The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

GC Events

Feb. 25 – Marcella Bencivenni on American Anticommunism and Espionage: The Case of Carl Marzani

Advanced Research Collaborative Spring Seminar Presentation


Marcella Bencivenni:
American Anticommunism and Espionage:
The Case of Carl Marzani


Thursday, February 25, 2016
4:30pm – 6:30pm
ARC Conference Room
Room 5318.05
The Graduate Center, CUNY


This paper examines the case of Carl Marzani, one of the first political victims of the Cold War. A former employee of the Office of Strategic Services (wartime precursor to the CIA), Marzani was charged with hiding his past communist affiliations to keep his government job and was sentenced to three years in jail. His case went to the Supreme Court twice, but both times deliberations ended in a tie vote, therefore upholding his conviction. The Marzani case illustrates a highly charged debate about the history of American communism and Soviet espionage that has exploded in the last two decades as a result of recently declassified documents, most notably the “Venona files” and the KGB and CIA archives.

A native Italian and CUNY Graduate Center alumna, Marcella Bencivenni is Associate Professor of History at Hostos Community College/CUNY, where she has been teaching since 2004. Her research focuses on the histories of im/migration, labor, and social movements in the modern United States, with a particular interest in the Italian American experience. She is the author of Italian Immigrant Radical Culture: The Idealism of the Sovversivi in the United States, 1890-1940 (2011, repr. 2014), and co-editor of Radical Perspectives on Immigration (2008). She has also published over a dozen book chapters, articles and historiographical essays on topics related to the Italian diaspora and American radicalism and was recently featured in the Grammy-nominated TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?” helping Italian American actress Valerie Bertinelli trace her past. Marcella is currently working on two new projects: she is editing the autobiography of leftwing activist Carl Marzani, who became the first political victim of McCarthyism, and has also started a new book tentatively titled Italian Immigration, the Triangle Fire and the Politics of Memory for which she received a Chancellor Research Award for the 2014-2015 academic year and a Distinguished CUNY Fellowship for the Spring 2016.