Travels in the Soviet Union: Some Background

[Part 1 of 3]

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling traveled to the Soviet Union six times between the years 1957 and 1985. For the most part, Linus Pauling’s relationship with the Soviet Union was steeped in science, but he did speak on peace issues and the need to cease nuclear tests during his travels through the USSR.

Unlike many of his peers, Pauling did not see the Soviet Union purely as a threat, but chose to view it instead as a potential, and vital, partner in peace. Likewise, most of the Soviet scientists with whom he interacted were viewed as having pure motives for advancing their research agendas. Unfortunately, Pauling’s cordial relations with contacts in the Soviet Union caused others in the United States to be suspicious of his own true motives and political affiliation during the decades of the Cold War.

For those inclined to criticize Pauling, one group that raised eyebrows was the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, of which Pauling was a member. For his part, Pauling affiliated with the group out of hope that it might live up to its name. Specifically, in a letter to the Council, Pauling expressed his desire that the council assist in establishing scientific links, particularly with respect to chemistry and medicine, between the Soviet Union and the United States. He believed that, above all else, the two countries needed to cooperate and ultimately desired to see an exchange of professors and students between the USSR and the US in near the future.

Pauling was also invited to attend the meetings of the Russian-American Club of Los Angeles. At one such gathering, in November 1945, he delivered a speech encouraging that the two countries work together in order to attain peace between all nations. Pauling likewise participated in events sponsored by Progressive Citizens of America, a group considered by some to be communist.

Generally speaking, Pauling was not one to take fright at the specter of communism. Whether or not this meant that he agreed with communist ideals was a matter of continuing debate during his life. A reasonable assessment might be that he had a very tolerant outlook of it all, truly believing that communism was not anything to be worried about; that it was just a set of ideals holding sway in another country and that those views should not affect scientific or diplomatic relationships between the United States and the Soviet Union. He was not naïve though. He was well aware that Moscow was not an innocent player on the world stage. Indeed, he believed them to be recalcitrant, but thought if the United States were to take the first step towards initiating peace, only good could result.

At home, these ideals only served to grow others’ suspicion of him. The start of the 1950s brought about the first wave of false claims being levied against Pauling and the sharpening of the FBI’s keen eye upon his activities. Newspapers would declare that he participated in communist activities and in 1955 declarations were made against him, especially by Louis F. Budenz, that he was a concealed communist. This charge in particular bolstered his FBI file, causing him to be watched and investigated for connection to any activities that may remotely have been related to communism.

On June 20, 1952, Linus Pauling officially denied Communist Party membership. Despite this denial, the FBI still maintained a close record of his associations, investigating and attempting to interpret his activities. Despite this, the Bureau had trouble finding current sources that would identify Pauling as a past or present Communist Party member. Effectively, the investigators were operating off of the testimony given by Budenz – a former Communist Party functionary – that Pauling was a concealed communist. Budenz also claimed that Pauling made monetary contributions to the party even though he was not openly a member. Pauling denied these allegations, stating that he was not a member and not a contributor, but was an advocate for the inclusion of Soviet scientists in international conferences and symposia. In the climate of the time, even this level of support was grounds for reprimand.

Another action that contributed to suspicion of Pauling was his appeal to the White House for the commutation of the death sentences handed down to Julius and Ethel Rosenburg. Pauling was keenly interested in the Rosenberg case and read widely of the details underlying their sentencing. His actions on their behalf were based in his analysis of these details, an analysis that led him to conclude that the death sentences were extreme and unjust. But no matter the reason, these sorts of actions made it difficult for him to convince others of his trustworthiness and his lack of association with the Communist Party. When he did give anti-communist statements in his speeches and talks, they were branded as being too weak.

The pressures on Pauling built up to the point where traveling overseas became extremely difficult. He was famously forced to issue an oath that he was not a communist in order to receive a limited passport to travel to England in 1952. Institutions also began to reject his affiliation with them, including the University of Hawaii, which rescinded its invitation to Pauling that he speak at a building dedication in 1951.

Eventually the climate of fear that permeated the Red Scare began to fade and it grew easier for Pauling to travel and to issue opinions on the Soviet Union that strayed from mainstream orthodoxy. Finally, in 1957, he made his first trip to the USSR where he was at last able to meet with many of the scientists whose right to participate in international meetings he had advocated over the much of the previous decade.

Informants, Committees and Travel

Excerpt from a testimony by Louis Budenz, annotations by Linus Pauling.

[Part 6 of 7]

Over the course of their thirty years of keeping tabs on him, the Federal Bureau of Investigation utilized a wide variety of tactics to monitor Linus Pauling and his activities. They kept track of his travel, saved references made to Pauling in the media, charted his participation in various groups and documented his appearances before different committees and government bodies. Perhaps one of their most intrusive methods however, was their use of informants and incriminating information provided by those who claimed to know him well.

Pauling’s friends and neighbors were questioned throughout the FBI’s long investigation, as were his colleagues and superiors at Caltech. Nearly every filed interview suggests that Pauling’s associates held a favorable opinion of his loyalty.  And even though these FBI activities contributed to an atmosphere of suspicion, Pauling appears to have been surrounded by individuals who truly cared for his well-being. At least one of Pauling’s personal secretaries fit this description, in so much as she served as an impediment to the FBI’s information-gathering schemes, as revealed, in part, by a 1961 Bureau memo:

Pauling teaches no classes at CIT and is engaged in research work only… [substantial redaction] positive in his own mind that no one could approach Dr. Pauling’s secretary about him, without she advising Dr. Pauling forthwith. [redacted] that Pauling’s office and its effects are kept under lock and key at all times.

[redacted] unable to furnish the name of anyone with whom Dr. Pauling discusses his future plans, other than his secretary, as noted above…Efforts will continue to develop a reliable source concerning the travel plans of Pauling, and the Bureau will be advised in this regard.

While Pauling’s long history with the FBI is wrought with both peculiar observations and fastidious documentation of his political activities, the most influential and frequently referenced item in his case file undoubtedly is the 1950 accusation made against him by Louis Budenz.

A former Communist Party member and managing director of the Daily Worker, Budenz became an informant for the FBI in the late 1940s. In a book that he wrote as a staff-member at Fordham University, Budenz claimed to know the identity of 400 concealed communists in prominent professional positions across the United States. Budenz advised FBI personnel that Linus Pauling was one of the 400, lending substantial weight to the loyalty investigation which had been administered to him in 1948. In regard to Pauling, Budenz provided FBI agents with the following testimony:

Although I did not meet Professor Pauling personally, he was officially mentioned as a Communist in connection with the formation of the Independent Citizens’ Committee for the Arts, Sciences and Professions at the time that he was active in cooperating in its formation, which was in late 1943 or early 1944. Dr. Pauling had been referred to me before that as a Communist in official reports from Milton Howard, who was assigned to cooperate in infiltration of the scientists, and also in official reports from V.J Jerome and Eugene Dennis. Up until 1945 Jack Stachel officially stated to me that Dr. Pauling was an active Communist. He has been a member of many fronts and also cooperated in raising money on several occasions.

Pauling’s file is likewise filled with comprehensive documentation of his appearances before several government boards and committees. An FBI agent was in attendance at the 1950 California State Senate Committee on Education hearings where Pauling was questioned about his refusal to sign a loyalty oath – five pages of notes outline the agent’s perception of the proceedings and Pauling’s testimony. While the overview of Pauling’s appearance before the Committee on Education is unusually detailed, it is generally evenhanded, taking care to note Pauling’s personal perspective without adding much in the way of inflammatory comment:

Pauling stated that all Communists should not be in the same category. He stated that he did not believe that there was any danger of Communist infiltration into the educational system. He said that even though he knew he put himself in jeopardy, he refused to answer the question as to whether or not he was ever a member of the Communist Party… He reiterated that when the United States suppresses liberal thought it was suppressing a part of the total thought.

Pauling’s files also contain a great number of testimonies from hearings and legal proceedings, particularly in the form of transcripts from several of Pauling’s court cases. Notes regarding particular difficulties that he experienced with other official entities are frequently presented, as is extensive documentation of his travel arrangements.

While it is now possible for scholars to reconstruct Pauling’s travel schedule by using a combination of the public record as well as the receipts, tickets and bills that he kept in his own personal records, the FBI maintained its own considerable documentation of Pauling’s travel – both domestic and abroad – in exacting and even disturbing detail. That noted, much of the FBI material concerning Pauling’s travel is redacted, making it difficult to discern the full level of infiltration into his personal arrangements. The information that remains visible usually takes the form of a report sent to the FBI Director, with a statement akin to:  “Will follow and report the return of Dr. and Mrs. Pauling from foreign travel on or about 1/15/64.”

The cover sheet to Section 8 of Paulings FBI file - annotations by Linus Pauling.

The FBI files also contain transcripts and commentary from Pauling’s 1951 appearance before the Industrial Employment Review Board, as well as his testimony before the Hennings Sub-committee on Constitutional Rights. Unsurprisingly, the files likewise contain substantial content related to Pauling’s two 1960 appearances before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS). Extensive documentation demonstrates that members of the SISS maintained regular contact with FBI agents throughout the case that they built around Pauling, and updates were regularly fed to the Bureau.  The updates were especially frequent in Spring 1958, when Chief Counsel Jules Sourwine and other staff members were determining whether or not Pauling would make a satisfactory target for the committee’s next investigation:

Jay [sic] Sourwine, while discussing other matters, stated that there has been considerable activity on the part of Dr. Linus Pauling to stop atomic bomb tests, etc. He stated they have considerable front material on Pauling and he was wondering if Pauling might not be a fertile subject for inquiry by the Internal Security Subcommittee. He stated that he would appreciate any advice we might give him along this line feeling that Pauling might have some definite Party connections. Sourwine is not asking for information concerning Pauling but simply our opinion as to whether he might be a good subject to call before the Subcommittee.


It is suggested that the Domestic Intelligence Division give this matter consideration.

FBI data in hand, the committee was ready to move against Pauling as early as 1958, but unforeseen political concerns, which are also documented in Pauling’s case file, delayed the confrontation. After nearly a year-and-a-half (during which time the committee focused on harassing and hastening the dissolution of SANE, a series of local but interconnected anti-bomb groups) Pauling was finally subpoenaed by SISS and questioned about his nuclear test ban petition. Pauling cooperated with the committee to some extent, but refused to provide information about those who had helped him collect petition signatures. Consequently, Pauling was commanded to appear at a second hearing before SISS later that year.

During the break that preceded his second appearance before their Committee, while Pauling was away on a pre-planned trip to Europe, SISS staff members were busy preparing material to use against him. In their ensuing efforts to weaken Pauling’s alternatives and strengthen their own general case, SISS staff members maintained contact and kept consultation with the FBI:

Mr. Sourwine stated he is attempting to convince the committee that a hearing should be held in New York City prior to 9-15-60 for the purpose of calling to such hearing several persons favorable to Pauling who could be expected to plead the Fifth Amendment. It is Sourwine’s view that with this testimony on the record, the committee’s position against Pauling would be stronger on 9-15-60 when he reappears.

Mr. Sourwine said he would keep us advised.

The final hearing with SISS ended well for Pauling. However the SISS case file, hearing transcript and a substantial amount of arguably relevant material was sequestered in Pauling’s FBI case file for future use. The information, pitched in a negative light, frequently resurfaced in Bureau reports throughout the following decade.

Louis Budenz, Informant

Louis Budenz, March 1956.

Uncover a red doing his stuff on a college faculty and a hue and cry is raised over ‘academic freedom,’ as though these people had a God-given right to infect our children with their made-in-Moscow virus….We should understand that this ’cause of peace’ as peddled by the reds is the destruction of the government of the United States.

-Louis Budenz, November 1951.

Louis F. Budenz (1891-1972), a former Communist Party member, became an FBI informant in the late 1940s. Before starting what was effectively a career as a professional informant, he had been managing director of the Daily Worker, a nationally distributed socialist news outlet. Budenz began consultation with the FBI after submitting to an inquiry by the House Un-American Activities Committee. He became a staff-member at Fordham University shortly thereafter, at which point began writing books about his former association with the Communist Party. He made his living lecturing, writing, and testifying, claiming in 1953 to have earned $70,000 as a witness.

In one of his books, Men Without Faces, Budenz claimed to know the names of 400 concealed communists currently employed in positions of influence across the United States.  Predictably, a government panel in Washington, D.C. wanted the names of them all. Budenz dutifully sat before the panel and listed all of the names that he could think of, eventually issuing that of Linus Pauling.

The denunciation resulted in an investigation by the FBI, and Pauling was put under increased surveillance. The investigation concluded that, even in light of his activities with questionable organizations, no evidence could be found that Pauling was involved with the Communist Party. Nonetheless, Pauling was still put onFBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s Security Index, a list of high profile citizens that were considered a threat to American security.

Using the Security Index as his platform, Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed that communists had infiltrated America’s atom projects. In the sweep of these claims, Pauling’s name was pulled from the Budenz testimony and mistakenly added to a list of researchers that had worked on atomic science research. (Though Pauling conducted a great deal of research on behalf of his country during World War II, he was not involved with the Manhattan Project or any affiliated projects.)

Though backed by no tangible evidence, this torrent of accusations significantly damaged Pauling’s reputation. The claims were subsequently magnified by coinciding events, including his support of Sidney Weinbaum and his continued political activism.

Pauling’s reputation was not the only thing damaged as a consequence – the allegations and denunciations were hurting his pocket book too. The Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company, to name one example, discontinued Pauling’s $4,800 a year consulting position – a contract that had been renewed less than a year earlier.

Invitations from a number of organizations previously extended to Pauling were rescinded as well.  Shortly before Budenz’s denunciation, Pauling had been invited to keynote the dedication ceremony for a new chemistry laboratory at the University of Hawaii. A month after extending the invitation, the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii canceled the offer that had previously been unanimously approved. Pauling suspected that the accusations made by Budenz were chiefly responsible for the rescinded invitation.  In short order, Pauling was subsequently invited to lecture by a number of other university departments and societies, and wound up speaking several times in Hawaii, though not as originally planned.

Meanwhile, the attacks continued with Budenz openly criticizing Pauling’s decision to lecture in Hawaii in a 1951 American Legion Magazine article.

American Legion Magazine, November 1951.

Pauling’s record being disclosed, the invitation was withdrawn by the University; but he went out there anyway to spread Stalin’s views of ‘peace’ among the students of that institution. He deserves the laurels he has received from the communists, and the fact that he is an atomic physicist in one of our leading universities on the west coast is something to think over seriously. The recent condemnation by Moscow of Dr. Pauling’s celebrated ‘resonance theory’ in chemistry does not seem to have dimmed his ardor on behalf of Stalinite causes.

– Louis Budenz, “Do Colleges Have to Hire Red Professors?”, American Legion Magazine, November 1951.

The article contained a number of other statements about Pauling, all of which were refuted in a letter that Pauling wrote to the editor of the magazine.

Though Pauling did his best to reply to his critics, he was granted little respite.  In 1952 a House special committee was formed to investigate charitable foundations for the presence of communist influence on aid distribution. Budenz testified and once again denounced Pauling, who was at that time a member of the Guggenheim Foundation advisory board. Though Budenz was the accuser, it was members of the committee that brought up Pauling’s name to begin with, allowing the witness to validate their own suspicions.

Mr. Keele: I just want to say this. I believe that Dr. Linus Pauling was on the advisory boards which chose, or is yet perhaps on the advisory boards which chose, fellows for the Guggenheim Fund. What do you know about Linus Pauling?

Mr. Budenz: In connection with Dr. Pauling’s many memberships on Communist fronts, I was officially advised a number of times in the late-, that is, in the middle-Forties, that he was a member of the Communist Party under discipline. The Communist leaders expressed the highest admiration and confidence in Dr. Pauling.

– Testimony transcript, Select Committee on Foundations, 1952.

Though Pauling had been trying to diminish his presence in political affairs, he felt strongly inclined to defend himself publicly against the new accusations. Just one of a growing chorus denouncing Budenz as a professional liar, Pauling vehemently denied the allegations and suggested that Budenz be prosecuted for perjury, a fate suffered by his Caltech associate Sidney Weinbaum. However, unlike Weinbaum, Budenz was not liable for perjury, because his testimony was protected by congressional privilege. Pauling was angered by the whole affair, and particularly disturbed by the fact that Budenz’s behavior was aided by a committee of the United States Congress.

Though Pauling did his best to put these events behind him, the allegations would not be so easily discarded. Even as Budenz’s influence began to diminish, the claims that he made against Pauling hovered over subsequent investigations of Pauling’s activity. Two years after Budenz’s charges against Pauling, and despite the lack of any new evidence, the suspicion that Pauling was a concealed communist topped a list of allegations that held up Pauling’s multiple passport requests.

The whispers resurfaced again in 1953 when Pauling – his passport finally restored – made a visit to Europe, where he attended a dinner held by a world government sympathizer and a number of Russian delegates. The visit prompted J. Edgar Hoover to file a report to the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney General’s office, a copy of Budenz’s statement attached.

The pattern was established. Though Pauling would persevere and continue to achieve at an historic level, the stigma thrust upon him as a result of the actions of Louis Budenz would, in the minds of many, color his persona for the remainder of his life.