The Nation’s Red Queen

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Reprinted From Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty.

The Polish anticommunist hero and Solidarity co-founder Lech Walesa declined a meeting recently with Barack Obama on the Polish leg of the president’s European trip. “It’s difficult to tell journalists what you’d like to say to the president of a superpower,” Walesa told Polish broadcaster TVN24. “This time I won’t tell him, I won’t meet him, it doesn’t suit me.”

The snub may have had something to do with the president’s decision, not long after taking office, to scrap a planned missile defense installation in Poland.

“It wasn’t the shield that was important,” Walesa said at the time. “It’s about…the way of treating us.” (The decision was announced on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.)

Needless to say, Walesa’s snub sparked an uproar in Poland, where some accused the Nobel laureate of personal pettiness.

On the twittersphere, Walesa drew the wrath of the American progressive establishment. One commentator, long-time “Nation” magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, was particularly scathing.

“From Solidarity to hubristic individualism,” she tweeted. “Lech Walesa says he just doesn’t feel like meeting w/ Pres Obama.” Walesa, vanden Heuvel wrote, had gone from political dissent to “political descent.”

Vanden Heuvel’s harsh remarks about a man who had risked everything to help defeat totalitarianism in his native Poland appeared, at first glance, as just another ill-considered, 140-character reaction to the day’s headlines.

But to those familiar with vanden Heuvel’s — now long forgotten — history of attacking anti-Soviet dissidents during the 1980s, there was a more sinister dimension to this throwaway line: a tragic reminder of the hostility too often displayed by “The Nation,” the flagship journal of the American left, toward Eastern Bloc freedom fighters, particularly those active in diaspora communities.

A History of Recklessness and Distortion

The lowest point in this history came in March 1988, when “The Nation” published a vanden Heuvel article about the Center for Democracy, a New York-based Russian émigré organization.

At the time, the Center regularly published English translations of “Glasnost,” a reformist Soviet journal which, as even vanden Heuvel and her co-author Kevin Coogan acknowledged, had become an invaluable resource for both Russian democrats and Western journalists hoping to better understand political developments in the secretive totalitarian regime.

Even so, vanden Heuvel and Coogan charged, “Glasnost” had “a potential albatross around its neck”: its English-language distributors at the Center were being funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (N.E.D.) to run “a program that more closely resembled intelligence-gathering than human rights work.”

They accused the Center’s founder, Vladimir Bukovsky — a man who had endured more than a decade in political prisons for exposing Soviet use of psychiatric detention to silence dissidents — of colluding with “neoconservatives” and N.E.D. hawks to “advance the Reagan administration’s foreign policy objectives.”

To support their allegations, vanden Heuvel and Coogan pointed to the Center’s Independent Exchange Program, which encouraged Western tourists to visit dissidents and, according to “The New York Times,” “presumably to look into their welfare and encourage private contacts with them.” Heaven forbid!

They also cited a 1984 proposal for a “Soviet studies research center” developed by Yuri Yarim-Agaev, an émigré physicist and later the Center’s executive director, while he was based at Stanford.

‘Reaganite Stooges’

In his proposal, Yarim-Agaev had suggested that the underground human rights network be used to gather information about various aspects of Soviet society, including data on “the black market, government and its administration: laws, instructions, regulations, secrecy, police, and the KGB.”

Yarim-Agaev also recommended that the proposed center develop intelligence on the militarization of Soviet civil society.

What they neglected to mention was the fact that there was no direct connection between Yarim-Agaev’s Stanford proposal and what eventually became the Center for Democracy.

No matter: in the eyes of “The Nation’s” editors, Bukovsky and Yarim-Agaev were émigré stooges of Reaganite reaction and thus undeserving of the slightest benefit of the doubt.

To help drive home the point, the magazine’s editors paired the piece with an illustration of an ominous looking figure sporting leather gloves, fedora, and dark sunglasses; the man was shown hiding his face behind an issue of Glasnost – his large nose protruding from behind the broadsheet page.

In their closing paragraph, vanden Heuvel and Coogan claimed that they were driven to pen this vicious attack on two veteran Russian human rights activists out of concern for the safety of dissidents inside the country and the future of Gorbachev’s reform agenda.

“In this struggle for growing tolerance and openness, any effort … to use Soviet citizens for ulterior purposes can only end badly all around…” they said, “The Center for Democracy’s reckless and provocative schemes, and the National Endowment for Democracy’s support of them, give ammunition to Soviet conservatives who oppose the current liberalization and the rapprochement with the West.”

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  • jacob

    This piece of work should be reminded of what happened to 'LORD HAW-HAW"
    at the surrender of Nazi Germany…

  • jacob

    And as to "snubbing" that is, if OBAMA actually gives a damn about it, it would pay
    to remind her of the treatment of NETHANYAHU by no less than the President of
    the United States of America, Mr. BARAK HUSSEIN OBAMA

  • longtail

    i have to give the woman an A+ for having the balls to snub the worthless piece of bleeeeep!

  • eye duh hoe an

    Hey Longtail, Read the article again… the woman is the P.O.S…

  • alex

    If one would look for an “influence agent” working in the West of behalf of thugs, these two are a best example.

    Can’t tell you how much we hated and despised them back in 1980’s USSR. They were worst then KGB, sitting safely in the West and shilling for our oppressors.

  • PW Virginia USA

    These people,Vanden Hauven and Coogan, are "Romantic Nilists" They put nothing of their health or property on the line but support these far left causes from the safety of the USA…

    • Questions

      These people are not nihilists, romantic or otherwise. They're simply old-fashioned Leftists. They believe in causes. The problem is that they're not the right ones.

  • arkady polishchuk

    This KGB friend of 'Nation" Iona Andronov accused me and Ludmila Alexeeva of collaborating with CIA. He was promoted to a position of Literatutnaya Gazeta correspondent in New York for being a proud ghost writer of Leonid Brezhnev's books. So Valesa should be proud for being criticized by this woman who sees the world through the bloody red-colored glasses

  • USMCSniper

    Comrade Lech Walesa need to be send to reducation camp to learn to appreciate Chairman Obama as glorious leader of world socialist hope and change revolution.

  • Indio viejo

    Van Der Teufel is a communist propagandist commited to spreading the lie. But she won't live it herself.

  • Richard Newhof

    Well done, an excellent piece of journalism. The apologists and fellow travellers of communism, safe in their Universities in the West, were never really held to account or given to reflect on their views. Their idea failed, it was a flop.

    Vanden Heuvel, with such a terrific Dutch surname 'Of the Hill', is now definitely 'over the heuvel'. Irrelevant, the blind witness to a period of horror.

  • Kim Bruce

    Just because a man has the ability to read teleprompters and make appropriate pauses during a speech to capture his audiences does not mean that person is the ideal president. He must be able to pull together a team that can actually accomplish great things.
    I have seen nothing accomplished of greatness since this current administration has taken office. Rather I have seen the America I once knew dragged down a financial abyss. I have seen a growth in racial profiling. I have seen an increased Islamist presence. The borders of the US are bursting at the sides with illegals carrying weapons out of, and lethal drugs into the US. I am seeing the US sink into chaos, the same chaos described in Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals". I can see why Lech Walesa would find it inappropriate, at this time, to meet a communist party leader and traitor to not only his own country but the world.

  • Max Friedman

    Katrina is the direct editorial descendant of a long line of communists and sympathizers at the Nation. The key editor/publisher was Carey McWilliams, a Communist Party organizer during the 1930's who amassed a very long, well documented record of supporting the CPUSA for many decades (See Appendix IX for some of his CP front activities. Appendix IX, the unreleased House Committee on Un-American Activities massive research volume(s) is available online).

    After McWilliams came Victor Navasky (author of "Naming Names). A vile man who has protected the CPUSA and communism since god knows when, he was the leading "anti-anti-communist" in the Left media. If you ever heard him speak, you would have to take three showers when you got home just to get the marxist slime and liars off of you.

    Katrina is his protege and just as nasty a communist sympathizer. The Left like her because she is fairly attractive and can speak in semi-coherent sentences (as opposed to Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, Rosie O'Donnell and Rachel Maddow).

  • abdul qamidov

    van den heuvel happens to be granddaughter of roger baldwin, aclu founder — just a factoid