Christmas is the season of goodwill, the time when enemies are forgiven and friends restored to favor. It is also a time of “rehabilitation,” in which the outcasts return to the fold, to be welcomed back into human society.
All over Eastern Europe the process of rehabilitation is gathering momentum: Those who were wrongly imprisoned by the communists are being compensated; those who lost their property are recovering it; those who suffered for their opposition are blessed with influence and power. People who have been vilified for years as “agents of imperialism,” “enemies of the people” and “fascist conspirators’ are crowned today with heroes’ garlands, and hardly a soul in the former “socialist countries” begrudges them their triumph.
Charity, however, begins at home. In the long, hard fight against communism, we too acquired our victims, whose rehabilitation is now a matter of the greatest urgency. I think in particular of a great American patriot whose name has been a term of abuse to intellectuals of my generation on a level comparable to the names of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin: Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
Time and again decent people have tried to describe what communism really is, and to warn against the methods used to advance it, only to be denounced for their “McCarthyism.” Time and again the senator from Wisconsin has been invoked to silence those who have pointed to fellow-travelers in our universities and diplomatic services.
For a while there was no worse accusation in the intellectual world than that of anti-communism, and no meaner place in the academic hierarchy than that occupied by the critics of Soviet power. And those who suggested that there were organizations--the British campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, for instance--which were dominated by communists and used to further their destructive designs, would be laughed to scorn, and all but driven from the academy.
The fact is, however, that McCarthy was right. Maybe he went over the top; maybe it wasn’t necessary to point the finger quite so rapidly or in quite so many directions. But the poor guy was exasperated; he had taken on the greatest criminal conspiracy the world has ever known, and was all but weaponless before the secrecy and deception whereby it worked its grim enchantment. Of course, we don’t know the full extent of the damage inflicted by our communists and fellow travelers. But we have a fairly good idea. For example, it was thanks to the penetration of British diplomatic services during World War II that Marshal Tito’s partisans were adopted by Western governments as the rightful rulers of Yugoslavia, and that the brave Albanians who went to liberate their country were betrayed to the communists. It was the influence of communists and their friends--in diplomacy, in the academic world and in journalism--that led to the easy acceptance of the illegitimate governments of Eastern Europe after 1948, and which caused us to turn a blind eye to the sufferings of millions, so as to lick the boots of their masters.
I think of the work of such historians as E. H. Carr, Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm; of philosophical apologists like Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre and Louis Althusser; of the Establishment Sovietologists, prepared to sacrifice truth itself for the sake of that precious visa and those “privileged connections” with the Soviet apparatus, so necessary to a successful academic career.
I think of those notorious Cambridge intellectuals, Harold (Kim) Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt, whose single-minded commitment to a cause that their moral poverty prevented them from understanding contributed to the deaths of thousands and the enslavement of millions more. Was not Sen. McCarthy right to warn against this kind of thing, and to castigate the moral corruption of a philosophy that places Utopian internationalism above the real and comprehensible loyalty to one’s country and to the people who compose it?
The truth about communism has been apparent, to anyone who cared to know it, since 1917. It is a testimony to the degeneracy of our intellectual classes, which on the whole, with a few brave exceptions, have not cared to know it, preferring instead to vilify those “anti-communists” and McCarthyites who had the impertinence to remind them. In all the dreadful story of Western weakness and gullibility, a few people stand out as prepared to sacrifice even their reputations, even the respect of their fellows, for the sake of unwelcome truths. And by no means the least of these was Sen. Joseph McCarthy.