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Haynes and Klehr's own goal on historical research.
on November 20, 2003
This book, with its tendentious title, purports to be an evaluation of current standards of historical scholarship. In this it scores an own goal, for its own standards of objectivity, contextualisation, and accuracy leave much to be desired (details are available from me on request). The authors' most egregious fault is their tendency to dismiss anyone who differs from their interpretation of fragmentary and ambiguous evidence (from Venona and elsewhere), as apologists for Stalin's heinous regime who distort the truth in defence of traitors.
In reality the evidence against some (not all) of the principal characters in this book is very much more open to conflicting interpretations than Haynes and Klehr allow. They employ unworthy language in their attack on those with contrary views. I am myself condemned by them for my defence of Washington economist Lauchlin Currie (aide to FDR, 1939-45), and I have also written on the famous Harry Dexter White case. Haynes and Klehr unequivocably condemn both men, but it is easy to condemn if one weighs the evidence with a presumption of guilt rather than innocence.
Currie and White were prominent New Dealers of distinctly non-communistic persuasion. Both are renowned for their tireless efforts to save rather than destroy the democratic free enterprise system. But many of their right-wing detractors see little difference between the New Deal and communism. Both were also very high-ranking economists during the wartime Grand Alliance who had frequent official dealings with Soviet diplomats, many of whom happened also to be KGB agents. It is unconscionable that this context should be downplayed, and that whenever their names are mentioned in deciphered Soviet cables this should invariably be taken as prima facie evidence of espionage activity.
Haynes and Klehr rubbish defenders of Currie and White in a chapter entitled "Lies about Spies". A few inconsequential errors of fact in some of my own writing (later corrected) are blown out of all proportion and treated as "lies" and "fanciful conjectures". Yet they can themselves be shown to have been equally guilty of factual error, as well as fanciful conjectures of their own. In the murky history of espionage none of us should be making unvarnished claims.
For the record, I have never supported communism. I am an economist who generally favours the market, but with the usual sensible qualifications. Most of my colleagues regard me as quite right-of-centre (if they could categorise me at all). This also applies to several of the other writers who are written off by Haynes and Klehr as morally corrupt "revisionists".
My impression is that the authors are pursuing a "neo-con" agenda and would like the brutal suppression of all views that they regard as "left-labor", otherwise cavalierly defined as "communist". In any case, from my UK perspective, they seem grossly to exaggerate the domestic communist threat to the United States during the Cold War. In Britain the CP has never been proscribed or harassed yet has made almost no political headway (happily, in my view). I imagine that the same would have been true in god-fearing, free-enterprise America if the CPUSA and the various (often unsuspecting) people with whom the CP had any dealings had not been mugged and muzzled by the friends of Joe McCarthy.
Haynes and Klehr are entitled to the opposing view, but readers should swallow none of it on trust.