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DISPUTATIONS: Talk About Pathological

Responding to Victor Navasky on the Rosenbergs.

Conceding that the Rosenbergs “shouldn’t have done what they did” and that they “thought they were helping our ally in wartime” hardly amounts to a full recognition of their crimes. Remember, the Rosenbergs knowingly gave atomic technology to Stalin--technology that was used to keep half of Europe under brutal occupation for half a century, and helped fuel a costly and wasteful arms race, and helped a stupid and vicious communist dictatorship stay in power, too. Nor does conceding the guilt of a few minor figures such as the Cohens or Theodore Hall come anywhere close to acknowledging the enormity of what really happened, which was this: Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, the leadership of the American Communist Party was actively serving the interests of the NKVD, the Soviet secret police--the same institution which was at the time constructing a vast network of concentration camps across Eurasia and putting millions of people, of many nationalities, before firing squads. And ever since then, a certain slice of the American Left--a slice which does not, of course, correspond precisely to the editorial board of The Nation, though it at times overlaps--has flatly refused to take these facts, and their far-reaching implications, on board.

On the contrary: Instead of listening to new evidence, Mr. Navasky still continues to describe those who investigate the crimes of the American Communist Party as “neo-conservative post-cold war cold warriors,” and still considers that those who call for historical reckoning do so because of their “ideological presuppositions.” I do not work for The New Republic and I will let Marty Peretz come to his own defense if he wishes to do so; but as for myself, I find that the word “pathological” remains an ideal description of  Navasky’s attitude.

Anne Applebaum is a columnist for The Washington Post and Slate, and the author of Gulag: A History (Doubleday).

Click here to read the letter from Victor Navasky.

Click here to read the response from Marty Peretz.