The Soviet Union fell 13 years ago, but its version of the history of communism still prevails in academia, even though archival material released by the governments of both Russia and the United States shows the extent of the old Communist government’s mass genocide and international espionage.
Last year, Encounter Books published In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. In the book, Haynes, a historian at the Library of Congress, and Klehr, a professor at Emory University, show how historians continue to deny what records of the two key parties to the conflict show with greater clarity as every declassified document is released:
The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) was a complete captive of its masters in the Kremlin.
Members and agents of the CPUSA, including Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Alger Hiss and Lauchlin Currie, the latter working from the White House, did indeed obtain vital U. S. secrets for America’s adversaries in Moscow.
Historians know this through the Venona cables that Soviet spies sent their American agents as well as through the files released by the Russian government itself, which showed more detailed correspondence between the same parties. The response of professors who teach Cold War courses, which Haynes and Klehr show chapter and verse, has been to either ignore the documentation or deny its significance.
Sadly, Haynes and Klehr’s book was seldom reviewed outside of media outlets such as the one you are looking at right now. Moreover, what attention it continues to get only serves to prove In Denial’s point about the blinkers-on bias of the Ivory Tower.
“Though they nowhere demonstrate that the espionage performed by members of the American CP (CPUSA) posed a significant danger to our national security, Haynes and Klehr assert that the Red Scare of the 40s and 50s—with its blacklists, book burnings, domestic spying and loyalty oaths—was ‘a rational and understandable response to a real danger to American democracy,’” Dr. Stephen Macek wrote in an internet review of In Denial.
At no point do Haynes and Klehr endorse book burnings or blacklists. They do write that President Harry Truman’s loyalty program was understandable in light of the threat posed by the Soviets.
“They were devastated by World War II,” Dr. Macek told me. “They couldn’t pose a threat to us.”
Actually, I pointed out to Dr. Macek that the authors of In Denial do demonstrate the danger of the Soviet spies’ espionage. Haynes and Klehr point out that the secrets passed on by Hiss gave the U. S. S. R. a diplomatic advantage in negotiations while those classified materials carried by the Rosenbergs enabled the Soviets to shorten the time that it took them to build atomic weapons.
“The question is whether the Soviet Union was a threat to us or a stabilizing influence,” Dr. Macek told me.
He then argued that the Soviets’ possession of diplomatic secrets and atomic capabilities gave the world a stalemate between the two super powers that led to world stability. In this, too, he echoes the claims of so-called historians who reject the newly available archival material, as those responses are detailed by Haynes and Klehr.
Dr. Macek hastens to note that he does not admire the Soviet Union’s most brutal dictator, Joseph Stalin or his followers. “As a left-wing Marxist, I have a lot of suspicion of Stalinists because they do not believe in democracy,” he said.
When I pointed out the death toll exacted by the Soviets under all of the Soviet leaders, Dr. Macek alleged that America inflicted similar casualties. After I pressed him for a source, he sent me a link to a site on Vietnam that, in turn, gives no source for its lumping together of combat and civilian casualties.
I also brought up the question of atrocities in Red China, especially under Mao Tse Tung. “That I’m not aware of,” he said.
“It could be,” he allowed. “The Stalinists are very brutal.”
“The question is, what explains that?”
Dr. Macek repeats the old Marxist line that North Vietnamese Communist leader “Ho Chi Minh was considered the George Washington of his country.” But he also points out that in the citadel of capitalism that he lives in, “Bad as it is, the United States has relative prosperity where even those at the bottom are not starving.”
Dr. Macek is a communications professor at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois and a member of the National Communications Association (NCA). Founded in 1914, the NCA is an association of communications professionals which has a Marxist study group.
He does not believe Marxism has had a chance to flourish in the world, either in communist nations or in democracies. “The Scandanavian countries might approximate the Marxist ideal,” he says, “in that they’ve limited the extent of the inequality.”
Dr. Macek gets superlative ratings from his students for his communications classes. An amiable man, he nonetheless, suffers from a form of tunnel vision when looking at history, not so much because of his intelligence, which is quite considerable, but because of his ideology, which sometimes gets in the way of a naturally inquisitive mind.