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Ron Radosh

On the Legacy of Stalinism in America

July 18th, 2009 - 1:27 pm

I have been teaching an NEH Summer Seminar for high school history teachers at Princeton University. I call the topic of the course “The Legacy of Stalinism in America.” It is a title I start by explaining, since even for those who know American history, it certainly sounds rather far-fetched. As I explain to the students, I really am talking about the myriad ways in which a mentality that derived from the era of  Stalinism in the Soviet Union still is alive in our country.

It shows itself particularly in debates that have taken place the last few weeks over the issue of Soviet espionage during the 1930’s and 40’s, and especially the question of whether the late journalist I.F. Stone had been for two short years an actual Soviet agent. The vitriol from those who are furious over this particular charge is most seen in the article by Amy Knight that appeared in the June 26th issue of the Times Literary Supplement (London). Therein, Knight wrote in what she claims was a review of the new book Spies by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, that “the main purpose of Spies, it seems is not to enlighten readers, but to silence those who still voice doubts about the guilt of people like Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, I.F. Stone and others.” 

In other words, anyone who writes about documents that prove actual Soviet espionage are simply McCarthyites, a charge she indeed makes against Klehr and Haynes.  So to counter Knight and the other folk who refuse to acknowledge the truth, I wish to recommend the new special issue of The Journal of Cold War Studies, now available for purchase. Information about it can be found here.

And for material you can read right now,  I would like to post the following forum about the issues involved, available here as a PDF. What you will read is a discussion posted from the H-Diplo website roundtable, the forum of diplomatic historians. This is one of the valuable website known to scholars, and this and other similar sites, part of the H-Net consortium, provide an immense service.

So, enjoy this somewhat heavy weekend reading. Warning: Definitely not to be taken to the beach!

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