Some Reflections on the Ideas of
W. Cleon Skousen 20 Years Later
Peter H. Peel, Ph.D.
I. The Morphology of Revolution
This section will be largely limited to comparisons of the Bolshevik coup d’йtat of November 1917 and the American revolution of 1776. I shall by-pass in so doing (reluctantly) two questions which immediately present themselves: first, is it really appropriate to use the term “revolution” to describe a successful colonial revolt against a mother-country which had evolved – though this was seldom perceived at the time – into an essentially foreign power?; second, was the Bolshevik “revolution” unique in being neither a revolution nor a Russian nativist coup? As to the latter, I could not read Skousen’s book without the phrase “Hamlet without the Prince in Denmark” continually coming to mind, In any case, neither so-called revolution fits the pattern of such revolutions as the English revolutions of 1642 and 1688, the French revolutions of 1789, 1792, 1795, 1830, 1848 and 1870, or the endemic revolutions which entertain the twenty or so mestizo nations south of the Rio Grande del Norte or the sovereign jungledoms between the Sahara and the Zambesi. Yet some common features do pertain. The leadership in the English revolution of 1642-1660 was the squirearchy and lower gentry; in 1688 there was an aberrant factor, the leaders were the great Whig aristocrats though with the ardent support of the lower middle class. The French revolution – rather, series of revolutions prior to Napoleon’s ambiguous dictum, “La revolution est achevé,” really began with an aristocratic revolt in 1787.1 In this “curtain-raiser” were commingled various conspiratorial elements such as the devious machinations of the Duc d’Orleans who aimed at the throne (and ended on the guillotine in 1794) and the Masonic conspiracy of deist intellectuals against the oppression (so seen) of the established church. Masonry, of course, played a large part in the American revolution. Most of the important Founding Fathers were masons and it is no accident that our paper money, for example, incorporates such masonic symbols as the “all-seeing” eye and the pyramid. If we choose to think of Masonry as a kind of esoteric religious cult, then certain slightly strained analogies can be made with the proliferations of cults in the court circles of the last Tsar,2 theosophy, for example, or the personal cult of Gregory Efimovitch Rasputin. However, the French revolution of May, 1789, like the overthrow of the Tsar in March, 1917, was a revolution of and by mainly discontented bourgeois and educated liberals. Neither were wholly democratic in intent and in this way had something in common with the American revolution and its leadership by the discontented New England merchant class and the Virginia squires. The coup d’йtat or putsch which the Bolsheviks achieved literally overnight in November, 1917 was carried out in the capital and consolidated later by force and terror. But the leaders of the coup, though they called themselves Bolsheviki meaning “majorityites” because of a momentary majority in a meeting in London in 1903, were actually a minority branch of a relatively small party and apart from Vladimir Ilytch Ulianov (Lenin) who looked like a Tartar and whose mother’s family may have been Jewish, and Joseph Djugashvili (Stalin), the leadership of the party was almost exclusively made up of bourgeois, Jewish intelligentsia, augmented by a number of Jews from the Lower East Side of New York – Lev Bronstein (Trotsky) among them. It is this remarkable Jewishness which Skousen’s book, in typically Bircher fashion, totally ignores. Yet Western writers of the time were quite frank about this. At all events, there is nothing here comparable to the colonial revolt in America unless it be the bourgeois class and intellectual acuity of the leaders.
True revolutions cannot be sustained or consolidated by a handful – or a few hundred – intellectuals. Foot soldiers are necessary. It was the absence of foot soldiers more than anything else which doomed the Paulskirche parliament in Frankfurt in 1848 – that ludicrous gaggle of garrulous professors and lawyers which, like the All Russian Constitutional Convention of January, 1918, was dispersed by a few soldiers, never to reassemble.
The Americans had foot soldiers. So did the Bolsheviks. Lenin had mutinous soldiers and greedy, land-hungry peasants. The soldiers poured back from the front – an army which had become a demoralized rabble. They “voted with their feet,” said Lenin. The American foot soldiers were frontiersmen, the poor, and recent immigrants including Irish, Germans and renegade Englishmen of the type of Thomas Paine.
A factor which is very prominent in the French and Russian revolutions but is also discernible to a limited extent in the American, is frustration in the matter of upward social mobility. The disaffected bourgeoisie of the Third Estate in France for whom many careers were closed off as preserves of the aristocracy, and the educated, radical Jews in Russia, shared the same bitter rancor and resentment. There are some traces – nothing more – of this in the colonies. In France, a commission in a good regiment required as many as sixteen great-great-grandparents must have been members of the nobility. And officers of the colonial militia were ineligible for commissions in the British regiments and ranked below regular officers of inferior rank.
The European revolutions, however, have always involved an element of genuine hardship at the lowest economic level. The American colonists on the other hand did rather well out of smuggling. The sporadic and rather feeble British attempts to enforce the navigation acts or to collect taxes to meet some of the costs of colonial defense brought about little if any hardship. There was, nevertheless, a considerable raw resentment compounded of many grievances. Subversive conspiracies like the Sons of Liberty kept aflame a sense of economic injustice and oppression by agitation and propaganda.
An ideology, irrespective of its intrinsic merits or logic, seems to be a necessary revolutionary ingredient. In the colonies, as in France, the Zeitgeist of the eighteenth century pressed everywhere for the demolition of organically evolved social and political structures and their replacement with neat blueprints drawn up by the best analytical minds of the soi-disant “Age of Reason.” Constitution-making was the intellectual preoccupation of the times. This is profoundly true for the American intelligentsia of which Thomas Jefferson was, perhaps, the paradigm. And it is true for France which, having drawn up with great excitement and йlan a Constitution in 1791, proceeded to draw up a new one every few years thereafter, so enjoyable was the experience, and was still at it as late as 1958 (the Fifth Republic). The Americans have never actually drawn up a new Constitution. They only amend it so often – twenty-six times to date – that the Founding Fathers might be hard pressed to recognize it.
At all events, the ideology of the colonial leadership is clearly enough expressed in the Declaration of Independence, a document which its authors believed to be the epitome of self-evident rationality but which is actually beautiful, romantic poetry involving many unverifiable postulates and assumptions.3
The Bolsheviks really had the best of it in the ideological field. They had a kind of religion. The ineluctable laws of history were God; Marx was the divine prophet; Lenin was the Caliph Omar or St. Paul; Das Kapital was the holy text. Max Eastman, a disenchanted United States Communist, wrote a book about twenty or so years ago entitled Marxism: Is it Science? – a rhetorical question which he then answered by demonstrating that Marxism is, in fact, a religious faith, not a science. Besides the characteristics of religion already mentioned, it has an eschatology. Come the full achievement of Communism (after the purgative period of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat) the very nature of man will be changed, man will be “redeemed” in fact. Lions will lie down with lambs and wolves with sheep. History, which is only the history of the class struggle, will come to an end. Again the vision is of the New Jerusalem, the “Heavenly City.” It is an unhealthy and very Levantine chiliasm which is at least as old as St. Augustine in its generic type. In practice, Marxist predictions and prophesies mostly break down. According to canon dogma, the first proletarian revolution should have occurred in the advanced industrial nations. They occurred instead in backward Russia, pastoral Hungary, and later were most successful in countries like China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Indo-China and other less-than-shining-lights of industrial and scientific advance. Marxist doctrine demands (and this is the reason true Marxists hate reformers) an inevitable historical process in which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer from the beginning of the commercial and industrial world of capitalism until the overthrow by violence of the exploiting bourgeois ruling class. The devil of Marxism is not the monarch or the aristocrat: it is the industrialist, the banker, the “millocrat.” The history of the rise of labor in the United States, Europe, Japan and Taiwan clearly demonstrates the falsity of the orthodox Marxist scenario.
Most devastating of all is the necessity in Marxist theory of subscribing to a blind faith in the absolute equality of potential in all individuals and all races. Environment is all. Marxism and liberal democracy both feed at the trough of John Locke’s “tabula rasa” nonsense. If environment, the modes of production and distribution, can be changed and bring about a radical change in man’s basic nature and instincts (actually, Marxists are very uncomfortable with the word “instincts”), then hereditary differences are negligible and certainly mutable by manipulation of the environment. The Lamarckian thesis of the inheritability of acquired characteristics was long since exploded by Darwin and Mendel, but despite the odd misreading of Darwin which caused Marx to consider dedicating Das Kapital to him, Darwinian evolution by natural selection is as antipathetic to Marxism as it was to William Jennings Bryan and all fundamentalists to the present day. It is the opposition between science on the one hand and superstition on the other. Hence even that master opportunist, cynic and pragmatist, Joseph Stalin, permitted the mountebank Trofim Lysenko to inflict great injury on Russian agriculture by tinkering with crops in accordance with an ideological pseudo-science derived from Lamarck. It is necessary to understand that liberal democracy holds just as tenaciously as Marxism to the environmentalist dogma as necessary to the support of its egalitarian prejudices. It is thus, also, bitterly intolerant of even distinguished scientists who challenge or appear to challenge its adamantine faith. Examples are the physical violence, shouting down, and other forms of suppression which have been directed in recent years against men like Nobel prize winner Dr. William Shockley, Dr. Arthur Jensen of U.C.L.A., Professor Hans Eysenck and many others, or the scandalous campaign to besmirch the memory of the late, great Sir Cyril Burt. Marxism and liberal democracy are both Christian heresies just as Christianity is a Jewish heresy. Both political ideologies exhibit characteristics of religions and like most religions bitterly persecute their own heretics (when they can) with a savagery and fervor far beyond the animosity they show to the “pagan.” It would be absurd to suggest, however, that Marxism and liberal democracy are one and the same. There is a profound difference, for example, between the measures adopted by the newly-formed U.S.S.R. to enforce orthodoxy and to maintain control of the society and those measures or actions which aimed at stability and consensus in the young United States. In America, the “tories” or loyalists were mostly driven out or chose exile and lost their property. But though some violence and general harassment occurred, it was neither officially condoned nor very extensive. Later, the Alien and Sedition Acts of Adams’ administration were short-lived. And though they are deplored by liberals today, they seem to this writer to have been not at all unreasonable, and a worthwhile, though ultimately futile, attempt to preserve the ethnic identity and culture of the nation. The Americans had no reason to fear massive attacks by foreign armies. The British were not interested and were too deeply involved with revolutionary and Napoleonic France. The French were engaged in more than twenty years of European warfare and anxious to disengage from responsibilities in North America. Spain was an otiose power. Furthermore, the Anglo-Saxon traditions of liberty and justice were part of the natural heritage of the new United States.
Post-revolutionary Russia presented a very different scene. Russia experienced two years of savage civil war and armed intervention by American, British and French forces. The hideous murders of the royal family and of thousands of less elevated people (a concomitant of Communist take-overs everywhere, it would seem – as in China, Cuba, Cambodia, “Zimbabwe,” and Ethiopia, for example) had alienated the civilized world. Under a baffling succession of acronyms – CHEKA, OGPU, GPU, NKVD, KGB, etc. – the dreaded State Secret Police maintained a reign of terror. Similar bloody haemorrhages accompanied the short-lived Bolshevik coups in Hungary and Bavaria immediately after the first Word War. And paranoia, whether in the genes of the Russians or as a result of their historical experiences, is a constant factor in their dealings with the rest of the world.
There can be no real question that freedom of expression in speech and writing is more nearly (but not totally) absolute in the United States than in any other country in the world. This is not only so evident that no proof is needed in respect of the Communist countries; regrettably it is true also even among the other “democracies” such as Canada, Britain, France and the area under the Bonn régime. If Congress should ratify the so-called “genocide treaty,” however, we may be as badly off in this respect as any other nation and will certainly have surrendered national sovereignty and the security of the citizen against malevolent aliens. Free speech and writing is unofficially suppressed in the United States by terrorism and violence, arson, death-threats, physical assault, extensive vandalism, deprivation of livelihood, the denial of access to the major media and social ostracism – the last being the least of the hardships. But at least freedom of expression exists in law – unlike, say, Britain with its muzzling Race Relations Acts or Bonn with its banned books (“youth-endangering”) or Canada with similar forbidden books. We have no Lubianka cellars and no Gulag archipelagos. Not yet!
Education is a different matter. In Communist countries, the young are taught to admire and respect the leaders and founders and to give uncritical loyalty to the system. A distorted picture of the West is presented which emphasizes and exaggerates all our shortcomings and glosses over our accomplishments. But the appalling fact is that we sin in exactly the same way although in the opposite direction. The teaching of history in the United States is a horrifying demonstration of the Orwellian thesis that he who controls the present controls the past and he who controls the past controls the future. W. Cleon Skousen’s book is a polemic and a rather crude one at that and not above, at times, what looks less like error than willful dishonesty. It is redolent of a kind of Bircher-Yankee-doodle-paranoia which is almost the mirror image of Russian paranoia. I propose to justify this contention below. Skousen is not a scholar. He was formerly a police officer in Salt Lake City. I am much more troubled by the character of history textbooks to which unsophisticated young minds are exposed. The worst example (of a generally objectionable lot) which I have encountered recently is a textbook of American history currently widely used in California high schools and colleges.4 It is, however, only a rather extreme example of an ubiquitous and unconscionable feature of all such books. History is properly the record of the past actions and thoughts of a species of featherless biped; the attempt to abstract intelligible patterns from such study and just possibly and with great caution to predict when called upon to do so the probability of such patterns recurring in the future. Some purists, indeed, would even reject the notion of predictive value – which is just one of the reasons why history is not “social science.” That is, it is subject neither to experiment nor, some say, predictive function. That history is unavoidably subjective in no way releases the historian from the obligations of honor. He must aim for von Ranke’s goal – to tell it “wie es eigentlich gewesen.” And though this ideal is always beyond total attainment, it demands an austere self-discipline in the practitioner and teacher. History is not a moral exercise or a pulpit for preachments and value judgments and normative writing. Yet through countless recommended assigned or required textbooks in use in American schools which I have examined, I have yet to find one which does not present history in terms of the author’s prejudices and as a moralistic conflict between good guys and bad guys, laudable institutions and reprehensible ones, “true” ideas and false ones. And the nearer one draws to the twentieth century the more blatant and outrageous this becomes. Every page is full of tendentious remarks and loaded words. In Anglo-American disputes, the British “look down their aristocratic noses.” In World War II, the Allies’ soldiers fight bravely but the Japanese “fanatically.” Personalities of whom the writers disapprove are said to rant and scream and deliver hysterical orations. Or they are masters of deceit and cruelty. The good guys are clever, the bad guys are “crafty.” Napoleon is one of the authors’ bad guys and is therefore described as a “past-master of deceit.” The writers’ heroes, however, if occasionally shown to be less than divine, are nevertheless models of wisdom and righteousness. All the prescribed left-liberal views are offered with regard to colonial empires, slavery, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Martin Luther King, the “Hollywood Ten,” Sacco and Vanzetti and no conflicting views or interpretations are presented. Since those modern pulpits, the television and movie screen, are indefatigable in the promotion of the approved orthodoxies, it is remarkable that any capacity for individual and critical thought remains. And as I have already indicated, the punishment for those still tough-minded enough to espouse heterodox views can be personal catastrophe.
II. Skousen’s Book: Questions and Answers
Communism is not in itself a conspiracy. Communism is a theory of social organization. Conspiracies exist and have always done so but conspiracies are made by people, among them Communists. Conspiracies to assassinate rulers and seize power for some dissident group are as old as human history. Thus there have been and continue to be conspiracies among Communists to extend the areas under their direct control or to subvert rйgimes and destroy or discredit individual enemies which, or who, are considered to be antipathetic to their goals or dangerous to Communist rйgimes. I have already touched on some of the conspiratorial aspects in revolutions long antedating the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848. Nor is “Communist” an exact synonym for “Marxist.” At base, all the word really means is the communal ownership of the resources of a given society. In this sense, many primitive people live in Communist societies and the organization of the Russian peasant village in Tsarist days – the Mir – was Communist. Marxism, on the other hand, is an elaborately constructed philosophical and economic theory built on inverted Hegelian thought and seeking to justify “scientifically” millenarian Communism. When we are seduced into calling history “social science” we are unwittingly endorsing to some degree the Marxist claims. This is not the place to discuss dialectical materialism or the “great waltz of history” (history in three-quarter time). For our purpose, it is enough to point out that Marx, though born in 1818, was essentially an eighteenth century thinker whose ideas were derived eclectically from Hegel, Helvetius and Holach, Judaic Messianism, and the classical materialist philosophers like Heraclitus and Democritus. In the early nineteenth century, as in the late eighteenth, there was a great vogue for constructing mechanical theories of history. The prestige of the exact sciences since the Newtonian revolution had convinced thinkers that they could discover immutable and universal laws of collective human behavior and construct utopias accordingly. Jefferson and Rousseau are eighteenth-century examples; Saint-Simon, Charles Fourrier, August Comte, Henry Buckle and Karl Marx are among the examples in the nineteenth century. The generosity of his wealthy patron, Friedrich Engels, the exploitation of his wife’s slender resources and sundry other unsavory expedients enabled Marx to produce the bulk of that turgid work of pseudo-science which was completed by Engels and published as the three volumes of Das Kapital. Turgid or not, it is not a stupid book and was sufficiently plausible in its thesis to convince many highly intelligent malcontents like Lenin that it represented eternal verities. The implementation of Marxist theory was, however, a prospect which revolted the vast majority of men of all classes. The religious, and that meant most men in the nineteenth century, were appalled by its atheism (which derived from the sceptical previous century like most of Marx’s thought). Persons of property understandably frowned on programs to communalize property. The liberals of those days, quite unlike the liberals of today, were spiritual kin of the modern conservatives in their enthusiasm for individual responsibility and self-reliance. Necessarily, then, Communists conspired and, in autocratic states, went underground or into exile. Russia was especially racked with violence and the violent reaction to violence from the hideous assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881 by Jewish radicals to the murder in the Kiev opera house in 1911 of Peter Stolypin, the Russian Prime Minister, by another Jew. Tsar and Prime Minister were both murdered not because they were reactionaries but precisely they were effective reformers whose actions might undercut the malevolent aims of the dedicated and irreconcilable revolutionaries. In the first years following the Bolshevik coup, the Moscow government promoted, financed and directed revolutionary Communist organizations in the capitalist states. The instrument was the Comintern or Third International. This destabilizing (to use a modern term) policy was not so very different in nature to the activities of the C.I.A. today. This is not a moral assessment of either organization. Such are simply the tools of Realpolitik in the world that is – not the world that sentimentalists and little maidens would like it to be. In any case, the operations of the Comintern were really not very successful between the wars. It failed completely in Italy, Germany and Spain and a clumsy attempt to promote a Communist revolution in England in 1924 was exposed and evoked a strong patriotic and conservative backlash. But we live in a world in which the major powers are, and always have been, engaged in these kinds of activities in their own interests. And the Communist world today is certainly not a monolithic entity. Albania goes its own enigmatic way, Yugoslavia and Rumania have demonstrated that they are hardly vassal states and there is hostility between the pragmatic and practical Chinese and their erstwhile Russian mentors. As I write, news reaches the West that Deng Xiaoping has uttered the unspeakable; has dared to blaspheme the sacred prophets Marx and Lenin and declare that Marxism is old-fashioned and inappropriate in the modern world.
As to another question raised by Skousen – whether Communism has significantly altered the history of the world – it contains the philosophical assumption that there are, or could be, alternative world histories and this is an assumption which is by no means indisputable. But to meet Skousen’s question at his own level, the answer is probably a qualified “yes.” That is to say, its ideology has been another important input factor in the complex relationships between states and in the internal affairs of many of them. But a very strong case can be made concerning the first and most important Communist state, that Russian foreign policy is almost exactly what it would have been under a strong Tsar. I am prepared to argue that Stalin was to twentieth-century Russia what Peter the Great was to eighteenth-century Russia – intelligent, ruthless, hard-headed opportunists, both. Each dragged a reluctant nation into its own century with kicks and curses. Each expanded the national territory. Neither were really ideologues though Stalin went through the mandatory motions in his writings. What a picture the Teheran and Yalta conferences make! There sit the three putative movers and shakers of the world’s destiny – two second-rate minds, filled with folies de grandeur, one a sick cripple, the other a drunken sot gifted only as a phrasemaker but convinced of his military genius. And there sits the third member of the cabal – cynical, ruthless, truly machiavellian and a master of Realpolitik. A democratic egalitarian might be inclined to speculate that Stalin had the cunning of his peasant origins and Churchill and Roosevelt the delusions deriving from their aristocratic heritage. I do not endorse this view but it is not without serious merit. But there are ultimate limits to what any of the trio could accomplish, even F.D.R.’s “good old Uncle Joe.” For Stalin died in 1953, probably murdered. Roosevelt, of course, died in 1944 and Churchill, after several years of increasing senility, in 1965. Roosevelt’s successor was a Missouri haberdasher boosted by the Kansas City Pendergast machine; Churchill’s successors after 1955 were a series of prime ministers whose main objectives seemed to be to dissolve the British Empire as quickly as possible and make the adjective “Great” in “Great Britain” an embarrassment for any Englishman with pride and sensitivity. Stalin’s successors have also been generally second-raters but Stalin had built while the leaders of the West had destroyed. The British can have no illusions that they are still a great power, still less that they are the richest and most powerful nation in the world as they were generally admitted to be in the nineteenth century. This is perhaps fortunate for them since they have the opportunity to face reality and make the choice of the hard road of vigorous rebuilding or the steady degeneration in the garbage dump of former great peoples. The United States is not yet afforded such a clear picture of “either-or.” Technical marvels are still being created; and the resources created by past generations and the natural wealth of the continent all tend to disguise from ordinary citizens that the decay is well set in throughout this land of so much promise.
And if the world could be changed by the muttering of incantations or the waving of wands, no doubt the Communist powers would soon have us all members of a universally Communist planet. Whether that would make the slightest difference with regard to our squabbling and jockeying for power and gain is very doubtful. Neither Christianity nor Islam as supranational worldviews have made much difference to national and racial rivalries. The arrogant plotters of Bretton Woods and subsequent international conferences with their increasingly evident plans for a raceless, rootless future world under the benign aegis of the great multinational corporations and super banks looks a lot more close to realization than the Communist goals.
One answer to the appeal of Communism would be an equally powerful countervailing credo; a religion for a religion; fire to fight fire. The question is what religion. And, in fact, are any of the major religions really credible to educated men in the twentieth century? Or does that matter? Should we only be concerned with the religiosity which seems instinctual in the masses of men? Islam seems to have stanched the advance of Communism to some degree. As long as the worship of Mammon holds sway in the United States, the appeal of Communism will not be likely to advance much beyond the camps of society’s rejects and misfits. It has seldom if ever gained power through the ballot box even in France or Italy which have large Communist parties. Christianity seems to this writer a broken reed in view of the increasing cosying up of the trendy churches to the extreme Left.5 Capitalist greed certainly aids the economic survival of Communist régimes through extended credits, low interest, long-term loans and vast sales of agricultural produce. This probably does not increase and may well diminish the likelihood of active subversion in Western nations planned or directed by Communist powers. After all, why flog a willing horse?
As to the chance that there is a war room in the Kremlin where malignant plotters are devising plans for planetary conquest, the notion is simplistic to the point of idiocy. World conquest in a military sense has never been a practical possibility and Alexander the Great was probably the last man who thought it was – and his mother and the temple priests of Zeus-Ammon had convinced him that he was a god. This does not apply to the infinitely gullible masses. President Roosevelt and his co-conspirators had little difficulty in making millions of Americans believe that the Nazis had plans to transport armies some five thousand miles from Europe to South America and to invade the United States by advancing through Central America and Mexico. The logistics of such an operation are, of course, utterly incredible. One has only to consider the enormous problems for the vast Allied armies in crossing the narrow English Channel in June 1944 and landing in Normandy against the opposition of a numerically much inferior foe, who, however, had no available navy or air force to intercept or harass the invasion fleet. Roosevelt’s horror stories had about as much plausibility as Orson Welles’ Martian invasion of 1939 – the radio dramatization of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds which had thousands of panic-stricken ordinary Americans fleeing the monsters from the red planet.
But it will be argued that a Communist takeover does not necessarily involve direct military action. Can the Communists “sell” their system in one way or another? Much will depend on factors which are imponderable. If this planet continues to harbor ever more billions of human and humanoid creatures; if life becomes ever harsher and drabber and lacking in beauty and grace; if we are beset by natural or man-made disasters beyond our power to cope with; if any one or combination of a score of unpredictable misfortunes come upon us, then a generation of the genetically botched and television bedoped might capitulate to the siren song of the Left Collectivists.
Skousen avers, absurdly, that Socialism and Communism are the same thing and supports this claim by pointing out that the U.S.S.R. describes itself as a Union of socialist republics. It does, of course, because in Marxist eschatology “Socialism” is a phrase which an embattled Soviet Union must go through until the whole world is enlightened and adopts Marxism. If Socialism and Communism were identical, then we are already Communist because many of our institutions are already socialist, the public school system, for example, or the post office, social security, welfare, medicare, county hospitals, and many others. We are very far from being a pristine, Adam-Smith-type, rugged individualist nation. In fact, stripped of its spectral rags, all socialism means (and there are many kinds of socialism, including National Socialism) is the recognition that man is a social animal like other primates and the acceptance of social responsibility for the individual members of the society.
Finally, I wish to take some time to deal with the question of the spectre of a nuclear holocaust which so preoccupies American thinking or, rather, feeling. With it is associated the question of how we can “stop Communism.” To the latter issue, I would respond that we should not be so obsessed with stopping Communism which is probably an impossible goal for our foreign policy unless we are prepared to feed, clothe, house, educate and entertain a mostly envious and rancorous world at a level which corresponds to our own. The problem is to stymie, frustrate and outmanoeuvre Russian foreign policy or the policy of any foreign power which runs counter to our own perceived interests. There is another solution which is almost as repulsive as submission to international Communism: that is submission to international Capitalism. This we seem to be in a fair way of doing already with the suicidal free trade policies of the Euro-American nations and the vast, unsecured and probably unrepayable export of capital to dead-beat scraps of jungle or desert that have arrogated to themselves the ridiculous titles of “nation” in recent decades. Some of these welching countries openly brag that they will default as a matter of policy. Such was the statement of Julius Nyere of Tanzania a few days prior to the writing of this article. An alternative world then to one unified under Communist domination is one of nominally independent sovereign states but which is, in fact, controlled by multinational corporations and international banks which implement policies of equalizing out the world’s wealth or poverty and reducing all mankind to a miscegenated and undifferentiated khaki mass. Much has been done already on these lines with the apparently unstoppable and continuing immigration into the United States and Western Europe of millions of racial aliens and the massive trade deficits as well as the erosion of domestic industries and the total destruction of some by unrestricted imports from the Third World. The process is accelerating as brain-washing and brain burn-out is effected through the pulpits of the entertainment media, the churches and the academy.
But as long as the world is divided between Capitalist and Communist states isn’t there a dreadful prospect of doomsday; of the ultimate nuclear holocaust? My answer is that the danger is minimal already and will diminish yet more with the passage of time. “A spectre is haunting Europe”. . . and North America. The students at Brown University recently presented us with the unedifying spectacle of a demand for suicide pills in the event of a nuclear war. This action appears to have been meant as a symbolic gesture but it epitomizes a decadent and gutless frame of mind. The blame for the widespread, neurotic pessimism among the young (when it isn’t simply a fashionable, sophomoric pose or a handy excuse for self-indulgence) falls squarely on the shoulders of two generations of parents who have inculcated in their offspring the fear of a horrible bogyman. . . a spectre. The time is long overdue to dispel this wraith with some calm analysis of the odds of a nuclear war ever occurring between the major powers. It could happen, of course. For that matter, the earth could be impacted by a meteor which, if a mere quarter of a mile in diameter, would devastate the planet and wipe out a large proportion of the biota.6 The chances of either event are, fortunately, minuscule. In fact, I submit that major war of any kind is highly unlikely although minor wars will probably always be with us since the cure for that is some form of planetary tyranny which is worse than the disease.
Our only conceivable adversary in a nuclear war – for a very long time to come – is the Soviet Union. We need not fear that some pestiferous and irresponsible little nation will trick the superpowers into a war as the Israeli’s attempted to do in the “Lavon affair.” If any minor power launches a nuclear missile with the intent to mislead the target country as to its origin the attempt is doomed from the start. We and the Russians now have the technology to establish instantly the source of any such missile. And there is always the hot-line.
In the early years following the Bolshevik coup, it is possible that the gang of wild-eyed, starveling fanatics and their Khazar masters might – might – have launched a nuclear attack in pursuit of their messianic, pseudo-religion. But they hadn’t the technology. Not so today. Not even in Stalin’s time for Stalin was a pragmatist par excellence and the only one of the gang of war criminals at Yalta who came out smelling like a rose. Russia gained 250,000 square miles of territory – mostly from former possessionis of the Tsars which had been lost in 1918 – and 25,000,000 new subjects (whether they would or not). Russia also gained hegemony over Eastern Europe although that has partially eroded since. And Russia became the only other superpower.
And today? Today the leaders of the Soviet Union are old men with grandchildren to dandle on their knees, chauffeur-driven Zil automobiles, vacations in the Crimea and comfortable dachas outside Moscow – and, doubtless, all the health problems of the geriatric. They are as aware as we of the probable results of an all-out nuclear war and the vast overkill we both possess – even the onset of a dreaded nuclear winter and the extinction of all higher forms of life on this planet. As for large-scale conventional war, it is almost equally unlikely. Both sides know the dreadful temptation for the side facing defeat to resort to nuclear weapons. This is especially true since we have demonstrated as of 1946 that we have retrogressed to the judicial murder of the leaders of the vanquished side.
There is also the historical experience of the Russians to take into account. Their skin-of-the-teeth survival in the so-called Second World War was so traumatic that they are still paranoid about the imagined danger from a mere fraction of a brutally vivisected Germany. That war is their retrospective bogyman. They have been bogged down in Afghanistan for five years and suffered heavy casualties at the hands of a relatively small number of primitive tribesmen. Is it conceivable that they would suddenly decide to roll across Central and Western Europe and perhaps cross the English Channel? Perhaps they could do it – but to what purpose? The cost would be heavy to begin with and the on-going resistance in every country would be a dreadful haemorrhage without end. When 300,000 of Napoleon’s troops were tied down in Spain for five years in a hideous guerilla war, he called it his “Spanish ulcer.” All Europe would be Russia’s “ulcer”. That country has not even felt equal to squelching heretical Rumania or Yugoslavia. Finland, a former possession of the Tsars, retains its independence having lost only Petsamo and part of Finno-Karelia. When it looked some months ago as if the Jaruzelski rйgime in Poland were in danger of being overthrown, the Bear growled but did not act.
For the Soviet army to occupy not only her Eastern European satellites but also all Western and Southern Europe as well would not only ensure a costly guerilla war but one waged over impossibly vulnerable and stretched supply lines. There would almost certainly be defection and revolt in the captive nations. What could possibly be worth all that? If is only the first generation of crusaders that captures Jerusalem, or bursts out of the Arabian desert to impose Islam on half the world, or establishes the vast empires of Cyrus or Alexander or Genghis Khan. Their grandchildren are sensible, unimaginative men with their minds on the practical and profitable. They weigh and are cautious and lack the fanaticism (or vision) which conquers worlds.
Russia will always have to be watched, of course, and the Great Game of international diplomacy will always be in play. But nowadays it is to ensure that there are no easy pickings left around for her – or for any ambitious power. But let us stop giving our children nightmares. There will never again be wars on the scale of the four world wars between 1756 and 1945. Let us stop building ever larger nuclear stockpiles at ruinous cost.
If the Russians, who have been a paranoid people since the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century, choose to bankrupt themselves, so much the better. If the Western nuclear powers – the United States, Canada, Britain and France – retain enough state-of-the-art missiles to vitrify six or eight major Russian cities – say, Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Gorky, Perm, Novosibirsk and Sverdlovsk – it doesn’t matter a gnat’s knickers if the Russians’ nuclear arsenal could wipe out all life in the galaxy, they are not going to try it.7
Some disturbing questions remain. Are we to blame for this insane and apparently unstoppable arms race and for an astronomical national debt which threatens like the Tower of Babel to collapse and bury us all?8 Is it exploitation at the hands of the armaments industry and its bought politicians? Perhaps it is something analogous to the irresponsible, unsecured loans made by our big banks to rat-hole countries – another unscrupulous rip-off of the American tax-payer who will be called upon to redeem the losses caused by defaulting mud people. Is it then a parallel empire-building gravy-train for the military-industrial complex?
And there is yet another sinister motive possible to explain the maintenance of unending hostility between the rough equivalents of George Orwell’s “Oceania” and “Eurasia.” It appears to justify the continuing presence of large numbers of American troops in Europe as necessary to its defense. But such a presence reinforces profound political pressures on Europe’s supposedly sovereign governments and is also disastrously demoralizing. There is a clear historical precedent. The Ancient Britons were a brave, warrior people who twice fought against the Roman invaders in 55 and 54 B.C and forced them to withdraw. Nearly a hundred years later, the Romans came back but for several decades met with fierce resistance and sometimes defeat. Eventually, however, military discipline and superior technology prevailed and the Britons settled down under Roman protection for another two hundred and fifty years, tamed, domesticated pseudo-Romans and utterly dependent upon the occupation forces to protect them against external enemies. So it was that, when the legions finally withdrew, we read pathetic pleas for their return – “the groans of the Britons.” The Britons no longer had the manhood or sturdy self-reliance to conduct their own defense. They had become an effete people who could repel neither the savage Picts and Irish nor the virile and uncorrupted Germans. Thus the language and culture of the latter became our Anglo-Saxon heritage, not that of the Romanized Britons. As the American legions remain in Europe indefinitely, the United States, willy-nilly, imposes its own moral, cultural and political hegemony on Europe and aborts any truly European resurgence, especially the restoration to life and independent nationhood of a proud and reunited Germany. Even this might be tolerable if the United States were still a nation and fulfilling the wonderful promise of its early days. But it is no longer a sovereign state which pursues a foreign policy in its own exclusive interests. It is now a polyglot, polyracial empire, fast on the way to becoming a new “Austria-Hungary” with all the centrifugal forces that implies. When the Founding Fathers wrote that “all men are created equal” it was not true even then but at least what they meant were men like themselves, civilized, educated Anglo-Saxons. They have been betrayed. They are to modern Americans what the Romans of the period before the Punic Wars were to the polyglot, polyracial “Roman” populace of the first century A.D. – those scourings of North Africa, the Near East and the Levant which caused Juvenal to cry, “In Tiberim defluxit Orontes.”
And so it is possible that the inhabitants of the area called the “United States” a century from now may more or less happily accept serfdom – protected, fed and entertained, of course – either under Communism or under international Capitalism. The real task to those who see and care is to prevent this, not to worry unduly about Skousen’s out-dated obsession with Communists under the bed – even naked ones.
1 Napoleon’s remark could equally well have meant that the revolution was “achieved” in that it had reached its full development in him, or that it was all over and sanity and stability were established again.
2 The reference is to Nicholas II although, technically, he was not the last Tsar. His brother Michael succeeded him for one day.
3 I recommend most highly, for those who believe in the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, a witty and elegant little book written by an eminent American historian some fifty years ago (still in print), The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers, by Carl Becker.
4 Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, 2 vols., Lexington, Massachussetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1983.
5 This is a situation which can only get worse. It is the nature of all organisms to seek increase in power – or sicken and die. Churches, like all other organisms, instinctively obey this law. As the white world grows more sceptical, the churches turn their attention to the Third World masses, and bait their hooks with socialist doctrines. Such behavior is rarely wholly consciously determined. Instinct is much more important, as it is in most philosophical, political and religious commitments. In one form or another the goal is always power.
6 Elaborate calculations of the kinetic energy released in such a collision have verified this rather startling claim.
7 Not convinced? Then reverse it. Suppose a United States with enough nuclear power to utterly destroy all the U.S.S.R. But suppose it would cost us just New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Kansas City, San Francisco and Seattle. Would any American President consider it a reasonable exchange? Would you?
8 An unmanageable national debt was a major factor in precipitating the French Revolution.
SOURCE: The Liberty Bell, February 1985