Friday, December 12, 2008

Hell On Earth (3)

I completed reading Hell On Earth, Brutality and Violence Under the Stalinist Regime by Ludwik Kowalski. I was especially interested in the last section where he presents Discussion-group interchanges with other professors. Those interchanges parallel discussions I’ve had on similar subjects. One very interesting characteristic of the Leftists I’ve argued with, Leftists like the Professor 1 (referred to in Chapter 7), is that they don’t address main arguments. They quibble. Rather than address the horrors of Stalinism, he quibbles about how many were killed, and seems to want to make the point, if I read him right, that Stalin didn’t personally kill anyone and that therefore Professor Kowalski is being irresponsible for saying so. These are tangents that Leftists I’ve debated urge in lieu of dealing with my main arguments. I would ask Professor 1 what he thinks of Liberal Democracy. Does he think it is the best system ever devised, or would he prefer scrapping it for a “better Socialism”? Pardon me for suspecting the latter.

Another characteristic of the Leftist in academia is an admiration for Chomsky. Chomsky is indeed a prominent fellow. I’ve heard him speak a number of times and read many of his articles. I’ve accumulated a little collection of his books to read some rainy day. Professor 1 seems to be implying that it is wrong to say anything against Stalinism unless you can say everything about it. Professor Kowalski does well in demonstrating that isn’t true. He has his experiences. He has read testimonies and autobiographies. He can say things about them. As to the numbers killed by the Soviets, there is nothing wrong with seeking experts on the subject and quoting them. Maybe professor 1 has read more about the number killed by the soviets, but has he read more than Robert Conquest? Maybe Getty has better arguments than Conquest, but maybe not. It is after all a quibble, in terms of the main arguments, to debate Getty’s numbers versus Conquest's.

Also, there is the matter of what we read. Since 9/11 I have been studying Islamism, Islam, and matters pertaining to them with a good deal of concentration. I was interested that Leftists deny the Islamist threat much as they deny Soviet atrocities. Leftist are far more comfortable in blaming America. Were we attacked on 9/11? Well we must have deserved it. Leftists like Professor 1 can listen to famous anti-Americans like Chomsky and Ward Churchill and be encouraged by them, but it is rather easy to associate them with the ongoing Leftist movement that has been closely associated with “Communist Propaganda” in the middle part of the last century. It is illuminating for example to read about the McCarthy era in light of new discoveries obtained from the declassification of the Venona Papers. (see Venona, Decoding Soviet Espionage in America by John Earl Haynes & Harvey Klehr). Haynes and Klehr also got a look at the KGB archives to verify that many of the people McCarthy and others thought were Communist agents, really were. It turns out that most of McCarthy’s accusations were the truth. J. Edgar Hoover was feeding McCarthy information but couldn’t be open about it else the Soviets would learn that the Venona Project had decoded the code they used for diplomatic purposes. Arthur Herman attempted to reevaluate McCarthy in light of this new information (see Joseph McCarthy, Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Hated Senator). I attempted to discuss this new interpretation of McCarthy on several occasions and discovered that people just aren’t willing to change their minds: McCarthy was evil. Bad for McCarthy, but bad for Stalin as well. Good luck, Getty, on rehabilitating Stalin.

Anticipating what Professor 1 would say about my views of Chomsky, I concede that I have yet to read the books by Chomsky I have on my shelf, but I have heard him speak, and I have read articles, and I can assert with great confidence that Chomsky spends a lot of time advancing anti-American arguments. The Left loves him, because the Left is Anti-American. What is the significance of Anti-Americanism in this context? Americanism, or to pin it down more clearly, Liberal Democracy, is the greatest threat to Leftism. In fact it would be better to turn that around a bit by saying that in the 20th century there was a great battle between Liberal Democracy and two Socialistic Systems. The first was National Socialism and the second Communism. These two systems, and the nations that most prominently advanced them, were defeated by nations embodying Liberal Democracy. So if you are a Leftist and an admirer of Marxism-Leninism, then you are going to hate America for having been prominent in the defeat of the great exemplar of Marxism-Leninism, Soviet Russia. You are going to mourn the Soviet system and hate America.

Yes, many are declaring Arch Getty the foremost authority of Stalinism, but one used to Leftist propaganda in America would treat this praise with suspicion. Here is an interesting review of Getty’s Road to Terror by someone not oriented in a Leftist direction: . Is there a Leftist desire to rehabilitate the Soviet experiment as much as possible? Of course. Leftism can’t spend all is time being anti-American. It must be pro something as well. And what is there? If like Barnardine Dorhn they long for a “better Socialism” it is to their advantage to find something noble in what happened in Soviet Russia. They may want to claim that the Soviets didn’t get it right, but they spent too much time supporting and agreeing with the Soviet-Russian cause for that to be credible. They must do their best to sanctify Stalin and his Soviet Communism. A blatant hagiography of Stalin wouldn’t be accepted by many, but perhaps he was being blamed for more than he should have been. I’m sure this is important to Professor 1, but not to most of the rest of us. As in Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, The Banality of Evil, she obviously cared about Eichmann’s motivation. One can read her book and understand her concerns, at least I can, but what she argues doesn’t take away from the evil that was National Socialism; although she was accused of doing just that. In reading the Paul Mitchenson review I was reminded of Arendt. He seems to fault Getty for not putting his questions about Soviet party politics in the context of the Soviet slaughter at every point.

So while conceding that Getty may not be an apologist for Stalinism, I must observe that Professor 1 seems to see him in that light. When he writes “The ‘Cold War’ versions are simply lies, ‘disinformation.’ I would not be surprised if this turned out to be the case with the Katyn massacres as well,” he is exposing his hope for as much rehabilitation of the great Socialist experiment as possible. Perhaps we all hide behind our words, but he doesn’t seem to be hiding all that much. I would be surprised if he isn’t with Dorhn hoping for a “better Socialism” in the future.

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