Preferred Citation: Newman, Robert P. Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.

Chapter Eleven The Triumph of Ideology over Politics

Chapter Eleven
The Triumph of Ideology over Politics

The public sniping at Lattimore begun by Eastman in Reader's Digest and by Kohlberg in China Today grew steadily. Lattimore became the arch-heretic on what was now the most sensitive subject in American politics: China. He insisted that Chiang had to reform his government in order to merit additional American aid; he promoted a united front government in which Chiang would give up some of his power and the Communists would give up their independent army; and he bucked the conventional wisdom by insisting that Mao was not a puppet of Moscow and that Sino-Soviet conflicts would count for more than ideological affinities.

Lattimore did not realize at the time the extent to which geopolitics had lost ground to ideology in the United States. He had always been non-ideological, more pragmatic than crusading. He was not in the United States during the Red Scare of 1919-20 and had not experienced the blind fury of anticommunism that lay beneath the surface of American society.[1] He had been well schooled in ways of capitalist firms during his years with Arnhold and Company and knew that the bottom line was profit or loss. Lattimore extrapolated this hardheaded attitude to international relations; Haushofer was correct in talking about Lattimore's "ice-cold strategy."[2] Self-interest, to Lattimore, would always triumph over ideology.

He had good company in this belief. After the German attack on Russia in 1941 American ideological opposition to the Soviet Union began to give way to support of Soviet efforts to destroy Hitler. Even the right-wing press and some Catholic authorities came to approve Lend-Lease to Russia and full cooperation with the Soviet military. In this change of mood Americans were following the lead of Winston Churchill, who was as


strongly opposed to bolshevism as any but who feared the power of Hitler even more. The American Legion supported aid to the Soviet Union; and in 1943 speakers representing the National Council of Soviet-American Friendship were invited to some American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars meetings.[3]

Many American business leaders also dropped their anti-Soviet attitudes to contemplate postwar sales to the Soviet Union. That country was in shambles; who but the United States could sell Russia what she needed to rebuild? Where but in Russia were the markets that could guarantee full employment for American industry and avert another depression? When Lattimore told Chiang in 1944 that the desire of American business to have an understanding with the Soviet Union in order to export American products "had not a whit of ideology in it," he was again correct. As late as March 1945 Nation's Business , published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, salivated over Soviet orders to General Electric, ITT, and Newport News Shipbuilding.[4]

American acceptance of the Russians as allies, however, was never monolithic. As the euphoria following Yalta dissipated, the Catholic church, the right-wing press, the American Legion, and the business community began an anti-Communist crusade supported by the FBI that by midcentury swept all before it.[5]

Bonnie Sharp Jefferson, in a study of the right-wing press during the period August 1945 through March 1947, found extensive and vigorous anti-Soviet coverage in the Hearst papers, the McCormick Patterson papers, Reader's Digest, Time, Life, Catholic World , and America . The Catholic papers were particularly incensed at Russian actions in Eastern Europe; the secular press was more concerned about events such as the Gouzenko spy case, the secret Yalta agreements, and the Soviet presence in Iran.[6]

And even as much of the business community was anticipating significant trade with Russia, the conservative wing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce took an opposite course. Peter H. Irons describes the Chamber operation in some detail; here it need only be noted that in December 1945 the Chamber of Commerce Board authorized a propaganda campaign against Communists in American labor. Francis P. Matthews, an insurance man from Omaha who had been national head of the Knights of Columbus (and was decorated a papal chamberlain), was named chair of this effort. Matthews secretly hired Father John F. Cronin to prepare the first Chamber pamphlet on communism.[7]

The whole Chamber campaign was securely in the hands of zealots. It


proclaimed that not just American Communists but also their bosses in the Soviet Union were mortal enemies. Matthews, appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Truman, was fired in 1950 for a bellicose speech advocating preventive war against Russia; the tenor of his ideology was shown by his claims that the United States was "the repository of the Ark of the Covenant" and that we were "the custodians of the Holy Grail."[8] Cronin was right with him; after investigating Communist infiltration of labor unions for his employer, the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Cronin made headlines by claiming, on March 10, 1946, that Communists had penetrated the federal government so deeply that there were 2,000 in federal jobs in Washington alone, 130 of whom were in policy positions. The next day five congressmen, including Edward Rees, Republican of Kansas, and John Rankin, Democrat of Mississippi, seized on his remarks to agitate for an investigation.[9] This was the beginning of the postwar resurgence of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Cronin welcomed the Chamber assignment. Eight days after his alarmist speech he wrote Matthews, "There are reasons to believe that Soviet armies may be on the march in but a few weeks. Christianity through much of the world is threatened. Within the nation, the Communist fifth column is functioning smoothly, especially within the ranks of government and atomic scientists."[10]

On October 7, 1946, Matthews released the Chamber of Commerce document, Communist Infiltration in the United States , over his signature, not wanting the public to suspect "there was any Vatican influence on it."[11] Although the Chamber's major concern was the unrest caused by Communists in labor unions, the newspapers emphasized claims of government subversion and the "cynical" betrayal of China to the Soviet Union at Yalta. Pro-Soviet foreign service officers were said to be responsible.

The Chamber report reinforced successful Republican efforts to capture Congress in the 1946 elections by using the Communist issue against Democrats. By the end of October more than two hundred thousand copies had been distributed, including one to every Catholic bishop; in November copies were sent to eighty thousand Protestant ministers. The report was instrumental in persuading Truman that he had to tighten government security; his establishment in March 1947 of a Federal Employee Loyalty Program was one outcome of the Chamber crusade. Subsequently the Chamber published two more anti-Communist tracts to which Cronin contributed. [12]

The beginnings of the inquisition were fueled not just by Cronin and


other prominent Catholic leaders such as Bishop Fulton Sheen and Cardinal Spellman; Hoover and the FBI surreptitiously fed information to Cronin, and the FBI director himself took to the hustings to evangelize his own alarmist beliefs about domestic Communist power.[13] The American Legion joined in, as did the right-wing newspapers. An anti-Communist obsession ruled the country for more than a decade. Lattimore and other "realist" geopoliticians were inundated in the process.

Shortly before Lattimore left on the Pauley mission, he signed to write a weekly column for the Overseas News Agency (ONA), a small, British-backed purveyor of opinion about foreign affairs located in New York. He wrote only one column before departing with Pauley; beginning in February 1946 when he returned from Japan, he wrote his weekly commentary without a break until the end of November 1949. The ONA articles provide a comprehensive picture of his thought during this period; when the Justice Department in 1953 engaged four bitter enemies of Lattimore to "analyze" his writings for a Communist slant, 195 entries in the analysis they produced were drawn from ONA columns. ONA did not have a large clientele, but articles did appear in such major outlets as the New York Herald-Tribune .[14]

When Lattimore started regular production of ONA commentary in February 1946, the Marshall mission to China was under way. Lattimore approved of it. He admired Marshall, though he had never met him, and believed that the contending forces in China could be reconciled. As he put it on February 23, "One major aspect of that policy [U.S. China policy] has improved immeasurably since General Hurley went over the hill with an Indian war-whoop and General Marshall, with dignity and silence, took his place in Chungking." But changing the flamboyant Hurley for the sober Marshall was not enough: "There are too many Americans in China right now, running too many kinds of things. . .. Nothing goes on in China without an American advisor attached to it, or an American mission poking into it. Pretty soon the Chinese Communists are going to become the symbol of straight nationalism in China, because they are the only people in China who don't have Americans looking over their shoulders every time they make a decision" (February 23, 1946).

Lattimore had initially been worried about the continuing Soviet presence in China. On March 8 he complained about the "Russians swarming all over Manchuria." By the end of May the situation had changed. The Russians were out of Manchuria. Now the Chinese Communists were free of the "biggest handicap" they had among their countrymen, the "accusation that they were really not a Chinese political party but the


agents of a foreign power. Today, the Americans are in danger of running into the same kind of bad public relations that the Russians had before" (June 3, 1946).

Lattimore sounded this theme repeatedly. On August 9 he claimed that the U.S. presence was "rapidly draining the 'reservoir of good will' which Wendell Willkie called our greatest asset." Lattimore considered this loss of goodwill a real tragedy, for despite his continuing belief that Soviet policies toward Asian minorities had been generally successful, and had created a "power of attraction," he had no illusions about Chinese attitudes toward Russia. In a long essay on Manchuria (May 7, 1946) he reviewed the history of Sino-Russian relations, noting that

it is important to remember that fear and dislike of Russia are older and more established in the Northeast than anywhere else in China. The feeling is not primarily political or ideological. It is just plain anti-Russian. The first Cossack raiders, after overrunning Siberia, penetrated to the Northeastern provinces a little earlier than the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England. Ever since then, the Russians have been regarded as a violent, uncontrollable and unpredictable people. The Chinese term hung-hutze, now a generally used name for bandits, literally means "red beards" and was originally applied to Cossack freebooters in the Amur region. The deeply ingrained fear of the Russians has, I hear, been added to by the recent behavior of Russian troops.

Chiang was beginning to squander this Chinese anti-Russian feeling. At the start of 1946 Lattimore still upheld the Generalissimo as a statesman with vision. As late as July 13 Chiang was following Lattimore's recommendation about policy toward Inner Mongolia and the vital frontier province of Sinkiang. There was to be a substantial degree of autonomy for these groups; and, reasoned Lattimore, if Chiang were easing authoritarian control over important minority groups, surely he would liberalize his regime as a whole, thus undercutting the demands of the Communists.

A column on July 19 emphasized Chiang's flexibility for maneuvering within the Kuomintang, where right-wing forces were pushing for military conquest of Communist-held areas and liberal forces were pushing for negotiation. Lattimore believed Chiang was too wise to yield to the war forces, knowing that were he to bring on a civil war, most of China would turn against him.

By August 24 he was no longer optimistic. John Leighton Stuart, who for fifty-two years had been a missionary and then president of Yenching University, was now U.S. ambassador to China and was pushing accom-


modation between Nationalists and Communists. But the government was not listening. Lattimore observed, "The Kuomintang Government's insistence that 'he who is not with us is against us' has led to serious losses. China's most important labor leader, strongly rightist for twenty years, has now turned against the government. And a growing group of modern-minded men and women, largely Western-trained, while refusing to go over to the Communists, is also refusing to support or work for the Kuomintang."

This was all grieving Stuart, and it grieved Lattimore.

By September civil war in China loomed large. Marshall's mission had failed, Stuart was failing, and hostilities were imminent. Lattimore's analysis on September 27, 1946, was prophetic but no longer favorable toward Chiang:

Both the Kuomintang and the Communists have to avoid, if they possibly can, the responsibility for breaking off negotiations utterly and finally, and forcing a real showdown, but for different reasons. The Kuomintang want to make the strongest appeal they can to American public opinion; the Communists want to make the strongest appeal they can to Chinese public opinion.

The Kuomintang are the war party in China. They have had monopoly control over the Chinese Government, and they do not want to negotiate, because real negotiations would lead to a compromise, and a compromise would mean surrender of some of their monopoly privileges. They would rather fight, but they know they cannot fight successfully without continuing American aid. Therefore they must try to see-saw between pretended negotiations and experimental use of military power until, if possible, they have persuaded American public opinion that the Communists are a stiff-necked generation of vipers who have no intention of ever being reasonable. Then, they hope, the Americans will finally get mad and tell the Kuomintang to go the limit, with full American backing.

The Communists are the peace party in China. The Chinese who are actual Communist party members, together with the regular Communist military forces, are not strong enough to fight a civil war on their own. They survive only because they have the support of millions of people who are not Communists. These people do not want civil war; they long for peace. They will not fight to protect the Communists. They will fight only to defend their own rights and interests. They are backing the Communists only because they fear the Kuomintang more than they fear the Communists.

In 1946 such an analysis did not attract lightning. By 1950 it was proof of subversion.


Things continued to get worse. As the Chinese national holiday on October 10 approached, Chiang, against American military advice, threw all his forces into an attempt to capture Kalgan (Changchiakow) in northern China. This was, according to Lattimore, a ploy to convince the United States that the Nationalists were going to win, so we might as well send them additional aid and speed up the process. Lattimore thought it was time to make a decision. Disillusioned as he was with the drift of Chiang's policy, he could not bring himself to say simply, "We should cut our losses and get out." That would open the way for Russian influence. His October 12 column was a long, agonizing statement of the pros and cons.

Staying behind Chiang was throwing good money after bad. Getting out would make us look like we were retreating under fire. Stalin was rubbing salt in our Chinese laceration, claiming that we were not "contributing to world peace in China." What to do? "There are two courses open to us. We can frankly ask the Russians for an undertaking that they will not come flooding in if we get out; or we can announce, as a purely American decision, that we have set up a definite calendar for getting out," but with a proviso that we could change our minds if the Russians did not cooperate. "Either alternative could be managed in such a way as to show dignity and a sense of responsibility, instead of the panic of a green gambler who has lost a foolish bet."

Despite his belief that the Communists were capturing an increasing support from suffering Chinese peasants and the disillusioned middle class, Lattimore did not believe that the Communists could win a civil war. He thought there would be a stalemate. This was his worst judgment during 1946, probably influenced by his lingering belief in Chiang's ability.

Throughout his 1946 commentaries on China, Lattimore never lost sight of his basic beliefs about the only way in which China could develop economically: private enterprise in a stable and peaceful environment. He made this point on August 14: "For us what counts in China is the future. To big business and little business, to Roosevelt and Henry Wallace New Dealers and N.A.M. conservatives alike, it is plain that no American policy in China can pay dividends unless the Chinese themselves make China safe for loans, investment, and trade." On November 16, appalled at the reactionary forces building in both China and Greece, he pied for support of the middle classes in those two nations:

It is to these people in the middle that the attention of statesmanship urgently needs to be directed. Economically, they stand for private initiative, private enterprise and profit, and the responsibility of the individual. Politically, they stand for the integrity of the individual as the unit of society. . . . They are all the more important because, in coun-


tries like Greece and China the losses of war have largely wiped out individual savings, which means private capital. In such countries, a large percentage of postwar enterprise will have to be supported by the State and what the State supports, it will also inevitably direct and control, at least to a certain extent. If, in these countries, we wish to keep alive the element of private enterprise, and eventually bring it back to health and vigor, then we must support these people in the middle.

We are not doing so in China. Our aid and our money are going into the hands of men who are in cahoots with monopolies which profiteer on scarcity, with rings of speculators, and with black marketeers. Recent dispatches from Shanghai and Tientsin, China's two greatest cities, tell the tale of independent businesses going bankrupt by the score. The business men who are thus put out of business will not welcome their sudden excess of spare time as an opportunity to rally round and help the government prosecute the civil war.

Eloquent, but too late.

Other Lattimore columns during the year sustained themes he had already expressed. One was anticolonialism. He deplored Dutch and French determination to retain sovereignty in Indonesia and Indochina and thought Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech little more than a plea for American help in retaining the British Empire. Later in the year when the Attlee government decided to free India, he applauded. He continued his distrust of the Japanese emperor and industrialists and praised MacArthur consistently for reining them in.

And a continuing major concern was for the welfare of the Mongols in China. Early in the year, as we have seen, Lattimore thought Chiang would deal with them generously. His contacts with Mongols in China now led him to believe that they most wanted home rule in a nonexploitive China; they would not opt for union with the Mongolian People's Republic unless the Chinese repressed them (March 29). Chiang's statements to the contrary, what Lattimore learned from returning observers was that the Chinese had behaved as conquerors and carpetbaggers in Inner Mongolia. He became increasingly pessimistic about the outcome. As to the Mongolian People's Republic, he strongly urged U.S. recognition and admission to the United Nations. This approach, he felt, would decrease Mongolian dependence on Moscow (September 6).

Lattimore's interest in the Mongols led to a major project of the Page School. Working through the American embassy in China, he contacted two young Mongols who had fled their homes when the Communists


took over and who in 1946 were working for the Nationalist government. Both were fluent in Mongol, Mandarin, and Japanese; both feared that opportunities for professional study of the Mongol language and culture would be minimal under the Nationalists, and they were both on the Communist list of traitors. Lattimore applied to the American Council of Learned Societies for a grant to bring them to Johns Hopkins. Eventually he succeeded, and in 1948 John (Gombojab) Hangin and Peter (Urgunge) Onon left China just ahead of the Communist forces sweeping into Nanking.

But the Page School, and Mongol scholarship, were not high-priority items in 1946 America. The highest priority was already anticommunism. Lending credibility to the Chamber of Commerce crusade was the announcement on February 15 by the Canadian government that a cipher clerk in the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, Igor Gouzenko, had defected, bringing with him extensive files that proved a Soviet espionage ring operated successfully in Canada; more important, the ring had links to similar rings in the United States and Britain. Twenty-two persons were arrested in Canada.[15]

The Gouzenko revelations built on the foundation of the Amerasia case. Frank C. Waldrop, a Hearst columnist whose article "How Come?" appeared in the Washington Times-Herald on June 6, 1946, quickly linked Lattimore to Amerasia and to the State Department. State was using Lattimore as an "instructor" in its lecture series for young career diplomats. (Lattimore lectured for the State Department precisely once.) Lattimore, said Waldrop, was a "bosom pal of Henry Wallace" and had been on the editorial board of Amerasia .

The day after Waldrop's column appeared, a House subcommittee under Sam Hobbs of Alabama, charged with investigating Amerasia , picked up Waldrop's challenge. It would now add to its agenda, according to the Baltimore News-Post , "an inquiry into reasons why Owen Lattimore, Hopkins University school director, former member of the Amerasia editorial board, is a current instructor of budding young diplomats in the State Department."[16] The News-Post also publicized for the first time a HUAC finding on Lattimore: he had "five listings in the index of Communist front organizations issued by the former Dies House Committee on Un-American Activities." Lattimore responded that this was the first he had heard of any such HUAC listing and commented that the "notion that I might be a Communist is utterly ridiculous. Of course, I am not." The same charges appeared again a month later in the Chicago Journal of Commerce .[17]


HUAC, under the nominal chairmanship of Representative John S. Wood of Georgia but really run by Representative John E. Rankin of Mississippi and J. Parnell Thomas of New Jersey, scored an unrecognized triumph in 1946. It had achieved permanent status as a regular committee of the House at the beginning of the Seventy-Ninth Congress and was receiving hefty appropriations to carry out its investigations; nevertheless, it seemed to be floundering until October 1946. In that month, as Walter Goodman describes it, the committee

reached out and grasped the life buoy of Louis F. Budenz. Budenz, preeminent example of the fervent Communist turned fervent Catholic anti-Communist, was like a tourist who is drawn to the shabbiest sections of all the towns he visits. As a Communist, he was managing editor of the Daily Worker ; as an anti-Communist since his break in 1945, he became a star performer for the passionate right. It was his inclination to melodrama that brought him to the Committee's attention in the fall of 1946. On Sunday, October 13, he delivered a radio talk in Detroit, in which he said that American Communists took their orders from a secret agent of the Kremlin. The disclosure was made in the language of The Shadow: "This man never shows his face. Communist leaders never see him, but they follow his orders or suggestions implicitly." On Tuesday Thomas announced that Budenz would testify before the Un-American Activities Committee.[18]

Until then Budenz had confined his attacks on his former comrades to the occasional speech and to debriefing by the FBI. He was at first nervous about entering the hurly-burly of congressional hearings; he requested, and was granted, a delay in his appearance until after the congressional elections.

The midterm elections of 1946 demonstrated that the tide was running strong for any who pursued anticommunism. Republican National Chairman B. Carroll Reece set the election theme in June: the choice that confronted Americans that year was between "Communism and Republicanism." The Democrats, said Reece, "were committed to the Soviet Union." House of Representatives Republican leader Joseph W. Martin of Massachusetts claimed the night before the election, "The people will vote tomorrow between chaos, confusion, bankruptcy, state socialism or Communism, and the preservation of our American life."[19] In California an unknown Richard M. Nixon defeated the Democratic incumbent, Jerry Voorhis (who had resigned from HUAC in disgust), by red-baiting. Voorhis was alleged to follow the Moscow line.

None of these politicians approached the anti-Communist venom of a


Republican candidate for the Senate in Wisconsin. Joseph McCarthy, and the newspapers supporting him, fraudulently attacked his Democratic opponent, Howard McMurray, as a Communist fellow traveller. McMurray had been endorsed, to his horror, by the Wisconsin Communist party, an endorsement that he promptly repudiated. The repudiation made no difference. McCarthy took the endorsement and ran with it, losing no opportunity to portray McMurray as disloyal. Joe McCarthy did not discover communism as a political issue in 1950. He had used it four years earlier.[20]

The Republicans swamped the Democrats that November. For the first time since Hoover was president, they controlled the Congress. The number of Democrats in the House fell from 242 to 188, in the Senate from 56 to 45.

HUAC, though still controlled by the Democrats in the fall of 1946, lost no time in capitalizing on the new respectability of red-baiting. J. Parnell Thomas, slated to become chair, and his South Dakota colleague Karl Mundt, took the lead in pressing their new mandate when Louis Budenz appeared before the committee November 22. As Walter Goodman tells it, Budenz

reviewed his ten years in the Communist Party, apologized for his infatuation, and discussed, in an informed way, the C.P.'s subservience to Moscow and the tactical disbanding of the Communist International early in the war. Rankin, Mundt, and Thomas, like handlers of a skilled but insufficiently bloodthirsty boxer, did their best during most of their three and a half hours together to free him of what inhibitions he may have had over turning the hearings into an anti-Communist rally. "I think the distinction you are trying to make, Mr. Budenz," Mundt drew him on gently, "is that what they actually have in Russia is not the Communism of Marx and Engels, but a dictatorship, and Communism under which people are denied a great many things under the concepts of Communism."[21]

Budenz obliged. As the hearing went on, he became less cautious. And he learned two things on November 22. He sensed first that an appearance before Congress was an attractive medium in which to display his newfound righteousness, and second that he would find a sympathetic audience. And he learned that he need not pull his punches in this protected environment, where he was shielded from libel. In fact, the congressmen who queried him wanted every bit of melodrama he could provide.

Harry Truman issued his order creating the Temporary Commission on Employee Loyalty on November 25. It was too little and too late. The


day after Truman's order, Parnell Thomas announced that the election results had given Congress new marching orders: they were to uncover and expose Communists of all hues in government, unions, Hollywood, education, and the atomic establishment. The New Deal was a Communist project and New Dealers were intrinsically subversive. HUAC set off in what Goodman accurately describes as a "frenzy."[22]


Chapter Eleven The Triumph of Ideology over Politics

Preferred Citation: Newman, Robert P. Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.