Cultural Revolutions

R.I.P. Erwin Knoll

I first met Erwin Knoll in a Turkish restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin, where he had been editing the Progressive since 1979. One of Erwin's younger colleagues asked me several times in the course of lunch what could possibly interest a right-winger in such a magazine. As leftist as the Nation in many respects, the Progressive nonetheless was the last vestige of Midwestern populist-progressivism that stood up both to American imperialism and corporate plutocracy. And it was this strain of American revolt that interested me. Knoll, for his part, wanted to hear about Russell Kirk, whom John Judis had assured him was something more than the run-of-the-mill lackeys of the regime who call themselves conservative.

In this and subsequent meetings. Knoll was affable, courteous, and fairminded. When we debated on Milt Rosenberg's radio show in Chicago or when Erwin interviewed me for his own program in Madison, he was able to maintain his own position without attacking the character of his antagonist. Indeed, it was hard to think of him as an antagonist at all, only a genial uncle who had been unable to detach himself from a leftism that was increasingly incapable of resisting the power of the regime.

Knoll and the Progressive became famous, or rather infamous, for their militant advocacy of the rights of a free press. When they published H-bomb plans that were in the public record—in order to reveal the danger...

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