Sunday, June 23, 2024

In NYTimes Essay, Columbia U Professor Praises 1950s Communist Dad for Remaining True to His Convictions

On an otherwise pleasant day in May 1957, my father received two unwelcome visitors at his tool-and-die factory

writes  in a New York Times guest essay titled My Father’s Day Gift From the F.B.I. The Columbia University professor goes on to bask in the alleged principles and heroics of his dad's communist sympathies in the 1950s, comparing the former Stalinist favorably to such "wretched" people as Donald Trump and Joe McCarthy and to such wicked groups as MAGA and McCarthyism. 

The younger Freeman does say that "Dad saw Communism for what it was as early as 1950 [yet] my father did not become a Whittaker Chambers," without noting that "Stalin’s tyranny [not only] sandblasted the romance off Communism for many other American followers", it also explained why Joe McCarthy and Whittaker Chambers, not to mention Donald Trump — far from being villains — fought, and fight, against communism, Marxism, and socialism.

[The two unwelcome visitors] were F.B.I. agents acting on years of informants’ tips that Dad had been a Communist Party member. The agents intended to use that information as leverage to turn my father, too, into a snitch. 

… the F.B.I. file on David Freedman … is a reminder of what I inherited from him — not just his politics, but the convictions that they were built on. And it has revealed to me and my siblings, Carol and Ken, details of my father’s actions under severe duress that were more impressive than anything we had anticipated.

 … Nor were we surprised that Dad confirmed to the F.B.I. agents that he had indeed been a Communist Party member from about 1946 to 1950. At times, I’d chided him for being “the last Stalinist,” regaling us kids with tales of Soviet heroism at Stalingrad, convinced almost until his death in 2010 that the Rosenbergs had been falsely accused of being Russian spies.

 … one of my father’s heroes, Henry Wallace, was the party’s candidate for president in 1948. … The direst period of the Red Scare might have ended by the spring of 1957, but the political climate was hardly safe. 

 … In interrogations by F.B.I. agents — first on May 8, then on July 1 — Dad stood up for his principles. He readily admitted having been a member of the Communist Party up until 1950. Then he explained that, far from being “the last Stalinist” of my jibe, he had cut loose from the party.

 … It matters a lot to my siblings and me that Dad saw Communism for what it was as early as 1950. Stalin was still being venerated then in many leftist quarters as the herald of world peace. Six years would pass before two events — the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian Revolution and Nikita Krushchev’s “secret speech” revealing Stalin’s tyranny — sandblasted the romance off Communism for many other American followers.

Yet my father did not become a Whittaker Chambers, either, devoting his remaining life to renunciation. He didn’t even become, as one of his Stelton friends did, a neoconservative. He voted Democratic till his death, and his greatest insult was to call someone so “bourgeois,” with an expletive for emphasis.

 … Reading the file has been like receiving a fatherly message from beyond the grave. It reincarnated the father to whom I had dedicated one of my early books as “the guardian of conscience.” 

 … But in the face of a real threat, Dad managed a laudable and difficult balance. He resisted being doctrinaire, being tribal, when facts and events contradicted dogma. He held true to his core beliefs about seeking a more equitable society.

I’ve been grateful that my father didn’t live to see Donald Trump and MAGA, with all of their wretched echoes of McCarthyism and fascism. But from the F.B.I., of all places, I have received the most valuable present for this Father’s Day: a reinforcement of the values that Dad would have been living by in these terrible days and would have wanted his children and grandchildren to share, most especially at this moment when democracy itself is in peril.

Update: Thanks for the Instalink by Sarah Hoyt, who adds:


Related: What the NYT's David French Doesn't Tell You About the "Racism and Hatred" Allegedly Encountered at His Church


Cato Renasci said...

One wonders what the father did, that he could afford to sneer at the bourgeoisie while living a comfortable life style….

Anonymous said...

The writer should be deported to N.Korea and stripped of his US citizenship.
This way he can experience first hand a worker's paradise in action and he no longer has to tolerate living in a nation he hates.

fast richard said...

What could be more bourgeois than being the owner of a factory? Yet the elder Freedman used bourgeois as his most damning epithet. Self awareness is not a Marxist value.

Chester White said...

Stupid bastard.