McCarthy Without The Ism

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

As with his last book, The Theme Is Freedom, veteran journalist M. Stanton Evans demolishes another set of misconceptions in his new book Blacklisted By History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies. What he did with those disparate subjects—America’s founding and the Cold War in the United States—is to challenge prevailing wisdom accepted by both the left and the right.

In The Theme Is Freedom, he made a convincing case that America’s freedoms come not from the Enlightenment but from the Bible. In Blacklisted By History, he has accomplished another great task: actually measuring up the record of America’s most hated senator, at least by the so-called elites.

At a December 12 Heritage Foundation forum, author Herbert Romerstein offered words of advice that the editors of National Review should have heeded before running Ron Radosh’s error-based review of Evans’ book: “McCarthyism is a term that should not be used by conservatives.”

Romerstein worked as an investigator for the U. S. House Un-American Activities Committee. “I know the history of Soviet propaganda,” Romerstein said. “One of the most powerful tools is to take a man’s name and put ‘ism’ at the end of it.”

“All discussion is stopped.” That’s essentially what happens, save for those instances when certain conservatives, in a very maladroit manner, try making hay with the phrase “McCarthyism of the Left.”

That the very mention of the term would turn legions of conservatives into the Petrified Forest was an outcome that the really hard left anticipated early on. “Gus Hall in 1950 urged party members to ‘fight McCarthyism,’” Romerstein told the audience at Heritage.

McCarthy had only given his maiden speech on communist subversion in government agencies earlier that year. Hall was formerly the head of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA).

The CPUSA, we now know from the Soviet archives, was a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Moscow at the time, contra the conventional view of the party as a bunch of home-grown, dreamy-eyed romantics. We also know from those same archives and from declassified U. S. government documents that Joe McCarthy hit bullseye with his charges of security risks working in sensitive and policy-making positions in the U. S. government.

“There was sort of an affirmative action program for communists in the government,” Evans said at Heritage. Agencies cobbled together during World War II such as the Office of War Information (OWI) and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) actively recruited communists at a time when the Soviet Union was considered our “noble ally.”

The O. S. S. was the precursor to the CIA. “After the war when these agencies were abolished, they went to other agencies,” Evans said of the noble ally’s adherents employed by OWI and OSS.

The State Department, locus of Senator McCarthy’s attentions, was one of these. “During the Cold War that followed, the government did not want people to know how many they had hired,” Evans related. “Some they got rid of.”

“They got Alger Hiss to resign.” Critics of Evans’ book offer the view that communist penetration of the federal government had ended by the time McCarthy came on the scene with the charges of internal security lapses that he made at Wheeling, West Virginia in February of 1950.

Evans and Romerstein disagree. “China was aflame and as of December 1951, John Stewart Service was still at State when the Truman loyalty board got him out over ‘reasonable doubt,’” Evans points out.

The source of that “reasonable doubt,” Evans suggests, was none other than the Wisconsin Republican himself. McCarthy questioned “Old China Hand” Service’s advocacy of Mao Tse Tung and actions on his behalf while he worked at State.

“One of the spies at Fort Monmouth was part of the Rosenberg ring,” Romerstein observes. Co-author of The Venona Secrets, about cable traffic between the Soviet Union and its agents, Romerstein has studied both the former case, investigated by Senator McCarthy in the 1950s, and the latter, from the 1940s.

“In 1953, although many of these people were kicked out of the government, they were still trying to influence policy and there were still enough of them in the government to do so,” Romerstein told the crowd at Heritage. A former staffer with the House Internal Security Subcommittee, Romerstein’s last government job was as a Soviet disinformation expert at the Voice of America during the Reagan years.

“In the 1950s, the debate was over containment and liberation,” Romerstein says. “We never had a liberation president until Ronald Reagan.”

Then we won the Cold War.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.