Published in the June 2002 issue of Liberty
People in other parts of the country probably imagine that Long Island must have a newspaper like Ripley's Believe It or Not, what with everything from the "Amityville Horror" to Joey Buttafuoco and all else since. And they're absolutely right -- as anyone who's ever gotten hold of a copy of Newsday can tell you.
The most lurid piece of the past few years, however, is one that contains no sex at all and whose only violence is to fact and logic. Its writer is not some local yokel but the publisher of a national magazine: John R. MacArthur of Harper's. He is, by his own description, a "naive liberal" -- a label, we shall see, that hides more than it reveals. In December 13, 1998's "Neo-McCarthyism and the New Cold War Hangover" -- its continuation on another page is entitled "Exhuming Communism to Fight It All Over Again" -- MacArthur bemoans his innocence in having thought that the decay of the Soviet Union would fertilize a "more freewheeling argument about the exaggerated menace of communism." One might deign to suggest that his disappointment is due less to his innocence than his direction -- looking ahead instead of back. There are in fact any number of texts that made that "freewheeling argument," all of which can now be found in the dustbin of history. Today, even many of the one-time arguers themselves (e.g., David Horowitz, Ronald Radosh) concede that such works are about as useful as a pre-Columbian map. But if MacArthur is despondent as to what the disintegration of the Soviet Empire hasn't done, he is positively livid over what it has, viz., "resurrected and solidified some of the worst elements of American historical dogma about Josef Stalin, World War II, the Cold War and McCarthyism." Meaning?
First came a reinvigorated Stalin-Hitler equivalency campaign, which for decades has sought to place the Soviet dictator on an equal footing with his German adversary, at least in terms of sheer savagery. The ultra anti-Stalinists believe that liberal and leftist dupes have somehow given Stalin a free ride by focusing on the more obvious [?!] crimes of Adolf Hitler. No more, they cry. Armed with French historian Stephane Courtois' massive 1997 compendium, "The Black Book of Communism," historians Tony Judt of New York University and Martin Malia of the University of California at Berkeley have clambered on to mainstream media vehicles to announce their amazing revelation: Stalin was evil! He was really evil!
"No one," announced Judt last year in an op-ed piece for The New York Times, "will any longer be able to claim ignorance or uncertainty about the criminal nature of communism, and those who had begun to forget will be forced to remember anew." One might dismiss such a pretentious and condescending generalization as mere academic bombast. Except that Courtois doesn't stop there; Courtois, in Judt's account, "claims that we can no longer insist on the conventional distinction between communism and Nazism, which sets Hitler's state apart as a singularly terrible regime to which nothing can compare. Those very features of Nazism that we find most repellent have now been proved endemic to communism from its inception."
Okay, you can start breathing again. Now, as to the "Stalin-Hitler equivalency campaign," there never was, say, a Dillinger-Capone equivalency campaign because no one ever claimed to discern any moral distinction between the two. In contrast, while Hitler's Germany was denounced uniformly by the West, Stalin's Russia was indeed praised and championed -- above freedom and democracy -- by the West's "leftist dupes":
Althusser and Brecht, Lucas and Gramsci, Bloch and Benjamin, Hobsbawm and -- yes -- Edward Thompson too. Subtle Hegelians and social progressives, they were all promoters of the Stalinist cancer, devoting their formidable intellects and talents to its metastatic growth.... And what of the tens of thousands of Party intellectuals all over the world, among them Nobel prize winning scientists and renowned cultural artists who saw no particular difficulty in assimilating Stalin's gulag to Marx's utopia, socialist humanism to the Soviet state? Another factor: How "good people" in Germany could have fallen under the spell of Hitler has been mused over continually since the end of World War II -- a reflection of the gravity of the question and the urgency for an answer. And yet it is still "McCarthyism" to question the motives -- to say nothing of the moral status -- of those in the Free World who over the decades voiced their support of Communist dictators.
Picture a historian who, commenting on a work of scholarship that brilliantly documents the horrors of Hitler's atrocities, states that no one "will any longer be able to claim ignorance or uncertainty about the criminal nature of Nazism, and those who had begun to forget will be forced to remember anew." Undoubtedly, such a statement would be warmly applauded by all. We can well imagine the abuse that would rain upon someone who opened his mouth and ridiculed that statement as "a pretentious and condescending generalization" and "mere academic bombast" from an "ultra anti-Hitlerite." Could MacArthur somehow not know that, while the "Zionist hoax" crowd has always been relegated to the fringes and the gutters, the deniers of and apologists for the many Communist atrocities have included prominent journalists and professors? Does he really mean to suggest that the Soviet murder of 7-10 million Ukranians has been given -- both academically and popularly -- the same focus as the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews? Throughout our culture, Hitler's crime is remembered as "the Holocaust," whereas Stalin's crime is remembered ... how, if at all? (I hesitate even to mention Mao's mass slaughters, which have now been almost completely swallowed by the West's memory hole.) And would MacArthur care to tell us exactly who in our society -- apart from some hatemonger with a website -- derides its commitment to "never forget" the Holocaust as "exhuming Nazism to fight it all over again"?
MacArthur's keen sense of justice is noticeably troubled by Courtois' blanket condemnation of "communism":
This is the disturbing part. Lumping Stalin and, say, Ho Chi Minh together amounts to an ignorant polemic; good history is about making intelligent distinctions, and no "crime" committed by Ho and his followers in their ambition to rid Vietnam of successive foreign invaders can be logically called equivalent to Stalin's Gulag or his wholesale destruction of the Kulaks.Really? Not the "tens of thousands of domestic opponents [who] were killed by Uncle Ho Chi Minh after 1954"? Or the "thousands of civilians [who] were clubbed to death in Hue during Hanoi's brief occupation of that city in 1968"? Not even the "bloodbath after Hanoi's victory -- an estimated one hundred thousand summary executions, a million and a half boat people driven to exile and death, and a like number consigned to tiger cages and Marxist 'reeducation' camps -- to complete North Vietnam's subjection of the South"? Now is MacArthur claiming that not one of these things actually ever happened -- or that not one of them can in any way be called a "crime" against humanity, since they were all obviously necessary to the struggle against imperialism? Honestly, I can't imagine which is worse. It's just incredible that MacArthur can so berate Judt, only to then demonstrate his own "ignorance or uncertainty about the criminal nature of communism" in Southeast Asia.
MacArthur gives us his idea of "making intelligent distinctions" when he cuts to the core of his argument:
But it's one thing to lower Ho to Stalin's level; it's quite another to raise Hitler to Stalin's. [Can you believe that you just read such a sentence? - - B.L.] ... To borrow Judt's phraseology, the features of Nazism that I find most repellent -- the extermination camps and their systematic, train-to-oven efficiency -- never existed in the Soviet Union. Political prisoners of different races and ethnicities survived the Gulag because it was not a collection of slaughterhouses designed to eliminate a distinct group of people; bureaucratic happenstance and whim, or the refusal to confess, sometimes resulted in unexpected clemency. By contrast, no Jew was intended to survive the Nazi death camps....
In other words, Auschwitz was a slaughterhouse, whereas Kolyma was merely a prison. It is, quite simply, a lie. The Gulag was every bit an abyss into which multitudes were thrown never to return. Historian Robert Conquest: "For Russians -- and it is surely right that this should become true for the world as a whole -- Kolyma is a word of horror wholly comparable to Auschwitz.... [I]t did indeed kill some three million people, a figure well in the range" of the Nazi death camp. Given the scale of death and suffering, MacArthur's legalistic distinction based on an occasional "unexpected clemency" is an obscenity. As for his fabrication of Soviet concern with the sincerity of prisoner confessions, the less said the better.
Still, MacArthur is unrelenting in his determination to raise the soul of the Soviet dictator to a considerably higher circle of Hell: "It is false to make Stalin's indirect killings born of political ideology equal to Hitler's direct murder born of haterd for an entire race." Observe that (for no given reason) Hitler's slaughters are "direct," whereas Stalin's are "indirect" -- and that while Hitler's National Socialist political ideology is rendered as "hatred for an entire race," Stalin's Communist hatred for entire classes becomes (presumably mere) "political ideology." He continues: "Starving masses of people to death in Ukraine ... is monstrous, but fundamentally different from gassing Jews en masse...." In the name of God, how? This is what MacArthur considers a justification of that assertion: "Some Ukrainian peasants ... survived the famine by fleeing to the cities to try to find food; the Jews in Hitler's camps had no such option." This is another of his fabrications. Stalin had deployed military units to the Ukraine -- and the North Caucasus and Kazakhstan -- specifically to prevent any such migrations, a command that turned entire nations into giant death camps.
Ironically, if we must weigh Hitler the Nazi against Stalin the Communist - - with no illusions as to how ultimately unimportant differences of degree are at this level -- it is undeniably the latter who measures the worse. Consider the actions of Archbishop Galen of Münster, who rallied the Catholic clergy to protest Hitler's murder of the mentally ill and retarded. Der Führer responded by stopping the killings. In contrast, Stalin -- and Mao and Pol Pot and Mengistu, to name but a few -- would have responded by eliminating Galen and any who followed him. (In fact, forget "would have" and compare the treatment of Galen to the fate of Monsignor Budkiewicz, as the Bolshevik regime began executing clergymen for nothing more than the practice of religion.) Another example: German officers who refused to obey orders to commit atrocities were never punished for insubordination. This fact played a major role at the Nuremburg trials, where it was adduced to undermine the accused's defense that they had no choice but to follow orders for fear of their own lives. In contrast, under Stalin -- and Mao and Pol Pot and Mengistu -- those who refused to commit murder would have themselves been murdered. Yes, it is inconceivable that anyone could in any way "out-Hitler Hitler" -- and yet the Communists did.
The truth is, Soviet Communism was, not only morally equal to, but morally responsible for Nazism. As German historian Ernst Nolte observed, "The Gulag came before Auschwitz." British historian Paul Johnson elaborates:
The camp system was imported by the Nazis from Russia.... [T]he scale of [Stalin's] mass atrocities encouraged Hitler in his wartime schemes to change the entire demography of Eastern Europe.... Hitler's "final solution" for the Jews had its origins not only in his own fevered mind but in the collectivization of the Soviet peasantry.Concurring, Soviet demographer Nick Eberstadt declares that "the Soviet Union is not only the original killer state, but the model one." Should one still harbor any doubt, he need only consider the statement of this Cheka official:
We are not carrying out war against individuals. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. We are not looking for evidence or witnesses to reveal deeds or words against the Soviet power. The first question we ask is: to what class does he belong, what are his origins, upbringing, education, or profession? These questions define the fate of the accused. This is the essence of the Red Terror.Substitute race for class (as did the Nazis) and you have the essence of the Final Solution.
MacArthur concocts his hair-splitting (and transparently absurd) distinctions between Hitler and Stalin clearly out of a desperate need to have the latter cast as the lesser evil. But why? Here is what he fear: "If [Communist] Stalin was as bad as Hitler, then [anti-Communist] McCarthy's depredations against civil liberties and common decency become more palatable" -- a stunning non sequitur. Does he actually expect us to believe that this is the true, conspiratorial motive behind the "Stalin-Hitler equivalency campaign" of scholars Courtois, Malia, and Judt? Amazing how MacArthur can generate more indignation over the actions commited by McCarthy and his followers in their ambition to rid the American government of Soviet agents than over any (presumably alleged) "'crime' committed by Ho and his followers in their ambition to rid Vietnam of successive foreign invaders." Apparently, not only was Ho Chi Minh not "as bad as" Stalin, he wasn't even as bad as McCarthy! Equally amazing is how MacArthur could imagine that his perverse quibbles and outright falsehoods about the Third Reich and the Soviet Union would seriously alter one's view of McCarthy. His view, cut to fit contemporary fashion, is that of evil personified -- an evil now exemplified by such "neo-McCarthyisms" as a sober consideration of the evidence provided by Soviet archives with regard to the question of Russian spies (the archives are a forgery, he assures us) and a belief in the guilt of the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss despite "the respectable counterarguments in support of [their] innocence" (what and where these are, he doesn't say). Incredibly, in the next breath he asks, "So why is it necessary [for history] to re-try and re-convict the Rosenbergs and Hiss?" MacArthur's clumsy legerdemain ably confirms the observation that those who invoke the spectre of "McCarthyism" do not really do so "to underscore the importance of civil liberties in a democracy but as part of a morality play about the dangers of anti-Communism."
Well, not just anti-Commmunism. Here MacArthur's fantasies reach such dimensions that no paraphrase could reasonably ask to be credited. Hence:
I suspect today's neo-anti-communist movement is in part fueled by a profound desire to wipe out the tattered remnants of both the old and the new left. Not satisfied with Ronald Reagan's reversal of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal legacy (or Mikhail Gorbachev's reversal of Lenin's), the emboldened reactionaries in U.S. politics, media and academia are out to settle scores with their counterparts who opposed the madness of the Vietnam War, the crime syndicate run by Richard Nixon and the racist laws of the former slave-holding states.And there you have it: "Stalin-Hitler equivalency" equals McCarthyism equals anti- Communism equals approval of My Lai, Watergate, and Jim Crow. How does one even begin to address such dementia? Perhaps by noting that absolutely no one (at least not for attribution) characterizes condemnations of Hitler and his spies in America as constituting a "neo-anti-nazi movement." And what exactly is wrong with the "profound desire to wipe out ... the old and the new left," both of which were virtually defined by their identification with and support for totalitarian (and anti-American) regimes? They should be driven from polite society no less than paleo- and neo-Nazis. Now it's anyone's guess how an attack on the Left becomes an attack on the New Deal. The Old Left rejected it as "social fascism," the New as "corporate liberalism." In any case, President Reagan failed even to abolish the Department of Education (as promised), much less to repeal the New Deal. By first spouting anti-Big Government rhetoric and then increasing the size of government, Ronald Reagan affirmed "Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal legacy." And who are these mysterious, unnamed "emboldened reactionaries" in the government? In the media? In academia -- Courtois, Malia, and Judt? If that last is true, it's more goonish an example of guilt by (imputed) association than anything ever put forth by the man MacArthur calls "the bullying thug from Wisconsin." Moreover, how does anti-Communism serve as a way to strike back against opponents of "the madness of the Vietnam war" -- such as John Birch Society founder Robert Welch, whose cry was "Get US Out!"? Or "the crime syndicate run by Richard Nixon" -- such as good ol' boy Senator Sam Erwin? Or "the racist laws of the former slave-holding states" -- such as Baptist minister Martin Luther King? Does our "naive liberal" really mean to suggest that it was Communist radicals (i.e., the "counterparts" to the "reactionaries") who alone gave us the anti-war protests, the Watergate hearings, and the civil rights movement?
So, what was ostensibly a scholarly endeavor to reassess the history of Communism is, in fact, an attack upon Leftists (who evidently are responsible for nothing but the accomplishments of the centrist liberals whom they always despised) by a right-wing conspiracy, one so vast as to include even (the otherwise improbable) William Jefferson Clinton, who played his part by "return [ing] the administration of welfare to the individual states, very much in keeping with the spirit of George Wallace's white supremacist doctrine of 'state's [sic] rights.'" Whatever one may think of MacArthur, you cannot deny he is ... unique. In no newspaper anywhere will we find his "counterpart" argue that remembrances of the Holocaust (e.g., Schindler's List) are motivated by the "profound desire" of radicals to obliterate conservatism. The obvious reason is that no conservatives share the Nazi ideology of Hitler; consequently, they don't see a condemnation of Nazism as an attack on them. But in contrast, there are any number of prominent individuals -- "in U.S. politics, media and academia" -- who do indeed share the Marxist ideology of Stalin, Mao, and all the other Communist despots, and it is in the condemnation of Communism that MacArthur sees an attack on these individuals -- i.e., the "profound desire to wipe out the tattered remnants of both the old and the new left." It is here that his concerns fully surface, for what is the ultimate implication of a "Stalin- Hitler equivalency" but that we should (as suggested above) denounce and marginalize those who propagate the ideas that inspired Stalin just as surely as we denounce and marginalize those who propagate the ideas that inspired Hitler? And what is that prospect -- the moral stigmatization of the domestic Left -- but the very "neo-McCarthyism" he fears (and decries) above all? It will mean an end to the double standard that holds that Nazi Germany was the result of an evil ideology -- racism -- while Soviet Russia was the result of only an evil man. That claim once served to allow Marxists to convince people (including themselves) that Marxist ideology was innocent of Soviet crimes, that "Stalinism" would die with Stalin. Consequently, the world never said "Never Again!" to Communism, with the result being that "Stalinism" thrived and spread -- across the globe, decade after decade (while Nazism did indeed die with Hitler).
Ironically, this is the point when one perceives that the much- vilified "Stalin-Hitler equivalency" is only a euphemism for a more-feared equation. The connection that MacArthur and all the other "naive liberals" evade is not between the dictators Hitler and Stalin, but between the theorists Hitler and Marx. What they ultimately dread is not the notion that "Stalin was as bad as Hitler" in practice, but that Marxism is as evil as Hitlerism in principle. For what was Nazism ever other than Marxism in which class consciousness was replaced with racial nationalism? Is a determinist doctrine of classism and class warfare less repugnant than one of racism and racial warfare? Is it less evil in principle; is it less evil in practice? To affirm the first part of that last question is to affirm the second -- as exemplified by MacArthur's morally grotesque distinction between "[s]tarving masses of people to death in Ukraine" and "gassing Jews en masse." One last link to ponder: In the first months of 1849, Marx published Engels' series of pieces for the Neue Rheinesche Zeitung in which he hailed the "bloody" liquidation of different European ethnic groups in a "world war" that would "result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples." In 1924, references to these articles appeared in Stalin's Foundations of Leninism. It is this necessity of genocide to the collectivist struggle, the jihad of an Us vs. Them hate theology, that is the lesson Marx taught Stalin -- who in turn taught Hitler.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that MacArthur's boredom with (and ignorance of) the history of Communism coincides with the Left's growing fascination with the historical wrongs of America and "Western civilization." Unable any longer to sell socialism as a curative for the ills of capitalism, the Left now markets its various projects (multiculturalism, radical feminism, affirmative action, etc.) as just compensation for the "victims" of the "legacies" of slavery, the depredations of Columbus, and the subjugation of women -- all the way back to the alleged overthrow of the Great Goddess and her egalitarian societies by the forces of "patriarchy." This refusal to accept responsibility for the evils of Marxism -- a corrupt repackaging of those evils as virtues in the fight against injustices dead or imagined -- is a desecration of the memory of the multitudes killed or brutalized by Communism.
Our culture is not neutral or agnostic regarding Hitler and his followers, and it can no longer remain so regarding Marx and his followers. The bogey of "redbaiting" the socialist Left must come to be seen as ludicrous as "brownbaiting" the nationalist Right. And yet we have only to look at academia (to take one of MacArthur's own examples) to see how far from a single standard we still are. As for MacArthur himself, he is Exhibit A. The man is a flesh-and-blood specimen of the very "liberal and leftist dupes" he contends are nothing but a caricature. His railing against our "American historical dogma" about Communism only demonstrates why that history must be taught -- the existence of his argument refutes its content. If he is an example of what an educated man can believe about Communism -- both factually and ethically -- then there can be no doubt what's wrong with what higher education is teaching our country.
Indeed, it just might be that whatever differences there are between
Hitler and Stalin, the one critical for the present age is that Hitler doesn't
have his John R. MacArthurs.
barry @ abcdunlimited.com
 For an excellent study of the major New Left pseudo-histories, see Robert James Maddox, The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973).
 David Horowitz, "The Road to Nowhere," Liberty, November 1991, p. 26. This is not to overlook the "liberal" dupes, e.g., New Deal Brain Truster Rexford G. Tugwell, who opined, "The future is becoming visible in Russia; the present [i.e., America] is bitterly in contrast."
 Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties (New York: Summit Books, 1989), p. 233.
 Robert Conquest, Kolyma: The Arctic Death Camps (New York: Viking, 1978), p. 15-16.
 Nolte, Johnson, and Eberstadt quoted in Ralph Raico, "The Taboo Against Truth: Holocausts and the Historians," Liberty, September 1989, p. 18.
 Quoted in Collier and Horowitz, p. 289.
 We must also not forget that "the alliance that German Communists formed with the Nazi Party to attack the Social Democrats and destroy the Weimar Republic, was an actual Stalinist plot. Without this alliance, the united parties of the Left would have formed an insuperable barrier to the Nazis' electoral triumph and Hitler never would have come to power." Horowitz, p. 24.
 Three times in his essay MacArthur reminds us that the Soviets were "our World War II allies" against the Nazis. So, while Stalin receives no mention of -- let alone moral condemnation for -- originally having been allied with Hitler, he nonetheless receives moral credit for eventually having been betrayed by him. But far more distorted is MacArthur's effort to establish anti-Semitism as a point of distinction between the two dictators, a delusion that obscures the fact "that Stalin had helped his erstwhile partner by acquiescing in the extermination of the Jews" (p. 73) -- and that Stalin ultimately tried to similarly liquidate Soviet Jewry. Louis Rapoport, Stalin's War Against the Jews (New York: The Free Press, 1990).
 Think about what's implicit in that assertion: If Hitler was worse that Stalin, then "depredations against civil liberties and common decency" -- in the name of anti-Nazism -- "become more palatable." This must explain why Leftists still never condemn the creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee -- in 1938 by Soviet agent Samuel Dickstein (D-NY) -- as an organ to monitor any Americans it designated "fascists." Alexander Vassiliev and Allen Weinstein, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America in the Stalin Era (New York: Random House, 1999).
 MacArthur's treatment of Ho Chi Minh doesn't mean he faults no one for atrocities in Southeast Asia; he censures "the United States" for "responsibility in the deaths of a million Vietnamese." This selective indignation suggests at the very least that MacArthur has yet to learn Vietnam's most "daunting lesson: more people had been killed in the first two years of the Communist peace than in the thirteen years of America's war." Collier and Horowitz, p. 148.
 Collier and Horowtz, p. 171.
 Observe how MacArthur places no qualifying quotation marks around the word crime when discussing Richard Nixon -- in contrast to Ho Chi Minh. And while he denounces "the New York Times' adoption of McCarthy's hideous language" because of its use of such terms as "Communist spies" and "fellow travellers, he himself, in labeling the people he attacks "reactionaries," wields the very term that has been a death sentence for millions in the Communist world -- an evil that traces all the way back to Marx himself (see below).
 Follow the Professor Harold Hill (The Music Man) logic: Clinton returned welfare to the "individual states," and that sounds like "state's rights," and that stands for "white supremacist doctrine."
 Consider the figure of Rosa Luxemburg, whom many Leftists (e.g., the Nation's Christopher Hitchens) revere as someone who could have "saved Germany" from Nazism. Speaking for the country's Communists, she declared: "Socialism does not mean getting together in a parliament and deciding on laws. For us socialism means the smashing of the ruling classes with all the brutality that the proletariat is able to develop in its struggle." Observe that we need only substitute "the Jews" and "the Aryan race" for "the ruling classes" and "the proletariat," respectively, to transform Luxemburg's "Socialism" into Hitler's National Socialism. Quoted in Leonard Peikoff, The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America (New York: Stein and Day, 1982), p. 156.
 "Hitler admired Stalin, quite properly seeing himself as a mere infant in crime compared to his great exemplar." Doris Lessing, Walking in the Shade (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 262.
 Philip G. Davis, Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 1998).
 "The German right characteristically denounced socialism, while supporting the welfare state, demanding government supervision of the economy, and preaching the duty of property-owners to serve their country. The German left characteristically denounced nationalism, while extolling the feats of imperial Germany, cursing the Allied victors of the war, and urging the rebirth of a powerful Fatherland. (Even the Communists soon began to substitute 'nation' for 'proletariat' in their manifestos.)
"The nationalists, at heart, were socialists. The socialists, at heart, were nationalists.
"The Nazis took over the essence of each side in the German debate and proudly offered the synthesis as one unified viewpoint. The synthesis is: national socialism." Peikoff, p. 179.
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