Smoke Gets in Their EyesnWmiam L. O’Neill: A Better World:nThe Great Schism: Stalinism andnthe American Intellectuals; Simonn& Schuster; New York.nIrving Howe: A Margin of Hope: AnnIntellectual Autobiography; HarcourtnBrace Jovanovich; New York.nby Lee CongdonnA specter is haunting the Americannleft—the specter of conservatism. Onnevery front—political, social, cultural—nleft-liberals are in retreat, shaken by anseries of reverses and embittered becausenmany of their quondam comrades, impressednmore by the arguments of neoconservatismnthan by the platitudes ofnsocialism, have defected to the enemy.nAnd even those who have not waverednin their commitment to the left seem tonbe convinced that there will be no liberalnrevival until the totalitarian temptation,nto which so many left-wing intellectualsnhave succumbed, is finally overcome.nWilliam L O’Neill has not lost his feithnin the left, but he is sufficiently cleareyednto see that the “sickness of liberalism,”nnow as in the 1950’s, is in largenmeasure the result of “its own exploitablenmistakes in the past.” It is thereforenincumbent upon contemporary liberals,nhe suggests, to create a movement “ofnthe proper kind,” one that is “ethical”nand free of that anti-Americanism thatnhas become the defining characteristicnof American radicalism. To that end, henproposes that they confess publicly thensin of having lionized Stalin and thenU.S.S.R., drawing what courage and inspirationnthey might require from thosenindependent radicals who, with a finenimpartiality, have always pronounced anplague on both capitalist and communistnhouses.nAs a first step in exorcising the ghostsnDr. Congdon teaches history at JamesnMadison University.n8nChronicles of Culturenof the past, O’Neill has written a detailednand devastating brief against the pro-nSoviet left, exposing the cynicism andnsmpidity that passes for wisdom in thenpages of The Nation and The NewnRepublic and ridiculing the egregiousnapologies for tyranny contrived by “progressive”nwriters such as Max Lemer,nyUexander Werth, and Freda Kirchwey.nIn conscious opposition to Lillian Hellmannand Victor Navasky, O’Neill is criticalneven of those who hedged, lied, ornremained silent during HUAC’s investigationsnof communists and fellow travelersnin the motion-picture industry—nthough one wonders why the likes ofnDalton Tnimbo and Edward G. Robinsonnfigure in a book about intellectuals.nAnd yet, for all his criticism of thenStalinists, O’Neill gives no quarter tonAmerican conservatives, who, to hearnhim tell it, are almost all military officersnand businessmen, many of whom oncenadmfred the Soviet “experiment,” as itnwas euphemistically described. His examplesnof this are Eddie Rickenbacker,nwho “believed in management’s [includingnthe Soviet government’s] right tonexploit labor,” and Ambassador JosephnP. Davies, “one of those wealthy businessmennwho were second only to progressivenintellectuals in susceptibility tonRussian charm.” The unsuspecting readernwould never guess from O’Neill’s accountnthat American conservativesnwere anti-Stalinist to the man or thatnmany of the most effective critics of thenSoviet Union were ex-radicals—undoubtedlynbecause late-arriving conservativesnsuch as John Dos Passos, James Bumham,nWill Herberg, and Max Eastman mightnwell be viewed as forerunners of contemporarynneoconservatism.nO’Neill shares a good many of thenStalinists’ illusions, insisting, for example,nthat Owen Lattimore and EdgarnSnow were right about China. The argumentnis that Mao was preferable tonChiang Kai-shek and that a communistnvictory was inevitable in any event;nnnhence, the progressives were wise toncall upon the United States to abandonnNationalist China. Certainly the UnitednStates would not have “lost” China if itnhad supported the communists, but thenpoint, after all, is that our country didnnot wish to see Mao and his band ofnideologues triumph. O’Neill simply willnnot permit himself to entertain the ideanthat a leader such as Chiang, whatevernhis failings, might be preferable to thosenideological tyrants who are forever assuringnthe credulous that they are buildingna better world. Exemplifying whatnJeane Kfrkpatrick has called “rationalismnin foreign affairs,” O’Neill refuses tonchoose between evils, citing vsdth approvalnMax Lemer’s starry-eyed proposalnthat the United States “oppose bothnCommunism and anti-Communism onnbehalf of democratic and socialist movementsneverywhere” and complainingnthat “getting into bed” with Chiang andnFranco meant sacrificing liberalism andnreform to military needs. That in mostnareas of the world the real, as opposed tonthe wished-for, choice is often betweenntotalitarianism and authoritarian regimesnnever seems to have occurred to him,nbut even if it had, one suspects that henwould still prefer to ignore reality, trumpetnabstract moral principles, and clingnto illusory hopes. But the price ofnO’Neill’s “moral purity” will be paid bynothers, fresh victims of the revolutionnwho will follow the Chinese, Vietnamese,nCambodians, and Iranians into the darknnight.n3o, according to O’Neill’s reading,nthe progressives’ record was by nonmeans uniformly disreputable. They hadnfailed the Stalinist test, but they hadnbeen right about China, Hitler, JoenMcCarthy, and Vietnam. Thus, the anti-nStalinist left was “on target every time.”nDemocratic socialists knew, O’Neillnavers, that “Stalinism was the betrayal ofnthe Russian Revolution, not its fialfiUment,”na Trotskyist assumption thatn