[Marxism] The Rosenbergs
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jun 16 10:33:06 MDT 2004
Two nights ago, HBO showed a documentary on the Rosenberg case. Here's
an excerpt from their website:
>>HEIR TO AN EXECUTION captures the personal story of the Rosenbergs,
deftly setting up the political backdrop of the prevalent anti-communist
mood of the country at the time and shows how the fifty-year-old event
still reverberates with the relatives they left behind and their
HEIR TO AN EXECUTION is the story of a family torn apart on June 19th,
1953 when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for "conspiracy to
commit espionage." When their names were seared into history that day,
as both martyrs and "Atom Spies," the young Jewish couple left behind
two orphaned boys - Michael, ten years old and Robert, six years old.
Ivy Meeropol, the eldest granddaughter of the Rosenbergs, and Michael's
daughter, embarks on a remarkable journey into her family's past that
sheds new light on a chapter in American history and provides a personal
perspective on the iconic event.
"Before they were immortalized by the strange machinations of history,
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg belonged only to their families and friends,"
commented Ivy Meeropol. "This film is an attempt to reclaim them as such
and challenge the simplistic definition that's allowed them to go down
in history as 'The Atom Spies.'"
The filmmaker explores the events and ramifications of the execution on
the Rosenberg family, particularly their two orphaned sons. In spite of
an extended family of siblings, no one would step forward to take in the
two boys. In fact, Ethel Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass testified
against her and his brother-in-law, providing the main evidence the
government had to convict them. Michael and Robert were eventually
adopted by complete strangers to the Rosenbergs, a couple named Ann and
Abel Meeropol. The Rosenbergs' sons grew up believing in their parents'
innocence and as adults they aggressively pursued the truth about their
case. In the film they reflect on the circumstances of this event in a
new, more personal, way.<<
If at all possible, I would strongly urge you to look for this
documentary if it is scheduled again or if it becomes available in
DVD/Video. It marks a very important turning-point in the way that the
left must now engage with this colossal injustice, since for the first
time some of the most determined partisans of the Rosenbergs, including
their sons, admit that Julius Rosenberg was transmitting top-secret
information to the USSR.
From the 1950s through the 1980s, the Rosenbergs were widely regarded
as completely innocent victims of a witch-hunt. Through books like
Walter and Miriam Schneir's "Invitation to an Inquest", the case was
made that they were simply framed up.
In 1983 Joyce Milton and Ronald Radosh wrote a book that tried to prove
their guilt. Radosh has a well-deserved reputation as a rat. His most
recent book makes the case that the Spanish people were better off with
a Franco victory than with a Popular Front government. Like his fellow
neoconservative David Horowitz, Radosh was a 60s radical--in his case
Eventually the so-called Venona files released by Russia in the 1990s,
as part of an effort to mollify anti-Communist opinion in the USA,
substantiated the guilt of Julius Rosenberg. Even the Schneirs were
forced to admit in a July 5, 1999 Nation Magazine article that a spy
named "Antenna" in the files was Julius Rosenberg in all likelihood.
During the interview in the HBO documentary, the Schneirs admitted to
Ivy Meeropol that they felt disappointed that they were not aware of
this to begin with. They seemed to feel like they had been caught in a lie.
When I first joined the SWP, I asked Dick Roberts (our leading economics
expert who became a Christian not long after dropping out in the 1980s
and losing a bundle in the 1987 stock market crash) if he thought they
were guilty. Sure, he said. He also said that there was nothing to hide.
If you were for the survival of the Soviet Union and if you were privy
to atomic secrets, why wouldn't you communicate them to the Russians?
This was the view of Abe Osheroff, a long-time friend and comrade of the
Rosenbergs who fought in the Spanish Civil War. In his interview with
Ivy Meeropol, he says that he knew all along that Julius Rosenberg was
on the lookout for strategic military technology that he could pass
along to the Russians, including an advanced machine gun for fighter
planes. Furthermore, he would have done the same thing himself.
Although the documentary does not mention it, it is crucial to
understand that Julius Rosenberg passed along this information when the
USA and the USSR were allies. Although this was still unlawful activity,
it was the height of hypocrisy to blame them for the Korean War as
politicians did. Back in 1944 and 1945, most people assumed that the two
superpowers would be allies for the foreseeable future. Of course, the
imperialist strategists were already plotting out their new war against
Bolshevism at this very moment.
The fight to save the Rosenberg's lives took none of this into account.
They were seen as martyrs to the Cold War. This was true, whether or not
Julius was involved in espionage. The trial was a travesty of
justice--just as the trial of Mumia. We may never know exactly what
happened on the streets of Philadelphia, but we do know what happened in
the courtroom. A hostile judge and dubious testimony served to convict
Mumia. The same thing happened in the Rosenberg trial. A Jewish judge,
all too eager to convince American society that he was a "good Jew", was
prejudicial against the Rosenbergs in every possible way.
The political campaign of the Rosenbergs was characterized by a certain
kind of naiveté about the USA that reflected lingering illusions
fostered by the Popular Front. You can spot a sign at one of the
demonstrations in the documentary with the words: "Don't harm the
prestige of the USA overseas"--as if anybody in a government that had
recently leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki (with CPUSA approval) would have
any compunctions about railroading two Communist Jews.
A key factor that made Julius Rosenberg refuse to admit his guilt is
that this plea would necessarily be attached to "naming names". It was
not enough to "come clean". He had to become a rat, just like David
Greenglass (his brother-in-law) who testified against him and Ethel.
This is confirmed in an interview with a CIO official named Harry
Steingart, now aged 103, who admitted that he would not be alive today
if not for the integrity of the Rosenbergs.
The documentary also featured interviews with Morton Sobell, who was
convicted along with the Rosenbergs but served 19 years rather than
getting the death penalty. His prison memoir "On Doing Time" is a
classic and still-in-print (used versions available from amazon.com). I
got to know Morty in the late 80s when he came around the technical aid
project for Nicaragua I was involved with. He had returned recently from
Vietnam with a model of a low-cost hearing aid that he wanted to
introduce into Nicaragua through our organization. Unfortunately, the
Tecnica officers were reluctant to be tied publicly with Morty who still
had the stigma of being an atom spy. This was not one of our finer
moments, in my opinion. That being said, Morty can be cantankerous at
times and did not help matters.
The circumstances of the Rosenberg martyrdom will likely never be
repeated. It rests on the peculiar status of the CPUSA, which was
committed at the highest levels to serve the interests of the USSR on
the most narrowly conceived basis. If this meant applauding the bombing
of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, so be it. In the case of the Rosenbergs, you
had what appears to be a cavalier disregard for the web of associations
between a man ready to *act nobly* for the survival of socialism in the
USSR--no matter how flawed--and his comrades. If a socialist government
is looking for friends to help out in countries organizing to destroy
them, it seems much more useful to seek out people such as Ana B. Montes
and not people with long-standing roots in the radical movement.
The New York Times
October 12, 2002 Saturday Late Edition - Final
Pentagon Aide, a Cuban Spy, Is Described as Unapologetic
By TIM GOLDEN
A high-ranking Pentagon intelligence analyst who spied for Cuba because
she opposed American policies toward Latin America "in no measure
apologizes for her betrayal of the United States," federal prosecutors
said in a court document filed yesterday.
The analyst, Ana B. Montes, pleaded guilty to espionage last March,
acknowledging that for 16 years she provided Fidel Castro's government
with top-secret information, including the true identities of four
American undercover intelligence officers.
Law-enforcement and intelligence officials said that Ms. Montes had been
motivated by her political beliefs and apparently took no money from the
Cuban government other than the payment of some expenses for her travel
to meet with its agents.
In a memorandum filed in federal district court in Washington in advance
of Ms. Montes's sentencing next Wednesday, the prosecutors said they
were satisfied with her cooperation during debriefings.
"For over six months she has cooperated with various law-enforcement and
intelligence components without reservation," they wrote.
Nonetheless, the prosecutors sharply attacked Ms. Montes's conduct,
saying, "she condones a life of deceit and turns a blind eye to the risk
she placed others in by compromising sensitive and highly classified
military and intelligence information."
"Although she wishes she had never been caught," they continued, "she in
no measure apologizes for her betrayal of the United States to the Cuban
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