The sins of South Africa are once again heavy on the American conscience. The flaws and contradictions built into her multiracial social organization are subjected to the most minute scrutiny and the imperfections in her “human rights” record are held up as justification for revolutionary forces that would cheerfully slaughter the European population of Africa’s only state with a thriving economy and with something like a democratic constitution. The usual cast of characters is headed up again by Congressman Steve Solarz—the man who assured us that Robert Mugabe would bring freedom to Zimbabwe. Solarz’s obsession with South Africa leaves him little time to speak out on Mugabe’s forthcoming declaration of a one-party state. He and his friends also are curiously reticent about the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, although they filled the halls of Congress with denunciations of their comparatively benevolent predecessor, Mr. Somoza, who was almost as evil and bloodthirsty—to hear them tell it—as the late Shah of Iran or President Marcos of the Philippines. As for the record of the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea, these gentlemen make a strenuous effort to avoid the charge of Red-baiting applied so regularly by The Nation to anyone who criticizes a communist regime anywhere in the world. (The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia is a possible exception, but they were, after all opposed by the Soviet-backed North Vietnam.)

Suppose for a moment that all the lies told about South Africa, the Shah, Somoza, and Marcos were true. Their misdeeds would not begin to approach the accomplishments of Stalin or Mao or Mr. Castro, who holds the per capita record for political prisoners, or the Marxist thugs who are doing their best to starve the entire population of Ethiopia. It cannot be simply a question of left and right: cold war liberals in the early 50’s at least talked a good game of anticommunism. It isn’t at all clear why decent socialists shouldn’t hate the U.S.S.R. a great deal more than they hate South Africa. What exactly is going on?

Perhaps the first thing to observe is that what the American left really hates are the friends of the United States, especially those that profess some commitment to freedom. The form of government does not seem to matter much: it can be a monarchy, as in Iran, an authoritarian constitutional state as in the Philippines, or a Western-style democracy as in South Africa. All are condemned. On the other hand, they adore the violently anti-American African dictatorships which are usually run by the most amazing set of hooligans, straight out of Waugh’s Black Mischief. The more familiar varieties of tyranny practiced in Eastern Europe are nowhere near so dear to them. If it were just a question of support for Marxist regimes, we would expect Gen. Jeruzelski to receive better treatment in the New York Times than, say, Julius Nyerere or Robert Mugabe.

There seems to be a simple formula at work in these calculations: the closer a regime is to America (politically or culturally), the more likely it is to be attacked for its failings. If I were to hazard a guess at why this should be so, I would suggest that we have been looking at leftists from the wrong angle. It is not that their Marxist principles drive them into the arms of the enemies of the United States, but that it is the liberals’ hatred of their own country which leads them to embrace any ideology so long as it is the opposite of what we stand for.

How did the left get to be so anti-American? It is at least conceivably possible to imagine a populist form of socialism springing up on American soil. Senator Robert LaFollette, who began as a conservative Republican, ended up as the author of a great deal of social reform legislation packaged s the Wisconsin Plan. At the same time, the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party was as much populist as it was socialist, although the declension from Gov. Floyd B. Olson (an ex-Wobbly) to Hubert Humphrey to Fritz Mondale tells a tale. Even Eugene Debs, the most successful Presidential candidate of the American Socialist Party, was, as his biographer puts it, “The classic example, of an indigenous American radical.” After a brief infatuation with the Russian revolution near the end of his life, Debs cabled Lenin to protest the execution of non-Bolshevik revolutionaries and defended his own independence on the grounds of “having no Vatican in Moscow to guide him.” Most significantly, Debs—even in the throes of pro-Soviet fervor in 1917—refused to support American involvement in World War I just because Russia was now “democratic.” Norman Thomas, who led the Socialist Party for a great part of the century, opposed American entrance into World War II, partly because he saw no reason for supporting one totalitarian regime against another. Contrast the steadfast ness of Thomas and Debs with the oscillations of the American comrades before and after the Hitler-Stalin pact.

To the end of his days, Thomas was a bitter critic of the Soviet regime. It does not take a profound knowledge of politics to understand why the Communists and their tools have hated Norman Thomas and either treated Debs with contempt or cast him in the role of John the Baptist (an allusion which the Christian Debs would have appreciated). Debs, to say nothing of Thomas, refused to take orders from the Comintem. They were the worst of all things—yellow socialists, revisionists, syndicalists. What is worse, they remained essentially loyal to their country.

The case of the most famous American radical, Big Bill Haywood, is more complicated. Bill came from good American stock: his ancestors had fought in every major war in which this country was involved. His father was a Pony Express rider turned miner. Bill also tried mining, as well as cowboying and farm labor, before he found himself caught up in the struggles of the Western Federation of Miners. His trial for the murder of the ex-Governor of Idaho made him a celebrity. After his acquittal, he became a hero of the labor movement and one of the driving forces of the Industrial Workers of the World-the Wobblies. The only really dishonorable thing Bill Haywood is known to have done was to jump bail and flee to the U.S.S.R. rather than go back to a 20-year jail term imposed by one of those superpatriots we could just as well have lived without (Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis). When Bill finally met his hero, comrade Lenin, he was anxious to find out if the workers really ran the factories in Russia. Lenin assured him, “Yes, Comrade Haywood, that is communism.” (Poor Haywood was really a syndicalist and didn’t know enough Marx to get onto the platform committee of the Democratic Party.)

Lenin could afford to be cynical. He had caught himself a real-live American revolutionary. Most of the socialists and communists in America, especially the leaders, were immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe, who could not be expected to understand, much less support, Ameri can traditions. They spent most of their energies attacking the Wobblies for their deviation from the Party line. But there was a third group: well-to-do Americans of impeccable background, who had never hit a lick in their life. What were they doing in the various Communist Parties that sprang up at the turn of the century? Big Bill met many of them in Greenwich Village when he was trying to raise money for the Patterson strike: bohemian socialites like Mabel Dodge, the muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens, and a young Harvard graduate who wanted to know what the revolution was all about. Bill initiated the boy into the mysteries and gave the world John Reed.

Many American working men, women, and children had reason to be dissatisfied with $6 for a seven-day week of 12-hour days. But as soon as conditions improved, they became quiet citizens. What was eating at the vitals of Steffens, Reed, and the former corporate lawyer Clarence Darrow? What made such men turn against their country?

To judge of the cause of causes is infinite, as Bacon observed, but there are certain tendencies in American history which seem to converge on the America-hating radicalism of the 20th century. Consider their great hero, John Brown, the murderer celebrated by Emerson and Thoreau. He and his abolitionist supporters were willing to destroy the Constitution, raise up insurrection, and preach the massacre of the citizens of one-third of the U.S., simply because they objected to a social institution which, how ever immoral it might have been, was undoubtedly constitional.

The sane and reasonable abolitionists like William H. Seward, as well as many Union generals, were almost as frightened by tl1e radicals as the South. But the extremists longed for war. As Lincoln remarked when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe, the authoress of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, “So, you’re the little lady who made this big war.” Like their spiritual descendants-prohibitionists, feminists, and communists-the radical abolitionists had all the answers. They knew precisely how other people ought to live. In this quality they resembled many of the Puritan leaders who settled New England. In old England, their friends had kept themselves busy murdering a king and imposing martial law on a once-happy nation. When they came to America, they lost little time -in imposing their own peculiar views of religion and society on the not-always-willing populace of Massachusetts.

What fueled the Puritan intolerance was their vision of perfection: they were here to do God’s work on a continent ruled by the Devil. The most humane of their leaders, Cotton Mather, saw America as the battleground between the forces of light (the Puritans) against the forces of darkness (Indians, the Catholic Spanish, Anglicans). It was up to God’s people to create a paradise in this heathen wilderness. The religious fires of the Puritans waned rather quickly—but not their real zeal to reform the human race. Emerson and his transcendentalist friends were not even Christians, let alone Puritans, but they still carried on the old struggle for perfection.

The Puritans and their residues could not learn to love America, because it was flawed and fleshly. The Constitution, although it made union possible, was not just an imperfect document: it was a pact with the Devil. You were on one side or another, good versus evil. Sensible men like Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and that great statesman from Illinois, Stephen Douglas, were excoriated for defending America as America.

All of this might have been nothing more than a local annoyance confined to New England, if the same mentality had not at the same time taken over higher education. Spreading from its spiritual centers-Harvard and Yale­ the Puritan mind, stripped of all religious encumbrances, came to dominate the academic world. Obviously, every­ one who went to Harvard did not tum out like John Reed, but it is hard for college students to escape the utopian infection of their professors. They know, because they are told it repeatedly, that American history consists of nothing but burning Indians and lynching Negroes, but that it is the American destiny to transcend history and leave our Adam nature behind. Starting out with such glorious illusions, it is little wonder if so many members of the American elite tum their backs on the real America and fall in with the first utopian movement that presents itself.

We are not the only people to suffer from this syndrome. When Burke railed against the supporters of the French Revolution, he recognized that English radicals were will­ing to sell out their own country for the sake of a foreign ideology. What opened Burke’s eyes was, perhaps, not so much his horror at the events of 1789—which were not, after all, terribly alarming—but the eagerness of ideologues to sacrifice their own people to an international ideal.

There, in a nutshell, is the difference between men like Debs, Haywood, and Norman Thomas on the one hand, and the smart-aleck college boys who learned to bum flags before going on to careers as professors, journalists, and congressmen. In his autobiography The Making of a Radi­cal, Scott Nearing virtually gives the game away. Nearing dedicated an unbelievably long career to anti-American activities. He left the Socialist Party, when Norman Thom­ as inspired it to oppose the U.S.S.R., joined the Commu­nist Party, and was a prominent executive in the ACLU. Nearing views his country with undisguised loathing:

My separation from western civilization and its ways is almost as complete as my separation from the civilizations of Rome and Egypt. I continue to live in the United States, the power center of western civilization because this is part of my assignment, but I have no more sympathy or concern for it than an emissary of the United States has in a precapitalist area of equatorial Africa or South America. The emissary lives in the midst of backwardness, but is not of it. This is exactly my feeling about my relation with the United States, in which perforce I must live.

Perforce? A curious word to use. In any case, Nearing’s attitude contrasts sharply with that of a real revolutionary like Haywood. In his last year in the Soviet Union, Big Bill asked a reporter if it were possible for him to go back. He did not share the Russian obsession of ideology, as he explained to several visitors. He had nothing to complain about in his treatment, “but this isn’t Idaho or Colorado. I’d like to die back in the United States.”

This is a big country, with a long history of conflicts—sectional, ethnic, and religious. The American tradition can be stretched to include even the wildest of the rough­ neck radicals who continued to love it even in exile. But our generosity cannot extend to the pampered American elite, whose members have waged war for over 100 years on the real America, a nation created in the blood 6f two civil wars. Many average Americans share Merle Haggard’s opinion of these idealists: “If you’re running down your contry, hoss, you’re walking on the fighting side of me.”

But as a peaceful man, I wish them all the best and hope some day they should get their heart’s desire. It is what Crabbe wished for the English radicals:

Oh, let them taste what they so much approve These strong fierce freedoms of the land they love.

All aboard for Utopia. First stop, Cambodia.