Marty Peretz writes on the Rosenbergs and the ongoing faith in them expressed by the contemporary left as “despicable”
I am not sure that I accept the argument that the Universities of America are hotbeds of anti-American communism, but maybe with the extraordinary damage done to America’s legitimacy by the Bush Administration it actually is that bad.
I studied politics at a Canadian university during the Reagan administration, when you couldn’t spit without stumbling into a screening of “If You Love This Planet” and the landscape was filled with sympathy protests in support of those harridans camped outside Greenham Common. So I have some experience with the Mercedes Marxists of Academia.
It was a milieu in which expressing support for crazoids who bombed a Litton plant in suburban Toronto for the high crime of making electronics used in the guidance system of US Air Launched Cruise Missiles would net nodding heads instead of a punch to the Solar plexus.
A visitor from an alien world could have been forgiven for believing that the US Policy in supporting right wing governments and insurgencies in Central America was the greatest moral evil in history, instead of an unwise overreaction, a cruelly cynical expression of realpolitik and a slippery slope to the much greater sleeping with the enemy crime of Iran Contra. But then the alien visitor would probably give up and commence the anal probing.
That being said I find it a little hard to believe that the current state of affairs is so delusional as to perceive as an article of faith that the West were the bad guys in the Cold war. Easier to believe that the shibboleths of the left still have force and this colours the grainy black and white view of history a little bit rosy.
Do people today really think of the Rosenbergs as innocent? Really? I don’t mean thinking they did not get a fair trial (they didn’t), or reasonable sentences (especially Ethel). They were obvious dupes of a flawed ideology and were more than willing to aid the Soviet Union in gaining access to American military technology. The saddest illustration of this is that they were so committed to their ideology that they chose to martyr themselves on the altar of Stalin rather than save their children from being orphaned and outcast. The idea that Julius would not confess his guilt to save his wife and children can only be explained by imagining that his delight at the prospect of a posthumous Order of Lenin trumped his love for his children.
But the implicit argument of Marty’s piece that all of the anti-communist witch hunt of the 1950s was okay is flat out nuts. Hellman was a vile old bat. Kazan was a rat. Whittaker Chambers a pumpkin stiuffing buffoon. Cafeteria workers named Annie May whatsit were not a threat to the foundation of American democracy. Joe McCarthy was. And also a fat drunk lying sack of human sewage who is surely occupying a lower rung of Hell than that effete windbag Alger Hiss. Yes folks like Hiss were an unfortunate holdover of 1930s workers paradise fantasies that should have been put to rest by the accounts of the manufatured Ukrainan famine, or the Stalinst purges of the late 1930s – events about which Hiss surely had access to detailed inside info.
And yes, how the Rosenbergs and other true believers could have performed the mental gymnastics to get past the Non-Aggression pact defies all logic. But the United States was never under any real domestic threat from these pathetic delusional fellow travellers. And America certainly was threatened by McCarthy, and Cohn, and Nixon and a fascist impulse to social, legal and political controls of thought.
And denying that would be more despicable than rationalizing the naive crimes of a dupe and his wife.