Hitch Is No Snitch

Article excerpt

Did Trotsky's fate seal Sidney Blumenthal's?

Christopher Hitchens and I do not agree about very much. For example, as a friend of Albania and Albanians, I will never forgive his assault on the outstanding Albanian personality of our time, Mother Teresa. But when I heard that this U.S.-based British provocateur had blown the whistle on Sidney Blumenthal for lying to the Senate about slandering Monica-and was being savaged by the left for doing so-I felt a pang of responsibility.

Let me explain. I first met Hitch, as he is known far and wide, at the Second Thoughts conference in Washington in 1987. He insulted me in an exceptionally rude manner, as reported in one of the national magazines.

Then, in 1992, writing from Sarajevo for the Nation, he passionately and powerfully denounced the crimes of the Serbs. I wrote him a letter of congratulations for his stand. Finding ourselves on the same side of the Bosnian barricades, we put our scrap at Second Thoughts behind us.

Thereafter he would occasionally call me when he came to San Francisco and we would meet for dinner. At one of these dinners early last year, we were joined at the Washington Square Bar by his wife and fellow journalist Carol Blue, and by a female colleague of mine.

Under the dim lights and over the delectable cuisine, we argued about many things. Knowing that he, like myself, had been a Trotskyist, I pointed out the most fascinating revelation in the recently disclosed Venona decryptions of secret KGB communications: the extent to which anti-Stalinist leftists-with whom Hitchens has always identified-were targeted by Stalin's operatives in the U.S. The top spies in Venona were much more interested in the daily affairs of the widow Trotsky in Mexico City, even after Trotsky's death, than they were in the Pentagon, the White House, or any other logical enemy.

Hitchens professed doubt about these revelations. Then I sprang a question on him: "What would you think of the case of a man who had desperately wanted to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, but who was killed before he could?"

When I told him that the man's name was Trotsky, Hitchens was inclined to reject such bad news, almost 60 years after the fact. But over the next few months clip files and quotes from Trotsky's own writings convinced him that when the old revolutionary was murdered in 194o, he had been preparing a scorching exposure of the use of the Communist Parties worldwide by the Soviet secret police. (We now know that Lawrence Duggan, a Soviet spy and head of the State Department's Division of American Republicswith responsibility for Mexico where Trotsky was in exile-lobbied actively against granting him the visa he needed to come and testify before HUAC.) Referring to a new book by Ellen Schrecker, Hitch reported on this twist of Trotsky's fate in the August 24, 1998 issue of the Nation.

In that article, Hitch discussed a revelation in the recently published (and ineptly edited) twenty-volume "complete works" of George Orwell. It turned out that early in the Cold War, Orwell had given British authorities a list of Stalinist apologists. …