Harvey Matusow (aka Harvey Job Matusow) (October 3, 1926 – January 17, 2002) was a U.S. Communist who protected himself from the House Un-American Activities Committee by providing evidence against his former left-wing colleagues. His false accusations led to his own perjury conviction and to being blacklisted. His McCarthy era activities overshadowed his later work as an artist, actor and producer.
Matusow was a member of the American Communist Party and worked as a journalist and a stage and radio actor. He appeared in the leftist plays Waiting for Lefty (by Clifford Odets) and The Cradle Will Rock (by Marc Blitzstein).
In 1950 Matusow, a young and low-ranking party member employed as a clerk in the Communist Party bookstore in Manhattan, walked in to the FBI and offered his services as a paid informant. During a 1950 summer road trip to the West Coast he made a prolonged stop at a ranch resort in New Mexico favored by progressives, and while there filed detailed reports with the local office of the FBI on the comings and goings of party members, and people whom he alleged were members. Matusow was then abruptly summoned to New York and expelled from the party, and soon afterward the FBI, deciding that he was of no further use, dropped him the rolls of its paid informants. Matusow, freed from FBI supervision, went on his own initiative to HUAC and offered to testify in upcoming trials and hearings as a paid expert witness, providing information on his former Communist Party comrades and people he claimed to have known or met in party circles. He also became an editor of the anti-Communist bulletin Counterattack and worked as a campaign aide to Joseph McCarthy. While working as an informant, Matusow provided information against folksingers associated with People's Songs, where he had briefly worked, including Pete Seeger, and later claimed to know that 126 Communists worked for the Sunday New York Times even though the total number of employees was 100. Matusow also claimed that he had known Clinton Jencks, an officer of the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers Union to be a member of the American Communist Party; this resulted in Jencks being sent to prison for perjury for having signed, as a union official, a required affadavit of non-membership in the Communist Party under the Taft-Hartley Labor Relations Act.
Pete Seeger's band the Weavers went from a hit record with "Wimoweh" to being blacklisted and finding no work. Seeger later served one year of a ten-year prison sentence over his testimonies in the HUAC related witch-hunts but eventually forgave Matusow for his youthful mistakes and noted that Matusow never did more than cost Seeger a few jobs.
In 1955, he came clean with a book, False Witness, in which he discloses that he was an FBI agent and was paid to lie about members of the American Communist Party. He also claimed in the book that McCarthy and Roy Cohn had encouraged him to lie. Because of the book, Matusow was found guilty of perjury, jailed for nearly three years, and ultimately blacklisted.
Unable to find work in the United States, he moved to England. In 1966, he established the London Film Makers Cooperative and worked with the composer Annea Lockwood who appeared on record under the name Anna Lockwood. In 1972, he produced a festival of contemporary music called the International Carnival of Experimental Sound. The event's highlights included performances by Charlotte Moorman (in the Roundhouse and in the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh) and John Cage's HPSCHD, for eight harpsichords and projections of the American space program. A train was hired to take participants and public to Edinburgh, to link with the Edinburgh festival; Charlotte Moorman performed Nam June Paik's TV Bra in the Richard Demarco Gallery.
International Society for the Abolition of Data Processing Machines
Matusow founded the International Society for the Abolition of Data Processing Machines, which claimed 1500 members in 1969, stating that "The computer has a healthy and conservative function in mathematics and other sciences", but "when the uses involve business or government, and the individual is tyrannized, then we make our stand."
Matusow returned to the United States in 1973, working as a sound producer for the large Brotherhood of the Spirit hippie commune, and marrying the ex-wife of the commune's spiritual advisor, the Aquarian Age mystic Elwood Babbitt. Altogether Matusow is believed to have been married a dozen times, including twice to heiress (and McCarthy supporter) Arvilla Bentley.He eventually settled in Tucson, Arizona, where, working with the Magic Mouse Theatre, he developed a clown persona named Cockyboo for stage and television. Matusow began Magic Mouse as a radio show in Tucson, Arizona, and slowly it grew into a traveling theater troupe, and in 1979, became the TV program Magic Mouse Magazine. This led to the creation of The Babysitter's Magic Mouse Storybook, a self-published book done in collaboration with Hilda Terry, creator of the popular newspaper strip Teena. "Some people wanted to revive the Magic Mouse stories," says Terry, "and he wanted me to illustrate them with my teenagers, from when young girls were more innocent. Teena started as a babysitter during WW2."
Later, Matusow converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and moved to Glenwood, Utah, to start the state's first Public-access television cable TV program. For a time in the 1980s (after his conversion to Mormonism), he was known as Job Matusow and lived with his wife Emily in Warwick, Massachusetts. During this time, Job and Emily sparked controversy when they allowed members of the Unification Church to live on their land. He made chimes out of melted ammunition and bomb shells during this time and also became involved in collecting clothes for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
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- Lichtman, Robert M. and Cohen, Ronald. Deadly Farce: Harvey Matusow and the Informer System in the McCarthy Era. University of Illinois Press, 2004.
- Frustrations: Guerrilla War Against Computers
- "Harvey Matusow, 75, an Anti-Communist Informer, Dies," New York Times, Feb. 4, 2002, pg. B7.
- Lichtman, Robert M. and Cohen, Ronald (2004). Deadly Farce: Harvey Matusow and the Informer System in the McCarthy Era. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02886-4.
- Kahn, Albert Eugene (1987). The Matusow Affair: Memoir of a National Scandal. Moyer Bell Ltd. ISBN 0-918825-85-7.
- Harvey, Matusow (1955). False Witness. Cameron & Kahn.
- Further biographical information
- Voice from the Whirlwind: Footnotes from the Book of Job by Stefene Russell
- "Harvey Matusow". WFMU Radio. 2006. Brief biography of Matusow with MP3s of his album War Between Fats and Thins.
- "Harvey Matusow Archive". University of Sussex.