“Harry Dexter White (1892-1948) was an American economist. He was one
of the founding fathers of the International Monetary Fund and the
World Bank.” He was a disciple of John Maynard Keynes, and an important part of Roosevelts New Deal, reforms of the US economy during the great Depression, and basically an American Patriot.


He also was accused during his lifetime of being a “communist.” What gives with this?

Wikopedia says:

“White was born in Boston, Massachusetts; he was the son of
Lithuanian immigrants. As a young man, he served in the U.S. Army in
France during World War I. He attended Columbia University when we
was aged 30; then Stanford, where he received his first degree in
economics; and finally a doctorate at Harvard. White took up a
teaching post at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin for a few
years before being asked to work at the US Trasury department in
1934. In the thirties he met with John Maynard Keynes and other
leading economists.”

They designed the policies that were aimed at bringing the US economy out of the Great Depression. It was a difficult job, and the US economy didn’t really recover until world War II, but they put their hearts and minds into it. John Maynard Keynes, with white and his fellow Economicists were among the people whose theories were challenging both Communist and Classical Economic
theory. They were trying to explain the phenomena of the business
cycle and to find a realistic way to deal with it. And their problem was real. In the great Depression unemployment reached the majority of American’s and Businesses collapsed in a wholesale manner. If they could not provide an alternative to the ideas of Communism, Capitolism in the US could well have fallen.

This page has an excellent article on White:


“When the United States entered World War II White was put in charge of international matters for the Treasury. He had extensive dealings
with America’s allies, including the Soviet Union.”

“Philosophically, White was a Keynesian New Dealer. As a dedicated Rooseveltian internationalist his energies were directed at
continuing the Grand Alliance and maintaining peace through a liberal
trade regime. He believed that powerful multilateral institutions
could avoid the mistakes of Versailles and another world depression.”

White was hardly have been prone to be transfixed by classical
Marxism, although anyone who studies economics finds it’s theories
interesting. He seems to have abhorred that system as much as his
mentor John Maynard Keynes. The idea of him as a Communist or a Spy is far less plausable than the idea of someone like John Edgar Hoover would have been a spy. But then the behavior of Aldrich Aimes and Hanson seems implausable to me as well. The idea that he might have inadvertently helped the Russians is more plausable. It is certainly no more credible than allegations that people like his behind the scenes tormentor J. Edgar Hoover helped the Nazis. There is no possibility that Harry Dexter White was in any way a Russian spy. He certainly was not a closet Marxist. So let’s look at his story and see why.

“After the war, White was closely involved with setting up what was called the Bretton Woods institutions – the International Monetary
Fund and the World Bank. These institutions were intended to prevent
some of the economic problems that occurred after the First World
War, and help ensure that capitalism became the dominant post-war
economic system.”

Breton Woods and the IMF were part of what helped prevent a return
into the liquidity trap that had created the Great Depression. They
have become tools of international Banking at this point. But their
original purpose was to set some order into international trade and
finance and prevent a recurrence of the conditions that led to the Great Depression and World War. They were the very opposite of Soviet style economics as they meant to foster cooperation rather than centralization. In the end the IMF and world bank proved a real weapon against Communist style ideology that eventually was more instrumental in breaking the back of and dismantling Communism than anything done by Ronald Reagan or the US military. It was the IMF that the Russians came to when their economy
was inevitably collapsing. It is the IMF and World Bank which have been trying to create a genuinely stable and progressive “world” order. Whatever their flaws without them things would be considerably worse for the people’s of the world. Perhaps the Russians understood this. And since this was a “liberal” institution, they knew exactly how to try to undermine it; By undermining it’s architects.

“In August 1948, Harry Dexter White appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee to defend his reputation. Two former
spies, Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers, were alleging that
he had spied for Russia. Bentley said his colleagues had passed
information to her from him. Chambers claimed that White gave him
documents for an underground Communist cell in the 1930s. White,
though recovering from a series of heart attacks, stoutly proclaimed
his lifelong commitment to the principles of democracy and the ideals
of Roosevelt’s New Deal. He died three days later and HUAC retreated
from the case.”

Even if he had been a spy, what kind of information White would have
been privy too is another matter. The actions and goals of the IMF
would hardly have been state secrets.

“J. Edgar Hoover later learned, from the secret VENONA project, that White’s name appeared in some decrypted wartime Soviet cables. In
1953 he briefed Attorney-General Herbert Brownell who resurrected the
case and declared that White was a spy. White’s bronze bust was
ignominiously removed to the IMF’s basement.”

But this was calumny. The mentioning of someone’s name is not proof that they are spies. An injustice was done to this man.


Chambers Allegations:

Whittaker chambers attacked
white on the basis of three allegations. One that he’d received a
rug. The second that he’d written a report on how to salvage the
Russian economy. And the third one in which he drafted notes on some
international issues some of which relied on confidential
information, which fell into Whittaker chambers hands. Chambers gave
a number of contradictory accounts of how he got the papers. But
there are a number of ways he could have gotten his hands on them,
and if any spying was being done it might have been Chambers doing it
at the time, because at the time he was talking about he was the one
working for the Communists. Later Elizabeth Bentley would name white
as part of a long list of Communists and people whose friends were

Guilty By association

Unfortunately, it appears that White had people working for him or
around him, who were indeed communists. That may have been his main
mistake. White was also Jewish of a liberal background. Many of his
friends were also Jewish and liberals. And some of these were indeed
Marxists. To folks like Herbert Hoover, being Jewish was as bad (or
worse) than being marxist. So it shouldn’t be any wonder about the
passion with which Hoover and his ilk persecuted him. Frank Coe and
Solomon Adler indeed were Marxists and they worked for White at
Treasury. Worse there were four of White’s associates who may indeed
have actually spied for the Soviets; “Nathan Gregory Silvermaster”,
Ludwig Ulmann, Harold Glasser, and George Silverman. Silverman was
the man who gave him the rug. They were friends. White denied knowing
these guys were communists. Probably he knew they were communists but also thought of them as valuable friends and co-workers and was blind to any danger that might come from their friendship. If he was guilty of any sin it was the sin of naivity.

A Fool for Economics

In 1948 a Soviet Defector named Alexander Barmine also named White as
a ‘source’. But not on the basis of actually spying, but because
white had interacted with the Soviets in his official capacity as a
Treasury Official dealing with foreign countries. This was
classic “guilt by association” and the testimony of these Russians
shows that White hadn’t given them anything but merely talked to them.

And last we come to “Venona.” It details that the Soviets talked to
him regularly, sought information from him regularly. Gave him a code
name (just as they gave Morgenthau and Roosevelt). The cables also
confirm that the Soviets wanted more information than he gave them
and that he was a frustrating source of information. Indeed Whittaker
chambers complained in his testimony about how difficult it was to
get useful information from him. Hardly the behavior of a spy. Maybe
a naive guy, but not a spy. The last cable that refers to white, in
1945 while they were still ‘allies’ refers to White as ‘a fool.’ They
didn’t like dealing with him.

White appears to have been largely guilty of being willing to talk to
people. Alexander Vasiliev tells the world that White was “nervous,
reluctant, cowardly” in meetings with Russians. But we don’t have the
sources and only have his opinion. When White was questioned about
Silvermaster (who was a spy) he appears to have asked him about it.
That was reported to the Soviets (presumably by Silvermaster). This
same Silvermaster complained that White didn’t pass him documents but
only was willing to give economic advice. That doesn’t sound like spy
behavior. That sounds like Economicist behavior. The author of the
piece I’m quoting from thinks that was what White was trying to do
all along. White wanted to draw the Soviets into the Bretton woods
agreement and while he shared Keynes abhorrance of central planning
He seems to have hoped that they might reform their system. He felt
that to design the fund to preclude Soviet membership would be
a “eggregious error.” Stalin disagreed. He thought that to join the
fund would be a mistake for the Russians, it might have forced
changes on them. He refused to ratify Breton Woods.