Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The dishonesty is outrageous

I have just finished re-reading an excellent book by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, called In Denial. The subtitle explains the subject well: “Historians, Communism and Espionage”.

Dealing with the dishonesty, refusal to accept evidence and sheer thuggishness of the historical establishment in the United States (and is it any different here?) when it comes to Communism and the activity of the CPUSA as well as that of various spies, the authors point out on a number of occasions the difference between the way Nazism and its agents are discussed from the positive spin that is consistently given both to Communism and its agents.

Their theory is that this is the outcome of the New Left “colonizing” academia in the seventies and wishing to use the subject to bring up new generations of radicals who want to continue the failed work of the likes of Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White. Whether this works outside academia, the media and, always, Hollywood is questionable but those are important parts of American life.

In the concluding chapter they refer to the eminent historian of Russia, Martin Malia, who wrote, referring to the victory of revisionism in academia and the consequent refusal to face up to the truth about Communism that “bluntness is presently a therapeutic necessity”.

Haynes and Klehr summed up in two longish paragraphs that are, nevertheless, worth quoting in full:
Far too much academic writing about communism, anticommunism and espionage is marked by dishonesty, evasion, special pleading and moral squalor. Like Holocaust deniers, some historians of American communism have evaded and avoided facing a pre-eminent evil – in this case the evil of Stalinism. Too many revisionists present a view of history in which they wrong side won the Cold War and in which American Communists and the CPUSA represent the forces of good and right in American history. Most new dissertations written in the field still reflect a benign view of communism, a loathing for anticommunism, and hostility toward America’s actions in the Cold War. Many American historians hold America to a moral standard from which they exempt the Soviet Union and practice a crude form of moral equivalence.

Like Holocaust deniers, too many revisionists deny the plain meaning of documents, invent fanciful benign explanations for damning evidence, and ignore witnesses and testimony that is inconvenient. In the face of clear and compelling evidence of Soviet espionage, they see nothing. When the bodies of more than a hundred former American Communists murdered by Stalin’s police are discovered in a mass grave in Karelia, they will not look. Confronted with documents and trails of evidence leading where they do not wish to go, they mutter darkly about conspiracies and forgeries and invent incidents for which there is not documentation. Some brazenly offer confident exegeses of documents they admit they have not seen or condemn books they admit they have not read. They confidently propose chronological impossibilities as probabilities and brazenly situate people in places they could not have been at times they could not have been there. It is not entirely clear how to classify such intellectual activity. But it is certainly not history.
Professors Klehr and Harvey are too kind. Such intellectual activity is to be classified as lies and propaganda.

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