Magazine article New Criterion

How Right Hilton Was

Magazine article New Criterion

How Right Hilton Was

Article excerpt

In 1976, when Hilton Kramer wrote what his New York Times obituary writer called his most provocative article, "The Blacklist and the Cold War," I still considered myself a man of the political Left. I was therefore rather furious when I read that essay--so furious that I wrote a lengthy reply to Hilton, co-signed with a friend, which, when I read it now, causes me to blanch with embarrassment. Hilton responded by writing that I could not "face the worst about Stalinism" nor could I acknowledge "a simple fact: without Stalinism there would have been no McCarthyism and no blacklist."

Less than ten years later, I came to realize just how right Hilton Kramer was. By then, I was writing my own articles reevaluating the "Cold War revisionism" of left-wing scholars I had once found profound but had come to see as very seriously flawed. Therefore, when Peter Collier and David Horowitz invited me to take part in what they called "The Second Thoughts Conference" in Washington, D.C. in 1987, I willingly signed on.

At the opening plenary session, the older generation of those who had had second thoughts was gathered on the stage. The group included Martin Peretz, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Collier, Horowitz, and, of course, Hilton Kramer. When Hilton's turn to speak came, he said the following:

    How times have changed. In 1976, when I wrote
   "The Blacklist and the Cold War," it was praised
   in a letter to the editor of The New York Times
   by Arthur M. … 
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