The Nation’s Red Queen

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Putting Dissidents in Danger

As it turned out, “Glasnost” and other dissident voices were undermined in the aftermath of this episode. But the blame belonged not to the Center and its leaders but to vanden Heuvel and Coogan’s own recklessness.

A “New York Times” investigation conducted less than a month after the appearance of the “Nation” article revealed that Coogan had discussed their as yet unpublished piece with Iona Andronov, a Soviet journalist with the hard-line “Literaturnaya Gazeta,” and even provided him with an advance galley.

Subsequently, Andronov — widely believed at the time to have been a KGB operative — smeared Sergei Grigoryants, the well-known publisher of “Glasnost,” and other dissidents as “stooges of Western intelligence,” citing documents provided by Coogan during an interview. (Coogan admitted to “discussing” the piece with Andronov and tendering the galley, but claimed the interview was a fabrication.)

Then, three months after the publication of their piece, vanden Heuvel and Coogan’s journalistic and ideological follies were subjected to an extended critique by Joshua Muravchik, writing in “Commentary.”

Famously Contentious

Muravchik showed that the link between Yarim-Agaev’s Stanford proposal and the Center’s actual purpose and programming was tenuous at best, and charged that vanden Heuvel and Coogan deliberately ignored documents that made this abundantly clear.

In response, vanden Heuvel and Coogan took to the famously contentious letters pages of “Commentary,” accusing Muravchik of misrepresentation, bias, libel, and the like, and once again underlined their claim to have been motivated by concern for the welfare of Soviet dissidents — even though their having discussed the article with a hard-line Soviet journalist and suspected KGB agent was by then in the public record.

Muravchik retorted with a devastating letter of his own. Vanden Heuvel and Coogan feigned concern for the dissidents, Muravchik wrote, when “it was they themselves who furnished the Soviet government with the very accusation that they claim[ed] to fear!”

Even more damning, however, was a letter from none other than Grigoryants, “Glasnost’s” embattled publisher. “It would be tragic if Glasnost was silenced as a result [of the Center’s activities],” vanden Heuvel and Coogan had warned in their original article.

Well, here was Glasnost’s own publisher, writing that “the article in the Nation … has brought us nothing but trouble.” Indeed, “[e]ven now [in November 1988] Miss vanden Heuvel and Mr. Coogan’s materials are still being used in the USSR for badgering the independent press.” And what became of Glasnost after vanden Heuvel’s courageous “exposé?”

“The campaign ended in the destruction and robbery of the editorial offices on May 9, 1988, from which we have still not recovered.

“We have also not managed to find new office space, and trying to put out issues from tiny private apartments has slowed us up doubly.

“If there were once 200 copies of the journal circulating in Moscow, today the situation is such that Glasnost is practically the only publication in Moscow which people are afraid to copy and distribute, so great is the threat of persecution and arrest.”

So much for the theory that one can protect dissident voices by accusing them of aiding Western agendas.

Sad Episode All But Forgotten

For men like Bukovsky, Yarim-Agaev, and Grigoryants, these dark moments would soon give way to a brilliant democratic dawn — one they actively helped usher in, the efforts of their detractors on the Western left notwithstanding.

Vanden Heuvel, meanwhile, has likely all but forgotten this sad episode from her early career. Hence she can so coolly dismiss a figure like Lech Walesa as a “hubristic” individualist.

A few minutes after her original tweet, vanden Heuvel came back with another update, this one more deferential toward her subject’s stature and moral legacy:

“Lech Walesa as leader of Solidarity was remarkable historical figure/But where is humane spirit of Solidarity today? That we need 2 seek/find,” she wrote.

I would suggest vanden Heuvel look to Iran’s courageous pro-democracy activists, including those in the Persian diaspora, who have consciously taken up the spirit of Walsa’s movement.

Alas, “The Nation’s” editorial line in recent years has consistently framed “Iranian exiles” as misguided stooges of hawkish agendas — rather than good faith advocates for an undeniably just cause.

Some things just do not change.

Sohrab Ahmari’s writing appears in the “Boston Globe,” “The Weekly Standard,” and “Commentary,” among other publications. The views expressed in this commentary are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL.

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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