Joe McCarthy and the Jews: Comments on Jewish Organizations’ Response to Communism and Senator McCarthy, by Aviva Weingarten (2008).
(Occidental Observer) -- by Kevin MacDonald
Beginning in the 19th century, liberal/leftist politics has been a hallmark of the Jewish community in America and elsewhere. The attraction of Jews to the success of the Bolshevik Revolution was an entirely mainstream movement among large numbers of Jews in America and led to one of several anti-Jewish stereotypes during the 1920s and 1930s — stereotypes that were aided and abetted by people like Henry Ford and Father Charles Coughlin. Into the 1930s the American Communist Party (CPUSA) had a Yiddish-speaking Jewish section. and Jews around the world had positive attitudes toward the USSR, at least partly because Jews had achieved elite status there.
After World War II, however, anti-Semitism declined precipitously in the US, and Jewish organizations were poised to spearhead the transformations in civil rights and immigration legislation that would come to fruition in the 1960s. By 1950 the Jewish community was part of the establishment — well connected to the power centers in the media, politics, the academic world and the construction of culture generally.
But there was a major problem that the organized Jewish community was forced to confront—a problem stemming from the long involvement of the mainstream Jewish community in communism and the far left, at least until the end of World War II, and among a substantial number of Jews even after this period. In Jewish Organizations' Response to Communism and Senator McCarthy, Aviva Weingarten points to a “hard core of Jews” (p. 6) who continued to support the Communist Party into the 1950s and continued to have a “decisive role" in shaping the policies of the American Communist Party (CPUSA) (p. 9).
Weingarten notes that unlike other communists, Jewish communists continued to have an ethnic identity (p. 10) and often participated in the wider Jewish community. This is a refreshing change from a long history of Jewish apologetics over this issue. The standard line, not only among Jewish activist organizations but by academic authors such as Yuri Slezkine, has been that Jews ceased being Jews when they joined the Communist Party or participated in other far left causes. As a result, the focus of Chapter 3 of The Culture of Critique is to demonstrate that Jewish radicals retained a strong Jewish identity and a sense of pursuing specifically Jewish interests. Most egregiously, the American Jewish Congress — by far the largest Jewish organization in terms of membership — continued to be associated with the far left and was formally affiliated with organizations listed as subversive by the US Attorney General. The CPUSA viewed members of the AJCongress as “democratic forces” in their attempt to create “democratic and anti-fascist” policies in the World Jewish Congress (p. 25).
This history of Jewish involvement in communism and sympathy toward communism was now combined with the new situation of the Cold War in which the Soviet Union had become the mortal enemy of the United States.
I suppose that in the ideal Jewish world of 1950, Jewish organizations and the great majority of Jews would have smoothly transitioned to a world of what became mainstream liberal politics: the movements for civil rights, for non-European immigration, and for removing any sense that the United States had a European, Christian identity. But, as Weingarten’s book makes clear, Senator Joseph McCarthy made this transition a delicate matter because McCarthy’s investigations into communist infiltration of the government often targeted Jews — not because they were Jews but because Jews were highly overrepresented among communists. And Jewish defendants accused of communist affiliations were typically represented by Jewish attorneys (p. 30). The result was that Jewish organizations were terrified that the public would be reinforced with the stereotype of Jewish communism.
Such fears were well-founded. A survey by the American Jewish Committee in 1948 found that 21% answered affirmatively the question “Do you think most Jews are Communists?” And an informal survey showed that more than half the people mentioned Jews in responding to the question “What do you think of the atom [spy] stories in the newspapers?,” even though the question didn’t mention Jews (p. 34).
The matter was compounded by the fact that many of the causes championed by the Jewish organizations in the area of civil rights, immigration, and globalist internationalism were also championed by the CPUSA. And throughout the period, the CPUSA viewed Jews as a group that was particularly susceptible to communist messages and recruitment and therefore actively courted them.
In particular, the CPUSA and pro-communist sympathizers continually tried to paint as anti-Semitism any targeting of Jews as communists, no matter how well founded. A paradigmatic case was the spy trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. The CPUSA-inspired National Committee to Secure Justice in the Rosenberg Trial held meetings defending the Rosenbergs in Jewish community buildings. “Headlines in the Daily Worker in the form of ‘Anti-Semitism and the Rosenbergs’ were an inseparable part of this campaign” (p. 32) — a view that the Rosenbergs themselves promoted. Indeed, as Stuart Svonkin points out, the Rosenbergs saw themselves as Jewish martyrs and viewed their political radicalism as intimately bound up with their Jewish identification...MORE...LINK
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