An Answer to Lillian Hellman
LILLIAN HELLMAN, in Scoundrel Time,* tells the story of her appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, and tells something, in flashbacks, of her political life, insofar as it involved dealings with Communists or persons she thought were Communists. In the process, she challenges those of us who did not come to her defense and the defense of others who were pilloried by the Committee and subsequently lost their jobs or, more seriously, were jailed for refusing to answer questions before congressional committees and did not defend themselves by pleading the Fifth Amendment. One of these was the writer Dashiell Hammett, with whom she lived. He had already gone to jail and been released, sick and in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, when Lillian Hellman was subpoenaed, at a moment when Clifford Odets, Elia Kazan, and others were also being questioned, principally it appears about Hollywood.
Lillian Hellman cannot understand how intellectuals like Lionel and Diana Trilling could have believed Whittaker Chambers. She does not understand how magazines like Partisan Review and COMMENTARY could have taken the positions they did in the 1950′s:
Partisan Review, although through the years it has published many, many pieces protesting the punishment of dissidents in Eastern Europe, made no protest when people in this country were jailed or ruined…. COMMENTARY didn’t do anything. No editor or contributor ever protested against McCarthy….
There were many thoughtful and distinguished men and women on both magazines. None of them, as far as I know, has yet found it a part of conscience to admit that their cold-war anti-Communism was perverted, possibly against their wishes, in the Vietnam war and then into the reign of Nixon, their unwanted but inevitable leader.
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