Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fugitive Days, Leftists In Denial

Since Bill Ayers in Fugitive Days (2001) was writing something that isn’t quite true but feels true, I am sometimes ready to understand some things he said as something he believed back in the 60s but subsequently rejected; except it doesn’t feel as though he has rejected it, and when I recall what he said at a recent SDS reunion, I am quite sure he hasn’t.   Here is Ayers on page 60:


“When Ruthie Stein challenged them, I felt a surge of pride and power in my blood.  If we don’t stop this war now, she said, the casualties will include justice and progress here in America.


“. . .  I felt ecstatic to be with Stan and Ruthie.


“I knew the war was illegal and could hammer that point all night and all day.  I felt its dead dehumanizing grip the moment I saw Stan’s photograph, and increasingly so, the more I looked and the more I learned.


“I leapt into the discussion then, inflamed, hoping to give the moment its due.


“What kind of a system is it that allows the U.S. to seize the destinies of the Vietnamese people?


“What kind of a system is it that disenfranchises Black people in the South, leaves millions upon millions impoverished and excluded all over the country, creates faceless and terrible dehumanizing bureaucracies and puts material values before human values – and still calls itself free and still finds itself fit to police the world?”


I have attempted to debate people who used that very approach.  I try to turn what they say into an argument:  “What is your evidence?  Have you studied the history of the Cold War?  Did you know about Kennan and the Truman Doctrine?  What do you mean by ‘illegal.’ Do you believe Communism should be opposed?  I would get mere ranting and insults in response.  They have a mind set, not an argument.  As Collingwood would say, they have a different “constellation of presuppositions.” 


Consider now Haynes and Klehr’s In Denial, Historians, Communism & Espionage (2003), page 5:


“Our focus has not been on Cold War diplomacy but rather on the domestic controversy about American communism, a dispute going back to the late 1940s and the creation of postwar American culture.  These disagreements – often involving different evaluations of how to weigh certain kinds of evidence, different views about the significance of certain statements, and different accounts of motives and outcomes – generated much heat and little closure because, at heart, they were based on very different moral assessments of communism and of America.  One viewpoint, which we shared, was critical of American communism, seeing the Communist Part of the United States of America (CPUSA) as profoundly antidemocratic in both theory and practice.  This ‘traditionalist’ interpretation also saw America’s constitutional order as deserving the loyalty and support of its citizens and attacked American Communists for their subordination to a hostile foreign power.  The opposing ‘revisionist’ stance took a benign view of communism, arguing that Marxism-Leninism embodied the most idealistic dreams of mankind and that American Communists were among the most heroic fighters for social justice in the nation’s history.   Revisionists saw American democracy as a fraud camouflaging capitalist oppression and aggressive imperialism. . . .”



COMMENT:   I want to argue with Ayers.  Someone might object saying, “hey Lawrence.  Ayers is referring to something he ‘felt’ back in the 60s.  It would be anachronistic to argue with him with what you know now.”


Oh yeah?  I could show you messages in my inbox using the same sorts of “rants” that Ayers does above.   That hasn’t changed, and I don’t believe Ayers has either.  He still believes what he wrote. 


Haynes & Klehr write on page 1, “Communist regimes survived for much longer than Nazi Germany, and their combined victims vastly outnumber those murdered by European fascism.  Yet the enormous human cost of Communism barely registers in American intellectual life.  Worse, a sizeable cadre of American intellectuals now openly applaud and apologize for one of the bloodiest ideologies of human history, and instead of being treated as pariahs, they hold distinguished positions in American higher education and cultural life.”


Their choice of the words, “distinguished positions” is applicable (unintentionally, no doubt) to Ayers.  From Wikipedia: “Ayers is currently a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education. His interests include teaching for social justice, urban educational reform, narrative and interpretive research, children in trouble with the law, and related issues.”


Do you really want someone with those views teaching your children?   We criticize the controls we read about in China, but they do inhibit their radicals.  Here we allow our radicals to teach and mentor people who eventually run for president.


Lawrence Helm






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