Purported Review of Communism

Westbrook Pegler

Press and Sun-Bulletin/December 4, 1946

Life, the pictorial magazine, recently presented an article purporting to be a review of the communist movement, or conspiracy, in the United States by an expert.

The author was Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

The New York Herald Tribune selected Mr. Schlesinger to review a book called “The Plotters” by a man known by many names, including Arthur A. Derounian, Avedis Boghos Derounian and John Roy Carlson. Mr. Schlesinger thought well of the book itself and regarded the author as a sincere authority. In this latter particular he disagreed with Federal Judge John P. Barnes, of Chicago, who said from the bench, after a trial of the evidence, that Mr. Carlson was “a wholly irresponsible person who was willing to say anything for money,” and added, “I wouldn’t believe him on oath, now or at any time hereafter.”

OF MR. CARLSON’S chapter on the American Communist Party, Mr. Schlesinger wrote that it was “not so complete as his picture of the Fascists, largely because the efficiently organized Communist Party is harder to penetrate by Carlson’s methods.”

The meaning of that remark plainly is that the Communist conspiracy is more dangerous because it is less easily unmasked. Nevertheless, Mr. Carlson and, I gather, Mr. Schlesinger, too, regard “Fascism” as the greater menace. The reader with a free mind has a right to suspect that Mr. Carlson had undisclosed reasons for presenting an incomplete picture of the Communist conspiracy. An outsider certainly would have, as Mr. Schlesinger writes, great difficulty penetrating the Communists’ iron curtain in American politics and unionism. But a person sympathetic with most, or all, of its aims might be loath to reveal it fully and might try to dismiss it as a secondary or unimportant threat.

BUT THE chapter on Communism, shows amply that Carlson’s awareness of the “Proto-Fascist use of Red-baiting as a means of smearing anyone to the left of General Franco does not suspend his conviction that liberals must nail down Communist activity wherever it is clear and probable, Mr. Schlesinger continued.

I should prefer plainer Americanese, but these double-dome types use an ideological geechee and we have to use their own wordage or they may say we distorted it.

“Proto-Fascist” is their way of saying “Pro-Fascist” or even “Fascist.” William S. Gailrnor, the sniveling thief who lectures along the party line, once explained that he found the device “Fascist-minded” to be useful, as it would be pretty hard to prove what was or wasn’t in a victim’s mind.

CANVASSING Mr. Schlesinger’s statements and assumptions, we find here that he does not accuse all anti-Communists of “smearing anyone to the left of General Franco.” But there are many Americans in “The Plotters” far to the left of General Franco who nevertheless indulge in “Redbaiting.”

I have done it for years, even when “Red-baiting” was regarded as undignified if not dirty pool. Why should the Reds enjoy exclusive immunity from “baiting”? And, moreover, there are those who regard all opposition to Communism as “Red-baiting.”

Notwithstanding his “expose” in Life, which I thought deficient in important matters for reasons which I am at liberty to surmise, I think Mr. Schlesinger could have gone much further in Life without exposing himself to any reasonable charge of “Red-baiting.”

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