Having lived through the past two decades and watched the steady growth of cliché versions of history, I doubt that future generations will ever know the truth about our times. But if error persists, it won’t be the fault of William Rusher, the publisher of National Review, who has set down his experiences as a Senate subcommittee investigator in a remarkable book, Special Counsel (Arlington House, $10).
Bill Rusher went to Washington, D.C., in 1956 to help Bob Morris investigate communism for the Internal Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate. Despite the fact that Senator Joe McCarthy had long since been censured, and was then living out his last days in innocuous desuetude, anything connected with anticommunist activity was still called "McCarthyism" in the middle fifties. The stereotype had already jelled; no matter how meticulous Bob Morris and Bill Rusher might be, they were still "witch-hunters."
Combating the "witch-hunter" allegation, Bill Rusher’s book is an attempt to prove to young people of the late sixties that the activities of the communist apparatus in the United States of the fifties and before were not in the best interests of the Republic. Unlike the late Senator McCarthy, Bill Rusher doesn’t make mistakes in arithmetic or treat the English language as something that is incapable of expressing nuances. But will this book cause a single "liberal," whether young or old, to recheck his sights on history? Perhaps I am too cynical, but I doubt that Rusher will penetrate the "liberal" hide. He himself gives the reasons for supposing this: the "liberals" — and the word should be continuously placed in quotes — had gone over to various variants of socialism in the New Deal period, and their own self-regard had become implicated with the craving to believe that Soviet Russia, despite everything, must somehow come out right in the end. Economic determinism, acting on capitalism and communism alike, must lead us all to "convergence" in the "liberal’s" mind. In deference to this view, "Red-baiting" must be regarded as something that is "against history"— and the Rushers who presumed in the fifties to help hunt out communist subversion were simply wasting time and the taxpayer’s money.
The Record Speaks
For those who don’t care for stereotypes, however, Rusher’s book is full of irrefutable stories. It should cause some libertarians to recheck their sights. Too often the libertarian assumes that if you put your trust in the market, you don’t have to worry about such things as the Cold War. But the Cold War has enabled the Soviets to use the mechanisms of the market as a "cover" for dirty undercover political and paramilitary activity.
For example, the early years of Harry Gold, the mousy, unobtrusive little man who stole the basic secret information about the production of the atom bomb and delivered it to the Soviets, were spent in industrial spying for his foreign masters. Gold was a chemist who, in 1922, worked with a sugar company in Philadelphia. The depression gave him proletarian ideas, and he allowed himself to be recruited to steal the accounts of secret manufacturing and synthesizing processes for transmission to Moscow. In time Harry Gold was passed for handling to Gaily Ovakimian, a Soviet trading official who worked for Amtorg, the official Russian trade corporation, in New York City. Ovakimian wasn’t in America to buy and sell goods; he was -here for building an apparatus that would enable the Russians to bypass the difficult work of developing their own products for the market, or for the Soviet armed forces.
One thing led to another, and Harry Gold, after stealing a staggering array of quasi-military industrial secrets for a succession of Russian handlers, found himself in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he met David Greenglass, an employee at the Los Alamos atomic development installation. The secret designs of the atom bomb passed from Greenglass to Gold, and from Gold they went on to Moscow.
Bill Rusher tells this particular story with a fine relish for detail. What it proves is that communism isn’t content to use trading organizations for their stated purpose. If Amtorg had been just a trade corporation, Harry Gold could not have succeeded as a spy. Communism isn’t primarily interested in market considerations; everything that it does is subordinated to political and military aims. So how deal with Moscow on a free trade basis? You may be vitally endangering your own free system if you do.
Another poser for those who think we can do business as business with the communists is Bill Rusher’s tale of how Soviet sympathizers in the U.S. Treasury managed to undermine our financial policies vis-a-vis Nationalist China. In the last days of World War II the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek was threatened with galloping inflation. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau had promised to make five hundred million dollars available to China. It was supposed to go in the form of monthly gold shipments. But Harry Dexter White and other Treasury employees, for reasons that have never been fully explored, dribbled the money out at a snail’s pace. Eventually Henry Morgenthau read the riot act to his dilatory underlings; he had given his written word to China, and, as he said, "a person’s word, and particularly his written word, means something." "What about the honor of this Government?," Morgenthau asked his sophistical employees. After Morgenthau had delivered his dressing-down, the gold began to move to Nationalist China in accordance with the agreement. But by now it was too late; hyperinflation had already set in, and the financial collapse of the Nationalist government could not be stopped.
Bill Rusher helped investigate the burrowings of communist sympathizers into the waterfront unions of the Pacific coast and Hawaii. He interviewed the "redefector," John Santo, after the collapse of the Hungarian freedom movement in 1956. He helped expose the workings of a communist cell in New Orleans. He and Bob Morris poked and prodded witnesses who were sometimes willing to talk without taking the Fifth Amendment about such various things as our post-war China policy, or about Communist Bella Dodd’s alleged pressure tactics in New York State politics, or about the suicide of Herbert Norman, the Canadian Ambassador to Egypt. The good stories tumble out of his capacious memory. And, as a lawyer who believes in evidence, the good stories are always carefully documented, carefully checked.
There is no "McCarthyism" here. Mr. Rusher does not think that the West will die as the result of a communist "conspiracy." He thinks it a far greater danger that the West may succumb to its lack of compelling belief in its own free traditions. But, having put his priorities in order, Mr. Rusher thinks it useful to expose communist spy policies. He hopes his book will be read by the young with open minds.
THE JEWELER’S EYE—A Book of Irresistible Political Reflections by William F. Buckley, Jr. (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1968, 378 pp., $6.95)
Reviewed by Robert M. Thornton
Years ago H. L. Mencken remarked on the need for a high Tory magazine written with good humor. In 1955 William F. Buckley, Jr. filled this need with his sprightly fortnightly, National Review. A dozen years later he and his merry band are still going strong — to the discomfort of the "liberals." Buckley invites comparison with "The Sage of Baltimore" because he, like Mencken, has a fine command of the English language, is devastating in his verbal assaults, and is never hesitant about needling the pompous or exposing frauds. That he enjoys the respect and even the friendship of people on the Left shows that he is able to attack the ideas he believes wrong without any personal animosity.
Buckley admits that he is no original thinker and he offers no serious tomes to undermine the intellectual foundations of "liberalism." Although highly learned, he does not try to fill the scholar’s job. Rather, he has chosen to joust with the "enemy" on a day-by-day basis via television, public debates, letters, magazines, books, and newspapers. He steps gaily into the arena, seemingly unaware of the terrific odds against him. Although he may not always get the best of his opponents, he at least keeps them from "winning" by default. Buckley has helped to destroy the false image of the conservative as a stodgy Colonel Blimp. Agree with him or not, you won’t find him dull. Being a conservative can be exciting!
The present book is an excellent collection of Buckley’s observations on the current scene, but the subtitle is misleading. Besides his lively criticisms of the "liberals" and their nonsense, we have some excellent reportage. Here again, one is reminded of Mencken, never shy about voicing his opinions, yet capable of straight reporting in a crackling, lucid style. Closing out the book are several tributes to the deceased among public figures, friends, and family. Along with the memorials to Henry Luce, Herbert Hoover, and Douglas MacArthur, readers of THE FREEMAN will be happy to see Buckley’s eulogy on Frank Chodorov who fought the good fight back when "liberals" were almost unopposed.