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The Great Deception
AMERICA & RUSSIA, PART XI The Communist party in America was so small, so faction-ridden, so isolated. How could it enlist so much popular support? How could illiberalism take in so many liberals?
December 1961 | Volume 13, Issue 1
When in 1946 Winston Churchill growled out his ominous warnings at Fulton, Missouri, that a fateful Iron Curtain was descending upon the middle of Europe, the chorus of his left-liberal detractors included a galaxy of innocents who clung to their ardent faith that the wartime alliance with Stalin presaged the postwar birth of One World, in a peace guaranteed by the United Nations. This willful blind faith precluded a straightforward look at the grim events in eastern Europe—when, with the aid of Soviet troops and secret police, local Communists used all the refined instruments of intimidation and violence perfected by Stalin to foist Communist regimes on one hundred million unwilling victims, and so created Two Worlds. It was not until February, 1948, with the shock of the Communist coup in Prague, that many American eyes began to open to the consistent objectives and means of Soviet imperialism. Exactly one decade after Munich—and prostrated, democratic Czechoslovakia once more symbolized the folly of trusting a tyrant.
Even so, as late as the spring of 1949, a year after the Communists took over Czechoslovakia, the apparatus of the Communist propaganda transmission belt was able to corral hundreds of sponsors and scores of participants for the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace, at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
The phenomenon of liberal fellow traveling has lent itself to varied interpretations, ranging all the way from those who see it as a willful conspiracy to undermine our institutions to those who regard it as an attempt to cope with realities of political life in an idealistic way. The tragic polarization which characterized American life in the late forties and early fifties was in no small measure the product of the burden of guilt and confusion borne by a left-liberal community that had been duped and compromised—and by its lack of the honest courage to seek for the roots of its past blunders. As a result, the task of such an open, intelligent, responsible inquiry was abdicated, and left to those who had frequently neither the capacity nor the will to conduct such an inquiry properly.
At a time when virtually the entire American people was legitimately aroused by the incursions of Stalin’s agents in Europe and of Communist infiltration and espionage at home, an important part of the liberal community thus cut itself off and isolated itself from its proper roots in the larger community. For the basic sense of the American people on the Communist danger was sound, when the intellectuals’ was not.
So was created a wide and tragic chasm—one that yet remains to be bridged by understanding the true nature of the more novel, more subtle, more dangerous issues of the new decade. This regrettable, unhappy sequence of events contains a lesson for all Americans, liberal and conservative alike, who wish to interpret intelligently their own past so as to avoid being condemned to repeat it, at even greater cost. Today Americans and free men everywhere face a profound challenge from those exuberant, buoyant, single-willed True Believers who preach to us that our grandchildren will live under Communism, and who act on that faith with cynicism, flexibility, and perseverance. If the history of the past quarter-century can at all serve us, it can guide us to understand that they mean not peace but a sword, that they really mean to “bury” us; to understand further that the only way to cope with such a faith is to oppose to it a truer faith, more deeply and more gladly held because held by free men.