You know that when hosannas of praise rise up for a journalist who died, simply described in the New York Times obituary as a “left-wing writer,” that a great deal remains unsaid. The writer who passed away a few days ago is Alexander Cockburn, and the piece by Colin Moynihan says that he became known as an “unapologetic leftist, condemning what he saw as the outrages of the right but also castigating the American liberal establishment when he thought it as being timid.” He is described by a former colleague at the Village Voice as having “a remarkable mind.”
One could say his mind was remarkable, if one chooses to use that word to describe someone who once wrote that the Soviet Union in Leonid Brezhnev’s day was “the golden age of the Soviet working class,” and who regularly reprinted Soviet and Cuban disinformation from their intelligence agencies as unadulterated truths.
In many ways, Alex Cockburn was the true successor of Walter Duranty, a man who wrote to serve the enemies of the United States and to glorify what he saw as the great achievements of the Bolsheviks and their successors.
So let us turn now to what others have said about him. The Washington Post obituary writer refers to him as “an avowed liberal — even a radical,” which is like saying Pat Buchanan is just another conservative, even one possibly on the far Right. Ralph Nader, we learn, called Cockburn a man of the Left “who defined the frontiers of candid progressive ideas.” What one can learn is that Cockburn could be judged by the views of his admirers.
One of them is Justin Raimondo, the proprietor of Antiwar.com, the website that tried its best to forge a Red-Brown alliance of the Right and the far Left in the cause of opposition to “American imperialism and interventionism.” He reminds us, because he was Cockburn’s comrade in opposition to the NATO war against the Milosevic regime during the Clinton presidency, during which Cockburn shared the platform at rallies with Pat Buchanan. Raimondo thinks Cockburn was not of the Left, but was a populist anarcho-syndicalist, whatever that may be, and later, he thinks that Cockburn was having a “paleoconservative moment,” since he was “a paleo-radical who had had survived long enough to be considered a reactionary.”
Raimondo and his friends on the paleocon Right of course would be happy to have Cockburn as an ally, but to exonerate Cockburn of Stalinism simply ignores all the evidence of the many times Cockburn — like his father Claud, who served the NKVD during the Spanish Civil War as Stalin’s favorite toady journalist in Spain – lied on behalf on totalitarians.