Here’s a definition of red-diaper baby:
Children of CPUSA members, children of former CPUSA members, and children whose parents never became members of the CPUSA but were involved in political, cultural, or educational activities led or supported by the Party.
I knew one. She died last year. An obituary says that she was “born in Manhattan” (unsurprisingly), her mother “was a high school history teacher,” and her father “was an upper middle class accountant who subscribed to the Daily Worker. Politics was at the dinner table from the start.”
Actually, as I recall, her father was an accountant for the mob. In any event, there was plenty of money. The home that she shared with her husband was adorned with valuable works of art given by her parents. She and her husband, an otherwise sensible economist, were long-time stalwarts of the local Democrat Party organization, where they vigorously promoted the local brand of big government.
She was a kind, generous, and intelligent woman. But — like everyone — she had a blind spot. Her blind spot, which defines the left, is what Daniel Klein calls The People’s Romance. This is from his essay, “The People’s Romance: Why People Love Government (as Much as They Do)“:
Government creates common, effectively permanent institutions, such as the streets and roads, utility grids, the postal service, and the school system. In doing so, it determines and enforces the setting for an encompassing shared experience—or at least the myth of such experience. The business of politics creates an unfolding series of battles and dramas whose outcomes few can dismiss as unimportant. National and international news media invite citizens to envision themselves as part of an encompassing coordination of sentiments—whether the focal point is election-day results, the latest effort in the war on drugs, or emergency relief to hurricane victims — and encourage a corresponding regard for the state as a romantic force. I call the yearning for encompassing coordination of sentiment The People’s Romance (henceforth TPR)….
TPR helps us to understand how authoritarians and totalitarians think. If TPR is a principal value, with each person’s well-being thought to depend on everyone else’s proper participation, then it authorizes a kind of joint, though not necessarily absolute, ownership of everyone by everyone, which means, of course, by the government. One person’s conspicuous opting out of the romance really does damage the others’ interests….
TPR lives off coercion—which not only serves as a means of clamping down on discoordination, but also gives context for the sentiment coordination to be achieved….
[N]ested within the conventional view that government is not a mammoth apparatus of coercion is the tenet that society is an organization to which we belong. Either on the view that we constitute and control the government (“we are the government”) or on the view that by deciding to live in the polity we choose voluntarily to abide by the government’s rules (“no one is forcing you to stay here”), the social democrat holds that taxation and interventions such as a minimum wage law are not coercive. The government-rule structure, as they see it, is a matter of “social contract” persisting through time and binding on the complete collection of citizens. The implication is that the whole of society is a club, a collectively owned property, administered by the government.
I was reminded of my late, former friend and Klein’s essay by an egregious encomium to American Communists by Vivian Gornick, “When Communism Inspired Americans” (The New York Times, April 29. 2017). It is a clever piece of propaganda — it even acknowledges a tiny bit of the Soviet Union’s brutality — but in the end, Gornick resorts to tawdry sentimentality:
The effective life of the Communist Party in the United States was approximately 40 years in length. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were Communists at one time or another during those 40 years. Many of these people endured social isolation, financial and professional ruin, and even imprisonment.
As if belonging to an organization dedicated to the subversion of the Constitution was somehow excusable. [UPDATE 05/03/17: Bruce Bawer adduces more evidence of Gornick’s rose-colored view of Communism.]
Those hundreds of thousands helped to advance TPR. And their sheer numbers lent an aura of undeserved respectability to the subversive aims of the Communist Party. Among the many subversives:
- Judith Coplon, NKGB counter-intelligence operative in the U.S. Department of Justice; two convictions overturned on technicalities
- Theodore Hall, physicist who supplied information from Los Alamos during World War II, a NYC walk-in, never prosecuted
- Martin Kamen, Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, Manhattan Project
- Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz, Berkeley Radiation Laboratory
- Carl Marzani, Deputy Chief Photographic Presentation Branch Office of Strategic Services; United States Department of State
- Alan Nunn May, physicist who supplied information about the British and American atomic bomb research to the Soviet Union
- Victor Perlo, was the Chief of the Aviation Section of the War Production Board during World War II; head of branch in Research Section, Office of Price Administration Department of Commerce; Division of Monetary Research Department of the Treasury; and later the Brookings Institution
- Harold Glasser, Director, Division of Monetary Research, United States Department of the Treasury; United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration; War Production Board; Adviser on North African Affairs Committee; United States Treasury Representative to the Allied High Commission in Italy
- Alger Hiss, Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs United States Department of State
- Charles Kramer, Senate Subcommittee on War Mobilization; Office of Price Administration; National Labor Relations Board; Senate Subcommittee on Wartime Health and Education; Agricultural Adjustment Administration; Senate Subcommittee on Civil Liberties; Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee; Democratic National Committee
- Harry Magdoff, Statistical Division of War Production Board and Office of Emergency Management; Bureau of Research and Statistics, WTB; Tools Division, War Production Board; Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, United States Department of Commerce
- George Perazich, Foreign Economic Administration; United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
- Allen Rosenberg, Board of Economic Warfare; Chief of the Economic Institution Staff, Foreign Economic Administration; Senate Subcommittee on Civil Liberties; Senate Committee on Education and Labor; Railroad Retirement Board; Counsel to the Secretary of the National Labor Relations Board
- Donald Wheeler, Office of Strategic Services Research and Analysis division
- David Greenglass, draftsman at Los Alamos in World War II, gave atomic bomb drawings to his sister Ethel Rosenberg, and eventually the Soviets; sentenced to 15 years
- Ruth Greenglass, escaped prosecution in exchange for her husband’s testimony against his sister and brother-in-law, the Rosenbergs
- Ethel Rosenberg, executed at Sing Sing prison near her native New York City for conspiracy to commit espionage
- Julius Rosenberg, executed at Sing Sing prison near his native New York City for conspiracy to commit espionage
- Al Sarant, stole radar secrets at Army Signal Corps lab in New Jersey, then he and his mistress abandoned their families for the protection of his Soviet masters in 1950
- Andrew Roth, Office of Naval Intelligence liaison officer with United States Department of State
- Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, Chief Planning Technician, Procurement Division, United States Department of the Treasury; Chief Economist, War Assets Administration; Director of the Labor Division, Farm Security Administration; Board of Economic Warfare; Reconstruction Finance Corporation Department of Commerce
- Schlomer Adler, United States Department of the Treasury
- Frank Coe, Assistant Director, Division of Monetary Research, Treasury Department; Special Assistant to the United States Ambassador in London; Assistant to the Executive Director, Board of Economic Warfare; Assistant Administrator, Foreign Economic Administration
- Lauchlin Currie, Administrative Assistant to President Roosevelt; Deputy Administrator of Foreign Economic Administration; Special Representative to China
- Bela Gold, Assistant Head of Program Surveys, Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Agriculture Department; Senate Subcommittee on War Mobilization; Office of Economic Programs in Foreign Economic Administration
- Sonia Steinman Gold, Division of Monetary Research U.S. Treasury Department; U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Interstate Migration; U.S. Bureau of Employment Security
- Irving Kaplan, Foreign Funds Control and Division of Monetary Research, United States Department of the Treasury Foreign Economic Administration; chief advisor to the Military Government of Germany
- George Silverman, civilian Chief Production Specialist, Material Division, United States Army Air Forces Air Staff, War Department, Pentagon
- William Henry Taylor, Assistant Director of the Middle East Division of Monetary Research, United States Department of Treasury
- Harry Dexter White, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury; Head of the International Monetary Fund
- Henry Collins, National Recovery Administration; Department of Agriculture
- Alger Hiss, Department of State, sentenced to 5 years for perjury
- Donald Hiss, Department of State, younger brother of Alger Hiss
And that’s just a sample of a long list of known Soviet agents. Did you notice the presence on the list of the Rosenbergs, as well as a large number of government officials (Alger Hiss among them)? Protestations and “proof” of the innocence of the Rosenbergs, Hiss, and others were and are key components of the Big anti-anti-Communist Lie.
I’ll close with some of Daniel Greenfield’s commentary about Gornick’s article:
It’s inconceivable that the New York Times or any paper would run a glowing piece titled, “When Nazis Inspired Americans”. No fond recollections from participants in the Madison Square Garden rally. No fond memories of Bund camps. No sugar-coated recollections of how the Thousand Year Reich would create a better world… only to then learn that Hitler wasn’t a very nice man.
But the New York Times will run “When Communism Inspired Americans”. It will run it because while Communism didn’t inspire Americans, it did inspire the left to try and turn America into a totalitarian state. It still does. This is the dirty little secret that leaks out of the left….
Nazis don’t get a forum to pour out their romantic nostalgia for attending Hitler rallies. Communists do because the left sympathizes with them. It must offers occasional apologies and disavowals, but the love for a horrifying ideology that was totalitarian all the way down, whose mass murder of millions was not an accident of fate, but was always an integral part of it, tells the truth about the left.
The rest is tiresome. The same recitations of “We knew nothing”. As if the crimes of Communism had been some sort of mystery until Khrushchev admitted them….
After all the mass murders and crimes have been admitted, the left always returns to this nostalgia. Yes, maybe Stalin was bad. But his followers were principled. Maybe the USSR was bad, but the American Communists, quite a few of whom were willing to kill and commit treason in its name, were fine people. Just like the Founding Fathers.
History is in them.
This is the left. It returns, like a dog to its vomit, to the dream of the true radicalism of a totalitarian leftist state. It occasionally deals with uncomfortable truths. Circles around them. And then it lapses back into an opium dream of Marxists sitting around a kitchen table and debating whom to shoot first. [“New York Times: When Communism Inspired Americans,” FrontPage Magazine, May 1, 2017]
The People’s Romance
The Near-Victory of Communism
An Encounter with a Marxist
Our Enemy, the State
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Tolerance on the Left
The World Turned Upside Down
Parsing Political Philosophy (II)
Romanticizing the State
Freedom of Speech and the Long War for Constitutional Governance
The Left and “the People”
FDR and Fascism: More Data