Communism's Last Stronghold

By Beichman, Arnold | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 3, 1996 | Go to article overview

Communism's Last Stronghold


Beichman, Arnold, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


I want to describe two cases of academic failure which confirm what concerns so many of us - the crisis in higher education due to its politicization. These cases have nothing to do with money, with state regulation, with ethnic diversity and college admission quotas. They have everything to do with teaching as an honorable calling, and ethical behavior in the teaching profession.

There are two dominating orthodoxies in mainstream historiography today, according to John E. Haynes, the Library of Congress historian, in a paper presented to the recent convention of the National Association of Scholars. The first insists that the U.S. Communist movement "was a normal, albeit radical, political participant in American democracy and that American communism was a domestic American movement with its roots in America's democratic, populist and revolutionary past."

The second orthodoxy, says Mr. Haynes, is that "American anti-communism meets part of the old legal definition of obscenity: something utterly without redeeming social value. . .Indeed, today the predominant view among scholars that American Communists maintained a secret underground or assisted Soviet intelligence is without any credible basis."

With the fall of the Soviet Union and the consequent opening of secret Comintern archives the two orthodoxies were challenged as never before. There was now actual documentation of CPUSA secret activities on behalf of Soviet foreign policy and espionage. Some of these archives, edited and annotated by Professor Harvey Klehr of Emory University and by Mr. Haynes, were recently published in their original form by Yale University Press, under the title, "The Secret World of American Communism," the first of three volumes.

What the Klehr-Haynes volume disclosed, among many others, was evidence of huge subsidies to the CPUSA by the Kremlin; Armand Hammer's money laundering for the Soviets; supervision by the CPUSA top leadership of Soviet intelligence in the United States; the stealing of classified documents from Congressional committees and Cabinet departments. These documents confirmed what ex-Communists had revealed years earlier.

Then came new evidence about the Soviet espionage war against the United States. Thanks to the pressure of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D., N.Y.), the National Security Agency last year released what are today known as the "Venona" documents, Soviet secret transmissions to and from its diplomatic posts decoded by the NSA. These new documents identified a previously unknown atomic spy, disclosed that a high OSS officer had been a Soviet spy, and confirmed the guilt of the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss.

And now we come to the aftermath among mainstream historians writing in academic journals of history. Of four academic reviews of the Klehr-Haynes book which have thus far appeared, not one was favorable. The least hostile review, in the Journal of American History, listed divers ways to interpret in a benign fashion the damaging archives reproduced in the Klehr-Haynes volume so that the revisionist pro-CPUSA interpretation remains unchanged.

The flagship publication for Sovietologists, Slavic Review, selected Professor Alfred Rieber of the University of Pennsylvania, as the book reviewer. Mr. Rieber treated the possibility of CPUSA involvement with espionage as preposterous. His review was full of factual "errors," intended to demean the book and its authors in the eyes of their peers. Example: the authors, he said, had produced only one stolen document. …

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