Cover for Sakmyster: Red Conspirator: J. Peters and the American Communist Underground. Click for larger image

Red Conspirator

J. Peters and the American Communist Underground

The definitive study of the "Hungarian man of mystery," shadowy spymaster J. Peters

In this bold contribution to our understanding of the Communist underground in the United States, Thomas Sakmyster offers the first biography of controversial spymaster J. Peters, a shadowy figure in the American Communist party in the 1920s through the 1940s.

Using Peters's unpublished memoir as well as multilingual sources from the United States, the United Kingdom, Hungary, and the Soviet Union, Sakmyster traces Peters's activities from his arrival in the United States to the dawn of the Cold War and his deportation back to Hungary. Known as the "Hungarian man of mystery," Peters emigrated to the United States in 1924 after serving in the Austrian Army during World War I. In America, he oversaw a false passport operation that facilitated movement of Soviet agents to the United States and American communists to the Soviet Union. Working under a number of aliases, he constructed a complex network of informants and spies that stole numerous State Department documents in the 1930s. After years of hiding underground he was arrested and deported in 1949.

While previous studies of the American Communist movement have relegated Peters to a minor role, Sakmyster reveals him to be not just the influential leader of conspiratorial Communist activities but also an important organizer in the open American Communist party. The author of an influential handbook on Communism, Peters also set up a program to infiltrate the armed forces in the United States. Red Conspirator is a gripping and important story that advances the ongoing debate over the extent and nature of Soviet espionage in the United States.

"A lively and well-written book, and the best life story yet published in English of a particular Communist type: the professional revolutionary who lived virtually his entire life in the shadowy netherworld where legality shaded into illegality and loyalty to Moscow and the world revolution trumped national identity."--Harvey Klehr, The Weekly Standard

"A welcome addition to the ongoing discussion of the nature and experience of American communism."--The Journal of American History

"Sakmyster has skillfully constructed the first (and only) full-scale biography of the hitherto mysterious high-level American Communist Party functionary most well known by one of his many pseudonyms, 'J. Peters.' Highly Recommended."--Choice

"Highly recommended to anyone who wants to gain insights into the less sensationalized but nevertheless, relentless conspiracy of the CPUSA in attempting undermine the American system of democracy."--Journal of the American Hungarian Educators Association

"There has long been a need for a biography of J. Peters. Thomas Sakmyster has mined all requisite American and Hungarian/Russian Federation archives, creating a thoroughly researched and extremely well written portrait that puts not just a face but an entire wardrobe on the mysterious J. Peters."--R. Bruce Craig, author of Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case

"This exhaustively researched book offers an important appraisal of a communist official and spy who has long been shrouded in obscurity. It is indeed a significant addition to the history of American communism and Soviet espionage."--Katherine A. S. Sibley, author of Red Spies in America: Stolen Secrets and the Dawn of the Cold War

Thomas Sakmyster is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of Hungary, the Great Powers, and the Danubian Crisis, 1936–1939 and Hungary's Admiral on Horseback: Miklós Horthy, 1918–1944.

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