The Rosenbergs: Case Finally Closed?

By Grenier, Richard | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 25, 1997 | Go to article overview

The Rosenbergs: Case Finally Closed?


Grenier, Richard, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Rosenbergs. Rosenbergs. Rosenbergs! Will it never end? Apparently not. In this age where most people get their information on public affairs from television, the Discovery channel aired Sunday a warmhearted account of the most famous of post World War II espionage trials not for the benefit of people who hadn't been born yet when the Rosenbergs were executed in 1953, but for many of the children of people who hadn't been born yet.

Ever heard of Mata Hari? The lady was a Dutch exotic dancer in Paris during World War I who took the name Mata Hari to prove her dancing was exotic. Exotic or not, one October day she was led at dawn into the Bois de Vincennes and executed by firing squad. French Intelligence has long since admitted that Mata Hari was totally innocent of espionage, and that it was all a mistake. But what the heck. You can't get these things right every time. So what's one exotic dancer more or less? Were there mobs in the Paris streets crying "Peace. Save Mata Hari"? Surely you must be joking. That was France. This is America.

We come here to an interesting difference in terminology. In France, in the Soviet heyday, the "Franco Soviet Friendship Society" was acknowledged by one and all to be an openly communist organization. The French had interesting linguistic variants (I translate roughly): "Communizing" or "Of communist obedience." But there was no quibbling about party membership. When you called Jean Paul Sartre a communist, although he was not a member, he didn't complain. For the French, if a man followed the Moscow line, he was a communist. But in the United States a member of a "Soviet American Friendship Society," if there was such a thing, was a lover of peace and international friendship and wore flowers in his hair. If you called such a person a communist or communist sympathizer even if he spouted the Soviet positions down to the semicolons you were a vile person, a witch hunter, and, of course, a McCarthyite.

Being an "antianticommunist" (clumsy wording, but that was what those who defended Stalinist icons were called) carried certain obligations, of course. The first was to protect all those who defended Soviet positions. And the second was to deny in outrage that there were people in America who defended Soviet positions. How did such a bizarre state of affairs come about?

America, in fact, had fewer communists than any other major country. All over the European Continent men defiantly raised the hammer and sickle. But there were too many of them. You couldn't put them all in prison. But if you raised the hammer and sickle in America, and your timing was right, you'd be crushed to death by enraged mobs. So the solution was simple enough. Deny that you were, or ever had been, a member of the Communist Party, and you were home free.

The rancorous anticommunist position, popular in American streets, rapidly came to be considered vulgar and demagogic. …

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