I couldn’t quite make out this segment in a long sentence:
Dad at some celebration where the Comrade President pinned on him a medal for services to the Communists’ betrayal ;
Dad in the book is an official of the Communist Party. Could this “to one’s betrayal” be of a similar structure to the phrase “to one’s surprise” and thus forming an expression? “services” and “betrayal” are quite the opposite. Does this imply that awarding one a medal is not quite Communistic, thus constitutes “betrayal” according to the author? Or should “the Communists’ betrayal” be considered as a mass noun referring to people who betrayed Communism?
Thank you very much!
Here is the full sentence and more context:
I took out the box of photographs and selected some with Dad on them, both alone and with us. Dad as a young man and in old age; Dad in a blue shirt and red scarf wielding a pickaxe on some socialist labour brigade; Dad at the rostrum; Dad at some celebration where the Comrade President pinned on him a medal for services to the Communists’ betrayal ; Dad just before his death.
–Evan Klima, No Saints Or Angels
The phrase “to the Communists’ betrayal” is not an idiomatic construction that follows the same pattern as “to one’s surprise”. Its meaning — whatever that meaning is — is literal.
For me, the lack of clarity or ambiguity embedded in the text lies in the question of whether the services for which the medal was awarded relate to betrayal of the Communists (i.e. where the Communists were the people who were betrayed), versus betrayal by the Communists (i.e. where the Communists were the perpetrators of the betrayal).
In the context of the information you have supplied — describing a medal being pinned on one Communist by another — the inference I draw is that Dad had helped the Communists in some act or process of betrayal. (For instance, they might — with Dad’s assistance — have successfully infiltrated and subverted an organization belonging to their opponents.)
The author could have avoided the interpretation problem by not giving the description of the betrayal the same format as an attribute of possession; this is because the preposition that is essential for conveying the intended meaning without ambiguity would not then have been eliminated.