Response to essay on Graff

From: dbsuchof@COLBY.EDU (David Suchoff)

I am overjoyed to see the relationships between these culture wars and the fifties finally drawn out by someone who knows! One top of the head reaction I had was to this part, where you cite Bellow to fine effect:

"More interesting is Bellow's notion that those who formed anti-anticommunism had been either outright communists earlier, *or*liberals whose liberalism became "liberal fanaticism" when in the 1950s they refused to participate in McCarthyism. These anti-anticommunists, Bellow suggests, are the principal forerunners of advocates of "political correctness" forty years later."

Bellow's line sounds like a slight rehash of the "status anxiety," "consensus" line on McCarthysim from the 50s, by Lipset et alia, that tried to explain McCarthysim as a "mass" movement of former, disgruntled radicals. Michael Rogin tried to do this in in _McCarthy and the Intellectuals: the Radical Spectre_ (1967).

This is why I cheered hooray when I read your statment to the effect that Graff forgets to make the counter-argument against the consensus. This seems a crucially important insight to me. What I sense from your review is the basic argument that the kind of centrist pose Graff takes belongs to the same teleology as neo-conservatism. In the fifties, the liberal "consensus" or pluralist positions _against_ McCarthy's demonizing of communists of course led to neo-conservatism, which in the culture wars has given us McCarthy with an anti-racial/sexual difference face. Graff, it seems to me can't face up to critique of liberalism that have appeared in spades in what were up to now called "containment" arguments; the academy, for its part, most often refrained from called these "historicist" critiques by name, fearing to bite the hand that fed it. Perhaps now Gingrich, by threatening the meal, will force the critique of liberalism to accept its name --a critique of liberalism from the left --so that the choice will not be Rightism, or a neo-conservatism in leftist/liberal clothing.

I have an essay entitled "The Rosenberg Case and the New York Intellectuals" (supposed to be coming out soon) that takes up the Leslie Fiedler case 50s/90s in the conclusion, but it's nothing like the full and informed treatment you give Graff here. I also did a paper once on Steven Greenblatt's "Learning to Curse: Aspects of Linguistic Colonialism in the Sixteenth Century" as an allegory of the Irving Howe/Ralph Ellison debate.But the number of people interested in these returns of the not so repressed have been few.

David Suchoff
Dept. of English
Colby College
Waterville, ME 04901