Sunday, December 14, 2008

RE: Am I a Right Winger? [Re Ludwik's book about Stalinism]

Susan H:

Why do you want to know who I am? That smacks of an ad hominem presupposition. I have my own presupposition based on countless debates with Leftists and have encountered the view: Tell me who you are and I’ll tell you what you think. There are some exceptions, but most try to make things personal. They have no arguments and don’t seem to know how to debate. They don’t know the rules of logic nor the requirements of a formal argument. They like to curse and insult me, but the don’t like to debate.

I have studied so much during my long life I would object to any particular pigeon hole you might try to put me into. I was a little amused that while wanting to know who I was, you were upset with Ludwik for telling me who you were.

Ah, this time you use the word “objective.” Last time you used the word “impartial.” Impartiality implies the treating of two combatants as equals. It neglects the concept of the “enemy.” When one fights a war, one must not, if one is to be effective, treat one’s enemy the same as one’s comrades. That’s merely common sense. I’m sure even people in hunter-gatherer societies knew that.

As to “objectivity,” perhaps here we enter the realm of hermeneutics. R. G. Collingwood in his The Idea of History sought, among other things, to determine how closely an historian should be able to approach absolute objectivity. One must recognize that it is impossible for anyone to achieve absolute objectivity about anything. One always brings something to the table, usually lots of things. He referred to them as “constellations of presuppositions.” We all have them. What he ended up with was that the historian should own up to his presuppositions and then as far as possible attempt to ignore them. He should attempt to write his history as though he were living in the time or place of his subject.

Now as to the matter of being “objective” about Communism, that is as subject I have studied at length, not recently I must admit. Back in the 50s a classmate attempted to recruit me to that point of view. I was working my way through college out of the Teamster’s Union and he worked for the Longshoreman in the Los Angeles Harbor. He couldn’t debate me or analyze the subjects all that well so he brought me book after book. He had a Communist guru whom I never met, an old timer in the Longshoreman’s Union whom my friend admired. He wanted to get us together to debate the various issues; which I was amenable to, but his guru declined. Back in those days I was a Leftist. I read Das Kapital. I read other writings of Marx and Engels and all the writings of Lenin I could get my hands on. I recall a rather thick volume simply entitled Dialectical Materialism which my friend described as the scholarly synthesis of Communism. I read a 2 volume history of the Cold War by a Communist Scholar. I read histories of the Chinese Civil War and the Cuban invasion, and books I can’t bring to mind at this time. At some point I encountered a former Communist who said he no longer held to those beliefs. He wanted me to have his library. It was heavy into writings by and about American Communists. I read about Big Bill Haywood and the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), for example.

At that time, in the 50s and the early 60s, I was probably not objective about Communism. I never joined the party but I was in sympathy with its ideas. I was studying a lot of other subjects, but at some point I began approaching “objectivity” about Leftism and Communism. I expanded my reading in a number of different ways. Also there was the rather conclusive evidence of the Soviet atrocities that caused many in Europe, especially intellectuals in France to turn away from Communism. I could identify with the writings of Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut about French Philosophy of the Sixties, for example, and Judt’s writing about the embrace of Communism in France after WWII and then their subsequent disillusionment. I was also interested in the work of French intellectuals who were seeking alternatives to Communism. My approach toward “objectivity” moved me away from Leftism. Like the French I examined my nations history and found what was good in it.

It is interesting that Francis Fukuyama in his The End of History and the Last Man could assume that Liberal Democracy had conclusively defeated the only rivals to its existence, namely Communism and Fascism. Since the writing of his book in 1992, Islamism has been viewed by many as a serious threat to Liberal Democracy, but not by Fukuyama.

Okay, back to the matter of “objectivity.” Since I studied Communism, Leftist writings, etc over many years, to argue that I am no longer “objective,” as though I was a tyro about the matter, would be misleading. I passed through many phases and believe my view of Leftism and Communism is more informed now that at any time in the past. Typically, modern Leftists and Marxians haven’t studied these matters as much as I have. I have drawn conclusions about Leftism and Communism based upon evidence. What I have encountered in debates with Leftists is that they do not base arguments upon evidence. They have an “agenda” and ignore evidence and logical argumentation. If you accept their partisan views then you are right. If you do not accept them you are wrong. Evidence and logical argumentation don’t enter into the matter.

Lawrence Helm

-----Original Message-----
From: Susan Hussein
Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2008 11:33 AM
To: ludwik kowalski
Cc: MSU Discussion List; Lawrence Helm
Subject: Re: [discuss] Fwd: Re: Ludwik's book about Stalinism


If your response to my comments is to quote me selectively and misleadingly to some blog, I see no point in continuing to interact with you. As for your actions in revealing my identity and email address to the blogger without my consent, as you have done, that only confirms my resolution to ignore your posts from now on.

What do I mean by selective? That you failed to point out that my reason for characterizing the views of Helm was your glib and most likely false assumption that he was a professional scholar - and the obvious implication that his review would have the authority of a scholarly review. Because he does not identify himself on the blog, his views are the only way one can evaluate his credentials and outlook.

Saying a person is a scholar implies some effort on the part of that person, however small, to be objective. The point was not to trash Helm, but give you some guidance on evaluating web sites and the authority of their creators, as I pointed out. And Helm's response to my comment that he did not seem to be an impartial reviewer? He asks why I would want him to be impartial about Communism.

'Nuff said.

--Susan H

On Dec 14, 2008, at 2:15 PM, ludwik kowalski wrote:

OOPS, I forgot to post this on the list.

On Dec 12, 2008, at 5:38 PM, Susan Hussein wrote:

On Dec 12, 2008, at 10:33 AM, Susan Hussein wrote:

Hardly an impartial or scholarly reviewer. You might like his book 'though.

Dear Susan,

1) It turns out that the author of this book is a different

Lawrence Helm. Is it possible that other things you wrote also referred to a different person?

No. They were all taken from his blog.

Anyway, the topic I wanted to discuss was not Helm's opinions, or your book, which has had plenty of notice on this list. I picked up on your 'guessing' he was a scholar, and wanted to comment on the topic of drawing conclusions about things like the credibility we give to online comments.

Since Helm does not reveal on the blog who he is, for all anyone knows he could be Ludwik Kowalski - or Susan Hussein - masquerading as a gun-toting Rhodesian Ridgeback fanatic.

This does not matter to me. I am more interested in what he wrote about my book.

See above. I thought we were ready for a new topic.

Did you see anything wrong in it?

I saw plenty wrong with it:

• It comes from a blog that is being used by an opinionated person to celebrate his own personal views;

• No matter who he is, he seems to have some hardline rightist

anti-communist political views, and makes no attempt to be impartial. He is promoting an agenda.

--Susan H

Dear S..........,

Inspired by your message I made a short comment at

I believed this to be the end of the story. But, to my surprise, L. K. Helm just posted another message. I guess it is appropriate for me to make the list aware of this. He is addressing the interesting issue of being a right-winger. He would probably like to discuss this issue at the above website.

Those who want to see my short note should scroll down; his last article is at the very top.


Anonymous said...

It is Bill HAYWOOD, not Heywood. And, the organization is the *Industrial* Workers of the World, not the International Workers of the World.

Lawrence Helm said...

Thanks. I read Big Bill Haywood's book about 45 years ago but no longer have it. I should have checked Google to make sure I was remembering correctly but got lazy.

Unknown said...

Well, yes. Susan Hussein might think that I am following that suggestion on my blog, but not so. I only began that in August 2008 because some angry lady on a Ridgeback discussion group turned me in to the Anti-Terrorist task force for carrying a gun while walking my dogs in a coyote and feral-dog-invested river bottom. Since I retired I have written 7 novels. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it, my success in Engineering resulted in such a nice retirement package that I don’t need any additional income. In other words I don’t have to sell any of my novels. Novelists who started out starving describe sending their novels out 50 or 60 times before getting them accepted. A modern novelist Vince Flynn sent his off that many times and never got accepted; so he published his first novel himself. But I don’t have that incentive. I’ve sent most of my novels off a couple and then lost interest.
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