Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hell on Earth (2)

Continuing Hell on Earth, Brutality and Violence Under the Stalinist Regime, on page 37, Kowalski writes, “In a discussion thread on Stalinism, at Montclair State University, one professor accused me of rekindling Cold War propaganda and of misrepresenting reality. He wrote: ‘Your web pages on Soviet labor camps and the number of deaths in them and in the USSR during the ‘30s generally are a gross distortion of reality. There has been a great deal of research on these subjects in the past 20 years. Your web pages show zero familiarity with it. . . . According to the NKVD archives, in every year between 1934 and 1953 more inmates were released from the hard regime camps than died there, usually 2-5 times as many . . . . It is revealing that you lump together Hitler, Stalin and Mao. This is a relic of Cold war disinformation. Stalin did not ‘kill tens of millions,’ neither did Mao.’”


Sympathy for Communist ideals is alive and well in academia across the United States and Europe. Kowalski’s professor doesn’t want to talk about Stalin’s crimes because Stalinism is the reductio ad absurdum of Marxist Socialism and this professor along with many others still harbors hope for that system. He is like Barnardine Dohrn hoping for a better Socialism in the future: . The radical left has more faith in Marxist Socialism than it does in Liberal Democracy. Professor Kowalski is dealing with something modern Leftists want to get past. Let’s forget about Soviet Communism and the Cold War, they argue. Let’s just shorten that to “the cold war,” and get on with politics, meaning let’s continue to try to advance Anti-American causes.

Liberal Democracy may not be the best system that can ever exist. But it is the best system that has come into existence thus far. Any system that attempts to improve upon it will have a tough row to hoe. A lot of work has gone into Liberal Democracy. Marx had some legitimate complaints against early Capitalism, but the system has been modified until it has accepted a lot of the pro-labor entitlements without sacrificing the basic dynamics of Capitalism. In France they have erred, I believe, in voting themselves more entitlements than they can afford, but they still have a Liberal Democracy and they can correct this error in the future. However, if they or any Western nation replaces Liberal Democracy with a centralized government so powerful that power has been taken out of the hands of the voters, then they move into the risky realm that Professor Kowalski worries about. How shall we prevent dictators as evil as Hitler and Stalin from ever gaining power? One way is to prevent a centralized government from ever gaining so much power that an individual can usurp the state's power.

Kowalski quotes someone to say that “nothing like the genocide in Rwanda could happen in America.” He responds with, “I am not certain she is correct,” meaning, perhaps it could happen in America given what we know about human nature. Kowalski is theoretically correct. We saw a time when one of our presidents, Roosevelt, could have taken on dictatorial power if he had wanted to. A charismatic president who had party control of both houses and the right sort of emergency, and he had emergencies aplenty, could get himself voted dictatorial powers “for the duration of the emergency” and he could then make sure that the emergency never ended. That is possible in any Liberal Democracy, but less likely in America than elsewhere. The precedent of presidents stepping down when their terms were over is very strong in America. Also, we read Hofstadter ( ) saying, “In Material power and productivity the United states has been a flourishing success. Societies that are in such good working order have a kind of mute organic consistency. They do not foster ideas that are hostile to their fundamental working arrangements. Such ideas may appear, but they are slowly and persistently insulated . . . They are confined to small groups of dissenters and alienated intellectuals, and except in revolutionary times they do not circulate among practical politicians.”

1 comment:

Ludwik Kowalski said...

The link to Lawrence's book review was posted this morning at Montclair State University "discuss" list. I expected a debate about what was posted by Lawrence. But this did not happen. The only professor who commented criticized Lawrence, not what he wrote. He is "an opinionated person to celebrate his own personal views; he seems to have some hardline rightist anti-communist political views, and makes no attempt to be impartial. He is promoting an agenda."

My first reaction was to write that the author of the message is also not impartial about many things. Each of us wants to promote a "personal view." How can a person be objective about something that is dear to him or her? Each blogger offers his or her point of view. That is what blogs are for.

Objectivity (impartiality) is a great topic worth discussing, but not when only one person responded to what I posted this morning. I have no doubt that at least one hundred people read my message. Most of them are not interested in Stalinism.

Thanks for reviewing my book, Lawrence.