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The Hanssen Shocker

March 20, 2001

Liberals are rather pleased that Robert Hanssen, the latest accused Soviet/Russian agent, was to all outward appearances a strict, orthodox Catholic. The liberals fail to see that, far from impugning Catholicism, the Hanssen case vindicates McCarthyism.

Hanssen is baffling, because he forces us to ask: “How could a man be so devout a Catholic and a Soviet agent at the same time?” After all, he had six children, sent them to expensive Catholic schools, went out of his way to attend daily Mass, and was an active opponent of abortion. This goes far beyond the need to establish a credible disguise. At the same time, it didn’t help him when he was caught in illegal activities.

Put otherwise, Hanssen is an enigma precisely because orthodox Catholicism is the most unlikely camouflage for pro-Soviet activities. It requires a life of strenuous contradictions.

On the other hand, nobody was really shocked when a liberal turned out to be a Communist. The case of Alger Hiss, Franklin Roosevelt’s advisor and architect of the United Nations, shocked us because an active Soviet agent had gotten so close to the president (though, as it turns out, Hiss wasn’t the only one). But even Hiss’s defenders weren’t really puzzled by the possibility that Hiss was secretly working for Joseph Stalin; nobody asked, “How on earth can you be a liberal and a Communist at the same time?”

Why? Because liberalism was the most hospitable camouflage for Communism. You could advance the Soviet cause merely by pursuing a liberal agenda. The simplest proof is that William Z. Foster, head of the U.S. Communist Party, also sat on the national board of the liberal American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU saw no contradiction in his working for “civil liberties,” as it defined them, and working for Soviet goals, for the simple reason that there was no contradiction.

[Breaker quote: How a 
Catholic traitor vindicates McCarthyism] Communism had been approvingly described as “liberalism in a hurry,” and liberals like Roosevelt affectionately dubbed Stalin “Uncle Joe.” Even today, few liberals blame Roosevelt for his abject truckling to Stalin. The wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union ended with ten Christian countries falling to Communist tyranny, with persecution on a scale Nero would have blanched at — a persecution liberals didn’t, and still don’t, care to talk about. Today’s liberals also like to forget that Roosevelt extended admiration and aid to Stalin long before World War II. He knew a kindred spirit when he saw one.

After all, “liberalism in a hurry” sought the same sort of social order American liberalism seeks — a secularist, materialist society in which power is centralized and the state controls economic life. When Americans finally awoke to the evil of Communism, liberals had harsher words for Joe McCarthy, who cost a few people their government jobs, than for Joe Stalin, who cost tens of millions of people their lives.

Liberals were eventually forced to repudiate Stalin (and an honorable few did so before they had to). But they found other Red heroes to replace him: Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara. In each case, violations of freedom and outright atrocities were ignored, while the “achievements” of Communist regimes were lauded: we heard endlessly about the provision of free medical care and universal literacy (never mind that the regimes decided what the people could read, banning classic authors and jailing or killing living voices of dissent).

The theme of liberal press agentry for post-Stalin Communists was that each represented a “new” Communism, untainted by the “excesses” of Stalinism. Other regimes were judged by their records; Communist regimes were judged by their promises. In 1958 the New York Times even reported that Castro wasn’t — couldn’t be — a Communist, just as it had a generation earlier reported, with equal veracity, that Stalin wasn’t starving Ukrainians.

If Communism was liberalism in a hurry, liberalism is Communism in slow motion. Where Communism smashed, liberalism erodes. The end result is the same: a soulless society in which liberty perishes and tradition is forgotten.

There is ample testimony that liberalism and Communism are essentially interchangeable, and much of that testimony comes from liberals themselves. Hence their relief at discovering a Catholic traitor for a change.

Joseph Sobran

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Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2001 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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