new Weekly on In Fact, the newsletter published by George Seldes, which had folded a few years earlier. Ray Marcus, who had also been an In Fact subscriber, said he considered Stone's new paper a worthy successor.
I. F. Stone's Weekly was virtually a one-man operation, with its journalist-founder serving as publisher, editor, reporter, proofreader, and layout man. His wife Esther served as his secretary and managed the paper's business operations. The Weekly was launched with some five thousand charter subscribers but in time reached 70,000. Stone promised his readers "politically uninhibited commentary and let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may reporting." Overall, he lived up to that pledge. "I had fought the loyalty purge, the FBI, the House Un-American Activities Committee, and McCarran as well as McCarthy," Stone once said. "There was nothing to the left of me but The Daily Worker."
In the fall of 1964 Ray Marcus was eagerly awaiting Stone's analysis of the Warren Commission. "With his long demonstrated ability to demolish official falsehoods, I had little reason to doubt he would make mincemeat of the just-released Warren Report," he remembered.
All my adult life as a newspaperman I have been fighting, in defense of the Left and of a sane politics, against conspiracy theories of history, character assassination, guilt by association and demonology. Now I see elements of the Left using these same tactics in the controversy over the Kennedy assassination and the Warren Commission Report. I believe the Commission has done a first-rate job, on a level that does our country proud and is worthy of so tragic an event. I regard the case against Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone killer of the President as conclusive. By the nature of the case, absolute certainty will never be attained, and those still convinced of Oswald's innocence have a right to pursue the search for evidence which might exculpate him. But I want to suggest that this search be carried on in a sober manner and with full awareness of what is involved.
The Joesten book is rubbish, and Carl Marzani - whom I defended against loose charges in the worst days of the witch hunt - ought to have had more sense of public responsibility than to publish it. Thomas G. Buchanan, another victim of witch hunt days, has gone in for similar rubbish in his book, Who Killed Kennedy? You couldn't convict a chicken thief on the flimsy slap-together of surmise, half-fact and whole untruth in either book.
1. Oswald was not an agent; but while in the Marine Corps, he received letters from the Cuban Embassy, made himself obnoxious by attempting to preach Marxism to his barracks buddies; kept a copy of Das Kapital in his barracks; and regularly received a (White) Russian-language newspaper to help with his study of Russian - all this without attracting the attention of his superiors.
2. Oswald was not an agent; but the U.S. Govt., after helping him financially and in other ways to return to the U.S., did not even consider prosecuting him for spilling radar secrets to the Russians, the suspicion of which had caused us to change our codes; or for seditious statements he made in Russia.
3. Oswald was not an agent; but despite a background as a notorious defector and pro-Castro agitator, he received within 24 hours a passport to travel to many foreign countries, Communist included.
4. Oswald was not an agent; but despite a fat FBI file on him, and a number of known FBI contacts, and all the above points, he was able to get and keep a job at the Texas School Book Depository Building - with the knowledge of the FBI.
5. Oswald was not an agent, but despite all the above, he was not considered a risk and was not kept under surveillance during President Kennedy's trip; due to the fact that the FBI failed to inform the Secret Service and the Dallas Police; due to the fact that it took an "overly restrictive" view of its responsibility. (Many a liberal and progressive can testify as to the "overly restrictive view" the FBI normally takes of its responsibilities.)
I. F. Stone was the modern Tom Paine - as independent and incorruptible as they come. Notwithstanding poor eyesight and bad ears, he managed to see more and hear more than other journalists because he was curious and fresh with the capacity for both discovery and outrage every new day. He wanted to hand his I. F. Stone's Weekly over to a young reporter but never found one who could meet his standards for consistency and stamina. So since 1968, he wrote articles, jolted many a budding journalist at conferences and delved deeply for the past 10 years in the original Greek archives relating to ancient Athens and especially the trial of Socrates and the crisis of free speech that it represented in ancient Athens (population of 45,000) which became a national best seller.
What Stone never talked about was the effect he had on many reporters who, often without attribution, "lunched off" his scoops. He taught them courage and insistence without ever meeting them. For it was Stone who took on Joe McCarthy early and fearlessly. It was Stone who showed that the Pentagon - military contracting complex was a highly tiered boondoggle wrapping its wrongs with the flag.
For over 50 years, I.F. Stone was both journalism's Gibraltar and its unwavering conscience. While others in his profession cowered, he stood tall to challenge the abusers of power no matter where they came from--right, middle or left. He did not have favorite perpetrators to let off. He was only concerned with the victims that the bullies pushed around or the dictators oppressed. He never allowed past acquaintances with influential power brokers to dictate any self-censorship. At one student journalism conference, he was introduced as an "investigative reporter." He promptly took his introducer to task, saying that such a description was redundant. All reporters should be investigative, he declared.