- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the Pulitzer Prize historian, has in his recently published memoir, "A Life in the 20th Century," cruelly besmirched the reputation of the late Sidney Hook, philosopher and longtime intellectual leader in the fight against communism.
He did this by adopting one of the commonest rhetorical tricks in political debate by implying that Mr. Hook was a nut and that his ideas are nutty. The word he used in dealing with Mr. Hooks politics is "obsession."
Heres a sentence from the Schlesinger memoir: "It was Hooks obsessive anti-Communism that explained his steady movement to the right." Or, Mr. Hook "permitted anticommunism to consume his life to the point that his obsession … swallowed up nearly everything else." Or, "the obsessive anti-Communists clustered around Hook."
Now the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia defines the concept of obsession as a compulsive disorder "marked by persistent unwanted patterns of thought (obsession) coupled with repetitive, ritualistic behavior designed to alleviate discomfort or dread (compulsion). The individual recognizes the thoughts and rituals as unrealistic and repugnant but is still unable to control them… "
Quite a mouthful. The American Heritage dictionary defines "obsession" as "a compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or an unwanted feeling or emotion, often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety."
The first thing that occurs is why was it an obsession to have wanted to win the Cold War? A recent article in the New York Times was headlined, "Campus and Labor in New Alliance." What caught my eye in the Times story was this paragraph:
"The labor-intellectual alliance puts an end to three decades in which liberal academics and unions were at loggerheads over Vietnam, the AFL-CIOs obsession with the Cold War … "
The journalist, William Pfaff, in his book, "Barbarian Sentiments," written just before the fall of the Soviet Union, went even further than Mr. Schlesinger. He said he found disturbing the American peoples "obsession with the ideological conflict with communism." The psychiatric term "obsession," the Cold War, and anti-communism are securely linked in the vocabulary of modern liberalism, of which Mr. Schlesinger has been a longtime leader. He, like so many other liberals, knows how to adopt reductive nomenclature to denigrate other peoples political activities.
Would one say that Jesse Jackson is obsessed with race? Would one ever have said that Nelson Mandela was obsessed with apartheid? Would one say that Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Lech Walesa or Vaclav Havel were obsessed with anti-communism? Was Ronald Reagan "obsessed" with communism? Was President Kennedy, who backed the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and U.S. intervention in Vietnam, who defied Khrushchev with his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, was he obsessed with communism? Liberalism always found it easy to talk about "obsessive anti-communism" but one could never be accused of being an "obsessive anti-fascist?" Was Mr. Schlesinger "obsessed" when, back in 1946, he wrote an important article for Life magazine exposing communist attempts to infiltrate liberal organizations?
The implication that Mr. Hook did nothing else in his later career except to fight communism is really an act of injustice. In fact, Mr. Hooks list of publications would rival Mr. Schlesingers.
Mr. Schlesinger bases his "obsession" theory on an assumption, which is fallacious, that the Communist Party USA was of little significance and influence in America and that those who fought the CPUSA were what else? obsessed with communism. Mr. Schlesinger praises Mr. Hook for having "played an honorable role in the Thirties and Forties in exposingthe maneuvers and lies of the Stalinists" implying that to have continued to do so in later decades was to become "obsessive."
In an essay-review of "The Secret World of American Communism" in the New Republic, Mr. Schlesinger wrote: "Looking back, I dont think that the CPUSA had much influence on anything. The New Deal, American foreign policy, the CIO: all would have evolved in the same way if the CPUSA had never existed. What the CPUSA did succeed in doing was tocompromise and to betray American radicalism."
Seymour Martin Lipset, Americas leading sociologist and expert on U.S. radicalism, has written in the Wilson Quarterly (Winter 1999) what is in effect a rebuttal of the Schlesinger thesis. Citing Soviet archives, Mr. Lipset says that their revelations "are a continuing source of astonishment, especially to the many liberals who remain in denial, refusing to acknowledge that the communists were a real force in the United States."
Mr. Schlesinger was recently a member of a delegation to Cuba and found Fidel Castro had "an endearing sense of humor" and "an extraordinary memory." How nice that Mr. Schlesinger is not obsessed with the infamous human rights record of one of the cruelest communist dictators of all time, right up there with Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a Washington Times columnist.

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