Carl Marzani

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Carl Aldo Marzani (4 March 1912 – 11 December 1994) was an Italian-born American leftwing political activist and publisher. He was successively a Communist Party organizer, volunteer soldier in the Spanish Civil War, United States federal intelligence official, documentary filmmaker, author, and publisher. During World War II he served in the federal intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and later the U.S. Department of State. He picked the targets for the Doolittle raid on Tokyo, which took place on April 18, 1942. Marzani served nearly three years in prison for having concealed his Communist Party USA (CPUSA) membership while in the OSS.


Marzani was born in Rome, Italy. The family emigrated to the United States in 1924 and settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Carl entered the first grade at the age of twelve, not knowing English. He graduated from high school in 1931 with a scholarship to Williams College. There, Marzani became a socialist and joined the League for Industrial Democracy. He began writing and became the editor of the school's literary magazine. In 1935 he married his first wife, Edith Eisner, an actress whose stage name was Edith Emerson. The same year, he graduated summa cum laude from Williams College with a BA in English. Marzani thereupon moved to New York. In 1936 he received a Moody fellowship to Oxford University.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out Marzani traveled to Spain to volunteer for the Republican army. He commanded troops the Durruti Column, a unit of the anarchist wing of the Republican forces, during late 1936 and early 1937. He soon resumed university studies and in June 1938 Marzani received a BA in Modern Greats, Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford. The former anarchist supporter underwent a radical change in his ideology, joining the British Communist Party and serving as its treasurer of the South Midlands district. In the summer of 1938, Marzani and his second wife, Charlotte Pomerantz, traveled around the world, visiting India, Indochina, China, Japan, and Europe, using Communist Party contacts to meet Jawaharlal Nehru and others.

After their world tour, the Marzanis returned to the United States and went on relief, the New Deal term for government assistance and welfare. Eventually they got government paid jobs with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) while at the same time joining the CPUSA under false identities. Marzani joined the CPUSA 23 August 1939, on the day the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed. As a WPA instructor at New York University, as served as district Organizer for the Communist Party on the Lower East Side of New York. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in mid 1941, Marzani became director of a popular front anti-fascist organization, and resigned from the Communist party in August 1941.

In early 1942 after the United States became involved in World War II, Marzani joined the OSS, the predecessor organization of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Marzani worked under Colonel William J. Donovan from 1942 to 1945 in the Analysis Branch. A 1943 Venona Project decryption of Soviet espionage cable traffic reported on an American code-named Kollega ("Colleage"), recruited by Eugene Dennis, who later became CPUSA General Secretary. The message described Kollega as working at the "Photographic Section Pictural Devision" (sic), interpreted by the U.S. analysts as "probably the Pictures Division of the News and Features Bureau of the Office of War Information" (OWI).[1] Several authors have speculated that Kollega was Marzani,[2][3] though it has been disputed.[4] In 1945 Marzani transferred to the Department of State, where he worked as the Deputy Chief of the Presentation Division of the Office of Intelligence. Marzani handled the preparation of top secret reports.

In 1946 Marzani founded and directed Union Films, a film documentary company that had contracts with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America and other unions to do documentaries. One film entitled Deadline for Action, was released in September 1946, five weeks before Marzani resigned from the State Department. The film blamed the United States for the Cold War.

In January 1947 Marzani was indicted for defrauding the government by receiving government pay while concealing CPUSA membership. He was convicted on 22 June 1947, but nine counts were overturned on appeal, while the Supreme Court split 4-4 on a rare rehearing of the last two charges. Marzani served all but four months of a thirty-six-month sentence.

In prison, Marzani began work on a book blaming President Harry S. Truman for starting the Cold War. Caught attempting to smuggle a manuscript out of prison in 1950, he was placed in solitary confinement for seven months. The book was published in 1952 as We Can Be Friends: Origins of the Cold War.

Union Films went out of business during his stay in prison. After his release in 1951, Marzani edited UE Steward for the United Electrical Workers until 1954. The same year he joined Cameron Associates and partnered with Angus Cameron to run Liberty Book Club. Liberty Book Club eventually became Marzani & Munsell which operated the Library-Prometheus Book Club. In this phase of his career Marzani was a contact for the Soviet secret police agency, the KGB, and the KGB subsidized his publishing house in the 1960s, according to allegations made in 1994 by Oleg Kalugin, a retired KGB officer.

Marzani was one of the interviewees in Vivian Gornick's 1977 book, The romance of American communism. Like the other interviewees, Marzani was concealed by a pseudonym; his was "Eric Lanzetti".[5][6]

In later years, Marzani seems to have moved away from his Old Left roots. In 1972 he authored Wounded Earth,[7] a well-respected book on environmental matters, at that time an unusual interest for a man associated with orthodox Marxism. In a 1976 article for the periodical In These Times,[8] he spoke respectfully of the Club of Rome, a think-tank formed by a group of Italian industrialists in 1968 ; "it is a highly sophisticated group, the most thoughtful representatives of European capitalism". In a note appended to the article he commented "I have only two claims to fame : that I was the first political prisoner of the Cold War and that I wrote the first revisionist history of it." He continued to proclaim his newfound revisionism in his 1981 book The Promise of Eurocommunism.[9]


  1. ^ Garbled status reports of several agents 8 June 1943 (Release2) Archived 23 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine, in Venona Documents, June 1943 Archived December 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Declassification Initiatives of the National Security Agency, posted January 15, 2009. Retrieved November 2, 2009.
  2. ^ Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. Yale, 2000. Retrieved November 2, 2009.
  3. ^ The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America's Traitors by Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel. Regnery, 2001. Retrieved November 2, 2009.
  4. ^ "They Led Two Lives", book review by Maurice Isserman. New York Times, May 9, 1999. Retrieved November 2, 2009.
  5. ^ Cannistraro and Meyer 2003:71
  6. ^ Terrill 1978
  7. ^ Carl Marzani – Wounded Earth – Addison Wesley, 1972
  8. ^ Carl Marzani – Towards Eurocapitalism (article) – In These Times – 6–12 December 1976
  9. ^ Carl Marzani – The Promise of Eurocommunism – Lawrence Hill – 1981


  • Budenz, Louis. 1948. Men Without Faces: The Communist Conspiracy in the USA. Harper and Row.
  • Cannistraro, Philip V. and Gerald Meyer. 2003. The lost world of Italian American radicalism. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Marzani, Carl Aldo – BOPNO HQ-0770023443. (file on Marzani)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Marzani, Carl Aldo – BOPNO HQ-0870144622. (file on Marzani)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Marzani, Carl Aldo – BOPNO HQ-1000345490. (file on Marzani)
  • Haynes, John Earl and Harvey Klehr. 1999. Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press.
  • Kalugin, Oleg with Fen Montaigne. 1994. The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • Marzani, Carl. 1995. The Education of a Reluctant Radical, books 1 to 4. New York: Topical Books, 1992–1995. Book 1: Roman Childhood (1992); Book 2: Growing Up American (1993); Book 3, Spain, Munich and Dying Empires (1994); Book 4: From Pentagon to Penitentiary (1995).
  • Gettleman, Marvin E. 1978. Review of Vivian Gornick, The romance of American communism. The American Historical Review, December 1978, 83(5):1360–1361.
This article is part of the
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History of Soviet espionage in the United States
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