Advancing the new Cold War, New York Times revives ‘foreign agent’ conspiracy
Sen. Joe McCarthy would be proud of the New York Times' latest hit job against critics of U.S. foreign policy.

The following statement was issued by the Communist Party USA on Aug. 11, 2023, in response to allegations in the New York Times that a wealthy American citizen in Beijing is secretly funding left-wing and peace groups in the U.S. with the aim of furthering the foreign policy aims of the Chinese state. People’s World reprints the CPUSA’s statement as a guest editorial for our readers, as this newspaper—when it was known as the Daily Worker—was similarly caught up in the old “foreign agent” accusations of the Red Scare days.

It’s official: The new Cold War is on—and the New York Times “proves” it by warning of a nefarious Chinese plot to influence U.S. public opinion.

In an article that would have made Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn, and J. Edgar Hoover green with envy, the Times puts a bullseye on the activity of groups like Code Pink, the People’s Forum, and the Tricontinental Institute and the financial support they supposedly rely on from Neville Roy Singham, a wealthy American with a history of donating to left organizations.

The most damning piece of evidence in the prosecution’s arsenal is saved for the hit job’s ending sentence: “Just last month, Mr. Singham attended a Chinese Communist Party propaganda forum. In a photo, taken during a breakout session on how to promote the party abroad, Mr. Singham is seen jotting in a notebook adorned with a red hammer and sickle.” A notebook emblazoned with a red hammer and sickle? Oh no!

The article is replete with such “proof.” According to the Times, Singham also has offices in a building in Shanghai and has been seen in the company of Chinese officials at events where China’s role in the world is presented in a way that does not align with U.S. foreign policy discourse.

And that brings us to the heart of the matter: Once again, we see the revival of the notion that challenging U.S. foreign policy is tantamount to acting as an “agent of a foreign power,” a charge drawn straight from the playbook of the old House Un-American Activities Committee.

At the height of the McCarthy period, a figure no less esteemed than Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, 83 years of age at the time, was handcuffed by the government on such patently false premises. As part of a similar crusade today, the Times authors leave no McCarthyite stone unthrown and no Red Scare dog whistle unblown.

This is not investigative journalism. It is reheated McCarthyism, the putrid leftovers of a conspiracy theory that was already rotten the first time around, served up to delegitimize China’s emergence as a global power and discredit critics of U.S. foreign policy.

If the individuals and organizations targeted in the article were part of the welter of privately-funded NGOs, think tanks, conferences, and media networks used by the U.S. ruling class to promote its foreign policy priorities, there would be no story here.

But they’re not. And because they do not take talking points from Washington and Wall Street, they are accused of taking them from Beijing. Because they engage with China rather than treating it as an enemy, the details of their political activity are stretched, twisted, and lit from behind to project the menacing shape of a foreign, Communist plot.

We have seen this shadow-play before, with the same choreography—against organized labor, against movements for civil rights, against the peace movement. We have seen it before, with other leftists, other progressive organizations, in the crosshairs that Mr. Singham, Tricontinental, Code Pink, and People’s Forum now occupy. We have seen it before, when the profits and power of the U.S. ruling class come under threat.

We remember those days well because, as is widely known, we were at the very center of the McCarthyite storm. And just as we did then, we condemn it today. We condemn it not only as Communists, not only as believers in peace and international solidarity, but as partisans of democracy in the struggle against fascism.

Here, in the aftermath of January 6, the right side of history has no room and no time for conspiracy theories. The stakes are too high and the enemy too close at hand to traffic in crude red-baiting and anti-communist paranoia.

After all, that role is already taken. Donald Trump pledges to keep “foreign, Christian-hating Communists” out of the country. The government of Florida bars Chinese citizens from buying property in the state, and now the Biden administration does likewise with certain types of technology investments. Heavily-armed extremists slap the “Marxist” label on anything they designate for repression, from the environmental movement to public schools.

For an institution with the reach and resources of the New York Times to echo those positions, to spread those same conspiracy theories, is not merely irresponsible. It is a betrayal of the struggle for democracy and a material service to the extreme right.

Democracy would be better served if the New York Times turned its prodigious investigative resources on the donors, corporate and otherwise, who bankroll lawmakers who participated in Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election; or on the funders behind the attempted fascist coup of January 6; or on infiltration of police forces by white supremacist terror groups.

The struggle to preserve and expand democracy against the MAGA right needs all of us: communists, socialists, liberals, moderates, grassroots activists, artists, intellectuals, elected officials, labor leaders, Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, and white, organizers, and, yes, some business forces, too. It needs unity, focus, and determination.

What it does not need and cannot bear is another round of right-wing conspiracy theories and anti-communist paranoia, endorsed by the “centrist” New York Times.

Be forewarned: This is a dangerous turn of events, and the GOP right in the person of Marco Rubio has already seized upon it, demanding a Justice Department investigation, a probe that has the potential to affect everyone regardless of political point of view.

That’s how witch hunts start. As James Baldwin said to Angela Davis on the eve of her trial, “If they come for you in the morning, they’ll come for us that night.”


Communist Party USA
Communist Party USA

Founded in 1919, the Communist Party USA has championed the struggles for democracy, labor rights, women’s equality, racial justice, and peace for over a century. The Communist Party has an unparalleled history in the progressive movement of the United States, from the struggle against Jim Crow segregation to the organizing of the industrial unions, from the canneries of California to the sweatshops of New York City.