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Ch. 4 - Reds, Pinkos, Fellow Travelers 
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Post Ch. 4 - Reds, Pinkos, Fellow Travelers
Ch. 4 - Reds, Pinkos, Fellow Travelers

Please use this thread for discussing Chapter 4.



Tue Feb 26, 2008 2:16 am
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Let me first say that I admired one of this author's previous books, Freethinkers. I thought she did a good job with intellectual history in that one. In this one, though, so far, she has trouble with her focus and is somewhat too digressive. She uses the term intellectual, meaning the class of people, imprecisely; it's unclear just what this term can mean, as it applies to figures as diverse as Irving Howe and Newt Gingrinch. She at times fingers the people (almost said "folks") who revile the intellectuals, other times the intellectuals themselves. It's all a welter to me. She makes several "imaginative leaps," whereas in a carefully argued and documented work, this wouldn't be done. There is too much plain opinion parading as researched conclusions.

The basic problem here might be that she's trying to cover an impossibly large field.



Sat Mar 15, 2008 9:20 am
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I don't have as much of a problem with her term "intellectual" as you do. I take it to mean people like college professors who are paid to read lots of books, publish information, do research, and sometimes teach. This also includes policy experts who advise Governments, etc. Beyond that, Jacoby requires a certain amount of open mindedness.

A few interesting portions from this chapter. On page 85 Jacoby describes the Red Scare which severely restricted immigration. The fear of importing communist sympathizers played a role in the U.S. not allowing Jews to come to our shores during WW II.

I was also struck by the election results in 1936 - the Communist Party received 0.2 percent of the vote and the Socialist Party 0.4 percent. p. 88 Yet this was perceived as a serious internal threat for another 20 years.

Jacoby also traces the journey of neo-conservatives from anti-Stalinist communism in the 30's, through several reversals of philosophy, and into their current brand of hawkish conservatism. There doesn't seem to be much logic to this evolution other than at every step of the way, they remained cranky curmudgeons carping about the status quo.



Fri Apr 11, 2008 12:34 pm
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I was also struck by the election results in 1936 - the Communist Party received 0.2 percent of the vote and the Socialist Party 0.4 percent. p. 88 Yet this was perceived as a serious internal threat for another 20 years.


This must be the one central piece of information that would have helped me to make sense of the questions I had to answer when applying for a one-year work permit at the US embassy in Paris in 1990:

1- Are you a communist?

2- Have you ever been a communist?

3- Is anybody in your family a communist?

4- Has anybody in your family ever been a communist?


I still can't figure it out.

Would anybody ever go to a US embassy, ask for a visa and answer "Yes" to any of those questions, and for good measure, say his great uncle is a terrorist?


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Fri Apr 11, 2008 12:51 pm
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The problem with communism, from the US point of view, was the explicit Marxist-Leninist idea of the party as the vanguard of the proletariat committed to revolutionary overthrow of economic relations through abolition of private property and equalisation of income, not to mention godless hatred of Christianity. Stalin massacred millions in the purges. The Communist Party, including Gramsci's more subtle notion of the Modern Prince campaigning for strategic hegemony via the Long March through the institutions, struck an existential fear in the hearts of Americans, such that Americans found more common ground with ex-Nazis than with communists. A committed fanatical organisation with a coherent vision, however warped, will wield influence well beyond its numbers unless it is stomped on very heavily. My opinion is that communists should have freedom of speech, but their freedom to organise should be restricted when their explicit aims attack the basic freedoms of others. McCarthy was on the right side of history when you compare the subsequent results in Korea, China, the USSR and Europe.



Fri Apr 11, 2008 8:52 pm
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The hearings pitted the bushy-browed McCarthy and his chief counsel, the vulpine Roy Cohn, against the U.S. Army and its special outside counsel, the well-mannered Joseph Welch. The most famous sound bite of the hearings {188 hours of TV broadcast time!} came after McCarthy, reneging on an earlier agreement, accused a young lawyer in Welch's firm of being a Communist sympathizer. Welch, turning in an instant from a kindly uncle into an avenging angel, thundered at McCarthy, "Until this moment, senator, I think I never gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. ... Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" p. 11 - 12

To claim Senator Joseph R. McCarthy was on the right side of history, you would have to provide evidence that the people he hauled before that committee were indeed commie sympathizers, that their careers deserved to be destroyed, that McCarthy's methods were legitimate, and so on...

No, I think the evidence is that although there may have been a few communist sympathizers here and there, McCarthy's zealous witch hunt to ensure they were "stomped on very heavily" destroyed his cause. Now he's seen as a raging alcoholic filled with John Birch Society paranoia about a powerful cabal attempting to merge America with Russia.

Jacoby points out that McCarthyism led to further distrust of intellectuals, that reading too many books leads one to communism. This continues to some extent to this day, for example in former commie turned right winger David Horowitz's book about the 101 most dangerous college professors.



Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:01 am
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