In 1951, Chinese and North Korean forces had captured a charred Seoul, the atom bomb spies were sentenced to death and Clement Greenberg was the leading art critic in America.
As The Nation’s art editor, Greenberg had helped put American art on the map. And as the war with Nazi Germany gave way to the war with the Soviet Union, he began to take a leading role in the cultural struggle between America and the Soviet Union.
Operating from the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, Greenberg denounced the magazine that he had worked for, accusing it of echoing Stalin’s interests. And The Nation responded by suing its own former editor for libel.
The Nation’s editor, Freda Kirchwey, who would act as advisor to Soviet spy Alger Hiss, had good reason to be sensitive to those charges.
In 1936, as the Great Purge was underway and the Moscow Trials were getting started, the leftist magazine had declared that “[t]here can be no doubt that dictatorship in Russia is dying and that a new democracy is slowly being born.”
It was a long and bloody birth that The Nation had attended to since its gory inception, always predicting that the sun would come out from behind the gulags.
In 1946, after even much of the American left had broken with the Soviet Union, Walter Duranty used The Nation’s pages to describe Stalin’s latest purge as “a general cleaning out of the cobwebs and mess which accumulate in any house when its occupants are so deeply preoccupied with something else that they have no time to keep it in order.”
People, unlike cobwebs, scream when they are cleaned out, but Duranty had adopted a tone that was indistinguishable from Nazi propagandists describing their mass murders as cleansing and reordering. Despite clear evidence of where such rhetoric led, The Nation excused mass murder so long as it was red mass murder.
When the Soviet Union began to gobble up Eastern Europe a second time, Kirchwey said that America should accept the fall of Europe into darkness. “Peace and prosperity will be more than secure in America if we accept the process of revolution in Europe and the East instead of subsidizing resistance to it.”
Nor did The Nation and its editors limit themselves to promoting and covering up the crimes of only one Communist regime. Maxwell Stewart served as an editor at The Nation and as chairman of the American Friends of the Chinese People, a Chinese Communist front group. Stewart had been described by Earl Browder, a leader of the American Communist Party, as "one of the reliables of the Communist Party."
After Stalin’s death, The Nation published an essay on Stalin by Browder praising the bloody tyrant for “overcoming all obstacles whatever the cost, driving the entire nation along the marked path, imbuing it with his will, mercilessly sacrificing the laggards.”
This was nothing new for The Nation which had also printed Maxim Gorky’s eulogy which proclaimed, “Lenin is the hero of a legend, a man who had torn the burning heart out of his breast in order to light up for mankind the path which shall lead it out of the shameful chaos of the present, out of the rotting bog of stupid current politics.”
Freda Kirchwey was equally willing to endorse the atrocities of the Greek Communist guerrillas during the Greek Civil War, which included the destruction of villages, the mass execution of civilians and the kidnapping of children. In the pages of The Nation, Kirchwey praised them as having the backing of the suffering Greek people. Left unanswered was the question of why the Greek Communists had to kill so many of the people if they had their backing. But The Nation had never asked that question of the USSR.
As the decades passed, The Nation’s ugly track record remained unchanged. In the 70s, Chomsky’s denial of the Cambodian genocide appeared in The Nation. “In the first place, is it proper to attribute deaths from malnutrition and disease to Cambodian authorities?” he asked.
Chomsky’s question embodied The Nation’s attitude toward every Communist atrocity. Why should the Khmer Rouge be blamed for the deaths of millions when Stalin and Mao weren’t?
When the Soviet Union fell and China slowly turned away from the true red faith, The Nation did not fundamentally change. The Nation had always been attracted to totalitarian entities and leaders who would “overcome all obstacles whatever the cost” and lead the world “out of the rotting bog of stupid current politics.”
And staying true to totalitarianism to the last, when Chavez died, an article in The Nation suggested that “the biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chávez was authoritarian but that he wasn’t authoritarian enough.”
If only Chavez had been more like Stalin.
But as the red star sank beneath the horizon, the green crescent moon of Islam rose in its place.
During the Iranian hostage crisis, The Nation had praised Carter’s policy of “reasoned restraint” and warned against a “Mayagüez-style punitive action,” referring to the American attempt to rescue the crew of a container vessel captured by the Khmer Rouge. Instead The Nation urged some form of appeasement that would meet the Ayatollah’s demands.
Much later The Nation would look back on “Those heady days of revolution, when a brave coalition of secular and religious groups, led by Ayatollah Khomeini--the obstinate imam with the audacity to challenge the all-powerful Shah--inspired Iranians to dream of an equitable, free society.”
When it came to Iran’s nuclear program, The Nation took the same appeasement line that it did on the hostage crisis insisting that the threat was overblown and that it could only be met through negotiated appeasement. Anything else was jingoism and war fever.
The same magazine that urged the United States to hand over Eastern Europe and China to the Communists for the sake of peace has been urging the acceptance of a nuclear Iran for the sake of peace. When it comes to dictatorships allied with the left, The Nation always has only one solution. Appeasement.
With Iran’s nuclear program approaching a red line, the latest word from The Nation just last month is that “despite years of war-whooping and crisis-mongering on Iran, it’s beginning to sink in that Iran’s nuclear program doesn’t represent much of a threat.”
And this month The Nation showed that it was as committed to whitewashing monstrous tyrannies as ever, when it ran an article claiming that most Iranians love living under an Islamist regime and that the Green Movement did not fail because it was brutally suppressed, but because it was unpopular. The shootings, arrests, beatings and rapes had nothing to do with it.
The same magazine that minimized the death toll in the USSR and Cambodia claimed that “fewer than 100 people had died in the clashes.” Returning to The Nation’s tradition of printing straight propaganda, the piece went on to claim that the Iranian economy is doing just fine and the Arab Spring’s Sunni Islamist ascension has not set back Iran in any way. Even if Assad loses Damascus, the article assured readers that he will still control Syria. Even Baghdad Bob could not have done a better job.
Nearly a century after the Bolsheviks began their campaign to seize Russia; The Nation showed that it had learned nothing from the past. Instead it repeats history as farce, stumbling from one tyranny to another in the hopes of finding progress somewhere among the corpses.
The Nation aided the Soviet plan for world domination. Now it is doing the very same thing for the Islamists. A century later its only skill lies in acting as the messenger boy for mass murderers.
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