TCS Daily

It's a Disgrace This Book Had to Be Written

By Sidney Goldberg - February 26, 2004 12:00 AM

It's a disgrace that this book had to be written. A disgrace because so many Americans -- and so many others around the world -- still cling to the notion that Stalin doesn't deserve the opprobrium that has been visited on Hitler. This needs correction, even though it's decades after the fact.

The book, "In Denial: Historians, Communism & Espionage" (Encounter Books, San Francisco) is by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, who have written extensively on the crimes of Stalin -- indeed the whole Soviet regime from start to finish -- and on the slavish devotion of American communists to Stalin & Co.

I used to have a thirty-second quiz to determine someone's political positioning: "Who was better, Batista or Castro?" "Who was better, Mao or Chiang?" If the person answered that Castro and Mao were better, I would know it would be a long, hard night before an inch of political education could be accomplished. Often the rationale was "Well, at least Castro and Mao weren't corrupt" -- as if corruption were the worst evil of the century, and ignoring the fact that Mao was corrupt on a scale magnitudes beyond anything Chiang ever dreamt of or that to this day Castro lives like a potentate on the backs of his people.

Haynes and Klehr make the point that Germany underwent denazification after World War II, a lustration that went down to the lowest party levels, making it virtually impossible for a Nazi party member to hold office in the new Germany, so that the relatively unblemished mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer, became Chancellor.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, on the other hand, did not result in a decommunisation. There was no equivalent of the Nuremberg trials, and indeed most high offices to this day are occupied by Communists or former Communists, tens of thousands of them with blood on their hands. The supreme insult is that the president of this vast political enterprise is Vladimir Putin, a former high-ranking Communist in the Soviet Secret Police. The equivalent of this would have been the inheritance of the government of Nazi Germany after World War II by the Nazi gauleiter of Poland.

Just last year, when Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to run for governor of California, some of his liberal detractors referred to the fact that his father was a member of the Nazi Party in Austria. If this was in any way relevant to Schwarzenegger's candidacy, then Hitler's Nuremberg laws were relevant -- that if your parent was Jewish, you inherited the evil of Jewry. What a victory for Hitler's theories of blood guilt!

But can you imagine the brouhaha if it had been pointed out at the time that Carl Bernstein had no standing to expose the Watergate scandal because his parents were Communists (and indeed he was raised to despise Nixon)? Of course it would have been irrelevant, at least in a legal sense, but not as irrelevant as the politics of Schwarzenegger's father, a man who made do in a country where you had to be bold, often heroic, not to join the Nazis.

What Haynes and Klehr relentlessly expose is the unwavering dedication of American Communists to a regime that slaughtered more innocent civilians than Hitler did, counting up the Jews, Poles, Gypies, and the other poor souls that fell victim to Hitler's dementia. Robert Conquest, the historian who chronicled what took place in the Soviet abattoir, says that 20 million were slaughtered.

But "In Denial" is mostly about the American Communists' reaction to these events. The book is exhaustively researched, so that there are virtually no crumbs of doubt left for die-hard Stalinist defenders to nibble on -- except in academia, where so many professors refuse to believe the facts, even now when they can be etched in stone. The professoriat, in so many universities, still believe that McCarthyism was a greater evil than Soviet communism.

But Haynes and Klehr don't let them get away with anything, from the lingering lunatic refusal to accept the guilt of Alger Hiss and Julius Rosenberg, to the seemingly small deceptions, such as the Communist claim that the U.S. Army tagged veterans of the Lincoln Brigade, after the Spanish Civil War, as "premature anti-Fascists" and stamped "PA" on their army documents so that they, in effect, could be watched and harassed throughout their army careers. Exhaustive research by the two authors proves, well beyond any reasonable doubt, the army never did this and knew nothing about it, and that this label was concocted entirely by the Communists. (It was cooked up during the confusing times of the Nazi-Soviet pact, during which the Communists had to stop opposing Hitler -- and Franco -- and fall in line with the new parade, opposing FDR and Churchill.)

There are very few books on Americans who long for Hitler, mainly because there never was a significant segment of Nazis in America, but unfortunately there is a significant number of Americans who still think that Joe Stalin was an idealistic reformer, and some of these Americans are in control of history departments of important universities -- and virtually no books are available that document and explain this peculiar situation. "In Denial" fills this gap.

Sidney Goldberg is a frequent TCS contributor. He last wrote for TCS about art criticism.


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