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Historian Deplores Colleagues' Portrayal of Communism
Accuracy In Media ^ | October 1, 2003 | Sean Grindlay

Posted on 10/02/2003 2:49:29 PM PDT by walford

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Historian Deplores Colleagues' Portrayal of Communism

By Sean Grindlay
October 1, 2003

Frustrated by what they see as "shoddy scholarship" and widespread bias, two historians have presented a candid critique of their profession's treatment of Communist history. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr are the authors of the newly published book, In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage (Encounter Books). Haynes, who is 20th Century Political Historian at the Library of Congress, discussed the work at the September 25 AIM/McDowell Luncheon.

Haynes said that the book, which focuses more on historians than on history, is a "blunt and therapeutic" work intended to "spark debate" concerning the history profession's treatment of Communism.

Haynes began his talk with a basic chronology of Communist studies. When American scholarship on Communist history began in the 1950s, historians generally took a liberal but critical approach to Communism. Despite the lack of resources, Haynes stated, historians such as Theodore Draper produced works that were models of historical scholarship.

Matters changed greatly in the 1960s, Haynes said, when the history profession was infused with hundreds of radical scholars. These "revisionists," as they came to be known, began to rewrite much of the history of the Communist movement in America, casting it as a benign and natural evolution of the liberal tradition. The American Communist Party (CPUSA), the revisionists claimed, was an autonomous organization that received no subsidies or marching orders from Moscow. American Communists began to be portrayed in history books as noble idealists oppressed by capitalist America.

Over the next couple of decades, revisionism became more and more institutionalized in the history profession, and traditionalist historians-those who took a critical view of Communism-found it increasingly difficult to have their work published. The Journal of American History, for example, which bills itself as "the leading scholarly publication … in the field of American history," published its last traditionalist essay on this subject in 1972, Haynes stated.

The worldwide collapse of Communism, however, dealt a setback to revisionist dominance. After the fall of the USSR in 1991, historians gained access to a wealth of formerly classified Soviet documents. In 1992 Haynes and Klehr themselves began studying documents in the Comintern Archives in Moscow; there they found information devastating to the revisionist account of the history of American Communism. Moscow's subsidization of CPUSA, for example, was not right-wing paranoia (as revisionists had previously claimed), but indisputable fact: Haynes pointed to a note from former CPUSA Chairman Gus Hall acknowledging his receipt of $3 million from the Soviet Union.

In light of this and other powerful evidence, many revisionists have had to modify their treatment of Communist history, Haynes said. A few were so influenced by the Moscow records that they have even joined the traditionalist camp.

In general, however, revisionists have tried to salvage their portrait of Communist history by ignoring or distorting recent evidence, Haynes lamented. One historian, after finally admitting that Moscow had been subsidizing CPUSA, insisted that the subsidies were unimportant because they did not compromise the party's "autonomy." Another revisionist wrote that "thousands" were executed in the Stalinist Great Terror of the 1930s-literally true but greatly misleading, as records show that the death toll reached well into the millions.

Soviet espionage in America, Haynes said, is one area where many historians have been especially biased; in fact, the bulk of In Denial deals with this "lying about spying." Haynes himself has found (in Soviet telegraphs decrypted as part of the Venona Project) overwhelming evidence that hundreds of influential Americans-including high-ranking government officials Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White-served as spies for the USSR.

Faced with such revelations, revisionists have gone from denying Soviet espionage to rationalizing or redefining it, Haynes reported. These American Communists were not spies, some of them insist, they were just internationally minded "progressives" who "exchanged information" with their friends from Russia. Some revisionists go so far as to claim that by helping to break the atomic monopoly and restrain American "aggression," Soviet spies contributed to world peace and even helped the U.S. (If that was the case, Haynes quipped, maybe America should have joined the Soviets in awarding the spies medals.)

Thus, although traditionalist historians have gained some ground since 1991, revisionism is still alive and kicking, Haynes asserted. In fact, revisionists still dominate history faculties and academic journals, and some traditionalists have left the field of Communist history due to intimidation or lack of publishing opportunities. Among the news media, too, there is a subtle pro-Communist bias. Haynes spoke of his frustration with, in particular, New York Times obituaries, where known Communists are not identified as such and are depicted more as victims than as villains.

Historians' continued denials of Communist treachery, and their tolerance of biased and deficient scholarship, constitute an "intellectually and morally sick situation" in the history profession, Haynes charged. He hopes that his blunt book will force historians to confront and alter the way they deal with Communism in their work.

But the issue, Haynes claimed, is of importance not just to historians. By presenting a sanitized, romantic history of Communism, revisionists help to pave the way for future radical and totalitarian movements. (As George Orwell wrote: "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.") All those who value truth and appreciate the lessons of history would do well to read In Denial.

Sean Grindlay is an intern at Accuracy in Media. He can be contacted at

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government
KEYWORDS: academia; bias; coldwar; communism; cpusa; history; revisionism
Sixties radicals are sparing today's youth about the war, famine and wholesale slaughter that characterized communism put into practice. Ideological sympathy draws these professors closer to Marx and Lenin than to the US Founding Fathers.
1 posted on 10/02/2003 2:49:31 PM PDT by walford
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To: All
A Recall AND a Fundraiser? I'm toast.
Let's get this over with FAST. Please contribute!

2 posted on 10/02/2003 2:51:10 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: walford
3 posted on 10/02/2003 2:51:49 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: walford
A good read about the left's portrayal of communism - Monda Charen's book Useless Idiots.

Facts based with lots of research and actual quotes from the western division of Al Queda (Democrats).
4 posted on 10/02/2003 2:53:03 PM PDT by Peach (The Clintons have pardoned more terrorists than they ever captured or killed.)
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To: Peach
"A good read about the left's portrayal of communism - Mona Charen's book Useful Idiots."

5 posted on 10/02/2003 2:56:50 PM PDT by walford (I don't relish telling you that the emperor is wearing no clothes. It has to be done.)
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To: walford
Is this supposed to be a surprise? Do we expect American Communists to criticize the regimes they adore?

McArthy *was* paranoid. He was right, too.
6 posted on 10/02/2003 3:03:42 PM PDT by Windcatcher
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To: walford
Having done my doctoral work in history before the revisionists conquered the academy (as the traditionalists retired), I never bought the revisionist line. It was very refreshing during the '90s to see all the stuff coming out from the Soviet archives.

Conquest's stuff is excellent and everyone should read The Black Book of Communism by disilllusioned French leftist scholars published in '97 in French and translated in '99.

The way my generation in the '60s read William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and learned about the horrors of Nazism, the current generation should read The Black Book of Communism!

7 posted on 10/02/2003 3:06:19 PM PDT by CatoRenasci (Ceterum Censeo [Gallia][Germania][Arabia] Esse Delendam --- Select One or More as needed)
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To: All
Some revisionists go so far as to claim that by helping to break the atomic monopoly and restrain American "aggression," Soviet spies contributed to world peace and even helped the U.S.

I remember those days. Generally they are referred to as McCarthyism. We know now that McCarthy was right.

But what about today? How is that any different from our self-described new Democrat "progressives" helping to break the superpower monopoly and restrain American "aggression?" Progressives contribute to world peace and even help the U.S. by diluting our sovereignty, they say.

Why do conservatives think we can have discourse with ideologues such as these? This is a war within a war it is not traditional politics.

8 posted on 10/02/2003 3:07:38 PM PDT by WilliamofCarmichael
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To: Windcatcher
There is nothing to be done with these historians since they control the profession. The only things that we can do is to hope that their appointed successors are more open to truth. In practical terms, however, that means it will be another fifty years before the truth is recognized.
9 posted on 10/02/2003 3:12:32 PM PDT by RobbyS (CHIRHO)
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To: walford
Also to Haynes' and Klehr's credit is one of the most exhaustive and penetrating books on the Venona Project. Ann Coulter relied on their work heavily when she was writing Treason.

Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Visit the Palace Of Reason:

10 posted on 10/02/2003 3:18:56 PM PDT by fporretto (This tagline is programming you in ways that will not be apparent for years. Forget! Forget!)
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To: walford
The Left will never, ever, *EVER* voluntarily admit the crimes of Communism, because belief in the socialist Idea is an article of *faith* with them.

Horowitz has written extensively on this... have a look at his book "The Politics of Bad Faith". This dogmatic, slavish dedication to an Idea is why they keep arguing that "true Communism has never been tried". For them, Communism *by definition* is the solution to all of Mankind's woes, and therefore if every time it has been tried it has resulted in more woe, then whatever it was that was tried cannot, by definition, have been Communism.

Such being the case, obfuscating the crimes of Communism is an obvious pastime for leftist historians (a term which is itself an oxymoron, in the same manner as "objective media"...)

11 posted on 10/02/2003 4:31:53 PM PDT by fire_eye
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To: walford
What is history but a fable agreed upon?

Napoleon Bonaparte

12 posted on 10/02/2003 5:02:01 PM PDT by glorgau
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To: CatoRenasci
Also highly recommended: Paul Hollander's Political Pilgrims and Anti-Americanism. Hollander was one of the first to diagnose the strange compulsion of the intelligentisia to continue to embrace and embrace communist regimes even when faced with irrefutable evidence of their true nature.
13 posted on 10/02/2003 7:50:20 PM PDT by RightWingAtheist ("Ni Jesus, Ni Marx"-it's my motto too.)
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To: walford
And now we learn that the communist party of America supports the democrats and their presidential candidates! The influence of the communists is very great.
14 posted on 10/02/2003 7:52:55 PM PDT by hedgetrimmer
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