Too Good to Be True: The Life and Work of Leslie Fiedler

By Mark Royden Winchell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Enfant Terrible

WHEN LESLIE broke with the orthodox Trotskyite movement to join the schism led by Max Shachtman, James Burnham, and Dwight Macdonald, he had, in effect, severed his ties with any form of Communism. Although he might not have fully articulated that position in 1940, he had cast his lot with those who saw the corruption of the Soviet Union as dating all the way back to Lenin. By the postwar period, only a small group of fellow travelers persisted in seeing the USSR as an essentially progressive society that espoused democratic values. (These people found their champion in former vice president Henry Wallace, who mounted a minor party campaign for the presidency in 1948.) Far more influential were the liberal anti-Communists who formed the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, which was itself allied with the (European) Congress for Cultural Freedom.

Those who gathered under the banner of the Committee for Cultural Freedom included New York intellectuals such as Sidney Hook, Daniel Bell, Clement Greenberg, William Phillips, Philip Rahv, Delmore Schwartz, and Lionel and Diana Trilling. They made their case to fellow highbrows in the pages of Partisan Review and to intelligent general readers in two other important magazines—the New Leader, whose cultural section was presided over by Isaac Rosenfeld, and Commentary, which was founded by the American Jewish Committee in 1945. Although the mercurial Elliot Cohen was the nominal editor of Commentary, Irving Kristol deserves most credit for keeping the monthly magazine going during those early years. (It was he who solicited and edited almost all of Leslie's contributions to its pages.) After leaving Alcove Number One upon his graduation from City College, Kristol defected to Shachtmanism and later to the Cultural Freedom movement. By 1947, he was assistant editor of Commentary. Over half a century later, Leslie still regards Kristol as the best magazine editor he has ever had. Kristol possessed a sure

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