Saturday, August 12, 2006

Robert Conquest: Corliss Lamont Chair of Civil Liberties like a Dr. Mengele Chair of Preventive Medicine

David Blank quoting from a letter from Robert Conquest in the History Network,
For half a century Corliss Lamont was the most consistent and best known American apologist for Stalin and the Soviet Union. Through the Moscow trials and the murders of Ehrlich and Alter and Leon Trotsky; through the Nazi-Soviet pact, the invasion of Finland, and the conquest of the Baltic states; through the murders at Katyn, the lowering of the Iron Curtain over eastern Europe, and the "Jewish doctors' plot"; through the years of the Gulag and the "unanimous" elections, there was Corliss Lamont faithfully explaining to the American people how much the West was maligning the Soviet Union and how close to Paradise the Soviet Union really was.

To show that he was totally non-partisan in his support of authoritarian societies, in 1977 Lamont coordinated the placement of an advertisement in the N.Y. Times (Jan 30) in which he and a group of like-thinkers indicated that "the present [Communist] government in Vietnam should be hailed for its moderation and for its extraordinary effort to achieve reconciliation among all its people". Of course a million boat-people may have had a different view.

In 1979, he and another group signed another advertisement in the Times (June 24) which stated that "Vietnam now enjoys human rights as it has never known in its history..." and approvingly quoted a resolution of the National Lawyers Guild that "clearly recognizes...that the reeducation program for [a half-million] former Saigon personnel carried out by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was absolutely necessary...". What a great civil libertarian!

The reason I got involved with Lamont's history was because, after earlier spending many years as student and faculty member at Columbia University, I belatedly learned that Columbia Law School had established a Corliss Lamont Chair of Civil Liberties! A Corliss Lamont Chair of Civil Liberties? As I wrote then-President Sovern, that is like establishing a Fritz Kuhn Chair of American Values or a Paul de Man Distinguished Professorship of Jewish Studies! Or, as Robert Conquest wrote to me, like establishing a Dr. Mengele Chair of Preventive Medicine. I wrote many people, inside and outside Columbia, about my anger at this appointment and received many letters in full agreement with me

David Blank

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