In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr Encounter Books * 2003 * 316 pages * $25.95
The truth about the tragedy and brutality of the Soviet regime in Russia was available for all those with eyes to see and ears to hear for the entire 75-year history of communism in the U.S.S.R.
Former Gulag victims, Russian political defectors, ex-communists from Western countries who had a rude awakening when they actually visited the workers' paradise, and men and women who had at one time spied for Moscow in America-they all told their tales of the reality of socialism in practice. Nothing was hidden from either scholars or ordinary citizens who were willing to read and listen.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, a number of formerly secret Soviet archives have been selectively opened for periods of time, allowing Russian and Western scholars to look directly into that country's history of horror. Among the documents partially made available have been some relating to Soviet espionage in Western countries, including the United States. Two American historians, Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, have devoted their research to the activities of the Communist Party of the United States and its connections to and funding by the Soviet authorities in Moscow. Their two books on this theme are The Secret World of American Communism (1995) and The Soviet World of American Communism (1998).
Assisting these investigations into Soviet spying in America has been the release of the Venona papers-the U.S. intelligence code name for the intercepted messages and communications between Moscow and its agents in the United States. Haynes and Klehr summarized those documents in their book Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (1999).
What has been a surprising result of those revelations is the resistance by many American historians to admit and incorporate these new findings into their accounts of twentieth-century U.S. history and the place of communism in that story. This peculiar and pervasive phenomenon is critically evaluated by Haynes and Klehr in their new book, In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage.
The plain fact is that a sizable majority of historians are on "the left" and view themselves that way. That is especially true among historians who have written on the Soviet Union, the Cold War, and the American Communist Party. Their sympathies have been with the ideas of social reform and revolution. They are either strongly antagonistic to capitalism or at least highly suspicious of a market-oriented society. With all its imperfections, for them the Soviet Union captured the ideal of a social order remade in the direction of "social justice." To admit the truths about the Soviet experience, as far as many of these historians are concerned, is to concede the debate to the forces of profit and human …