Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Anti-American Left, French and American

One can almost excuse the fuzzy thinking that went into the French reaction to America after World War II. They were abysmally stupid in failing to prepare to oppose the Germans. They placed all their bets on a misty-eyed pacifistic appeasement policy. They were not willing to be preemptive against Hitler when they had the chance. They were not willing to back and support their military, and as a consequence they were easily conquered when Hitler decided to move against them. Did they learn anything about the foolishness of pacifism? No, of course they didn’t. Stupidity doesn’t just go away. It continues on and influences other decisions and conclusions. We Americans thought we were doing a good dead by invading France and driving out the Germans, but the befuddled French, at least the befuddled intellectual French didn’t see it that way. In their paranoia, they saw one “occupier” being driven out by another. And while this foolishness was abandoned when America left France, it morphed. We had established ourselves as occupiers like the Germans. Also, we opposed Communism just as the Germans did. Those who opposed Communism, were ipso facto Fascists; so there we were, condemned by French intellectuals as Fascists because we opposed Communism. So while America was opposing the advance of Communism during the Cold War, French intellectuals were opposing America.

On page 177 of Past Imperfect, French Intellectuals, 1944-1956, Tony Judt writes, “In the eyes of many French people at the time, by no means all of them sympathetic to communism, the West was responsible for the Cold war. From this it was but a short step to the ideas that the most practical form of help that one could offer the victims of Stalinism in East Europe was to oppose Western ‘militarism’ and American hegemony in Europe.”

On page 200, Judt writes, “. . . the interchangeability of Americans and Germans became common currency in many circles. The Communists now bluntly asserted the common identity of old and new occupiers. France was again an ‘occupied country’; the influence of American culture and capital was as pervasive and pernicious as had been that of the Nazis in the thirties and forties, and the task of all true Frenchmen was to ‘resist.’ Such analogies fell on fertile soil. Esprit, Observateur, and especially Temoignage Chretien displayed steady hostility to anything and everything American in the years 1948-53; economic aid, the Berlin airlift, Nato, the Korean War, the proposals for a European defense force, and the rearming of Germany were treated not merely as political or military errors, nor even as evidence of an American desire to extend and secure its economic influence. More than this, they were written and spoken about as confirmation of Americans’ drive to occupy and humiliate Europe, and France especially.”

Judt tells us, the common people in France “were overwhelmingly sympathetic to the United States in general . . . “ But our American Left was influenced by the French intellectuals, not the ordinary blue-collar Frenchman who were “overwhelmingly sympathetic.” Tony Judt has here been writing about circumstances fifty to sixty years ago, but how much has really changed in regard to the French opinions about America? The justification for the enmity has changed over the years, but the enmity has remained. And if anything, it has spread downward from the French intellectuals to the common people such that I doubt that Judt would try to tell us that today, the common people in France are ‘overwhelmingly sympathetic to the United States’.”

We are still out there opposing bad guys. We did it during the Cold War and we are doing it now in regard to Radical Islam, and just as the French opposed us during the Cold War, the French majority opposes us now in our opposition to Radical Islam. Furthermore, the views of anti-American French intellectuals has not only filtered down to the common Frenchmen, it has filtered down to the common American intellectual. One of the touchstones has always been “Stalinism.” Most of us recognize that Stalinism was an evil enterprise. Tony Judt wrote about the French intellectuals who abandoned the defense of Stalinism as more and more evil acts were reliably reported. The evils perpetrated by Stalin and his minions exceeded that of the evil perpetrated by the Nazis during the Hitler era. To defend Stalin is, we believe, indefensible, but here is what Haynes and Klehr write in In Denial, Historians, Communism & Espionage, pp 26-27. “In the course of review a book by two fellow leftist scholars, Barbara Foley, an English professor at Rutgers University, objected to their critical stance toward ‘Stalinism,’ writing that ‘the term ‘Stalinism’ perhaps needs deconstruction more than any other term in the contemporary political lexicon.’ She went on to endorse Arch Getty’s revisionist account of the Soviet Union and labeled Robert Conquest an ‘offender against what I consider responsible scholarship.’ In her own book, after some perfunctory acknowledgement that there was a dark side to Stalinism, Foley enthusiastically praised its ‘tremendous achievements . . . the involvement of millions of workers in socialist construction, the emancipation of women from feudalistic practices, the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism, the fostering of previously suppressed minority cultures . . . the creation of a revolutionary proletarian culture, in both the USSR and other countries.”

Barbara Foley was not writing back in the 40s or 50s. Her review was written in 1990 and her book published in 1993. On page 27, Judt tells us, “Grover Furr, an English professor at Montclair State University, lauded the creation of Communist regimes in an essay-review entitled ‘Using History to Fight Anti-Communism: Anti-Stalinism Hurts Workers, Builds Fascism.’ In Furr’s view, ‘billions of workers all of the world are exploited murdered, tortured, oppressed by capitalism. The greatest historical events in the twentieth century – in fact, in all of human history – have been the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of societies run by and for the working class in the two great communist revolutions in Russia and China.” This was published by Furr in 1998.

You might wonder why Furr thinks in 1998 that the overthrow of Capitalism by the USSR was such a great event, inasmuch as the USSR collapsed in 1989. Another Leftist Scholar gives us the answer: “Fredric Jameson (Duke University), one of the most influential and frequently cited figures in literary studies over the past several decades, has also been an enthusiastic defender of Stalinism. In 1990 he brushed aside the millions who died under Soviet rule and insisted that ‘Stalinism is disappearing not because it failed, but because it succeeded, and fulfilled its historical mission to force the rapid industrialization of an underdeveloped country (when its adaption as a model for many of the countries of the Third World).” Jameson wrote that in 1990.

Unless one has a solid framework, one is likely with Sartre to conclude it’s all a matter of opinion. We can agree with them as to the facts: Stalin did X, Y, and Z. But Foley, Furr and Jameson would conclude, “therefore Stalinism was good.” We on the other hand would look at these same facts and conclude, “therefore Stalinism was evil.”

In order to get hold of that framework for judging Stalinism evil, we can invoke our American “presuppositions”: We have our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and classical Liberal traditions. We who are not Leftists declare our “presuppositions” good. We don’t need to dismiss the “dark side” of American history, it has been lambasted by Leftists as long as Leftists have been writing in or about America, but we see those matters differently. Our presuppositions about them are different. In short we are American “Nationalists.” We don’t believe our nation is without error (any more than Foley believes Stalin’s USSR was without error), but we accept those errors and find not as wrong as people have written, better than the opposition, etc. Just as Foley, Furr and Jamison would argue about Stalin’s USSR.

Moving back to the facts of Stalinism X, Y & Z, we can judge them evil because they come athwart our American “framework.” Stalinism violates our American “Classical Liberalism,” therefore, given this presupposition, it is evil.

Foley, Furr, and Jamison can justifiably assert that they do not accept the presuppositions I’ve enumerated, and this is fair. We are justified in concluding about them that they are not supporters of American Nationalism. They do not support Classical Liberalism. They do not support our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. They, in fact, support something inimical to them. They are enemies of American Nationalism. We have resolved not to do anything litigious about our domestic enemies, but we are as entitled to call them out and identify them, just as Haynes and Klehr have with Foley, Furr, and Jamison. They are entitled to live in this nation they oppose, but we are entitled to expose them as intellectual enemies, enemies we tolerate – enemies in fact we honor by allowing them to teach our children because we don’t live in accordance with our presuppositions in any coherent fashion -- It seems to me we go too far in allowing our enemies a free hand in our nation. It has been argued that unless we do, our own freedoms will be infringed . . . perhaps.

Lawrence Helm



Anonymous said...

Those who know very little about Stalinism might learn a lot from my short and easy-to-read 2008 book entitled "Heaven on Earth: Brutality and Violence Under the Stalinist Regime." The book (ISBN 978-1-60047-232-9) can be ordered online, for example, at


or from a large bookstore, like Barnes&Noble or Borders. Excerpts are at:


Please share this URL with those who might be interested.

P.S. It is not a scholarly volume with new information or ideas;  it is an educational book for those Americans who know very little about tragic aspects of Soviet history. It mixes descriptions of well-known facts with comments and observations worth discussing.

As shown on the back cover, the book was not written to make money (royalties are committed to a scholarship fund);  it was written to expose horrors of  proletarian dictatorship. The  book is dedicated to all victims of Stalinism, including my idealistic father. My goal is to place as many of its copies as possible in  American homes, libraries and bookstores. But that is a very difficult  task, especially for a self-published author. Would you, or someone you  know, be able to review my book for a well-known newspaper?  A review would probably convince bookstores that the book is worth ordering.

Thank you for your help.
Ludwik Kowalski, Ph.D.

Anonymous said...

OPPS, I am sorry for the mistake. The title of my book is "Hell on Earth: Brutality and Violence Under the Stalinist Regime."

Yes, the term "workers'paradise" term was sometimes used to describe the Soviet Union.

Ludwik Kowalski, the author.

Lawrence Helm said...

Professor Kowalski: I responded in a subsequent note which you can read at http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2008/10/brutality-and-violence-under-stalinist.html

Lawrence Helm