[This is Chapter 17 of Murphey's book Liberalism in Contemporary America.]


Liberalism and Anti-Communism 

During the twentieth century, civilization has been threatened by two major totalitarian ideologies. One was defeated rather quickly in a World War and is remembered with universal loathing. The other, despite suffering a great many "shocks," mostly self-inflicted, continued for many years before starting to crumble. For seventy years it expanded vis a vis the non-Communist world. As this is written in 1991, it is still foolhardy to speak of Communism as having fully collapsed, since among other things Soviet power continues to exist and Communism still oppresses China. Whatever becomes of it, its rapid expansion was a major fact of the twentieth century. The relationship of modern American liberalism to that expansion is an important chapter in any review of liberal intellectual history.

In face of this expansion, it might have been been expected that all of the non-Communist world would have come together in a common cause against the common enemy. Nothing would have been more natural or more justifiable. According to this expectation, the non-Communist governments and peoples, despite the diversity that otherwise separated them, will have had one thing at least in common: their mutual antagonism to Communism as a totalitarian ideology.

It is essential for our analysis to recognize the validity and importance of anti-Communism. A study of the relationship of modern liberalism to anti-Communism is significant only to the extent that anti-Communism was important. And to anyone who equally opposed brutal totalitarian systems of all types, an antagonism to Communism was every bit as important and valid as opposing Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s. It was both a civilizational necessity and a moral imperative.

From our review of the history of liberal thought, we would have to say that between 1917, the year of the Bolshevik Revolution, and approximately 1947, a period of thirty years, the main thrust of modern liberal thought, certainly as evidenced in The New Republic and The Nation, was not anti-Communist at all. Nor was it tolerant toward those who were. The liberal intellectual culture during those years overwhelmingly attacked any sort of anti-Communist as a "Red baiter."

There were inevitably individual exceptions, although during those years they did not substantially influence the tone and content of liberal discourse. We know, too, that in the late 1930s and early 1940s the Soviet purges, the persecution of Trotsky, the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the joint Nazi-Soviet attack on Poland, and the Soviet invasions of Finland and of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania sent many former Communists and fellow-travelers reeling. Some then became strongly and permanently anti-Communist. Although shaken, the main liberal intellectual culture found it possible, however, to renew its emotional bond with the Soviet Union when World War II rehabilitated the Soviet image.

It is one thing, of course, to speak of the liberal intellectual culture; it is another to refer to the many other elements within the "Democratic" or "liberal" coalitions, which were themselves identified with liberalism as a political movement. My subject in this book is liberal thought, and so my focus is upon the intellectual culture, not upon all aspects of the broad political movement. The generalization I have made about the intellectual culture does not describe, for example, the great majority of Democrats. No one, for example, took more abuse for precisely their anti-Communism than the successive Democratic Congressmen, including such a man as Martin Dies of Texas, who for several years headed the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Since World War II, the picture with regard to the intellectual culture has been considerably more complex. There have been a great many more liberal thinkers who have felt themselves distinctly separated from Communism. I have in mind such a figure as Sidney Hook, who though a declared socialist was also an articulate enemy of Communism. The Americans for Democratic Action was founded immediately following the war for the express purpose of opposing any further United Front with Communists. (We have seen that this principle was abandoned, though, during the period of the New Left in the 1960's. And we have also seen that non-Communist leftists in several of the revolutions around the world have received liberal sympathy despite their failure to maintain a distinct separation from Communists.)

What I seek, however, is a generalization about the intellectual culture's main thrust during the forty years after World War II. During those years, liberal thought argued for what it called a "more intelligent" form of anti-Communism. As we have seen, it argued that Communism could be tamed and preempted only by a world composed mainly of neutralist and of either democratic-socialist or independently Communist states. This worldview put the liberal intellectual culture into a sympathetic relationship with all parts of the world Left except a narrowly defined Soviet bloc. Since much of the world socialist movement was willing to collaborate with Communists and the true "independence" of any given Communist regime was necessarily questionable, the "anti-Communism" of the liberal intellectual culture after World War II was obscured by the ambiguity within the world Left itself.

At the same time, the liberal intellectual culture considered any form of anti-Communism that did not embrace the world Left misguided and even vicious. Liberals argued that any "reactionary" form of anti-Communism would be counter-productive, in that it would only alienate the Fidel Castros and Indira Gandhis of the world -- i.e., the "independent Communists" and "neutralists." Moreover, it felt that such an anti-Communism would be worse than Communism itself. We have already examined the attitudes that downplayed the problem of Communism and treated it as virtually non-existent. To anyone holding such a perspective, the real problems in the world came from the many non-Communist regimes that are "venal, corrupt and repressive," or that were at the very least "unjust." The result was that the emotions of the liberal intellectual culture became most heated not toward Communism, but toward anti-Communists and a good many non-Communist governments.

If, then, we compare the period of 1917-1947 with the four decades that followed, we find: (a) that both periods shared a consistent anti-anti-Communism; and (b) that so far as its own position vis a vis Communism was concerned, the liberal intellectual culture during the later period moved only incrementally to the right. It remained on the far Left, disassociating itself only from what had become most disreputable.

The intellectual culture's attitudes impacted profoundly on the other elements of the liberal coalition. Most liberal political leaders, such as Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey and Henry Jackson, shared the country's general anti-Communism. And yet this should not obscure the effect that the ambivalence that was interjected by the intellectual culture had upon American politicians in general, and especially upon liberal politicians. Even though the United States occupied an historic role as the principal defender of the free world against Communism, the "anti-Communism" that was manifested by its government and by liberalism as a political and popular movement was during most of the post-World War II period apologetic and half-hearted. We saw tragic evidence of that fact with regard to one world situation after another in the chapter on "Liberalism and a World in Revolution."

Specific aspects of the relation to anti-Communism

1. The downplaying of Communism, while virtually all anti-Communists were subjected to unmitigated attack.

An attitude that ran through the literature for many years was that Communism was not a significant problem, but was an exaggerated "Red bogey" conjured up by those who were hysterical and over-reactive. This downplaying of Communism was accompanied by an attack against almost all anti-Communism.

That this attack was so continuing and widespread tells us something extremely important: that it had very little to do with the alleged clumsiness or insensitivity of any particular anti-Communist. This is true even though in each instance the attack took the form of a criticism of the specific type of anti-Communism. It is a mistake to think that the liberal intellectual culture objected only to sorts of anti-Communism that were "unfair" or "unfounded" or "abusive." The attack was so general that every form of anti-Communism was subjected to it. In this chapter I can't try to cite the instances exhaustively, but I hope to give enough examples to illustrate the long-term, impersonal nature of the liberal intellectual culture's anti-anti-Communist position. The examples will also show that the attack on anti-Communists was equally violent during the periods both before and after World War II -- with the exception that there were fewer such attacks after the mid-1950s precisely for the reason that anti-Communism itself has largely been silenced.

. A New Republic article in 1928 denounced "professional patriots," who were said to have had "anti-Russian prejudices." In 1929, an editorial chided school authorities for opposing the formation of a Young Pioneer [Communist] group in a high school.1

. In May 1930, an editorial spoke of "the good old Red bogey" and called anti-Communism "witch-hunting." Later that year, an article by Conrad Seiler entitled "The Redmongers Go West" attacked the committee headed by Congressman Hamilton Fish that was investigating Communist activities in Los Angeles.2

. In early 1933, at the very time when thousands of Communist Party members poured into Ukrainian villages to enforce Stalin's decision to starve several million peasants to death, an unsigned review in The New Republic attacked a book by Dr. William I. Robinson for its "truculent" criticisms of the U.S.S.R.3

. In 1935, a New Republic editorial attacked the trial of eighteen radicals in Sacramento under a criminal syndicalism statute. "The real crime of these eighteen defendants is not being Communists -- which they are -- but fighting for decent wages and working conditions." An article by Ethel Thornbury in June of that year called the members of a Wisconsin state senate committee "witch hunters" for investigating Communism at the University of Wisconsin. Then in August, the editors wrote about "Red baiting in the A.F. of L.," arguing that Communists should not be excluded from unions.4   

In 1937, an editorial spoke of "a Red-baiting session of Fordham University alumni." In 1938, the editors wrote that "witch-hunting has no place in the progressive labor movement."5

. In 1939, the editors urged readers to send money to The New Masses. They said that "a real fight for the freedom of the press is going on down at the offices of The New Masses, the only national Communist weekly... Well-to-do America is letting The New Masses starve, by not advertising in it, not buying it and not mentioning it."6

. Also in 1939, an editorial charged that "the Dies Committee has been trying to smear the American Youth Congress as a Communist group."  [Notwithstanding their charge of "smear," an editorial in July 1940 reported that "the convention of the Youth Congress was dominated by Communists as previous ones have been."]7

. In 1941, Bruce Bliven reviewed Eugene Lyons' The Red Decade, attacking Lyons for his "heavy-handed ruthlessness... His fanaticism like theirs, only turned inside out."8

. In 1942, the editors wrote of "the irresponsibility of the Dies Committee" and said "Go away, Mr. Dies; go away."9

. In 1943, they complained that "Robert Morss Lovett has at last resigned his post in the Virgin Islands," saying that "Dr. Lovett has been hounded from office by a small group of witch-hunters in Congress... They falsely charge him with being a Communist." Significantly, they added: "Even if the charge were true...."10

. In 1944, an editorial said that Congressman "Dies has never understood the principles of fair play... We hope... that Congress will put his committee [in]... the ash can."11

. In 1945, a New Republic review attacked a book by William Henry Chamberlin, which the review said "largely devotes itself to belaboring Soviet Russia." A review by Harvey J. Bresler said that Alexander Barmine "claims a special competence for his hatchet-job on the Soviet Union by virtue of his career as Red Army officer, industrial leader and diplomat."12

. In 1946, F. L. Schuman wrote this about Victor Kravchenko's I Chose Freedom: "Take one Soviet renegade. Mix with several professional Russophobes. Stir well... The latest spicy dish from the Red-baiters' kitchen purports to be an autobiography of Victor Kravchenko, industrial engineer and Red Army captain, who fled... on April 4, 1944."13

. In 1947, an editorial called it "anti-Red hysteria" when Secretary of State George Marshall fired ten State Department employees. That same year, Bruce Bliven wrote of "many liberals and progressives everywhere terrorized into silence, with witch hunts...." Henry Wallace wrote that "the American imperialists who masguerade as defenders of American democracy against the Red menace... are interested in extending... the area of human exploitation."14

. After Congressman Martin Dies retired, Henry Wallace attacked his successors in 1947, speaking of "the intimidating tactics of Thomas, Rankin and the House Un-American Activities Committee."15

            . In 1948, Daniel S. Gillmor said that 125 government employees were fired between 1942 and 1947 for disloyalty. This, he argued, was a case of "guilt by association." A week later, an editorial charged the Truman administration with "guilt by association" when Attorney General Tom Clark listed thirty-two organizations as subversive. Also in 1948, a New Republic editorial charged the New York City Board of Education with "bigotry and hysteria" for "attempting to bar from the teaching profession in New York known Communists or suspected Communists."16
2. The crushing of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

            It should be noted that everything that I have just cited occurred before Senator Joseph McCarthy began his crusade against Communists in government in February 1950. Everything that was eventually said about Senator McCarthy had already been charged against countless other anti-Communists.

   This record necessarily places Senator McCarthy's career and character in a different light than his current infamy dictates. The record I have just traced shows that Senator McCarthy would be painted in the blackest terms regardless of the merits of his case or the validity of his methods. In 1938, J. B. Matthews published Odyssey of a Fellow Traveler where he told of his own movement to anti-Communism after for several years being a leading figure in Communist "front" organizations. What he said in 1938 fully fits Senator McCarthy's case twelve years later: "Any critic of Communism who hopes to escape the charge of red-baiting by holding his criticisms rigidly within the bounds of fact and good temper is simply deluding himself... Any criticism of communists is, per se, red-baiting."

This caution is important for any scholar now or in the future who wants to make an objective evaluation of Senator McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade. Such an historian will have to set aside all preconceptions based on the Senator's present reputation. From my own study, I believe that four main conclusions follow from an objective analysis:

. First, that, contrary to accepted opinion today, Senator McCarthy's "methods" were, with only minor exceptions, legitimate, and were the same as those that liberals themselves had long favored in the investigation of other subjects.  [Note in 2001: In fact, compare the methods and atmosphere of the 1980s Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians that recommended “reparations” to Japanese-Americans who were relocated from the West Coast during World War II.  Its hearings, which had all the trappings of a kangaroo court, were applauded by the American Left .]

. Second, that his personal style had both good and bad aspects. He was an articulate, militant slugger, consistently with having been a Marine and prize fighter. His appearance and demeanor were gruff (which was played upon unmercifully by the cartoonist Herblock, who always pictured him with a heavy five-o'clock shadow). These things were objectionable to people who especially valued (or claimed to value, since such sensibilities seem to come and go as needed) gentility -- which is, after all, properly to be valued. On the other hand, he needed every bit of his prize-fighter temperament if he were to champion the anti-Communist cause. Such an effort would have to challenge the Left's illusions about Communism -- a superhuman task. And it would need to articulate anti-Communism as a moral issue – as something outrageous--, so that Communism would come to be seen in the same light as Nazism. In doing these things, McCarthy was going against an enormous force. It meant facing all the abuse that the liberal intellectual culture would inevitably muster. The abuse eventually dispirited and killed him. But until it did, he fought a harder fight than anyone had before or has since.

. Third, that the cause he championed was of the utmost validity and importance. When Senator McCarthy raised the issue of Communism as a moral imperative and insisted that it was not to be evaded through illusion or a desire to enjoy the comfort of a false moderation born out of blindness and insensitivity, he spoke for hundreds of millions who no longer had a voice to speak for themselves. His enemies, on the other hand, arose from two main sources. The first consisted of those who clung to or wished not to acknowledge the illusions of the Left. The second were a breed that was all-too-common in twentieth century America: the millions who congratulated themselves on their sophistication while finding it personally and politically comfortable to evade moral judgments about Communism.

The five years immediately prior to 1950 had been witness to a fact of the greatest significance: 600 million new victims had fallen under Communist dictatorship. Stalin was still in power and, shielded by the silence of the world intellectual culture, held millions as slaves in his concentration camps -- the Gulags that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn told us about years later after he himself had served several years in them. These facts are essential to an adequate perspective of Senator McCarthy's crusade. It is important, too, that we recognize something that I have never seen commented upon: that the terrible years of the New Left, which were soon to follow, demonstrated the enormous power of Leftist subversion in the United States. From all these things, we can conclude that, whatever we may think about Joseph R. McCarthy's gentility, he was vastly superior to his detractors both in insight and moral sensibility.

This is especially true in light of the hypocrisy of such a man as Michael Straight, who during the entire McCarthy episode was the editor of The New Republic. During those years in which his journal poured venom on McCarthy for allegedly "smearing" liberals with a Communist label, Straight knew the secret that didn't become public until 1981 -- that Straight had for several years been a member of the Communist espionage ring that included Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt. Straight's own confession of the relationship came in his 1983 book After Long Silence. He said there that his last meeting with Burgess had been in 1949 -- long after the Hitler-Stalin Pact and just months before McCarthy began his attacks on Communism. His book is full of self-serving rationalization, but he saw his way clear to make one statement that is directly pertinent to our consideration of the McCarthy era. He wrote that "my fear and sense of guilt were secret, shared by no one. At the same time, as editor of The New Republic, I had to share my thoughts and my feelings week after week on the allegations of espionage that were surfacing and on the larger issues they raised."17

. Fourth, that it is impossible to credit the notion that McCarthy was an insincere, self-serving demagogue. The only way that we can interpret his actions as fundamentally self-serving is if we presume that he was pathologically masochistic. Although he knew that he had the support of many Americans, he also knew that everything he said or did would bring down upon him an avalanche of vituperation. In any discussion of his personal character, he should be credited with enormous courage and a willingness to subject himself to unremitting attack. It will serve as a litmus test for the detachment and courage of future historians to see what they say about his character.

3. McCarthy's defeat was a major victory for the Left and marked the silencing of articulate anti-Communism.

When Senator McCarthy was effectively discredited all possibility of an articulate anti-Communism was crushed with him. The silencing of anti-Communism was the American Left's greatest victory. For thirty years after the mid-1950s, anyone who saw Communism as a moral issue was per se considered a bigot, not just by the intellectual culture but by the society at large. The result was that public figures were not willing to cast the issues in that light. This is why Presidents Johnson and Nixon didn't articulate an anti-Communist rationale for the Vietnam War. It is why Jane Fonda remained a popular actress in the United States despite her trip to Hanoi while American soldiers were dying on the battlefield. It is why the liberation of Grenada had to be justified on other grounds than anti-Communism, even by the Reagan administration.

Not only was anti-Communism silenced as a conscious force; the attack upon it, which was waged for several decades and which came to a head in the crushing of Senator McCarthy, served yet another vitally important function for American liberalism. It obliterated American consciousness of the intimate connection that had existed between the liberal intellectual culture and Soviet Communism during the three decades prior to 1947, a connection that, if it had been fully comprehended in the context of the Cold War following World War II, would have been thoroughly discreditable to liberalism.

Liberal authors had for many years charged that conservatives raised the issue of Communism to taint liberalism with it. TRB expressed a common theme in 1939 when he wrote that "the danger in the tactics of the Red hunt remains, as always, that the smear will be spread to anyone with the least progressive or liberal leanings."18

Significantly, there is more to this than meets the eye:  In the first place, the charge that conservatives sought to smear liberals with a Communist taint imputes something to conservatives that was far from their actual intent. Most of the time, conservatives bent over backwards to qualify what they said. They took great pains precisely to distinguish between Communism and liberalism. They did this both because they were aware of what they themselves thought was a vital difference and because they knew that they would be severely criticized if they did not make the distinction.

The second aspect is somewhat startling. It is that, in light of the record of the liberal intellectual culture between 1917 and 1947, conservatives would have been more accurate if, instead of avoiding the imputation of a connection between Communism and liberal thought, they had spoken quite candidly about just how great and widespread the infatuation had been. "Liberalism" as a domestic agenda in American politics had clearly been distinguishable from Communism, but the attitudes of the liberal intellectual culture had not been.

Conservatives' own anxiety not to overstep acceptable bounds caused them for the most part to join in a vitally significant obfuscation of ideological reality. One of the illusions the American people have lived under for many years has been a failure to have any conscious, articulated understanding of just how far left the liberal intellectual culture has been. That culture was pro-Communist before 1947, and was, as we have seen, only slightly to the right of Soviet Communism during the four decades thereafter. It has been a fact of the utmost significance that on a great many foreign policy issues there has been something of a perpetual "fifth column" within the United States. This has caused a seriously divided public opinion and half-paralyzed the United States' response to Communist expansion. And yet, as true and as important as these conclusions are, they have been "off limits" in our political discourse. The result, as in so many other areas, is a failure to grasp reality.

4. Anti-anti-Communism reflected the liberal critique of American culture.

As seen by the liberal intellectual culture, anti-Communism manifested the very same "petty bourgeois" social characteristics that liberal social critics had so long deplored as coming from "ignoramuses" and "Babbitts." To understand this fully, we need to recall the earlier chapter on "Liberalism and American Culture."

The continuing attack upon anti-Communists and eventually on "McCarthyism" was an extension of the attack upon American culture that had been waged in the generation of Harold Stearns and Randolph Bourne. This stood out clearly in TRB's comment in May 1950 that "'McCarthyism' really represents the revolt of the 'frustrated primitives' against the 'intellectuals' in the complexities of foreign affairs...."19

5. The continuation of the anti-anti-Communist posture since 1954.

Since the defeat of Senator McCarthy, there was much less articulate anti-Communism for the Left to oppose. But the pressure against any active anti-Communism remained the same in the few instances that arose:

. In 1956, The New Republic's Gerald W. Johnson praised Arthur Miller for having "refused to betray his friends" by identifying who had attended Communist meetings with him in 1947.  It is significant that this had to do with meetings in 1947. That was a decade after the Soviet purges and eight years after the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Only the really "hard" people retained a direct affiliation with Communism after the late 1930s.  In the passage just quoted, Johnson was treating Communist meetings in 1947 as though they were interchangeable with what liberalism has generally argued was the "excusable naivete and idealism of the pre-purge and pre-Pact period." Thus, he showed a readiness to defend the Communist Left even when there was no such "excuse."20

. In August 1957, a New Republic editorial observed the thirtieth anniversary of the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti. It said that "almost no one believes any more that Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty." It said that "they were victims in part of the anti-radical hysteria after World War I."21

. In 1961, TRB wrote that "the witch-hunters are riding again: Eastland's Internal Security Committee demands the names of all members of the 'Fair Play for Cuba Committee.'"  [Two years later, Lee Harvey Oswald, active in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, assassinated John F. Kennedy.]22

. In 1966, TRB wrote that "the House Un-American Activities Committee is out to smear the whole [New Leftist] protest movement with a red brush. Philip Abbot Luce... is the Golden Boy of changecoats."23

6. A double standard about investigations.

Liberal writing has condemned all Congressional and state legislative investigations of Communism over a span of many decades. This stands in stark contrast to the support that liberals have given to Congressional investigations into the Teapot Dome scandal, the munitions industry in 1935, the use of labor spies, the utility industry, Watergate and Iran-Contra.

We have seen how in 1930 Congressman Hamilton Fish was called a "Redmonger" for investigating Communist activity in Los Angeles. In January 1931, The New Republic accused his committee of "witch hunting activities." In 1934, an editorial charged that "California is engaging in an anti-Red campaign worthy of the worst days of Palmerism just after the great war." We have seen, too, how the Dies Committee was attacked in the late 1930s for its "Red-baiting" and for "slandering all sorts of innocent citizens without the slightest respect for truth or the ordinary amenities." Then in the late 1940s the House Committee on Un-American Activities was attacked for its "intimidating tactics" and for "depriving men of their good names." In 1948, a New Republic editorial referred to "the Hiss-Chambers circus," which it considered "gaudy." This was followed in the early 1950s by the hostility poured onto Senator Joseph McCarthy. Later, TRB called Senator James Eastland a "witch-hunter" for inquiring into the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. And in 1966, TRB charged that "HUAC is out to smear the whole protest movement...."24

All of this should be compared with The New Republic's attitude about investigations into other subjects.  An unsigned article in 1924 about the Teapot Dome investigation said that "the most shocking aspect... is the attitude displayed toward the revelations by a large part of the press. All their indignation is saved for the mistakes and frailties of the investigators...." An editorial a month later said that "we wish Judge Gary or anyone else would give us the name of a single honest man whose reputation has been ruined by any of the current investigations...  We admit that the work of the Senate Committee has not been in all points perfect; Washington is not the place in which to expect either perfection or an utter absence of political partisanship."25

In early 1935, The New Republic declared that "no Senatorial committee has ever performed a more useful public work than the one investigating the munitions business." In 1937, an editorial attacked those who opposed a Congressional investigation into the use of labor spies.26

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has told about Senator (later Supreme Court Justice) Black's investigation of utility companies in 1936. "The methods employed by Black... underwent much criticism then and later. Certainly his was no model of fair and impartial investigation. He was criticized most for his use of subpoenas duces tecum -- dragnet subpoenas... In response, Black contended persuasively that he was 'proceeding in exactly the same line of policy and under the same type of proceedings' that had characterized every investigating committee since 1792... Nor did Black often permit his witnesses to amplify their answers when they deemed 'yes' or 'no' inadequate or misleading." Schlesinger defended Black, arguing that an important distinction is that he inquired into actions, not into "opinions."27

7. Liberal intellectuals who repudiated the far Left.

A large number of prominent intellectuals who during the 1920s and 1930s were deeply infatuated with the Soviet Union moved rightward on an individual basis, becoming staunchly anti-Communist. Many of these eventually became the intellectual core of the group that, led by William F. Buckley, Jr. (who of course had himself never been on the Left), founded National Review magazine. In the next section, we will see that liberal writing severely attacked the great majority of those who repudiated Communism and who then articulated an anti-Communist position.

.  John Dos Passos. In 193l, Granville Hicks wrote that "Dos Passos is a radical" and referred to "his communistic theories." Dos Passos enjoyed a close association with The New Republic until 1934. He told of his later repudiation of Communism in his book The Fourteenth Chronicle. A major factor in his change was the Communists' execution of a friend during the Spanish Civil War.28

. J. B. Matthews. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., tells us that Matthews was the first chairman of the American League against War and Fascism, which Schlesinger calls "probably the most successful of the Communist fronts." Matthews wrote in his book Odyssey of a Fellow Traveler that he was introduced to radicalism through the Social Gospel and became a member of the Socialist Party before becoming a full-fledged "fellow traveler" in 1932 after returning from his fifth visit to the Soviet Union. In the mid-1930s, however, he moved sharply away from Communism. Matthews became a prolific anti-Communist writer, and served also as an investigator for the House Committee on Un-American Activities.29

. William Henry Chamberlin. Chamberlin's father was a socialist, and he himself grew up favoring a "mild anarchism." He lived in Soviet Russia for twelve years, where he served as the Moscow correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and married a Russian girl. He was assistant book editor under Heywood Broun, and wrote under the pseudonym "A. C. Freeman." While he was in Soviet Russia, his opinions gradually evolved from pro- to anti-Soviet. They reached a breaking point with "the horrors of the First Five Year Plan." In 1937, he was the author of a book Collectivism: A False Utopia. Chamberlin eventually embraced Burkean conservative thinking.

. Eliseo Vivas. An advertisement in The New Republic in 1937 for The Marxist Quarterly listed an article by Vivas on "The Class Nature of Science." Vivas later became a leader within American conservative thought.

. Eugene Lyons. Lyons grew up in extreme poverty on the east side of New York City. He was the editor of the Soviet Russia Pictorial and worked for the Soviet news agency TASS for four years. After his break with Communism, he wrote The Red Decade and throughout the rest of his life was a leader among anti-Communist intellectuals.

. Max Eastman. Eastman was editor of The Masses and The Liberator between 1913 and 1922. He then went to Europe for five years. During a trip to Soviet Russia, he became a follower of Leon Trotsky. He later wrote that "it was in 1933 that my resolute faith in the Soviet system began really to break down." In 1941, he even repudiated socialism. He authored Reflections on the Failure of Socialism and was an important member of the National Review group.

. James Burnham. Burnham was active as a radical from 1932 to 1940. In 1939, he was one of the signers of the League for Cultural Freedom and Socialism's statement calling on people not to abandon the ideals of revolutionary socialism. At one time he was the editor of The New International, the chief theoretical journal of the Trotskyists. His break with Marxism came in 1940. Until 1953, he was on the board of editors of The Partisan Review. He resigned from that journal in 1953 to defend Senator Joseph McCarthy. Burnham then wrote for National Review for twenty years.

. Freda Utley. In 1940, Richard Rovere wrote that Utley "is a British economist who during the twenties became a Communist and, with her Russian husband, went to live in Moscow. She lost her dream... when she found life there a nightmare and the Soviet economy a planned chaos. She left Russia in 1936, when the OGPU jailed her husband for a wisecrack made in Japan years earlier." Utley wrote The Dream We Lost, in which she denounced Stalinism, and The China Story about the fall of China to Mao.30

. Frank Meyer. After being a Communist organizer at Oxford and at the University of Chicago, Meyer began to lose his Communist faith after reading Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. Meyer became a prominent member of the National Review circle, and is known for his advocacy of the "fusionist" position that would bring Burkean conservatism and classical liberalism together.

. Willmoore Kendall. Kendall was a Trotskyist in the early 1930s, and sided with the Trotskyists in the Spanish Civil War, at which time he was the UPI correspondent in Madrid. His thinking evolved from a strong anti-Stalinism to anti-Communism. He continued on the Left until at least 1946, but in 1955 became an editor of National Review.

. Whittaker Chambers. His conversion from Communism is described in his book Witness, where he says that the culmination of a long process of breaking from Communism came when he "heard screams in Moscow." Chambers left the party in the early months of 1938. He was later the principal witness against Alger Hiss, developed strong religious convictions, and became an important member of the National Review circle.

. William S. Schlamm. Born in Austria, Schlamm was a Communist as a teenager, but became anti-Stalinist when he was 25. During the 1930s, he considered himself a "non-Marxian socialist." He was an early editor of National Review.

. Irving Kristol. At one time a Trotskyist, Kristol became a co-founder of Encounter, a liberal anti-Communist journal. He was a leading member of the neo-conservative movement in the 1970s and '80s, and is the author of Two Cheers for Capitalism.

. Will Herberg. Norman Podhoretz says that Herberg was at one time a Lovestoneite (i.e., a follower of a splinter Communist group after its ouster from the Communist Party). Herberg, too, eventually became a prominent member of the National Review circle.

. Louis Fischer. Fischer was during the 1930s one of The New Republic's and The Nation's most prolific apologists for Soviet Russia. He resided in Moscow between 1922 and 1938. In a book in 1935, he told how he traveled through the Ukraine in October 1932, witnessing the famine; but he argued that the famine was the peasants' fault and that Stalin was justified in taking as much as sixty percent of their crop to make urban industrialization possible. Fischer was the author of a 1957 book, however, called Russia Revisited: A New Look at Russia and Her Satellites in which he concluded that "Communism has failed."31

. Philip Abbott Luce. Luce was a leader in the Progressive Labor Party faction of the New Left until early 1965, when he broke with it after finding that it crushed the individuality of its members. His book The New Left is an excellent insider's account of radicalism in the late 1950s and first half of the 1960s.

It is pertinent to our analysis of liberalism, although not to our present discussion of liberalism's relation to former Communists, to point out that several other thinkers who became prominent within American conservatism had at one time been on the liberal side. Among those who my notes show moved to the right in varying degrees, but without having been involved with Communism, were Henry Hazlitt, Al Smith, Walter Lippmann, Amos Pinchot, John T. Flynn, and Richard Weaver.

8. The reaction of the liberal intellectual culture to those who repudiated the far Left.

Consistently with the liberal intellectual culture's far-left orientation and its attitude toward anti-Communism generally, liberal thought looked upon the great majority of those who abandoned Communism with suspicion and contempt. The attitude was expressed in 1946 by Max Lerner when he spoke of "the paranoid anti-Russian hysteria of former Communist believers grown disillusioned...." In 1953, Reinhold Niebuhr favorably compared those who left Communism but who did not speak up about it with those who became articulate anti-Communists: "It is ironic that men who extricated themselves with the least hurt to their spirit are now declared suspect by our vigilantes because they have not proved their repentance by adhesion to some dogma of the Right or by imitating its hysteria." In like fashion, Hannah Arendt made a distinction between "former Communists" and "ex-Communists." She said that the "former Communists" were those that did not have a "neurotic compulsion."32

These attitudes have been reflected in bitter commentary about the specific individuals who became openly anti-Communist:

About Eugene Lyons, a New Republic editorial in late 1939 (after the Hitler-Stalin Pact and the joint attack by Germany and the Soviet Union on Poland) sneered that "Lyons... has served up another dish of Red-bait."  Two years later, Bruce Bliven wrote a review of Lyon's The Red Decade in which Bliven attacked Lyons for "heavy-handed ruthlessness" and "fanaticism."33

About Willy Schlamm, a 1945 article by Richard Watts, Jr., who for several years was The New Republic's main author in support of the Chinese Communists, said that Schlamm "was one of the leftest of the left-wing boys until he saw the light and went in for the usual violent flight from Moscow."34

About Louis Fischer, Harvey J. Bresler wrote in 1946 that "Fischer's detailed indictment of Russia [is] but old wine in a new bottle." Richard Watts, Jr., spoke in 1947 of Fischer's "violent revulsion from Moscow."35

About James Burnham, George Soule wrote in 1947 that "he may be regarded as a sample of those who, having been too close for comfort to extreme left factions, have swung violently... [to] the fanatical anti-Communist line."36

About Lee Pressman, a New Republic editorial in 1950 said that "Pressman is the latest to renounce Communism, this time over Korea; somehow we can never get very enthusiastic over these repentant sinners."37

About Philip Abbott Luce, TRB argued in 1966 that "Luce... is the Golden Boy of changecoats."38

About Whittaker Chambers, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in 1970 that "when I came to accept Hiss's guilt, ...I never got around to forgiving Whittaker Chambers... Hiss hadn't made it to the Establishment but Chambers was all the way in as a patriot." Galbraith said, however, that he later grew to respect Chambers. The passage I have quoted is valuable in demonstrating how much the intellectuals' alienation from the mainstream of America contributed to their unwillingness to accept those who repudiated Communism.39

9. Alienation and "the loyalty issue."

Until in the mid-1950s liberalism succeeded in its drive to silence anti-Communism, one of the most heatedly debated public questions in the United States was the "loyalty issue." Conservatives were profoundly suspicious of the loyalty of those on the Left, and sought, among other things, to prevent the employment of those who were of doubtful loyalty by the United States government.

In light of all we've covered, it should be apparent that this issue reflected something quite different from the "paranoia" to which liberal writing has generally ascribed it. The problem of disloyalty originated in two associated phenomena: the intense alienation of the liberal intellectual culture from the predominant American culture; and the intense affinity that a great many within the intellectual culture felt toward the Soviet Union over a span of three decades.

The relationship of the loyalty issue to alienation appeared clearly in a 1917 essay by Randolph Bourne. The essay described a fictional young intellectual who was in many ways similar to the character Benjamin in the 1960s movie "The Graduate." Bourne described him as in "a rather constant mood of futility." Note the following passage, which relates directly to the attitudes that have been the root cause of the "loyalty issue": "With his groping philosophy of life, patriotism has merely died as a concept of significance for him. It is to him merely the emotion that fills the herd when it imagines itself engaged in massed defence or massed attack. Having no such images, he has no feeling of patriotism."40 

Another passage, this time by Edmund Wilson, also illustrates the relationships. Looking back in 1952, Wilson told how "the writers and artists of my generation" had reacted to the Great Depression:

The next month the slump began, and... a darkness seemed to descend. Yet, to the writers and artists of my generation who had grown up in the Big Business era and had always resented its barbarism, its crowding-out of everything they cared about, these years were not depressing but stimulating. One couldn't help being exhilarated at the sudden unexpected collapse of that stupid gigantic fraud. It gave us a new sense of freedom; and it gave us a new sense of power to find ourselves still carrying on while the bankers, for a change, were taking a beating... [W]e wondered about the survival of republican American institutions; and we became more and more impressed by the achievements of the Soviet Union, which could boast that its industrial and financial problems were carefully studied by the government, and that it was able to avert such crises.41 

No quote could be more appropriate to come near the end of this series of books in which I have analyzed the modern predicament. It captures the essence of the alienation of the intellectual and of the enormous consequences that have flown from it.


1. New Republic, February 22, 1928, pp. 2, 3; New Republic, November 20, 1929, p. 360.

2. New Republic, May 14, 1930, p. 336; New Republic, November 12, 1930, p. 346.

3. New Republic, March 8, 1933, p. 112.

4. New Republic, January 30, 1935, p. 315; New Republic, June 19, 1935, p. 158; New Republic, August 14, 1935, p. 6.

5. New Republic, April 7, 1937, p. 251; New Republic, January 26, 1938, p. 324.

6. New Republic, May 10, 1939, p. 4.

7. New Republic, December 13, 1939, p. 215; New Republic, July 15, 1940, p. 69.

8. New Republic, October 6, 1941, p. 433.

9. New Republic, September 7, 1942, p. 268.

10. New Republic, March 27, 1944, p. 397.

11. New Republic, May 22, 1944, p. 695. 12. New Republic, February 26, 1945, p. 309; New Republic, August 20, 1945, p. 228.

13. New Republic, May 6, 1946, p. 667.

14. New Republic, July 14, 1947, p. 8; New Republic, November 3, 1947, p. 19; New Republic, December 29, 1947, p. 11.

15. New Republic, September 1, 1947, p. 14.

16. New Republic, May 31, 1948, p. 17; New Republic, June 7, 1948, p. 5; New Republic, July 12, 1948, p. 8. 

17. Michael Straight, After Long Silence (New York: W. W. Norton Company, 1983), p. 231.

18. New Republic, December 6, 1939, p. 189.

19. New Republic, May 22, 1950, p. 4.

20. New Republic, August 6, 1956, p. 10; see also New Republic, May 27, 1957, p. 8.

21. New Republic, August 27, 1957, p. 7.

22. New Republic, May 22, 1961, p. 2.

23. New Republic, August 27, 1966, p. 4.

24. New Republic, November 12, 1930, p. 346; New Republic, January 28, 1931, p. 283; New Republic, August 1, 1934, p. 305; New Republic, December 14, 1938, p. 160; New Republic, September 1, 1947, p. 14; New Republic, December 8, 1947, p. 10; New Republic, December 13, 1948, p. 5; New Republic, May 22, 1961, p. 2; New Republic, August 27, 1966, p. 4.

25. New Republic, April 2, 1924, p. 134; New Republic, May 7, 1924, p. 269.

26. New Republic, January 16, 1935, p. 259; New Republic, February 10, 1937, p. 2.

27. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Politics of Upheaval (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1960), pp. 320-321, 323.

28. New Republic, June 24, 1931, p. 157.

29. Schlesinger, Politics of Upheaval, pp. 199, 198.

30. New Republic, September 23, 1940, p. 424.

31. Louis Fischer, Soviet Journey (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1973), first published in 1935.

32. New Republic, September 16, 1946, p. 324; New Republic, October 12, 1953, p. 14; New Republic, November 9, 1953, p. 16.

33. New Republic, December 20, 1939, p. 219; New Republic, October 6, 1941, p. 433.

34. New Republic, December 3, 1945, p. 742.

35. New Republic, September 30, 1946, p. 419; New Republic, December 29, 1947, p. 29.

36. New Republic, March 24, 1947, p. 32.

37. New Republic, September 11, 1950, p. 4.

38. New Republic, August 27, 1966, p. 4.

39. New Republic, March 28, 1970, p. 17.

40. Quoted in Henry May (ed.), The Discontent of the Intellectuals: A Problem of the Twenties (Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1963), at p. 17.

41. Edmund Wilson, The Shores of Light (New York: Farrar, Straus, 1952), pp. 498-499.