Raya Dunayevskaya on Roy Cohn

The Marxists Internet Archive has made available a 1954 column by Raya Dunayevskaya on Roy Cohn (1927-1986), Joseph McCarthy’s chief lawyer and lieutenant. The piece is titled “The Gang Lawyer” and appeared in Correspondence in February 1954. The timing of this piece was prescient, as it appeared shortly before the opening of the televised Army-McCarthy hearings, which were to be McCarthy’s downfall.

Although an effort to rehabilitate McCarthy is an organic part of the current right-wing resurgence in the U.S., Roy Cohn is to my knowledge not included along with his mentor in the effort. Cohn might be most familiar to people today through his prominent appearance as a character in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, or perhaps through a reference to him in at least one episode of The Simpsons.

Dunayevskaya’s critique of Cohn highlights his mercenary nature. His anti-Communism was of the opportunistic variety, which is perhaps worse than that of the true believers of the John Birch Society. Cohn simultaneously aspired to succeed within the establishment and to flout its conventions by (in his later years) representing mobsters and defying the IRS.

“The Gang Lawyer” was reproduced in News & Letters in May 1973, at the time of the opening of the Senate Watergate hearings.

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