The cult of redemptive violence is one of the darkest currents in the political thought of the last few centuries. Although they were not squeamish, ancient writers on violence such as Thucydides, Xenophon, and Tacitus had no notion of killing as a source of meaning, rather than the means to specific ends.
Even Machiavelli, who condemns princes’ failure to deal decisively with enemies, does not suggest that they should derive any personal satisfaction from “execution”. On the contrary, Machiavelli argues that violence must be governed by reasons of state rather than the whims of a monster.
Machiavelli’s arguments for a rational economy of violence were swept away by the French Revolution. In a world turned upside down, killing and risking death came to be seen as constitutive of the resolute individual, rather than as necessary evils. Hegel’s so-called dialectic of master and slave is the most sophisticated articulation of this idea.
The Romantic understanding of violence as the crucible of the self had advocates on the Right, the Left, and those somewhere in between. In the 19th century, its protagonists included both Maistre and Bakunin. In the first half of the 20th century, mortal danger found its propagandist in Sorel, its philosopher in Heidegger, and its poet in Jünger (and, perhaps, its president in Theodore Roosevelt).
In the decades after World War II, however, the cult of violence found its home on the European Left. In his preface to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, Jean-Paul Sartre described the anti-colonial terrorist as follows:
…this new man begins his life as a man at the end of it; he considers himself as a potential corpse. He will be killed; not only does he accept this risk, he’s sure of it. This potential dead man has lost his wife and his children; he has seen so many dying men that he prefers victory to survival; others, not he, will have the fruits of victory; he is too weary of it all. But this weariness of the heart is the root of an unbelievable courage. We find our humanity on this side of death and despair; he finds it beyond torture and death. We have sown the wind; he is the whirlwind. The child of violence, at every moment he draws from it his humanity. We were men at his expense, he makes himself man at ours: a different man; of higher quality.
Sartre was both revered and reviled for this assertion. So it’s interesting to watch him grapple with its implications just a few years later. In 1974, Sartre made a pilgrimage to Germany, where he visited the imprisoned Andreas Baader, leader of the murderous Red Army Faction. After a brief meeting, Sartre held a press conference at which he denounced the inhumanity of West Germany’s treatment of the martyr. At least in the mainstream press, Sartre’s accusations were widely understood as a confession of moral bankruptcy.
The release of new documents complicate this picture. According to a transcript of the meeting acquired by Der Spiegel, Sartre actually tried to convince Baader to abandon terror. Here is an excerpt from their conversation:
Sartre: The masses — the RAF has undertaken clear actions that the people don’t agree with.
Baader: It’s been established that 20 percent of the population sympathizes with us …
Sartre: I know. The statistics were prepared in Hamburg.
Baader: The situation in Germany is geared to small groups, both in terms of legality and illegality.
Sartre: These actions might be justified for Brazil, but not for Germany.
Sartre: In Brazil independent actions were needed to change the situation. They were necessary preparatory work.
Baader: Why is it any different here?
Sartre: Here there isn’t the same type of proletariat as in Brazil.
What’s happening is that Sartre is trying to put the genie of redemptive violence back into the bottle of rational control. Violence, he argues, can be justified when it contributes to a discernable goal, namely socialist revolution. Yet it is not an end in itself, as if it were just a form of expressive self-assertion.
Even apart from the absurdity of his politics, Sartre had no authority to make this argument. Perhaps more than any other Western intellectual, he had legitimized and even glamorized the use of violence without consideration of its likely results. Moreover, Sartre could not bring himself to condemn Baader’s methods in public. Rather than mourning the victims of the RAF, Sartre complained that Baader was being subjected to ”a torture that leads to psychological disturbance…”
Sartre’s legacy has proved a heavy burden for the European Left, which has never quite shaken its reputation for nihilism. It is a case study in the old conservative slogan that ideas have consequences. But serious conservatives should not make the mistake of assuming that Left alone is susceptible to the cult of violence. The same temptation lurks behind the veneration of soldiers, war, and toughness that deforms the contemporary American Right.
If you could sum up President Obama’s approach to political economy in a phrase, you could do worse than Herbert Croly’s “democratic Hamiltonianism”: that is, the energetic executive branch that Hamilton envisioned, but with Hamilton’s predilection for monarchy and aristocracy tempered by pluralism and tolerance. Croly’s The Promise of American Life argued that Hamilton “realized that genuine liberty was not merely a matter of a constitutional declaration of rights. It could be protected only by an energetic and clear-sighted central government, and it could be fertilized only by the efficient national organization of American activities.”
You could hear echoes of Croly in Obama’s line that “preserving our freedoms ultimately requires collective action,” as well as in his assertion that while the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness “may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing.” I wondered, there in Blue Section 11, as I passed a bag of goldfish to my eight-year-old, whether Obama’s concept of non-self-execution suggests a belief that rights are natural, but must sometimes be pried from privilege and patterns of injustice; or, alternatively, something more along the lines of what John Dewey believed—that coercion is natural and freedom is artifice. As Louis Menand put it in his volume on pragmatism, The Metaphysical Club: “Individual freedoms are manufactured to achieve group ends.”
Having chewed on that for a couple days, I’m opting for the less startling interpretation: Obama insists, with Croly, that we need to employ Hamiltonian means to accomplish Jeffersonian [read: individualist] ends.
So here’s my next question: why the drama? Why the palaver about not having to “settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time”? If Obama really wanted to spike the ball in the endzone of economic libertarianism, he should have said that the argument about the role of government the role is settled, and that his side won. Jefferson’s principle of non-interference, of separation of state and economy, resides in the dustbin of American history. The process of erosion was gradual; it began in the late-19th century, experienced a couple of evolutionary leaps during the world wars and the Great Depression, and has been ratified by every post-war Republican administration (Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Bush). Republicans talk like Jeffersonians, but there is, now, not a single credible threat of rolling back the welfare state and its administrative apparatus. What we’re having, instead, is a debate about the timing and scale of its reform and modernization. Read More…
I’m grateful to Scott Galupo for reviving Gary Wills’s provocative interpretation of the Second Amendment. As one might expect from encounters with Wills’s other work, this interpretation is learned, brilliant…and wrong.
Wills insists that the Second Amendment is a cunning legal maneuver that gives the government the authority to set limits on the possession and use of guns by linking the right to “keep and bear arms” to the regulation of militias–an enumerated power of Congress in Article I, Section 8.
As Sanford Levinson points out in this response, that interpretation is logically coherent but historically implausible. Given America’s mythologized origins in citizen revolt, Levinson suggests, a more convincing reading of the amendment can be found in Joseph Story’s classic Commentaries on the Constitution. Here is what Story has to say:
The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defense of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers…. [L]arge military establishments and standing armies in time of peace…afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers [means] to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms…offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them…
If Story is right about the thinking behind the Second Amendment, as I believe he is, the claim that private ownership of guns is “necessary to the security of a free State” rests on two arguments that correspond to different strands of modern political philosophy.
The first is the familiar Lockean argument that the people retain a right of revolution against rulers who become despotic, even if they were at one time legitimate. Since this right doesn’t mean much if it can’t be enforced, the people must also have the right to possess and use the means of self-defense against tyranny, i.e. arms. The American people saw themselves as having exercised that right in 1776. And many continued to believe, as Story indicates, that the continuing possibility of its exercise was a valuable safeguard against an overweening government.
The post-mortems are over. Most Republicans now admit what everyone else knows: Romney took a beating last November. Romney didn’t just lose under relatively favorable conditions. He managed to underperform John McCain with the party’s base without successfully reaching out to new supporters.
How should the party get better results in the future? One proposal is to change the rules of the game. Romney lost because he failed to win majorities in enough states to collect 270 electoral votes. At National Review, Katrina Trinko asks whether Republicans would do better if states awarded their electoral college votes by congressional district, or the electoral college were entirely replaced by a national popular vote (NPV).
The answer to the second question is almost certainly “no”. Republicans lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. And the demographic picture is growing less favorable to them as reliable constituencies–married couples, whites, and Christians–continue to shrink. It’s theoretically possible that Republicans could win a national popular vote by improving turnout in their strongholds. But it’s more likely that NPV would shut the GOP out of the White House for good.
The plan to award electoral votes by congressional district seems more promising, partly because it would not require an amendment to the Constitution and is already in place in Nebraska and Maine. But Republicans would make a terrible mistake by pursuing this strategy, which has attracted interest in Pennsylvania and Michigan, among other states.
In the first place, the proposal is a naked attempt to rig the system to secure more favorable results. Advocates of NPV can appeal to the politically neutral principle of one man, one vote. Advocates of a district-based electoral college, on the other hand, are explicit about their goal of giving an advantage to Republicans. There’s nothing new about politicians making rules that favor their own party: the gerrymander is as old as the Republic. As far as I know, however, it’s never been seriously proposed as a basis for selecting the President.
Second, the Republican advantage under such a system could be temporary. As long as Republicans control state legislatures, they can draw favorable districts. But there’s no reason to assume that this control will last forever. Eleven states have adopted non-partisan redistricting. Others may follow their example. More importantly, Democrats could rebuild their strength in key states like Wisconsin, where they’ve recently faced setbacks (that’s what the collective bargain fight with Gov. Walker was really about). If they do, Republicans would again find themselves at a structural disadvantage.
But the main reason Republicans should reject attempts to win the game by changing the rules is that obsession with procedural gimmicks is symptomatic of a broken party. In a democracy, healthy parties pursue decisive national majorities. Sore losers try to eke out victories through electoral manipulation.
Republicans once understood this principle, which was the basis of Nixon and Reagan’s challenges to the New Deal coalition that was then in its death-throes. It was also the guiding idea of Disraeli’s construction of a “One Nation” party from the ruins of the old Tories following the Reform Act of 1832. British Conservatives spent a half-century weening themselves of their dependence on rotten boroughs. It is dispiriting to see Republicans pursuing a modern version of the same vice.
Pat Robertson is turning heads with a 700 Club segment this week in which the televangelist apparently recommended that Christians stop trying to harmonize Genesis with mainstream paleontological and geological history:
You go back in time, you’ve got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things, and you’ve got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas. They’re out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth, and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don’t try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That’s not the Bible.
And: “If you fight revealed science, you are going to lose your children, and I believe in telling them the way it was.”
This is akin to the argument the Christian geneticist Francis Collins has been making for years:
The tragedy of young-earth creationism is that it takes a relatively recent and extreme view of Genesis, applies it to an unjustified scientific gloss, and then asks sincere and well-meaning seekers to swallow this whole, despite the massive discordance with decades of scientific evidence from multiple disciplines. Is it any wonder that many sadly turn away from faith concluding that they cannot believe in a God who asks for an abandonment of logic and reason? [emphasis mine]
A “tragedy”: to that I would add the modifier “unnecessary.”
It doesn’t have to be this way. At the ripe old age of 82, it seems Pat Robertson finally understands that. What a pity it took him so long. Think of the impact he could have had if he had taken this position 20 or 30 years ago. Imagine the intellectual agony many smart young believers could have avoided if an influential evangelist like Robertson had released them from the burden of trying to prove, as Collins argues, that 2+2=5. I fear, however, that many people, not just evangelicals, will greet Robertson’s about-face as another instance of an old man going rogue, if not insane. He favors pot decriminalization! He jokes about wife-beating! He advises a man to go ahead and ditch his wife with Alzheimer’s!
There’s a sharp lead editorial in the current print edition of TAC that argues that, “Policy and elections alike are the end results of a long chain of production, much as computers and automobiles only reach consumers after their components have been manufactured and assembled by companies which, in turn, depend on other capital goods and an infrastructure of finance. Candidates and laws are finished goods …”
I suspect the analogy holds true in the case of Sen. Marco Rubio’s hedging on the question of the age of the earth. Is Rubio a young-earther? Or is he wary of offending the GOP base? It doesn’t much matter. That we even must ask the question is (to paraphrase the TAC editorial) the end result of a long chain of intellectual malpractice. We need more — many more — evangelical pastors and and theologians to “tell it like it was,” as Robertson put it. The earth-is-old-but-man-is-young casuistry of John Piper is not good enough. We need more Francis Collinses.
Come forward — and faster, please.
James Poulos dissects Mitt Romney’s now-infamous excuse to big donors for why he lost the 2012 election. Patronage — or “gifts,” as Romney put it — was a factor, to be sure. But more than that, Poulos writes, “Obama won this election not by speaking the language of patronage to his base (though speak it he has), but by selling a significant slice of the middle class on who could best enable them to pursue the American dream.”
The second component, detailed in Tim Carney’s book Obamanomics, show how big, intimate public-private partnerships are foundational to the president’s approach. There’s some patronage woven in there, to be sure, but the superstructure most resembles the corrupt Gilded Age system (ahem, Republicans) that gave rise to the trust-busting movement. After the Civil War, Republicans were no strangers to patronage. But their affinity for nation-building, which required that big business and big government collaborate on sea-to-sea projects, reaches back past European immigration and the Republican party itself to the Whig and Federalist imperative to transform the American hodgepodge into a union in fact — complete with a fully integrated continental economy, national education, and so on. Obama is in danger of wresting that tradition away from Republicans, and mainline establishmentarian conservatives who grasp this are right to tremble.
This is a topic near and dear to my own blogging. Poulos is referring here to what I’ve called the “warfare-welfare-merchant” state. Contra Poulos, public-private partnerships are not unique to the Gilded Age or the Obama Age. Strong national government and federal supremacy have been with us since the Lincoln administration, but you can see its root system in the Adams administration. Michael Lind has been an essential source for the “developmental economic” history of the Unites States. If I can sum his work in one sentence, I would put it like this: The story of America, from Hamilton to Lincoln to the New Deal to World II, has been one of state-promoted — not state-run — industrial capitalism and American Dream-ism. The “neoliberal” adjustments of the 1970s and the Reagan-Clinton era did not replace this system, but rather enmeshed it in the lean-and-mean world of global finance and multinational corporations.
Obama’s mission, as he sees it (or as I think he sees it), is to try to revive the high middle-class living standards of the mid-20th-century in this neoliberal world. “Advanced manufacturing,” new infrastructure, high-tech energy, and higher education are the key components of Obama’s vision of re-industrialization. Republicans have reacted to Obamanomics as if 1) it is akin to socialism or European social democracy; and 2) they do not practice a similar brand of state-promoted capitalism themselves (military-industrial complex, anyone?).
I find the “free-market populism” of Tim Carney and Sen. Rand Paul an essential corrective to this system. Indeed, I’d call it a lodestar of this magazine. But conservatives need to be realistic about ordinary Americans’ expectations of what kind of country they’re living and working in. They know they’re living in a modern, “fully integrated continental economy,” not some undisturbed Jeffersonian free-market idyll. If they fail, or refuse, to reckon with this reality, Republicans will continue to lose out to the promise of Obamanomics.
That’s what the playwright David Mamet told guests of the Manhattan Institute last night (via Roger Kimball). Mamet’s assertion is the kind of grandiose claim we’ve become accustomed to in this campaign. It’s also nonsense that exposes an amazing ignorance of American history.
Here are some of the choices and issues the country faced in the last 152 years:
1876: Republican Rutherford B. Hayes is elected with a minority of the popular vote on the promise to end Reconstruction.
1896: In a deep economic depression, Republican William McKinley defeats the the populist Democratic William Jennings Bryan on a platform of industrial protection and deflationary monetary policy (which is what the issue of silver or gold currency amounted to). McKinley establishes an electoral coalition that would dominate national politics for nearly 30 years.
1916: In the midst of the First World War, Wilson campaigns on a peace platform. We all know what he did after being elected.
1932: In another deep depression, Roosevelt wins a mandate to fundamentally change the relation between citizens and the national government.
1940: Roosevelt pursues and attains an unprecedented third term, which effectively commits the U.S. to participation in the Second World War.
1948: Truman beats Dewey, reinvigorating the FDR coalition on the basis of welfare policies and anti-Communism. In the primaries, Robert Taft is denied the Republican nomination, effectively sidelining non-interventionists and critics of the New Deal.
1972: Nixon defeats McGovern, partly by presenting him as the candidate of the counter-culture. The first “culture war” election, and a major step toward the shift of white ethnics to the GOP.
1980: You remember that one.
I have a hard time believing that these elections were less significant than the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Not coincidentally, Gore Vidal wrote delightful novels about several of them. By historical standards, I’d say that today’s election is comparable in importance to the titanic clash between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. Given the quality of the candidates, that’s a big relief.
About ten times as many people are going to form an impression about Iran from Ben Affleck’s “Argo” than they are from any foreign policy blog. The film grossed over $35 million in its first two weeks, so by rough count that’s more than 3.5 million viewers. What impression might they get?
I should say at the outset that the movie was great — a real tribute to Affleck’s talent; he directed and starred as the U.S. intelligence agent who got six stranded diplomats out of Teheran during the hostage crisis. The Iranian seizure of the U.S. embassy — depicted in a 10 or 15 minute sequence at the film’s opening — was riveting and terrifying.
The movie opens with a brief but needed historical backdrop — making it clear that the U.S. had a hand in overthrowing the elected nationalist Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, and installing in his place the boy-king Shah. The latter is presented as a pro-Western modernizer who tortured his opponents by the tens of thousands and flaunted a luxury that had nothing to do with the lives of ordinary Iranian. Tidbits from the ’70s I had long forgotten — the Shah’s penchant for having his meals flown in from Paris — are resurrected. It’s not enough to make one entirely sympathize with the Revolution, but surely to understand it a bit.
Of course, as revolutions tend to do, this one settled into score-settling and rough justice: we see plenty of terrified Iranians trying to get visas out of the country, and several horrific extra-judicial executions. The American Revolution was pretty much an exception: the French, Russian, Chinese revolutions were all bloodthirsty, and the Iranian no departure from the general rule.
Once the actual action begins, the viewer can’t help but view the revolutionaries as bad guys: they are threatening to kill American foreign service officers; they are paranoid about spies (however understandably); their seizure of the embassy was clearly illegal. But there are interesting countervailing touches: the Revolutionary Guards who seized the embassy were (and are so portrayed) as an educated group, including no small number of cadres who spoke perfect U.S. English, learned in American universities. The holding of diplomats hostage for 400 days was both an affront to America and a crime, and the “faked” executions to which some of the hostages were subjected is clearly a kind of psychological torture. But I always have thought it significant that the Iranians had enough self-control to not kill or physically harm the diplomat/hostages, and I’m very aware that most of the diplomats who went through the ordeal remain friends of Iran and are in no way proponents of bombing the place.
In the film’s final scenes at the Teheran airport, one of the Farsi-speaking Americans uses his knowledge of Iranian popular myths to deflect the suspicions of one of the bearded AK-47 toting Revolutionary Guards: it was a poignant scene which humanized Iranians of a certain type. Of course had the ruse not worked, the Americans at the departure gate would have been executed as spies.
So judging “Argo” for its politics, I’d give it a very high B; the Iranian Revolution is presented as bloody and dangerous, which it certainly was; Iran seems a place to be treated warily, as it surely should be. But there is no effort to dehumanize the Iranian “enemy”, an option which surely must have tempted at least some in Hollywood.
In short, I thought Hollywood and Ben Affleck gave an excellent account of themselves, producing a tense and realistic spy drama about a history which remains alive and highly relevant today, steering true to the actual historical context, keeping clear of vulgar jingoism or racist tropes. Even knowing the outcome of the movie in advance, our hearts soar when the Swissair jet lifts out of Iranian airspace, and the champagne is broken out. We can all be thankful we are not captives of revolutionary Iran. But we needn’t be eternal enemies with the place either.
This week’s New York magazine contains Frank Rich’s latest denunciation of Republicans, tea partiers, populists, and conservatives (he uses the terms almost interchangeably). Rejecting progressives’ bouts of triumphalism, he argues that “by the metric of intractability, at least, conservatives are the cockroaches of the American body politic, poised to outlast us all.” In 1964, 1992, and 2008, Democrats convinced themselves that they’d finally ended the infestation. Each time, however, the vermin reemerged from the dark corners in which they hid themselves.
This is exceptionally nasty rhetoric. Nevertheless, Rich is on to something. Upsetting as it may be to believers in the inexorable march of progress, the movements of opposition to the Obama, Clinton, and Kennedy/Johnson administrations weren’t temporary spasms of reaction. Rather, they were manifestations of a perennial tendency in American politics that won’t disappear, no matter who wins the election in three weeks.
In fact, the principles that Rich associates with the Tea Party long predate Goldwater, and even the so-called conservative movement. As far as I have been able to learn, they received their first formal articulation in 1937 in a “conservative manifesto” drafted by a coalition of Democratic and Republican Senators opposed to the extension of the New Deal.
The manifesto was leaked to the columnist Joe Alsop before it attracted many signatures. Nevertheless, it’s worth reviewing the goals that it outlines (in summary):
1. Lowering the capital gains and undistributed profits taxes.
2. Balancing the budget.
3. Establishing “just relations between capital and labor” based on the “right of the worker to work, of the owner to possession, and of every man to enjoy in peace the fruits of his labor.”
4. Rejecting government competition with private enterprise and private capital.
5. Defending the right to a “reasonable profit” and recognizing that “[o]ur American competitive system is superior to any form of the collectivist program.”
6. Upholding the “soundness and stability of values,” i.e. opposing inflation.
7. Reducing income and consumption taxes.
8. Preferring state and local control to national standards.
9. Assisting the “deserving” unemployed on the basis of “individual self-reliance”.
10. Defending “the American system of private enterprise and initiative, and our American form of government.”
Some of the language and details in the manifesto are outdated. What’s more, several of its advocates thought of themselves as Roosevelt’s friendly critics rather than outright opponents. It’s also worth noting that the manifesto supporters tended to be isolationist. At this stage, foreign policy adventurism was not yet considered a conservative principle.
Even so, the manifesto could serve as the economic platform for almost any conservative politician today. Although it is not conclusive evidence for the perennial character of conservative politics, the manifesto suggests that the ideological characteristics of American conservatism, at least when it comes to domestic policy, have changed remarkably little since Roosevelt Administration.
The problem for progressives like Rich, then, is not just that that the “cockroaches” have evaded every attempt at removal. It’s that they are older than any of the other lifeforms in the current political ecosystem. In its essentials, American conservatism predates the Cold War, the civil rights movement, and the culture wars. Having outlasted by decades the New Deal coalition that it developed to oppose, conservatives will survive a second Obama administration, whether Frank Rich likes it or not.
Mildly surprised to see Robert Merry plug The American Spectator’s Frank Marshall Davis piece, at least so uncritically. It’s a review of Paul Kengor’s biography of Davis, the American communist who was some sort of mentor to Obama in his teenage Hawaii years. Merry wonders why the mainstream press hasn’t made more of the Davis story–and what it says about Obama. I think that most people have decided it doesn’t say much of anything about Obama, in that probably half the people in politics today had some kind of extremist associations during their late teens and early twenties–whether the League of the South or SDS radicals. There are well-worn cliches about this.
But the Davis phenomenon points to an interesting wrinkle about American history. In one of his interviews, Kengor breathes a bit heavily about finding that the father-in-law of Obama’s associate Valerie Jarrett was also a communist. We’re being ruled by the Chicago Reds! But you know what? If you were a black American in the 1930s and ’40s, educated, politically active–and (this is the important thing) wanted to be involved in integrated politics, and work cooperatively with white people, the CPUSA was, if not the only game in town, pretty close to it.
I haven’t worked my way through Mark Naison’s scholarship on the subject, but I do recall being taken aside long ago by my late friend, historian and democratic socialist Jim Chapin long ago and had it explained that many blacks involved in mainstream Democratic politics had some sort of old CP roots, exactly for that reason. It was no surprise that one finds pretty bright traces of pink in the backgrounds of Jesse Jackson’s or MLK’s old advisors, because that was where the openings were for ambitious black Americans. Once America began integrating more seriously (which coincided with the Soviets coming to terms with the crimes of Stalinism) this particular niche of black radicalism dried up.
Communism was flawed in theory and evil in practice, but a lot of people saw it differently in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. To get some sense of the relatively normal, upstanding white people in the communist orbit, it might help to pick up Mary McCarthy’s highly readable The Group or Lionel Trilling’s sublime The Middle of the Journey. And they didn’t even have the excuse of segregation.