Liberals Fake and Retarded

HICKS, GRANVILLE

Although a majority of American intellectuals are anti-Communist, there are still small groups who retain their old pro-Soviet prejudices LIBERALS Fake and Retarded By Granville Hicks Whatever...

...Senator McCarthy, he observed, had some enemies in high office, including the then President of the United States, Harry S. Truman...
...Among some of the liberals who live outside of the big cities and who have had little direct experience with Communist activities, the illusion persists that Communists simply represent the extreme Left of the radical-progressive-liberal camp...
...The pro-Soviet bias dies hard...
...This bland judiciousness, which had a more plausible air before the anti-Semitism of the winter of 1953 had exposed the character of Soviet "ethnic equality and racial democracy," paves the way for what Lamont has to say in his crucial essay, "The Myth of Soviet Aggression...
...No one can doubt that there are people in this country who enjoy burning books...
...The acceptance of Radio Moscow's view of the United States is accompanied by a certain willingness to go along with Radio Moscow's view of Russia...
...In particular, two groups of intellectuals, both comparatively small, have blurred and distorted the issues of the present struggle...
...As Richard Rovere pointed out in The New Leader of July 14, 1952, the issue as a whole gave an impression that was essentially false...
...Self-seeking politicians make all they can of the confusion, but they are not solely responsible for it...
...it discusses the small pockets of ideological influence Communism still retains...
...His stand, from my point of view, was both right and courageous, and if his challenge should result in a court test of the McCarthy committee's power, one could only regard him as a public benefactor...
...The question, as raised by Editor Freda Kirehwey, was, "How Free Is Free...
...After briefly describing that unhappy episode, he says, "Yet all this furor Americanus seems ill organized, spontaneous, and full of hearty animal spirits compared with the present movement...
...There are people who are in no way subject to Communist discipline but nevertheless are incapable of recognizing the Soviet Union for what it is...
...And in the third place, they create confusion at a time when clear thinking is our great need...
...We forget sometimes about the ordinary rank-and-file liberals, but they can be found everywhere, and very good people they are--civic-minded, hard-working in thankless causes, the people you can count on...
...The intellectuals with a pro-Soviet bias describe themselves as liberals, and they are likely to boast of their open minds...
...After some less than charitable remarks about my character and motives, Dr...
...Look, for instance, at a special issue of that magazine, dated June 28, 1952, that was devoted to the subject of civil liberties in the United States...
...That doesn't prove that they're Communists," I said, "but you certainly can't take it for granted that they aren't...
...Certainly there are such people, but, as Rovere pointed out, they have scarcely succeeded in suppressing political liberalism...
...And in the present state of affairs they are all for the United States and all against Russia...
...In 1939 he defended the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact...
...del Vayo and their associates are honorable, intelligent, trustworthy, and above suspicion in thought and action...
...It would be possible to make a number of other comparisons between American and Soviet life, some of them favorable to the U.S.A., some of them favorable to the U.S.S.R...
...We are the liberals and progressives," they say in effect, "who are satisfied with reforms and minor changes...
...With these two critiques, Mr...
...There was, to be sure, an air of independence in a passage such as this: "Although completely rejecting red-baiting, progressives should have no hesitation in making honest criticisms of the Communist party, as, for example, in regard to its limited conception of civil liberties, its ridiculous position that the Soviet Union has already become the practically perfect state, and its attempt to whitewash the North Koreans...
...Atkinson wrote: "I have known intimately for many years the people who are responsible for editing the Nation...
...One of the bitterest came from a clergyman, the Reverend Henry A. Atkinson of the Church Peace Union...
...Lots of people felt that way in the Twenties and again in the later Thirties, when the Soviet Union was believed to be the bulwark of the anti-Fascist cause, and again also in the early Forties, when Russia was our ally...
...The four of them looked unhappy and a little sore, but they realized that I was right...
...Kirtley Mather denounced "the campaign to paralyze all independent thought, discussion and dissent concerning America's foreign policy...
...As one reads on, one learns that the "independent mind" functions in this fashion: "The obvious truth is that Soviet Russia, like the United States, Great Britain or Sweden, is a mixture of good and bad, of noteworthy accomplishments and distressing failures and a sincere striving for future betterment...
...That is their right, just as it is our right to show what is wrong with what they say...
...Here he lists twenty reasons for believing that Russia has no aggressive intentions, and a prettier collection of half-truths and untruths you could not ask for...
...he says that so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so are Communists...
...The Retarded Liberals have been giving Russia the benefit of every doubt for so long that the habit persists in spite of everything that has happened...
...After I broke with the Communist party, I was always coming across people who weren't Communists and never had been but who would say, "Don't you feel that Russia had to make the pact with Germany...
...Lamont to describe "The Myth of 'The Free World,' " and then to dwell on the horrors of a third world war, and his job is done...
...This, of course, is nonsense...
...But what difference does it make...
...It is unnecessary...
...They are not Communists...
...It is interesting to observe that a few months later one of the largest publishers in the country published a biography of Sidney Hillman by Mr...
...He ignores the absorption of the Baltic republics, the partition of Poland, and the war against Finland...
...Therefore, the implication seems clear, Dr...
...This is the kind of distinction one cannot expect a Congressional committee to make, but it is a real distinction just the same...
...For instance, it is plain that the Soviet Union lags lamentably behind the United States in the development of civil liberty and political democracy, notwithstanding grave American backslidings in those fields...
...Perhaps the clearest evidence is in a paragraph that is not exactly relevant to the author's thesis but helps to achieve the effect he is seeking...
...That is not to say that the Nation is uncritical of the Soviet Union but merely that it is quite willing to hunt for excuses for whatever Russia does...
...Yet the careful reader will see that Josephson was determined to make a bad situation seem vastly worse than it was...
...How does the hysteria in 1919, after World War I," he asks, "compare with that of today...
...The book is obviously calculated to weaken the American will to resist Soviet aggression, and, in view of his record, I find it impossible to believe that Lamont didn't know what he was doing...
...Atkinson was willing to accept at face value anything the magazine might publish...
...If Lamont gives us a first-rate example of Fake Liberalism, we can find what is almost certainly Retarded Liberalism, mixed with a certain amount of Fake Liberalism, in the files of the Nation...
...On the one hand, a prejudice in favor of the Soviet Union persists in the thinking of a few, some of whom say, and quite possibly believe, that they are opposed to Communism...
...Hicks attempts to analyze in this book why so many Americans were drawn to Communism, why most of them rejected it, how effectively U.S...
...It has grown harder and harder to maintain this faith, but it does survive...
...I pointed out that all three of the persons named had worked in party fronts for years...
...This article is a chapter from Where We Came Out...
...Josephson's memory is, in this instance, not to be relied on...
...Is anyone influenced by the Nation...
...I'm afraid so...
...On the other hand, certain intellectuals have reacted so violently against Communism, frequently as a result of their past association with it, that they have completely lost their bearings...
...In the second place, they make effective resistance to Communism more difficult...
...But what Lamont does not say is even more significant than what he does...
...Rovere summed up the issue in this way: "This is a piece of work that depends for its effect on canny editing, and the effect it achieves is to encourage the world to accept Radio Moscow's view of the United States, the view of this society as a disintegrating democracy, one in which the hooligan element not only strives for power, as it does everywhere, but has already achieved it...
...We were talking about the testimony of a certain ex-Communist before a House committee, and one of the professors said, "Imagine it...
...Such people welcomed our wartime alliance with Russia not merely because we needed all the allies we could get but also because they felt that there was some special virtue in being on the same side as the Soviet Union...
...Because a Fake Liberal does his best to sound like a Retarded Liberal, it is difficult to tell them apart except by taking into account what they have done as well as what they have said...
...But the leaders of the Communist party have no reason to be worried about Lamont, and they knew what they were doing when they backed him for Senator...
...He was one of the sponsors of the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace in 1949, and in 1952 he ran for the Senate as candidate of the Progressive party...
...Indeed, Miss Kirehwey compared her little band of fighters for freedom to soldiers in a desperate, perhaps hopeless battle...
...It is true that Lamont has never felt obliged to agree with every word that appears in the Daily Worker, but, in view of his record, The Independent Mind seemed a singular title for the collection of his essays, published in 1951...
...At the same time, the Soviet Russians have forged far ahead of America in the establishment of ethnic equality and racial democracy among the more than 150 different minor nationalities and races that live within the far-flung Soviet domain...
...They are still, one feels, longing to be convinced that it is not the ruthless, aggressive totalitarian dictatorship it so obviously is, but the great force for progress they once believed it to be...
...Kingsley Martin, editor of the London New Statesman and Nation, who might be described as Miss Kirchwey's British counterpart, declared not so long ago that the Russians are a prosperous, happy and peace-loving people...
...Miss Kirehwey and Mr...
...Even a sketchy account of the Palmer Red raids will suggest that Mr...
...They are reactionary in the same sense that fascists are reactionary, for their aim is total power...
...Miss Kirehwey also wrote a reply to my article, in the course of which she quoted from various eminent persons who had written her enthusiastically about the special issue...
...But if I feel compelled to support Lamont in his battle with McCarthy, I cannot accept his description of himself as a "moderate, independent and free-wheeling American dissenter...
...The Senator, currently investigating publications used by the Army, found a couple of Lamont's books on the list and subpoenaed their author, as he had subpoenaed various other authors who were supposed to have Communist sympathies...
...He quoted from an article by Ralph S. Brown Jr., of Yale, who wrote: "Many people today refuse to admit that there is any difference between political liberalism and Communism, and assert the right and duty to impose on others their own standards of belief and conduct...
...Hence the persistent belief, so widespread among the ordinary liberals of the hinterlands, that Alger Hiss could not be guilty of the crimes with which Whittaker Chambers charged him...
...The Retarded Liberals--and, for that matter, the Fake Liberals too--should be free to say what they want to say...
...Such a person is Corliss Lamont, son of the late Thomas Lamont of J. P. Morgan and Co...
...Some of us had to learn the hard way, but we learned...
...As recently as 1950, in an issue celebrating its eighty-fifth anniversary, the Nation apologized for Soviet aggression...
...Since that time it has taken a somewhat harsher line, but even now its editors are quick to say anything that can be said in defense of the Soviet Union...
...Certain small-city liberals find it almost impossible to believe that a well-educated, soft-voiced, properly dressed person, the kind of person they would be glad to entertain in their homes, can be, or can have been, a Communist...
...The world has changed, but they haven't...
...and if they are convinced on that score, they assume that he can't be, or have been, a "bad" Communist...
...I hope, to say that I am not recommending that the Nation should be suppressed or banned or penalized in any way, nor am I suggesting that Retarded Liberals should be jailed or investigated...
...But, so far as one could learn from the papers, his statement did not mention a single important political issue on which his position has differed from that of the Communist party, nor can I recall a disagreement of that kind...
...It seems to me that the way to avoid the extremes I have been describing is to take a middle-of-the-road position which gives honest consideration to both the defects and virtues of Soviet Russia...
...Some of the incidents described by Josephson in his article are indeed lamentable, and other lamentable incidents have taken place since the article appeared...
...It is to a considerable extent a dish that some of the intellectuals have cooked for themselves...
...After the war, when I was fuming against Soviet aggression in the Balkans, the Retarded Liberals would say, "But at least the masses are going to be better off...
...Josephson...
...As for Korea, "there is no evidence that Soviet Russia was responsible...
...It remains for Mr...
...He had even gone so far, he insisted, as to defend George Santayana when the Communists in the United States attacked him as a Fascist...
...But there are others who really believe what they say...
...This being true, it would seem that we ought to have no trouble at all in disposing of Communism on the intellectual front, but actually, as everybody knows, this is a period of the most abysmal confusion...
...And there are a few who still believe that a liberal is one who opposes the Government and gives Russia the benefit of every doubt...
...It will be remembered that 1952 was the first year in our history in which no Negro was lynched...
...In three weeks, the Viking Press will publish a new book by our literary consultant, Granville Hicks (cut below), entitled Where We Came Out...
...Arthur Eggleston asserted that "the witch hunt, which began with 'foreign agents,' is being extended to cover liberals of all shades of economic and political belief...
...In order to deal with them, we have to try to understand how they acquired this peculiar twist...
...And yet there is in some of them a streak of something like Retarded Liberalism...
...During the wartime honeymoon he was chairman of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship...
...As things are today, wrong-headed tolerance of Communism is a less substantial evil than wrong-headed intolerance of people Senator McCarthy doesn't like...
...They take the unpopular side on local issues: work against the real-estate lobby to get public housing, fight racial discrimination, join committees to expose vice and corruption...
...It is a job that the Daily Worker couldn't do better, nor half so well...
...Like most liberals everywhere, they tend to be a little self-righteous about their independence and intelligence, but they can be forgiven their foibles...
...The other professor and the two lawyers responded with the skeptical and superior smiles that were expected of them...
...to the left of us are the Socialists, who want to nationalize the means of production by democratic processes...
...Although a majority of American intellectuals are anti-Communist, there are still small groups who retain their old pro-Soviet prejudices LIBERALS Fake and Retarded By Granville Hicks Whatever may have been true in the past, the very great majority of American intellectuals today are anti-Communist...
...In the first place, by making possible the existence of Fake Liberals, they provide a cover for Communist propaganda...
...Next week, we will present another chapter, entitled "The Great Reversal," which examines the ideas of noted former Communists and fellow-travelers who have in recent years turned against the entire liberal tradition...
...When I was leaving the party, because of the pact, he urged me not to "take this fateful turn at what has become for a number of people a fundamental parting of the ways...
...One of the longest articles was "The Battle of the Books" by Matthew Josephson...
...If, for instance, a person has followed the party line through a series of shifts, and if he has been trusted with responsibility in organizations dominated by the party, it is safe to conclude that he is a fellow-traveler and therefore a Fake Liberal...
...But the Retarded Liberals do a certain amount of harm...
...Hicks defines--we believe--a sensible middle ground on which all liberals can safely take a stand...
...He ignores the processes by which the satellites have been transformed into Russian colonies...
...Except for the slogans they make use of from time to time, the Communists have nothing in common with democratic Socialists or with liberals and progressives...
...some of them have never seen a real live Communist or read an official Communist publication...
...Carey McWilliams maintained that the "witch hunt" was making matters worse for Negroes and Jews...
...They are the Retarded Liberals...
...The only villain on their horizon is McCarthy, and they see him ten times as big as life...
...In a statement he released to the press, he listed some fifty issues on which he had disagreed with the Communists, mostly "in my primary field of concentration, philosophy...
...Their favorite word is "but...
...they are the Fake Liberals...
...He ignores the broken agreements, the hostile gestures, the bellicose speeches...
...The answer was that freedom was in a bad way...
...Not long ago, I was talking with four liberals, two lawyers and two professors, quite typical in their good works and their cautious disagreement with majority sentiment in their predominantly conservative community, but if anything more sophisticated than the average...
...He was, he said, a humanist rather than a dialectical materialist, and he opposed "current Communist dogmatism in science...
...Russia, with all its faults, was regarded as being on "our" side because it represented something new in the world and because it was hated and feared by the proponents and beneficiaries of the status quo...
...Finally one of the lawyers said, "Well, I can't stand informers...
...That we may at any moment become involved in a shooting war with the Soviet Union is something they will not let themselves believe, and hence reasonable measures of protection are as abhorrent to them as unreasonable ones...
...The intellectuals were almost unanimous in their distaste for a business civilization and in their willingness to accept as allies all enemies of the existing order...
...His expressed concern was all for the "liberal" books that, according to him, either were being denied publication by timid publishers or were being banned by libraries or school boards...
...In the Twenties, there was a loose kind of united front against the status quo...
...and to the left of them are the Communists, who want to do the same thing but more or less along Russian lines...
...North Korea was guilty of aggression, but . . ." "There is no civil liberty in Russia, but . . ." "We must protect our country against Communism, but . . ." Some of the people who talk this way are Communists and close sympathizers...
...Communism is being fought today, and how strong domestic pro-Soviet sentiment really is...
...There was nothing to indicate that Josephson, who had been active in party fronts for twenty-odd years, might be a biased witness, nor did Josephson himself suggest in any way that he had a special interest--which would be a legitimate enough interest if openly statedóin the publication of left-wing books...
...According to what Freda Kirchwey was saying just the other day, and may be saying again tomorrow, Russia is on the right side of the great revolution of our times and we are on the wrong side...
...The special issue of the Nation contained articles arguing that McCarthyism was triumphant in the theater, the movies, the radio and television...
...Not claiming immunity but simply refusing to testify on the ground that the committee had no right to question him with regard to his writings, Lamont invited citation for contempt...
...The leaders of the Administration, he saidóthis, of course, was before the electionówere proud to call themselves liberals, and many Republicans insisted that they were liberals too...
...Lamont was recently in the news when he defied Senator McCarthy...
...Several articles were required to show how bad conditions were in education...
...When I wrote an article analyzing the bias of the eighty-fifth-anniversary issue, the protests were numerous and full of pain and indignation...
...These minor-league liberals are so used to standing up for dissenters that they cannot or will not understand what they are up against when they tangle with the Communists...

Vol. 37 • March 1954 • No. 12


 
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