Author

Ron Capshaw

Ron Capshaw has 76 articles published.

Ron Capshaw
Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.

Lionel Trilling: Cold War Prophet

in History/Politics by

Depending who wants to claim as one of their own, literary critic Lionel Trilling has been called a conservative, a neoconservative (a direction we are assured by neocons of where he was headed before his death in 1975), and a liberal anti-communist. One thing missed in this game of ideological scrabble is how much of a Cold War prophet Trilling was in point of fact. This is evidenced by his one and only novel, The Middle of the Journey, now seventy years old. When it debuted in 1947, the novel came and went, garnering praise only in England. And so it might have remained, were it not for the fact that, one year later, the Alger Hiss case came to dominate the nation’s headlines.

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Exploiting His Race: Paul Robeson

in Culture/History by

When African-American writer and communist Richard Wright was physically expelled by his comrades during a May Day parade in 1937, he concluded that he “would always be for them, but they would not be for him.” He quietly left the Party but would not go public with his departure until 1944. What earned Wright the violence from the marchers was his determination to write as an African-American first and as a Party member second. Such a view was verboten in the Party despite their loud clamor about civil rights for blacks.

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Whittaker Chambers: Crusading Journalist

in Culture/History by

Because of his role in outing Soviet spy Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers’ other career, not that of paid witness he would become, has been overshadowed. For Chambers was a journalist par excellence. He had the distinction of having written for the New Masses, Time, and National Review. At the time of his testimony, he was a highly-paid writer at Time. The pro-Hiss left no doubt wishes he’d stayed at the typewriter rather than appearing behind a congressional microphone. Without Chambers, the Hiss case would never have gotten off the ground and Chambers would have toiled away his remaining days writing for Time, and Hiss leaking from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to Moscow.

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Joan Mellen: The CIA’s Best Publicist

in Politics by

Joan Mellen is a professor of English and creative writing at Temple University, who has produced very little having to do with literature. Instead, she has focused her energies on exposing CIA criminality, specifically regarding the John F. Kennedy Assassination. As evidenced in three books — A Farewell To Justice: Jim Garrison; Our Man in Haiti, and The Great Game in Cuba — she reveals that she has never the left the mindset of the late 1960s, when the New Left regarded the CIA as a draconian secret government with its tentacles into every avenue of American life. How is one to explain this sudden shift from penning award-winning biographies of writers, the best of which is her expose of the real relationship between Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman, to the conspiracy school of history? Mellen’s desperation may spring from how the post 9/11 populace has largely shed its view of the CIA as a sinister organization and instead has wanted its “dark techniques” unleashed on terrorism (polls show…

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The Independence Of Richard Wright

in Politics by

Whenever a black conservative speaks out or even exists, white “progressive” America kicks in with charges that, if made by the Right, would be branded racist. Hence, conservatives like actress Stacy Dash are accused by the Left of having a “plantation” mentality motivated by a desire to be accepted by white America, or that they have forfeited their blackness, or all of the above. The Left exempts themselves from any racist sentiment in these accusations because their “hearts are in the right place.” Perhaps the prototype for this kind of behavior tracks back to the thirties with African-American author Richard Wright and his experiences with white and black communists. An autodidact, Wright joined the Party in 1933 as a means to broaden his literary education and because he perceived a lack of racism among white comrades toward black members.

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Libertarian Morality

in Philosophy by

During the Republican presidential primary in 2012, Saturday Night Live, in their parody of the debate, had a questioner ask the actor playing candidate Ron Paul as to whether he would rescue puppies from a burning building; to whit, he replied, “No. It’s none of my business.” Jokes, as Groucho Marx tells us, are opinions presented entertainingly. The portrayal of a heartless Paul is no doubt how the mainstream media views libertarianism–as a kind of reckless freedom without consequences (even right-wingers like Dinesh D’Souza have contributed to this perception). But libertarianism does have a social conscience, as evidenced by its history. Thomas Jefferson, in many ways the father of libertarianism, formulated an individualist philosophy whose paramount goal was not only protecting citizens from unwarranted state power, but also ensuring that elected officials represent everyone and not for special interests. Thus he argued that farmers should be in office rather than businessmen. For in Jefferson’s mind, farmers were truly independent because they owned their own land and thus not in…

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Hands On The Whip

in History by

One hundred years ago, Bolshevik leader V.I Lenin and his small party hijacked the much larger anti-war and anti-Czar movements, which stormed the Winter Palace with him, taking control of the government, and then instituting a 73-year communist rule that claimed higher body counts than even Adolf Hitler. This, in turn, ushered in an admiration for and defense of the regime from intellectuals, celebrities, and government officials. Viewed today, the stature of those who defended tooth and nail Soviet repression and imperialism is astounding. America’s premier journalist Lincoln Stevens infamously reported after visiting Lenin’s Russia, while the Bolshevik leader was already imprisoning and murdering those who saw the Revolution as betrayed, that he had “seen the future and it works.”

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The Second Thoughts Of William F Buckley

in History/Politics by

An image of the Right peddled by liberals–gaining even more traction in the age of Trump–is that conservatives never entertain second thoughts about their positions (“sticking to one’s guns” is some conservative’s riposte to this image); never adjust, and are locked into fixed positions. By turns, liberals congratulate themselves on entertaining the idea that they may be wrong. But the late founder of the post-war conservative movement defied this image, In his lifetime, William F Buckley, founder of National Review, was stereotyped by such uber-leftists as Norman Mailer who called him a “gentlemanly” version of Goebbels and by Dwight McDonald who likened Buckley’s rigid support of Joseph McCarthy to mirror the 30s’ leftist cheerleading of Stalin.

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Mary McCarthy: Cheerleader For The Vietcong

in History by

Because novelist and literary critic Mary McCarthy was “a premature anti-Stalinist,” when the intellectual fashion in the 1930s was pro-Stalinist, one could assume from that moment on she saw through the various forms of communism. But this is not the case. In the early 1930s, McCarthy was a fellow-traveler of American communists, but this was lukewarm at best, as she confessed to finding them odd. McCarthy did not really have a sense of where she stood regarding communism until the Moscow Purge Trials began in 1936. The Trials were presented to the world as an effort by Josef Stalin to prevent a fascist takeover of the Soviet Union. According to the Party faithful, this conspiracy was a joint effort by Leon Trotsky, a Bolshevik leader exiled by a jealous Stalin, and his co-conspirator, Adolf Hitler.

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Earl Browder: Political Plaything

in History/Politics by

In the 1950s, with China falling to the Communists, the Soviets acquiring an atomic bomb, and New Dealers like Alger Hiss being outed as Soviet spies, a popular refrain on the Right and even among some Democrats was that these events occurred because FDR was soft on communism. To combat this perception, FDR spear-carrier and partisan historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., while acknowledging some naivete on FDR’s part towards Stalinism, cited the administration’s jailing of CPUSA leader Earl Browder for passport fraud in 1940 as proof of their anti-communism. The context of this arrest did show an awareness on the administration’s part that communism was a security threat. For 1940 was the second year of the Hitler-Stalin military alliance. Overnight, the CPUSA, which had been pressuring the administration for years to fight fascism, now advocated that the US sit this one out. Many in the cabinet, among them Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle, feared that the Soviet spy rings in the US (he had recently interviewed former Soviet spy…

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Hemingway The Communist

in Culture/History by

Literary critics when dealing with the thorny issue of Ernest Hemingway’s politics have focused on a statement he made during the Spanish Civil War—a war that pitted, on one side, the Loyalists, backed by the Soviet Union, and a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco, and backed by Adolf Hitler. A Loyalist supporter whose leadership was controlled by the Spanish Communist Party and thus, the Soviets, Hemingway said while covering the conflict as a war correspondent, that “We’re all communists.” Literary historians and Hemingway’s contemporaries have scrambled to distance Hemingway from any communist sympathies. Instead, they have regarded Hemingway’s statement to have been made when he was carried away by enthusiasm for the Loyalist cause; hence, it was temporary. Denis Brian, who did not believe Hemingway was a communist or even a fellow-traveler, said the declaration was the equivalent of a “non-Irishman” saying on St. Patrick’s Day, “”We’re all Irish.” Biographer Jeffery Meyers, equally insistent that Hemingway was anticommunist contextualized the statement to be “like saying, ‘We all…

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Liberal Narratives

in History by

When exposed Soviet Spy Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury 96 years ago this month, the far Left, personified by the American Communist Party, denounced the verdict and championed Hiss as merely an innocent New Dealer framed by fascists. Fifties’ era liberals like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a fervent defender of the New Deal, and one of the founders of post-war liberal anticommunism, refused to play that game. Along with other liberals (John Kenneth Galbraith, an economist who served in the Kennedy administration, John F. Kennedy, then a senator, and such literary heavyweights as Leslie Fiedler and Lionel Trilling), Schlesinger accepted Hiss’ guilt as having spied for the Soviet Union.

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Fitzgerald: More Wised-Up Than Hemingway

in History by

When the Leonardo Di Carpio-powered The Great Gatsby came out in 2013, reviewers treated F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel with appropriate respect, but, like those before them, had also designated it the only reason he stands with Hemingway as a major novelist. The familiar story of Fitzgerald never being able to do a repeat performance because of his descent into alcoholism and dealing with his wife, the crazed Zelda is part of folklore. By the 1930s, the story goes, he was out of step with that decade of political commitment. But despite not being taken seriously by his literary contemporaries, Edmund Wilson and Hemingway, Fitzgerald was alone among Lost Generation novelists who saw through communism early on and thus didn’t fall for it hook line and sinker.

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Rosenberg Avenue

in History/World by

In Cuba, where the main mode of transportation for officers is the bicycle, and the only flourishing trade is prostitution, one monument defies the crumbling setting. Even though the late Fidel Castro admitted that socialism had not worked in Cuba, one maxim remains as evidenced by the message on the monument: “For Peace Bread And Roses We Will Face The Executioner. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Murdered June 19, 1953.” What is telling about this is how it sidesteps debating their guilt or innocence and focuses exclusively on how they died. With their “innocence” now in ideological tatters, only their execution remains uncontested. Ironies abound, for it was in Cuba that the couple’s labors for the Soviet atomic program brought the world the closest to nuclear war; when, in 1962, the Soviets installed offensive nuclear warheads on the island.

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Edmund Wilson: Too Little, Too Late

in History by

George Orwell once famously said that some ideas are so preposterous that only an intellectual could believe them. This was never truer than with Edmund Wilson, America’s premier man of letters in the 20th Century and 120 years old this year. As a literary critic, Wilson was solidly empirical, examining an author through their biography, and then applying this information to their works. Such an approach would have made him politically incorrect in today’s circles where “isms” are hammered onto an author’s works. A case in point: Jay Gatsby, the main character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is today deemed black by those peddling racial politics. But Wilson’s political views would have made him a solid fit today. Although he followed the advice his professors at Princeton taught him–“to seek the truth, no matter where it lay or who it hurt”–he only did so for literature; in politics, he was a Marxist who put truth on hold.

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Melvyn Douglas: A Liberal At War With The Reds

in History by

When in 1940, the House Committee on Un-American Activities came to Hollywood to investigate suspected industry communists, they overshot their mark by including actor Melvyn Douglas. Douglas was hardly a communist; indeed, he had been battling the influence of Party members in liberal and anti-fascist groups for well over a decade. Because he became president, Ronald Reagan is often cited as a liberal anti-communist who once warred with industry Communists. But Douglas, an unreconstructed New Dealer, had fought Communist influence a full decade before Reagan. Previously apolitical, Douglas and his Helen Gahagan Douglas (a future Congresswoman who ran and lost a Senate race against Richard Nixon), became committed anti-Nazis after witnessing German anti-Semitism on a 1931 trip to Europe.

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“False Witness” Harvey Matusow

in History by

During the blacklist period, anti-anti-communists cast doubt on the sincerity of red-hunters, arguing that anti-communism was just a means for them to get publicity and money. They even peddled the legend that once Senator Joseph McCarthy was no longer a force to be reckoned after the Senate stripped him of his powers in 1954, he abandoned his red-hunting crusade and tried to get mileage out of promoting civil liberties. But this claim was false. Even with Cold War tensions abating in the mid-50s, McCarthy to his dying day still bellowed about the communist menace, but now to empty chambers. Anti-anti-communists would have been on surer ground had they cited the career of Harvey Matusow. Matusow, who died 15 years ago this month, was an American Communist who informed on the Party to the FBI, became a paid government witness/expert on Soviet infiltration into daily life, and then a whistle-blower on FBI and McCarthy corruption. When Matusow contacted the FBI in 1950, his position in the Communist Party was hardly…

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When Coups Worked

in History/Politics by

When then-President John F. Kennedy called for a “flexible response” regarding policy toward the Soviet Union, he was reacting to the policies of the Eisenhower years. Historians have labeled the latter administration’s strategy as “massive retaliation,” which meant that the United States was prepared to empty the silos at communist aggression. Sixty-three years ago this week, John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s pick for secretary of state, told Congress during his confirmation hearings, that he not only favored “containing” Soviet Union, but also liberating captive populations behind the Iron Curtain. But the administration had backed itself into a suicidal corner by assuring a rollback strategy that ran the risk of a nuclear exchange. The test case was the communist satellite Hungary. Hungarians, rebelling against Soviet control in a 1956 uprising, made American backing the lynch pin of their strategy. They were soon disabused of Dulles’ promises. When Soviet tanks crushed the rebellion Eisenhower did nothing. By way of contrast, Senator Barry Goldwater had urged the insertion of American troops armed with…

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Wise Girl

in History by

Eleanor Roosevelt called her “neurotic.” Then-President Harry Truman dismissed her testimony as a “red herring.” Anticommunist newspapers, who found her credible, glamorized her as “a shapely blonde.” The former First Lady was closer to the mark about the mental instability of former-spy-turned-government-witness Elizabeth Bentley but wrong on her credibility; Roosevelt regarded Bentley’s accusations that several New Dealers were communist spies as baseless. Anticommunists, wrong on her appearance–she was a dowdy 40-year-old–would be proven correct by history that she was telling the truth, and one group, the FBI, knew it immediately. But one got the sense that conservatives were embarrassed by her. When she died in 1963, National Review mentioned her passing with one paragraph. Her disastrously-titled memoir, Out of Bondage (1952), afforded her only a two-sentence capsule review from Foreign Affairs magazine. By contrast, another ex-spy, Whittaker Chambers, was lionized by conservatives and cautiously admired by anticommunist liberals. When Chambers died in 1961, National Review devoted an entire issue to eulogizing him. Moreover, Chambers was a true intellectual–(he converted to…

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Reagan’s Probable Response To Obamacare

in Politics by

Already some in the Republican Party have backtracked from de-funding Obamacare to attempting to delay repealing the individual mandate. Sen. Bob Corker last night issued an amendment to bump the timeline for repeal. Sen. Lamar Alexander has urged a gradualist form of repeal. Others, however, Ted Cruz, Eric Cantor, and Rand Paul, and most importantly, Paul Ryan, are attempting president-elect Donald Trump to immediately jettison Obamacare. In this, they are honoring Ronald Reagan’s own arguments against socialized medicine. In a sense, they are being more realistic than their colleagues. For the longer Obamacare stays in place, the more recipients will remain addicted to it. Only by an immediate repeal will people be weaned off of government. In this, they are emulating Ronald Reagan. In a 1961 LP, Reagan eerily gave the same arguments against socialized medicine and the threat it posed to individual liberty. For Reagan, the reality of socialized medicine was the first irreversible step in enslaving America. It had the capacity to spread to other areas of civil…

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Robert Heinlein: Conservative Sci-Fi Author

in Culture by

As a rule, science fiction is rarely written by conservatives. From Harlan Ellison to Margaret Atwood, the genre is dominated by liberals. It is easy to see why this is so. Discouraged by the present, they cope by pining for a leftist Utopia of their own big-government design. The exception, of course, was George Orwell, author of Nineteen Eighty-Four. But Orwell, despite his fervent anti-communist position, attacked communism from the socialist as not radical enough. A more suitable exception would be Robert Heinlein. He was one of the first sci-fi authors to bring the genre into the mainstream. (He wrote for the Saturday Evening Post). His political positions followed the well-trod path of traveling from socialism to a conservative libertarianism. One of his first political expressions was working for the socialist author Upton Sinclair’s 1934 campaign for Governor of California. After the candidate was badly beaten, Heinlein moved toward anti-communism while retaining a vague liberalism.

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McCarthy’s Achilles Heel

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An oft-repeated phrase by liberal anticommunists about Joseph McCarthy, that he may as well have been a KGB agent for all the damage he did to the anticommunist cause, inspired Richard Condon to write his Cold War masterpiece, The Manchurian Candidate, a tale of a Soviet sleeper agent directing her brainless headline-grabbing senator husband to destroy Cold War alliances and thus allow a communist takeover of the country. But McCarthy, for all his inability to substantiate any of his charges–a factor that exasperated defenders like William F. Buckley and repelled conservative heavyweights like Whittaker Chambers from supporting him (Chambers would characterize the senator as “a raven of disaster”)–did not fit the role of Condon’s crocodile-like wife. That honor belongs to Roy Marcus Cohn, added to McCarthy’s staff sixty years ago. Ironically, McCarthy hired this son of a liberal Jewish judge to offset any charges of anti-Semitism, but it would be Cohn, not other staff member Bobby Kennedy, the son of the Hitler-appeasing Joe, who would make even more credible…

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CIA Infiltration Of Student Associations

in History/Politics by

Early on in her work, Karen Paget notes that many on the sixties’ far left misunderstood liberal anticommunism, and hence lumped it in with the Right. Although she does make distinctions between both varieties of anti-communism, she succumbs to sixties’ era views of the CIA as fascist. She treats her portrayal of the CIA penetration of the National Student Association, from 1950 to its outing by Ramparts in 1967 as a “gotcha” moment, where the very existence of said partnership is in and of itself damning. She does acknowledge that liberals had been burned by student unions dominated by secret communists. Perhaps the most famous dupe of all, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1939 championed the American Student Union, a coalition of liberals, socialists, and to her ultimate horror, knee-jerk Stalinists, by sitting behind its president, Joseph Lasch, while he was being grilled by the House Un-American Activities Committee, a group tasked with outing secret communists. But the blanket support by closet communists in the ASU (who swore to…

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The Islamic Ties To Hitler

in History/Politics by

In his last great battle in a lifetime of dust-ups, the late Christopher Hitchens, in the aftermath of Sept. 11th, coined the term “Islamofascists” to describe and denounce the Muslim world. Linking it to 20th-century fascist movements, Hitchens elaborated: “The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. (“Death to the intellect! Long live death!” as Gen. Francisco Franco’s sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined “humiliations” and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to…

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Waving Lists

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Waving lists is as old as the Republic. But when Senator Joseph McCarthy waved his, 66 years ago, it became much more than the usual political gesture. By waving a list he asserted showing 205 communists currently harbored by the Secretary of State, he worsened an already panicky situation, giving the angry public ready-made answers as to why the country was losing the Cold War while helping foster class divisions in the country and dealing anticommunism a blow that it took decades to recover from. When McCarthy spoke to the Ohio County Women’s Republican Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, a compelling argument could be made that the US was losing the Cold War. For by 1950, Joseph Stalin controlled Eastern Europe, invaded Czechoslokia, and, perhaps the most chilling matter of all, had obtained the A-bomb. Citizens were at a loss as to how the most powerful country in the world could be losing the conflict. There was already a perception that the loss was attributed to the government.

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Uncovering Dashiell Hammett

in Culture/History by

With the death of Lillian Hellman in 1984, biographers freed from her threatens of lawsuits and blocked access to primary sources, were finally able to mount a considerable archaeological effort regarding Dashiell Hammett. As a result, they have been able to track down his letters, his screen treatments, and the unpublished stories he wrote or re-wrote or abandoned altogether. With these two collections, The Return of the Thin Man and The Hunter and Other Stories, the well has finally run dry. This begs the question as to whether all this effort was worth it. The immediate answer is yes. As the author of two masterpieces of the detective genre and fiction in general, The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key, Hammett’s other writings merit study. With them, there is a potential for looking at his development toward these works, and what he intended to write in their aftermath. The long range answer is also yes. Intensely private, his life obscured by Lillian Hellman’s mythification, he let behind some mysteries…

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Standing Or Falling: The Owen Lattimore Case

in History by

“I am willing to stand or fall on this one.” So said Senator Joseph McCarthy, 50 years ago, who was already embattled two months into his investigations, which began in February of 1950 when he waved a list numbering–depending on who you wish to believe, McCarthy or his foes–205 or 57 Communists currently employed in the State Department. The case he was willing to risk his career on concerned Professor Owen Lattimore, a self-described China expert. When China fell to the Communists under Mao Tse Tung in 1949, Republicans–and even some Democrats, Senator John F.Kennedy among them–sought to answer the popular question at the time “Who Lost China?” Many found the answer in the State Department, once the haven of the recently convicted Soviet spy Alger Hiss. Lattimore seemed made to order for this accusation. Lattimore blamed the loss of China on Chiang Kai Shek’s corrupt government and that the Chinese Communists were not controlled by Moscow. From this, McCarthy embellished his charges against Lattimore as “the top Russian…

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Allen Weinstein’s Perjury

in History/Politics by

Late President Richard Nixon would call it “gutsy.” Others called it “sisso,” the Finnish word for chutzpah. No matter how it was expressed, they were right about historian Allen Weinstein and his groundbreaking book on the Alger Hiss case published 35 years ago. Today the consensus among scholars is that Hiss was, as two juries proclaimed in 1950, a Soviet spy. But in the 1970s, Hiss was riding high. Watergate allowed him to cast himself as Nixon’s “first victim.” Prior, Nixon had been the Congressional pursuer of Hiss during his testimony before the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). And as Hollywood celebrated old leftists as merely New Dealers while defending the First Amendment, Hiss got both a martyr and a hero status. In the process, he had even managed to convey a personality, a quality even his supporters at times found lacking. During the trials in 1948 through 1950, Hiss came across as evasive and haughty. His post-prison book, the robotically legalistic In the Court of Public Opinion…

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Eugene Genovese: Politics Of History

in History by

Historian Eugene Genovese has been categorized by pundits as following the familiar trajectory of ex-Stalinists who, having repudiated past allegiance, lurch violently to the Right. Pundits point to his speeches at the Conservative Political Action Committee, and his 1994 confessional, explaining how he and his generation defended Stalin’s murderous policies as evidence of the movement’s nature. But even in the heyday of his Stalinist sympathies, Genovese revealed strains that would eventually overwhelm his radicalism while at the same time keeping him with one foot still in the communist camp. Genovese joined the Communist Party at 15, and was a Party youth organizer in the late 40s and early 50s. A time that turned out to be the Party’s lowest ebb until 1989. But even at this early age, he was a maverick; he was kicked out of the Party for refusing to submit to Party discipline.

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In The End, The Truth Prevails

in History/World by

In 1984, a nearly broken Winston Smith told his inner-party torturer O’Brien that despite the government’s control over the truth, it would somehow prevail. This was never more true than in the case of Jan Masaryk, who died on January 2nd, 67 years ago. Stroll down in Czechoslovakia today and there is a statue proclaiming “truth prevails, but it is a chore.” Truer words were never spoken. The statue is of Jan Masaryk, former foreign minister of Czechoslokia from 1940 until its absorption into a Soviet satellite in 1948. The truth of his murder was indeed heavy-going. But even before the statue’s erection, Masaryk’s death was for many a hinge event in disillusionment with the Soviet Union.

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Cold War’s Supreme Court

in History/Law by

Cold War scholar Kai Bird once stated that the ultimate sin of McCarthyism was that it did not take into account context. By this he meant that Joe McCarthy was ignoring the defensible, if wrong-headed reasons people became communists in the Great Depression. After all, capitalism seemed to be failing, the Russian 5 year plan seemed to be an economic success, and fascism, seemingly opposed solely by the Soviet Union, was on the rise. For concerned citizens, it appeared that only the Communists were doing anything to fight Adolf Hitler and the Great Depression. But this plea for context has its limits; particularly when the topic is the domestic Cold War of the early 1950s. For the left today, the second Red Scare was either the result of either or both: America plunging into fascism, or a desire to keep the full employment war economy of World War II going. No matter which argument was adopted — and usually they are conjoined — a conspiracy of right-wing extremists populated…

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The Libertarianism Of Christopher Hitchens

in Philosophy by

Before his death, Christopher Hitchens recoiled from claims by both conservatives and his former comrades on the Left that he had moved rightward because of his support for The War On Terror. Hitchens countered that he still found the Vietcong “heroic,” still found Che Guevera an admirable figure, and still described himself as “a Marxist: “I still think like a Marxist in many ways. I think the materialist conception of history is valid. I consider myself a very conservative Marxist”. He still regarded Lenin and Trotsky “as great men,” examining the foreign policy record of Fidel Castro, he praised the regime for fighting a battle with South Africa. The Bush administration, whose foreign policy he supported, earned his scorn on their domestic policies, which, with its cronyism with monopoly capitalists, he likened to a “banana republic.”

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Algonquin Round Table’s Only Informed Activist

in History by

Members of the Algonquin Round Table considered themselves the most sophisticated thinkers in twenties’ America. Wised up by the tragedy of World War I, in which many members served, they were adepts of mindless leader-worship and self-importance. But by the 1930s several of them succumbed to both idolatry, albeit secular, taking themselves very seriously by becoming committed Stalinists. Dorothy Parker and Donald Ogden Stewart abandoned screwball humor for jokes with a political point and defended every zig and zag of Stalin’s policies, with particular emphasis on supporting his version of the Purge Trials. Not all of the alumni would fall for this line. Herman J. Manckiewiez — Broadway wit and producer of Marx Brothers’ screen comedies, as well as Academy-awarding winning screenwriter of Citizen Kane — would see through communism and political quackery in general, while at the same time exhibiting contradictory traits. Ironic when one considers that he was the most political of the Algonquin group. When the group was navel-watching no further than Broadway, Manckiewiez was denouncing…

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Part Of Our Time

in History by

John Patrick Diggins, a man I consider a mentor, once told me of an encounter he had with liberal journalist Murray Kempton in the 1970s. Kempton knew of Diggins’ work on communists-turned-conservatives. “I see you like to write about people who change their mind,” he said, following up with: “I like to write about people who don’t change their minds.” At the time of the meeting, Kempton had subscribed to “anti-anti-communism,” and readers would expect him to laud communists who stuck to their guns, as he often did. Especially in the case of Stalin suck-up Lillian Hellman. But this was not always so. Sixty years ago, when he sat down to write “Part of Our Time,” a study of American communists during  the 1930s, or their zenith decade, he attacked those who subscribed to the then current view that America was about to be overwhelmed by a fifth-column conspiracy by limiting supporters of Stalin to “a very few.” At the time, he scorned them. Finding them “terribly flawed” for…

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Chinatown Revisited

in Culture by

Upon its release in 1974, Chinatown was billed as “neo-noir.” No one in Paramount publicity bothered to define this term, but the implications are that, in light of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, it was a more wised-up version of the genre that begat The Big Sleep and Maltese Falcon. This was totally unnecessary, even conceited. Noir, of the written variety, was born out of an equally disillusioned period, post World War I. The preceding era had promised so much—a war to end all wars, worlds made safe for democracy, utopia, harnessed to government management by intellectuals, was just around the corner. What was delivered was a war that wiped out a whole generation of young males (war widows was just one of the terms, along with shell shock and wrist-watch, created by World War I), imperialistic land grabs by the victorious parties at Versailles, smouldering revenge in Germany, and vicious dictatorship emerging in Russia. In America, the country least affected by the war, the after-shocks were no less…

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The Anti-Communist In The Closet

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Of all the literary critics, Leslie Fiedler might be the one with the most labels attached to him. He has been portrayed as a post-modernist (on the strength of him being the first to utter the word); as a Queer Theorists–his 1948 breakthrough essay–“Come Back To The Raft A’gin Huck Honey”–argued that the relationship between Huck Finn and “Nigger” Jim was homoerotic as were many male bonding relationships in American literature; a New Leftist, despite his age–he was in his 50s during the 1960s– based on police raiding his house and finding marijuana, and his view of Vietnam as the latest instance of America destroying non-whites, traceable all the way back to America’s founding. But the real Fiedler did not fit any of these labels. Despite his joining the Young Communist League while in college during the 1930s, he was a trenchant critic of old shoe Stalinism. He found the Old Left condescending” to “the working class,” its literature, classified as proletarian, as worthless, and its predictions that capitalism…

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Suzanne La Follette: Libertarian Feminist

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Every March, celebrators of Women’s History Month trot out all the usual names to be praised for their iconoclasm: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinham, Hillary Clinton. But forgotten in this old medley is one who was every bit as feminist. Consider the career of the never-celebrated Susan La Follette. She had the same swashbuckling iconoclasm that Gloria Stenhem is celebrated for: she was an author of one of the first books to examine feminism from an economic perspective, an editor on an all-male magazine, and a member of the feminist group The League of Equal Opportunity. Like other feminists, she was pro-Choice, viewed marriage as a form of slavery for women, and praised unwed mothers as the ultimate gesture against male domination.

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Goldwater On Homosexuality

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In his excellent book on the 1964 Presidential campaign, Rick Perlstein located what we today call social conservatism with candidate Barry Goldwater. Bemoaning the “slipping away” of “traditional values of individual responsibility,” and the rising “moral decay,” Goldwater, at first glance, would seem to have supported the Defense of Marriage Act were he alive today. But Goldwater was also a fervent libertarian, and this superseded all else; during the campaign, he only gave one speech about moral decay, while every other one concerned the threat big government as personified by LBJ posed to individual liberty: “Do you want a President who will twist arms, manipulate power, and take more and more control over your lives…You want no worries? He’ll worry for you. Relax and don’t worry. The great leader and his curious crew will do for you all those things you find unpleasant to for yourselves. And all he asks if that you give him more and more power over your lives. More and more without end…Put all the…

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Jack London: When Socialism Was Racist

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It is difficult to recall in our era of Bernie Saunders that once upon a time socialism was macho, even racist. Writer Jack London, born 140 years ago this week, typified what would today be condemned by leftists as “political incorrectness.” Economically, London would have been more palatable to today’s left. He championed workers’ rights, even their right to overthrow what he saw as corruption powered by representative government. Instead, he favored “people power,” in which the worker class, having overthrown representative government, abolished such things as child labor, class exploitation, and war for profits. London made these hopes known in his novel of class warfare, the dystopian Iron Heel (1908). Called by George Orwell the best prediction of fascism in political literature, this novel depicted the rise of an oligarchy composed of robber barons, who, threatened by the rise of socialism in Europe and a budding labor movement at home, take over the government. To ensure their power they reduce farmers down to serf level and destroy small…

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How Would Reagan Have Responded To Putin

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There are many reasons to wish Ronald Reagan was still President. We would need him to combat government intrusion into every area of our life, including healthcare and our privacy; to steer us out of a mindless foreign policy and call to account a complacent media. Now we can add to our nostalgic wishes how he would’ve countered Vladmir Putin’s rebuke to America for considering itself “exceptional.” We are certainly not getting a principled rebuttal from our current President, who’s previous mention of American exceptionalism was that all countries consider themselves “exceptional,” which is the same as saying none of them are. But consider if Reagan were alive. He would certainly correct the definition of our exceptionalism presented by a former KGB agent whose op-ed appeared in the king of the mainstream media, the New York Times.

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The Anti-Semitism Of Joe Sobran

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When William F. Buckley launched National Review, he announced as his goal the purging of the Right from its anti-semitic elements. Indeed, before 1955, the conservative movement was marred by those who called themselves anticommunists but were in reality fascist sympathizers such as radio priest Father Coughlin and Huey Long protege and member of the Silver Shirts (an American movement modeled on the Nazis) Gerald L.K Smith. Buckley’s refusal to grant these elements a platform held fast until Joseph Sobran joined the magazine in 1972. Sobran, a former Shakespeare lecturer at Eastern Michigan University, would stay 21 years with the magazine, 18 as senior editor. He was able to more or less keep his controversial sentiments under wraps until 1993. In a number of columns which Buckley would upbraid in his editorials in the magazine, Sobran attacked Israel as a “tiny, faraway, socialist ethnocracy,” and worse, “a treacherous and costly ‘ally’ of the United States”, whose support by America would eventually result in 9-11.

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John Milius: Swashbuckling Conservative

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John Milius is less well known today than his contemporaries Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. He’s only noticed when conservatives require a public face for the NRA or need an example of how right-wingers are blacklisted in Hollywood (Milius hasn’t worked steady since the 1990s). But once upon a time Milius was the hottest screenwriter in 1970s Hollywood. He penned the first two Dirty Harry films (1971 and 1974), and Apocalypse Now (1979), which earned him an Academy Award nomination. Moreover, he has created phrases that are part of our cultural history, such as Dirty Harry’s “Do you feel lucky, punk?” and “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Called by Spielberg the “best storyteller” of his group, he has also been the go-to writer for many directors; when Spielberg was stymied on how to begin and end Saving Private Ryan, it was Milius who suggested the older Ryan visiting the grave of the soldier who saved him. In interviews, Milius comes off every bit as colorful…

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Trumbo Review

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In conjunction with the release of Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston as the blacklisted screenwriter, Grand Central Publishing is re-releasing Bruce Cook’s 1977 biography of him. With this as the source material, it is understandable that the film was such a whitewash. Cook helpfully alerts the reader to his bias early on. He announces himself as an “advocate” for Trumbo. The set-up of the book, based on interviews from those who knew Trumbo, ranging from his wife to his comrades in the Party to such fellow travelers as Nation editor Cary McWilliams, is rigged for such advocacy. There are no opposite views from those such as Ronald Reagan who went head to head with Trumbo during the fight for communist control of a Hollywood Union in 1946; Reagan recalled Trumbo defending the Soviet constitution as more democratic than the American one. Cook tiptoes so much around Trumbo that the screenwriter has to bring up the question of his Communist membership. He accepts en masse Trumbo’s explanation for joining in 1943,…

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Congress Of Cultural Freedom

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Nearly 70 years ago, a breed of Democrat sadly lacking in today’s lineup with the quasi-socialist Barack Obama on one side and the admitted socialist Bernie Saunders on the other, formed an uncompromising anti-communist organization called The Congress of Cultural Freedom. Unlike today’s era of NSA intrusions into privacy, in which Nancy Pelosi declared that Americans supported the curtailing of civil liberties in exchange of being “protected” by government surveillance programs, this organization had a civil liberties, even libertarian bent. One of it founders, Arthur Schlesinger Jr, attacked Communism as a totalitarian government which made the individual “the creature of the state;” he also attacked Lenin from a libertarian angle denouncing the Bolshevik leader for exposing “Marxist socialism to the play of…influences which divested it of its libertarian elements.” Although peopled with conservatives, the actual makeup of the organization was liberal, even socialist. Against those like Schlesinger Jr. who never bought into communism, many were burned by it and brought their knowledge of how it works into the organization,…

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Philip K. Dick: Conservative?

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Science Fiction writer Philip K. Dick is suddenly fashionable again. I say suddenly because in the past his works have been a favorite source material for filmmakers. In 1982, his short story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was the basis for the cult classic Blade Runner. At the turn of the century, Steven Spielberg adapted Minority Report (2003) into a film starring Tom Cruise. Both movies expressed a political theme; the world of Blade Runner was an environmentalist nightmare, with pollution literally clinging to citizens’ clothes. With Minority Report, Spielberg used the police unit tasked with jailing those who merely thought about committing a crime as a means to criticize then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s policy toward suspected terrorists. Last year, Amazon Prime adapted his Hugo-Award-winning novel, The Man in the High Castle, an alternative history tale of the Nazis and Imperial Japan winning World War II and carving up America. It proved popular enough to warrant a second season, which will air on December 16. Despite this set-up…

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Warren Commission Revisited

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Historians have argued that an event should be studied fifty years after the fact. Only then can it be looked at objectively, as all the evidence should have come in, and those with an axe to grind have died off. At fifty-two years, the Warren Commission looms less large today than it did in 1964. Much of this has to do with Sept. 11th supplanting the Kennedy assassination as the event that provokes among the populace the question “where were you when.” Those who have attacked the Warren Commission back when it was noticed have split into two camps. Both agree it was a snow job but the motives they assign to it differ. For the Oliver Stone crowd, it was the propaganda arm of the military-industrial complex that murdered the “‘dovish” Kennedy. For the more reasonable of this school of thought, they argue that the Commission only pursued that Oswald did it alone to steer the citizenry away from believing it was a communist plot, and thus thwart…

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Grenada Revisted

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In the film Heartbreak Ridge (1985), Clint Eastwood’s grizzled Marine, a bloodied veteran of Korea and Vietnam, laments that the America’s scorecard has the former a “tie,” the latter “a loss.” He is determined to make the next one a “victory.” And he is soon provided the opportunity to fulfill this promise when his unit goes into Grenada and liberates the captive Americans there. Conservatives at the time celebrated the invasion, carried out thirty-three years ago this week, but eschewed any views that a victory was the rationale. But this was the standard liberal line. A good example was the New York Times, which editorialized that this action resulted in America losing “the moral high ground” (but many liberals had proclaimed it already lost by Vietnam). In their terms, Grenada was “a reverberating demonstration to the world that America has no more respect for laws and borders, for the codes of civilization, than the Soviet Union.” But more was involved than just winning the Cold War sweepstakes. Today evidence…

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Sell Outs

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Seventy one years ago, FDR bequeathed to presidency-hungry Republicans a campaign issue, courtesy of the Yalta conference. The conservative argument about this wartime meeting ranged from FDR being sick and taken advantage of by a robust, manipulative Stalin; or that FDR’s secession of Eastern Europe to the Soviet dictator was further proof of the president’s pro-communist sympathies. Liberals in the bourgeoning Cold War countered that there was little the Americans could do about Eastern Europe short of a war with the largest land army on earth. They also stated that it was the Russians who did not live up to their agreement to hold democratic elections. A new book by conservative author M. Stanton Evans and former counterintelligence expert Herbert Romerstein adopts the “Roosevelt was sick” argument while at the same time highlighting the pro-communist sympathies of those New Deal officials hovering around him. In their view, it was not only Stalin that took advantage of Roosevelt’s declining mental capacities, but Americans.

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William Colby: “Liberal” CIA Director

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Since the 1974-75 Church Committee investigations into CIA illegality. the image of the Agency has wavered between inept bunglers or hyper-secretive fanatics operating as a shadow government. (Usually these perceptions are divisible by age. The former is attributed to the young who chastised the Agency for not preventing 9-11; the latter, composed of the 60s’ Left who blame the CIA for everything from the Kennedy assassination to the crisis in the Ukraine). Certainly there is some credence in both. The Agency’s assassination tools to kill Castro–exploding cigars, beard-destroying drugs, toxic wet suits–were the last word in musical comedy. At times, the CIA has acted as a “state within a state,,” hiding its CIA-Mafia plots against Castro from Congressional Oversight committees (i.e Allen Dulles didn’t even mention these to his fellow Warren Commission members) and having a tendency to “lose” requested files from Congress. But the CIA director at the time of the hearings William Egan Colby, born ninety years ago, always defied these categorizations. His Operation Phoenix, a CIA…

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Orwell And Hitler

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Throughout his life, George Orwell was labeled a fascist by the Communist Left. Reviewing 1984, Harry Politt, head of the British Communist Party, characterized Winston Smith as a Nazi, based on his willingness when asked by O’Brian, who was masquerading as a rebel against Big Brother, if he would murder a child for the revolution. Today, leftist critics have continued this accusation. Of particular importance to their indictment was Orwell”s “list,” which he gathered during the war privately as to who he believed would act as a quisling should the Soviets invade Great Britain. In 1949, he turned said list over to British intelligence. Alexander Cockburn, writing in the Nation, offered this as proof that Orwell was a budding McCarthyite, waving his own red-baiting list, as did the Senator, and acting as a government snoop.

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