Flying off the Broomstick

"Flying off the Broomstick," Commentary, April 1951. (A review of Witch Hunt: The Revival of Heresy by Carey McWilliams.)


Perhaps the most important premise is that which sets up a fundamental distinction between the sacred and the profane—the East and the West. The former is beyond human judgment—it is still too early to say, it is a society. with growing pains, you can’t make an omelette, etc. The latter is not only eternally judged but eternally condemned: the existence of dissent and dissatisfaction, no matter by whom or for what purpose, is in itself a verdict against the status quo, and every accusation is a presumption of guilt. Such a premise is essential to the strategy of Communism, which, in seeking “proselytes of righteousness” among Western intellectuals, aims to provide a set of axioms on the basis of which an unreal political situation is fabricated whose prime characteristic is that Communism ceases to be an issue. So long as Western intellectuals discourse on truth, freedom, and equality, and so long as this discourse evades the issue of Communism and Soviet power, the Communists have already gained an advantage. Since no society can be shown to live entirely up to its ideals, the greater the blind and mechanical stress on these abstract ideals, the smaller the possibility of what the Communists wish to avoid at all costs: any mere comparison of political realities—the reality of the life of an American worker, farmer, or intellectual with their Soviet counterparts, for instance.

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