Arnold Beichman dies; anti-communist scholar and author

Arnold Beichman, shown in 1961, started out as a campus leftist and became a firmly anti-Communist newspaper columnist.
Arnold Beichman, shown in 1961, started out as a campus leftist and became a firmly anti-Communist newspaper columnist. (Emma Brown/the Washington Post)
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By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Arnold Beichman, 96, an author, scholar and influential polemicist best remembered for his sharply anti-communist writings, died Feb. 17 in Pasadena, Calif. He had congestive heart failure.

Mr. Beichman contributed weekly columns to the Washington Times for more than 20 years and wrote occasional articles and essays for other newspapers, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. He lectured at universities, including Georgetown, before becoming a research fellow in 1982 at Stanford University's conservative Hoover Institution.

He worked for the left-leaning New York daily PM before experiencing a political shift in the 1950s, when he befriended the conservative thinker Irving Kristol. Both men became vehemently anti-communist after sometimes uneasy flirtations with the left early in their careers. Mr. Beichman, the son of Ukrainian immigrants, was horrified by the rise of the Soviet Union's influence in Eastern Europe after World War II, including the crushing of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution by Soviet tanks.

Closer to home, he expressed disgust with the counterculture movement of the 1960s and those on the political left who portrayed the United States as racist and authoritarian. In 1972, he rebutted those New Left claims in the book "Nine Lies About America," for which the author Tom Wolfe wrote an introduction.

"I just thought Arnold was right on the money," Wolfe said in an interview Friday. "That was a time when if you went into a room full of intellectuals . . . with an American flag pin on your lapel, they would shrink back like werewolves facing the cross. It was a vogue of being anti-American."

Mr. Beichman, who for years agitated for a more aggressively anti-communist foreign policy, credited President Ronald Reagan with bringing about the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989. In 1991, he wrote a column calling for an annual holiday to commemorate the day "a hated symbol of 70 years of communist tyranny came to a squalid end." A decade later, President George W. Bush proclaimed Nov. 9 as World Freedom Day.

"As long as the Soviet Union existed, Arnold Beichman was there working for its destruction," David Brooks, now a New York Times columnist, wrote in the Weekly Standard in 2003. "This is why people go into opinion journalism, to be part of some large intellectual fight that brings one's life gloriously to a point."

Ejected from State House

Mr. Beichman was born May 17, 1913, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As an undergraduate at Columbia University, he served as editor of the college newspaper. When the ambassador from Nazi Germany visited the campus in 1933, a Communist student group demanded Mr. Beichman print an editorial calling for the cancellation of the ambassador's speech. He refused on the grounds of free speech.

He graduated from Columbia in 1934 and freelanced for the New York Times and other newspapers. In the early 1940s, he was hired at PM, where he wrote one of the first American accounts of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. He was thrown out of the Massachusetts State House in 1943 after writing an article about a string of anti-Semitic attacks in Boston that had been hushed up by the authorities and the local press.

"The Governor was spluttery angry," said a Time magazine report at the time. "He said to Reporter Arnold Beichman of New York's hyperthyroid PM: 'I should think that was a stinking article and you get right out of this office.' "

PM declared that Boston was a city "where the people talk only to Beichman but Beichman can't talk to the Gov."

Close to labor leaders

Beginning in the late 1940s, he worked for a series of anti-communist trade union publications and grew close to labor leaders. He called them "the only people you could trust in the fight against communism." He particularly admired AFL-CIO leader George Meany. "Intellectuals and General Motors and the U.S. Senate you couldn't trust," he said. "But Meany didn't budge."

Mr. Beichman also worked as a freelance writer, covering wars in Yemen, Algeria, Congo and Vietnam. In the mid-1960s, he returned to Columbia to study political science and received a doctorate in 1973. In recent years, he spent winters in California and summers on a farm in British Columbia.

His first marriage, to Doris Modry, ended in divorce. A son from that marriage, Anthony Beichman, died in the mid-1970s.

Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Carroll AikinsBeichman of Naramata, B.C.; a daughter from his first marriage, Janine Beichman of Tsukuba, Japan; two sons from his second marriage, John Beichman of Oakland, Maine, and Charles Beichman of Pasadena; six grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

In an interview last week, Charles Beichman said his father always considered himself an anti-communist Democrat. "He had what he felt were pretty bedrock values," the younger Beichman said, "and the left moved away from him and became more radical."

That liberal shift was dangerous, the elder Mr. Beichman wrote on the 50th anniversary of Stalin's death. "Without a cheering chorus of 20th century Western intellectuals, infected by a fusion of alienation, socialist utopianism and anti-Americanism," he wrote, "communism might never have attained its ideological-military dominance in the free world that it did."

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