WE SHINE FOR ALL
Your magazine remains a
beacon of hope for all of us, even those who revile you for your
progressive values--because we all lose when mindless, precipitate
actions are taken that end up costing more lives and wasting more
resources. You are a refreshing alternative voice to the jingoism
overtaking this nation. Thank you for remaining true to the cause of
LEE--FULBRIGHT OF HER TIME
Thank you for the interview with Representative
Lee ["Barbara Lee's Stand," Oct. 8]. I was reminded of Senator
William Fulbright's comment (in an interview not long before his
death in 1995) responding to the question of how he would vote on the
Tonkin Gulf Resolution given the benefit of hindsight. Fulbright was
chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1965. The
resolution, passed with about the same degree of consideration given
the House Use of Force resolution, gave President Johnson a similar
blank check to escalate the Vietnam War. Fulbright said if he had
another chance he would do his best to stop the 1965 resolution.
Barbara Lee is in good company.
GREG STARKEBAUM (Vietnam
MAD PROF--'VOICE OF REASON'
Patricia Williams--finally a voice of reason rather than mere reaction ["Diary
of a Mad Law Professor," Oct. 1]. No sane person would condone the
terrible acts in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. But what's
missing from our reaction is self-reflection and self-criticism.
America has drawn increasingly inward with George W. Bush and his
isolationist policies. The walking out of US delegates at the Durban
Conference on Racism is the most recent sad proof that America does
not want to hear or deal with what it does not like. This nation's
skewed foreign policy puts us all in peril. The American people and
our leaders must become more knowledgeable about the rest of the
world and how US actions and polices are perceived. Professor
Williams is absolutely correct. This is no time for ignoring the
causes of the deep hatred for the United States among many people and
cultures around the world.
FLY YOUR FLAGS
It is rare for me to
disagree with Katha Pollitt, but in "Put Out No Flags" she spoke too
quickly ["Subject to Debate," Oct. 8]. She should listen to her
daughter. The flag cannot be allowed to stand for "jingoism and
vengeance and war." We must take it back. It must again stand for the
best we can dream.
As a child during
World War II, I knew that our flag represented freedom. Most homes,
including ours, proudly flew the flag. Our nation fought a war, paid
a high price and helped win a fight that saved future generations
from a terrible fate. Now, to protect our grandchildren from a life
of terror, we must again take up a just cause and fight for
freedom--freedom that even allows for the expression of unrealistic
and offensive thoughts.
JOHN C. BOOTH
Pollitt says that what is needed is solidarity. Right now, that is
what the Stars and Stripes does for this country. It shows that we
citizens of this Republic are united against the perpetrators of
these barbarous acts. The fact that right-wingers used the flag to
support that monstrosity known as the Vietnam War doesn't mean those
on the left must cede this psychic territory of the Stars and Stripes
to the Ann Coulters and Jerry Falwells of the world. To use the flag
when engaged in activities that it stands for--freedom of speech,
freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to petition the government for
the redress of grievances--what a radical idea! What a nonviolent
rebuff to those who have injured us!
White Salmon, Wash.
with Katha Pollitt's opinion of what our flag stands for. I also
agree with her daughter, who wants to fly it in a show of solidarity
with the victims and survivors and rescue workers, families and loved
ones who have been touched by this horrendous act against humanity.
The country needs to become united with the rest of the world,
Muslims, Arabs, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, everyone.
have agonized over how to show my solidarity without appearing to be
pro-war. So I have hung Buddhist prayer flags against my house and my
boyfriend's house next to his US flag. We feel that this represents
what we feel--support for our country's losses and a wish for
worldwide peace, US restraint and acceptance of everyone, regardless
of race or religion. The prayer flags carry our prayers (for peace)
with the wind, around the globe.
Virginia Beach, Va.
you, Katha Pollitt. Now I know I'm not alone. I refuse to fly our
flag as long as we kill people and don't negotiate. I received an
e-mail saying that we should all wear a purple ribbon for those who
have died in this terrible tragedy, as we did the yellow ribbon
during Desert Storm. I feel that this is much more
flag-waving for the same reason as Katha Pollitt, but I've been
jonesin' for a flag I could believe in. I'd like to see a flag with a
globe on it, as she mentions, so I could wave it proudly to say, I
belong to the Earth and I take a stand for protecting it.
MICHELLE Y. R'MY
It's a painful time for those of
us who have lived through the bad choices our government made in the
twentieth century. As one who has survived all those choices (I was
born in 1909), I fly the Earth flag--a blue banner with the beautiful
photo of our planet taken from outer space, used for the first Earth
Day. Our small organization has distributed these flags to schools
and municipalities for many years to help people realize that, in the
words of the Earth Charter (which all governments must
subscribe to if our planet is to survive), we must "bring forth a
sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal
human rights, economic justice and a culture of
Save Our World
I went to the AAA
flag store here last week and passed the forty or so people standing
in line to buy American flags and asked loudly, "Where are the flags
with the picture of planet Earth on them?" I took one home, and it
now flies proudly next to my American flag--which I fly with some
ambivalence but also with a determination to redefine this symbol of
jingoism for myself.
I have not joined the
patriotic fervor by displaying a US flag even though I deeply mourn
the loss of innocent lives, not just American lives but lives from at
least eighty other countries ruthlessly sacrificed in a perverted
interpretation of Islam. The first impulse I had was to fly the flag
with a picture of the Earth to show solidarity with our brothers and
sisters throughout the world. But since I don't own such a flag, I
have tied a black ribbon to my car antenna in memory of those who
died and as a symbol of the period of darkness that must now be
overcome if we as a global people wish to survive. Patriotism serves
only to further separate us from the sufferings of our brothers and
sisters throughout the world in a time when we need more than ever a
sense of unity and global community.
addresses the flag conundrum quite well. There is an alternative
symbol--the peace symbol--which could show empathy with the victims
and their families as well as expressing the desire for alternative
a global flag. See www.oneworldflag.org.
Thanks to Katha Pollitt for her
ideas for alternatives to the American battle flag. Here in
Asheville, we've made posters of the peace dove. They're hanging in
the windows of homes and businesses, a symbolic alternative to the
Stars and Stripes and the march to war.
Santa Monica, Calif.
We need American peace flags and not blank checks! Check us out to see what we're about: www.peaceflags.org
(click on info).
BILL RUSSELL, JOHN LANDRUM
Santa Cruz, Calif.
important to know our enemies. Listening to newscasters and
politicians would lead one to believe that our enemies are Osama bin
Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, Afghanistan or some fuzzily
defined worldwide network of brown-skinned lunatics with names like
Mohammed and Ahmed who take flying lessons in
Listening to the Rev. Jerry Falwell would lead one
to believe that our enemies are gays, Jews, abortion providers,
feminists, the ACLU and (though he neglected to mention them this
time) Teletubbies. Watching the actions of large numbers of Americans
would lead one to believe that our enemies are the 6 million Muslims
living in the United States, the mosques they pray at, the businesses
they run and the schools their children attend.
All are mistaken.
I hope Americans will look beyond these easy
targets and scapegoats and recognize their true enemies as ignorance,
intolerance and fanaticism. I fear we have already fallen prey to all
three. We have seen a man in Seattle drive his truck through a mosque
and begin shooting in the name of patriotism. And we may soon see our
military kill innocent people in the pursuit of one man and his
followers, also in the name of patriotism. As we indulge these acts,
I can only hope that we will not be surprised when their eventual and
inevitable responses follow, once again in the name of
We need to make the choice between a patriotism
we can buy at Wal-Mart for $3 and a greater cause than
patriotism--humanity. We must identify and make war on our own
tendencies toward fanaticism and intolerance. Otherwise, we ourselves
become the enemy, and the terrorists win.
UNCLE SAM WANTS THEM?
Given all the pro-war and American Empire rhetoric, I guess people like William
Kristol, David Brooks, Jonah Goldberg, Bill O'Reilly, Zell Miller,
Ann Coulter and the entire staff of National Review, among
others, will be stepping down from their jobs to go sign up at the
nearest armed services recruiting office. It will be a shame not to
hear their articulate opinions on everything from Monica Lewinsky to
the Taliban, but I believe it is a sacrifice America will have to
make. Such patriotic pundits, banging their war drums, surely will
lead America to victory.
Why don't we trade Henry Kissinger for Osama bin
Laden? Then we each can hold war crimes tribunals and let justice
prevail. It's a curious contrast: The Taliban won't surrender bin
Laden without presentation of evidence, whereas the United States
won't surrender Kissinger even with mountains of
OUR GLASS HOUSE
On September 11 America experienced a true faith-based initiative. Then, hearing the
remarks of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who purport to be
Christians, made it clear that we have fundamentalists in our own
society no better than those we say we must fight. Our forefathers
tried to protect us from intolerance by making our government
secular, with the imperative to protect all beliefs. We have just
experienced the result of deep intolerance and become the victims of
religious fanatics. It is heartbreaking to begin this new century
with "holy wars," and we must not let our leaders put us on those
terms. We must stop those right here in our own country who preach
intolerance. As much as we condemn Muslim extremists, it is difficult
to cast stones when you live in a glass house.
DOROTHY I. MUNDY
A 'HYPENATED PERSPECTIVE'
New York City
Can I be at
war with myself? Watching the World Trade Center collapse, then
living through the aftermath, I ask that absurd question. I'm
American with a Muslim name but nondescript appearance. No one takes
me for Middle Eastern--I was born in West Virginia, and I'm only a
quarter Arab. But thanks to the peculiarities of history, and naming,
I have an Arab-American identity.
The attack on the World
Trade Center puts me in an awful place. Like everyone else, I am
horrified and angered. I could have been there, munching a bagel on
the observation deck. I can't imagine how someone could have planned
such an attack, and my shock is turning into anger and mourning. At
the same time, I feel excluded from the national unity. Why? As an
Arab-American, I'm subject to reprisals. I'm nervous, wondering if I
will somehow share the blame. Slurs, threats and even violence have
been leveled against anyone associated with Islam, and I wonder what
will happen to me. I'm looking for work--will I be denied a job? What
if a wider war breaks out? Will I lose my liberty?
friends have said I should go to Egypt. They meant well, but their
comments betrayed a misunderstanding that verges on racism. Hard as
it is for the safely white to comprehend, there is only one place for
me and other hyphenated Americans: the United States. America
produced me. My grandparents hail from four different countries.
Where else could they have created a family? If I'm out of place here
thanks to my name, I'm certainly out of place in the Middle East,
where I stick out as an American. What is left for me? Do we have to
pick sides in the end? And what can I do if neither side will have
me, if both treat me as the enemy?
Some of my fellow
citizens are striking out at American Muslims. Some are even calling
for a firestorm to be rained upon Islamic nations. Don't they see
that the terrorists had the same inspiration? The Afghans were caught
between the Soviet Union and the United States for decades. Their
country has been reduced to rubble. They have no hope. Violence
occurs in cycles, and, if we respond senselessly, striking innocent
people in our search for criminals, we'll create more radicals, more
suicide bombers who embody the despair of poverty and war. The
monopoly on violence is broken, and I shudder to think what comes
My situation brings a special clarity, one that
opposes choosing sides. What do I see from my hyphenated perspective?
The absurdity of labels, indeed, of the whole idea that race,
religion or flags divide humanity. I have a Muslim name, but my
grandfather was Serbian. How would that fly in the Balkans? Is the
world becoming a vast Balkan state?
I've wondered if I will
have to choose a side. If I do, here is my choice: pacifism and
dialogue. I choose love, I choose humanity. I may symbolize Islam to
some and America to others, but I transcend these distinctions. I am
proof that love conquers hate. My grandparents conquered tradition to
found my family, and I stand tall as an American born from a unique
and tolerant soil. What race produced me? The human race. I plead for
understanding and compassion. Chase the criminals, but let us then
begin to fight. Let us fight not for oil, money or revenge but for a
world where hatred and weapons belong to a distant, barbaric
'NEITHER IN THE EAST OR THE WEST'
I am an Arab-American. I am also a New Yorker born
in America of a Moroccan Muslim father. On September 11 I stood
terrified at my office window above Madison Square Garden, as I
watched in horror and disbelief the devastating destruction of the
World Trade Center--one of the quintessential landmarks of this city
I love. In the distance, down the soundless stretch of Seventh Avenue
hung the ghostly cloud of what moments before had been the mirror for
the Statue of Liberty, the thriving workplace of thousands of people
hailing from all over the planet, each living their portion of the
American dream. Read the names on the Wall of Prayers outside St.
Vincent's Hospital; they will tell you how the blow dealt to New York
truly hit the world, for the names are not only Mark, Jennifer and
Kevin, but Imran, Mohammed and Kumar. The terrorists who committed
this heinous act, if they were Muslim, are no more "my people" than
Timothy McVeigh was "the people" of Christians.
liberal Muslim, I must speak out with the clearest and loudest of
voices and not let fanatics and extremists define me and my
community. For we are in the vast majority--Muslims and Arabs who
condemn the killing of another human being, who believe that Allah is
compassionate and good and forgiving. Who know that the Koran forbids
suicide, who see life as a gift that must not be squandered. My
father taught me his favorite sura from the Koran, where God
is described as a "Light within Light, emanating from a source found
neither in the East nor in the West." The terrorists who carried with
them death and destruction shared neither my vision of Allah, nor my
vision of the world. They were men devoured by hate and stood only
I don't know if we will ever have a real
sense of how much was lost on September 11. I don't think I can ever
stop hearing the bells from the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
that tolled for the dead all day that Tuesday. I heard them as I
walked out of Central Park coughing from the soot and ash, my feet
blistered from the long trek to Harlem, away from the horror. I
feared so much was dying, I feared not just for my college friends,
graduate school buddies and neighbors who worked in those towers but
for my visions of peace and of a better world. I feared for my dream
of an end to the conflict in the Middle East--most likely that vision
had gone up in a cloud of smoke. What of my hopes of cultural
understanding, of erasing of stereotypes, of validating identity and
difference? That, too, had come tumbling down. The terrorists had
sounded the death knell for my vision of a better day to come.
But I will not let them do that. In memory of all those
who died, I will speak up loudly and not let terrorists write the
epitaph of our future. I will not let a handful of hatemongers, who
twisted the minds of desperate souls, convince more people that there
is no way out of despair but through destruction. The differences
that divide the Arab-Muslim world and the West are not a chasm that
nobody can bridge, and I will not let extremists on either side tell
me otherwise. I refuse to let hate draw the blueprints for our
ANISSA MARIAM BOUZIANE
We regret that space considerations permit us to print only a few of the many letters we received on Martin Duberman's "A Fellow Traveling," his review of Ronald Radosh's Commies, and Victor Navasky's "Cold War Ghosts," an essay on the new McCarthyism, both in the July 16 issue. Among those we're unable to print (but which may be read on our website) are letters from victims of McCarthyism, letters on the merits (demerits, actually) of the Hiss and Rosenberg convictions, scholarly letters filling in missing pieces of cold war history (including one from a Navy veteran who served in the Office of Strategic Services) and a letter finding a "cold war ghost" in the actions of "those who rule the National Pacifica Radio Board." Radosh invites readers to his website to read his answer to Duberman's review. We accept, and we invite readers to our special website letters page to read more on this topic. --The Editors
I would like to thank Martin Duberman for trying to be evenhanded and fair in his discussion of my memoir, Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left. I suspect that many Nation readers will be angry that he did not deliver the hatchet job expected by so many of them. Nevertheless, I have many points of difference with both him and Victor Navasky, whose piece appeared in the same issue. Rather than take up the limited space allotted in the letters column, which would not allow for a substantive answer, I refer interested readers to my archive at frontpagemag.com, where they will find my answers to both Duberman and Navasky.
I thank Victor Navasky and Martin Duberman for their sane and cogent analyses of the new anti-Communism. As a veteran of union organizing during the Great Depression and of military service in World War II, I long ago concluded that Communism and anti-Communism are equally absurd. They are absurd in being essentially theological, in the outdated mode of the Crusades or of Cromwell's Puritanism. Both Communism and anti-Communism derive tests of faith syllogistically from shaky first principles. Thereupon their opposing heresy-hunters are off and running. Heretics are judged to violate vague notions called loyalty and security. Our nation's Founding Fathers omitted these notions and defined treason narrowly and precisely. Later the notion of loyalty tests died with rejection of the Alien and Sedition Acts; died again with revulsion against the Palmer Raids; and died a third time with the deserved unpopularity of Joe McCarthy. (Espionage is another matter. Insofar as there really are national secrets, they must be protected, but only with strict observance of due process.) I began to recognize Stalin's paranoia and cruelty with Trotsky's murder and the "treason" trials. Nevertheless, I must raise a query about Sidney Hook's dictum that "the first priority" of our time has been "the defense and survival of the West." Did not the Red Army, despite Stalin's crimes, help to meet that priority?
JOHN M. PICKERING
Martin Duberman and Victor Navasky leave out one important point. During the cold war many anti-Communist liberals and leftists, with some very few honorable exceptions, spent more time inveighing against "domestic totalitarianism" on the left than they did agitating for peace and social justice. For all of their well-meaning ideals, those anti-Communist liberals did no more to advance progressive causes than did the right-wingers who were using anti-Communism to impede those causes.Meanwhile, rank-and-file Communists, as well as other leftists, without regard to who did or did not do what and with which and to whom, were among the most dedicated, passionate and successful people working for peace and social justice. And they and their political descendants remain so today.
Chevy Chase, Md.
The Soviet Union is no more, nor, effectively, is the CPUSA; yet the indefatigable experts on the Red Menace keep clambering over old battlefields and, with the help of such imperfect tools as the Venona Project, constructing new ones.
Victor Navasky and Martin Duberman adumbrate admirably the pathological nature of this quest, the dishonest methods employed by its practitioners, the absurdity of regarding Communism solely as a security threat and the American CP as just a tool of Soviet foreign policy. But both writers are guilty of some serious inaccuracies. Thus, while Irving Howe objected to Ronald Radosh's portrayal of the Sandinista regime as composed of "ultrarevolutionary Marxist-Leninists," it is absurd to suggest, as Duberman does, that Howe would warn Radosh not to criticize the Sandinista regime while they were "under attack by the American empire." I happen to know something about it, as I was close to Howe and wrote a few pieces for Dissent after visiting Nicaragua and interviewing some of its leading players.
In general, terms like "Marxist-Leninist" and "Stalinist" are often used incautiously vis-à-vis Central American revolutionary parties. There were certainly Marxist-Leninists among the Sandinistas, but the Sandinistas were a motley lot, and "anti-imperialism" or "anti-Yankeeism"was more relevant to their collective ideological makeup than the verities of Marx and Lenin: It could hardly be otherwise. Nor is it true that the Sandinistas simply followed the "Castro model." Rather, they tried to combine it with those of Eastern Europe's "people's democracies" and, curiously, with more authentic stress on democratic principles. Even the Polish elections of 1989, which brought Solidarity to power, stipulated that 65 percent of all seats in the new Parliament would be held by Communists and their allies.
As for the American CP, however small the number of members Moscow tried to recruit--successfully or not--few of them were starry-eyed idealists fighting for social justice, organizing unions (as long as they could control them) and joining Pete Seeger in singing "We Shall Not Be Moved." Almost all desperately believed that the Russian CP was always right and that frequent changes in the party line were explainable by the Russian comrades' superior wisdom. (Doubts and hesitations would be suppressed--though luckily not altogether banished.)
Hence the outrageous justifications of Stalin's heinous crimes, hence the inquisitorial means used against suddenly out-of-favor figures, and the groveling mea culpas by those who had, poor souls, defended the new enemies when they were still revered leaders.
During my many years as a Sovietologist, I got to know not a few ex-Communists, some of whom (Joe Starobin, for instance) became good friends. It was precisely their original commitment to a noble cause that made many realize that they had been serving false gods. Still, for a long time they had belonged to a party that was, in the words of French CP head Maurice Thorez, "unlike any other political party," a description that fits the American CP as well as the French. Exposing one set of simplifications is no reason for espousing another.
Washington Township, N.J.
Victor Navasky's "Cold War Ghosts" was as cogent and historically focused as anything I have read on this topic in a very long while. The old left, social idealists like me whose beliefs were contoured by the Depression and World War II, made mistakes, but we were never ideological "shills," as a Nation essayist recently called us. We believed in fundamental human rights for all Americans and, yes, in peace, and we put our youthful energies and our hearts into trying to move our country toward those goals. Espionage was never part of it. We bore harsh criticism for our efforts and some of us suffered severe punishment. It was not that we were wrong but that we underestimated the enormous power of the right wing, which distorted and misrepresented who we were to the American people. By raising the specter of espionage, they were able to successfully market their own antihumanist agenda and have been doing it ever since.
Misjudging the right was a mistake as destructive as the misplaced trust we put in our own demagogues, but at least our efforts were honest. That is not true, I believe, of most of this era's facile-tongued critics with their skewed hindsight, dishonest representations and scrambled historiography.
Victor Navasky is right that historians obsessed with Communist Party espionage have been unable to offer a convincing answer to the question, What was the essence of the Communist Party USA? The Comintern, Profintern (Red International of Labor Unions) and CPUSA archives in Moscow are vast, and are perhaps even more riddled with difficult problems of evidence and verification than most historical archives. It still seems to me, as someone who has done extensive research in those archives, that to focus selectively on some documents implicating certain CP leaders in espionage seems wildly misdirected and disproportionate. Even at the level of leadership cadre, the emphasis on espionage does not hold up very well. After all, even CP leader William Z. Foster (whom Harvey Klehr himself identified in his book Communist Cadre as the single most influential leader in the party throughout its history because of his degree of involvement with its everyday governance) has not been identified as connected with the espionage apparatus, nor has he been implicated in the Venona dispatches. Significantly, Foster, despite his shortcomings as a party spokesman, was primarily involved in labor organizing, the party's self-declared most important mission. Productive research into the party's goals and mission must begin by rejecting the functionalist and unilluminating "spies or dupes" dichotomies of the McCarthy era.
Pine Plains, N.Y.
The Haunted Wood was formed under conditions that should be known: The co-authors are not really co-authors. There was the researcher, Alexander Vassiliev, who spent two years in the KGB archives gathering the material, and the editor, Allen Weinstein, who put the book together. Vassiliev had virtually no say on what went into the book. It wasn't supposed to be that way. Vassiliev, an ex-KGB colonel, seems to have been overwhelmed by Weinstein's reputation, his rhetoric and by the prospect that Weinstein kept dangling in front of him of making big bucks from the book. Also, he was in England, and Weinstein was in the United States, dealing with editors and publishers.
The uneven collaboration unfortunately weakens the book in more ways than one. The heavy anti-Hiss slant is pure Weinstein; the substitution of Hiss's name wherever Vassiliev wrote "Ales" was not Vassiliev's idea. Victor Navasky (and everyone else) should know that Vassiliev told me that in the KGB files "I never I saw a document where Hiss would be called Ales or Ales may be called Hiss. I made a point of that to Allen. It might be important for you." Ah, yes. Just slightly.
Left out of the final copy is the list of code names that Vassiliev found in the archives. It is, according to Vassiliev, a list of names and code names of US sources and Soviet operatives who worked in the United States. Besides names that have been noted in various other books, such as Silvermaster, Bentley and Golos, the following appear: Alger Hiss, given the code name Leonard, noted as a former official of the State Department; Harry Dexter White, "Lawyer," noted as dead; Whittaker Chambers, code-named Karl. A measure of the limits of Vassiliev's understanding of US political history (and this underscores how Weinstein took control of the book) is that, according to Vassiliev, this list "was composed in connection with Bentley's defection," and of course Bentley defected in 1945, Hiss resigned from the State Department in 1947 and White died in 1948.
Also on the list, according to Vassiliev, is Noel Field, code-named Ernst, an idealist of whom much has been written, most of it wrong. Field was an authority on disarmament, an idealistic "Quaker communist" who, offered the German desk at the State Department in 1936, turned it down to work for the League of Nations in Geneva (not exactly the smartest thing to do if you are a Russian spy). By the late 1940s Field was in Europe working for world peace and by 1949 had been picked up by the Russians and thrown into a Budapest prison, accused of being an American spy.
But back to The Haunted Wood. Accompanying a photo there's a caption that reads, "Three high-ranking Soviet agents in policy-making position in the wartime Roosevelt Administration--Laughlin Currie, Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White--all provided Moscow with crucial documents...." Vassiliev says he never saw a document, or reference to a document, supplied by Hiss in the files.
Am I the only one who thinks that "Ales" might be almost anyone except Alger Hiss? Without any special knowledge of the field, it seems unlikely that any competent espionage organization would assign a code name so easy to decipher. (Not to mention Alger's willingness to identify himself this way.) Have the readers of the Venona files found other cases of similarly transparent anagrams? If not, maybe they should wonder why an exception was made in this one case, or if in fact "Ales" continues successfully to conceal the true identity of the real spy: Bill Buckley, perhaps, or Fala.
ROBERT M. FLANAGAN
I make no claim to be either a historian or an intellectual. But after reading Victor Navasky's "Cold War Ghosts," I wondered, Why would Hiss's name be mentioned at all in the Venona communications if he were innocent? To excuse that use of his name by saying the spies were not supposed to use real names is begging the question.
THOMAS BRYAN WARREN
Another "cold war ghost" occurred to me while reading Victor Navasky's article: To this day, civilian federal government agencies spend millions each year on security clearances that invade the privacy of career federal employees who have absolutely no access whatsoever to national security information. These costly and intrusive investigations are based on an Eisenhower executive order that created a cottage industry for the FBI and the OPM, who conduct the background checks.
New York City
Thanks to all who sent their thanks. Here I'll only say to Thomas Warren that my point was not that "spies were not supposed to use real names" but rather that under the informal rules of Venona, real spies were never referred to by their real names, only their code names. Thus the cryptic Venona reference to "Hiss" by his real name gives rise to the inference--to be weighed along with other evidence pro and con--that he was not a spy.
And to Abe Brumberg, whom I admire, I'll say only that while I may indeed be guilty of "serious inaccuracies," I can't find them in his letter. I didn't suggest that hard-core Stalinists and Moscow-recruited spies sang along with Pete Seeger (although they may well have), but rather that 99.9 percent of the CPUSA were not spies, and many of them did row the boat ashore (Hallelujah!) with Peter. I don't doubt that some of them were apologists for the party line.
New York City
To John M. Pickering: In insisting that "Communism and anti-Communism are equally absurd," you're equating Communism with Stalinism and ignoring communism with a small c. Those who did and do believe in lower-case communism are part of a complex lineage--an intertwined, shifting mix of Fourierist, anarchist, Marxist and socialist traditions--whose first principles, far from being "shaky," as you blithely state, are solidly rooted in the belief that (to employ one common formulation) the "highest social priority should go to the needs of the least fortunate." Nothing theological about that: It's about the distribution of opportunity and wealth right here on earth.
To Abe Brumberg: I knew Irving Howe only slightly, but through the years I read (and agreed with) his extended, sophisticated critique of Stalinism--which makes me suspect that you're right in saying it would have been out of character for him to warn Ronald Radosh (as Radosh claims) against attacking the Sandinista regime while it was "under attack by the American empire"; but I can't prove it one way or the other.I also accept your corrective that the Sandinistas combined a "Castro model" with that of the Eastern European "people's democracies," though I'd still question how much "democracy" that represented.
We agree that only a small number of those who joined the American CP became spies for Moscow, but I don't share your certainty that among them only a "few...were starry-eyed idealists fighting for social justice." How can you know that for sure? Where is the evidence to back your claim that "almost all...believed that the Russian CP was always right"? I doubt we'll ever have the documentation needed to prove or disprove such statements, given how many CP members are dead and how inordinately difficult it is to measure and quantify human motivation. In saying this, I acknowledge that my own opinion is also impressionistic--based, that is, on a selective list of readings and interviews that I could never prove are "representative."
And finally, to Ron Radosh: Yes, I've caught some hell from fellow leftists for being "too soft" on you in my review. That didn't bother me overly much until I went, as you directed, to your far lengthier response online. It contains so many startling misstatements about what I believe that I have to wonder, after all, whether I didn't give you too much credit for veracity. I never thought I'd have to set this particular record straight, but here goes: I've never believed, let alone "still" believe, that the Soviet Union was on the "right side of history." Nor do I believe, as you suggest, that "only apologists for Stalinism are true black people." Really, Radosh, that is a bit much!--even for someone who can claim that the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua "was comparatively moderate and merely authoritarian" when compared with the Sandinistas! To prepare me for your kind of "history," I'd better start reading more novels.
: Ronald Radosh h
Woods Hole, Mass.
Katha Pollitt is my favorite Nation columnist, but guess what, Katha, you've got my objections to cloning embryo stem cells all wrong ["Subject to Debate," July 23/30].
Maybe now that it's public knowledge that researchers have been buying women's eggs so they can make human embryos for research, you may be getting the point. But if not, let me explain. Human eggs don't grow on trees. They are embedded deep inside women's bodies; not easy to get at, like sperm. To collect more than one at a time means you first have to give women hormones to shut their ovaries down. You then have to hyperstimulate their ovaries with hormones of another sort so that many more than the customary single monthly follicle and its egg mature. At the right time, you then puncture each follicle and suck out its egg. Sound good for women? Steptoe and Edwards, the scientific "fathers" of Louise Brown, didn't give her mother hormones because they feared it wasn't safe. They waited patiently for a follicle to mature and then collected the egg that eventually became Louise. But the fertility industry doesn't have time for such niceties. Now it's hormones and mass production.
The concerns Pollitt imputes to me are not what worries me. I worry about what this new "need" for human embryos will do to women. And do you know what? We may never know the answer, because in countries with proper healthcare systems where proper health records are kept, people are not permitted to buy and sell body parts. "The enemy isn't the research," Pollitt writes, "it's capitalism." Wrong again: The enemy is research under capitalism.
Professor emeritus of biology Harvard University
Board member, Council for Responsible Genetics (www.gene-watch.org)
It's unfortunate that the usually perceptive Katha Pollitt completely misses the point about human cloning in her column on this subject. Kids produced by in vitro fertilization are one thing: They are made from the standard starting materials--an egg and a sperm. The donor of either may request anonymity, but the resulting infant is guaranteed to be a full-fledged member of the human species, biologically speaking (as well as socially and legally, although these connections are rapidly being eroded in the current environment--see Lori Andrews, The Clone Age, Henry Holt, 1999).
A clone is quite a different animal, however. It is constructed of parts of cells (an egg missing its nucleus; the nucleus of an adult cell) that never meet in the course of reproduction. Evolution has never had to deal with, and arrive at correctives for, the errors introduced into the developmental process resulting from this atypical combination of cell parts. No wonder virtually all attempts at animal cloning have led to fetal deaths, multiple birth defects or severe health problems later in the lives of even the most sound-looking clones. This is not a set of problems that can be worked out in mice before confidently being attempted in humans; it is probably too complex to be fully controlled, and in any case, each species presents unique complications.
A Massachusetts company, Advanced Cell Technologies, has announced that it is now producing clonal human embryos as a first step in producing donor-matched therapeutic stem cells. And now biotechnology industry representatives have begun to make common cause with some of their anti-choice beneficiaries in Congress in trying to define such embryos as "not true human embryos" in order to thwart laws against their production and manipulation. Indeed, if Pollitt's blasé attitude toward the production of full-term human clones becomes prevalent, we can look forward to the day when the not-quite-natural, not-quite-artificial products of human cloning experiments (disconnected, as they would be, from any social network other than that defined by ownership rights) are also redefined as "not true humans." This would open the way to their finding use as sources of transplantable organs,experimental laboratory models or perhaps, for the most presentable examples, wounded hero status in the march of reproductive technology. Would Pollitt flip off concerns about "threats to 'human individuality and dignity'" in this not very distant brave new world?
STUART A. NEWMAN
Professor of cell biology,
New York Medical College
Board member, Council for Responsible Genetics (www.gene-watch.org)
On the question of human cloning, Katha Pollitt's usually reliable political insight has failed her. She dismisses the pro-choice statement calling for bans on human cloning--signed to date by more than a hundred women's health and reproductive rights leaders--on the grounds that the pending Congressional bills to prohibit cloning are the "brainchildren of anti-choice Republican yahoos."
But that's precisely the point: Human cloning and genetic manipulation are feminist-liberal-progressive-radical issues. We leave them to the anti-choice crowd at our considerable peril.
The recent deluge of news about stem cells has generated a great deal of confusion about cloning. Two clarifications are key: First, opposition to cloning can and does co-exist with support for research on embryonic stem cells, using embryos from in vitro fertilization procedures. Stem cell research and embryo cloning intersect, but they are technically distinguishable--and vastly different politically.
Second, looking at human cloning through the lens of abortion politics blurs and distorts its meaning. The prospect of cloned or genetically "enhanced" children is ominous because it could so easily trigger an unprecedented kind of eugenics, one implemented not by state coercion but by upscale marketing campaigns for designer babies.
Pollitt thinks this scenario unlikely. I invite her to reconsider. The marginal figures she mentions--the Raelians and the cowboy fertility doctor Panos Zavos--are not the only champions of human cloning, and they are far from the most dangerous.
Already biotech companies are jockeying for patents on procedures to clone and manipulate human embryos. And for several years now, a disturbing number of influential scientists, biotech entrepreneurs, bioethicists and others have been actively promoting human cloning and genetic redesign. Some are open about their ambition to set humanity on a eugenic path and to "seize control of human evolution."
One example among many is Princeton University molecular biologist Lee Silver. In multiple appearances on national television and in the newsweeklies, Silver has plugged the "inevitable" emergence of a genetic caste system in which the "GenRich" rule and the "Naturals" work as "low-paid service providers." Like others of his persuasion, he seems quite ready to abandon any pretense of commitment to equality--or even to a common humanity.
Pollitt is right to caution against accepting wildly overblown claims about the power of genes to determine everything from sexual orientation to homelessness. But it would be foolish to overlook the rapidly expanding powers of genetic manipulation, or to dismiss the possibility that the advocates of a "posthuman" future will achieve enough mastery over the human genome to wreak enormous damage--biologically, culturally and politically.
Free-market eugenics is not science fiction or far off. It is an active political agenda that must be urgently opposed.
Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic Technologies
New York City
"It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's...Superclone?"--my column on cloning--was probably the most unpopular "Subject to Debate" ever. Clearly this is a vexed subject, with many aspects, some of which are noted in the letters above.
The hormone-stimulated ripening and extraction of eggs, which Ruth Hubbard vividly describes, are, as she notes, the basis of much assisted reproduction, including now-routine procedures like in vitro fertilization with one's own eggs. Indeed, many college newspapers advertise for egg donors, and many students are willing to go through the extraction process and to take on its risks in return for substantial fees. Cloning would expand this market--how much, we don't know--but the market already flourishes.
While I, too, am troubled by so many women undergoing procedures whose long-term safety is still unknown--I mentioned this in my column as a fair objection to cloning--the fact is that every day all sorts of people take risks for money, or knowledge, or pleasure, or survival. What makes eggs so sacred? And would Hubbard approve of cloning embryos if the eggs were obtained in the "patient," old-fashioned way?
Stuart Newman and Marcy Darnovsky raise "brave new world" scenarios that to me do indeed sound farfetched and wild, and not even all bad--why would it be bad to "design" healthy babies, cloned or not? In any case, cloning seems like an odd place to begin worrying about a society divided into classes destined from birth for different levels of health, wealth and personal development: We live in that society now!
IF I HAD A HAMMER...
I agree with Katrina vanden Heuvel on the
necessity of building a better infrastructure to combat the
right-wing corporate giant ["Building to Win," July 9]. The right has
the money and the media. The progressives have the brains and the
moral highroad. Let's keep to the latter while concentrating on how
best to position the former. Newt Gingrich used computer technology
to fire his misguided agenda. Progressives need to capture the
Internet as the means to train, inform, meet and proselytize (The
website Common Dreams is a good start). Technology can go far beyond
a simple reprinting of well-written articles. I suggest that the web
be our printing press as well as our town meeting hall to take back
our party, the Democratic Party, and to then move the rest of the
country back from the fringe of fascism.
New York City
infrastructure is essential. But until we regain command over the
buzzwords, conservatives hold the advantage. After a relentless
barrage of invective by conservatives and sixties radicals, "liberal"
became a term of opprobrium. "Marketplace" must be shown to be a
myth; "privatize," a synonym for corrupt favoritism; "missile defense
initiative," a form of corporate welfare; "interests" returned to its
original meaning, corporate oligopoly; "tax reduction," a transfer of
wealth from those who have little to those who have much;
"globalization," a search for the most repressive dictatorships that
deliver the lowest wages and costs. Government and labor must be what
they were in the past, the only counterweights to supranational
Katrina vanden Heuvel
perpetuates a common misunderstanding when she states, "The 1997
Supreme Court decision against the New Party...has chained us
constitutionally to the existing duopoly." Not so. Nothing in the
Constitution "chains" us to the two-party system. Only federal law
does. A statute passed by Congress forces states to gerrymander their
territories into single-member districts. This law entrenches duopoly
politics, because a one-winner election turns third parties into
spoilers and encourages voters to hold their noses and vote for one
of only two candidates. Thus, states are prevented from using
proportional representation (PR), which the Constitution would allow.
By using larger, multimember districts and preference or party-list
voting, PR would give third and fourth parties a chance. A bill in
Congress, HR 1189, the Voters' Choice Act, would eliminate the
single-seat requirement, allowing states to experiment with PR. The
duopoly can be broken without having to face the Supreme Court or
amend the Constitution. It's a legislative issue, like other election
reforms, and progressives should be leading the way.
New York City
I'm sorry if my
shorthand summary of our present predicament was confusing. It is
quite true, of course, that the Constitution does not mandate a
two-party system. Indeed, it says nothing at all about parties. Our
duopoly is a creation of statutory law and administration rule, and
in principle we could change it by the same means. The age-old
problem, however, is that the very duopoly the law protects also runs
our government and has never shown the slightest interest in
increasing competition. So those who wish to reform the system are
forced to use citizen initiative or the courts.
Supreme Court's decision in Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New
Party did was in effect to preclude the second line of attack.
Steered by the same Gang of Five that later gave us Bush v.
Gore, it held that the current major parties werefree to
construct electoral rules for the exclusive purpose of limiting
competition to themselves. Just how profound a departure from past
law this was is important to see. Before Timmons the Court
often recognized the endurance of our two-party system and even the
possible virtues of the duopoly over other electoral systems. But
what it had never done was misread the Constitution to favor
party duopoly, and it had always treated any effort by the two major
parties to reproduce themselves indefinitely as the duopoly--by
erecting artificial barriers to new party entry and effective
competition--with something approaching contempt. The Court said in
Timmons that existing parties had a legitimate interest in
doing just that. Moreover, it declared itself prepared to uphold this
interest regardless of a showing, as was made and accepted in the
case, that doing so hurt our electoral system's representativeness
with no gain in any other electoral value--accountability or
stability, for instance--traditionally recognized by the Court. After
Timmons, I see no constitutional argument that might
successfully be made against the rules upholding our duopoly. That's
what I meant by saying the decision "chained us constitutionally."
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL
I know a place
where the Navy can shift its bombing operations that will make
everybody happy--Martha's Vineyard [Angelo Falcón, "Liberating
Vieques," July 9]! Like Vieques, the Vineyard is a charming island
with easy access to sea and land. With more than three times
Vieques's paltry fifty-one square miles, it should afford the Navy a
much wider range of out-of-the-way targets. And since the peak season
runs only about three months, there'll be ample opportunity to
squeeze in the 180 days a year of bombing the Navy says it needs to
maintain readiness. Since the Navy claims these operations have no
significant impact on public health, safety, economy, ecology or
quality of life, I don't foresee a problem.
YOU CAN TAKE THIS VOTE & SHOVE
As one of those
blue-collar white folks examined in Andrew Levison's review of why
most supported Bush in the last election, I'd like to point out that
most of us didn't support anybody--refusing to take what time off we
have to vote for one elitist son of a politician over another. Just
whose version of NAFTA were we supposed to endorse? As best as I can
tell, a lot of scholarship went into explaining the obvious ["Who
Lost the Working Class?" May 14].
Working white folk have
been abandoned for decades by the Democrats and corporate labor, a
feeling native workers "of color" are beginning to experience. Racial
divisions were exploited by conservatives for profit and liberals for
posture. And while we knocked heads over jobs and wages, the libs and
cons retired to their clubs under the awning of loyal
Levison continues the obvious fallacy that
unions represent the majority of workers and their interests. After
they purged action-oriented activists a couple of generations ago,
their flaccid advocacies have served only to diminish their own
numbers, bolstered today only by a willingness to adopt scabs once
workers have lost their jobs. The new predominant service industries
require servility over skill. Americans suck as servants. Immigrant
labor, so unsurly and so adored by progressives, met no opposition
from the liberal side until it impacted jobs of college graduates in
the high-tech industries. Republicans don't have the working-class
vote any more than the Democrats have our interest at heart. It don't
take four years in the Ivy League for most of us to recognize the two
empty husks in the American shell game.
I recognized the
values Andrew Levison enumerates as "working class," and his
description of the 1950s, from my own experience as the daughter of
an East Texas railroad engineer and labor organizer. We used to iron
my father's striped work overalls, so he left the house each day
starched and clean and returned greasy. But in the 1950s he started
wearing a suit to work and would change into his overalls at the rail
yard. Even as a child, I sensed the shame that had replaced his
"Who Lost the Working Class?" fails to mention
two singular men who also toiled in Andrew Levison's vineyard. Where
is Will Gavin (whose prophetic 1975 sleeper, Street Corner
Conservative, argued that the "Right" kind of Republican could
take all the marbles in places like the People's Republic of Queens)?
And what about the late Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Tom
Fox (who in 1976 coined the phrase "Reagan Democrats")? I gave Fox my
own Rx for the GOP: Let Jerry Ford spend more time with Joe Garagiola
(and less with Henry Kissinger) and he wins. But they didn't. So he
NOEL E. PARMENTEL JR.
NOT BY SEX ED
Santa Cruz, Calif.
disputes myths of abstinence-only education only to uphold the myth
that better sex education would eliminate the difference between high
US and low European teen pregnancy rates ["Sex, Lies and Politics,"
May 7]. In fact, the biggest reason for the difference is poverty. In
more affluent communities where US teenagers have poverty rates as
low as those of European youth (around 5 percent), US teen pregnancy
rates are as low as Europe's; in America's impoverished inner cities
and rural areas, teen pregnancy rates are 20 times higher. Black and
Hispanic adolescents suffer poverty levels triple those of white
youths, and the Centers for Disease Control's latest report shows
that black and Hispanic adolescents have pregnancy rates three times
higher than whites'.
Comprehensive evaluations of American
teen pregnancy prevention do not show that sex and abstinence
education reduce pregnancy rates but that poverty exerts powerful
effects. The best evidence indicates that sex education and
contraception provision help to deter pregnancy only when accompanied
by social and economic reforms that provide expanded opportunities
for poorer populations. By drastically overstating the effectiveness
of programmatic interventions, sex education advocates interfere with
the crucial need to redress America's grotesque socioeconomic
inequalities and youth poverty levels.
COLD WAR CITATION REVISIONISM
New York City
In my July 16 essay, "Cold War Ghosts," I should have cited either
Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes's Venona or Allen
Weinstein's Perjury rather than The Haunted Wood (by
Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev) for the argument that since the
person code-named ALES returned from the Yalta Conference via Moscow,
and Alger Hiss did the same on a plane carrying three others, none of
them spy material, ALES was probably Hiss.
A reply to Jason Vest's web-only article, by Anne W. Patterson.
Helaine S. Klasky, Nina Stachenfeld, Eric Alterman, Carol P. Christ, Kim Phillips-Fein