June 19, 2016

63 years since the Cold War murdered Ethel & Julius Rosenberg

"Save the Rosenbergs" rally in France
Brendan Campisi

Today it will have been sixty-three years since Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted of spying for the Soviet Union. While I believe that the actions the Rosenbergs were accused of -- helping the USSR break the US monopoly on nuclear weapons -- were an act of service to humanity, the details of what they did and did not do are, in the final analysis, not that important.

As Julius Rosenberg said: "This death sentence is not surprising. It had to be. There had to be a Rosenberg case, because there had to be an intensification of the hysteria in America to make the Korean War acceptable to the American people. There had to be hysteria and a fear sent through America in order to get increased war budgets. And there had to be a dagger thrust in the heart of the left to tell them that you are no longer gonna get five years for a Smith Act prosecution or one year for contempt of court, but we're gonna kill ya!"

In short, an example had to be made.

It is also not a coincidence, as many recognized at the time, that those who the US state chose to make this example of were Jews. In essence the Rosenbergs were accused of placing an international loyalty -- to the working class and the socialist camp which represented it -- above loyalty to the nation. This clearly echoes classic tropes of Jewish disloyalty repeated by anti-semites from Churchill to Henry Ford to Hitler. But the Rosenbergs' Jewishness has a second significance. During the postwar era Jews and other 'ethnic' Europeans were more than ever being offered the carrot --occupational and educational advancement, suburban prosperity -- in exchange for conformity to the institutions of US society, for becoming good white Americans.

The execution of these two Jewish communists served as a message, as the execution of the Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti had, that for those who refused and held onto such un-American notions as class struggle, revolution and proletarian internationalism, there remained the stick.

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