The Long View 2006-12-04: Chaos, Social Darwinism, Patronage Socialism

John J. Reilly poo-poohs criticizing the high cousin marriage rate in the Middle East, but it really is bad…..

Genetics wasn’t really one of his interests, but I thought it was more widely known that cousin marriage makes your kids dumber and sicker than they would be otherwise.

Chaos, Social Darwinism, Patronage Socialism

Does that Other Spengler have the Middle East in a nutshell?

What formerly were civil wars (or prospective civil wars) in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine have become three fronts in a Sunni-Shi'ite war, in which the local contestants are mere proxies. This is obvious in Lebanon, and becoming so in Palestine ...[The new configuration for the region could be something like] the great German civil war, namely the 30 Years' War of 1618-48. The Catholic and Protestant Germans, with roughly equal strength, battered each other through two generations because France sneakily shifted resources to whichever side seemed likely to fold. I have contended for years that the United States ultimately will adopt the perpetual-warfare doctrine that so well served Cardinal Richelieu and made France the master of Europe for a century ...Iran, I warned on September 13, 2005, is running short of oil and soldiers...Its oil exports could fall to zero within only 10 years, according to new studies reviewed in the December 11 Business Week. Iran's circumstances appear far more pressing than I believed a year ago,

We tried very much the policy Spengler suggests, in the long war between Iraq and Iran. One side eventually won.

* * *

Chaos has other advocates. To loose mere anarchy upon the world, in fact, is one of the options that Paul Starobin explores in his National Journal piece, Beyond Hegemony:

As the science writer James Gleick reminds in "Chaos," his 1987 best-seller, "chaos and instability" are "not the same at all." The essence of a chaotic system is not an absence of balance but an inherent unpredictability. Thus, weather patterns and the stock market have a chaotic quality -- but they are not lacking in self-adjusting orderly principles. So it might be in a footloose world without any hegemon.

In this regard, Thomas L. Friedman -- a New York Times columnist, an inveterate optimist, and the advancer of the idea that, as the title of his best-selling book puts it, "The World Is Flat" -- offered an intriguing idea at a recent forum in Washington sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The world of the last half-century has been tracing an arc, Friedman said. The Cold War was the bipolar world, with the U.S. and the Soviet Union keeping things in check, and this stage, he continued, was followed by the unipolar world of American dominance -- which, in turn, is already starting to give way to a decentralized one in which the key force is not any one state or set of states but the technologically empowered individual.

All this is in aid of the latest recrudescence of Declinism, the thesis advanced in the late 1980s by Paul Kennedy to the effect the US would soon be joined by peer powers: Japan and Europe certainly, and perhaps more. Pretty much none of the forecasts that Kennedy made have been borne out by latter events, though the piece allows Kennedy some self-congratulatory quotes. In fact, in the list of prospective peer powers we are given, India is the only one without imploding demographics or a Potemkin financial system or both. Even with regard to Iraq, we should note that none of the supposed poles of a future multipolar world seem much interested in actually planting themselves in the region. The return of Declinism is really just part of a campaign by transnational institutions, and particularly the UN, to use the political embarrassment of the Bush Administration to reestablish their credibility. However, it is only after taking us through speculation about China World and Plurality World that the author takes us to the World World scenario:

It may be that the E.U. model -- more than the talkathon United Nations one -- could serve as the blueprint of a future World Government. Today the euro, tomorrow the universo -- with an image of Kant on the bill? (If you think the restaurant fare is good in Brussels now, wait until it becomes the capital of the planet.) But if the E.U. precedent holds, it could take not only the end of American hegemony but also some kind of global catastrophe -- akin to World War II but on an even larger scale -- to establish a World Government with the power to enforce its own "world security" policy.

The piece actually makes a reference to the way a world government is formed in the Left Behind books, but tactfully omits reference to the Rapture.

* * *

Here is a review of John Derbyshire's review of Mark Steyn's America Alone. (My own review, in length comparable to Derbyshire's, is here.) Derbyshire tells us:

A literary and stylistic gem like America Alone might be utterly wrong-headed; but one would be much more reluctant to think so than one would in the case of a dull, clumsily-written book on the same subject....

For someone so impressed by the book, Derbyshire seems oddly uninterested in Steyn's central argument about the unsustainability of below-replacement birthrates:

Birthrates are dropping everywhere, even in Muslim countries, even in non-Israeli Palestine. This is just a feature of our postindustrial age, and it’s unlikely there is anything we can do about it, or should want to...The earth’s surface is finite, after all...

Does Derbyshire dismiss the concept of social reform? We get a clue to that later. For now, let's see what he says when he's trying to be helpful:

[T]he reader who has traversed those 200 pages has been having different thoughts from the ones Steyn tries to guide him to. For example: Is that original list of options—submit to, destroy, or reform Islam—really exhaustive? How about we just fence it off...

I put the book down at last, though, wondering if it is pessimistic enough. For all his splendid conservative credentials, Mark Steyn has tendencies towards root-causes liberalism. [Quoting Steyn] "John Derbyshire began promoting the slogan 'Rubble doesn't Cause Trouble.' Cute, and I wish him well with the T-shirt sales. But in arguing for a 'realist' foreign policy of long-range bombing as necessary, he overlooks the very obvious point that rubble causes quite a lot of trouble..." Ah, but Mark, there is rubble, and there is rubble. ...I am, in fact, willing to confess myself a collateral-damage armchair warrior, who would be happy to see us trade in our inventory of smart laser-guided precision munitions for lots and lots and lots of old-style iron bombs

Well, maybe not very helpful. In any case, we eventually discover that his embrace of popular sociobiology probably has disabled his ability to think about social issues:

And there are, of course, as must always be pointed out nowadays, the Great Unmentionables...Nothing is about race, because there is no such thing as race. (Repeat 100 times.) It’s about culture—the aether, the phlogiston, of current social-anthropological speculation, whose actual nature is mysterious, but whose explanatory power is infinite...Good, solid scientific studies are beginning to appear that altogether refute the “culture” paradigm. We are not a uniform species...What of those Muslim Middle-Eastern family trees? The ones labeled “Arab Shia,” “Iranian Shia,” “Mesopotamian Sunni,” “Saudi” (that’s the one with a 55 percent cousin-marriage rate), and so on? Can they, with a little help and encouragement, make harmonious, consensual modern societies out of themselves?

I am perfectly willing to believe that the reaction of early 20th-century cultural anthropologists to Social Darwinism occasioned quite a lot of bogus research. However, Social Darwinism was pretty bogus, too; it's still bogus if you recast it in genetic and neurobiological terminology. Just glance above at Spengler's allusion to the Thirty Years' War, when the Germans blew each other up at least as efficiently as the Sunni and Shia of today. Maybe the German genes have changed. More likely, the same genes have more than one mode of expression.

* * *

If you must recast conservatism in Darwinian terms, then start with this item at Right Reason:

[L]arry Arnhart, recently responded on his blog to [RR's] review of his book, Darwinian Conservatism. [RR's] review, which was published under the title, "Natural Law Without a Lawgiver," just appeared in the Fall 2006 issue of The Review of Politics (68.4, pp. 680-82). You can find a pdf of it on [RR's] website....

I'm a great fan of paleontology, and also of popular genetics, but the problem with Darwinism as a pure method is that it explains imaginary animals as readily as real ones. The same, I am afraid, goes for sociobiological accounts of human societies.

* * *

Some political systems are obviously doomed, of course, not least among them Hugo Chavez's patronage socialism:

The boom [in Venezuela] is evident in an economy that has put financial speculation and conspicuous consumption ahead of domestic manufacturing. For instance, foreign automobile companies Ford and General Motors will sell 300,000 cars in the country this year. Economists describe Venezuela as a “harbor economy” because of its lust for imported goods...

Some Chávez economic policies draw inspiration from formulas used with mixed results by countries in the developing and industrialized worlds the 1960s and 1970s. These include price controls for food and gasoline, strict limits on buying and selling foreign currency and caps on everything from lending rates at banks to hourly fees at parking lots....Despite boasting of some of South America’s most fertile land in an area the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined, Venezuela still imports more than half its food, largely from the United States and Colombia. An overvalued currency, meanwhile, has been disastrous for Venezuelan industry with the number of manufacturing companies falling to about 8,000 today from 17,000 in 1998, according to Mr. Guerra, the former economist at the central bank.

Castro promised his people blood, sweat, and tears: he stayed in power by meeting the low expectations he had created. Chavez promises ice cream and lollipops, which he can deliver, until the next collapse in oil prices.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2006-03-21: Villainous VP; Stargate Nostalgia; Holy Schlock; Capitalism & Mechanism


With the recent rise in popularity of Communism on the American Catholic Left, John's musing on what makes a good businessman is apropos. 

A note about capitalism, the moral import of which is widely misunderstood. Capitalism is not the ideology of greed; quite the opposite. It is a system for making economic decisions based purely on prices. The whole point is to remove emotions and desires from the process. In a capitalist system, entrepreneurs seek to maximize profits over time not because they are rapacious, but for the same reason that engineers try to minimize friction in the machines they design. There is no lack of greedy businessmen, but to the extent that greed governs their actions, they are bad businessmen.
The more profound objection to capitalism would be otherwise.

I'm quite sure that the tradinistas think greedy businessmen are the best businessmen, and hate them accordingly.

Villainous VP; Stargate Nostalgia; Holy Schlock; Capitalism & Mechanism


Some readers may be fans of the Fox series 24, in which each hour-long episode is supposed to depict in real time each hour in the day of a federal intelligence agent who thwarts the plans of terrorists. I rarely watch the series, actually, but I happened to tune in last night. What struck me was that the root of all evil, at least within the American government, was the vice president. He was last seen egging on the president to send federal troops into Los Angeles and otherwise to take steps to discredit himself, thus making it easier for the vice president to head his party's ticket in the next election.

It does not require much insight to surmise that we are seeing the effect on popular culture of the vice presidency of Dick Cheney. The Cheney Effect has become a small trend. Readers will recall the film The Day After Tomorrow, in which the VP causes an ice age, or fails to order an evacuation in time for one, or something. A season or two back on Stargate SG1, the vice president was in league with the Illuminati.

May I note that the Cheney Effect marks an important change from midcentury? It used to be that, if you needed a villain for a thriller, you looked to the Senate. A good example is Advise and Consent, a novel by New York Times reporter Allen Drury that was published in 1959; it was made into a memorable movie starring Henry Fonda in 1962. That story involved an attempt by an FDR-like president to appoint an old-fashioned liberal as Secretary of Defense, while being opposed by McCarthy-like tactics on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The book and story are doubly interesting now, because the nominee was supposed to represent the blameless and brilliant Alger Hiss, whom we now know really had been a Soviet agent. In any case, one of the motifs of the story was the modesty and obscurity of the vice president. At a cocktail party, he tries to make conversation with the majority leader of the House (I believe), but realizes that the man is not listening to him. So he says:

"By the way, I murdered my wife last night. Buried her under a kumquat bush. You know what they say: easy come, easy go."

"Hmmm, Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Vice president. You were saying?"

Of course, the president dies toward the end of the story, and the meek little VP turns into Harry Truman. Few people, even Republicans, entertain similar thoughts today.

* * *

Speaking of Stargate and even more of Stargate Atlantis (I find the current cast of Stargate SG1 less congenial than formerly), I have been trying to figure out why I like those series so much. The special effects are sub-par, the plots are incomprehensible, the wisecracks are no better than average. Nonetheless, I find those series as relaxing as watching golf.

I think I have an answer. All that running around in the bushes and pretending to be in outer space was exactly what my friends and I used to do when I was 10. The tools in a basement workshop easily became the equipment on a spaceship's bridge, and any open field could become an alien environment. Actually, we had it easier than the the SG series, which have the handicap of being produced in the neighborhood of lovely Vancouver. My neighborhood, on the other hand, was well provided with the sites of burned-out houses. There was even a huge landfill where the land actually smoked but you could still walk on it: genuinely eerie

This was long before role-playing games, much less videogames. Except for the smoke and the toxins, I think we had it better.

* * *

Yes, I know some Crunchy Cons, and fine folks they are. That Spengler at Asia Times apparently knows a few, too; or at any rate, to judge by his review of Rod Dreher's book, Crunchy Cons, he understands and sympathizes with the large fraction of conservatives who are culturally traditional and have no interest in material wealth beyond that needed for a decent life. However, Spengler notes some important tensions in crunchy-world:

What Dreher envisages, though, is not so much a back-to-nature movement but rather a shift back to tradition. Paradoxically, that is where he is most American. How should an American approach tradition? Judging from his book, in the United States one simply goes shopping for a tradition.

Yes, when people talk about the benefits of tradition, I am reminded of the story about the CEO who was briefed on the importance of corporate culture and turned to his aide to say he wanted a culture by Monday. Actually, this point is particularly important with regard to religion:

Christianity requires tradition less than it does conversion...No US congregation will live through Johann Sebastian Bach's "Passion According to St Matthew" as an inner experience the way German evangelicals once did. But who is to say that black Baptists singing Gospel are further from God? I agree with Dreher that the Chartres Cathedral is more conducive to spirituality than a shopping-mall megachurch, but there is a reason why Chartres is full of tourists and the megachurches are full of worshippers. What if this is as good as it gets?

Again, I generally attend a Latin Mass; I even do some graphics work for the enterprise. The church is a century-old masterpiece (built by Italians, not the Irish) and the music is fit for a concert of ancient music. Nonetheless, it has proven awfully hard to get weekly attendance much over 60, whereas some nearby cinderblock churches are packed to their exposed structural-steel rafters.

You would think that God would have better taste.

* * *

A note about capitalism, the moral import of which is widely misunderstood. Capitalism is not the ideology of greed; quite the opposite. It is a system for making economic decisions based purely on prices. The whole point is to remove emotions and desires from the process. In a capitalist system, entrepreneurs seek to maximize profits over time not because they are rapacious, but for the same reason that engineers try to minimize friction in the machines they design. There is no lack of greedy businessmen, but to the extent that greed governs their actions, they are bad businessmen.

The more profound objection to capitalism would be otherwise.

Fred Saberhagen, I believe it was, wrote a series of stories (the Beserker Series?) based on the premise that an alien species' military system became so automated with the passage of time that it survived the extinction of the species that created it. It would actually be easier to imagine that happening with a market economy created by a society with persistently below-replacement birthrates. Such a society might automate more and more processes, from mining to the care of the dwindling old. When the last citizen died, however, the system would not just shut down. It would continue to send bills and make payments for maintenance and repair. Stock exchanges and banks would continue to function, investing the capital in the estates of the extinct population to best effect, but of course still experiencing the booms and busts inherent in any system with feedback.

Jacques Ellul's critique of Kantian ethics might have some application here: no act can be said to be ethical if it is derived from the sort of mechanical calculus that the categorical imperative requires. The same might be said of some business decisions.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2006-01-07: The Next China & the Next Socialism; The Next Liturgy

By Limitchik - I took this picture in 2012 with a Canon 30D, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Limitchik - I took this picture in 2012 with a Canon 30D, CC BY-SA 3.0,

There is another silly reference to Gordon Chang here [still wrong], but this quote is interesting:

That said, though, we are probably about to enter a generation in which there will be greater distrust of market mechanisms. What distinguishes the early 21st century from the early 20th is the almost total evaporation of Marxist eschatology, indeed of any sense of historical development. The purpose of social policy is no longer paradise. The purpose can become the prudential care for all, a concept which includes public safety and public health as well as economics. Oswald Spengler's term for this was "Ethical Socialism."

What made Marxism so potent was its millenarianism, the fervor of the convert and the true believer in Marx's reading of history. These kids who are fashionably espousing Communism are more like prosperity gospel Christians. A popular and enduring movement that has had a real effect on people's lives, but at least an order of magnitude less powerful than the First or Second Great Awakening.

It is probably a good thing for everyone that the eschatological element of Marxism died out [or burned out], but I do wonder what the point of calling yourself a Communist is now.

The Next China & the Next Socialism; The Next Liturgy


Thoughts on China's future is the title of a posting on Samizdata by James Waterton, who has recently visited that country. There he found that the ATMs were usually out of cash, from which he surmised that the financial system might be close to imploding. (He does not cite Gordon Chang's The Coming Collapse of China, but his logic is the same, and the anecdote about the ATMs is not frivolous: you have to use information like that because all the official statistics about the banking system are imaginary.) A major disruption of the Chinese economy would be bad enough economic news, but Waterton says the implications go far beyond that:

I am concerned by the consequences of a Chinese economic collapse, and these concerns reach far beyond any short to medium term economic pain. I fear a worldwide economic slump prompted by the collapse of China and its supposedly free market will provoke a popular backlash against globalisation and the liberal market reforms carried out in the 80s in the most successful economies of the West. Capitalism and liberalism will be blamed if people create a nexus between China's collapse, its market reforms and its intertwining with the greater world economy...Policy reversals may follow and suddenly we're staring down the barrel of a neo-Keynesian revolution. Consider what the average person knows about China's economy.

That's a good bet, but as any Daoist can tell you, it's one of those yin-and-yang developments. Libertarianism and command economics are both extreme positions. Neither ever entirely goes away, but their strongest manifestations are always ephemeral. The interesting question is whether the Next Socialism will greatly resemble the old one; or indeed, whether the Next Socialism will be a Left phenomenon at all.

There are people, many of them Latin American, for whom the 1960s never ended. Some of them are now running Venezuela and Bolivia. This is worrisome in some ways: Venezuela will be able to keep the communist system in Cuba afloat until the price of oil falls again, and Bolivia is now controlled by drug exporters. Still, it is hard to see such regimes as representatives of any historical trend, except perhaps entropy. Then there is poor Comandante Marcos and his Other Campaign in Mexico. The rhetoric is mostly good old-fashioned populism, but it has grown turgid with the language of the cultural left:

Hermanos y hermanas obreros y obreras, campesinos y campesinas de todo Mexico

"Brothers and sisters; workmen and workwomen; peasants and [I don't know: peasantinas?]": Spanish is a language where gender inclusivity really should not be an issue. Any movement that imports this associate-professor stutter is liable to meet the fate of liberation theology.

That said, though, we are probably about to enter a generation in which there will be greater distrust of market mechanisms. What distinguishes the early 21st century from the early 20th is the almost total evaporation of Marxist eschatology, indeed of any sense of historical development. The purpose of social policy is no longer paradise. The purpose can become the prudential care for all, a concept which includes public safety and public health as well as economics. Oswald Spengler's term for this was "Ethical Socialism."

* * *

Meanwhile, at the Conference of Catholic Bishops, they are debating a new English translation of the Latin Mass that Rome promulgated after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

The role of Latin the Catholic liturgy takes a little explanation. The Mass is rarely celebrated in Latin. When it is, it is usually the old Latin Mass that is celebrated, the one that prevailed until the Council. However, the original of the new Mass, the Novus Ordo, is also in Latin. That is the version from which translations are supposed to be made into the various living languages. One of the advantages to this system is that the conventions of translation from Latin to the modern languages are long-established and well-known. Translation from Latin to English is a no-brainer.

At any rate, it's supposed to be. In fact, the translation committee that did the translation into English 30 years ago turned a horse into a camel. The Vatican told the English-speaking countries to fix it. Unfortunately, as we learn from the indispensable Adoremus Bulletin, there were announcements like this one from chairman Bishop Donald Trautman at the meeting of the bishops last November:

We have set aside a good one half-hour for questions and comments. Before I introduce the panel I want to thank you for responding to our consultation. One hundred and seven Latin Rite bishops responded with 1,147 suggestions. Let us look at the results of this second consultation. [Indicates slides with diagrams of surveys projected on a screen.]

With reference to the words of institution, 140 bishops said "I believe the best translation of 'pro multis' is 'for all'".

In fact, of course, the only possible translation of "pro multis" is "for many." The Latin quotes the New Testament where Jesus says his blood "will be shed for many" for the forgiveness of sins. There is a theological reason for saying "for all." Catholic doctrine has it that Jesus did in principle die for all, though that does not mean all are necessarily saved. You can make that point with other scriptural citations. You can't make it here, though, and still call the result a translation.

Finally, Cardinal Francis George, as well as many of his colleagues perhaps, was laboring under this misapprehension:

The discussion is now somewhat complicated as we all know. Instead of the two poles -- fidelity to the Latin or adaptation to the English -- there’s a third pole, and that is the pastoral concern. The people own the present translation, even though it may be deficient -- as some of us have said -- as ICEL itself has recognized when adopted a different way of going at it. But nonetheless it’s ours. And they possess that text in a dialogical worship service in a way they never possessed the Latin text. They got used to the Latin text, but it wasn’t theirs, it wasn’t their language, and it wasn’t -- you know -- so dialogical and shaped our worship in the way that the new Missal has.

The congregation knew the old Mass as scraps of familiar phrases and in translation. They owned it, however, because the text was immemorial and unchangeable: certainly it was unchangeable by their local priest, as the new Mass too often has not proved to be. They owned it in much the way that Protestants owned the archaic modern English of the King James Bible.

There is just not the same relationship to a vernacular liturgy. It is literature, and it belongs to its author.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View: Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

John mentions the Rosenbergs in passing here, citing a book by Ron Radosh. I knew that the Venona transcripts had decisively identified the Rosenbergs as Soviet spies in 1995, Radosh put the pieces together without classified information in 1983. Well done.

Eldridge Cleaver, Mormon Republican

Eldridge Cleaver, Mormon Republican

John also mentions other former Leftist radicals like Eldridge Cleaver, who eventually became a Mormon Republican. I kind of admire the way in which the Black Panther Party tried to suborn the Second Amendment in the name of racial justice. However, they turned out in retrospect to be pretty much the kind of people their enemies painted them as.

Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey
by David Horowitz
Touchstone Book, 1997
$15.00 (Paperback), 468 Pages
ISBN: 0-684-84005-7


World's Oldest Red Diaper Baby Tells All


It is possible that David Horowitz is wrong in believing himself to be "the most hated ex-radical of [his] generation." His sometime colleague, Ron Radosh, may have earned that distinction by proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the Rosenbergs were guilty (well, Julius anyway). Nevertheless, Horowitz is indeed the most prominent former polemicist for the New Left of the 1960s who not only had "second thoughts" in the 1970s, but who now champions what are usually characterized as conservative causes. It is quite a trip from his first major book, "The Free World Colossus" (1963), which made the revisionist interpretation of the origins of the Cold War respectable, to his current magazine, "Heterodoxy," which seeks to make life a misery for the radical faculty on university campuses. The tale of how this transformation took place is as gripping an autobiography as you could hope for from a man who has spent his working life filling up blank sheets of paper and attending editorial meetings. Still, at the end of the book, I found myself asking just how important the New Left really was.

A "red diaper baby" is a person who was raised in a Communist family, particularly during the `40s and `50s, when the Communist Party USA was large enough to provide its members with a remarkably comprehensive subculture. David Horowitz was born in 1939 in a Communist colony in the New York City borough of Queens, so he was raised in that special world of leftist summer camps, folksingers who insisted they were 200% American and anodyne euphemisms designed to disguise from outsiders just what his family's political affiliations actually were.

His parents' dedication to the cause was heroic. They followed the twists and turns of Soviet policy in the 1930s without a murmur. To the considerable aggravation of their non-Communist neighbors, in the 1940s they tried to stop the break-up of their cooperative housing development into private lots: the Communists insisted they had a right to pay rent. They even lost their jobs as public school teachers in the `50s. (They did get their pensions back after the loyalty legislation in question was declared unconstitutional.) Through all this, they never despaired of the Revolution, though they had little to do with the Party itself after the Khrushchev Report of 1956.

American Communism, at any rate in New York City, was largely an activity of anti-religious Jews. Horowitz has a lively sense that people like his parents had, in effect, escaped from the protective ghettos of Eastern Europe only to construct an unnecessary ghetto in America, a ghetto that chiefly benefited the Georgian mountain bandit who ruled the Soviet Union during Horowitz's youth. (Even in Sunnyside, Queens, there were people peripherally involved in espionage for the Soviets.) One of the specific issues that made Horowitz break with the Left by 1980 was its increasing support for the destruction of Israel, a consideration that also motivated the more prominent neo-conservatives to change sides a few years before. More generally, though, he had come to accept the idea that Marxism for many Jewish radicals was essentially a sublimation of the desire to belong, since Marxism was an ideology that disposed of the question of ethnicity by dissolving it in millenarian universalism. His change of heart might be summed up as the realization that the species of universalism afforded by traditional American pluralism was about as good as anything history was likely to afford.

The New Left began during the Kennedy Administration. Horowitz's own political life began in association with other red diaper babies in Berkeley, California, in the early 1960s, on a magazine called "Root and Branch." (Horowitz would actually miss several years of its development during a stay in England and Sweden from 1965 to 1968.) It was not simply an outgrowth of the Old Left. For one thing, it was never a creature of the orthodox Communist Party, which had become an anachronism by the end of the 1950s. For that matter, neither was it an enterprise predominantly of red diaper babies, Jewish or otherwise. The model New Leftist was perhaps Tom Hayden, principle author of the Port Huron Statement, whose background was neither Jewish nor Communist. The New Left was, however, remarkably anti-American right from the start.

This antipathy extended to John Kennedy and all his works. One of the hypocrisies that Horowitz highlights in the memoirs of other New Leftists that have appeared in recent years is the pretense that their authors had begun as moderate Kennedy-worshippers who were driven mad by Kennedy's assassination and then by the war in Vietnam. This is simply a lie. The New Left was a Marxist revolutionary movement that looked for guidance to the Third World, or at any rate to the ideologues who affected to speak for that chimerical region. Its chief peculiarity, perhaps, was its tendency to racialize revolutionary praxis, to substitute ethnic tensions for class struggle. In its final form, at least as Horowitz encountered it, it hoped to foment a race war in which white radicals would act as a fifth column for a revolutionary army of color.

By 1970, Horowitz's chief claim to eminence on the Left was as co-editor of Ramparts magazine with Peter Collier. Ramparts, based in San Francisco, was a politically engaged publication of the sort that was too pure to ever actually turn a profit. It depended on a series of financial angels and the fundraising skills of its managers. Collier and Horowitz took it over in a coup made possible by the fact that the angels of the East Coast could not be bothered to come to a board of directors meeting in San Francisco to discuss the latest financial crisis. Once in control, they attempted for a while to institute a regime of Maoist equality. Everyone got the same salary, all major decisions were made by collective agreement, even the names on the masthead were arranged alphabetically to avoid the taint of hierarchy.

One thing that this experiment proved was that hierarchy is an instrument of kindness. Without it, every dispute must be personalized and decided in public. Ordinary staff meetings became day-long struggle-sessions that not only wasted time, but envenomed personal relations. And behind it all, of course, was the fact it was a fraud. Collier and Horowitz actually ran the magazine as long as they had the angels on their side. It followed the policy they set, and their most unfortunate policy was to promote the Black Panther Party as a revolutionary vanguard.

The Black Panther Party was essentially a street gang that adopted fashionable revolutionary rhetoric. It had some success organizing nationally, though its base remained in the San Francisco Bay area. Even at the height of its leftist respectability, its leadership was prone to fission. Eldridge Cleaver went into exile in Algeria, claiming, with some reason, that Huey Newton was out to get him. Elaine Brown was both put into power and removed by Newton. Nevertheless, as far as the radicals at Ramparts were concerned, the Party could do no wrong. If a member was accused of killing a policeman, then obviously the Panther was as innocent as the Rosenbergs. If a Panther was in jail, he was a political prisoner. If the Party was accused of gangland slayings aimed at taking over the prostitution and drug trade in the Bay area, then the rumors were counterintelligence disinformation concocted by the federal government.

When not directly supporting the Panthers, Ramparts delighted in publishing information about US intelligence activities. In one case, they publicized classified National Security Agency information that probably got agents in the field killed. In retrospect, Horowitz is ashamed of this, but he did not began to realize the gravity of what he was doing until someone he knew himself was killed.

Horowitz had helped the Panthers organize a model school, and he sent a bookkeeper from Ramparts to help them straighten out the Party finances. Apparently she asked too many questions: in early 1975 her body was fished out of the water a few weeks after she failed to come home from Panther headquarters. The party blandly told her family that she had been dismissed. Within fairly short order, one of Horowitz's friend, a leftist attorney who had helped represent the Panthers, was shot and paralyzed in her home for refusing to sneak a gun to a "political prisoner." Another whose life's work was teaching youths with criminal records was killed by one of them. Rumors that the Panthers had a killing field in the Santa Cruz Mountains for the execution of their enemies, both political and criminal, turned out to be true. These facts were not exactly secrets on the Left. They were, however, unreportable by anyone who wished to avoid ostracism.

The 1970s were good years for criminal cults, especially though not exclusively in California. The Panthers for a while became fixtures of Bay area electoral politics. Far from being the victims of police conspiracies, the police were afraid to touch them and had even been infiltrated by their supporters. The same was true of the Reverend Jim Jones's People's Temple, which at the end of the decade would become famous for organizing what remains the greatest mass suicide in modern history. The Students for a Democratic Society, for whom the Port Huron Statement had been written, had shrunk and hardened into the Weatherman. They conducted armed bank robberies and blew up buildings, often by accident with themselves inside. Some of their leaders expressed admiration for the remarkably deranged Charles Manson and his homicidal followers.

For Horowitz, all this was a sharper lesson than the disillusionment his parents felt when Khrushchev revealed the nature of Stalin's regime. The Soviet Union was far away, after all, and the distortion of the Revolution there could be attributed to inessential historical "mistakes." This time, Horowitz knew the people involved. He also knew that they did not suffer from fear of foreign invasion or from primary poverty, factors that were often said to excuse revolutionaries in other parts of the world. As for events in the idealized Third World itself, these were the years when the victorious North Vietnamese was organizing a familiar Gulag system in the south of their reunited country, while the Khmer Rouge were doing something so strange and terrible to the people of Kampuchea that it even today it still seems like bad science fiction. Slowly, over a period of years, Horowitz acknowledged that these things were not accidents. The Panthers were not a corrupted Leninist vanguard; by world standards, they were typical.

"Radical Son" is not exclusively a story of ideas, since Horowitz tries to weave the events of his personal life into the story of how his politics changed. He turned forty about the time he abandoned the Left, and the tale he tells of his mid-life crisis is singularly disedifying. Part of the problem was that just about then, for the first time in his life, he started to make serious amounts of money. Working with Peter Collier, he co-authored a series of highly regarded biographical studies of American "dynasties," notably of the Rockefellers and the Kennedys. Within a few years of souring on the Panthers, he had divorced his faithful wife, bought a sports car and taken up with ever younger women, two of whom he married, with results that even he seems to think served him right. For a while, he had enough money to spend on large houses and to consort with Hollywood-types and fashionable New Age people, at least until the divorce settlements caught up with him. He apologizes to everyone in the whole world for this behavior. By his account, he is again on good terms with his first wife and four kids, all things considered.

Horowitz's emergence as a conservative did not happen all in a day, and in the early 1980s his leftist credentials were still good enough to get him a hearing. Working again with Collier, he produced one of the first studies of the politics of AIDS, back when it was still an unusual infection affecting a few thousand gay white men in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. What they discovered was another example of the lethal potential of New Left politics.

By 1983, the scientists knew that AIDS was a blood-borne, sexually transmitted disease. The relevant public health officials knew it. Even the leaders of the various gay communities knew it. Nevertheless, the truth about AIDS was as unreportable as the truth about the Panthers had long been. Anyone who mentioned it in public was fairly certain to meet political ostracism, since homosexual activity had been defined as a civil right. Gay leaders long resisted, successfully, any attempts to close the bathhouses that were one of the chief venues of infection. Public authorities would not do the contact tracing that was normal with sexually transmitted diseases. When information was finally provided to the public, it falsely equated heterosexual transmission with homosexual transmission. Horowitz and Collier were among the first to say these things not just in public, but to a leftist audience. The fact that they were eventually proven right did nothing to repair their tarnished reputations.

They continued to shed friends through the 1980s while writing their dynastic biographies. The process perhaps culminated in the publication of their joint memoir, "Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the `60s" (1989), which demolished what was left of the romanticized myth of the Panthers. Of course, they also acquired allies at the same time. There are still people on the Right that Horowitz cannot abide, but he soon discovered that William Buckley does not have horns. In 1991, Ronald Reagan even made a witticism to him at an awards ceremony: "I had second thoughts before you." The greatest surprise was how little institutional support conservatives actually had. The major foundations, Ford and Rockefeller and MacArthur, still support a slightly diluted version of the cultural agenda that the New Left enunciated in the 1960s. While there are smaller foundations to fund conservative think tanks and projects (Horowitz has a little foundation of his own, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), the fact is that people like Horowitz are still swimming upstream in the major institutions of American life. The upshot is, as under his parents' roof, he can once again think of himself as countercultural. He appears to find this comforting.

Perhaps the key to the assessment of the place of the New Left in American history is Horowitz's account of his return to Berkeley in January 1968, after having spent three years in Sweden and England. When he left, even the most radical radicals, even in California, wore ties and buttoned-down shirts to free speech demonstrations. When he got back, people were painting themselves funny colors and listening to music of a volume and description theretofore unencountered by human man. "Anything is possible," he thought in stunned amazement at a concert of electronic instruments. This may or may not have been true, but in any case the Left was deluded in thinking that it could take advantage of the situation.

There is an old comedy routine dating from about that time in which President Johnson, dressed in pajamas, appears on television at 3:00 a.m. and announces to the startled viewers: "Good evening, my fellow Americans. This is your President speaking. I don't know what's happening. If any of you think that YOU know what's happening, please write the explanation down and mail it to me, Lyndon Johnson, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. Good night and God bless." The problem with the Left, New and Old, was that they did think they knew what was happening. They were Marxists, after all, and Marxism was the key to history. The fact that no Marxist, anywhere, ever, had imagined anything like America in the 1960s was beside the point.

Horowitz's parents had lived sober, careful lives, so that they could be models of socialist rectitude to the proletariat when Der Tag came. Horowitz's slightly younger radical contemporaries lived lives of promiscuity and impulse, because disorder conduced to a revolutionary situation. In both cases, they were simply exaggerating tendencies that were already present in American culture, tendencies which they did not foresee and could not control. They were as blindsided by history as ever Lenin was. Perhaps they added nothing really essential to those years.

David Horowitz notes that there were two radical movements in America during the 1960s, though he was almost oblivious to the fact at the time. In addition to the New Left, there was the movement on the Right that succeeded in nominating Barry Goldwater for president in 1964. It, too, commanded youthful enthusiasm, and its supporters were the sort of people who were willing to make the "Long March through the institutions." Though long in eclipse, this radical movement is the one that seems to have the best chance of permanent success. There is a lot to be said for William Strauss and Neil Howe's hypothesis that the 1960s were simply another of the Great Awakenings that occur in American history every three generations or so. They begin as anarchic events but end up being profoundly conservative. Horowitz's memoir is evidence for this pattern. Still, even if this is true, the destructive element of the Awakening this time around did take the form of the New Left, and there is still a lot of damage to be fixed. The racialization of public life continues through most affirmative action programs, for instance. Even the goal of arbitrary "socialist legality" has achieved petty embodiments in infinitely flexible concepts like "sexual harassment" and "hate crimes." For that matter, it may be that the reflexive liberal opposition to strategic defenses owes something to the tradition of "defending socialism" by making the United States vulnerable. In recent years, David Horowitz had done useful work in combating these `60s leftovers, and sensible people can only wish him well.

Copyright © 1998 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2003-10-24: The War of Ideas

Walter Duranty: Useful Idiot

Walter Duranty: Useful Idiot

I'm not sure what it was about the Soviet Union that inspired so many bright people to love it, but are no lack of examples. At least Duranty didn't have to live in USSR like Kim Philby did.

The War of Ideas

Donald Rumsfeld has been thinking about the need to deepen the war on terror by giving increasing attention to the ideological dimension. It is interesting to see this point raised while the furor continues over the remarks of General William Boykin. As readers will recall, General Boykin said to a church audience that the war on terror is a war against Satan, which he did not clearly distinguish from a war against Islam. Am I the only person to suspect that maybe the general's take on the subject would be more effective against Islamists than, say, Richard Rorty's?

There is one thing Boykin was quite wrong about. The Islamists did not launch the war against the United States because they think the United States is a Christian nation. They launched the war because they think the United States is a secular and hedonistic nation. That is why they hope for so much from their tactic of terrorist suicide: the utilitarian calculus of modernity has no answer to an opponent with no interest in his own self-preservation. If the Islamists really thought they were up against Crusaders, however, they would think twice.

Here's a puzzle about the reception of General Boykin's remarks: why can't I find anything about them on MEMRI?

* * *

Speaking of applied theology, there is an illuminating piece by James Pierson in the Weekly Standard (October 27) on the origins of the phrase, "Under God." The constitutionality of that phrase, at least in the version of the Pledge of Allegiance recited by school children, is now under review by the Supreme Court.

In the Pledge, the phrase is a bit cryptic: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." By tracing the phrase to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, to Parson Weems's biography of George Washington, and indeed to Washington himself, Pierson shows that "under God" was once a reference to the sovereignty of God. For instance, on July 2, 1776, Washington issued a General Order with this sentence:

The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.

Washington was using "under God" in the way that Muslims use "inshallah," to mean "God willing," or "understanding that God is the final cause of everything." Lincoln used the phrase is much the same sense at Gettysburg, when he expressed the hope that "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." Pierson suggests that Lincoln was consciously promoting a civil religion, one that would give the Union a transcendent dimension that is not apparent in the text of the Constitution.

Here's a puzzler for you. Everyone knows that the Constitution forbids the government to establish a religion, but here is what the First Amendment to the Constitution actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Nowhere does the Constitution give the chief executive the authority to establish a church, but is it irrelevant that the drafters of the Bill of Rights specifically forbade power in this area only to Congress? Might there be more leeway for the president to promote religion? As we see with Lincoln, this has in fact been the practice: God is more likely to be alluded to in a presidential proclamation than in a statute. I am not aware that anyone has tried to formulate a principle about this. In any case, however, such a principle would not help the "under God" in the Pledge, which was inserted by an act of Congress.

Here is a distinction that might be more helpful to the defenders of the Pledge: a metaphysics is not a religion. It is entirely possible to have a theory of knowledge, and even of politics, that has theistic implications, and yet be in no way religious. (Indeed, we know this from scripture: James 2:19.) One could make a compelling argument that the Constitution does in fact assume just such a frame of reference. This is particularly true of the First Amendment, whose religion clauses make no sense outside the context of a theistic regard for the private conscience.

Were the Supreme Court to hold otherwise, it would nullify its own metaphysical underpinnings. The clock would strike midnight, and there would be nothing left but a pumpkin and six white mice.

* * *

Walter Duranty is in danger of being postumously stripped of his 1932 Pulitzer prize. Long before Jayson Blair or Steven Glass, Duranty's reporting for the New York Times from the Soviet Union set a standard for journalistic turpitude that has yet to be equaled. He systematically deceived the West about the government-engineered famine, one of the most appalling events in a century notable for appalling events, and about the nature of the Soviet Union in general. And he got a prize for it. It was like something Bertold Brecht might have made up.

One of the most interesting books in this connection is Malcolm Muggeridge's lightly fictionalized memoir, Winter in Moscow, first published in 1934. Readers may be put off by Muggeridge's pukka-sahib muttering about "all these beastly Jews," but the book remains valuable because he does not try to interpret the Soviet Union through an antisemitic lens. In any case, here is what he has to say about an American reporter named "Jefferson":

He'd been asked to write something about the food shortage, and was trying to put together a thousand words which, if the famine got worse and known outside Russia, would suggest that he'd foreseen and foretold it, but which, if it got better and wasn't known outside Russia, would suggest that all along he'd pooh-poohed the possibility of there being a famine. He was a little gymnast, always balancing himself between two extremes -- English gentleman and American newsman; scholar and smart guy. He trod his tightrope daintily and charmingly. At the very core of his nature there was something fresh and uncorrupt and sensitive; an original goodness that kept him innocent despite the trials and tribulations of his circus life.


His mind turned back to life in Paris during [World War I]. It was there that he had formed his basic impression of the world -- a place where men, in their unutterable folly, tore each other's hearts and probed cruelly into each other's souls; but where an intelligent minority, standing apart, directing, controlling, orating, buying and selling, writing, was able, not merely to be immune from, but even to profit from, these disasters. He had made up his mind that he must belong to this minority, and so, when the war was over, he had attached himself to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which was composed of big boys with big ideas and a big army. He felt safer attached to the skirts of big boys. The bigger they were the better. If one or the other for any reason got liquidated or bumped off, disappeared, Jefferson skillfully detached himself. The big boy of today was not necessarily the big boy of tomorrow. He kept up-to-date in his allegiances. When Bukharin was in favor he was one of the great intellects of the age; when he fell into disgrace he was an opportunistic humbug. The first sign of the final collapse of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat will be Jefferson's quietly transferring himself to other skirts, browsing in other pastures.

We know that Muggeridge was too cynical. The remarkable thing about the collapse of the Soviet Union was the number of people who never ceased to believe that it was a good idea gone wrong.

* * *

Speaking of pukka sahibs, the invaluable Mark Steyn has some apt things to say about the role of Arnold Schwazenegger's wife, Maria Shriver, in her husband's victory in the California gubernatorial recall election. The Shrivers, of course, married into the Kennedy family: (Robert) Sargent Shriver, Maria's father, was President Kennedy's brother-in-law. Words like "dutiful" were often applied to Sargent Shriver, as the Kennedys repeatedly persuaded him to forego public offices for which he was eminently qualified, so that some hapless Kennedy could have it for himself. But now:

Forty years on, the Shrivers are having the last laugh. The third generation of Kennedys is mostly a disaster.

One wonders, though, whether the Shriver connection might yet serve the Kennedys. Surely some of the younger cousins could have their records expunged and try their luck in Schwarzenegger's California. Perhaps, as with the Roosevelts, we might see a Republican and Democratic wing of the family. Picture them forming a colony, like the British expatriate screenwriters who congregated in Hollywood in the 1930s. I can see the lawn parties now.

* * *

On the subject of writing in search of an outlet, for many years now I have been writing a column called "The Federal Papers," for a magazine called Business Travel Executive. Most of it had to do with the federal regulation of the travel industry, but I did an occasional speculative piece: that January 2001 column I keep linking to is an example.

Anyway, the column is about to be canceled. The problem is not the writing, apparently: it's that no product or service dovetails with the subject matter, so it's hard to sell advertising space on the opposite page. Trade magazines are as driven by their advertisers as are fashion magazines.

So, there's a hole in my time. If you know of anyone who needs a columnist or editor, please let me know. 

Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly


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The Long View: If the Loyalists Had Won the Spanish Civil War

Orwell with POUM

Orwell with POUM

Here the first of three essays by John on the Spanish Civil War, covering both the history, and the alternative history of an in-edifying episode in a terrible century. That war was was the trial run for World War II, and perhaps in a way even the Cold War. In the near term, the two sides aligned clearly with the Fascists and the Communists, but the coalitions on both sides offered enough of an appearance of political breadth that almost everyone felt like they identified with a side. Even now, there are no impartial accounts of the war. There were just too many awful things, done by both sides, and in the full view of the international press, providing endless opportunities for axe-grinding and score-settling.

The Republicans won an early and enduring victory in the propaganda war in the English speaking world. The Republicans cast the Nationalists as reactionary and backward, and the progressive press in the West amplified this theme. Writers and journalists clearly favored the Republican cause, and some of them, such as George Orwell, would lend more than their pens to the cause. For Orwell, firsthand experience with Stalinist purges tempered his enthusiasm for the cause, but others such as Earnest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn would become lifelong partisans of the Republicans, their struggle rendered inexpressibly romantic by defeat.

The impression the Republicans made on the Western intelligentsia probably contributed to the glamour the Soviets enjoyed both during and after WWII. At the time, the Soviet Union really did seem like the wave of the future, and many of the best and brightest in the West were open advocates for the Soviets. This kind of environment facilitated the formation of networks of Soviet spies, especially in the United States and England. Some of these spies, like Ted Hall or Kim Philby, were we placed to steal valuable secrets. Many others, like Hemingway, were just dilettantes.

The preference of the press for the Republican side probably helped give the Soviets an advantage in the Cold War, but what if the propaganda had been even more successful? Despite the support of the Italians and the Germans for Franco's Nationalists, Franco chose to stay neutral in World War II Here, John imagines what might have been if the Republicans had managed to garner a bit more international support, or avoided killing a brilliant general for being the wrong kind of socialist, thereby turning the tide in their favor. How might the Second World War have turned out differently if the Communists had secured an early victory in Spain?

If the Loyalists Had Won the Spanish Civil War.....
The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 was one of the great dramas of the 1930s. I use the word "drama" advisedly, since the debate and propaganda campaigns about the war became the substance of much of the political and intellectual life of the West during the years the war was fought. In the progressive literature of the period, the war was a morality tale of good defending itself against evil, of fascism against democracy, of the Enlightenment against Catholic obscurantism. The war became a counter in the political struggle between the international communist movement and the more loosely organized cause of fascism. In the publishing industry and the better magazines, the Loyalists won the propaganda argument, but on the ground the Nationalists won. In this note, I would like to suggest some ways that history, and particularly the course of the Second World War, might have been different if the Loyalists had won.
A full description of the origins and course of the war is unnecessary here. The questions involved are also still controversial. Suffice it to say that, after a decade of seesaw election results, a Popular Front government finally came to power in Spain, but with a very narrow majority. The Front sought to be inclusive of the Left, from Anarchists to Social Democrats. The Front, however, was more and more controlled by the Communists. In any event, having achieved a narrow victory, the government undertook a radical land redistribution. Elements of the Front, particularly the Anarchists, began some spontaneous redistribution of their own, and the government did not attempt to protect life and property. Clerics and Church property were particularly subject to assault. These events caused the Spanish African Army under General Francisco Franco to stage a revolt. The rebels became the Nationalists. The legitimate government refused to yield, however, and the conflict became an elaborate civil war. The Nationalists received aid from the Italian Fascists and the Nazis, including some troops and airmen. The Loyalists received material aid from Soviet Russia, but on ruinous financial terms. They were also assisted by volunteer legions from many countries. The resources of the two sides were not terribly unequal. However, the Nationalists had most of the experienced officers. Also, the Communists in the Popular Front carried on a small-scale version of the purges then occurring in the Soviet Union, directed against the other Leftist parties. This degraded the fighting capacities of the Loyalist armies, which were organized along political lines. The Loyalists were overwhelmed a few months before the Second World War started. Generalissimo Franco surprised everybody by remaining neutral in that conflict.
A Loyalist victory is not hard to imagine. Franco was a competent rather than a brilliant general. The accident of a military genius on the other side might have altered the outcome of the war. So might have more generous support from the Soviet Union. The Communists might have deferred their own political agenda until after the war was over. Neither side had any difficulty obtaining arms they could pay for; France, which had a Popular Front government too in the 1930s, might have offered arms on credit. Alternatively, an effective League of Nations embargo would have redounded to the Loyalists' benefit, since they controlled most of the country's manufacturing capacity. So, let us assume that by the end of spring, 1939, the Nationalists are forced to finally surrender, and Franco goes into exile in Argentina.
One thing that I think would have been inevitable is that the Soviet Union would, in effect, have a colony in the Western Mediterranean. The front-and-purge policy the Communists used against their rivals in the Loyalist camp was not very different from the one they used in Czechoslovakia just after the Second World War (except, perhaps, that it was much bloodier). Stalin was at all times of two minds about what he wanted to happen in Spain. While he wanted to humiliate the Italians and the Germans, he also had doubts about whether another Communist state so far from his borders was a good idea. He knew that such a state would be difficult for him to control, and that it would offer an alternative focus of loyalty for Communist parties around the world. The Soviet Union's subsequent problems with Yugoslavia and China show that these fears were well founded. However, it would have taken years for a rift to develop. The Spanish Communist Party was devotedly pro-Soviet. The new state would have needed Soviet material support. With the growing threat of a Fascist war, a near-term split with Moscow would not have been in the cards. Spain would become for the USSR something like what Cuba became in the 1960s and Nicaragua in the 1980s.
The French would not have been pleased by this turn of events. French governments have traditionally alined themselves with whatever regime ruled Russia in order to counterbalance the powers of Middle Europe. They would have found this harder to do, however, if the Russians acquired a base adjoining French territory. The advantage to a Russian alliance, after all, is that Russians are too far away to be a menace themselves. There was no way the French could have thrown their support to Germany. It would have been politically impossible, and it would have been strategic suicide. However, the proximity of Soviet Spain would have made France much more reluctant to engage in any major war, anywhere. It is not just that Spain could eventually become a military threat. The Communist Party in France would have been so emboldened by their southern colleagues' success that would have started looking for revolutionary opportunities. A lost war, or even a stalemated war, would do just nicely. Knowing this, the French government would have been much less likely to declare war on Germany in 1939 after the invasion of Poland. Indeed, it might not have been possible to do so, since the Hitler-Stalin Pact was in effect, and the French Left would have made quite a fuss about entering the war, even if they hoped to benefit from the outcome.
Thus, one result of a Loyalist victory could have been that Hitler would not, at the outset, have had to fight a war on two fronts. If the French did not declare war, the British could not have, either. Where would they have put their army? In his pre-war alliance negotiations with Mussolini, Hitler seemed to be contemplating a general war for 1942 or 1943. He would have been able to pick a fight in the West at his leisure, probably much better prepared than he was in 1939. In this war, the desperate French might have accepted an alliance with Soviet Spain, provided Stalin relented. Certainly Spain would have been a reasonable base for the French to retreat to, after losing Paris. Even if Soviet Spain had chosen Franco's policy and attempted neutrality, it is unlikely that Hitler would have accepted it. He could not have. His goal in World War II was the conquest of Russia, something he could not have accomplished with a Soviet ally in his rear. The conquest of Spain could have been part of his initial western campaign, or it might have waited a year or two, but it would have been inevitable.
A Nazi campaign would have had several things working against it. For one thing, the supply lines were long enough to create formidable logistical problems, never the strong suit of the Nazi military. Assuming the English were still in the war, Hitler, like Napoleon, would have found just how accessible Spain is from the sea. On the other hand, the Spanish Soviet government would have been unlikely to be very popular by this time, assuming it had continued with the process of Stalinization. If the Germans concluded their campaign by taking Gibraltar, whose British base was (and is) a long-standing affront to Spanish pride, the Germans could have been accepted as liberators. The loss of Gibraltar could have cost the British effective control of the Mediterranean. The resupplying, not just of Egypt, but of India and Australia, would have become immensely more difficult.
In sum, then, a Loyalist victory in the Spanish Civil War could have lost the Allies the Second World War. I, for one, find this conclusion paradoxical.
Any other ideas?
[If you liked this piece, you might also be interested in taking a look at a revew of The Last Crusade, a history of the Spanish Civil War from a Carlist perspective.]
Copyright © 1997 by John J. Reilly

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