Tuesday, December 30, 2008

RE: on Lillian Hellman and Stalinism.

Ludwik Kowalski wrote,

I did not know who Lillian Hellman was. On the basis of information given above, I suppose she was one of many who believed in Soviet propaganda. In the late 1930s, the scale of Stalinist brutality and violence against Soviet people was not widely known to Western intellectuals, even to those who visited the USSR.

The present situation is very different; documented information about horrors of proletarian dictatorship is widely available. Marxism is said to be a theory based on experimental data (historical facts). Those who defend Marxism today must confront such data. What mistakes were made by Lenin and Stalin? How should the old ideas be changed to prevent repetitions? That should be their main preoccupation. Calling Soviet experimental data, such as horrors of collectivization, as "greatly exaggerated" and "cold war propaganda" is not acceptable. Soviet history, and the history of other communist countries must be studied, not ignored.

Lawrence responds,

Lillian Hellman was a committed Leftist her entire life and she died in 1984. She wasn't just about the 30s. I encountered her most recently in regard to her book, Scoundrel Time, written in 1976. It was written about her experiences with HUAC and the "McCarthy era." Collier and Horowitz wonder why Hellman discuss her reasons for writing her book so long after the events. "The exhumation of McCarthy's ghost was, for people like Hellman, not an aspect of writing history but a strategy for changing attitudes toward the past and therefore posthumously triumphing over it. It was also a way of rendering the political culture unable to criticize the renaissance of 'progressive' politics looming on the horizon, unable to challenge the crucial involvement of the Communists and elements of the hard-core Left in the nuclear freeze movement and in the effort to protect Communist gains in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Joe McCarthy, as it turned out was a man for all seasons."

"The 'lessons' of Vietnam and Watergate that the Left promoted held that America had no real enemies in the outside world or at home. It was threatened only by the phantoms of its cold war paranoia . . . ." [Collier & Horowitz, op. cit., pp 206-7]


Concern about Hellman is not antiquarian. The Left still uses the concept "McCarthyism" to silence critics, and Hellman is an integral part of the Left's argument in this regard in America. What people not on the left are very slow to do is to point out that McCarthy was never what the Left said he was. There really were communists doing the things he said they were doing. The information of the Venona and KGB files is available. There is no longer any excuse for Conservatives to be complicit in Leftist arguments about "McCarthyism." McCarthy attempted to combat Communism. We now need to combat the "sons of Communism" in its various forms. And to allow ourselves to be silenced by an accusation of "McCarthyism" is spineless.

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