May 01, 2003

Bradford Is Not Annoyed, But Is Rather Impressed

However, there are also a large number of very, very nice moments in William Hitchcock's Struggle for Europe as well (William Hitchcock (2002), The Struggle for Europe (New York: Doubleday: 0385497989)). I am impressed by:

William Hitchcock on the fecklessness of European left-wing intellectuals:

p. 10: Simone de Beauvoir... Americans, she write, "approved of all Truman's speeches. Their anti-Communism bordered on neurosis; their attitude towards... France... arrogant condescension"... "we had loved them, these tall soldiers in khaki who had looked so peaceful; they were our liberty." Now they represented "our dependence and a mortal threat".... de Beauvoir's line of attack on the United States, echoed in the writings of hundreds... missed a crucial part of the overall picture. The Iron Curtain was quite real... a decidely nasty form of political order... could well have been visited upon France, Germany, and Italy, were it not for those tall U.S. soldiers in khaki. De Beauvoir failed to see--did not wish to see--the nature of the "people's democracies" being erected in Eastern Europe under Soviet coercion... distressed intellectuals did not publish memoirs and go on the lecture circuit; they wrote forced confessions and went to prison...

William Hitchcock on what Stalin was thinking:

p. 21: ...The positions of the American and British leaders are fairly easy to determine.... Yet the intentions of Stalin are far harder to know.... Stalin certainly thought of himself as a disciple of Lenin, charged with brining to fruition the world Communist revolution that had started in Russia in 1917. He understood history in Marxist terms, and believed that the capitalist world order would soon collapse due to its internal contradictions.... But socialism could triumph only if the Soviet Union remained strong and secure. The country had suffered terribly.... Stalin's foreign policy in 1945, then, was a rather defensive one... provide Russia with security... in Eastern Europe the political order... friendly to Soviet interests...

William Hitchcock on the beginnings of the Cold War:

p. 90: The creation of the Cominform marked an open declaration of war on American policy... France... the PCF organized a wave of strikes... Marseilles... large crowds stormed the law courts and the town hall, where they beat up the mayor... vandalized and looted as 40,000 strikers roamed the streets... miners... 3 million people on strike.... American ambassador's sources told him that the Communists were working under the direct orders of Moscow.... AFL channeled financial aid and strategic advice to the non-Communist French unions... urged them to split off from the Communist-dominated... CGT.... new union aided... by... perception that the CGT... under the thumb of Moscow...

William Hitchcock on life east of the Iron Curtain:

p. 130: In March 1949, Kostov was removed form the Bulgarian politburo... arrested... four months of nonstop torture... confess[ed].... Still, Kostov proved a tough nut to crack. During his show trial... Kostov suddenly broke away from his memorized text... declared his innocence... dragged away... judge proceeded to read the confessions Kostov had made under torture... found guilty... Kostov alone... hanged.... Hungary would provide another stage... Rajk... loyal Communist... masterminded the destruction of the democratic parties of Hungary... torture.... In Hungary, as elsewhere, there were virtually no prisoners who refused to confess.... Rajk and seven other defendants... Budapest show trial... September 1949... borken men, quite willing to admit that they had been recruited by French and American agents in the 1930s... U.S. spymaster Allen Dulles... conspired to assassinate the Hungarian Communist leadership... words of the prosecutor, Rajk... had sought the "introduction of a bloodthirsty dictatorship on the fascist pattern, the betrayal of the independence of the country, and colonization on behalf of the imperialists.... the head of the snake which wants to bite us must be crushed.... The only defense against made dogs is to beat them to death"...

William Hitchcock on Thirty Glorious Years:

p. 133: 1950... 1.7 million private cars in France; within ten years there were 5.5 million, and this figure would double again by 1966.... 1950... barely half a million private cars in the Federal Republic... Germany reached 10.3 million by 1966... TVs in France... 4000 in 1950 to 1.9 million a decade later... Italy... 4 million of them [by 1963]... Germany... only 2000 sets in 1953, but 8.5 million in 1963... the 1950s... decade of unprecedented material comfort, opportunity, and genuine liberty after so many yeras of harrowing fear and privation...

William Hitchcock on the Marshall Plan:

p. 134: What Marshall aid did do was allow European states to continue along a path of industrial expansion and investment... while at the same time putting into place a costly but politically essential welfare state... a transformation in Europe's economic life away from the cautious, deflationary 1930s to the Keynesian high-investment strategies of the1950s. In this sense, Marshall aid gave Europeans choices that they might not otherwise have had. Marshall aid allowed the Europeans to save themselves...

p. 136: Marshall aid, it was hoped in Washington, would provide the leverage the U.S. needed to cajole and perhaps compel Europeans to lower tariff barriers, pursue sound fiscal policies, stabilzie their currencies, increase intra-European trade, and above all maximize their productive potential... the huge shift in European attitudes toward expansionist economic policies, lower tariff rates, and transnational European cooperation suggest that the Marshall Plan profoundly marked the entire dialogue of European reconstruction.

p. 143: It was the U.S. government that ceaselessly urged Europeans to pursue national stregies of recovery that stressed exports, lower tariffs, and high investment...

William Hitchcock on the 1950s: the Decade Not of Sartre But of Erhard:

p. 161: Raymond Aron ridiculed the French Communist sympathizers... Jean-Paul Sartre, who insisted that the Soviet system was the only one available that offered the prospect of revolutionary change. For Aron, the West since the end of the war had shown that "there is no incompatibility between political liberty and wealth, or between free markets and a higher standard of life." The Soviet Union, by contrast, had transformed its revolution into "long term despotism," and held no appeal for those who valued liberty and well being. This debate... typifies the 1950s.... Indeed, the debate was not concluded until the very end of the Cold War... in retrospect... certain patterns... emerged in the 1950s... came to characterize West European society for the next half century... embrace the free market... accept the Cold War as at least a semi-peace... get on with life. The 1950s in Western Europe, then, was not the decade of Sartre but the decade of Erhard; not the decade of revolution but of stability and prosperity...

William Hitchcock on Nikita Khrushchev:

p. 213: ...Tito... brokered a deal: Nagy would be given a written letter of safe conduct from Kadar and be allowed to return to his home, where he would desist from political activities. Kadar agreed... but no sooner had Nagy stepped out of the embassy than he was abducted, flown to Romania... imprisoned.. after yet another show trial... shot, probably on Khrushchev's orders. The crises... lay bare Nikita Khrushchev's puzzling, contradictory policies. Here was a leader who took great risks to depart from the orthodoxies of Stalinism. He tried to reinvigorate the Communist movement by reclaiming its ealier dynamism and promise for a better future. But his idealism and romanticism ran up against a stubborn fact: Eastern Europeans did not like Communism.... This Khrushchev could not accept, and so he, like all his predecessors, fell back on the one means of governance he truly understood: force...

William Hitchcock on the Red Brigades:

p. 260: ...16 March 1978... Red Brigades... leader of the Christian Democratic Party, Aldo Moro... terrorists wanted to take him alive, and they did, killing his entire retinue of bodyguards in the process in a brutally efficient kidnapping.... But the Christian Democratic government of Giulio Andreotti refused to be drawn into negotiations.... Moro was murdered on 9 May.... The Moro murder proved a decisive turning point... the Italian political class now closed ranks behind a strategy to defeat the terorrists... General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa unlimited powers to launch an antiterrorist campaign. Even the Socialist and Communist Parties did not object, for the Moro murder had made it clear that no Italian politician, judge, policeman, or businessman was safe... Dalla Chiesa began to make progress.... But... the terrorists responded with increased ferocity.... In 1978, 2379 attacks... in 1979, 2513...

William Hitchcock on the Helsinki Agreement:

p. 301: ...Helsinki... thirty-five countires... hammered out statements in three central areas... Basket One... the inviolability of the borders in Europe... Basket Two... trade relations, giving the Soviets access to European technology and Europeans access to East European markets.... Basket three... public commitments to "respect human rights and fundametnals freedoms, including th efreedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief," and to "promote and encourage the effective exercise of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and other rights and freedoms all of which derive from the inherent dignity of the human person." The Russians thought they had won the better deal, and so did many shortsighted commentators... the Soviets gave dissenters... a powerful tool... the USSR at Helsinki "received a better title to something it already had... East European empire. But the West was given a means to facilitate the transformation of that Empire."

William Hitchcock on Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill:

p. 326: Harsh words: yet [Thatcher] viewed the miners, or rather their leaders, as "revolutionaries who sought to impose a Marxist system on Britain whatever the means and whatever the cost." To be sure, Arthur Scargill, the leader of th NUM, was a Marxist.... But the miners had genuine grievances. Their industry was dying. In 1923... 1.2 million workers.... In 1947... coal still provided 90% of the nation's energy... number of workers... 700,000... By 1974, coal supplied only one-third of the nation's energy needs... 200,000 workers... In 1984 alone, the mining industry cost the government 875 million pounds in losses. To restore the industry to solvency, the government hired Ian MacGregor.... His brief was to consolidate the coal industry... more efficient... close down uneconomic pits... lay off the workers... the government expected that this plan would lead to a miner's strike.... The government also had learned the lessons from previous encounters with the miners: the police were better trained and equipped to confront the massed "flying pickets" that had halted coal deliveries in 1972. The strike began in March 1984... closure of... Cortonwood... Scargill saw this as an opportunity to bring his whole union out in strike agains the policy of closing mines that failed to make a profit... significant number of miners... did not wish to strike... did not put the strike to a nationwide ballot... got local branch leaders to use their clout to win a strike vote at the local level, where intimidation, pickets, and peer pressure could be so much more effective. This allowed the NUM to avoid putting the strike to a vote, a fact that Mrs. Thatcher never ceased to emphasize... Nottinghamshire... 73 percent against the strike... Midlands... northwest... northeast coalfields also... against the strike... workers in related industries... refused to come out in support... government just managed to meet demand for energy... Scargill had solicited funds... from... Gaddafi...

William Hitchcock on Gorbachev:

p. 349: Gorbachev... half of the population of his village died of hunger in 1933... paternal grandfather... arrested in 1934 for failing to meet production targets... sent to a labor camp... mother's father... arrested on charges of being a member of a right-wing Trotskyist organization... tortured and imprisoned... Gorbachev... 1966... head of the party in... Stavropol. Four years later... leader for the entire... region... seat on the Central Committee. During the 1970s... close contact with Yuri Andropov.... 1978... a secretary of the Central Committee with full responsibility for agriculture... 1980... full member of the politburo... 10 March 1985... general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union...

Posted by DeLong at May 1, 2003 09:58 PM | TrackBack


I read up the the de Beauvoir part - it's a lie and grounds to dismiss the rest. Sartre and de Beauvoir spent much of the 50s being called "hyenas" and worse by a series of Stalinist hacks (some of whom later went on to join the far right in the 1980s). If you want to understand what the intellectual's role is under Stalinism and similar systems, I guess this example of sliming de Beauvoir so as to wall off her critique, is a pretty good one.

Posted by: citizen k on May 2, 2003 06:33 AM

I read up the the de Beauvoir part - it's a lie and grounds to dismiss the rest. Sartre and de Beauvoir spent much of the 50s being called "hyenas" and worse by a series of Stalinist hacks (some of whom later went on to join the far right in the 1980s). If you want to understand what the intellectual's role is under Stalinism and similar systems, I guess this example of sliming de Beauvoir so as to wall off her critique, is a pretty good one.

Posted by: citizen k on May 2, 2003 06:38 AM

Jeez, Brad, did you buy a scanner or are these e-books? The copyright police are gonna get you.

Posted by: zizka on May 2, 2003 09:52 AM

"Sartre and de Beauvoir spent much of the 50s being called "hyenas" and worse by a series of Stalinist hacks"

Been reading the Weekly Worker too earnestly, have you? Don't be ridiculous! Sartre was one of the most steadfast defenders of Stalin right into the 1970s, so much so that Solzhenitsyn would have nothing to do with him after he was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974. Sartre was an apologist for terror and mass murder, plain and simple.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on May 2, 2003 01:32 PM

"Abiola Lapite" - offers a perfect example of an argument by propaganda. "Plain and simple" is not as good as factually correct. Whether Solzenitsen approved or not is beside the point. In fact, whether Sartre and de Beauvoir were "apologists" is beside the point. The quoted passage is a lie (de Beauvoir didn't realize that the commies were bad) in service of a bigger lie (the bad deeds of 1950s USA can be morally vindicated by closing one's eyes and complaining about the commies). In fact, de Beauvoir and Sartre's record vis-a-vis Stalin was shameful. But one can make that case honestly without resorting the "only communist stooges object to, for example, the US actions in Greece and Iran in the 1950s" argument.

Posted by: citizen k on May 2, 2003 09:33 PM

"Jean-Paul Sartre, who insisted that the Soviet system was the only one available that offered the prospect of revolutionary change."

Existentialism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is "a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for his acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad."

Sartre was one of the leaders of this school of philosophical thought. He was also inconsistent - how can an existentialist have political opinions? Existentialism denies objective morality (the world and everything in it is absurd, as Sartre put it) and identifies "self-authentication" as a purely subjective endeavor. All political philosophies assume that the State is obligated to initiate one set of forceful measures and to refrain from implementing another set. The two are mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson on May 3, 2003 11:35 PM

Out of sheer morbid curiosity: do you have any
qualms about attempting to refute a rather complex
philosophical school on the basis of a dictionary
entry? Maybe you could do some in-depth research. You know, find a Fox TV reference or a particularly insightful line from an athletic shoe advertisment?

Posted by: citizen k on May 4, 2003 07:38 AM

I really wasn't trying to debunk existentialism (or I would have taken a different tack), but trying to show that Sartre was inconsistent with his philosophy.

I thought Merriam-Webster did a pretty decent summary, but if you want a more scholarly source, how about a quote from some old online course material written by Professor Stephen Darwall of the University of Michigan? This seems to jive with the M-W condensed version:

'A. When we represent our choices as unfree, we are deceiving ourselves. We ar involved in what Sartre calls "bad faith." We find our freed condition a terrible responsibility and we look for excuses--"I had to do it," "I don't know what came over me," "Something happened." In representing our choices in this way to ourselves we are evading our actual situation. We chose to do what we did.

'B. When we choose, we commit ourselves to values. We choose actions as good. This, indeed, is the source of our terror in
regarding ourselves as free. We realize it is up to us what to choose. No one can make our choices for us. And no one can make up our
minds about what is valuable other than we ourselves.

'But we can't choose not to choose (since that itself is a choice). So we have to choose. But to choose is to regard what is chosen as
valuable. When we deliberate we are trying to figure out what is good. No one can make up our minds for us--we have to decide. But in deciding we commit ourselves to the conviction that what we chose really is valuable.'

On another note, in The Black Book of Communism, Jean-Louis Margolin cites Sartre's support for Nortk Korea (p. 550) and Stephane Courtois notes his disdain for anti-Communists (p. 750). If he was neither a Communist nor a Communist sympathizer, what was he? Are Margolin and Courtois on the level?

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson on May 6, 2003 06:31 AM

Memo to self: get more sleep before posting.

That last set of remarks should be reworded. The argument is not whether Sartre was a Communist but of the Stalinist variety. If not a Stalinist, to which variety did he subscribe - and why would he voice support for North Korea, which was built on the Stalinist model?

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson on May 6, 2003 06:09 PM
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