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The Nation's Continuing Denial of Soviet Espionage during the New Deal Years

Harry Dexter White, the assistant secretary of the Treasury and the man who created the postwar financial structure and the International Monetary Fund, was arguably the top Communist spy working in our top government agencies during the New and Fair Deal days. As I argued in these pages a while back, economist Benn Steil’s new research not only revealed that White was a Soviet agent, but also brings to the mainstream what many of us have known for years — that the New Deal administration was heavily penetrated by Soviet spies, many of them American citizens who were working for Stalin’s intelligence agencies.

This truth, no matter how documented, is something that the left-wing intellectuals and journalists who inhabit Nationland (which is what I call the climate in which they inhabit their own set of truths centered in Manhattan’s Upper West Side) never can accept. They continue to be what John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr term “in denial.” In a recent issue of The Nation, the flagship of the left in America, the publication ran a review of Benn Steil’s new book on White by James M. Boughton, in which the author accuses Steil and others of McCarthyite “guilt by association” and claims that those who say White was a Soviet agent are only speculating.

What The Nation has done has been well described by Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary. He writes:

The anti-anti-Communist point of view about the Cold War was discredited, but for the publishers ofThe Nation, the impulse to wave the old red flag is still strong. That often leads them, as well as some other sectors of the left such as the New York Times, to pretend as if backing the totalitarian, genocidal, and anti-Semitic regime that ruled Moscow was an innocent romantic phase that all true liberals went through. But as bad as that deplorable tradition might be, the decision of The Nation to publish material about Communist espionage as if the Venona Files had never been published is nothing short of bizarre.

Like their counterparts on the far-right fringe, the Nation left also ignores evidence, even though it has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that White was indeed a Soviet agent. For those who doubt this, one has only to look at the scrupulous investigation of the evidence by Haynes and Klehr, which you can find at Washington Decoded.   

Few can match the precise and careful attention to evidence that both reveal. Reading their dissection of the evidence, it amounts to irrefutable proof that White was a Soviet spy. Why, they ask, do seemingly intelligent people ignore the facts? They believe that it is not because they are dishonest, but because “we are dealing with intellectual ‘true believers,’ ideological zealots who are mentally incapable of accepting or processing information that undermines their historical world view.” (Klehr and Haynes have also written about those on the right who ignore evidence and make assertions that new evidence refutes, and who continue to make arguments that have been disproved.)