Stalinist Orthodoxy in the Teaching of American History


If I were to write that professors at American universities were almost universally teaching students the Communist view of America’s cold war history my comment would be dismissed as that of an “extremist” and “right-wing ideologue.” Yet that is exactly the claim made by a leftist academic named Jennifer Delton who is the chair of the history department at Skidmore College, an elite liberal arts school in upper state New York. Delton makes this claim in an article appearing in the current issue of the Journal of the Historical Society:

“However fiercely historians disagree about the merits of American communism (sic!), they almost universally agree that the post-World War II red scare signaled a rightward turn in American politics. The consensus is that an exaggerated, irrational fear of communism, bolstered by a few spectacular spy cases, created an atmosphere of persecution and hysteria that was exploited and fanned by conservative opportunists such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy….We may add detail and nuance to this story, but this, basically is what we tell our students about post-World II anti-communism, also known as McCarthyism.”

So the Soviet threat was a figment of conservative imaginations and Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, along with all other opponents of the Communists who were McCarthyites. This was actually the Communist Party line at the time. How comforting to know that it is now the consensus view of teachers of history in our elite universities.