John Earl Haynes, "The Cold War Debate Continues: A Traditionalist
Historical Writing on Domestic Communism and Anti-Communism," Journal of
Cold War Studies, Volume 2, Number 1 (Winter 2000).
Response by John Earl Haynes, firstname.lastname@example.org
I welcome the opportunity to respond to Professor Schrecker,'s commentary on "The Cold War Continues: A Traditionalist View of Historical Writing on Domestic Communism and Anti-Communism" in _The Journal of Cold War Studies_. Her _Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America_ is easily the most impressive revisionist book of recent years. Consequently, I give close attention to her comments.
Professor Schrecker is "not sure" why I think that historical
writing about American communism and anticommunism will continue "for many
years to come." To her those matters are "redolent of political antiquarianism," and have "run out of steam"; and she asks "will the domestic
Cold War never end?" She is not the only writer to complain. Last year _The
New York Times Sunday Magazine_, which rarely carries articles about scholarly debates, devoted a lengthy cover story (eight color photographs, two full page) to this historical argument. The article, "Cold War Without
The Cold War on the ground is over and the threat of a civilization-destroying nuclear war has receded. The USSR is no more and
Professor Schrecker states that "Haynes overlooks other sources ...
FBI files, in particular...." This is not correct. In my JCWS article
on page 100 I specify that my and Klehr's _Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage is America_ is based on "FBI files" as well as the decrypted Venona
Schrecker is also incorrect that I overlook "memoirs and oral histories of American Communists." Such sources are cited frequently in Klehr and my books on American communism, and in _Venona_ we state that "...in this volume Venona will not be treated in isolation. The documentation of Venona is integrated with a broad range of other corroborative evidence, including testimony, both written and oral, by a wide variety of persons spread over many decades. It includes voluntary statements from defectors from Soviet intelligence, reluctant testimony from persons under legal compulsion, candid discourse gathered by listening devices, as well as information available in published works."
She also says that I have "not produced the usual more of less disinterested survey of the scholarly literature on domestic communism
and anticommunism." I have been writing in this field a long time and "disinterested" surveys are not "usual" in the sense
that she and I would
Professor Schrecker states that since "the dissolution of the Soviet
bloc and the opening of the Kremlin archives brings us to the present wave
Professor Schrecker also taxes me for what is not in my JCWS essay, discussions of historical writings on the FBI and of some of the early work on McCarthyism. She could add I didn't discuss the major works from the vast literature on Communism in Hollywood, among central and eastern European ethnic Americans, or the party,'s influence on American theater and music. The major books and articles on all these subjects are covered in my _Communism and Anti-Communism in American Life: an Annotated Bibliography_, but that was a book of 321 pages while the JCWS piece was
Professor Schrecker also states that "Haynes is not, I think, particularly interested in anticommunism" and devotes "little attention to
the latter." The JCWS essay concentrated on American communism. But my writing shows ample interest in anticommunism. My _Dubious Alliance: The Making of
Professor Schrecker also writes that "despite Haynes' insistence, espionage is not the main story of American communism...." I have never insisted on anything like that. In _Venona_, Klehr and I wrote that while "espionage was a regular activity of the American Communist party... to say that the CPUSA was nothing but a Soviet fifth column in the Cold War would be an exaggeration; it still remains true that the CPUSA,'s chief task was the promotion of communism and the interests of the Soviet Union through political means."  Of the seven book that I have authored or co-authored on aspects of the history of American communism, espionage was a central theme only in two.
Professor Schrecker also says she finds "personally offensive" my generalization that "...most of the revisionists shared a hostility to capitalism, anti-Communism, and the American Constitutional order.... They saw American Communists, whatever their faults, as kindred spirits in the first against capitalism and established American institutions." Let me state the basis for this generalization. Many revisionists explicitly defined their historical work as part of a radical agenda. Paul Lyons, an early revisionist whose 1982 _Philadelphia Communists, 1936-1956_ cited by many as a model revisionist grass-roots study, stated that he regarded Communists as "people committed to a vision of social justice and a strategy of social change that make them my political forebears. And like my biological parents, they merit a love that includes--in fact, requires--recognition of their faults and errors. Needless to say, such a love also rests on an honoring." He stated further that he regarded his book as a "contribution" toward the achievement of "socialist cultural hegemony." In a 1985 bibliographic essay, Maurice Isserman, a leading revisionist figure, allowed that the "new historians" had their origins in radical political commitment. He maintained, however, that their perspective later shifted away from a partisan "search for a usable past." In his case that was true, but other revisionists have retained their commitment to blending history with political action. In 1994 Allan Wald, a revisionist who has published numerous essays and books on cultural history, most notably _The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980_, wrote that "United States capitalism and imperialism remain absolute horrors for the poor and people of color of the world, and ultimately hazardous to the health of the rest of us. Therefore, the construction of an effective oppositional movement in the United States remains the most rewarding, and the most stimulating, task for radical cultural workers. That is why I choose to assess the experience of Communist writers during the Cold War era from the perspective of learning lessons, finding ancestors, and resurrecting models of cultural practice that can contribute to the development of a seriously organized, pluralistic, democratic, and culturally rich left-wing movement." 
As for the stance Professor Schrecker takes toward communism and Communists, in her 1998 _Many are the Crimes_ she states that "I
Professor Schrecker judges my views of American communism to be lacking "complexity" and "nuance" and complains that I seem "unable to accept an interpretation of American communism that looks at its achievements as well as its sins (I suppose Haynes would prefer the work 'crimes' here." She supposes wrong. While I have likely at some point used the term crime in regard to some particular aspect of Communist activity, it is not one of my habitual descriptives. It is Professor Schrecker, not me, who has put the word "crimes" in the title of her book, and she was referring to anticommunism.
I don't agree with her assessment that my approach to Communist history lacks complexity or nuance but I agree that a historical treatment of communism and anticommunism should embody those traits. One of the points of disagreement between us is my view that her approach to anticommunism lacks those traits. She demonizes opposition to communism. Fervid opposition to communism, Schrecker explained, "tap[ped] into something dark and nasty in the human soul," and she held it responsible for
many of the ills of American society since 1945. Her _Many are the Crimes_indicted anticommunism for destroying the civil rights movement's ties
to the "anti-imperialist left" and thereby "indirectly strengthening
Professor Schrecker calls on us to "understand (not judge, but understand)" what motivated those in the 1930s and 1940s to cooperate with Soviet espionage against the United States. Considering her frequent and harshly negative judgment of anti-Communists of the 1930-1950 era, I not persuaded by her call for us not to "judge" those who assisted Soviet espionage. But I agree that we need to understand their motivation and actions. And I hope, at long last, we are at a point where that is an appropriate question. As long as the reigning consensus was that Rosenberg, Hiss, White, and the rest were innocents falsely accused of espionage this was not an appropriate question. But I would add that historians must also "understand" why most Americans found Soviet espionage an outrage and reacted with fury and anger at those Americans who assisted Soviet espionage and at those political groups and figures who seemed indifferent to this espionage. And I see no objection to offering a bit of judgment as well. Professor Schrecker in _Many are the Crimes_ says that those who assisted Soviet espionage "...were already committed to Communism and they viewed what they were doing as their contribution to the cause ... [and] ... it is important to realize that as Communists these people did not subscribe to traditional forms of patriotism; they were internationalists whose political allegiances transcended national boundaries. They thought they were 'building .. a better world for the masses,' not betraying their country." Here Professor Schrecker and I have a basic disagreement. She treats this as an exculpatory explanation. I regard it as justifying the suspicion with which security officials regarded Communists who worked in sensitive positions. If one wished to protect American secrets, it would be foolish to trust someone whose "political allegiances transcended national boundaries," "did not subscribe to traditional forms of patriotism," or regarded given secrets to the USSR as "not betraying their country" but as "building .. a better world for the masses."
Professor Schrecker states that "Haynes is not the only critic of my book to take me to task for not having taken _The Haunted Wood_ into account even though it was published nearly a year after my own book appeared." Professor Schrecker is mistaken. Nowhere in my essay, nor any other venue, have I made this criticism. What I found fault with was her claim in _Many are the Crimes_ that "a careful reading of the Venona decrypts leaves the impression ... that the KGB officers stationed in the United States may have been trying to make themselves look good to their Moscow superiors by portraying some of their casual contacts as having been more deeply involved with the Soviet cause than they actually were" and her assertion that Venona messages regarding Harry Dexter White could be regarded not as espionage but White "merely making small talk" at diplomatic social events. Because Klehr and I took an entirely different view of those messages in _Venona_, I went to some pains in my JCWS essay to go over this point. In her commentary Professor Schrecker has revised her view of White and now agrees that he cooperated with Soviet intelligence. At some point, those who have only lately come to accept the evidence of extensive Soviet espionage in the United States and the assistance provided to it by American Communists should ask themselves what in their conception of the history of the 1930s and 1940s led them to a mistaken conclusion about these matters and how they should change that interpretive framework. I hope the members of h-diplo who are interested in this subject will read my essay in _The Journal of Cold War Studies_. Some of the issues Professor Schrecker raises are also discussed in my response, found at <http://www.johnearlhaynes.org/page47.html>, to her and Maurice Isserman,'s "The Right,'s Cold War Revision," _The Nation_ (24/32 July 2000). Also at this site is a earlier and lengthier version of the JCWS essay: "An Essay on Historical Writing on Domestic Communism and Anti-Communism" at <http://www.johnearlhaynes.org/page67.html>. Let me close by expressing my appreciation to Professor Schrecker for her serious attention to my essay and by thanks to h-diplo for the opportunity to respond.
1. Jacob Weisberg, "Cold War Without End," _New York Times Sunday Magazine_ (28 November 1999), 116-123, 155-158. These themes prompted one amused Jewish colleague to congratulate me on having been promoted to the status of honorary Jew by _New York Times_.
2. Anna Kasten Nelson, "Illuminating the Twilight Struggle: New Interpretations of the Cold War," _The Chronicle of Higher Education_ (25 June 1999), B6. The three books were Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev,'s _The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America -- The Stalin Era_, John Louis Gaddis,'s _Now We Know: Rethinking Cold War History_, and my and Harvey Klehr,'s _Venona_.
3. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, _Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage is America_ (New haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 19.
4. Ibid., p. 40.
5. Michael E. Brown, "Introduction: The History of the History of
U.S. Communism" in Frank Rosengarten, Michael Brown, Randy Martin and
George Snedeker, eds., _New Studies in the Politics and Culture of U.S. Communism_, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1993), pp. 21 & 28. By
6. John Earl Haynes, _Communism and Anti-Communism in the United States an Annotated Guide to Historical Writings_ (New York: Garland, 1987).
7. Kelley, Robin D.G. _Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression_. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990; John Earl Haynes, "The Cold War Continues: A Traditionalist View of Historical Writing on Domestic Communism and Anti-Communism," _The Journal of Cold War Studies_ 2,1 (Winter 2000), p. 86.
8. John Earl Haynes, _Dubious Alliance the Making of Minnesota,'s DFL Party_ (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984; John Earl. Haynes, _Red Scare or Red Menace? American Communism and Anticommunism in the Cold War Era_, (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996).
9. Haynes and Klehr, _Venona_, p. 7.
10. Paul Lyons, _Philadelphia Communists, 1936-1956_ (Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1982), pp. 18 & 238.
11. Maurice Isserman, "Three Generations: Historians View American Communism," _Labor History_ 26, 4 (Fall 1985), p. 537.
12. Alan Wald, "Communist Writers Fight Back in Cold War Amerika" in _Styles of Cultural Activism: From Theory and Pedagogy to Women, Indians and Communism_, Philip Goldstein, ed., (Newark, Del.: University of Delaware Press, 1994), 218; Alan Wald, _The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s_ (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987).
13. Ellen Schrecker, _Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America_(Boston: Little, Brown, 1998), pp. xviii & 415.
14. Ibid., pp. x, xii, 46,75-76, 375-376, 381, 390, 399-402, 415.
15. Ibid., 181.
16. Ibid., 180.