Some overly terse writing by your humble blogger appears to have kicked-off a bit of a ruckus in the comments. I will try to explain myself more eloquently.
Recent American history is plagued by dishonesty. One of my guiding principles when thinking about recent American history is to assume that every prominent American from the mid-20s to the mid-50s found a way to make himself acceptable to the communists. If an American during this period was unable to find a way to make himself acceptable to the communists, he wouldn’t have been prominent.
Even the conservative movement spent much of this time period appeasing the communists. Strange, no? (Even stranger, this is considered an achievement by conservatives).
Vladimir sums up this idea nicely in the comments:
The question was whether the leftist dominance in the intellectual circles — and consequently in the federal bureaucracies, academia, foundations, etc. — would be permitted to lead to further radical transformation and re-engineering of the country and the whole society in the leftward direction. The answer, of course, turned out to be yes, and the political forces that mounted any serious opposition were defeated utterly and consigned to infamy by the official history.
I’m sure this rule of thumb is wrong for some prominent historical figure during this time, I just haven’t found such a figure yet. Mencken said, "I am often wrong. My prejudices are innumerable, and often idiotic." I could say the same.
I tried to illustrate this point in a post last week. To recap, Tom Lamont was the effective head of JP Morgan, during a period in which large US banks de facto controlled foreign policy. Lamont actually negotiated many of the international agreements that followed WWI on behalf of the US government (or himself, or both, or maybe they are the same thing – these relationships get somewhat fuzzy). Lamont’s son was as big a commie as they come and his son thought highly of Lamont’s politics. What is Lamont’s relationship to communism or the Soviets? We have no idea. If you dig deeper though, this Republican banker sure has a lot of friends who are commies and who are directly connected to the Soviets.
The same thing basically happens when you pick anyone prominent in this time period.
Some of the details get fuzzy – it’s never clear who is running whom – but the connections are undeniable.
I assumed – last week – that Eisenhower would have similar connections.
So, in response to Ike’s defenders, I planned to dig through Ike’s connections and see what turned up.
Fortunately, Moldbug chimed in to the comments to point out that Ike chose Joseph Fels Barnes to ghostwrite his memoirs. I guess he couldn’t find any non-CPUSA members to write his book. Moldbug also adds, "Eisenhower did not keep Acheson as Secretary of State, but he kept the Acheson-Hiss State Department – and indeed collaborated quite enthusiastically in purging its enemies. This was not an accident or a mistake." Indeed, what could be more complicit with communism than not purging the State Department post-Hiss?
(Incidentally, I really like that all mainstream still refuse to admit that anybody was actually a member of the CPUSA or worked for the Soviets. I’m reading a mainstream history book now that still always refers to Alger Hiss as an accused spy – I’m pretty sure he was at least convicted. Are these guys afraid of being sued for defamation by Hiss’s heirs?).
The Birchers believe that Ike stopped short while the USA was defeating the Germans so that the Soviets could capture more territory. I have no idea if this is true. It probably doesn’t matter anyway, since the Acheson-Hiss State Department was going to make sure the Soviets got more than their fair share. The Birchers also believe that Ike has a lot of Commie friends during his time as president of Columbia. I suspect that this is probably true, but irrelevant – how could be president of Columbia in the ’40s and not have commie friends?
Moldbug also makes the point that I’m using "communist" much too loosely. He’s correct, for what it’s worth. At some point American Communism broke with the Russian sort. However, I think this break was less ideological than bureaucratic. One side was running the other side. At some point in the 50s, this stopped – they actually broke ties. The ideologies didn’t change but the power structure did.
Anyway, back to Vladimir for the summation:
However, the real truth was in fact even worse and scarier than these conspiracy theories. The domestic American left actually believed in pretty much all the worst ideas that a Soviet subversion program would have liked to install and promote — and they believed in these ideas, for the most part, honestly and independently. [This may not be an accident. The Soviets may have believed what they believed because they were told what to believe the these Americans]. The real error of the McCarthyists and Birchers was that in their naivete and innocence, when they saw this organized insanity emanating from the highest reaches of the government, academia, NGOs, etc., they simply couldn’t bring themselves to believe that it might be anything other than an un-American foreign body implanted by nefarious aliens and traitors. They didn’t realize that the political, intellectual, and cultural war they were fighting was a civil war, not a struggle against foreign invasion. It is clear who eventually won decisively in this struggle — and whose side, for all practical purposes, Eisenhower was on.
Ike was a probably a good guy. I’m sure we’d have a hell of a conversation over some beers, but he wasn’t on the right side. As usual, those on the right side are considered crazy, if they’re even considered at all.