Articles from Library Journal Academic Newswire


3 short articles, by Andrew Albanese, which have appeared in Library Journal Academic Newswire (Cahners, NY) about this dispute.

LC COMMUNIST ARCHIVE HAS MARXIST GROUP SEEING RED After years of negotiations with officials in the former Soviet Union, The Library of Congress (LC) has acquired and made available microfilm copies of a key collection of papers from the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA). The collection, say LC officials, secretly shipped to the Soviet Union for safekeeping more than 50 years ago, contains more than 435,000 frames of material on 326 reels, shedding new light on a fascinating, contentious period in American history from 1919 to 1944. According to Mark Rozenzweig, chief librarian and archivist for the Reference Center of Marxist Studies, an independent educational institution with custodianship of CPUSA's documentation and records, the LC acquisition raises serious ethical and legal questions.

According to Rosenzweig, the vast collection of CPUSA papers were shipped to the former USSR to protect members from raids by the U.S. government. And the decision to make these papers public, he claims, should have been made by CPUSA or, at the very least, in consultation with CPUSA. "These are the papers of a continuously existing and still functioning American organization," wrote Rosenzweig in a letter sent to LC officials questioning the acquisition. "There has been, as far as I know, no consultation with CPUSA about the disposition or further distribution of these records." Rosenzweig asserts that the "new Russian government" took control of the CPUSA papers without warrant and that their dealings with LC were in "violation of ethical practices, if not possibly illegal." Rosenzweig has asked LC for evidence of provenance and documentation of "legitimately accessioning and processing this material" by the Russian government. At press time, officials at the LC said they had not yet received Rosenzweig's letters.

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LC DEFENDS ACQUISITION OF COMMUNIST COLLECTION The Library of Congress last week defended its acquisition of a collection of papers from the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA). The acquisition came under fire last week when Mark Rosenzweig, chief archivist of the CPUSA, questioned both the legality and the ethics of the acquisition. "Control and ownership of [the collection] is a matter of Russian law," said LC spokesperson Helen Dalrymple. "The formal agreement on the microfilming signed in December 1998 between the Library of Congress and the Russian State Archives of Social and Political History guarantees that it has the right to copy and transmit to the Library microform copies of the documents indicated." Rosenzweig, however, was quick to point out that the Russian Government that sold the microfilm copies of the papers to the LC is not the same government that took the papers for "safekeeping" during the period 1919-1944 (see LJ Academic Newswire 2/6/01).

"One has the impression that these papers of the CPUSA are being treated as the booty of the Cold War," claims Rosenzweig. "The Russian government which took control of these papers did so without warrant, with no discussion with or even notification of the CPUSA and I believe this, as well as their dealings with LC, is in violation of ethical archival practice, if not possibly illegal." Rosenzweig said the CPUSA, at the very least, should have been consulted in the disposition of the papers, a claim dismissed by LC officials.  "The CPUSA had no role to play in the process." said LC's Dalrymple, adding that control over the papers rests with the Russian State Archives of Social and Political History and is controlled by Russian law.

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COMMUNIST PARTY CHIEF MULLING SUIT AGAINST LC The LJ Academic Newswire has learned that the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) is consulting with attorneys regarding the Library of Congress's (LC) purchase of an archive of microfilmed Communist Party USA documents from a Russian archive. Shortly after LC announced the acquisition, Mark Rosenzweig, an archivist of CPUSA materials, questioned both the legality and the ethics of the acquisition, saying the Russian government did not have the right to sell the CPUSA papers to LC. LC officials maintain that "control and ownership of [the collection] is a matter of Russian law." (See LJ Academic Newswire 2/13/01).

"We do want to pursue a remedy," confirmed Sam Webb, Chair of the CPUSA. "We don't quite know what that remedy is. We are doing some consulting with some attorneys and with some of our leadership to embark on what we ought to pursue at this point." First, says Webb, the party is planning to send a letter to LC officials requesting that they turn the documents over to the party of their own volition, a proposal with which Webb says he doubts LC will comply. "This is our heritage," noted Webb. "This is the history of our party." Webb was elected to lead the party after the October 2000 passing of leader Gus Hall, who was 90.


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