Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, “citizens of the world”

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Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

We’re on the third day of our probe into the history of the useful stooges who spent decades standing up for Soviet atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. We’ve seen that for those who accept evidence and reason, the debate about the Rosenbergs should, quite simply be over. But, as Rosenberg scholar Ron Radosh observed in 2011, “the descendants of the people who proclaimed the Rosenbergs’ innocence have now begun yet another campaign to rehabilitate them. They now argue that although it appears Julius Rosenberg was a Soviet spy after all, he gave little of value to the Soviets, was motivated by the desire to stave off atomic war, and in any case had nothing to do with handing over atomic information of any kind to the Soviet Union.”

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Staughton Lynd

Among these revisionists is Staughton Lynd, whose Wikipedia page identifies him as “an American conscientious objector, Quaker, peace activist and civil rights activist, tax resister, historian, professor, author and lawyer.” Lynd, wrote Radosh,

ros8objects to what he calls the triumphalism of those like me who have asserted [the Rosenbergs’ guilt] for years. More important for Lynd is that the couple refused to “snitch,” therefore making themselves heroes. He maintains that their trial was a “sham,” and he argues that even if they were guilty, they must be viewed as unadulterated heroes. Why? Because, he actually writes, the couple had “obligations as Communists, and as citizens of the world.” So, to Lynd, the Rosenbergs’ obligation to spy for Josef Stalin stands above any loyalty to their own country, not to speak of their willingness to make their own children orphans. Secondly, Lynd believes that if the Rosenbergs helped the Soviets get the bomb, that “might have been justified,” since he believes Soviet strength stopped aggression by the American imperialists.

Historian Howard Zinn discussed war, imprisonment, government, and the death penalty in Mandel Hall last Saturday. The event was held by The Campaign to End the Death Penalty.
Howard Zinn

As Radosh noted, Lynd’s argument reveals “the desperation some on the left have to descend to in order to maintain their view that the only guilty party was the United States.” Another example of this desperation: the late historian Howard Zinn, who wrote that what mattered about the Rosenbergs was not the question of whether they were spies but the fact that they hadn’t received a fair trial because of “cold war hysteria.” As Radosh commented: “That statement would have had some credibility if Zinn had acknowledged the couple’s guilt. But of course he argued that most of the witnesses against them were lying. No one on the left, it seems, is willing to offer any condemnation for the way in which the Rosenbergs betrayed their own country.”

David Greenglass
David Greenglass

In July of this year, the grand jury testimony of Ethel Rosenberg’s brother and fellow spy David Greenglass was made public. The New York Times and other major media, as Radosh noted, “rushed to the conclusion that this transcript proves the innocence of Ethel Rosenberg.” But only someone entirely ignorant of the case, and of the abundant evidence establishing Ethel’s guilt, could believe any such thing. The Guardian, as Radosh pointed out, ended its article on the subject “quoting a leftist true believer, Ilene Philipson, who tells the paper, ‘There was never really any solid evidence that she had been involved in any part of espionage.’ To the contrary, there is substantial evidence that Ethel Rosenberg was guilty as charged. Journalists could have found that evidence if they had taken the time to look.”

We’ll wrap this up tomorrow.

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