National Review and the Triumph of the New Right Chapter 12 of The Betrayal of the American Right

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Garet
Garrett had called the shots: in referring to the triumph of the
New Deal and then of American Empire, he had summed up the strategy:
"revolution within the form." The New Right did not bother,
would not rouse possible resistance, by directing a frontal assault
on the old idols: on the dead Senator Taft, on the Bricker Amendment,
or on the old ideals of individualism and liberty. Instead, they
ignored some, dropped others, and claimed to come to fulfill the
general ideals of individualism in a new and superior "fusion"
of liberty and ordered tradition.

How, specifically,
was the deed done? For one thing, by hitting us at our most vulnerable
point: the blight of anti-Communism. For red-baiting came easily
to all of us, even the most libertarian. In the first place, there
were the terrible memories of World War II:
the way in which the Communist Party had gleefully adopted the mantle
of war patriots, of "twentieth-century Americanism," and
had unashamedly smeared all opponents of war as agents of Hitler.
Conservative and former liberal isolationists could scarcely forget
and forgive; and hence, when the Cold War began, when the "great
patriotic coalition" of the U.S. and Russia fell apart, it
was difficult for the Old Right to resist the temptation to avenge
themselves, to turn the agents-of-a-foreign-power smear back upon
their old tormentors. Furthermore, blinded by hatred of Russia as
an interventionist power, we mistakenly believed that repudiation
of the fruits of the Russian alliance, including Teheran and Yalta,
was in itself a repudiation of World War II. We unfortunately did
not realize – as later New Left historians were to point out
– that the Cold War and the intervention into World War II
were part and parcel of the same development: that one was the inevitable
outgrowth of the other, and that both were an integral part of American
imperialism rampant.

But the problem
was still deeper than that. For our main problem was our simplistic
view of the ideological-political spectrum. We all assumed that
there were two poles: a "left" pole of Communism, socialism,
and total government; and a "right" pole of libertarianism
and individualist anarchism. Left of center were the liberals and
Social Democrats; right of center were the conservatives. From that
simplistic spectrum we concluded, first, that conservatives, no
matter how divergent, were our "natural" allies, and second,
that there was little real difference between liberals and Communists.
Why not then fuzz the truth just a bit, and use the anti-Communist
bludgeon to hit at the liberals, especially since the liberals had
become entrenched in power and were running the country? There was
a temptation that few of us could resist.

What we didn't
fully realize at the time was that the Communists and socialists
had not invented statism or Leviathan government, that the latter
had been around for centuries, and that the current developing Liberal-conservative
consensus and in particular the triumph of Liberalism was a reversion
to the old despotic ancien régime. This ancien
régime was the Old Order against which the libertarian
and laissez-faire movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries had emerged as a revolutionary opposition: an opposition
on behalf of economic freedom and individual liberty. Jefferson,
Cobden, and Thoreau as our forbears were ancestors in more ways
than one; for both we and they were battling against a mercantilist
statism that established bureaucratic despotism and corporate monopolies
at home and waged imperial wars abroad. But if socialism and liberalism
are reversions to the Old European Conservatism, then it becomes
clear that it is statist conservatism – now joined by liberalism
and social democracy – that is still, and not simply in 1800,
the major enemy of liberty. And if liberals and Communists sound
alike, this does not mean, as we thought then, that Liberals had
somehow become crypto-Communists; on the contrary, it was a sign
that Communists had become Liberals!

But for us
this analysis – to be developed by Leonard Liggio – was
still far in the future. During the 1940s and '50s we merrily engaged
in red-baiting. My own position was characteristically libertarian:
I distinguished between "compulsory" red-baiting, using
the power of the State to repress Communists and leftists, which
I deplored, and "voluntary" red-baiting by private organizations
and groups, which I supported. The former included the Smith Act
prosecutions, the McCarran Act, and the inquisitions of HUAC. Another
of my blind spots is that I did not realize the virtual impossibility
of keeping domestic and foreign red-baiting strictly separate; it
was psychologically and politically impossible to persecute or harass
Communists or leftists at home, while at the same time pursuing
a policy of peace, neutrality, and friendship with Communist countries
overseas. And the global anti-Communist crusaders knew this truth
all too well.

From early
in the postwar period, the major carriers of the anti-Communist
contagion were the ex-Communist and ex-leftist intellectuals. In
a climate of growing disillusion with the fatuous propaganda of
World War II, the ex-Communists hit the intellectual and political
worlds like a bombshell, more and more forming the spearhead of
the anti-Communist crusade, domestic and foreign. Sophisticated,
worldly, veteran polemicists, they had been there: to naive and
breathless Americans, the ex-leftists were like travelers from an
unknown and therefore terrifying land, returning with authentic
tales of horror and warning. Since they, with their special knowledge,
knew, and since they raised the terrible warnings, who were we to
deny that truth? The fact that "ex-es" throughout history
have tried frantically to expiate their guilt and their fear of
having wasted their lives by attempting to denigrate and exterminate
their former love – that fact was lost on us as well as on
most of America.

From the very
end of the war, the "ex-es" were everywhere on the Right,
whipping up fear, pointing the finger, eager to persecute or exterminate
any Communists they could find, at home and abroad. Several older
generation "ex-es" from the prewar era were prominent.
One was George E. Sokolsky, columnist for the New York Sun,
who had been a Communist in the early 1920s. Particularly prominent
on the Right was Dr. J.B. Matthews, foremost Communist fellow-traveler
of the early 1930s, who by the end of that decade was chief investigator
for the Dies Committee; Matthews was to make a fortune out of his
famous "card files," a mammoth collection of "Communist
front" names which he would use to sell his services as finger-man
for industries and organizations; pleasant and erudite, Matthews
had been converted from socialism partly by reading Mises's Socialism.
But the first libertarian-red-baiting marriage was effected shortly
after the end of the war by the veteran red-baiter Isaac Don Levine,
who founded a little-known monthly called Plain Talk, which
featured a curious mixture of libertarian political philosophy and
ferocious exposés of alleged "Reds" in America.
It was particularly curious because Don Levine has never, before
or since that short-lived venture, ever exhibited any interest in
freedom or libertarianism. When Plain Talk folded Don Levine
moved to West Germany to play in the revanchist politics
of East European emigré groups.

Plain Talk
disappeared after several years to make way for the weekly Freeman
in 1950, a far more ambitious and better-financed venture which,
however, never achieved anything like the influence or readership
of the later National Review. Again, this was a libertarian-conservative-red-baiting
coalition venture. Coeditors were two veteran writers and journalists:
Henry Hazlitt, a laissezfaire economist but never an isolationist;
and John Chamberlain, a man of libertarian instincts and a former
isolationist, but an ex-leftist deeply scarred by a Communist cell
which had been nasty to him in Time magazine.1 And
so the isolationist cause was never well represented in the Freeman;
furthermore, Willi Schlamm later came in as book editor, and Chamberlain
brought in the profoundly antilibertarian Forrest Davis to be a
third coeditor. Davis, along with Ernest K. Lindley, had written
the official Roosevelt administration apologia for Pearl Harbor,
and then moved on to become a ghostwriter for Joe McCarthy.2

It was, in
fact, McCarthy and "McCarthyism" that provided the main
catalyst for transforming the mass base of the right wing from isolationism
and quasi-libertarianism to simple anti-Communism. Before McCarthy
launched his famous crusade in February 1950, he had not been particularly
associated with the right wing of the Republican Party; on the contrary,
his record was more nearly liberal and centrist, statist rather
than libertarian. It should be remembered that red-baiting and anti-Communist
witch-hunting was launched by the liberals and, even after McCarthy
arose, it was the liberals who were the most effective at this game.
It was, after all, the liberal Roosevelt administration that passed
the Smith Act, which was then used against Trotskyites and isolationists
during World War II and against the Communists after the war; it
was the liberal Truman administration that prosecuted Alger Hiss
and the Rosenbergs – and that launched the Cold War; it was
the eminently liberal Hubert Humphrey who put through a clause in
the McCarran Act of 1950 threatening concentration camps for "subversives."

In fact, New
Left historians Steinke and Weinstein have shown that McCarthy himself
learned his red-baiting from none other than the saintly Social
Democratic figure Norman Thomas. During the 1946 campaign, McCarthy
first ran for the Senate against the great isolationist leader Robert
LaFollette, Jr. While McCarthy did a little red-baiting of the still-consistent
isolationist LaFollette in the primary, McCarthy was then a standard
internationalist, or Vandenberg, Republican, with indeed a few maverick
endorsements of the idea of negotiating peace with the Soviet Union.
Then, on August 26, 1946, Norman Thomas, speaking at an annual picnic
of the Wisconsin Socialist Party, red-baited the Democratic Senatorial
candidate, Howard J. McMurray. Thomas in particular accused McMurray
of being endorsed by the Daily Worker, an accusation that
McCarthy picked up eagerly a few weeks later. McCarthy had gotten
the bit in his teeth; he had learned how from a veteran of the internecine
struggles on the Left.3

McCarthy's
crusade effectively transformed the mass base of the right wing
by bringing into the movement a mass of urban Catholics from the
Eastern seaboard. Before McCarthy, the rank-and-file of the right
wing was the small-town, isolationist Middle West, the typical readers
of the old Chicago Tribune. In contrast to the old base,
the interest of the new urban Catholic constituency in individual
liberty was, if anything, negative; one might say that their main
political interest was in stamping out blasphemy and pornography
at home and in killing Communists at home and abroad. In a sense,
the subsequent emergence of Bill Buckley and his highly Catholic-ish
National Review reflected this mass influx and transformation.
It is surely no accident that Buckley's first emergence on the political
scene was to coauthor (with his brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell,
a convert to Catholicism), the leading pro-McCarthy work, McCarthy
and His Enemies (1954). To the McCarthy banner also flocked
the increasingly powerful gaggle of ex-Communists and ex-leftists:
notably, George Sokolsky, a leading McCarthy adviser, and J.B. Matthews,
who was chief investigator for McCarthy until he stepped on too
many toes by denouncing the supposedly massive "infiltration"
of the Protestant clergy by the Communist Party.

Not seeing
this transformation process at work at the time, I myself was a
McCarthy enthusiast. There were two basic reasons. One was that
while McCarthy was employing the weapon of a governmental committee,
the great bulk of his victims were not private citizens but government
officials: bureaucrats and Army officers. Most of McCarthy's red-baiting
was therefore "voluntary" rather than "compulsory,"
since the persons being attacked were, as government officials,
fair game from the libertarian point of view. Besides, day in and
day out, such Establishment organs as the New York Times kept
telling us that McCarthy was "tearing down the morale of the
executive branch"; what more could a libertarian hope for?
And "tearing down the morale of the Army" to boot! What
balm for an antimilitarist!

Recently, I
had occasion to see once again, after all these years, Emile D'Antonio's
film of the McCarthy censure hearings, Point of Order. Seeing
it with an old-time member of the Circle who had also abandoned
the right wing long since, we were curious about how we would react;
for neither of us had really rethought the long-dead McCarthy episode.
Within minutes, we found ourselves cheering once again, though in
a rather different way, for that determined symbol of the witch-hunt.
For the film began with McCarthy pointing as his basic premise to
some crazed map of the United States with the "international
Communist conspiracy" moving in a series of coordinated arrows
against the United States. (It was for all the world like some '50s
issue of the Harvard Lampoon, satirizing an absurd military
"menace.") But the crucial point is that McCarthy's Army
and Senatorial adversaries never contested this absurd axiom; and
once given the axiom, McCarthy's relentless logic was impeccable.
As Steinke and Weinstein point out, McCarthy did not invent witch-hunting
and red-baiting. "Nor, as many liberals complain, did he abuse
or misuse an otherwise useful tool; he simply carried it to its
logical conclusion." Indeed, he took the liberals' own creation
and turned it against them, and against the swollen Leviathan Army
officials as well; and to see them get at least a measure of comeuppance,
to see the liberals and centrists hoisted on their own petard, was
sweet indeed. In the words of Steinke and Weinstein, McCarthy

rode the
monster too hard, turning it against its creators, and they, realizing
finally that their creation was out of control, attempted in flaccid
defense to turn it back upon him.4

As a bit of
personal corroboration, I fully remember the reaction of a close
acquaintance, an old Russian Menshevik, a member of the Russian
Social Democratic Federation and veteran anti-Communist, when McCarthy's
movement began. He was positively gleeful, and ardently supported
the McCarthy crusade; it was only later, when he "went too
far" that the old Menshevik felt that McCarthy had to be dumped.

But there was
another reason for my own fascination with the McCarthy phenomenon:
his populism. For the '50s was an era when liberalism – now
accurately termed "corporate liberalism" – had triumphed,
and seemed to be permanently in the saddle. Having now gained the
seats of power, the liberals had given up their radical veneer of
the '30s and were now settling down to the cozy enjoyment of their
power and perquisites. It was a comfortable alliance of Wall Street,
Big Business, Big Government, Big Unions, and liberal Ivy League
intellectuals; it seemed to me that while in the long run this unholy
alliance could only be overthrown by educating a new generation
of intellectuals, that in the short run the only hope to dislodge
this new ruling elite was a populist short-circuit. In sum, that
there was a vital need to appeal directly to the masses, emotionally,
even demagogically, over the heads of the Establishment:
of the Ivy League, the mass media, the liberal intellectuals, of
the Republican-Democrat political party structure. This appeal could
be done – especially in that period of no organized opposition
whatever – only by a charismatic leader, a leader who could
make a direct appeal to the masses and thereby undercut the ruling
and opinion-molding elite; in sum, by a populist short-circuit.
It seemed to me that this was what McCarthy was trying to do; and
that it was largely this appeal, the open-ended sense that there
was no audacity of which McCarthy was not capable, that frightened
the liberals, who, from their opposite side of the fence, also saw
that the only danger to their rule was in just such a whipping up
of populist emotions.5

My own quip
at the time, which roughly summed up this position, was that in
contrast to the liberals, who approved of McCarthy's "ends"
(ouster of Communists from offices and jobs) but disapproved of
his radical and demagogic means, I myself approved his means (radical
assault on the nation's power structure) but not necessarily his
ends.

It is surely
no accident that, with their power consolidated and a populist appeal
their only fear, the liberal intellectuals began to push hard for
their proclamation of the "end of ideology." Hence their
claim that ideology and hard-nosed doctrines were no longer valuable
or viable, and their ardent celebration of the newfound American
consensus. With such enemies and for such reasons, it was hard for
me not to be a "McCarthyite."

The leading
expression of this celebration of consensus combined with the newfound
fear of ideology and populism was Daniel Bell's collection, The
New American Right (1955). This collection was also significant
in drawing together ex-radicals (Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, Richard
Hofstadter, Nathan Glazer) along with an antipopulist liberal "conservative"
(Peter Viereck), into this pro-elitist and antipopulist consensus.
Also noteworthy is the book's dedication to S.M. Levitas, executive
editor of the Social Democratic New Leader, the publication
that bound "responsible" red-baiters and liberals into
the postwar Cold War consensus.6

The peak of
my populist and McCarthyite activities came during the height of
the McCarthy turmoil, in the furor over the activities of Roy Cohn
and S. David Schine. It was shortly after the founding of the Circle
Bastiat, and the kids of the Circle, in their capacity as leaders
of the still-functioning Students for America, were invited to address
a massive testimonial dinner given for Roy Cohn upon his forced
ouster from the McCarthy Committee at the Hotel Astor in New York
on July 26, 1954. Major speakers were such McCarthyite leaders as
Godfrey P. Schmidt, Colonel Archibald Roosevelt, George Sokolsky,
Alfred Kohlberg, Bill Buckley, and Rabbi Benjamin Schultz. But the
speech which drew the most applause, and which gained a considerable
amount of notoriety, was the brief address given by one of our Circle
members (George Reisman), which I had written. The speech asked
why the intensity of the hatred against Cohn and McCarthy by the
liberal intellectuals; and it answered that a threat against Communists
in government was also felt to be a threat against the "Socialists
and New Dealers, who have been running our political life for the
last twenty-one years, and are still running it!" The speech
concluded in a rousing populist appeal that

As the Chicago
Tribune aptly put it, the Case of Roy Cohn is the American
Dreyfus Case. As Dreyfus was redeemed, so will Roy Cohn when the
American people have taken back their government from the criminal
alliance of Communists, Socialists, New Dealers, and Eisenhower-Dewey
Republicans.

Rabbi Schultz,
presiding at the dinner, warily referred to the tumultuous applause
for the Reisman speech as a "runaway grand jury," and
the applause and the speech were mentioned in the accounts of the
New York Journal-American, the New York Herald-Tribune,
Jack Lait's column in the New York Mirror, the New York
World-Telegram and Sun, Murray Kempton's column in the New
York Post, and Time magazine. Particularly upset was
the veteran liberal and "extremist-baiting" radio commentator,
George Hamilton Combs. Combs warned that "the resemblance between
this crowd and their opposite members of the extreme left is startlingly
close. This was a rightist version of the Henry Wallace convention
crowd, the Progressive Party convention of '48."

Particularly
interesting is the fact that the by-now-notorious concluding lines
of the speech became enshrined in Peter Viereck's contribution to
the Daniel Bell book, "The Revolt Against the Elite."
Viereck saw the Reisman phraseology as a dangerous "outburst
of direct democracy" which "comes straight from the leftist
rhetoric of the old Populists and Progressives, a rhetoric forever
urging the People to take back u2018their' government from the conspiring
Powers That Be." Precisely. Viereck also explained that he
meant by "direct democracy," "our mob tradition of
Tom Paine, Jacobinism, and the Midwestern Populist parties,"
which "is government by referendum and mass petition, such
as the McCarthyite Committee of Ten Million." Being "immediate
and hotheaded," direct democracy "facilitates revolution,
demagogy, and Robespierrian thought control" – in contrast,
I suppose, to the quieter but more pervasive elitist "thought
control" of corporate liberalism.7

Since I failed
to understand the interplay of domestic and foreign red-baiting
that was at work in the McCarthy movement, I was bewildered when
McCarthy, after his outrageous censure by the Senate in late 1954,
turned to whooping it up for war on behalf of Chiang Kai-shek in
Asia. Why this turnabout? It was clear that the New Right forces
behind McCarthy were now convinced that domestic red-baiting, angering
as it did the Center-Right establishment, had become counterproductive,
and that from now on the full stress must be on pushing for war
against Communism abroad. In retrospect it is clear that a major
force for this turn was the sinister figure of the millionaire Far
Eastern importer, Alfred Kohlberg, a major backer of McCarthy who
supplied him with much of his material, and boasted of his position
as Dean of the powerful "China Lobby" on behalf of Chiang
Kai-shek. While a failure in the short run, the McCarthy movement
had done its work of shifting the entire focus of the right wing
from libertarian, antistatist, and isolationist concerns to a focus
and concentration upon the alleged Communist "menace."
A diversion from domestic to foreign affairs would not only consolidate
the right wing; it would also draw no real opposition from liberals
and internationalist Republicans who had, after all, begun the Cold
War in the first place.

The short-run
collapse of the McCarthy movement was clearly due, furthermore,
to the lack of any sort of McCarthyite organization. There
were leaders, there was press support, there was a large mass base,
but there were no channels of organization, no intermediary links,
either in journals of opinion or of more direct popular organizations,
between the leaders and the base. In late 1955, William F. Buckley
and his newly formed weekly, National Review, set out to
remedy that lack.

In 1951, when
Bill Buckley first burst upon the scene with his God and Man
at Yale, he liked to refer to himself as a "libertarian"
or even at times as an "anarchist"; for in those early
days Buckley's major ideological mentor was Frank Chodorov rather
than, as it would soon become, the notorious Whittaker Chambers.
But even in those early "libertarian" days, there was
one clinker that made his libertarianism only phony rhetoric: the
global anti-Communist crusade. Thus, take one of Buckley's early
efforts, "A Young Republican's View," published in Commonweal,
January 25, 1952. Buckley began the article in unexceptionable libertarian
fashion, affirming that the enemy is the State, and endorsing the
view of Herbert Spencer that the State is "begotten of aggression
and by aggression." Buckley also contributed excellent quotations
from such leading individualists of the past as H.L. Mencken and
Albert Jay Nock, and criticized the Republican Party for offering
no real alternative to the burgeoning of statism. But then in the
remainder of the article he gave the case away, for there loomed
the alleged Soviet menace, and all libertarian principles had to
go by the board for the duration. Thus, Buckley declared that the
"thus far invincible aggressiveness of the Soviet Union"
imminently threatens American security, and that therefore "we
have to accept Big Government for the duration – for neither
an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged . . . except through
the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores."
In short, a totalitarian bureaucracy must be accepted so long as
the Soviet Union exists (presumably for its alleged threat of imposing
upon us a totalitarian bureaucracy?). In consequence, Buckley concluded
that we must all support "the extensive and productive tax
laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-Communist foreign
policy," as well as "large armies and air forces, atomic
energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant
centralization of power in Washington – even with Truman at
the reins of it all."8 Thus, even at his most libertarian,
even before Buckley came to accept Big Government and morality laws
as ends in themselves, the pretended National Review "fusion"
between liberty and order, between individualism and anti-Communism,
was a phony – the individualist and libertarian part of the
fusion was strictly rhetorical, to be saved for abstract theorizing
and after-dinner discourse. The guts of the New Conservatism was
the mobilization of Big Government for the worldwide crusade against
Communism.

And so, when
National Review was founded with much expertise and financing
in late 1955, the magazine was a coming together to direct the newly
transformed right wing on the part of two groups: all the veteran
ex-Communist journalists and intellectuals, and the new group of
younger Catholics whose major goal was anti-Communism. Thus, the
central and guiding theme for both groups in this Unholy Coalition
was the extirpation of Communism, at home and particularly abroad.
Prominent on the new magazine were leading ex-leftists: James Burnham,
former Trotskyite; Frank S. Meyer, formerly on the national committee
of the Communist Party and head of its Chicago training school;
ex-German Communist leader William S. Schlamm; Dr. J.B. Matthews;
ex-leftist Max Eastman; ex-Communist Ralph DeToledano; former leading
German Communist theoretician Professor Karl Wittfogel; John Chamberlain,
a leading leftist intellectual of the thirties; ex-fellow traveler
Eugene Lyons; ex-Communist Will Herberg; former Communist spy Whittaker
Chambers; and a whole slew of others.

The Catholic
wing consisted of two parts. One was a charming but ineffectual
group of older European or European-oriented monarchists and authoritarians:
e.g., the erudite Austrian Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn; the poet Roy
Campbell; the pro-Spanish Carlist Frederick Wilhelmsen; and the
Englishman Sir Arnold Lunn. I remember one night a heated discussion
at a conservative gathering about the respective merits of the Habsburgs,
the Stu-arts, the Bourbons, the Carlists, the Crown of St. Stephen,
and the Crown of St. Wenceslas; and which monarchy should be restored
first. Whatever the merits of the monarchist position, this was
not an argument relevant to the American tradition, let alone the
American cultural and political scene of the day. In retrospect,
did Buckley keep this group around as exotic trimming, as an intellectual
counterpart to his own social jet set?

The other wing
of younger Catholics was far more important for the purposes of
the new magazine. These were the younger American anti-Communists,
most prominently the various members of the Buckley family (who
in closeness and lifestyle has seemed a right-wing version of the
Kennedys), which included at first Buckley's brother-in-law and
college roommate, L. Brent Bozell; and Buckley's then favorite disciple
later turned leftist, Garry Wills. Rounding out the Catholic aura
at National Review was the fact that two of its leading editors
became Catholic converts: Frank Meyer and political scientist Willmoore
Kendall. It was the essence of National Review as an anti-Communist
organ that accounted for its being a coalition of ex-Stalinists
and Trotskyites and younger Catholics, and led observers to remark
on the curious absence of American Protestants (who had of course
been the staple of the Old Right) from the heart of the Buckleyite
New Right.9

In this formidable
but profoundly statist grouping, interest in individual liberty
was minimal or negative, being largely confined to some of the book
reviews by John Chamberlain and to whatever time Frank Meyer could
manage to take off from advocacy of all-out war against the Soviet
bloc. Interest in free-market economics was minimal and largely
rhetorical, confined to occasional pieces by Henry Hazlitt, who
for his part had never been an isolationist and who endorsed the
hard-line foreign policy of the magazine.

In the light
of hindsight, we should now ask whether or not a major objective
of National Review from its inception was to transform the
right wing from an isolationist to global warmongering anti-Communist
movement; and, particularly, whether or not the entire effort was
in essence a CIA operation. We now know that Bill Buckley, for the
two years prior to establishing National Review, was admittedly
a CIA agent in Mexico City, and that the sinister E. Howard Hunt
was his control. His sister Priscilla, who became managing editor
of National Review, was also in the CIA; and other editors
James Burnham and Willmoore Kendall had at least been recipients
of CIA largesse in the anti-Communist Congress for Cultural Freedom.
In addition, Burnham has been identified by two reliable sources
as a consultant for the CIA in the years after World War II.10
Moreover, Garry Wills relates in his memoirs of the conservative
movement that Frank Meyer, to whom he was close at the time, was
convinced that the magazine was a CIA operation. With his Leninist-trained
nose for intrigue, Meyer must be considered an important witness.

Furthermore,
it was a standard practice in the CIA, at least in those early years,
that no one ever resigned from the CIA. A friend of mine who joined
the Agency in the early 1950s told me that if, before the age of
retirement, he was mentioned as having left the CIA for another
job, that I was to disregard it, since it would only be a cover
for continuing Agency work. On that testimony, the case for NR
being a CIA operation becomes even stronger. Also suggestive
is the fact that a character even more sinister than E. Howard Hunt,
William J. Casey, appears at key moments of the establishment of
the New over the Old Right. It was Casey who, as attorney, presided
over the incorporation of National Review and had arranged
the details of the ouster of Felix Morley from Human Events.

At any rate,
in retrospect, it is clear that libertarians and Old Rightists,
including myself, had made a great mistake in endorsing domestic
red-baiting, a red-baiting that proved to be the major entering
wedge for the complete transformation of the original right wing.
We should have listened more carefully to Frank Chodorov, and to
his splendidly libertarian stand on domestic red-baiting: "How
to get rid of the communists in the government? Easy. Just abolish
the jobs."11 It was the jobs and their functioning
that was the important thing, not the quality of the people who
happened to fill them. More fully, Chodorov wrote:

And now we
come to the spy-hunt – which is, in reality, a heresy trial.
What is it that perturbs the inquisitors? They do not ask the
suspects: Do you believe in Power? Do you adhere to the idea that
the individual exists for the glory of the State? . . . Are you
against taxes, or would you raise them until they absorbed the
entire output of the country? . . . Are you opposed to the principle
of conscription? Do you favor more "social gains" under
the aegis of an enlarged bureaucracy? Or, would you advocate dismantling
of the public trough at which these bureaucrats feed? In short,
do you deny Power?

Such questions
might prove embarrassing, to the investigators. The answers might
bring out a similarity between their ideas and purposes and those
of the suspected. They too worship Power. Under the circumstances,
they limit themselves to one question: Are you a member of the
Communist Party? And this turns out to mean, have you aligned
yourselves with the Moscow branch of the church?

Power-worship
is presently sectarianized along nationalistic lines. . . . Each
nation guards its orthodoxy. . . . Where Power is attainable,
the contest between rival sects is unavoidable. . . . War is the
apotheosis of Power, the ultimate expression of the faith and
solidarization of its achievement.12

And Frank had
also written:

The case
against the communists involves a principle of transcending importance.
It is the right to be wrong. Heterodoxy is a necessary condition
of a free society. . . . The right to make a choice . . . is important
to me, for the freedom of selection is necessary to my sense of
personality; it is important to society, because only from the
juxtaposition of ideas can we hope to approach the ideal of truth.

Whenever
I choose an idea or label it "right," I imply the prerogative
of another to reject that idea and label it "wrong."
To invalidate his right is to invalidate mine. That is, I must
brook error if I would preserve my freedom of thought. . . . If
men are punished for espousing communism, shall we stop there?
Once we deny the right to be wrong, we put a vise on the human
mind and put the temptation to turn the handle into the hands
of ruthlessness.13

While anti-Communism
was the central root of the decay of the Old Right and the replacement
by its statist opposite in National Review, there was another
important force in transforming the American right wing, especially
in vitiating its "domestic" libertarianism and even its
rhetorical devotion to individual liberty. This was the sudden emergence
of Russell Kirk as the leader of the New Conservatism, with the
publication of his book The Conservative Mind in 1953. Kirk,
who became a regular columnist of National Review as soon
as it was founded, created a sensation with his book and quickly
became adopted as the conservative darling of the "vital center."
In fact, before Buckley became prominent as the leading conservative
spokesman of the media, Russell Kirk was the most prominent conservative.
After the appearance of his book, Kirk began to make speeches around
the country, often in a friendly "vital center" tandem
with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

For Kirk was
far more acceptable to "vital center" corporate liberalism
than was the Old Right. Scorning any trait of individualism or rigorous
free-market economics, Kirk was instead quite close to the Conservatism
of Peter Viereck; to Kirk, Big Government and domestic statism were
perfectly acceptable, provided that they were steeped in some sort
of Burkean tradition and enjoyed a Christian framework. Indeed,
it was clear that Kirk's ideal society was an ordered English squirearchy,
ruled by the Anglican Church and Tory landlords in happy tandem.14
Here there was no fiery individualism, no trace of populism
or radicalism to upset the ruling classes or the liberal intellectual
Establishment. Here at last was a Rightist with whom liberals,
while not exactly agreeing, could engage in a cozy dialogue.

It was Kirk,
in fact, who brought the words "Conservatism" and "New
Conservatism" into general acceptance on the right wing. Before
that, knowledgeable libertarians had hated the word, and with good
reason; for weren't the conservatives the ancient enemy, the eighteenth-
and nineteenth-century Tory and reactionary suppressors of individual
liberty, the ancient champions of the Old Order of Throne-and-Altar
against which the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century liberals had
fought so valiantly? And so the older classical-liberals and individualists
resisted the term bitterly: Ludwig von Mises, a classical liberal,
scorned the term; F.A. Hayek insisted on calling himself an "Old
Whig"; and when Frank Chodorov was called a "conservative"
in the pages of National Review, he wrote an outraged letter
declaring, "As for me, I will punch anyone who calls me a conservative
in the nose. I am a radical."15 Before Russell Kirk,
the word "conservative," being redolent of reaction and
the Old Order, was a Left smear-word applied to the right wing;
it was only after Kirk that the right wing, including the new National
Review, rushed to embrace this previously hated term.

The Kirkian
influence was soon evident in right-wing youth meetings. I remember
one gathering when, to my dismay, one Gridley Wright, an aristocratic
leader of Yale campus conservatism, declared that the true ideological
struggle of our day, between left and right, had nothing to do with
free-market economics or with individual liberty versus statism.
The true struggle, he declared, was Christianity versus atheism,
and good manners versus boorishness and materialistic greed: the
materialist greed, for example, of the starving peoples of India
who were trying to earn an income, a bit of subsistence. It was
easy, of course, for a wealthy Yale man whose father owned a large
chunk of Montana to decry the "materialistic greed" of
the poor; was this what the right wing was coming to?

Russell Kirk
also succeeded in altering our historical pantheon of heroes. Mencken,
Nock, Thoreau, Jefferson, Paine, and Garrison were condemned as
rationalists, atheists, or anarchists, and were replaced by such
reactionaries and antilibertarians as Burke, Metternich, De Maistre,
or Alexander Hamilton.16

With its formidable
array of anti-Communists and Catholic traditionalists, National
Review quickly took over the lead and direction of the New Right,
which it rapidly remolded in its own image. The "official"
line of National Review was what came to be called "fusionist,"
whose leading practitioners were Meyer and Buckley; "fusionism"
stressed the dominance of anti-Communism and Christian order, to
be sure, but retained some libertarian rhetoric in a subordinate
rank. The importance of the libertarian and Old Right rhetoric was
largely political; for it would have been difficult for National
Review to lead a conservative political revival in this country
in the garb of monarchy and Inquisition. Without fusionism, the
transformation of the right wing could not have taken place within
the form, and might have alienated much of the right-wing mass base.
Many of the other National Review intellectuals were, in
contrast, impatient with any concessions to liberty. These included
Kirk's Tory traditionalism; the various wings of monarchists; and
Willmoore Kendall's open call for suppression of freedom of speech.
The great thrust of Kendall, a National Review editor for
many years, was his view that it is the right and duty of the "majority"
of the community – as embodied, say, in Congress – to
suppress any individual who disturbs that community with radical
doctrines. Socrates, opined Kendall, not only should have
been killed by the Greek community, but it was their bounden moral
duty to kill him.

Kendall, incidentally,
was symptomatic of the change in attitude toward the Supreme Court
from Old Right to New. One of the major doctrines of the Old Right
was the defense of the Supreme Court's role in outlawing congressional
and executive incursions against individual liberty; but now
the New Right, as typified by Kendall, bitterly attacked the
Supreme Court day in and day out, and for what? Precisely for presuming
to defend the liberty of the individual against the incursions of
Congress and the Executive.

Thus, the Old
Right had always bitterly attacked the judicial doctrines of Felix
Frankfurter, who was considered a left-wing monster for undercutting
the activist role of the Supreme Court in declaring various extensions
of government power to be unconstitutional; but now Kendall and
National Review were leading the Right in hailing Frankfurter
precisely for this permissive placing of the judicial imprimatur
on almost any action of the federal government. By staying in the
same place, Felix Frankfurter had shifted from being a villain to
a hero of the newly transformed Right, while it was now such libertarian
activists as Justices Black and Douglas who received the abuse of
the right wing. It was getting to be an ever weirder right-wing
world that I was inhabiting. It was indeed the venerable Alexander
Bickel, a disciple of Frankfurter's at Yale Law School, who converted
young professor Robert Bork from a libertarian to a majoritarian
jurist.

At the opposite
pole from the Catholic ultras, but at one with them in being opposed
to liberty and individualism, was James Burnham, who since the inception
of National Review has been its cold, hard-nosed, amoral
political strategist and resident Machiavellian. Burnham, whose
National Review column was entitled "The Third World
War," was the magazine's leading power and global anti-Communist
strategist. In a lifetime of political writing, James Burnham has
shown only one fleeting bit of positive interest in individual liberty:
and that was a call in National Review for the legalization
of firecrackers!

On the more
directly political front, National Review obviously needed
a "fusionist" for its political tactician, for the direct
guidance of conservatism as a political movement. It found that
tactician in its publisher, the former Deweyite Young Republican
Bill Rusher. A brilliant political organizer, Rusher was able, by
the late 1950s, to take over control of the College Young Republicans,
and then the National Young Republican Federation.

Heading a group
called the "Syndicate," Rusher has managed to control
the national Young Republications ever since. In 1959, National
Review organized the founding of the Young Americans for Freedom
at Bill Buckley's estate at Sharon, Connecticut. Young Americans
for Freedom soon grew to many thousand strong, and became in effect
the collegiate youth-activist arm of the National Review political
complex. Unfortunately, the bulk of young libertarians at the time
stayed solidly in the conservative movement; heedless of the foreign
policy betrayal of the Old Right, these young libertarians and semi-libertarians
well served the purposes of National Review by lending the
patina of libertarian rhetoric to such ventures as Young Americans
for Freedom. Thus, Young Americans for Freedom's founding Sharon
Statement was its only even remotely close approach to libertarianism;
its actual activities have always been confined to anticommunism,
including the attempted interdiction of trade with the Communist
countries – and lately were expanded to attempting legal suppression
of left-wing student rebellions. But the libertarian veneer was
supplied not only by the title and by parts of the Sharon Statement,
but also by the fact that Young Americans for Freedom's first president,
Robert M. Schuchman, was a libertarian anti-Communist who had once
been close to the old Circle Bastiat. More typical of the mass base
of conservative youth was the considerable contingent at Sharon
who objected to the title of the new organization, because, they
said, "Freedom is a left-wing word." It would have been
far more candid, though less politically astute, if the noble word
freedom had been left out of Young Americans for Freedom's
title.

By the late
1950s, Barry Goldwater had been decided upon as the political leader
of the New Right, and it was Rusher and the National Review clique
that inspired the Draft Goldwater movement and Youth for Goldwater
in 1960. Goldwater's ideological manifesto of 1960, The Conscience
of a Conservative, was ghostwritten by Brent Bozell, who wrote
fiery articles in National Review attacking liberty even
as an abstract principle, and upholding the function of the State
in imposing and enforcing moral and religious creeds. Its foreign
policy chapter, "The Soviet Menace," was a thinly disguised
plea for all-out offensive war against the Soviet Union and other
Communist nations. The Goldwater movement of 1960 was a warm-up
for the future; and when Nixon was defeated in the 1960 election,
Rusher and National Review launched a well-coordinated campaign
to capture the Republican Party for Barry Goldwater in 1964.

It was this
drastic shift to all-out and pervasive war-mongering that I found
hardest to swallow. For years I had thought of myself politically
as an "extreme right-winger," but this emotional identification
with the right was becoming increasingly difficult. To be a political
ally of Senator Taft was one thing; to be an ally of statists who
thirsted for all-out war against Russia was quite another. For the
first five years of its existence I moved in National Review
circles. I had known Frank Meyer as a fellow analyst for the
William Volker Fund, and through Meyer had met Buckley and the rest
of the editorial staff. I attended National Review luncheons,
rallies, and cocktail parties, and wrote a fair number of articles
and book reviews for the magazine. But the more I circulated among
these people, the greater my horror because I realized with growing
certainty that what they wanted above all was total war against
the Soviet Union; their fanatical warmongering would settle for
no less.

Of course the
New Rightists of National Review would never quite dare to
admit this crazed goal in public, but the objective would always
be slyly implied. At right-wing rallies no one cheered a single
iota for the free market, if this minor item were ever so much as
mentioned; what really stirred up the animals were demagogic appeals
by National Review leaders for total victory, total destruction
of the Communist world. It was that which brought the right-wing
masses out of their seats. It was National Review editor
Brent Bozell who trumpeted, at a right-wing rally: "I would
favor destroying not only the whole world, but the entire universe
out to the furthermost star, rather than suffer Communism to live."
It was National Review editor Frank Meyer who once told me:
"I have a vision, a great vision of the future: a totally devastated
Soviet Union." I knew that this was the vision that really
animated the new Conservatism. Frank Meyer, for example, had the
following argument with his wife, Elsie, over foreign-policy strategy:
Should we drop the H-Bomb on Moscow and destroy the Soviet Union
immediately and without warning (Frank), or should we give
the Soviet regime 24 hours with which to comply with an ultimatum
to resign (Elsie)?

In the meanwhile,
isolationist or antiwar sentiment disappeared totally from right-wing
publications or organizations, as rightists hastened to follow the
lead of National Review and its burgeoning political and
activist organizations. The death of Colonel McCormick of the Chicago
Tribune and the ouster of Felix Morley from Human Events
meant that these crucial mass periodicals would swing behind
the new pro-war line. Harry Elmer Barnes, the leader and promoter
of World War II revisionism, was somehow able to publish an excellent
article on Hiroshima in National Review, but apart from that,
found that conservative interest in revisionism, prominent after
World War II, had dried up and become hostile.17 For
as William Henry Chamberlin had discovered, the Munich analogy was
a powerful one to use against opponents of the new war drive; besides,
any questioning of American intervention in the previous war crusade
inevitably cast doubts on its current role, let alone on New Right
agitation for an even hotter war. Right-wing publishers like Henry
Regnery and Devin-Adair lost interest in isolationist or revisionist
works. Once in a while, a few libertarians who had not fallen silent
about the war drive or even joined it expressed their opposition
and concern; but they could only do so in private correspondence.
There was no other outlet available.18

Particularly
disgraceful was National Review's refusal to give the great
John T. Flynn an outlet for his opposition to the Cold War. The
doughty veteran Flynn, who had, interestingly enough, championed
Joe McCarthy, bitterly opposed the New Right emphasis on a global
military crusade. In the fall of 1956, Flynn submitted an article
to National Review attacking the Cold War crusade, and charging,
as he had in the 1940s, that militarism was a "job-making boondoggle,"
whose purpose was not to defend but to bolster "the economic
system with jobs for soldiers and jobs and profits in the munitions
plants." Presenting figures for swollen military spending between
the start of Roosevelt's war buildup in 1939 and 1954, Flynn argued
that the economy no longer consisted of a "socialist sector"
and a "capitalist sector." Instead, Flynn warned, there
was only the "racket" of military spending, "with
the soldier-politician in the middle – unaware of the hell-broth
of war, taxes and debt." The Eisenhower administration, Flynn
charged, was no better than its Democratic predecessors; the administration
is spending $66 billion a year, most going for "so-called u2018national
security'" and only a "small fraction" spent on "the
legitimate functions of government."

A fascinating
interchange followed between Buckley and Flynn. Rejecting Flynn's
article in a letter on October 22, 1956, Buckley had the unmitigated
chutzpah to tell this veteran anti-Communist that he didn't understand
the nature of the Soviet military threat, and condescendingly advised
him to read William Henry Chamberlin's latest pot-boiler in National
Review describing "the difference in the nature of the
threat posed by the Commies and the Nazis." Trying to sugar-coat
the pill, Buckley sent Flynn $100 along with the rejection note.
The next day, Flynn returned the $100, sarcastically adding that
he was "greatly obliged" to Buckley for "the little
lecture."

In this way,
Buckley used the same argument for depriving Flynn of a publishing
outlet that Bruce Bliven and the war liberals had employed when
ousting Flynn from the New Republic in the 1940s. In both
cases Flynn was accused of overlooking the alleged foreign threat
to the United States, and in both cases Flynn's attempted answer
was to stress that the real menace to American liberties was militarism,
socialism, and fascism at home, imposed in the name of combating
an alleged foreign threat. Flynn denied the existence of a Soviet
military threat, and warned prophetically that the executive branch
of the government was about to involve us in a futile war in Indo-China.19

Virtually the
only published echo of the Old Right was a book by the redoubtable
Felix Morley who, in the course of decrying the modern New Deal
and post-New Deal destruction of federalism by strong central government,
roundly attacked the developing and existing American Empire and
militarism.20

Meanwhile,
National Review's image of me was that of a lovable though
Utopian libertarian purist who, however, must be kept strictly confined
to propounding laissez-faire economics, to which National
Review had a kind of residual rhetorical attachment. There was
even talk at one time of my becoming an economic columnist for National
Review. But above all I was supposed to stay out of political
matters and leave to the warmongering ideologues of National
Review the gutsy real-world task of defending me from the depredations
of world Communism, and allowing me the luxury of spinning Utopias
about private fire-fighting services. I was increasingly unwilling
to play that kind of a castrate role.

  1. Don Levine
    had been slated to be a coeditor, but was booted out before the
    venture began because he had angered financial backers of the
    Freeman by attacking Merwin K. Hart in Plain Talk as
    being "anti-Semitic" (read: anti-Zionist).
  2. His most
    famous ghostwritten piece was McCarthy's famous attack on the
    record of General George Marshall – an attack, significantly,
    which began during World War II, thus deliberately ignoring Marshall's
    black record on Pearl Harbor.
  3. On this
    instructive episode, see John Steinke and James Weinstein, "McCarthy
    and the Liberals," in For a New America: Essays in History
    and Politics from Studies on the Left, 1959–1967, James Weinstein
    and David Eakins, eds. (New York: Random House, 1970), pp. 180–93.
  4. Ibid., p.
    180.
  5. It is precisely
    this sort of analysis that has made many astute members of the
    New Left in a sense sympathetic to the George Wallace movement
    of recent years. For while the Wallaceite program may be
    questionable, his analysis of the Establishment and his
    tapping of middle-class sentiment against the ruling elite that
    oppresses them earns from the New Left a considerable amount of
    sympathy.
  6. Daniel Bell,
    ed., The New American Right (New York: Criterion Books,
    1955). The book was updated eight years later, with new chapters
    added from the perspective of the early 1960s. Daniel Bell, ed.,
    The New American Right: Expanded and Updated (Garden City,
    N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1963). From a later perspective, it is
    clear that this was a protoneoconservative book, Bell, Glazer,
    and Lipset becoming prominent neocons in the 1970s and 1980s.
  7. Peter Viereck,
    "Revolt Against the Elite," in New American Right,
    Bell, ed., pp. 97–98, 116.
  8. William
    F. Buckley, Jr., "A Young Republican's View," Commonweal
    55, no. 16 (January 25, 1952): 391–93.
  9. Thus, see
    George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America
    Since 1945 (New York: Basic Books, 1976), p. 127; and Samuel
    Francis, "Beautiful Losers: the Failure of American Conservatism,"
    Chronicles (May 1991): 16.
  10. See Nash,
    Conservative Intellectual Movement, p. 372.
  11. Frank Chodorov,
    "Trailing the Trend," analysis 6, no. 6 (April
    1950): 3. Quoted in Hamilton, "Introduction," p. 25.
  12. Frank Chodorov,
    "The Spy-Hunt," analysis 4, no. 11 (September
    1948): 1–2. Reprinted in Chodorov, Out of Step (New York:
    Devin-Adair, 1962), pp. 181–83.
  13. Frank Chodorov,
    "How to Curb the Commies," analysis 5, no. 7
    (May 1949): 2.
  14. Kirk, too,
    was to follow other National Review leaders into Catholicism
    a decade later.
  15. Letter to
    National Review 2, no. 20 (October 6, 1956): 23. Cited
    in Hamilton, "Introduction," p. 29.
  16. Kirk himself
    never equaled the success of The Conservative Mind. His
    later columns in National Review were largely confined
    to attacks upon the follies of progressive education. To be fair,
    Nash's work reveals that Kirk was really an isolationist Old Rightist
    during World War II; his shift to the New Conservatism in the
    early 1950s remains something of a mystery. Nash, Conservative
    Intellectual Movement, pp. 70–76.
  17. Harry Elmer
    Barnes, "Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe," National
    Review 5, no. 19 (May 10, 1958): 441–43. See Murray N. Rothbard,
    "Harry Elmer Barnes as Revisionist of the Cold War,"
    in Harry Elmer Barnes: Learned Crusader, A. Goddard, ed.
    (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Ralph Myles, 1968), pp. 314–38.
  18. Thus, see
    the letters in the late 1950s of Roland W. ("Rollie")
    Holmes, and of Dr. Paul Poirot of the FEE staff, in Toy, "Ideology
    and Conflict," pp. 206–07.
  19. On Buckley's
    rejection of the Flynn article, see Ronald Radosh, Prophets
    on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism
    (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975), pp. 272–73; and Radosh,
    "Preface," in John T. Flynn, As We Go Marching (New
    York: Free Life Editions, 1973), pp. xiv–xv.
  20. Felix Morley,
    Freedom and Federalism (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1959),
    especially the chapters "Democracy and Empire," "Nationalization
    through Foreign Policy," and "The Need for an Enemy."

Table
of Contents: The Betrayal of the American Right

Murray
Rothbard Archives

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