New Republic Editor Experiences Mental Clarity on Communism
Martin Peretz, the editor-in-chief of The New Republic, didn't make many friends with the hard core left which nowadays makes up a large part of Democrat activists with his latest article: "Red Dusk: The Rosenberg bombshell." It is about how many in the American left, despite the evidence that Julius and Ethel Rosenburg were indeed Soviet spies, still can't accept their guilt just as they can't accept the culpability of communists and communism in general (emphasis mine):
In America and in other Western societies, however, there still remain coteries of intellectuals and other high-minded people who have trouble absorbing the simplest historic truths, truths which ordinary workers in highly ideological Labour England, say, have had absolutely no difficulties absorbing. Even more so among unionized workers in the United States. The blindness of these meta-minds does not quite absolve Stalin of his crimes--but it willfully looks away from those of Castro or Che, who still hold a special place in the hearts of people calling themselves progressives.
And which group continues to idolize Che Guevara? Perhaps a look at the Che Guevara flag on the wall of a certain presidential candidate could provide the answer. However, let us return to Peretz who seems to have his "progressive" blinders down on the subject of communism and the left:
Last week, a bunker-buster hit the carefully preserved world of the postfellow-traveling fellow-traveler. No longer advertising the kindnesses of Stalin, as Lillian Hellman used to do, this strange but numerous social type had clung to the innocence and idealism of Stalin's sympathizers. They still think Alger Hiss innocent, Dalton Trumbo honest, Hellman a heroine, Elia Kazan a rat. In this world, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sent to their deaths pure as the driven snow, their only sin being belief in ... well, in what did they actually believe? In Marx, in Lenin, in Stalin, in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, devout, deluded, and disloyal to the country in which they lived.
There is a whole culture in America that has believed the innocence of the Rosenbergs as doctrine and dogma. The texts of this culture are not scrupulous histories because such histories would undermine its beliefs. They are, instead, one novel and one play, fiction being more amenable to false history, both these cases being tales of the Rosenbergs' innocence. The narrative is E.L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel, a best-selling book of the 1970s. The drama is Tony Kushner's phantasmagoric Angels in America, which won the Pulitzer Prize and features Ethel haunting the last days of Roy Cohn, who had been on the legal team prosecuting the Rosenbergs and boasted in his autobiography of convincing the judge to sentence them to death, an ugly boast about an ugly deed by an ugly man. The position of these literary works tells you something about the culture in which they still shine.
So what is the bunker-buster? It is Sam Roberts's September 11 New York Times interview with Morton Sobell, a co-defendant of the Rosenbergs who had also been found guilty and served more than 18 years in Alcatraz. In the nearly six decades since the beginning of the case, Sobell had maintained his innocence. Suddenly, he admits the great lie of his life. He is guilty, he concedes. And so was Julius. There are still doubts about what exactly Ethel did or did not do. Richard Nixon apparently told a confidante in 1983 that this was, in fact, the case and that, had President Eisenhower known about the vagaries in her situation, he would have commuted the sentence on the grounds of "tainted evidence." But the evidence of a widely netted Soviet atomic spy ring with Julius at its apex is incontrovertible. So incontrovertible that now even Julius's longcrusading sons concede the ugly truth about their father.
I wonder what the folks around The Nation were feeling when their underlying sense of postwar America essentially collapsed last week. And what Victor Navasky, its pater familias, is feeling, too. He has been the cheerleader of the "everybody was innocent" school in American sentimental thought about communism and its fellow-travelers. Hiss was innocent. The Rosenbergs were innocent. It was all a search for witches, as Arthur Miller tried to tell us in The Crucible. Except that there were no witches in seventeenth-century New England, not even in Salem. But there were communists who were disloyal to their country and communist spies who acted against their country.
Ronald Radosh has been doing his unpleasant truth-telling in these pages for more than two decades. It was here that he (and Sol Stern) published their first work on the guilt of the Rosenbergs, with proper doubts about the extent of Ethel's culpability. It was here that Allen Weinstein published his first conclusions about Alger Hiss. Both pieces of work are now considered conclusive. But Victor Navasky dissented. He couldn't see the facts when they were put before his very eyes--"fragments," "ephemera," and "ambiguous intercepts," he judged the evidence. He had a gig on the American left, and, for its own psychological reasons, the left needed to have its illusions sustained. Charming Victor, he could still be counted on to preserve the old lies--and his role wasn't without consequences. He ensnared suckers into believing the lies, he lent the lies a sheen of scholarly credibility.
Very good analysis by Martin Peretz here. However, before we award Peretz a kewpie doll for his mental clarity, please note that he still casts doubts on his own wisdom by a link which is ironically on the third page of his article. It is a link to another Martin Peretz article written on March 26: Why Obama Was Right To Not Repudiate His Pastor. This was just a month before Obama did repudiate his pastor.
So a half-cheer to Martin Peretz. Perhaps someday his ideological blinders will come completely off so he can properly analyze his fellow liberals.