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Feb 12

Written by: Diana West
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 2:00 PM 


Take a look at the teeny tiny face of Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne (above). It is drastically dwarfed by that giant "Soviet banner of victory," which becomes a visual metaphor for the Washington Post itself as it enters a more florid stage of being Bezos' Red Banner. "Trump's war on socialism will fail," the op-ed headline declares, Pravida-pitch-perfect. 

Why "will Trump's war on socialism fail"? Grit your teeth as we enter a new era of New Deal Nostalgia. Because, Dionne tells us, socialism is actually the saving grace of democracy or some such rot. He invokes a "cheeky" New Deal lawyer named Jerome Frank to make this historically obscene case, quoting Frank as saying: “We socialists are trying to save capitalism, and the damned capitalists won’t let us.”

"Jerome Frank was right," Dionne writes. "Those slurred as socialists really do have a good track record of making capitalism work better and more justly." 

Of course, Jerome Frank has a track record, too. It starts inside Harry Hopkins' communist-organized study group at the Department of Agriculture. There, in the early 1930s, Harry Hopkins, Jerome Frank, Paul Appleby (whom Hopkins had known at Grinnell College), Gardner Jackson, Lee Pressman, and Rex Tugwell. according to Hopkins' biographer McJimsey.

Take it away, American Betrayal....

From pp. 143-145

We’re left to our own devices to evaluate Hopkins’s Ag-mates, who, in McJimsey’s telling, were brought together by a shared interest in “projects to help the poor.” The first time through, my eyes skimmed over the names as though I were searching for something else in the phonebook: didn’t register. Later, after reading both Martin Dies’s and Robert Stripling’s memoirs, I recognized Gardner Jackson as the instigator of an attempt in 1940 to discredit Rep. Martin Dies, chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, with a document later unmasked as a forgery. Rexford Tugwell, whose name sounds like someone out of F. Scott Fitzgerald, vaguely resonated. McJimsey notes that Tugwell had the most “trenchant ideas,” which, extra research revealed, arose from the young Columbia econ professor’s swoony, steely admiration of what was still called the “Soviet experiment.” Such ideas included putting the government in total control of the economy: production controls, price controls, profit controls, the works. In case there’s any doubt where Tugwell was coming from, he predicted in 1931, “Business will be logically required to disappear.” The end of the free market—“the abolition of ‘business’”— was one of his hobbyhorses. TUGWELL SEES END OF LAISSEZ-FAIRE, The New York Times headlined in 1934.

“That fall,” McJimsey writes of 1933, “Hopkins tried to persuade Roosevelt to articulate a New Deal philosophy along Tugwell’s lines, but the president was reluctant.” No wonder: Congressional elections were coming up, and the president didn’t want to blow them by going completely Bolshevik. Better, I’m thinking, to preserve a good-cop (FDR), bad-cop (Tugwell) deniability.

When Romerstein and Breindel looked at McJimsey’s list, the tip-off for them was the presence of Lee Pressman, who happened (if that’s the right word) to be a Harvard Law School classmate of Alger Hiss. In 1948, Whittaker Chambers identified Pressman as a very big Communist cheese: one of seven leading members of a Communist apparatus within the U.S. government, each of whom was charged with organizing a study group/cell in his respective agency. The way it worked was that members would be further evaluated by Communist cell leaders, after which they might be selected to join the Communist underground and work in Soviet espionage. Pressman’s agency was Agriculture. Suddenly, McJimsey’s study group looks less revival meeting and more Marxist conspiracy meet-and-greet.

Was Hopkins tapped for advanced work here? We have no evidence. Which, of course, isn’t to say it didn’t happen. My hunch is that if Hopkins were in fact an Akhmerov agent—and, as we will see, his contact with Akhmerov is confirmed—he may have belonged to a network we don’t know about, or a network of one. This little Ag group, by the way, with the exception of Pressman, remains clean when it comes to official espionage links, but they were all fellow travelers active in Communist or Soviet causes, which is, after all, what fellow travelers do. Take Jerome Frank, who was Rexford Tugwell’s housemate. Frank was a drafter of the New Deal law that ushered in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the New Deal agency empowered to compel farmers to limit or destroy their output in exchange for government subsidies.

“More Bolshevistic than any law or regulation existing in Soviet Russia,” said Rep. Fred Bitten (R-IL). “We are on our way to Moscow,” said Rep. Joseph W. Martin (D-MA).124

Frank became the AAA’s general counsel, an appointment Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in his book The Coming of the New Deal called a triumph for the “liberals.”Liberals? I look at Frank’s hires for the counsel’s office and see some of the most notorious Communists of the day mixed in among the liberals—or is that vice versa? From Harvard Law School alone, Frank hired Alger Hiss, Lee Pressman, John Abt, and Nathan Witt, all members of the secret Communist apparatus known as the Ware Group, later identified by Whittaker Chambers as a hardened espionage unit. Hopkins’s little study group appears to be a low-impact offshoot.

Maybe not so low-impact. Tugwell, after all, Frank’s housemate, was a radical’s radical and the foremost member of FDR’s so-called brain trust—one of the leaders William A. Wirt attempted to bring to Congress’s attention in May 1934 for allegedly plotting revolution from within. Arthur Schlesinger relates an anecdote about an overnight visit from a friend of Frank’s from his, yes, corporate law days to the Frank Tugwell home. The friend, in Schlesinger’s words, became “shocked by Tugwell in a mood of early morning intensity.” (Tugwell probably read him selections from his latest oeuvre, something about how the solution to the “central problem of subordinating the profit motive to social welfare” lay in “genuine economic planning and social control.”) After departing, the friend cabled Jerome Frank with a warning about Tugwell: BEWARE COMMA JEROME STOP THIS MORNING AT BREAKFAST I SAW THE FACE OF ROBESPIERRE. ...

They're back. Of course, they never left.

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