Tuesday, August 13, 2002

From The Mailbox

To the Editor:

David Horowitz’s August 11 weblog includes a rant against historian Gerda Lerner, her memoir Fireweed, and a review of the memoir by Inga Clendinnen in the New York Times.

Horowitz begins:

    “Gerda Lerner is the godmother of American feminism. She is also a Communist.”

According to Clendinnen’s review, Lerner and her husband were Communists during the late 40s and early 50s. They left the Communist Party in the 50s because “‘doctrinaire Stalinists’ beat back reform.”

Horowitz could have argued that, in light of the Communist Party’s sins, Lerner and her husband didn’t leave soon enough. Instead he paints them as unrepentant Commies.

Of course, Horowitz has a lot to say about the Communist Party’s sins:

    “This proud tradition included support for the Stalin purges, the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the Soviet rape of Eastern Europe, the North Korean invasion of South Korea, the Maoist murders of tens of millions, and the massacre of millions in Cambodia and Vietnam.”

It seems odd to fault Lerner with supporting the Nazi-Stalinist pact when she and her family were victims of the Nazis. According to the review, when Lerner’s father fled Austria after the Anschluss, the Nazis imprisoned Lerner and her mother as hostages against his return. Clendinnen says Lerner and her mother suffered “serious privation” before their release.

Horowitz quotes the review as saying, “the Rosenberg executions [were] an ineradicable scar on memory.” Clendinnen’s entire sentence is “By the late 50’s, with the Rosenberg executions an ineradicable scar on memory, their [the Lerners’] faith in the vitality of America’s democratic institutions was slowly vindicated.”

In fact, enthusiasm for America and for democracy comes through as a theme in Lerner’s life, both during her time as a Communist and after leaving the party. “America was now her country: the locus of her heart and hopes,” says Clendinnen, describing the time of Lerner’s marriage, naturalization and early years in the Communist party.

Lerner dedicates her autobiography “to all those who in dark times kept their integrity, refused conformity and never lost hope in the strength of democracy.”

Horowitz apparently doesn’t think of himself as one of those people.

Yours truly,

Rosalind Nelson

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