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"…neoconservative defence [sic] intellectuals…
call their revolutionary ideology 'Wilsonianism'
(after President Woodrow Wilson), but it is
really Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution
mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism".
-- Michael Lind, New Statesman
Neo-conservatism is one of the stages of development of Neoliberalism. -- the dominant ideology from 1970th to approximately 2008, ideology that defeated and by-and-large displaced communism.
Like is the case with neoliberalism in general, there are deep connections between neo-conservatism and Marxism. Politically neocons are turncoat Trotskyites and they introduced the full bag of Trotskyite/Bolsheviks methods into arsenal of arch-enemies of communism. Burt Blumert managed to capture the essence of difference of neo-cons and paleocons:
"Neocons, as ex-Trotskyites, are bad enough, but those who follow the pro-pagan Leo Strauss are deadly. He advocated the Big Lie. Forgive me for all the gory details, but these people – with their other leaders like Bill Buckley and Irving Kristol and the help of the CIA – perverted the American right into loving the welfare-warfare state."
Neocons control a substantial number of publication. Among them the most prominent are Commentary, National Review Online, The Weekly Standard, The New Republic, The National Interest, The Public Interest, and most Murdock-controlled publications, as well as publications and web-sites of several think tanks, especially Project for the New American Century (PNAC), American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and Center for Security Policy (CSP)). See Christian Science Monitor/Neocon think tanks and periodicals for more information.
Media barons like Murdock are powerful financial resources supporting neocons agenda. Without them neocons are just "lumpen-intellectuals" ("An lumpen-intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows."), a bunch of harmless Trotskyites. With the media outlets and financial support from media empires and military industrial complex they are a very dangerous political force that along with Christian Right hijacked the Republican party and managed to enforce its agenda on the society using the disinformation the same the way it was used in the USSR.
Of course, blanket depictions of neoconservatives as Trotskyites is just a useful hyperbola that needs to be supplemented by a more nuanced analysis. There are several important differences:
A lot of prominent neo-conservatives were high-placed government officials and have has great influence of the US foreign policy. The key figure in this respect was Paul Wolfowitz. As Harper's Magazine quoted from NYT:
According to Juan Cole, a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan and a persistent critic of the Iraq war: “Wolfowitz has demonstrated a penchant for cronyism and for smearing and marginalising perceived rivals as tactics for getting his way. Indeed, these tactics are typical of what might be called the neoconservative style.”
By the time Wolfowitz was forced out, the ugly side of the World Bank boss was revealed in a memo in which he vowed in the style of a mafia don that “if they fuck with me or Shaha, I have enough on them to fuck them too”.
Using Michael Ledeen's quote, the neocons approach is that "Change
- above all violent change - is the essence of human history" . The "violent change" here means that the USA has a responsibility
to fight "liberation" wars to create democratic governments in place of "failed states" or any regimes that are threatening
to the US or its interests. Any regime that is hostile to the USA and could pose a threat should
be confronted aggressively, not "appeased" or merely contained.
One thing Mr. William Kristol is not, is a combat vet.
Although he was born in 1952, he never served during Vietnam. I am sure while at Harvard he was a staunch supporter of the American effort to enrich the war profiteers while ostensibly stopping that war's "enemy" communism from spreading across Asia.
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David Friedman (St James, NY) See all my reviews
Original, Incisive, Nonpartisan, January 22, 2006
...The body of the book analyzes how the legitimate attempt to recover from the national trauma of Vietnam led ultimately to a militarism increasingly reflected in crucial aspects of American life. In religion he traces how a "crusade" theory of warfare has supplanted the more mainstream "just war" theory. In popular culture he discusses the rise of a genre of pop fiction and movies reflecting a glamorized and uncritical idealization of war (he examines "An Officer and A Gentleman", "Rambo: First Blood Part II", and "Top Gun" as examples).
In politics he identifies the neo-conservative movement as bringing into the mainstream ideas that "a decade earlier might have seemed reckless or preposterous"; for example the idea that the United States is "the most revolutionary force on earth" with an "inescapable mission" to spread democracy -- by the sword if necessary. Bacevich calls these ideas "inverted Trotskyism", and notes that the neo-conservative movement shares with Mao the assumption that revolution springs "from the barrel of a gun".
February 16, 2010 | Second Vermont Republic
It has become increasingly obvious that the only difference between Barack Obama and George W. Bush is that the famous Bush smirk has been replaced by the Obama smile. The neoconservatism of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Bill O’Reilly has given way to the neoliberalism of Bill Clinton, Timothy Geithner, Bernie Sanders, and Chris Matthews. The differences between neoliberalism and neoconservatism are similar to the differences between Coke and Pepsi, virtually nil.
Neoconservatism is best defined by its foreign policy agenda which includes full spectrum dominance, imperial overstretch, nuclear primacy, the right of pre-emptive strike, and unconditional support for the State of Israel. Although neoliberals are much less bellicose in their rhetoric than their neoconservative counterparts, they passively acquiesce to the neocon foreign policy paradigm. They do little or nothing to end the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the annihilation of Palestine carried out by our close ally Israel. Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo was little short of a global call to arms couched in the language of the doctrine of “just war.” Although neocons make it abundantly clear that they are military hawks, most neoliberals are closet hawks as well.
Consider the case of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the darling of the Left, who pretends to be a socialist, which he is not. Not only does Sanders support all military appropriation bills and military aid to Israel, but he is currently promoting the opening of a satellite facility of the Sandia Corporation in Vermont. The Sandia Corporation, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Company, develops, creates, maintains, and evaluates nuclear weapons systems. Sandia’s roots go back to the Manhattan Project in World War II. Just what peace loving Vermonters need, a nuclear weapons manufacturer located in their own backyard.
Both neolibs and neocons are apologists for globalization and are steeped in the ideology that bigger, faster, and more high-tech make better. In their heart of hearts neolibs and neocons know that only the federal government can solve all of our problems, failing to realize that the federal government is the problem. Both embrace corporate socialism, socialism for the rich, and the social welfare state while pretending to be opposed to publicly financed social welfare. It’s all about people of the lie.
Neoliberals pretend to be concerned about inequities in the distribution of income and wealth. Neoconservatives make it abundantly clear that they couldn’t care less.
Both neolibs and neocons are authoritarian statists each with their own definition of political correctness. Politically correct neolibs are expected to be pro-abortion, pro-gay-lesbian, pro-affirmative action, pro-Israel, pro-gun control, anti-clerical, pro-big government, and pro-American Empire. Anyone who does not conform to this litany or who associates with those who do not, is at risk of being attacked by a left wing truth squad such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and accused of the likes of homophobia, racism, anti-semitism, religious fundamentalism, or even hate crimes. Politically correct neocons are more likely to be pro-life, anti-gay-lesbian, anti-affirmative action, pro-Israel, anti-gun control, pro-clerical, pro-big government, and pro-Empire. Both are vehemently opposed to secession.
Above all, what neoliberals and neoconservatives have in common is that they are technofascists. Benito Mussolini defined fascism as “the merger of state and corporate power.” Technofascism is the melding of corporate, state, military, and technological power by a handful of political elites which enables them to manipulate and control the population through the use of money, markets, media and the Internet.
Neoliberals and neoconservatives alike march to the beat of the same drummer – the largest, wealthiest, most powerful, most materialistic, most racist, most militaristic, most violent empire of all time.
Ultimately the differences between neoliberalism and neoconservatism are purely cosmetic. You may either have your technofascism with a smirk or you can have it with a smile.
Americans have always had a conservative sense about themselves. Even in the torment of its founding, an optimistic belief in the principles of individual freedom moved colonists to create a nation based upon natural rights. Our Declaration of Independence embodies universal ideals, in a revolutionary statement. The inherent populism within our heritage declares that people matter and a healthy distrust of the State is prudent. Limited government, free enterprise and non intervention in foreign affairs is our tradition.
As the last century unfolded, internationalism crept into the halls of policy. The transfer into a country of perpetual intervention and permanent entanglements is best reflected in the corridors of power, known as the Council on Foreign Relations. The definition of “The Establishment” reads - CFR. In contrast to this entrenched group and culture of elite power manipulators, a crowd that claims the label neoconservative, emerged to infiltrate and usurp influence from the institutional policy makers. These NeoCons assert they are different, while they preach and act in similar fashion. So what exactly is their history?
In an exemplar essay, An Introduction to Neoconservatism by Gary North, the backdrop of those who populate this mindset, emerges as a portrait of perverse conservatism. The CFR has always championed a Wilsonian internationalism, a FDR New Deal and a MAD cold war mentality. As Dr North writes: “Liberal foreign policy officially has always been "butter and guns." Guns have always followed butter, but this has been seen as the unfortunate result of unexpected complications. Neoconservative foreign policy officially is "guns and butter." Butter always follows guns, but this is regarded as the inescapable price of American regional presence abroad.”
Those of us who share a committed devotion to traditional conservatism, part company with the charlatans who looted a noble name and penetrated the seats of official policy. You already know many of the usual suspect, as the North article fills in the blanks for the who - with the when, where and why. Patience and diligent persistency are traits of the Fabian Socialists. The NeoCon fit the collectivist model to a tee. When they chastise “The Establishment” or acknowledge the failures of government involvements, they weasel their way into the positions of authority and predominance. All along the way, the principles of conservatism are distorted as much as any demented cold war warrior. Before long the CFR will fuse into an ooze of an even more rabid jingoist.
When Dr North states in his column: “that war is the health of the state, and a foreign policy based on non-intervention is necessary for keeping the state shrunk to non-messianic levels”, we have the essential insight that the NeoCons reject. For when these aspirant emperors loose their clothes, their Marxist sympathies are exposed. They are reduced to avid Statists and would be Fascists.
Authentic conservatives have long been opponents of the Council on Foreign Relations. The one worlders didn’t deserve the cover of a conspiracy to conceal their goals and conduct. Their policies and intentions were always publicized in such publications as “Foreign Affairs”. Only the most gullible of the public buys into the ‘good intentions’ of this cabal. Only the most submissive of the sheeple will bow obediently to their policies. And only the most deranged fool will defend their tragic record of betrayal and deceit.
Now we have another dialectic to take the scam to the next level. The subtle merging of the mainstream CFR elites with their Trotskyists and subrosa NeoCon cousins, continues. Both are part of the same scheme - an enemy of America. In order to grasp the repulsive nature of this union, one should review the thinking of Stephen Schwartz, a resident polemicist for Horowitz’s NeoCon - FrontPage. "I see a psychological, ideological and intellectual continuity," says Schwartz, who defines Trotsky's legacy to neo-conservatism in terms of a set of valuable lessons. By his opposition to both Hitler and Stalin, Trotsky taught the Left Opposition the need to have a politics that was proactive and willing to take unpopular positions. "Those are the two things that the neo-cons and the Trotskyists always had in common: the ability to anticipate rather than react and the moral courage to stand apart from liberal left opinion when liberal left opinion acts like a mob."
For paleoconservatives like ourselves, the ruse that an imaginary conflict exists and an immense struggle between the bulwark of “The Establishment”, namely the State Department and the NeoCons is laughable. The supposed clash between Powell soft-liners and the Rumsfeld-Cheney-Wolfowitz hardliners that resulted in the dismissal of Mr Schwartz from his post as an editorial writer for The Voice of America, is a bogus deception. Like feuding ‘commies’, both factions are but mere branches of the same diseased tree.
Gary North is right-on when he cites this example: “I recall a 1963 essay by novelist and anti-Communist Taylor Caldwell, in which she complained loudly against the ex-Communists who were taking over the intellectual leadership of the fledgling conservative movement. She was greatly annoyed. She reminded her readers that she had never succumbed to the siren call of dialectical materialism. She basically labeled the newcomers as Johnny-come-latelies.”
So too does this same insight apply to the phony differences between the CFR and the NeoCon pretenders. The real alternative is the Old Guard Conservatism that is our true American heritage. The only moral courage neoconservatives demonstrate is that of the slave master wiping a chained captive. Our country has been ruled under a foreign invader for well over a hundred years. Those aliens who command their army of occupation, may have been born on our shores, but certainly were not delivered by our universal mother - Liberty. The demise of the unholy union of elites and impostors, is the first order of business in restoring the spirit of our original Republic.
SARTRE - June 11, 2003
The Independent Review, v. 14, n. 3, Winter 2010, ISSN 1086–1653, Copyright © 2010, pp. 445–449. 445
The idea that American neoconservatives have conflated U.S. security interests in the Middle East with the international-security perspective of ardent right-wingers in Israel has generated inflammatory and angry reactions from pro-Israel quarters in Washington. It is academically and politically a dangerous contemplation, as Sniegoski recognizes and as analysts of recent U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East know.
The brief and heavily footnoted assessment entitled “The Israel Lobby,” by respected realists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (London Review of Books, March 23, 2006), not only was initially denied a U.S. publisher in 2006, but also gave rise to a sustained and somewhat hysterical smear campaign against both authors, replete with public accusations of anti-Semitism and calls for their removal from both academia and public life.
Far from a polemic, “The Israel Lobby” is a benign and politically dry review of the actions and impact of the various organizations that actively promote Israel’s interests in Washington, including the Likud-leaning American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
Mearsheimer and Walt’s report on the power that American advocates for Israel exert in shaping policy and increasing financial, military, and moral support for Israel reads much like any of the expository speeches given at the annual AIPAC policy conference held each spring in Washington. The difference, of course, is one of perspective. Rather than self-congratulatory and self-promoting, Sniegoski’s perspective, like that of other critics of modern Israel-centric influence in U.S. foreign-policy making, leans to U.S. constitutionalism and traditional ideas of U.S. democracy. The Transparent Cabal is not a direct inquiry into the controversial role of the “Israel Lobby.” Instead, Sniegoski specifically examines the rationale for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq; the sustaining philosophies of American neoconservatives; their role in “selling” the war to the American people, Congress, and the administration; and the degree of linkage between the neoconservatives themselves and the Likud Party and political Zionism. To carry out this examination, Sniegoski takes the reader on an eye-opening excursion into the history of neoconservatism in U.S. politics, exploring the evolution of security philosophy in Israel during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In tracking the political and academic evolution of neoconservatism, the author revisits the plethora of public statements, advocacy letters, and campaigns, as well as the numerous articles and books written by key U.S. neoconservatives, including Irving and William Kristol, Norman and John Podhoretz, Michael Ledeen, David Frum, and Richard Perle. More significant, and perhaps for the first time in a mainstream U.S. research report, Sniegoski also tracks what was going on contemporaneously in Israeli politics and security strategy. This aspect of The Transparent Cabal is the most fascinating and represents the author’s most significant contribution to the history of U.S. policy in the Middle East. With a degree of detail not found elsewhere, Sniegoski reviews the infamous 1996 “Clean Break” document written by prominent American neoconservative Jews for Israeli politician and present- day Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu. He also explains how the disruption and destruction of Arab states, scattering them into sectarian and ethnic “statelets,” can be seen—and has been seen for decades by Likud and other right-wing Zionist parties in Israel—as good for Israel’s security (pp. 45–56). This unemotional, factbased, and heavily footnoted analysis is particularly useful for students of foreign policy because it places the well-known U.S. neoconservative language of Middle East strategy and objectives in relief against equally well-publicized but far less familiar Likud language regarding Israeli security. Beyond the contextual comparison, The Transparent Cabal closely tracks the political and rhetorical history of the George W. Bush administration’s 2002–2003 promotion of the need to invade Iraq. Sniegoski systematically explains the neoconservative push for regime change that had been voiced and promoted since the early 1980s, throughout the Iraq-Iran War. Inasmuch as the United States overtly backed Saddam Hussein during this conflict, an effort to weaken Iraq was not national policy; as Henry Kissinger infamously observed, “It’s a pity they both can’t lose.” At that time, Washington viewed secular Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship as a bastion against radical anti-American Shi’ism fermenting in Iran. Israel took Iran’s side and opposed Iraq, seeing Saddam’s Baath nationalism and industrialization as a greater security threat than the backward mullahs farther east, and worked militarily and economically to assist Tehran. Sniegoski reminds us that the same neoconservatives who today demonize Iran and advocate U.S.-led destruction of Iran’s economy and government were appeasers of Iran’s mullahs in the middle to late 1980s. He notes that the names of many neoconservatives employed by or close to George H. W. Bush’s administration, including Michael Ledeen and Eliot Abrams, were already vaguely familiar to Americans who recalled the embarrassing and hypocritical Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration. When the Iran-Iraq War ended, the United States continued a diplomatic relationship with heavily indebted and economically devastated Iraq, to the extent that U.S. ambassador April Glaspie clearly indicated to Saddam Hussein that Washington would consider any action he took against Kuwait regarding possible slant drilling and economic gamesmanship over oil production as an internal matter. Sniegoski reminds us that neoconservative and pro-Israeli groups wrote and advocated in favor of a military response and that the Persian Gulf War was successfully promoted in the media and operationally successful, up to a point. In this examination of U.S. policy history, he reminds us of the many falsehoods (and their sources) leveraged by advocates of the 1990s war, including notoriously false congressional testimony and the use of doctored imagery within government channels used to convince the House of Saud to allow U.S. military basing in Saudi Arabia (p. 69). Falsified evidence, imaginative and oft-repeated reports of atrocities, and coordinated government and media storytelling are typical fare in research for wars of choice, whether a country is led by a king, a prime minister, a parliament, or a popularly elected and constitutionally constrained president. We study the public justifications for the Spanish-American War, the one-sided reporting of the sinking of the Lusitania designed to bring the United States into World War I, the Roosevelt administration’s political agitation to join World War II and political foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and of course Nixon’s unitary executive-style expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos.
None of these examples involved neoconservatism, yet all U.S. wars in the past century have been guided by forms of Wilsonian idealism, the muscular version of which is directly associated with neoconservatism. Ideas do matter, and language often matters even more. Sniegoski’s thoughtful and calm analysis helps reveal both the ideological and the value-laden semantic roles played by political advocates for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and other U.S. military activities throughout the Middle East. Absent the threat of global communism, U.S. wars of choice in the Middle East have remained a hard sell for most Americans, and such wars have no substantial domestic economic or political interest to push for them. Some evidence indicates a cohesive advocacy of Middle Eastern wars within the oil industry (leverage and access), by the military-industrial complex (consumption and growth), and among some sectors of American fundamentalist, millennial, and Zionist forms of Christianity. Sniegoski assesses each of these potential centers of domestic advocacy and finds them lacking. Here students of the 2003 invasion of Iraq may look askance, in part because of the body of work that explores structural imperatives for the invasion, including William Clark’s Petrodollar Warfare (Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society, 2005), Eugene Jarecki’s The American Way of War (New York: Free Press, 2008), and Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007). As many observers and analysts across the political spectrum have noted, the attacks of September 11, 2001, unified a large part of the U.S. populace (and, according to Sniegoski, steeled the resolve of a previously ambling and directionless George W. Bush). The “war on terror” justification accurately explained the popularity of U.S. vengeance on Afghanistan’s Taliban. Better than most analysts, Sniegoski explains not only why, but how the false linkage of 9/11 to Saddam Hussein and others was launched and promoted, and how popular American belief in that false linkage lasted just long enough to allow the destruction of Iraq as a single powerful Arab state (pp. 221–22). This revelation is both timely and of particular interest as Americans begin to come to terms with the role and aims of the Bush administration’s treatment and torture of Muslim detainees in 2001 and 2002.
[Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea • By C. Bradley Thompson with Yaron Brook • Paradigm Publishers, 2010 • Xii + 305 pages]
C. Bradley Thompson argues that neoconservatism stands in fundamental opposition to individual rights and a free economy.
To most of us, neoconservatism is inevitably associated with the Iraq War. A group of neoconservatives, including Robert Kagan and David Frum, played with consummate folly a major role in urging the Bush administration toward initiating that conflict. The movement, on that ground alone, has little to recommend it; but can one nevertheless make a case on its behalf?
After all, neoconservatism was not always associated with reckless foreign-policy initiatives. To the contrary, in its early days in the 1960s, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, and Daniel Moynihan offered in the neoconservative journal The Public Interest cogent criticisms of many aspects of the welfare state. If Kristol could only muster Two Cheers for Capitalism, is this not better than most fashionable intellectuals can do? Perhaps the good elements in neoconservatism can be detached from the recent foreign-policy madness. C. Bradley Thompson emphatically disagrees. He argues that neoconservatism stands in fundamental opposition to individual rights and a free economy.
Although neoconservatives have indeed challenged certain aspects of the welfare state, they have no quarrel with it in principle.
In what may be Irving Kristol's most shocking statement in defense of collectivist redistribution and statism, he has suggested that "the idea of a welfare state is in itself perfectly consistent with a conservative political philosophy — as Bismarck knew, a hundred years ago." (p. 29)
If this accurately describes their position, why do the neoconservatives criticize the welfare state at all? Aside from the technical deficiencies of particular programs, what concerns them is the way that some welfare programs encourage unvirtuous behavior. Welfare that rewards giving birth out of wedlock, e.g., arouses their protests.
This sort of criticism reveals a key fact about the neoconservatives. They have a very definite sense of the proper conduct that the state, or as they are likely to term it, the regime, ought to promote. Not for them is the libertarian view that each person, so long as he does not initiate force against others, is free to lead his life as he wishes. To the contrary, the leaders of the state have as one of their prime duties the development of the citizens' characters. Accordingly, freedom of speech most decidedly does not extend to pornography. Further, the government must inculcate patriotic sentiment among the people.
More generally, neoconservatives do not believe in individual rights at all, in the robust sense with which readers of the Mises Daily will be familiar.
On a deeper level, the problem with the [American] Founders' liberalism, according to Kristol, is that it begins with the individual, and a philosophy that begins with the "self" must necessarily promote selfishness, choice, and the pursuit of personal happiness.… A free society grounded on the protection of individual rights leads inexorably to an amiable philistinism, an easygoing nihilism, and, ultimately, to "infinite emptiness." (pp. 28–9)
Thompson mordantly remarks, "Thus the great political lesson that the neocons have successfully taught other conservatives … is to stop worrying and love the State" (p. 29)."Although neoconservatives have indeed challenged certain aspects of the welfare state, they have no quarrel with it in principle."
Thompson is not content with this devastating verdict. He maintains that existing studies of neoconservatism do not penetrate to the essence: they have not discovered the philosophical roots of the movement. He locates this essence in the thought of Leo Strauss, and much of the book is devoted to a careful exposition and criticism of his views.  (Even if one dissents from Thompson's intellectual genealogy of neoconservatism, the discussion of Strauss is of great value for its own sake.)
Thompson appears to have set himself a difficult task. Neoconservatism according to many of its proponents is a tendency rather than a developed body of doctrine.
Those who are willing to call themselves neoconservatives (and not all are) typically describe neoconservatism as an "impulse," a "style of thought," or a "mode of thinking." Its proponents have described neoconservatism as a way of seeing the world, as a state of mind and not as a systematic political philosophy. (p. 4)
If this is right, how can Thompson proceed with his plan to unearth the philosophical foundations of neoconservatism? Will not a view that repudiates system prove impervious to analysis?
Thompson neatly turns this difficulty to his advantage. The rejection of system manifests in this instance a related view that provides the key to understanding neoconservatism. A system is composed of principles that inhere in an ordered structure; but neoconservatives oppose fixed principles of politics.
For all their supposed concern for ideas and philosophy, there is something profoundly antiphilosophical about the neoconservatives. They eschew moral first principles in favor of a technique or a mode of thinking, and they scorn absolute, certain moral principles for what "works." (p. 32)
But in this very rejection of systematic morality lies concealed a philosophical doctrine.
But what has all this to do with Leo Strauss? To make good his case that Strauss's thought lies behind neoconservatism, Thompson must first establish that the neocons knew and studied Strauss. He does so by showing that the acknowledged godfather of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol, took Strauss as his philosophical master. Thompson places particular emphasis on a review by Kristol in Commentary (October 1952) of Strauss's Persecution and the Art of Writing."To inculcate virtue and to weaken the base tendency of people to put their individual well-being ahead of the common good, what better means than a properly conducted war?"
Remarkably, this document has never been brought to the attention of the general public until now. Kristol's confrontation with Strauss came as an epiphany. It was, as Kristol has intimated on several occasions, the most important intellectual event of his life. (p. 59)
From Persecution and the Art of Writing, Kristol absorbed the message that philosophers needed to conceal their dangerous doctrines from the masses. Philosophy undermines religious belief and shows also that morality lacks a rational foundation. But without religion and an accepted morality, the social order would be overthrown. Further, if the masses were to become aware of what the philosophers really taught, would they not suppress these dangerous thinkers? Philosophers form an intellectual elite, and they rank far superior to those lacking their wisdom.
The ancient philosophers, mindful of the fate of Socrates, kept always in mind the need to maintain their distance from the masses. The Enlightenment abandoned this antique wisdom.
Whereas Socrates-Plato recognized a wide and unbridgeable chasm between philosophers and nonphilosophers, the engineers of the modern world — men such as Bacon, Newton, Locke, and Jefferson — thought it possible to make all men reasonable, to bring light to a dark world through reason and science.… The Enlightenment therefore represented for Strauss the democratization and thus the degradation of the Western mind. (pp. 66–7)
Strauss rejected capitalism and individualism, which as he saw them rested on a low view of man. Instead of philosophical wisdom, confined to an elite, as the highest end of the regime, happiness and wealth for the masses became the order of the day.
Strauss argued that the modern liberalism of Locke and Jefferson had distorted the fundamental structure of human existence, that without a summum bonum to guide his life, modern man lacked "completely a star and compass for his life" and was therefore wrenched away from the natural ordering of society. (p. 115)
The Enlightenment taught a further false doctrine: universal human rights. Instead, Strauss believed, there are no unalterably fixed moral standards. The statesman, taught by philosophers, must be guided by prudential judgment about the particular situation he faces. Here precisely is a key point at which Straussian teaching serves to explain neoconservatism. As earlier mentioned, the neocons resolutely reject fixed moral rules and rights.
If Strauss rejected the Enlightenment, he by no means demanded the abolition of individualism and capitalism. To the contrary, the ancient arrangements of the polis could not in our day be restored; and the regime of the American Founding Fathers offered the best available bulwark against relativism and nihilism — if this regime was suitably controlled behind the scenes by philosophers instructed in Straussian wisdom.
What form would this philosophical guidance take? It is essential that the inferior masses develop virtuous habits, lest their unbridled appetites lead to undue disorder. To inculcate virtue and to weaken the base tendency of people to put their individual well-being ahead of the common good, what better means than a properly conducted war? War teaches self-sacrifice.
The moral component of this is straightforward. As we have seen, the neoconservatives' ethical prescription for ordinary citizens consists in a life of selfless sacrifice to others, in which the individual puts the needs and well-being of others above his own. (p. 180)
Thompson finds in this argument a principal motive for the neocons' support for the Iraq War. The neocons aimed not only to spread democracy as they conceived it to the benighted Iraqis: even more important, they saw the war as a means to discipline and educate the American people."Neoconservatives oppose fixed principles of politics."
Thompson and Yaron Brook, the coauthor of the chapter on foreign policy, resolutely reject this approach to foreign policy. To them, wars are justifiable only as a means to avert a genuine threat, and "a real post–September 11 risk assessment of the threat posed by Iraq would not have resulted in finding that Iraq was at the top of the list of potential targets." (p. 179).
Thompson's interpretation of neoconservatism must confront two fundamental challenges. First, does he show that Strauss's view really stand at the base of neoconservatism? A critic might object that what holds true of Irving Kristol might not apply to others in the neoconservative movement. Further, has Thompson correctly interpreted Strauss? Was Strauss an advocate of a particular philosophy in his own right rather than a historian of political thought; and if he did wish to convey a philosophical message, is it the one Thompson attributes to him? I strongly suspect that Thompson can successfully meet these tests. Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea is essential reading for anyone interested in either the neoconservatives or Leo Strauss.David Gordon covers new books in economics, politics, philosophy, and law for The Mises Review, the quarterly review of literature in the social sciences, published since 1995 by the Mises Institute. He is author of The Essential Rothbard, available in the Mises Store. Send him mail. See David Gordon's article archives.
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 Thompson is an Objectivist, and accordingly believes as a general thesis that ideas determine history. Readers will not fail to recall Leonard Peikoff's endeavor in Ominous Parallels to trace the roots of Nazism to Kant's philosophy. I do not think this effort was entirely successful.
 Thompson mentions that Kristol's wife, Gertrude Himmelfarb, also wrote about Strauss. One might also note that his brother-in-law, Milton Himmelfarb, had studied Strauss's works carefully and wrote about Strauss on several occasions. See, e.g., "On Leo Strauss", Commentary (August 1974).
 Strauss was influenced in his opposition to capitalism by his friend and academic patron R.H. Tawney, the eminent English socialist. Like Strauss, Tawney deplored what he called the "acquisitive society." See Simon Green, "The Tawney-Strauss Connection: On Historicism and Values in the History of Political Ideas", Journal of Modern History, June 1995.
 Ironically, in view of the Objectivist portrayal of Kant as the fons et origo of modern philosophical evil, Straussians such as Harry Jaffa denounce fixed moral rules as Kantian.
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Aaron Dykes / JonesReport.com | October 5, 2006
William Kristol, chairman of the Project for a New American Century (founded in 1997) spoke at the University of Texas in Austin about the current political climate and the "new order" or "new world" that emerged after 9/11. He was confronted by a large number of protesters who carry banners and question his role in 9/11. The event was covered by the Daily Texan.
Pg. 51 of the PNAC document "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (published in September 2000, which otherwise calls for the dramatic build up of military forces and for a climate of multi-theater wars) states: "Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor."
I know just a little bit about Mr. William Kristol:
He is the son of one of the founders of the "neo-conservative" movement, Irving Kristol.
He is a commentator on Fox News.
He was Chief of Staff for one of the political "geniuses" of our time: VP Dan Quayle.
He is editor of another Rupert Murdoch war-propaganda rag, "The Weekly Standard."
He is a member, and signer, of the Project for the New American Century, which is a game plan for US global hegemony based on military strength and one of its goals and objectives was the over-throw of the Hussein Regime in Iraq with a next stop in Iran and Syria (because the PNAC plan is going so well, so far).
By all accounts, Mr. Kristol is a brilliant man, who like his father before him, uses his brilliance for destruction. He is a shameless supporter of a failed, murderous, and miserable strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan and one of the "mushroom cloud" crowd.
One thing Mr. William Kristol is not, is a combat vet.
Although he was born in 1952, he never served during Vietnam. I am sure while at Harvard he was a staunch supporter of the American effort to enrich the war profiteers while ostensibly stopping that war's "enemy" communism from spreading across Asia. Secure in his studies during that quagmire, Kristol joins a long line of neo-con chicken-hawks who are drenched in other people's blood and love to send other people's children to die for their lies.
I don't know anything, or care to know anything about Mr. Kristol's private life. I don't care if he is another closeted gay Republican or is a happily married hetero with children. I do suspect, however, that if Mr. Kristol is married, his children are not serving in Iraq, being misused by the very same incompetent and cowardly Commander in Chief (who also did not serve in Vietnam) that Mr. Kristol shamelessly supports while the entire administration and Republican hypocrites are crumbling from corruption and scandal.
I do know one thing for sure about Mr. Kristol, he does not like to be bothered with those pesky little things called facts. On February 20, 2003, Mr. Kristol incredibly gushed: "If we free the people of Iraq, we will be respected in the Arab world." This statement shows an amazing lack of knowledge of the Arab world or any kind of foreign policy sophistication (but does show a great use of Rovian-Foxian expolitation of emotion). No one in the Arab world (except maybe, Israel, which is geographically located in the "Arab world") was calling for the US to "free" Iraqis. No one from Iraq except "Curveball" or the slimy and profit-motivated, Ahmad Chalabi, both Iraqis who weren't even living in the country at the time of the invasion were calling on the USA to liberate them. In fact, after many years of murderous sanctions against Iraq, a fierce nationalism arose in opposition to the US-UN led sanctions. According to National Intelligence Estimates, since the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, Islamic Jihadism has increased. Mr. Kristol is also incredibly ignorant of human nature and human history. No peoples like to be occupied. No child, brother or sister, or mother or father, who sees a loved one blown away by American or insurgent's bombs will love the oppressor. In fact, violence only creates more violence and more life-long enemies.
Now Mr. Kristol is safe behind his desk and computer calling for another attack against Iran. I think he hears the non-existent cries of the Iranian people to be liberated from their regime. The Iranian people are directly next-door to Iraq and they see what US "liberation" brings. It comes with the awful price of high civilian casualties; hospitals bombed, Doctors killed; no electricity or clean water; and eternal occupation.
In a recent op-ed for The Weekly Standard, Mr. Kristol makes many more tactical and fundamental errors. The ANSWER coalition is calling for mass mobilizations begining the week (Sept. 15) that the White House authored Petraeus report on the surge is due. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), who are leading the September 15th march, are calling for a "die-in" to end the march and begin the rally. The vets, unlike the chicken-hawk neocons, have actually served in war, particularly the one that Mr. Kristol imagines is such a success. IVAW is asking activists to represent a killed service-member and at an appropriate time lie down. Taps will be played and also a simulated 21-gun salute. It sounds respectful to me, being the mom of one of the soldiers, and I will proudly, yet sorrowfully, be lying down for my son that day. Many of the march/rally participants will be "dying" to represent the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been killed for Mr. Kristol's deceptions.
Mr. Kristol calls on the "honorable" members of the anti-war movement to denounce the die-in and lumps MoveOn.org with other organizers of the die-in. MoveOn is not associated with the die-in as they do not support non-violent, direct civil disobedience. What I find so amusing is that Mr. PNAC-Fox News-Chicken-hawk has made himself the judge of what is honorable.
Mr. Kristol has a problem with the anti-war movement using the names of the fallen without the permission of the families. No one got my permission when my sons portrait was used in the pro-war memorial at Arlington Cemetery. Casey's name and likeness has been used by pro-war people all over the nation without my permission. Why is that okay, Mr. Kristol? I know for a fact such memorials as Arlington West, Eyes Wide Open and our memorial at Camp Casey would remove names of soldiers at the next of kin's request. If any family member so requests, I am sure IVAW will do the same thing---but a word of caution:
Even though the members of IVAW (all my adopted sons and daughters) have a big problem with the occupation of Iraq and with the Bush crime family, they served their country honorably (unlike Mr. Kristol) and they all fought side-by-side with the fallen. They love their brothers and sisters and they would themselves have died to take the place of any one of them. Do not, never, ever, claim that we families, or the Iraq Vets are dishonoring our sons and daughters killed by the lies of The Weekly Standard, Fox News, BushCo., et al. That is the biggest lie of all, or maybe it's this one that Mr. Kristol told on March 1, 2003:
"Very few wars in American history were prepared better or more thoroughly than this one by this president."
I would laugh if I weren't crying so hard.
If Mr. Kristol gets his PNAC way, by this time next year, we will need a lot more people at a die-in.
In today’s New York Times, William Kristol chastises Barack Obama for failing to mention military service as a worthy form of national service in his Wesleyan University commencement address.
Kristol is an outspoken and prominent supporter of the war in Iraq, has suggested bombing Iran, and is generally a full-throated supporter of war in general. One would think that his enthusiasm for all things military is a product of his own service. But, you’d be wrong. Like most neoconservatives, Kristol declined when given the opportunity to serve (he was of draft age during the Vietnam War).
So where does Bill Kristol get off chastising Obama and the graduates for not considering military service, when he rejected it himself?
And why hasn’t the New York Times fired this guy yet?
The "Trotskyist roots" of neoconservatism
As far back as the mid 1980s, paleoconservatives were caustically commenting on the supposed "Trotskyist roots" of the neoconservatives. At an infamously raucous debate between conservatives held at the Philadelphia Society in 1986, the paleoconservative historian Stephen J. Tonsor expressed dismay that former Marxists had come to play such a dominant role within conservatism, and quipped that had Trotsky not been assassinated he would no doubt be working for the Hoover Institute and writing articles for Commentary.  But it was not until the Gulf War of 1991 that the tale about neoconservatism's "Trotskyist roots" took the form in which we know it today. Within weeks of the war ending, Leon Hadar of the Cato Institute laid out the now widely accepted view in an article in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:
Among the major figures in the [neoconservative] movement were former Trotskyites who studied in the '30s and '40s at the then "poor man's Harvard," the City College of New York, a center for socialist activism. They included Irving Kristol, who in the 1950s launched an anti-Soviet CIA front, the International Congress for Cultural Freedom; Norman Podhoretz, the editor of the American Jewish Committee's monthly magazine Commentary, which he turned into a major neoconservative outlet; Podhoretz's wife, Midge Decter, the chairperson of the now-defunct Committee on the Free World; sociologists Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell; and Democratic Party pamphleteer Ben Wattenberg. 
The only problem with Hadar's account of neoconservatism's origins is that it is almost completely false. A simple check of biographical facts is enough to show that neither Norman Podhoretz nor Midge Decter attended CCNY in the 1930s or 40s, nor were they ever Marxists, let alone Trotskyists. Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell did attend CCNY in the late 1930s, but again neither was ever a Trotskyist. Glazer was a Left Socialist-Zionist, while Bell joined first the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL) in the early 1930s, and then the ardently anti-communist Social Democratic Federation towards the end of the decade. For his part, Ben Wattenberg could hardly have attended CCNY in the 1930s or 40s since he was only born in 1933. He in fact did not attend CCNY at all, and was also never a Trotskyist. That leaves Irving Kristol as the only neoconservative among those mentioned by Hadar who was actually ever associated with Trotskyism -- and even that statement requires some qualification, as we will see below.
Outright fabrications aside, part of the reason behind the recurrent exaggeration of the "Trotskyist roots" of the neoconservatives lies in their frequent conflation with their parent grouping, the New York Intellectuals. As Alan Wald detailed in the most authoritative work on the impact of Trotskyism on the New York Intellectuals, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930's to the 1980's (1987), many of the latter group did indeed pass through the different shades of Trotskyism available in the 1930s and 40s. From its different generations, one can list: Elliot Cohen, Sidney Hook (a brief and rather hesitant fellow traveler), Herbert Solow, Meyer Schapiro, Irving Howe, Saul Bellow, Harold Rosenberg, Dwight McDonald, and Clement Greenberg. There was also the infamous and fractious relationship between Trotsky and the founding editors of Partisan Review, William Phillips and Philip Rhav.
But the original neoconservative "brain trust" of the 1970s, as Alexander Bloom referred to it in his Prodigal Sons (1986), did not consist of any of the above New York intellectuals associated with Trotskyism.  Instead, it consisted of Kristol, Glazer, Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Norman Podhoretz -- and of this group, only two were briefly involved with Trotskyism: Kristol and Lipset. We can even add here the names of two less influential neoconservatives, although eminent scholars in their own rite: the historian and wife of Irving Kristol, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and the late political scientist Martin Diamond. The result is a grand total of four founding neoconservatives who passed through the ranks of Trotskyism. If one considers the list of first generation neoconservatives mentioned so far, which includes Bell, Glazer, Podhoretz and Decter, none of whom were Trotskyists, and then one adds such prominent early neoconservatives as Daniel Patrick Moynahan, James Q. Wilson, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Michael Novak, Robert Nisbet, Peter Berger, Hilton Kramer, and Walter Laqueur (and indeed one could go on); in other words if one looks at the first generation of neoconservatives as a whole, its so-called "Trotskyist roots" are shown to be much smaller and weaker than paleoconservatives have so insistently claimed.
More recently, as the "Trotskyist neocon" assertion has taken an increasingly prominent place in paleoconservative polemics, the trend has been away from inventing fictitious Trotskyist pasts for first generation neoconservatives, and towards using insinuations that leave the question of who was a Trotskyist deliberately unanswered. And understandably so, as there is more mileage to be had in implying that all of the original neoconservatives were former Trotskyists than by continuously recycling the names of the four that actually were.
A good example of this vagueness is provided by the prominent paleocon historian Paul Gottfried. In 1988, Gottfried co-authored The Conservative Movement, a serious and measured historical study of post-war intellectual conservatism that focused on the neo/paleo divide, and in which he made no mention of the supposed "Trotskyist roots" of neoconservatism. Yet subsequent to the Gulf War, Gottfried added an awkward and unsubstantiated claim about neoconservatism's "Trotskyist residues" to a revised 1993 edition of the book.  Today he polemically decries on the LewRockwell.com web site a conspicuously unnamed "…Trotskyist ascendancy over the conservative movement that began in the seventies and eighties" in which neoconservatives, themselves a "leftist revolutionary movement", have "…dragged Trotskyist themes, along with other baggage, into the conservative movement".  No names are provided by Gottfried for the simple reason that it would be impossible to "expose" the Trotskyist pasts of any original neoconservatives other than the four mentioned above -- whose numbers hardly merit the claim of a "Trotskyist ascendancy".
The "Trotskyism" of Irving Kristol
If the "Trotskyist roots" of neoconservatism have been greatly exaggerated, what about those of the first generation who were involved with Trotskyism? How much of an influence did Trotskyism have on their thinking? Presumably on this level a more credible case could be made for a real Trotskyist influence on neoconservatism. But it is precisely here that the complete lack of substance of the "Trotskyist neocon" assertion emerges, for there is nothing in any of the neoconservatives' vast political, sociological, or cultural writings that points to the remotest influence of Trotskyism. Instead, those propagating the assertion have been forced to rely only on whatever anecdotal evidence is available to make their case. Thus Irving Kristol, who wrote an autobiographical essay entitled "Memoirs of a Trotskyist" and has sprinkled mentions of his youthful political dalliances throughout his writings, is more often accused of still being influenced by Trotskyism than Seymour Martin Lipset, who was also a Trotskyist but who has not made similar use of his own brief radical past.
For paleocon polemicists, it matters little that Kristol has spent almost his entire adult life as one of America's most prolific and high-profile intellectual proponents of democracy and capitalism. It matters little because as diligently reported by paleocon journalist Daniel McCarthy, Kristol had the temerity to write, and supposedly did so "with relish", that "I regard myself as lucky to have been a young Trostkyite and I have not a single bitter memory".  Just as incriminating is Kristol's claim to have learned how to construct an argument by reading Trotskyist theoretical journals! But if the lack of seriousness in the paleocon accusations is evident, it does raise the question of exactly how much of a Trotskyist Irving Kristol was in his youth. And if one takes a close look at his actual Trotskyist past, a very different picture emerges from the one that has been conjured up by the polemicists and to a certain extent by Kristol himself.
Kristol was involved in the late 1930s, still in his teens, in the milieux of the young Jewish intellectuals that frequented the now-infamous Alcove No.1 at CCNY. While there he became a fellow traveler of the small group of Trotskyist students who belonged to the youth wing of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), known as the Young People's Socialist League-Fourth International (YPSL-FI). While steeped in the world of hyper-intellectual debating at CCNY, Kristol was not an SWP or YPSL-FI member -- and much less a full blown Trotskyist ideologue, as is often implied by those seeking to exaggerate his Trotskyist credentials. Infamously, James P. Cannon, Irish-American leader of the Trotskyists, once admonished Kristol and his friend and fellow CCNYer Earl Raab for not joining the SWP. From Mexico, Trotsky himself cast a wary eye on the YPSL's and fellow travelers such as Kristol and Raab because of their "lack of experience" and, more damningly, for their "petty bourgeois" backgrounds. 
Despite Cannon's scoldings, Kristol never did join the "official" Trotskyists of the SWP, but rather the heretical offshoot led by Max Shachtman, the Workers' Party (WP), in 1940. More importantly, Kristol belonged to a small intra-party faction inside the WP known as the "Shermanites" which was led by future Sociologist Philip Selznick, and also included Lipset, Himmelfarb, and Diamond, i.e. the only other neoconservatives to have been associated with Trotskyism. What is key here, and what for the most part has been overlooked, is that the Shermanites considered not only Stalinism but Bolshevism, which in their context meant Trotskyism, to be "… bureaucratic, totalitarian, and undemocratic".  Decisive to Kristol and the others' rejection of Marxism and Trotskyism was Robert Michels' Political Parties, which was introduced to the group by Selznick.  This "premature" anti-communism was so anathema to Shachtman that after Kristol and the tiny band of Shermanites resigned from the Workers' Party in 1941, a mere one year after they had joined, they were then retroactively expelled. The journal that Kristol and the Shermanites briefly published after their expulsion from the Workers Party, Enquiry, far from providing "conventional Marxist fare" as has been claimed by one scholar, in fact consisted mainly of substantive critiques of Marxism, Leninism, and Trotskyism, all the more noteworthy for the youthfulness of those making them. 
A more sober appraisal of the historical evidence shows that, contrary to the claims of the paleocons, and even some of his own writings, Irving Kristol's Trotskyism was far too peripheral and brief for him to be considered a representative Trotskyist of that era, or even much of a Trotskyist at all -- something which applies just as much if not more to the only other "Trotskyist neocons": Lipset, Himmelfarb, and Diamond.
The question of "Shachtmanism"
While first generation neoconservatives are accused of having been Trotskyists, second generation neocons are usually charged with Trotskyism indirectly, by virtue of supposedly having been "Shachtmanites". Those meriting this accusation are the small minority of today's neconservatives who were members of the Socialist Party-Social Democratic Federation/Young People's Socialist League (SP-SDF/YPSL), and later the Social Democrats USA, in the late 1960s and early 70s. The supposed link with Trotskyism comes in the form of Max Shachtman, the leader of the 1940 split from official Trotskyism who would later go on to call the Socialist Party home and play a key role in that party's right-wing from the late 1950s to his death in 1972.
Shachtman occupies a fascinating place in the history of Marxism in the US for having moved, over the span of 20 years, all the way from Trotskyism to a fervently anti-communist version of social democracy. What makes this move particularly intriguing is that Shachtman carried it out while doggedly maintaining an orthodox Marxist phraseology that had increasingly little relevance to his actual politics. Since a small number of today's neoconservatives, such as Joshua Muravchik and Carl Gershman, played key roles in the Socialist Party, YPSL, and Social Democrats USA during the 1960's and 70's, there is a degree of truth to a connection between Max Shachtman and a handful of the current generation of neocons.
But what has conveniently been forgotten by the paleocons amidst their frantic references to Max Shachtman's "Trotskyism" is that Shachtman broke definitively with his unique version of that ideology in the mid 1950s, even before dissolving the International Socialist League (ISL, successor to the Workers' Party) and joining the Socialist Party in 1958. Even more, abandoning Trotskyism was a precondition set by the SP leadership for allowing Shachtman and his followers to join their party. Once inside the party, Shachtman and the former members of the ISL carried on squarely in the tradition of the right-wing socialist "Old Guard" of the party that had split away in the 1930s: staunchly anti-Communist, closely supportive of the established trade union leaderships, orthodox Marxist in official discourse, and crucially, oriented towards working within the Democratic party -- something even the Old Guard had not been willing to advocate. The historian Robert J. Alexander, who was himself active in the Socialist Party in those years, notes that after 1958 the ideological distinctions in the party between the ex-ISL cadre and the pre-1958 socialists basically disappeared.  While the former Shactmanites maintained close ties inside the SP, these ties were now based on a type of social democratic politics with deep roots in the right wing of American Socialism, rather than on a Trotskyism that had been consciously discarded.
None of this history matters to paleoconservative polemicists though. In modern Old Right folklore, not only does Shachtman remain a Trotskyist beyond the late 1950s, but the Socialist Party itself is somehow transformed into a "Trotskyite" organization. Only by means of such blatant fabrications can Srdja Trifkovic, writing in the on-line version of Chronicles, claim that second generation neoconservatives, "…including Joshua Muravchik, and Carl Gershman, came to neoconservatism through the Socialist Party at a time when it was Trotskyite in outlook and politics."  In reality, the Socialist Party itself was never "Trotskyite", nor did any Trotskyists play a role inside it after their expulsion from the party in 1937. For Socialists, Trotskyism was a political opponent by the time that Muravchik and Penn Kemble (together with Michael Harrington) led the party and its youth wing in the late 1960's. It was not even remotely an issue by the time Carl Gershman led the successor to the right-wing of the Socialist Party following the split in 1972, the Social Democrats-USA.
The very labeling of the few ex-socialist neoconservatives of today as "former Shachtmanites" is misleading, especially since the label is used to imply that they share Max Shachtman's historical connection to Trotskyism, which they do not. Justin Raimondo makes the motivation behind the label clear when he writes in Anti-War.com, that "…it was Shachtman's particular schismatic brand of Trotskyism, as advocated by the "Yipsels," as Comrade Muravchik and his fellow young commies called themselves, that over time was transmuted into a militant push for global "democracy."  Raimondo's polemics on the Anti-war.com website demonstrate that he is familiar -- if perhaps excessively preoccupied -- with the history of American Trotskyism. But the conspiratorial edge to much of his writing often results in presenting a skewed history. His attempt to link neoconservatives to Shachtmanism is a confused amalgam of eras and ideologies that is way off the mark, beginning with his curious labeling of the 1960s YPSL's as both "Shachtmanites" and "commies" when they in fact represented a uniquely American version of right-wing social democracy.
The main tenets of the actual "schismatic brand of Trotskyism" that Raimondo refers to, and that Shachtman adhered to in the 1940s and early 50s, were a revolutionary opposition to capitalism, a "third camp" orientation ("neither Washington nor Moscow"), the theory of bureaucratic collectivism, and support for an independent labor party in the US. It is this set of ideas that can most accurately be referred to as "Shachtmanism".  But not only was such Shachtmanite politics the furthest thing from the minds of Muravchik, Gershman, and the other young Socialists in the late 1960s and 70s -- none of whom was old enough to have belonged to the ISL, and for whom Shachtman was merely a charismatic anti-Communist elder statesman -- not even Shachtman himself still advocated those positions, having abandoned them more than a decade earlier.
Commenting on the all too common tendency of labeling those on the right wing of the Socialist Party as "Shachtmanites", Muravchik, who was National Chairman of the YPSL between 1968 and 1973, has put it succinctly: "I loved Shachtman's lectures, but what I learned from them had nothing to do with the Trotskyite arcana that had once been the substance of Shachtmanism. It had everything to do with the evil nature of communism."  It is the inability to distinguish between right wing social democracy and revolutionary Marxism that underlies the confused allegations hurled at today's neoconservatives -- a small number of whom were once socialists, but whose "former Shachtmanism" turns out to have even less basis in fact than the "former Trotskyism" of the first generation.
June 13, 2003
...But the punch-line for this joke of an argument is here:
"This is the ugly accusation an alert reader should suspect in encountering the word 'Straussian,' or these days even 'neo-conservative' in the context of the Iraq debate. Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle find their Jewish heritage a point of attack. But George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are gentiles. Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell don't look Jewish to me, but they also helped draft the basic statement of the Bush Doctrine, the September 2002 'National Security Policy of the United States.'"
In the Orwellian world of the neocons, where a new form of political correctness frames their every utterance, the language is contracting. Because the goal of totalitarian thought control is to make the expression of political incorrectness impossible, the goal of this Neocon Newspeak is the abolition of many now-common words. In this context, words are used, not to make debating points, but to end all discussion. There are no Straussians, we are told, and even the word neoconservative is to be flushed down the Memory Hole, along with shelves full of books, articles, and even one incredibly boring film detailing their intellectual and political evolution in minute detail.
The idea that the major media have been taken over by neo-Nazis, and that the campaign to identify who and/or what got us involved in an unnecessary and ultimately futile war is all part of "the new anti-Semitism," is the rather implausible theme of the neocons' defense. In a polemic that has all the hallmarks of having been written by an awful drunk – i.e., not only entirely lacking in logic, but also relentlessly subjective and anecdotal – Christopher Hitchens reveals the ultimate evidence for this worldwide anti-Semitic plot in all its sinister "undertones." Once again, the use of certain words – or, in this case, their correct pronunciation – is the issue at hand:
"'Yes that's all very well,' said the chap from the BBC World Service, 'but what about this man Vulfervitz who seems to run the whole show from behind the scenes?' For the fifth time in as many days, and for the umpteenth time this year, I corrected a British interviewer's pronunciation. You see the name in print, you hear it uttered quite a lot in American discussions, you then give a highly inflected rendition of your own. ... What is this?"
To any normal person, it is nothing at all. A simple mis-pronunciation. A defective ear. Perhaps Hitchens, through the thick syrupy haze of alcohol and self-regard, could not hear what this anonymous "chap" was really saying. But, no:
"This is not quite like old-line reactionaries going out of their way to say 'Franklin Delano Rosenfeld.' Still, I don't think I am quite wrong in suspecting that a sharpened innuendo is in play here. Why else, when the very name of Paul Wolfowitz is mentioned, do so many people bid adieu to the very notion of objectivity?"
It is Hitchens who has bid adieu to objectivity. He details all the various travails suffered by the hawkish Defense Department deputy secretary, but nowhere mentions the supposed ethno-religious factor until the very end of his rambling screed:
"Coming back to where I began, though, I think that there's genuine cause for alarm in the current vulgar conflation of 'Kabbalah' with 'cabal,' and with the practice of what, if anyone else were to be the target, the left would already be calling 'demonization.'"
The problem with this argument is that Hitchens is the only one making such a far-fetched conflation, but boozy narcissism is what usually takes the place of logic in the alcoholic mind. Hitchens' contribution to the neocon counteroffensive, then, is to add his own nominee to the growing list of forbidden words: Straussian, neocon, cabal…. Their campaign to constrict the parameters of political debate by eliminating words marches on.
Arnold Beichman was next up at bat, with his own nominee: in any discussion of the neocons and their influence, he wants any reference to Leon Trotsky or the influence of Trotskyism to be strictly verboten. Writing in National Review Online, Beichman is outraged at Jeet Heer's National Post piece detailing the Trotskyist roots of leading neocons, whose cocktail party chatter evidently includes abstruse references to Max Shachtman and the factional history of the Fourth International. I wrote about the Heer piece the other day (scroll down to "Notes in the Margin"), but, alas, the saga continues. Beichman contemptuously dismisses the ex-Trotskyist Hitchens' alleged influence at the White House. Apparently in response to ex-Trotskyist-turned-neocon Stephen Schwartz for affectionately referring to the killer of Kronstadt as "the old man" and "L.D.," Beichman launches a magnificent attack on the crimes of Trotsky, unfairly ripping into Heer for giving Schwartz a platform and for bringing up the Trotsky connection at all:
"But there is something more sinister at work here: to rob the Coalition, which destroyed a terrorist haven and an inhuman dictatorship, of the moral victory it represents."
Schwartz responded the next day in National Review with what I think is the last word on this subject: his article is the definitive text that proves how right we paleos have been all along about this troublesome sect known as the neocons. Schwartz denounces "a group of neofascists" who supposedly claim that "neoconservatives are all ex-Trotskyists," but defends Heer's piece as serving another aim, that of describing "the very real evolution of certain ex-Trotskyists toward an interventionist position on the Iraq war" – i.e., his own evolution and that of his friends and associates in the neocon movement. It is okay for certain people to talk about the Trotskyist influence on neoconservatism, just as long as they have the right ideology:
"The U.S. neofascists who have thrown this accusation around use the term 'Trotskyist' the same way they use the term 'neoconservative:' as a euphemism for 'Jew.'"
But when he writes how "many of the original generation of neoconservatives had a background of association with Trotskyism in its Shachtmanite iteration" it's somehow not a hate crime. Schwartz is even allowed to observe, as I did in my 1993 book Reclaiming the American Right in some detail, that "the Shachtmanites, in the 1960s, joined the AFL-CIO in its best Cold War period, and many became staunch Reaganites." The point of Schwartz's rebuttal, however, is that he is proud of his Trotksyist past. He even gathers his co-thinkers together in proclaiming, in true Trotskyist fashion, that they constitute a semi-official faction, which some editor at NRO deemed "Trotsky-cons":
"The second issue at hand involves the actual ex-Trotskyists who engaged with the issue of the Iraqi war. I call this group, to which I belong, the 'three-and-a-half international,' which is an obscure reference I won't explain fully. But I use it to indicate three main individuals: Christopher Hitchens, myself, and the Iraqi intellectual Kanan Makiya, who all did indeed march under the Red Flag at some point…."
Here is where Schwartz descends into sheer hilarity, given that the best humor is always unintentional. He not only defends dear old Trotsky against Beichman's calumniations, but also red-baits Beichman, reminding him – and NRO's by this time utterly baffled readers – of Beichman's Stalinist past. Beichman was a fellow traveler of the Communist Party in the 1930s, when he worked for the pro-war, pro-FDR left-wing newspaper PM. It's all too funny, but one can only wonder what ordinary, garden-variety, un-prefixed conservatives think of all this sound and fury.
Here, after all, are the ex-Commies of yesteryear re-enacting the Stalin-Trotsky split in the pages of National Review – even as the magazine continues with its ridiculous campaign denying the very existence of neocons as anything but plain old vanilla conservatives. The magazine's online readers, such as they are, may be mystified by Schwartz's argument that Trotsky has a lot to say to the neocons of today, because his analysis of the Moscow Trials somehow impacts on the neocon analysis of Peter Arnett. (Say, what?) But I, for one, particularly enjoyed Schwartz's contention that the Beichman jeremiad represented an effort to "exclude Hitchens and myself from consideration as reliable allies in the struggle against Islamist extremism," or, as he proudly avers:
"Because we have yet to apologize for something I, for one, will never consider worthy of apology. There is clearly a group of heresy-hunters among the original neoconservatives who resent having to give way to certain newer faces, with our own history and culture. These older neoconservatives cannot take yes for an answer, and they especially loathe Hitchens. But nobody ever asked Norman Podhoretz to apologize for having once written poetry praising the Soviet army. Nobody ever asked the art critic Meyer Schapiro, who was also a Trotskyist, to flog himself for assisting illegal foreign revolutionaries at a time when it was considered unpatriotic, to say the least. Nobody ever asked Shachtman or Burnham, or, for that matter, Sidney Hook, or Edmund Wilson, or a hundred others, to grovel and beg mercy for inciting war on capitalism in the depths of the Great Depression."
Holding that Red Banner high, Schwartz declares war on the ex-Stalinists in the neocon movement – of which there are plenty, as he correctly points out – and proclaims his "Third and a Half International." It is almost too farcical to be taken seriously, but then the "conservatism" upheld by National Review since the purge of John Sullivan has never been serious, and this just underscores the sheer absurdity of its claim to be some kind of final arbiter.
Schwartz raises a perfectly legitimate point: if the ex-Trotskyists have to apologize for importing their particular brand of militarism into the neocon movement, then why don't the ex-Stalinists have to "grovel," too? I say let them both apologize for supporting some variant of mass-murdering commie totalitarianism, or stop pretending to be "conservatives."
The ideas that energize the neoconservative movement have little if anything to do with traditional conservatism. That this suspicion is now widespread among traditional conservatives, as well as journalists, is not to be undone by lame accusations of alleged "anti-Semitism." Paring down the permitted language of political debate is not going to work, either. It is clear beyond the need for further proof that the War Party bamboozled the American public into taking that first fateful step on the road to empire. We know who they are, and what they believe: it is not a "conspiracy," as the detractors of this theory insist, because there is nothing secret about it – and because the same people are urging us onward, to Iran, Syria, and beyond.
The esoteric elitist Strauss, the Leninist elitist Trotsky, Schwartz and his mock-operatic "Third and a Half International" re-fighting the inter-Commie faction wars of the 1930s with a gaggle of ex-Stalinists – this is the official "conservative" movement of today! No wonder Commissar Frum and his fellow neocons felt compelled to attack us antiwar, limited government types as "unpatriotic conservatives," going so far as to declare that they "turn their backs" on us. They turned their backs on authentic conservatism some time ago.
Creators.com"In 1877, Lord Salisbury, commenting on Great Britain's policy on the Eastern Question, noted that 'the commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.'
"Salisbury was bemoaning the fact that many influential members of the British ruling class could not recognize that history had moved on; they continued to cling to policies and institutions that were relics of another era."
"Relics of another era" — thus did Stephen Meyer, in Parameters in 2003, begin his essay "Carcass of Dead Policies: The Irrelevance of NATO."
NATO has been irrelevant for two decades, since its raison d'etre — to keep the Red Army from driving to the Rhine — disappeared. Yet Obama is headed to Brussels to celebrate France's return and the 60th birthday of the alliance. But why is NATO still soldiering on?
In 1989, the Wall fell. Germany was reunited. The Captive Nations cast off communism. The Red Army went home. The USSR broke apart into 15 nations. But, having triumphed in the Cold War, it seems the United States could not bear giving up its role as Defender of the West, could not accept that the curtain had fallen and the play was closing after a 40-year run.
So, what did we do? In a spirit of "triumphalism," NATO "nearly doubled its size and rolled itself right up to Russia's door," writes Richard Betts in The National Interest.
Breaking our word to Mikhail Gorbachev, we invited into NATO six former member states of the Warsaw Pact and three former republics of the Soviet Union. George W. Bush was disconsolate he could not bring in Georgia and Ukraine.
Why did we expand NATO to within a few miles of St. Petersburg when NATO is not a social club but a military alliance? At its heart is Article V, a declaration that an armed attack on any one member is an attack on all.
America is now honor-bound to go to war against a nuclear-armed Russia for Estonia, which was part of the Russian Empire under the czars.
After the Russia-Georgia clash last August, Bush declared, "It's important for the people of Lithuania to know that when the United States makes a commitment — we mean it."
But "mean" what? That a Russian move on Vilnius will be met by U.S. strikes on Mother Russia? Are we insane?
Let us thank Divine Providence Russia has not tested the pledge.
For can anyone believe that, to keep Moscow from re-establishing its hegemony over a tiny Baltic republic, we would sink Russian ships, blockade Russian ports, bomb Russian airfields, attack Russian troop concentrations? That would risk having some Russian general respond with atomic weapons on U.S. air, sea and ground forces.
Great powers do not go to war against other great powers unless vital interests are imperiled. Throughout the Cold War, that was true of both America and Russia.
Though he had an atomic monopoly, Harry Truman did not use force to break the Berlin blockade. Nor did Ike intervene to save the Hungarians, whose 1956 revolution Moscow drowned in blood.
John F. Kennedy did not use force to stop the building of the Berlin Wall. Lyndon Johnson fired not a shot to halt the crushing of Prague Spring by Soviet tanks. When Solidarity was snuffed out on Moscow's orders in 1981, Ronald Reagan would not even put the Polish regime in default.
In August 1991, George Bush I, in Kiev, poured ice water on Ukraine's dream of independence: "Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred."
Many Americans were outraged. But outrage does not translate into an endorsement of Bush's 43's plan to bring Ukraine into NATO and risk war with Russia over the Crimea.
Bush 43 bellowed at Moscow last summer to keep hands off the Baltic states. But his father barely protested when Gorbachev sent special forces into all three in 1991.
Bush I's secretary of state, Jim Baker, said it was U.S. policy not to see Yugoslavia break up. Bush 43 was handing out NATO war guarantees to the breakaway republics.
"Washington ... succumbed to victory disease and kept kicking Russia while it was down," writes Betts. "Two decades of humiliation were a potent incentive for Russia to push back. Indeed this is why many realists opposed NATO expansion in the first place."
Few Americans under 30 recall the Cold War. Yet can anyone name a single tripwire for war put down in the time of Dean Acheson or John Foster Dulles that we have pulled up?
Dwight Eisenhower, writes Richard Reeves, in his first meeting with the new president-elect, told JFK, "'America is carrying far more than her share of the free world defense.' It was time for the other nations of NATO to take on more of the cost of their own defense."
Half a century later, we are still stuck "to the carcass of dead policies."
Patrick Buchanan is the author of the new book "Churchill, Hitler and 'The Unnecessary War." To find out more about Patrick Buchanan, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.
A Panaramic Analysis of American Militarism.,
November 1, 2008
This review is from: The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Hardcover)
By Scripture Studier (WI,USA) - See all my reviews
"The New American Militarism-How Americans Are Seduced by War" is an analysis of the subject from multiple viewpoints. Andrew Bacevich examines American militarism from the point of: politicians, the military, evangelical Christians, and society in general.
In the Preface the author is quite candid and humble about himself, his idealogy, and some of the experiences that helped form his positions.
"Some will misread this as cynicism. It is instead the absence of illusion."
He doesn't attempt to lay blame.
The chapter on the neoconservative idealogy (Left,Right,Left)was very good. Some of the leaders were "devout Wilsonians, devoted to the proposition that American values are by definition universal values." That's an accurate assessment of exporting democracy.
"The conception of politics to which neoconservatives paid allegiance owed more to the ethos of the Left than the orthodoxes of the Right.On the Right they hoped to find the oppurtunity to create the alternative perception of reality necessary for fulfilling their radical aspirations." One of those aspirations was the global empire that we have now.
In analyzing the view of evangelical Christians on militarism he made this truthful observation on page 124-
"The relationship between Christianity and war has been a tangled one. Despite Christ's admonition to love one's neighbor and to turn the other cheek, Christians historically have slaughtered their fellow men, to include their fellow Christians, in breathtakingly large numbers."
Some Christian advocate war more than others.
Some more subject matter that I found revelatory were:
*The author compares current and past presidents foreign policy to that of Woodrow Wilson.
*The analysis of the Weinberger and Powell Doctrines regarding pre-conditions for engagement.
*Where the idea for prosecuting two wars concurrently originated.
*The quote from a Pentagon General assessing Rumsfeld as someone who has "done more damage to the country than we will recover from in 50 years" was sobering.
*The "priesthood of strategists". Who they are and how deeply they have affected military strategy .
*A comparison of former presidents and how they viewed and sometimes utilized the military.
Mr. Bacevich offers some sensible solutions to the current problems of American militarism, one being to utilize the National Guard more at home for Homeland Security activities. Border Patrol would make sense.
"American policymakers should employ force only with reluctance and after the most careful deliberation....and it should do so with one eye cocked on the home front, wary of claims of military necessity being used to compromise our civil liberties."
My interest in Andrew Bacevich's books was kindled by watching an appearance he made on Bill Moyer's program to promote "The Limits of Power." This book is one of the best I have read in some time. I'd rate it highly and in the league of Chalmers Johnson's books.
The Neoconservative Agenda, in 16 parts
I doubt even neocons know so clearly what they are about as we do this afternoon.
Pause for Reflection
- Neocons equate violence in the service of unilateral American interests with moral right.
- To constrain American dominance is metaphysically wrong.
- Violence against those who oppose America is not only just, but compulsory.
- The preferred mode of diplomacy is implication of violent pro-American action should American interests be disregarded or defied.
- To disregard American interests is the same as defiance.
- Defiance must be confronted, decisive action taken in the context of pro-American moral clarity .
- Who decides what is pro-American and morally clear? Why, people who are pro-American and morally clear, of course. Who decides which are which? Those who support pro-American and morally clear action are the good guys, silly. What are pro-American and morally clear actions? Those which do not dissent or disregard American dominion. Drrr.
- Since all moral right derives from not only possession of might but application of same, we need a bigger defense budget, and a more aggressive stance vis a vis dissent and defiance, both at home and abroad.
- American interests are served by permanent military bases abroad.
- The carrier fleets sustain the illusion that America can come and go in response to threats to its interests, which encourages the dangerous policy of disengagement from the business of maintaining a pro-American, morally clear international order. Thus, we need to reduce the number of carrier fleets in favor of permanent land bases.
- We need to control the international commons. Freedom outside of pro-American, morally clear context is a nom sequitur, and that includes both access and use of outer space as well as cyberspace.
- Anticipatory violence against disregard and dissent to American interests is valid and serves to warn the international order of the price of even thinking about challenging America. See above - the expression of American military might is not only just, but compulsory.
- That which is pro-American and morally clear, per neoconservative doctrine, is mainstream. That which disgregards or dissents from neoconservatism, even to least letter, is extremism and must be crushed.
- "Promotion of freedom abroad" means the expanding and enhancing the decisionmaking space of America to assert its interests, and expand them as dissent and disgregard are crushed
- Making the world one with America through submission to American interpretation of right, law, justice and order is the sine quae non of not only American ethics, but of all ethics.
- To defy this agenda is terrorism, and renders the dissenter an outlaw, whether individual person or a federation of sovereign powers.
Whoa. I had never taken the trouble to investigate the neocons so closely. These guys are spooky, and they are currently in charge. Their ethos is self-consistent and messiahanic. It requires neither deity nor religion, since it is an amoral, secular philosophy of control in which the moral actor is the state. I would argue that it is the mirror image of Stalinism -- anticommunism morphing from an opposition to communism into a totalitarian code all its own.
Being one for odd references, today I shall introduce to you the concept of the k'airth, compliments of science fiction and fantasy author C.S. Friedman from her novel In Conquest Born
In the story, there are two interstellar superpowers, Braxi and Azea, that have been deadlocked in a ten thousand year-long conflict known as the Endless War. Ostensibly, the Azeans are a peace-loving, freedom-loving, nonmilitaristic society, as opposed to the enthusiastically militarist Braxins. Regardless, over time militarism has crept into Azean culture, to the point that one dissenter in the Azean government speculates that Azea is so accustomed to war that it would fall apart without it.
The Braxins are more appreciative of both the dynamic and the danger to themselves, for the Azeans have evolved in response to the threat of Braxi by producing institutions -- and individuals -- capable of standing toe-to-toe in battle with its enemies. The k'airth is the process by which longlasting conflict changes the contestants to mirror one another, even to the point of attachment to the struggle. Victory or defeat is secondary to keeping the war immortal.
I suspect that the anticommunist origins of the neocons left them altered, such that the movement cannot exist save in apocalyptic contest with an evil worthy of its own vitality. Lacking Communism, the movement cast about right away, and identified Democrats as the next worthy opponent in their own Endless War.
Alas, the Democrats are a domestic adversary, and any violent objection to their existence would result in a second American civil war, something that would not enhance but rather diminish American power in the world for the duration, raising the cost of asserting control of the world later on.
Then along came Osama, and handed the neocons their golden goose, and the excuse to assemble their Golden Horde (a Mongol outfit that, coincidentally, put the smack down on Baghdad in the year 1258.
In Islam the neocons have an enemy that has shown, at least four times, the ability to strike at American territory to devastating effect, with potentially 2 billion recruits and no shortage of non-Muslim 'obstructionists' to American eminence. The US versus the World context is heroin for the neocons; it is a dream come true -- their dialectic imperative. All that remains is to fight back their own version of Trotskites (Buchanan) and counterrevolutionaries (that would be the Democrats), and armed with the excuse of foreign enemies engage in their own Great Purges and refine the United States into a revolutionary broadsword, pointed directly at the heart of the matter -- world dominion, perhaps not all bad in the ideal, but all decided by its own dictatorship, of its own proletariat.
History has shown how briefly ideals last when exposed to the hard radiation of absolute power; they mutate into excuses to kill without regret, without hesitation, without remorse.
The Neocons are anticommunist as compared to communist, alright; in the same way that antimatter is comparable to matter -- one the mirror of the other, and utterly deadly when placed in contact with reality.
Supplemental sources: Max Boot article here and Wiki article on PNAC here. Oh, and C.S.Friedman's In Conquest Born
This is not new (4.00 / 3)Who are we without an enemy? Americans revel in what it is that makes them "American", but now we seem to be defining ourselves in relation to our apparent enemies.
We're not just doing this all of a sudden. The ideological shift to definition-by-opposition began with the FDR-sponsored propaganda program in WW2, and was smoothly transitioned from the Nazi enemy to the Soviet enemy at the dawn of the Cold War. American "conservatism" was for fifty years based entirely on opposition to the USSR and to its real and imagined sympathizers both foreign and domestic. When the USSR collapsed, they were left without a reason to exist. It is no coincidence that George Bush Sr. was caught off-guard by the fall of the Soviet Union; ideologues of his stripe were simply unable to conceive of a world without the USSR because that equated to a world in which they, too, would not exist.
I can't remember if it was Stewart Brand or Ken Kesey who said this, but "If you resist evil, when it's gone, you'll fold."
Like the priests without the devil, the whole conservative, anti-communist, military-industrial complex was in danger of walking off the stage of history along with Gorbachev. Amazingly, they managed to survive for a whole decade in the wilderness, looking desperately for a new enemy, before Osama bin Laden provided them with a fresh Reichstag fire.
The thing that has been just jaw-droppingly stunning to me about this whole sad affair is how transparently recycled the propaganda is. The Red Menace and the Terrorist Menace are one and the same. There's a terrorist behind every tree, poisoning the water supply, aided and abetted by the soft and sympathetic left.
The only difference is that the Soviet Union actually did exist as a coherent threat; the purported worldwide terrorist conspiracy, whatever it's called today, has the advantage of not actually existing except as an epiphenomenon of American political and economic policies abroad. It is a self-renewing enemy the conservatives can fight forever just by doing what they most like to do. The debacle in Iraq is a victory for the neocons because it spawns more enemies to fight and gives them the cover they need to disembowel our domestic liberties. The unwinnable war is the best kind of war, the kind of war they hoped the Cold War would be.
The popular form of American patriotism has for a long time ceased to be love of one's country; it is simply hatred of everyone else's. This isn't new either, but it is being propelled to novel extremes by the neocons.
Support Our Troops: Send the Commander-in-Chief to the Front!
All governments lie as I. F. Stone famously observed, but some governments lie more than others. And the neocon Bush regime serves up whoppers as standard fare every day. Why this propensity to lie? There are many reasons, but it is not widely appreciated that the neocons believe in lying on principle. It is the "noble" thing for the elite to do, for the "vulgar" masses, the "herd" will become ungovernable without such lies. This is the idea of the "noble lie" practiced with such success and boldness by Scooter Libby and his co-conspirators and concocted by the political "philosopher" Leo Strauss whose teachings lie at the core of the neoconservative outlook and agenda, so much so that they are sometimes called "Leocons."
Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was a Jewish-German émigré from the Nazi regime who eventually landed at the University of Chicago where he developed a following that has achieved enormous prominence in American politics. Among his students were Paul Wolfowitz who has openly acknowledged that he is a follower of Straus as has the godfather of neconservatism, Irving Kristol. Irving Kristol begat William Kristol, the director of operation for the DC neocons, editor of the Weekly Standard and "chairman" of the Project for the New American Century, which laid out the plans for the Iraq War. (PNAC also opined in 2000 that a Pearl Harbor-like event would be necessary to take the country to war, and one year later, presto, we had the strange and still mysterious attack of September 11.) For his part Paul Wolfowitz begat Libby, in the intellectual sense, when he taught Libby at Yale. Others stars in the necon firmament are Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and lesser figures like Abram Shulsky, director of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, created by Donald Rumsfeld. Shulsky, also a student of Strauss, was responsible for fabricating the lies masquerading as intelligence that were designed to get the U.S. into the war on Iraq. While the neocons have a passion for the Likud party and Zionism, they also count among their number not a few pre-Vatican II Catholics and an assortment of cranks like Newt Gingrich and John Bolton and crypto fascists like Jeanne Kirkpatrick. The list goes on and Justin Raimondo has documented it in great detail over the years on Antiwar.com. But it is enough to note that Cheney's alter ego was Libby, and Rumsfeld's second in command until recently was Wolfowitz. So both Cheney, the de facto president with an apparently ill perfused cerebrum, and the geezer commanding the Pentagon have been managed by younger and very prominent Straussians for the past five years.
A superb account of the ideas of Strauss, his followers and his influence is to be found in The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss (hereafter PI) and Leo Strauss and The American Right (hereafter AR), both by Shadia Drury, professor of politics at the University of Calgary. Her account of Strauss's ideas and the prominence they play in American politics today will give you chills or nausea, perhaps both. As she says in PI (p.xii), "Strauss is the key to understanding the political vision that has inspired the most powerful men in America under George W. Bush. In my view men who are in the grip of Straussian political ideas cannot be trusted with political power in any society, let alone a liberal democracy. This book explains why this is the case." For those who wish to understand the neocon agenda, Drury's books are essential reading. She is clear and thorough.
Of pertinence to "Scooter's" case and the pack of lies he was concealing is Strauss's idea that a "philosopher elite" (i.e., Straussians) must rule. Moreover they must do so covertly. As someone remarked before last Friday, "Who ever heard of I. Lewis Libby?" a man who shunned the spotlight and operated behind the scenes. The reason for such covert rule, or cabal, is that the "vulgar" herd, as Strauss liked to call the rest of us, cannot appreciate "higher truths" such as the inevitability and necessity of wars in relations between states and even the utility of wars in governing a state. So the covert elite must be certain that myths like religion or the glory of the nation are not weakened for these are among the best ways to rule over the ignorant herd and lead it into war. (Note that the Straussians themselves are not religious. They are "above" religion, capable of dealing with tough truths like man's mortality. But in their view, religion is a crucial factor in governing in their view. Irving Kristol, following Strauss, tells us that religion is "far more important politically" than the Founding Fathers believed and that to rescue America it is necessary "to breathe new life into the older, now largely comatose religious orthodoxies." (AR, p. 148). Any religion will do except perhaps Islam, which is more or less verboten, given the affinity of all leading neocons for Israel. Hence the neocons readily embrace the ideology and leadership of Christian fundamentalism which can keep the crowd under control and get them to march off to war and death. The neocons are mainly interested in foreign policy, as was Strauss, but in exchange for the support of the religious Right in foreign affairs, the neocons line up behind the domestic program of the fundamentalists. It's a win win situation, from their point of view
But useful lies of the grand sort like religious myth or blind nationalism need support by lesser lies at crucial moments. And so we go to the "smaller" lies like "weapons of mass destruction," the "smoking gun that comes in the form of the mushroom cloud." And here too the elite has a role to play. They are to use their "superior rhetorical skills" to make the weak argument seem stronger. In other words the cabal not only has to protect myths and manufacture lies but go to work in selling them. What Strauss called "rhetoric," we call spin.
All of this comes down to one word: lying. But for Strauss, these lies are necessary for the smooth function of society and triumph of one's own nation in war. Hence for Strauss, the lie becomes "noble." This phrase Strauss borrows and distorts from Plato who meant by a "noble lie" a myth or parable that conveyed an underlying truth about morality or nature. But in Strauss's hands the "noble lie" becomes a way of deceiving the herd. Strauss's "noble lies are far from "noble." They are intended to "dupe the multitude and secure power for a special elite" (AR, p. 79).
One other idea of Strauss's bears on the situation of "Scooter" Libby. How is the Straussian philosophical elite going to get from the halls of academe to the corridors of power? This depends on good luck and the "chance" encounter between the powerful and the Straussian. Here the contemporary neocons go beyond Strauss and leave nothing to chance. It would even appear that they look for the stupid, gullible or those who are mentally compromised. So William Kristol becomes Vice President Quayle's chief of Staff, and Libby becomes the right hand man to the addled Cheney as well as assistant to the Quayle-like Bush. And there are many more.
Finally, Drury makes the point the Strauss and the neocons are not really conservative at all. They are radicals, at war with the entire modern enterprise which makes them turn to the ancients for their inspiration and even there they need to distort the teachings of Socrates or Plato to make their case. But the Enlightenment comes to us with the advance of science to which Strauss is also hostile. He says that he is not against science as such "but popularized science or the diffusion of scientific knowledge.Science must remain the preserve of a small minority; it must be kept secret from the common man" (PI, p. 154). But this is impossible. Science by its very nature is a vast social enterprise requiring the widest possible dissemination of its findings. Any society that puts a lid on this will fail, and so by natural selection, the Straussian project is doomed to fail.
But before that happens the Straussians can do a lot of damage. As Drury says, they "cannot be trusted with political power." But we can learn from them the importance of boldness, not in the pursuit of the "noble lie" but of the truth. And we must be certain that we are vigorous as we hunt them down and get them out of power. In that effort Shadia Drury has done us a great service.
With apologies for my bad Russian, it’s time they followed their mentor’s advice and consigned themselves to the dustbin of history. Dosvedanye, Tovarischi.
There are few studies more likely to induce deep sleep than trying to follow the doings of Communists. The core of their beliefs is the rejection of God and the exaltation of man, but being human they cannot erase their spirituality completely, so they must find new gods, and the gods of Communism, Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and Mao, have been the most unattractive, fractious and bloodthirsty divinities until the advent of Osama.
In such difficult times as these, for nobody should doubt that these are truly historic times, it’s maybe pertinent to ask ourselves, what became of anti-Communism? Why has a movement that so energised society for decades withered on the vine? Did we really think that Communism died with the Soviet Union? It surely hasn’t. Our difficult times are being directed and influenced by people who at some time in their lives have either been Communists or who have no compunction about using Communist language. Red Bolshevism is dead as a political force in sane societies. What has taken its place is equally dangerous – the Blue Bolshevism of neo-conservatism.A useful essay outlining the Trotskyite roots of neo-conservatism is
Stephen Schwartz’s Trotskycons, published in the June 11 2003 edition of National Review Online. Schwartz is a popular Internet pundit who has worn many hats during the course of his life, which have been duly recorded by his long-standing antagonist Srjda Trifkovic. As well as being a convert to Islam, something he doesn’t usually tell his readers, he has admitted to involvement with the KLA in Kosovo. Therefore, when reading him, one must be careful to determine whether it is Stephen Schwartz, Suleyman Ahmed or Comrade Sandalio that’s speaking. He’s probably cultivating crossover appeal.These aren’t guys who queue at the job-window, waiting for some Johnny Friendly to shout ‘Everybody works today!’ Instead, they began life as Trotskyites in the ‘30’s in the school advocated by the philosopher Max Shachtman – according to Schwartz, ‘they belonged to or sympathized with a trend in radical leftism that followed the principle of opposition to the Soviet betrayal of the revolution to its logical end’. In layman’s terms, this began as a house fight with the Stalinists.
According to Schwartz, the first individuals to formally break from Trotskyism were James Burnham, a founder of National Review, and Irving Kristol of Encounter. Described by the hatchet man David Frum as the only person willing to take the title of ‘neo-conservative’, Irving Kristol is the father of Bill Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, along with National Review the main ideas-engine of neo-conservatism. The Weekly Standard is published by News Corporation, the ultimate owners of Fox News. No doubt in the interests of the ideological purity all Bolsheviks crave, Schwartz absolves Bill Kristol, Richard (‘The Five Million Dollar Man’) Perle and Paul Wolfowitz from any taint of Shachtmanism.Having left Trotskyism, the neo-conservatives gravitated firstly to the Democrats. However, they still could not tame the fractious beasts within, and started to leave the Democrats in 1972, in opposition to the nomination of George McGovern. Using the classic Trotskyite tactic of ‘entryism’, they began to fill more and more positions of influence within the Republican Party, until now they have come to dominate it. Not bad for people who only started voting Republican in 1980.
For Schwartz, Trotsky is not an ambivalent figure. He lauds Burnham and the Elder Kristol for the fact that ‘they did not apologize, did not grovel, did not crawl and beg forgiveness for having, at one time, been stirred by the figure of Trotsky.’ That’s nice. He’s even more forthcoming on his own opinion of Trotsky as it stands at the moment, describing him a figure of ‘moral consistency’ who, ‘if nothing else, took responsibility for the crimes of the early Bolshevik regime.’... ... ...
For the life of me, I can’t work out what voodoo Hitchens has worked on you guys over there. He once wrote a column on the subject of Churchill for The Atlantic Monthly called ‘The medals of his defeats’. He made reference to his father’s service as a naval officer on H.M.S. Jamaica and the role he played in helping sink the German destroyer Scharnhorst during the Battle of the Atlantic. He described it ‘a far better day’s work than any I have ever done’. I wouldn’t disagree with that for a second.However, because of a brilliant skill with words developed at an English public school and the University of Oxford, Hitchens has achieved a level of recognition that his beliefs or former beliefs do not merit. Like Stephen Schwartz, like David Horowitz, like all Bolsheviks Red or Blue, the natural flow of his temper is toward the extreme. It doesn’t matter what extreme. In Horowitz’s case the extreme can be reached after years of soul-searching and repenting what he believed before, his massive learning and energy then channelled into fighting his four noblest of fights, for academic freedom, for the defence of Israel, against the spread of radical Islam and the dirtiest one of all, against the people he once admired and associated with, but it’s still extreme. It’s hardly surprising then that Hitchens should attach himself to the war against radical Islam with the gusto that he has – it’s a competing ideology. To the mind of Hitchens, Osama is a threat to the hearts and minds of Muslims who would otherwise be attracted to the doctrine he has devoted his life to. Their insistence on the promotion of the rational at all costs means that when a crazy like Osama crosses their path, they can’t get it into their heads that this guy can’t be reasoned with. Many of them say they do get it, but they don’t really. It’s hardly surprising, then, that an extremist like Hitchens has been a lecturer at a White House that’s full of them. It’s hardly surprising that Horowitz has given him the airtime he’s had on Front Page Magazine, which has also carried the thoughts of Comrade Sandalio on a regular basis. Anyone who is still proud to call themselves a Dutch Reagan or Margaret Thatcher anti-Communist needs to oppose these people. These guys have nothing new or exciting to offer, only war, ideology and then some more of the same. The man whose coat tails many of them rode, Dutch Reagan, was a liberal New Deal Democrat who became the most committed anti-Communist of all time, ending it up largely smashing it. But Dutch never followed Trotsky. He didn’t ever try to justify Kronstadt or sing ‘The Internationale’. The ‘Internationale’, when sung in English to the tune of ‘O Tannenbaum’, ends with the phrase,
‘When cowards flinch, and traitors sneer, we’ll keep the Red Flag flying here’.Neoconservatives called the Spanish people cowards after the Madrid bombing. David Frum calls conservatives who oppose his beliefs ‘unpatriotic’. Is all of this familiar?
With apologies for my bad Russian, it’s time they followed their mentor’s advice and consigned themselves to the dustbin of history. Dosvedanye, Tovarischi.
Neo-conservatism has created an “axis of disorder” within American governance. But it will not disappear even if its current champions fade from view. A former official in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations and a former British diplomat argue that neo-conservatism is a manifestation of a deeper syndrome that has structural roots in United States history and politics.
The stealth transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis on 28 June 2004 raises an intriguing question of whether a parallel transition will also take place at some future midnight in Washington - specifically whether the neo-conservative influence that did so much to instigate the Iraq war will also be bundled unceremoniously into retirement.
Those who have recently met privately with Paul Wolfowitz, the war’s most ardent neo-conservative advocate, report that he is a subdued personality. If Wolfowitz and his colleagues depart the scene, what changes does this foreshadow for American foreign policy?
It is already possible to discern a more collegial tone in American discourse – on policy fronts as diverse as North Korea, Nato and the Group of Eight (G8). There is talk of Colin Powell, the bruised but still combative critic of neo-conservatism, remaining secretary of state after a Bush victory in November 2004.
Furthermore, within Republican circles in Washington there is a palpable backlash against policies that many party veterans fear may cost the election. Many current Republican gatherings reverberate to the sound of establishment internationalists, anti-empire sceptics, deficit hawks, or simple believers in good governance voicing their dismay at the damage they perceive the neo-conservative follies have inflicted on the nation and the party.
What is happening may be described as a new institutional syndrome in Washington – the “axis of disorder”. It represents a lethal combination of underperformance in the executive, on Capitol Hill and within the opinion-leading elite.
Many observers would celebrate the eclipse of a neo-conservatism that has brought American governance to this pass. But a word of caution is in order. The neo-conservatives’ demise has been predicted before. The post-cold war era of the 1990s, when Norman Podhoretz pronounced that neo-conservatism no longer existed as a distinctive phenomenon, was one such moment. John Judis in Foreign Affairs even described the neo-con journey as “a transition from Trotskyism to anachronism.”
These predictions proved premature – but although “neo-conservatism” returned to the political lexicon after the Republican victory in 2000, this has proved more journalistic shorthand than shaping category of understanding. Now, if the term and the policies it has been used to connote are once more losing their potency, what exactly will be removed from American foreign-policy thinking?
The neo-conservative core
The three chief tenets of neo-conservative ideology are:
- The human condition is a choice between good and evil, and the true measure of political character is to be found in the willingness by the former (themselves) to confront the latter
- The fundamental determinant of the relationship between states rests on military power and the willingness to use it
- The Middle East and global Islam is the prime theatre for American overseas interests.
In making these tenets active, neo-conservatives:
- see international issues in morally absolutist categories; they are convinced that they alone hold the moral high ground and argue that disagreement effectively offers comfort to the enemy
- emphasise the unipolar nature of American power and are prepared to exercise the military option as the first rather than last policy choice; they repudiate the received “lessons of Vietnam”, believing they undermine American willingness to use force - and rather embrace the “lessons of Munich”, believing they establish the virtues of pre-emptive military action
- disdain conventional diplomatic agencies such as the state department and country-specific, pragmatic analysis because they dilute and confuse the ideological clarity of their policies
- eschew multilateral institutions and treaties while drawing comfort from international criticism, believing that it confirms American virtue
The price of failure
The experience of George W. Bush’s presidency has delivered a lengthy list of setbacks to this mindset and agenda – above all (though not exclusively) in Iraq. The pre-war neo-con confidence about the nature and extent of Iraqi resistance; the predicted warm welcome for American forces; the United States’s capacity for peaceful reconstruction of vital infrastructure (especially electric and water services); even the expenditure of already approved project funds - all ended in bitter disappointment.
The cost of these miscalculations, now laid at the neo-cons’ door, has arrested the nation’s political discussion and emerged as a pivotal element in the November election.
For analysis and debate of neo-conservatism on openDemocracy:
- Godfrey Hodgson, “From frontiersman to neo-con” (April 2004)
- Danny Postel’s interview with Shadia Drury, “Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq” (October 2003)
- Mark Blitz, “Leo Strauss, the Straussians and American foreign policy” (November 2003)
- openDemocracy forum debate
Beyond the human and financial cost, the effect of sharply diminished American credibility has been felt in official Washington, and in the money centres of New York, Atlanta and Chicago. Most damaging for the neo-conservatives, however, has been the revelation that their utopian strategic plan for the Middle East is naive and unworkable. The limitations of American power have become a public spectacle; with each day, Americans have learned more about how the post-conflict plan for Iraq’s reconstruction was developed without the benefit of Arabic-speakers or country experts, riven by bureaucratic and exile factions, and without addressing the critical tension in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Moreover, the relentless focus on Iraq has allowed Afghanistan to fester, North Korea and Iran to continue along their nuclear paths and Saudi Arabia to stumble towards catastrophe. Perhaps the most ominous result of Iraq’s seizure of the attention of top United States foreign policy and national security managers is the neglect of China, which already may have replaced the US as the leading power in East Asia.
In the corporate sector, failures of this magnitude would result in the speedy replacement of those responsible. This may yet happen. But even if November’s election brings a change of administration, the question arises: will the neo-conservatives’ influence on American foreign policy endure?
From Vietnam to Iraq
The implication of two 2004 studies broadly sympathetic to neo-conservatism – Surprise, Security and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis and Power, Terror, Peace and War by Walter Russell Mead – is that the unilateral exercise of American power draws on certain social and cultural themes, centring on an insular and aggressive nativism, that have animated America’s interaction with the world from the earliest days of the republic. The implication is that, far from being an aberration, neo-conservatism is part of an established historical tradition.
There is even a case to be made that neo-conservatism has affinities with the missionary zeal (socially progressive as well as often militantly anti-communist) that animated the “best and the brightest” generation – George Ball, McGeorge and William Bundy, Robert MacNamara, Paul Nitze, Walt Rostow – who presided over America’s engagement in Vietnam.
This generation came to political maturity during the Eisenhower years of the 1950s when, as today, the US enjoyed an unchallengeable global power projection capability. Its leading figures came to believe that military power could press against the evil represented by communism and install American-style democracy, bypassing the forces of local nationalism, in a region (south-east Asia) with a long and vibrant cultural history but without any democratic legacy. All this was done with little reference to rich, available resources of regional and linguistic expertise.
The recurrence of this pattern among the ostensibly very different group represented by President Bush’s neo-conservative advisers in the aftermath of 9/11 suggests that the United States is indeed in the grip of a syndrome, a problem that is structural and not merely cyclical: an “axis of disorder” which at times of stress inhibits calm and deliberate decision-making.
At these stress-points, it appears that the combination of a crusading idealism, an assertion of the universal applicability of American values, and the willingness (indeed eagerness) to use force to back them can overwhelm the venerable “checks and balances” considered integral to the American political process. Some argue that Republican administrations may be more vulnerable to this process, since the party’s driving spirit has shifted from cosmopolitan globalists towards America-first populists – a development accelerated by the increased influence of a conservative and fundamentalist talk-radio culture.
In the case of Iraq, a determined special interest was capable of leading a march to war without any effective counterweight to its seizure of the levers of power. The central failure was in the Condoleezza Rice-led National Security Council; despite her training in traditional statecraft and alliance management, Rice was unwilling or unable to highlight the imbalances in decision-making arising from the neo-conservative dynamics in the defense department and vice-president’s office.
Beyond the executive, Congress abandoned real oversight in giving overwhelming, almost instinctual support to the war. Just as the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed the Senate unanimously and thus formalised US involvement in Vietnam, leaving two relatively obscure Democratic senators (Alaska’s Ernest Greuning and Oregon’s Wayne Morse) to ask the first tough questions, so it took two outsiders (the hoary senator with an independent streak, West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, and former Vermont governor Howard Dean) to make opposition to the Iraq war respectable.
The media was also guilty of institutional failure in ways that echo the past. Just as in the early 1960s, establishment newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post had enthusiastically backed involvement in Vietnam, so in 2002-03 major media outlets were uncritical in the face of administration assertions about al-Qaida/Saddam links and the latter’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Network and cable television businesses, from which most Americans now derive their news, compounded this failure. Their imprisonment by the competitive search for market share leads them to fear offending power; as a result, they are satisfied with recycling soft, compliant questions and stories. At least part of the media, notably the New York Times which (another Vietnam repeat) diverged earlier than the Washington Post from the official line, has conducted a self-critical post-mortem on its own coverage .
The present danger
The recurrent pattern of institutional weakness over Vietnam and Iraq suggests a systemic weakness – one that creates an ever-present danger of a neo-conservative special interest group turning a manageable, controllable challenge (as, in principle, was Iraq) into a major crisis. In the near term such a sequence could unfold over Iran; in the more distant future, it could develop as the United States and China compete for regional or global hegemony.
The warning-signs exist whenever unchecked special interests within an administration can act on their belief in American exceptionalism, demonise an opponent, and present his position in monolithic terms as a target for destruction.
Thus, the true legacy of the neo-conservatives may be to have revealed a systemic problem that must be addressed if the American foreign policy process is to recover its consistency and predictability. The current neo-conservative moment may be passing, like a comet that streaks through the skies at regular intervals before disappearing into space. The result, in the short- to medium-term, may be a more familiar, collegial and substantive, American foreign policy. This will provide opportunities for the United States’s allies not just to agree with American policy but to influence it for the better.
But as comets return, so will the neo-conservatives’ themes - especially the preference for unilateral military power as the option of first resort. Neo-conservatism offers a recurrently powerful ideological booster-rocket in support of America’s military pre-eminence. If another “perfect storm” on the 9/11 model recurs, where fear and confusion suspend the political process, the American response is likely to be predominantly military rather than political, diplomatic or economic - irrespective of the party affiliation of the White House incumbent.
Is just a coincidence that George W. Bush gave a speech announcing that the U.S. was leading a "global democratic revolution" on the eve of Leon Trotsky's birthday, but it is one that neatly illustrates the militant revolutionism at the core of American foreign policy in the post-9/11 era.
The proximity to Trotsky's birthday was fortuitous, but the venue of this revolutionary proclamation was not: it was a speech commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the brainchild of neoconservative ideologues, many of whom have their roots on the Trotskyite Left. Having given up the dream of revolutionary socialism for the more practical project of global "democracy," the troublesome little sect of neoconservatives, not so affectionately known as "neocons," is at last having its moment in the sun.
The NED was a sop thrown to the neocons during the Reagan administration, so they could have a little domain of their own, a small but strategically placed contingent of "Socialists for Reagan" embedded deep in the bowels of the U.S. government. The first President of the group, Carl Gershman, was a longtime member of the Social Democrats, USA, formerly the Socialist Party, a group dominated by the legendary Max Shachtman. The founder of "third camp" neo-Trotskyism, Shachtman broke with Trotsky in the 1940s and evolved, over the years, into a firm supporter of U.S. military intervention worldwide, while retaining – like Sidney Hook – his dedication to the "democratic" socialist cause.
As top advisors to the Lane Kirkland wing of the AFL-CIO, Shachtman and his followers burrowed deep in the labor movement, and lobbied extensively for the establishment of a government-subsidized "quasi-private" foundation that would help them extend their labor connections internationally, The effort bloomed in the Carter years, when the two parties agreed to share in the spoils, and bore fruit at the start of the Reagan years. The legislation establishing the National Endowment for Democracy mandated that most of its funding, at least initially, would go to the Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI), an arm of the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department.
Aside from the subsidy, however, the benefits to the Shachtmanites were also ideological: from their perch at the NED, they could egg on the administration to confront the Soviet Union and agitate for the prosecution of the cold war to the fullest – all at taxpayers' expense. When the Soviet Union imploded, however, so did the rationale for the NED – and it narrowly escaped the budget ax. But post-9/11, the NED – along with the neoconservative movement – was given a new lease on life. Certainly George W. Bush's conversion to Shachtmanism, as evidenced by his NED address, represents the apotheosis of neocon dominance in Washington.
The odd combination of Soviet-style phraseology with ostensibly conservative rhetoric made for a speech of unsurpassed weirdness. On the one hand, the President celebrated the victory of capitalism, hailing the triumph of "democracy," "free enterprise," and "markets," and yet somehow managed to do it the style of a socialist orator out of the 1930s.
The U.S., according to Bush, was no ordinary country, nor even one especially blessed, but an "inspiration for oppressed peoples," whose acolytes worldwide "knew of at least one place – a bright and hopeful land – where freedom was valued and secure" – kind of like the Soviet Union was to the Commies of yesteryear. Here, too, are references to the necessity for "sacrifice" – a favorite theme of the old Soviet rhetoricians – including this Orwellian formulation:
"By definition, the success of freedom rests upon the choices and the courage of free peoples, and upon their willingness to sacrifice."
Freedom is, "by definition," slavery. War is peace. And Ignorance, as we all know, is Strength.
The speeches of the Soviet leaders, and their American imitators, were always filled with new "turns," announcing the most recent twist in the party line, and the Bush speech displays the same grandiose tic:
"We've reached another great turning point – and the resolve we show will shape the next stage of the world democratic movement."
America as the leader of a "world movement" – the idea is positively Leninist.
Full of revolutionary resolve, the U.S. must now focus on the Middle East "for decades to come," said Bush. For some strange reason, Mesopotamia does not yet share Montana's enthusiasm for democratic governance, and this is impermissible:
"Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free."
Yes, but as Frederick Douglass put it, he who would be free must strike the first blow. It is not for us to say how or if the peoples of the Middle East will find their way to freedom and, consequently, to prosperity. Perhaps it is religion, and the willful pull of tradition, that holds that whole region of the world back: but doesn't freedom also include the freedom to say no to modernity? Oh, but we mustn't say that, it's politically incorrect to even imply that all peoples everywhere and at every time are something more or less than multi-cultural clones of Homo Americanus:
"Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to the representative government. This 'cultural condescension,' as Ronald Reagan termed it, has a long history. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a so-called Japan expert asserted that democracy in that former empire would 'never work.'"
Speaking of cultural condescension: Japan had "democracy" long before World War II, with an elected Diet, a figurehead monarch, and a relatively free expression of Western liberal and even radical ideas. The assertion that U.S. troops brought these alien concepts with them for the first time and imposed them by force on reluctant Japanese is laughable.
And the idea that postwar Japanese democracy is an unqualified success is certainly arguable, as Tokyo proves unable to reform its entrenched bureaucracy and put its economic house in order. Even the determined revolutionist Junichiro Koizumi has only just managed to lurch from one crisis to another: the land of the rising sun may yet fall beneath a tsunami of bank debt. So much for the virtues of Japanese democracy: Japan is still a society run by consensus, where Western-style individualism is considered a form of mental illness.
The President applies this same mindless universalism to the problems of the Middle East, which can all be solved if only we recognize that, in the end, ideology must trump such reactionary vestiges of the past as culture and religion:
"It should be clear to all that Islam – the faith of one-fifth of humanity – is consistent with democratic rule. Democratic progress is found in many predominantly Muslim countries – in Turkey and Indonesia, and Senegal and Albania, Niger and Sierra Leone. Muslim men and women are good citizens of India and South Africa, of the nations of Western Europe, and of the United States of America."
Turkey is democratic – except when the military decides that democracy is bringing the country too close to the edge of an Islamic revolution, in which case it reverts to its roots as the prototypical Oriental despotism. Before we set up Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone as exemplars of the democratic progress, perhaps it would be wiser to wait and see if they don't return – some time tomorrow – to historic patterns of repression and civil war.
Albania – a bastion of democracy? Only if you consider – like many libertarians – that all governments, democratic or otherwise, are the moral equivalent of little more than gangsters.
We are told that the Middle East needs to be "transformed" before we can sleep safe in our beds at night. But if "more than half of all the Muslims in the world live in freedom under democratically constituted governments," as the President averred, then what's the problem? These very same peoples hate our guts, that's what, and democracy hasn't ameliorated their hatred – only given it freer expression.
While the President goes on to assert – wrongly, in my view – that Islam is compatible with the Western concept of limited government and individual rights, for some unexplained reason there seems to be a "freedom deficit" prevalent in Muslim countries:
"Whole societies remain stagnant while the world moves ahead. These are not the failures of a culture or a religion. These are the failures of political and economic doctrines."
But political and economic doctrines cannot be understood except as they relate to and are derived from cultural and especially religious ideas. As Murray N. Rothbard showed in his monumental "An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought," the development of economic ideas in the West – the varieties of socialism, including Marxism, as well as capitalism – was rooted in the religious and cultural trends prevalent in pre-industrial Europe. The idea that political and economic doctrines are something separate and aloof from the cultural traditions of a given country or region, to be applied by social engineers at gunpoint, is a grave error inherent in our "liberationist" foreign policy.
Like the Commie leaders of the past, who disdained the role and power of religion, and were conscious enemies of tradition, Bush sees himself as the instrument of History. All progress is measured by the speed of his victories. He is shocked – shocked! – that
"There are governments that still fear and repress independent thought and creativity, and private enterprise – the human qualities that make for a – strong and successful societies."
Yes, and one of them is Israel – a country that systematically steals Palestinian land, bulldozes private homes and businesses, and won't even let its helots travel from one city to another, let alone provide some outlet for their "creativity." Billions per year in U.S. aid pays for the systematic dehumanization of an entire people at Israel's hands.
The Israelis are not mentioned by the President, but he has plenty of advice for the Palestinians:
"For the Palestinian people, the only path to independence and dignity and progress is the path of democracy. And the Palestinian leaders who block and undermine democratic reform, and feed hatred and encourage violence are not leaders at all. They're the main obstacles to peace, and to the success of the Palestinian people."
Is it really only Yasser Arafat who blocks and undermines "democratic reform"? What does "democratic reform" mean in the context of having your house bulldozed, your shop destroyed, your olive trees uprooted and sold, your land stolen out from under your feet?
By urging the adoption of democracy from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the President should be careful, for he may get what he wants: the end result, however, will almost certainly not resemble anything desirable from the American point of view. Democratic elections in Algeria, held in 1991, led to a radical Islamist victory at the polls, and the election was promptly cancelled. A similar result would surely ensue if, today, Bush could press a button and instantly implement his democratist panacea throughout the region – thanks, in large part, to U.S. military intervention in Iraq and our unconditional support to Israel.
The President then turns his Olympian gaze on Iraq, praises the Iraqi Governing Council – even as the U.S. contemplates plans to ditch it – and rallies his fellow revolutionaries around a long-term commitment of troops and treasure:
"This is a massive and difficult undertaking – it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed – and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran – that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution."
The idea that we must wait for the democratization of the Middle East before we can even begin to recapture the safety of the pre-9/11 world is ludicrous. Do we really have to conquer most of the rest of the earth before we can ensure our own legitimate national security interests? This is precisely what Trotsky theorized about the Soviet Union – that the revolution must spread, to protect the "workers' state" from its implacable enemies. The neocons are selling us the same sort of malarkey – using the President as their mouthpiece – only this time packaged as 100 percent Americanism.
That may be the biggest of the many lies we've been told lately. Nothing could be more anti-American than a policy of perpetual war in the name of "peace." What emboldens – and creates – terrorists is the neocon conceit that we can stage manage the development of Iraqi society – or any society. Such a policy subverts our constitutional form of democracy at home, and undermines our interests abroad.
The great error of Marxism was the idea that liberal ends (the withering away of the state) could be achieved by coercive means (the "dictatorship of the proletariat"). There was to be a "transition period" of indeterminate length before the workers paradise could be achieved, and Soviet workers were continually exhorted to "sacrifice" so that they might "liberate" the "oppressed peoples" abroad and usher in a new world order. If any of this sounds familiar, it is because a Marxism of the Right has won the day in Washington.
The conservative economist and columnist Paul Craig Roberts, an assistant secretary of the treasury in the early years of the Reagan administration, calls our neocon policymakers "neo-Jacobins," and he is entirely right to compare the neocons to that ruthless and notoriously bloodthirsty faction of the French Revolution. The name has become a synonym for revolutionary tyranny, a dangerous perversion of the libertarian ideal into its complete opposite. That is precisely the nature of the enemy we now face.
In the case of the original Jacobins, their policies quickly led to their own undoing. Whether we can hope the same fate will befall the neos, at least any time soon, is a matter of some speculation that, lately, seems almost likely. At any rate, we can always hope.
Thus, an op-ed piece in The New York Times recently proclaimed: "America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one." This was written by Jessica Stern of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (Motto: "Where mediocre students pay exorbitant sums to say they went to Harvard"). You can't win with these people. The termites are swarming out into the light of day, and liberals are blaming the exterminator.
Liberals simply refuse to consider thoughts that would interfere with their lemming-like groupthink. They hold their hands over their ears like little children who don't want to listen to mother.
Yes, perhaps there are important textural differences between secular Saddam loyalists and Islamic crazies -- though it's a little odd to be lectured on nuance from people who can grasp no difference whatsoever between Bill O'Reilly and Jesse Helms. But as George Bush said: You are with the terrorists or you are with America. Now we're getting a pretty clear picture of who is with the terrorists. As George Patton said, I like when the enemy shoots at me; then I know where the bastards are and can kill them.
But liberals are indignant for every day that we haven't turned a barbaric land into Vermont. They were willing to give Stalin 36 years for the awkwardness of his revolution. We have essentially imposed a revolution on Iraq -- and liberals give us a month to work out the bugs. U.S. forces in Baghdad say that Iraq is well on its way to establishing American-style representative democracy and might even be holding its first free elections in less than a year. Within three years the Iraqi people could be recalling their first governor.
Indeed, the war is going so well that now liberals have to create absurd straw-man arguments no one ever uttered in order to accuse the Bush administration of horrible miscalculations. Amid her sneering, PMS-induced anger toward the Bush administration, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd claimed the Bush administration was "shaken" to discover "the terrible truth: Just because we got Odai and Qusai, Iraqi militants are not going to stop blowing up Westerners." I'd love to see the quote where anyone in the Bush administration -- anyone in the universe -- said that.
... ... ...
With all their pointless chitchat about Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), liberals of all people ought to have known the war would not be over with the deaths of Odai and Qusai. Speaking of which -- where is Osama? We haven't heard much from him lately. Nor is Saddam Hussein out shaking his puny fist at the Great Satan anymore. Concerned that he might try to sneak out in disguise, U.S. soldiers in Iraq have been given pictures of Saddam Hussein in various outfits, hairstyles and even makeup schemes. (And I thought this was kind of interesting -- it turns out he's a "winter.")
What is the point of liberal carping? What precisely are they proposing we do? Turn tail and abandon Iraq to the mullahs and the Syrians? Revert to the Democrats' tried-and-true method of abandoning the region to any local Pol Pot who might turn up?
Clinton's statesmanlike response to Islamic fanatics was to do nothing -- except when he needed to distract from his impeachment and would suddenly start bombing foreign countries at random. In eight years, the only domestic Muslim terrorist Clinton went after was a blind cleric sitting outside a mosque in New Jersey behind a card table with an "Ask Me About Terrorism" sign.
The Clinton approach was working great, if you don't count the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the bombing of our Air Force housing complex in Saudi Arabia, the bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the bombing of the USS Cole (news - web sites) and, finally, the greatest terrorist attack in the history of the world right here on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001.
We have seen how well the Democrats' surrender approach works for 50 years. We saw it again last week. The United Nations (news - web sites) stood shoulder to shoulder with American liberals, France, Germany and Saddam Hussein in opposing war with Iraq. And then last week in Iraq, the little darlings bombed the U.N. embassy in Baghdad. But that's Bush's fault, too. Perhaps Bush is also responsible for J-Lo and Ben Affleck's bomb of a movie. The only people whom liberals absolutely refuse to hold accountable for anything are their friends, the Islamofascists.
A funny thing happened this week: the Bush administration, with its aggressive unilateralism, and its contempt for diplomacy and international institutions, suddenly staked its fortunes on the kindness of foreigners.
All the world knows about the Iraq about-face: having squandered our military strength in a war he felt like fighting even though it had nothing to do with terrorism, President Bush is now begging the cheese-eaters and chocolate-makers to rescue him. What may not be equally obvious is that he's doing the same thing on the economic front. Having squandered his room for economic maneuver on tax cuts that pleased his party base but had nothing to do with job creation, Mr. Bush is now asking China to help him out.
Not, of course, that Mr. Bush admits to having made any mistakes. Indeed, Mr. Bush seems to have a serious case of "l'щtat, c'est moi": he impugns the patriotism of anyone who questions his decisions.
If you ask why he diverted resources away from hunting Al Qaeda, which attacked us, to invading Iraq, which didn't, he suggests that you're weak on national security. And it's the same for anyone who questions his economic record: "They tell me it was a shallow recession," he said Monday. "It was a shallow recession because of the tax relief. Some say, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper. That bothers me when people say that."
On the antiwar Right, it has been customary to attack the warmongering neoconservative clique for its Trotskyite origins. Certainly, the founding father of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol, wrote in 1983 that he was “proud” to have been a member of the Fourth International in 1940. Other future leading lights of the neocon movement were also initially Trotskyites, like James Burnham and Max Kampelman—the latter a conscientious objector during the war against Hitler, a status that Evron Kirkpatrick, husband of Jeane, used his influence to obtain for him. But there is at least one neoconservative commentator whose personal political odyssey began with a fascination not with Trotskyism, but instead with another famous political movement that grew up in the early decades of the 20th century: fascism. I refer to Michael Ledeen, leading neocon theoretician, expert on Machiavelli, holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, regular columnist for National Review—and the principal cheerleader today for an extension of the war on terror to include regime change in Iran.
Ledeen has gained notoriety in recent months for the following paragraph in his latest book, The War Against the Terror Masters. In what reads like a prophetic approval of the policy of chaos now being visited on Iraq, Ledeen wrote,
Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. Seeing America undo traditional societies, they fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence—our existence, not our politics—threatens their legitimacy. They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission.
This is not the first time Ledeen has written eloquently on his love for “the democratic revolution” and “creative destruction.” In 1996, he gave an extended account of his theory of revolution in his book, Freedom Betrayed — the title, one assumes, is a deliberate reference to Trotsky’s Revolution Betrayed. Ledeen explains that “America is a revolutionary force” because the American Revolution is the only revolution in history that has succeeded, the French and Russian revolutions having quickly collapsed into terror. Consequently, “[O]ur revolutionary values are part of our genetic make-up. … We drive the revolution because of what we represent: the most successful experiment in human freedom. … We are an ideological nation, and our most successful leaders are ideologues.” Denouncing Bill Clinton as a “counter-revolutionary” (!), Ledeen is especially eager to make one point: “Of all the myths that cloud our understanding, and therefore paralyze our will and action, the most pernicious is that only the Left has a legitimate claim to the revolutionary tradition.”
Ledeen’s conviction that the Right is as revolutionary as the Left derives from his youthful interest in Italian fascism. In 1975, Ledeen published an interview, in book form, with the Italian historian Renzo de Felice, a man he greatly admires. It caused a great controversy in Italy. Ledeen later made clear that he relished the ire of the left-wing establishment precisely because “De Felice was challenging the conventional wisdom of Italian Marxist historiography, which had always insisted that fascism was a reactionary movement.” What de Felice showed, by contrast, was that Italian fascism was both right-wing and revolutionary. Ledeen had himself argued this very point in his book, Universal Fascism, published in 1972. That work starts with the assertion that it is a mistake to explain the support of fascism by millions of Europeans “solely because they had been hypnotized by the rhetoric of gifted orators and manipulated by skilful propagandists.” “It seems more plausible,” Ledeen argued, “to attempt to explain their enthusiasm by treating them as believers in the rightness of the fascist cause, which had a coherent ideological appeal to a great many people.” For Ledeen, as for the lifelong fascist theoretician and practitioner, Giuseppe Bottai, that appeal lay in the fact that fascism was “the Revolution of the 20th century.”
Ledeen supports de Felice’s distinction between “fascism-movement” and “fascism-regime.” Mussolini’s regime, he says, was “authoritarian and reactionary”; by contrast, within “fascism-movement,” there were many who were animated by “a desire to renew.” These people wanted “something more revolutionary: the old ruling class had to be swept away so that newer, more dynamic elements—capable of effecting fundamental changes—could come to power.” Like his claim that the common ground between Nazism and Italian fascism was “exceedingly minimal”—Ledeen writes, “The fact of the Axis Pact should not be permitted to become the overriding consideration in this analysis”—Ledeen’s careful distinction between fascist “regime” and “movement” makes him a clear apologist for the latter. “While ‘fascism-movement’ was overcome and eventually suppressed by ‘fascism-regime,’” he explains, “fascism nevertheless constituted a political revolution in Italy. For the first time, there was an attempt to mobilize the masses and to involve them in the political life of the country.” Indeed, Ledeen criticizes Mussolini precisely for not being revolutionary enough. “He never had enough confidence in the Italian people to permit them a genuine participation in fascism.” Ledeen therefore concurs with the fascist intellectual, Camillo Pellizi, who argues—in a book Ledeen calls “a moving and fundamental work”—that Mussolini’s was “a failed revolution.” Pellizzi had hoped that “the new era was to be the era of youthful genius and creativity”: for him, Ledeen says, the fascist state was “a generator of energy and creativity.” The purest ideologues of fascism, in other words, wanted something very similar to that which Ledeen himself wants now, namely a “worldwide mass movement” enabling the peoples of the world, “liberated” by American militarism, to participate in the “greatest experiment in human freedom.” Ledeen wrote in 1996, “The people yearn for the real thing—revolution.”
Ledeen was especially interested in the role played by youth in Italian fascism. It was here that he detected the movement’s most exciting revolutionary potential. The young Ledeen wrote that those who exalted the position of youth in the fascist revolution—like those who argued in favor of his beloved “universal fascism”—were committed to exporting Italian fascism to the whole world, an idea in which Mussolini was initially uninterested. When he was later converted to it, Mussolini said that fascism drew on the universalist heritage of Rome, both ancient and Catholic. No doubt Ledeen thinks that the new Rome in Washington has the same universalist mission. He writes that people around Berto Ricci—the editor of the fascist newspaper L’Universale, and a man he calls “brilliant” and “an example of enthusiasm and independence”— “called for the formation of a new empire, an empire based not on military conquest but rather on Italy’s unique genius for civilization. … They intended to develop the traditions of their country and their civilization in such a manner as to make them the basic tenets of a new world order.” Ledeen adds, in a passage that anticipates his later love of creative destruction, “Clearly the act of destruction which would produce the flowering of the new fascist hegemony would sweep away the present generation of Italians, along with the rest.” And Giuseppe Bottai, to whom Ledeen attributes “considerable energy and autonomy,” was notable for his belief that “the infusion of the creative energies of a new generation was essential” for the fascist revolution. Bottai “implored the young … to found a new order arising from the spontaneous activity of their creation.”
One of the greatest exponents of such youthful vitalism was the high priest of fascism, the poet and adventurer Gabriele D’Annunzio, to whom Ledeen devoted an enthusiastic biography in 1977. Years ago, I visited D’Annunzio’s house on the shores of Lake Garda: there is a battleship in the garden and a Brenn gun in the sitting room. D’Annunzio was an eccentric and militaristic Italian Nietzschean who “eulogized rape and acts of savagery” committed by the people he called his spiritual ancestors. The poet was also an early prophet of military intervention and regime change: he invaded the Croatian city of Fiume (now Rijeka) in 1919 and held the city for a year, during which he put into practice his theories of “New Order.” In 1918, moreover, D’Annunzio had dropped propaganda leaflets over Vienna promising to liberate the Austrians from their own government, something Ledeen hails as “a glorious gesture.” D’Annunzio’s watchword was “the liberation of human personality.” “His heroism during the war made it possible,” Ledeen writes, “to bridge the chasm between intellectuals and the masses. … The revolt D’Annunzio led was directed against the old order of Western Europe, and was carried out in the name of youthful creativity and virility.”
As Ledeen shows, the Italian fascists expressed their desire “to tear down the old order” (his words from 2002) in terms that are curiously anticipatory of a famous statement in 2003 by the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. In 1932, Asvero Gravelli also divided Europe into “old” and “new” when he wrote, in Towards the Fascist International, “Either old Europe or young Europe. Fascism is the gravedigger of old Europe. Now the forces of the Fascist International are rising.” It all sounds rather prophetic.
John Laughland is a London-based writer and lecturer and a trustee of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group.
Last week HNN published Alan Wald's critique of an article written by Michael Lind for the New Statesman in which Mr. Lind argued that defense policy in the Bush administration is orchestrated by a group of people, many of whom are Jewish, who were allegedly shaped by Trotskyism. This week we publish an exchange between Mr. Lind and Mr. Wald. Below is Mr. Wald's statement. Click here for Mr. Lind's.
Let's be clear about the argument of Mr. Lind's "The Weird Men Behind George Bush" that garnered him so much publicity. He states that, instead of looking to socio-economic and reactionary cultural explanations for Bush's foreign policy, we must understand that "the world's only global power is being made by a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the US population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment." Moreover, the "core group now in charge" are "neoconservative defense intellectuals" of whom "many started off as anti-Stalinist leftists or liberals...." He says that "most neoconservative defense intellectuals...are products of the largely Jewish American Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s...." He also states that their political philosophy of "Wilsonianism" is "really Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism." This Jewish Trotskyist Wilsonianism contrasts with the "Genuine American Wilsonians," who "believe in self-determination for the Palestianians."
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My objection to Mr. Lind's argument is first of all that he gave no evidence that "most" of this "small clique" that is "in charge" of U.S. foreign policy has any significant connection, personal or ideological, to what he calls the "largely Jewish-American Trotskyist movement." In his answer to my critique, Mr. Lind still refuses to provide documentation of such a sensational charge. Instead, he attributes to himself a different claim: "I stand by the observation that there is a distinct Trotskyist political culture, which shows residual influence on individuals who renounced Trotskyism or who were never Trotskyists but inherited this political culture from their parents or older mentors." But nowhere does he show us how a single member of the "small clique" either "renounced Trotskyism" or "inherited this political culture" from anyone.
I would be the last person to dispute that the political cultures of Trotskyism, Communism, anarchism, New Deal Liberalism, etc., can exist and be transmitted. For example, in regard to Trotskyism, it can be demonstrated that critiques of Stalinism from Marxist premises, a sympathy for the radical potential of literary modernism, and an internationalist view of Jewish identity together comprise a subcultural tradition that might be passed on. One might even write a whole book about the subject. (We might call it, "The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left.") Moreover, such a study would point out that the original group coalescing as "neoconservatives" in the 1970s included a few prominent intellectuals who had passed through a wing of the Trotskyist movement, especially an anti-Shachtmanite tendency known as the "Shermanites" (led by Philip Selznik, aka Sherman). But even in the 1970s, among the strands of ideological DNA that formed to create "Neoconservatism," Trotskyism was very much a receding one. Now, thirty years later, in regard to a group of mostly younger people that some are also calling "Neoconservatives," it is close to non-existent.
What about the claims of influence on foreign policy? In his second paragraph, Mr. Lind cites as his main example the phrase "global democratic revolution," which he attributes to "Schachmanites [sic] like Joshua Muravchik." Well, giving Trotskyism credit for a vague slogan like "global democratic revolution" is about as meaningful as the earlier claim that it was Trotskyists who "pioneered" the technique of sending out public letters. But at least Mr. Lind has now given us the name of an individual, albeit not one of the original "small clique" of "neocon defence intellectuals," to whom he affirms a Trotskyist connection. However, is Mr. Lind accurate in stating so unabashedly that Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is currently, or ever was, a "Shachtmanite"? Here is what Muravchik wrote in in the Weekly Standard (Aug. 28, 2000) in his review of Maurice Isserman's biography of Michael Harrington: "Any number of those singled out in Isserman's book as 'Shachtmanites' had never been among them--including Penn Kemble, Bayard Rustin, and me.... To be sure, when in the mid-1960s I joined the Socialist party, I loved Shachtman's lectures, but what I learned from them had nothing to do with the Trotskyite arcana that had once been the substance of Shachtmanism. It had everything to do with the evil nature of communism." This statement is further proof that Mr. Lind is not to be trusted when he starts throwing around political labels, no matter how confident he sounds. Among Lind's "core" list of "neocon defence intellectuals," I doubt that any of them ever had as much personal exposure to Shachtman and his ideas as did Murachivik. Of course, an individual such as William Kristol may may well have learned about "the evil nature of communism" at the knee of father Irving, but this hardly makes the son a carrier of the Trotkyist virus. The point is that, unless we are to revert to the principle of "guilt by association," the connection between the individual and the political culture of Trotskyism must have some real substance to it.
Mr. Lind, fortunately, has now stopped referring to "Permanent Revolution," a theory that turns out to have nothing in common with the definition he originally ascribed to it. But he insists on a connection between a Trotskyist plan to "export 'revolution' " and the Bush foreign policy of invading Third World countries. True enough, following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Trotsky was reluctant to sign an unfavorable peace agreement with Germany because he favored promoting a socialist revolution there, a position that he later repudiated. But when Irving Kristol et al became Trotskyists in the late 1930s, there was no country in the world that that their tendency supported. What was meant by "revolution" was not the attack of one state on another, but bottom up social upheaval of the population. The documents of the Workers Party or the Shermanites make no reference to advocacy of intervention by any states to topple a regime and restructure society.
Utopian as their dreams might seem today, they believed the source of revolution to be a "Third Camp" of working people, not warring governments. Moreover, while I think that the Trotskyist movement in the United States has been for all practical purposes dead for decades, and is unlikely to play a part in any future radicalizations, the Trotskyist record of supporting "self-determination" of Palestinians and other oppressed populations is sterling in comparison to "Wilsonians "--including those who put the mantle of "genuine American" on themselves.
Much of Mr. Lind's polemic is directed at issues and arguments never mentioned by me, although he gives no other attributions and cites me frequently. For example, Mr. Lind states with glee that "Mr. Wald says not only that neoconservatives originated as a pejorative used by Michael Harrington...but there never really were any self-identified neoconservatives (false)." Mr. Lind then devotes a long paragraph to mocking me with anecdotes about his dinner parties with "Bill" Kristol, Jeane Kirkpatrick, et al. The problem is that nowhere in my short article do I mention the name of Harrington or claim that the neocons didn't identify themselves as such! Ditto for all the stuff about whether or not Mr. Lind is an anti-Semite (although his "proof" that he can't possibly be an anti-Semite simply because he is "partly Jewish in descent" is both amusing and unsettling), conspiracy theories, the southern religious Right, and so on.
Last week HNN published Alan Wald's critique of an article written by Michael Lind for the New Statesman in which Mr. Lind argued that defense policy in the Bush administration is orchestrated by a group of people, many of whom are Jewish, who were allegedly shaped by Trotskyism. This week we publish an exchange between Mr. Lind and Mr. Wald. Below is Mr. Lind's statement. Click here for Mr. Wald's.
I thank Mr. Wald for helping to prove my case. Indeed, the details he provides suggest that the existence of the influence of ex-Trotskyists, Shermanite and Schachtmannite alike, on the neoconservative faction within American conservatism was even greater than I and others have realized. It is not every day that an incompetent critic unwittingly undermines his own case in attempting to refute yours.
I stand by the observation that there is a distinct Trotskyist political culture, which shows its residual influence even on individuals who renounced Trotskyism or who were never Trotskyists but inherited this political culture from their parents or older mentors. An unusual belligerence in foreign policy combined with a desire to export "revolution" (first socialist, and then, among ex-Trotskyists who move to the liberal center or the Right, the "global democratic revolution" in the phrase of Schachtmannites like Joshua Muravchik) distinguishes these ex-Trots and inheritors of ex-Trot political culture from other kinds of conservatives and liberals--for example, Anglo-Catholic Tories, Rooseveltian New Deal liberal internationalists, and Buchanan-style isolationists. Not only in the U.S. but in Britain and continental Europe, ex-Trots have tended to go from advocating promotion of socialist revolution to promoting liberal or democratic revolution. This is a minor but genuine feature of the trans-Atlantic political landscape that is so familiar, and commented upon so often by members of the foreign policy elite, not only in the U.S. but in Britain and France, that it surprises me to learn that anyone claims it is controversial.
Now for a word about generalization. It is impossible, and would be inaccurate, to write either history or political journalism without generalizations. This is particularly important when the subject consists of enduring political traditions. How you would discuss the theology of the religious right without mentioning Calvinism or Darbyism is a mystery to me. And the influence of various strains of black nationalism and environmentalism on contemporary Democratic liberalism is equally legitimate as a subject of political analysis.
Not only I but most students of the political culture of neoconservatism, including many neoconservatives themselves, have described the various influences that distinguish this branch of the Right from others: influences including not only the vestiges of Trotskyist foreign policy activism, but also Straussianism, Cold War liberalism, and a peculiar kind of Anglophilia based on the veneration of Winston Churchill, who is far more popular among American neocons than Franklin Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson. (Even neocons like Max Boot who claim to be "Wilsonians" never quote a line from Woodrow Wilson, and nothing could be less Wilsonianism than their militaristic rhetoric about "empire," which actually derives from their idealized vision of the British empire, not from anything in the resolutely anti-imperial American political tradition). Can one identify individual neoconservatives who were not influenced by Trotskyism, Straussianism, Cold War liberalism, the myth of Churchill, and the mystique of the British empire? Certainly. Does that mean that anyone who mentions any of these influences is therefore an unscholarly conspiracy theorist, of the kind Mr. Wald accuses me of being? Oh, please.
The Straussian movement split long ago into "East Coast Straussians" and "West Coast Straussians." In addition, there are a few neoconservatives who know little or nothing about Leo Strauss. A defender of the neoconservatives as intellectually dishonest as Mr. Wald could use these facts in denouncing any scholar or journalist who mentions the influence of Straussianism on the distinctive political culture of the neoconservative faction of the Republican Party. If he were as disingenuous as Mr. Wald, he could argue that since there are East and West Coast Straussians, Straussianism therefore does not exist, and anyone who talks about a distinctive Straussian intellectual culture, or Straussian influence on neoconservatism is a) unscholarly and b) a paranoid conspiracy theorist who probably believes that the Shriners control the Council on Foreign Relations.
I happen to know a little about conspiracy theorists. At the cost of my career as a rising intellectual on the American Right, I exposed Pat Robertson's conspiracy theories about international Jewish bankers, Freemasons and Satanists in the New Republic, the Washington Post and the New York Review of Books between 1992 and 1995. My criticism of Robertson's anti-semitic conspiracy theories was the major factor in my expulsion from the neoconservative movement, in which I had taken part as the Executive Editor of the National Interest, published by Irving Kristol. Irving and Bill Kristol, of course, knew that everything that I said about Robertson was true--but my exposes were inconvenient for their personal political ambitions, which required an alliance of convenience rather than conviction with the religious right activists who dominated the Republican Party. For a similar tactical reason, Commentary, the flagship neocon magazine, began publishing articles in the 1990s claiming that Darwin, the bete noire of Southern Baptist creationists since before the Scopes "Monkey Trial," was wrong and that "biblical" creation science has been vindicated, something that Norman Podhoretz, Neal Kozodoy and other neocon intellectuals know very well is nonsense.
But wait--I used the word "neoconservative." Mr. Wald says not only that neoconservative originated as a pejorative used by Michael Harrington (true, if irrelevant) but that there never really were any self-identified "neoconservatives" (false). This line that there never really were any neoconservatives has long been used by Irving Kristol in interviews. I used to laugh about it with other of Kristol's employees. The non-existence of neoconservatism, except in the minds of conspiracy-mongers, certainly would have come as news to me and my fellow neoconservatives when I worked for Kristol and attended conferences and dinner parties with Gertrude Himmelfarb, Bill Kristol, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Peter Berger, and other self-conscious neocons. Unaware that we were not supposed to exist, according to Mr. Wald, we neocons were well aware of the shared views on the Cold War, race, and other topics that distinguished us from the Buckley Tories and the Buchananite Old Right. If Mr. Wald knew more about the neoconservative intellectual network of the 1980s and 1990s, as opposed to the long-defunct Workers' Party of the 1930s, he would know that there was a bitter war in the conservative press between "neoconservatives" (many of them former Trotskyists, as he has confirmed) who reluctantly or enthusiastically accepted the term to describe themselves and the "Old Right" of Patrick Buchanan. Mr. Wald's quibbles about the term "neoconservative" are therefore either a deliberately dishonest debating trick (my guess) or evidence of a profound ignorance of what was (and remains) one of several self-conscious factions on the American Right.
One final point. For pointing out what every history of the subject takes for granted, that the Trotskyist movement was largely though not exclusively Jewish in membership, defenders of the neocons (not, interestingly, any present-day Trotskyists!) have hinted that I am an anti-semite (they don't know, or don't care, that I am partly Jewish in descent). This has come as no surprise to me--anyone who criticizes neoconservative influence on U.S. foreign policy is quickly vilified by the gutter journalists--and the gutter professors--of neoconservatism as an anti-semite, a traitor, an appeaser, an enemy in "the culture war," or a combination of two or more of the four. Since HNN, to its discredit, has seen fit to publish several such smears against me on its website [click here and here], I would like to make one point, not so much in my defense--I have nothing to be defensive about--but in defense of scholarly freedom from intimidation and self-censorship, where ethnic or regional sensitivities are concerned.
Analysis of the role of ethnic and regional groups in U.S. politics is standard in political science, and it is not evidence of hostility toward the ethnic groups or the regions being analyzed. Indeed, this seems to be accepted by neocons in most cases. Not a single one of the critics who professes to be disturbed by my mention in passing of the Jewish role in American Trotskyism has objected to my repeated observations in print that the Southern Religious Right reflects the political culture of the Scots-Irish, with its historic links to Protestant Northern Ireland. Why not? Aren't both points equally illegitimate, in their eyes? Why has no neoconservative angrily written a screed claiming that "Michael Lind's allusion to a supposed connection between Scots-Irish ethnicity and Southern Protestant fundamentalism proves not only that he is a conspiracy theorist but hates the Scots-Irish as well!" (For the record, I am partly Scots-Irish, as well as partly Jewish, in descent).
The list of Shermanites that Mr. Wald gives is disproportionately Jewish in membership, although he does not say so. If Mr. Wald had actually used the phrase the "disproportionately Jewish Shermanite movement," would this have made him, not only a conspiracy theorist (after all, did Shermanism ever really exist, except in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists like Wald?) but an anti-semite as well? What about the mere act of drawing up and publishing a list, the majority of whose members are Jewish? Seems kind of creepy, come to think of it. Is Mr. Wald's creepy list the product of a sinister, conspiratorial imagination? Has he tried to smear all Jewish-Americans, tarring them by association with a supposed "Shermanite" conspiracy? Perhaps someone should alert the Anti-Defamation League to Mr. Wald's disturbing comments...
I encourage interested readers to read my essays and books on the subject of the American Right--essays and books in which my chief focus is on the Southern Protestant Right, without whose electoral clout neocons (including former Schachtmannites and former Shermanites and their progeny) would have no influence at all on U.S. foreign or domestic policy. The readers of HNN should not trust dishonest misrepresentations of my statements and views on the part of apologists for neoconservatism.
Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot. Neoconservatism does not exist and never has. And there was no such thing as Trotskyism, either.
There's a pop quiz. Rank the following in order of the number of American lives they claim in a typical year: food, guns, terrorists, flu and cars.
Ready? The most deadly are automobiles, which kill 117 Americans a day, or nearly 43,000 a year. Then comes flu, which (along with pneumonia, its associated disease) kills 36,000 people. Third is guns: 26,000 deaths. Fourth, food-borne illness: 5,000. And finally, terrorism, which in a typical year claims virtually no U.S. lives — with horrific exceptions like 2001. But antiterrorism efforts get most of the attention and the resources.
To a point, that's sensible. The train bombings in Madrid are a reminder of our vulnerability.
President Bush is right to emphasize the risk from W.M.D., because a single nuclear bomb could claim 500,000 lives.
Still, we need a balance in confronting threats, and I don't think we've found it. Watch President Bush's campaign ads, and it's clear that he's overwhelmingly focused on the war on terrorism — in 2001, he called it "my primary focus." As he put it this year, "I'm a war president."
Mr. Bush's intensity and unwavering purpose comforted the nation in the aftermath of 9/11. But America is too complex to have national policy reduced to the single overarching priority of counterterrorism.
"It's an important threat, but it cannot be the organizing principle of our foreign policy," argues Ivo Daalder, a former national security official who is co-author of "America Unbound," an excellent (and respectful) book about Mr. Bush's administration. "There are worse threats out there. Climate change. H.I.V./AIDS."
Or, I would say, nuclear proliferation. Or cars.
Vehicle fatalities don't get attention because they occur in ones and twos. If people died at the same rate but in one horrifying crash a month that killed 3,500 people, then Mr. Bush and Congress would speedily make auto safety a priority and save thousands of lives a year. As Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has said: "If we had 115 people die a day in aviation crashes, we wouldn't have a plane in the sky."
"Driving a car is one of the most dangerous things we do," note Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, two Yale professors, in their book about innovative thinking, "Why Not?" They note that a major effort by Sweden has reduced traffic deaths by encouraging seat belt use, converting intersections to traffic circles (they "soothe" traffic), replacing rigid guardrails with new rails or cables that absorb or "catch" cars, and exhorting cyclists to wear helmets. The upshot is that Sweden 's accident rate is one of the lowest in the world.
"If the United States could achieve Sweden's current standard, this would save 12,500 lives per year," the authors say.
Granted, it seems less presidential to call for more guardrails than to invade Middle Eastern countries. And, in fairness, President Bush's head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Dr. Jeffrey Runge, is pushing hard to save lives in unheralded ways, from improving S.U.V. design to getting drivers to check their tire pressure.
A month before Dr. Runge took up his post, several teenagers were rushed to the hospital where he worked as an emergency room physician. The driver in their car, a 17-year-old redhead named Sarah Longstreet, was known in her high school for her friendliness and her Bible Club activities. She wore a seat belt and her air bag inflated, but she died when a Ford Explorer veered across the center line and plowed right over the hood of her Mazda. That incompatibility in the two cars' designs made her one more unnecessary auto fatality — and she became "sort of an angel to me," Dr. Runge said.
So when I asked him about priorities, he answered this way:
"First off, we have to do everything we're doing for counterterrorism," he said. "There's nothing that we're doing that we shouldn't be doing, and you can make the case that we should be doing more. . . . However, we're still losing 115 people a day on the highways, and basically the perpetrators of those deaths also fit within a profile" — such as alcohol abusers.
Governing the U.S. is like playing 200 simultaneous chess matches (while whiny columnists second-guess every move on every board). The terrorism chessboard is among the most important, but if we could just devote a bit more energy to the others, we could save thousands of lives — including the life of the next Sarah Longstreet.
"There is now a symbiotic relationship between the Islamist terrorists and the neo-conservative directors of the "war on terror" that promises a long political life to the players on both sides. They are, as our Marxist friends used to put it, "objective allies": both seek to undermine the existing global order in order to expand their own freedom of action, and each group's actions justify the existence of the other group, at least in the eyes of its own supporters. Al-Qaida, for example, sees the overseas adventures of American neo-conservatives as the best possible recruiting tool for its own cause among Muslims worldwide. If Osama bin Laden could decide the outcome of the next U.S. presidential election, he would instantly choose Bush. A rival candidate might pull American troops out of the Middle East or take a more even-handed approach in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and Bin Laden has no interest in stability in the region." (10/14)
The Revolution Unfinished?5. Modern Trotskyism (d) Permanent revolution and the transition to socialism
One of the main features of Trotskyism is the theory of permanent revolution.
Insofar as capitalism has created a world market, a world division of labour and world productive forces, it has also pre pared the world economy as a whole for socialist transformation.
The way out of these contradictions which will befall the proletarian dictatorship will be found in the arena of world revolution. [Trotsky – The Permanent Revolution]
Trotsky saw the world as a unified capitalist market. It follows that the only way the development of the forces necessary for the socialist revolution can flourish is on a world scale. Revolution should be "exported" from one country to another (it is total or it is nothing).
Only two possibilities face the world – socialism or barbarism.
In most cases the new regime will very rapidly start coming to terms with one or another of the Western imperialist powers. The objective reason exists because if you attempt to take power in your own country, around your own project to overcome the heart of imperialism in one country, whereas imperialism operates on a world scale, inevitably you are forced to exploit your own working class, lower the working conditions of the peasants in order to try and survive in relation to the massive economic powers at the disposal of the metropolitan countries. [IS Journal, No.89 – p.1]
According to this view, revolutions are foregone defeats, only to be rescued by world revolution!
“Permanent revolution” and “Socialism in one country”
After the defeats of the European working class in the early 1920s, the Soviet leadership became increasingly, and realistically, despondent of the possibility of further revolutions, at least in the short-term. Isolation and economic backwardness necessitated drastic solutions. Stalin, under the banner of “socialism in one country”, embarked upon a policy of collectivisation combined with extreme authoritarianism and the use of terror. In 1939 he maintained that the class struggle in Russia was over and that it was now possible to move towards establishing communism in one country, having “built” socialism. Trotsky fought a lonely battle against Stalinism but his struggle was too often impaired by the abstraction of his political ideas. The theory of Permanent Revolution offered little in the way of concrete ideas to resolve the Soviet predicament. In 1926 Trotsky wrote: “It was clear to us that the victory of the proletarian revolution is impossible without the world revolution.” What hope then for Russia? Not surprisingly, Trotsky was ousted from power and Stalin was able to characterise Trotsky’s theory as “permanent hopelessness”. “There is but one prospect left for our revolution: to vegetate in its own contradictions and rot away while waiting for the world revolution” was how Stalin put it.
Trotsky in 1928 described the 5 Year Plan as “reactionary, utopian national socialism ... To aim at building a nationally isolated socialist society means to pull the productive forces backward, even as compared with capitalism.” Ironically, Trotsky had advocated collectivisation of the peasantry throughout the early 1920s. By the late 1920s the opposition in the USSR had no effective counter to Stalin’s policies.
Stalin’s version of “primitive socialist accumulation” based on an extremely economistic view of what constituted “productive forces” decimated the proletariat. Until the Chinese revolution saw the re-recognition that the working class was the greatest productive force, this model of development remained unchallenged. Internationally, “Socialism in One Country” required the alliance of Western Communist Parties with the parties of the bourgeoisie. The Popular Front advocated by Stalin (via the Comintern) reduced the CPs to ineffectual reformism (and decimation in the case of Germany), and set back the revolutionary movement in Europe by many years.
Caught between the contrasting utopianisms of Permanent Revolution and Socialism in One Country, a new concept of the transition to socialism was needed.
The Trotskyist view is that while the dictatorship of the proletariat can be achieved in one country “it cannot proceed to a higher stage of socialism.” [Imperialism, Stalinism and Permanent Revolution – IMG – p.24] As we have seen this can only lead to the fatalistic view that the development of productive forces will be retarded, leading to a bureaucratisation that cannot be solved internally.
Particularly disturbing is the position that is therefore allocated to third world countries that have defeated imperialism. The, possibilities of socialism are made dependent on spreading the revolution. In a review of a recent work by Bettleheim the IS Journal had this to say:
The priorities of a victorious regime in a backward country must be ... to break out of its shells, to foster workers’ revolutions in an advanced country as a condition of its survival. (IS Journal, No.89]
What useful advice to the people of Mozambique and Angola! The revolutionary governments have a difficult enough job feeding the people and fighting puppet armies of imperialism without having to foster revolution in Britain, the US etc. even if those unlikely events were possible. This lack of realism is a product of the profound pessimism of an economistic analysis. The same IS article states:
In an isolated and backward society, social relations are imposed and sustained by material scarcity, the ruthless division Of labour demanded by the task of survival in conditions of backwardness. Scarcity impels the creation of a ruling class capable of maintaining the division of labour.
Here economism and fatalism go hand in hand, ignoring the human factor, conscious action and political leadership. This mechanical notion of base and superstructure gives too much weight to the problems of “scarcity”. Scarcity does not necessarily lead to internal degeneration. It can and does “impel” countries like China, Mozambique and Angola to develop alternative models of economic development. They are adapting to their adverse conditions by developing self.sufficiency, building new relations between agriculture and industry and developing alternative technology and work processes.
Of course, they have to live and trade with the capitatist world market and that no doubt makes them do things they have no wish to do, for example Mozambique’s migrant workers in South Africa. But trade doesn’t inevitably lead to bad politics. China’s wrong international policies are not a product of contact with the world market, but a wrong strategy, based on a wrong analysis of the balance of world forces. Deemphasising the problems of economic backwardness can of course lead to idealism, as it has done in the writings of some Maoists who see everything in terms of political leadership. But it is a tightrope that has to be walked, otherwise the concrete problems of building socialism in today’s conditions are dismissed in advance, and the revolutionary left in Europe will have failed to learn important lessons from our comrades in the Third World.
The theory of Permanent Revolution also embodied a narrow view of revolutionary vanguards and alliances between various class forces.
Within the capitalist system it is inconceivable that the industrial working class remains anything but the decisive revolutionary force. The number, concentration, organisations of the industrial proletariat make it on a world scale, the revolutionary class, par excellence.
The peasantry may supply a major part of, or even the main physical force in the revolutionary process, nevertheless as a political force its influence is relatively zero. [Quotes from the IMG pamphlet on Permanent Revolution – pp.48 & 54]
It is clear from Trotsky’s writings that the notion of class alliances derived from the theory of Permanent Revolution are not actual alliances, but the peasantry “subjugating itself” to the leadership of the industrial workers. This has led to a serious under-estimation of the strength of the peasantry, both as a force for socialism and as-a sector whose needs have to be carefully catered for. As a perspective. Permanent Revolution is inferior to Lenin’s initial concept of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”. This gave a much better recognition to the necessity for a genuine class alliance with the peasantry.
Trotsky’s lack of understanding of the peasantry is indicated by his view of collectivisation in the USSR, which in its emphasis on rapid and forced collectivisation, differed little from Stalin’s. Trotsky’s view on this again shows the economism involved in his theory. This economism sees power resting only with industrial workers, despite the fact that they are a politically ineffective force in many important situations.
At the same time imperialism has drawn the peasantry of the third world right into the centre of the struggle. Monopoly capitalism has in general created new layers of the working masses, who are just as oppressed and often more combative politically, although they do riot wield the same economic power as the industrial working class. The revolutions of the post-war period – China, Cuba, Vietnam, Angola, etc. – have all, been based on peasant movements. To continue to deny their role shows incredible blindness to historical fact. Isaac Deutscher could only suggest that the Chinese revolution was an extraordinary “coincidence”. But perhaps more disturbing as the automatic labelling of any peasant based revolution as “degenerated”. The IMG’s view of China is indicative:
With a correct policy from the Comintern the proletariat could have seized power in China in 1927 ... Instead, however, not until 22 years later did the Chinese Communist Party, profoundly bureaucratised through being based on rural and not urban class struggle, come to power. (IMG – Permanent Revolution, p.49]
This quotation illustrates a recurrent weakness of Trotskyism – sociologism. Political phenomena (degeneration, bureaucracy) are explained entirely in terms of being based on particular social forces, in this case on the peasantry. It is an absurd notion which implies that if the Chinese Communist Party had been based on industrial workers things would have automatically been different. It also is deficient in that the problem of bureaucratisation was not particularly important at this time, given the close links with the masses built during the guerilla and normalised war situations.
The denigration of the peasantry is based on the assertion that it is incapable of posing collective solutions to the agrarian crisis. The IS in an article entitled The Vietnamese Road to State Capitalism wrote:
In most backward countries since the Second World War, the potential revolutionary role of the working class has not been realised, for a variety of reasons, notably the political leadership of the communist parties. The peasantry cannot substitute for it because by its nature it does not pose collective solutions to the problems of society. Crudely, peasants on an estate see their salvation as dividing the land up among themselves; workers on an assembly line can’t divide it up, they can only collectively appropriate it. [IS Journal, No.89]
But peasants have in many cases proved their collective tendencies. Although the immediate programme of the Chinese peasantry after liberation was the seizure of the landlord holdings and the division of the land, it soon became evident that only collectivisation of farm tools, then of the land, could solve the agrarian crisis. The process is described by a Chinese peasant:
The typical thing in our area is that the heavy soil here requires three horses to pull one plough. But no family that benefited from land reform got three horses – the average was one per household. So there was a spontaneous tendency right from the start for three or four households to get together, pool their horses and plough each others’ land in turn... Those who tried to work individually the first season saw the results and sought out work partners for the following season. . .The pooling of several work-teams paved the way for a new development in 1952, when there was a “land-pooling” campaign in which 30 to 50 households pooled their land, implements and cattle, forming agricultural co-operatives, and planning production according to an overall state plan ... [Quoted in China: The Quality of Life, by Wilfred Burchett – p.18]
The gradual process of collectivisation continued until the establishment of the Peoples Communes in 1958, with the complete absence of the violence and enforcement associated with the Russian campaign.
It is not just in China where peasants have shown this collectivist consciousness. Peru, Chile and many other parts of Latin America, and the South of Portugal are only some of many notable examples.
For many of the countries of the world the industrial working class is a tiny minority of the population, and revolutions must be built primarily on the peasantry. For revolutionaries, the task is to draw into the struggle those strata of society “that think and feel as the working class”. It is more a question of proletarian consciousness, not whether he or she is a “worker” in the strict sense. It is also a question of material position in many third world situations. There is an increasingly large sector that is not a landowning peasantry to any significant degree. Many are landless labourers and many switch jobs from the land to industry depending on conditions and availability of work.
For IS, however, revolutions like that in Mozambique, are largely an irrelevance: “The importance of Mozambique is that its liberation prepared the way for the creation of revolutionary workers’ parties in Rhodesia and South Africa – And, although we support the liberation movements we recognise that now, not in the future, there needs to be the creation of workers’ parties in the third world.” [Debate with Avanguardia Operaia – IS Journal, No.84] According to this view the revolutions in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola had no importance in their own right, but only inasmuch as they destabilised Portugal. It is hardly surprising that that the Trotskyist movement has few representatives outside Europe while these ideas prevail.
A final aspect of the above point of view is that the weaknesses of the industrial working class in third world countries is not seen in materialist terms, i.e. as due to their relative lack of weight in the class structure. Instead, failures of the industrial working class to establish itself as the main political reference point is seen by Trotskyism in the idealist terms of “lack of revolutionary leadership”. It is as if the industrial working class plus Trotskyist leadership is the sole condition for revolution.
Seizure of power
The other important weakness of Permanent Revolution in this general context is on the process of seizing power. Briefly, it tends to see the process as too linear and “uninterrupted”, ignoring the problem of phases and stages. In a speech in 1937 (Let us strive to draw the broad masses into the anti-Japanese united front) Mao Tse Tung wrote:
We advocate the theory of the transition of the revolution, not the Trotskyite theory of permanent revolution. We stand for going through all the necessary stages of a democratic republic in order to arrive at socialism. We are opposed to tailism, but also to adventurism and precipitation. We cannot agree with the Trotskyist approach which rejects the bourgeoisie and stigmatises the alliance in the semi-colonial, countries simply because of the transitory nature of the bourgeoisie’s participation in the revolution.
The Maoist theory goes too far in mechanically separating “stages”, but it does point to two factors which Trotskyism ignores. Firstly, there may be intermediary and distinct stages, which we would call phases, which pose different tasks. An emphasis solely on the uninterrupted continuity of the process tends to telescope the tasks and lead to adventurist short-cuts. Secondly, one stage may still include alliances with the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie. The Chinese and other experiences show that they are not always weak and may have a temporary progressive role to play, although this is increasingly unlikely in modern imperialism and its neo-colonialist context. Basically, both Permanent Revolution and the concept of “necessary stages” pose the process of seizing power in too rigid and universal a way. We must allow for the concrete analysis of particular conditions to see what kind of phases and alliances are necessary.
Trotsky also differed with Lenin over this question. He criticised Lenin s slogan of the 1905 Revolution – “the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”. For Trotsky, this slogan implied the submission of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. But for Lenin the slogan flowed from an analysis of the concrete possibilities of the time. The workers’ movement was inexperienced and barely organised aid the peasant movement was equally backward. The demand for immediate socialism would have been adventurist and utopian. Yet “democratic” demands had the possibility at winning certain sections of the bourgeoisie and thereby aiding the downfall of the aristocracy. The 1905 revolution gave the workers’ movement vital space in which to develop. By 1917 that movement had created its own organ isations (the soviets) and the seizure of power had become a reality. This new set of conditions required new programmes. Lenin’s slogan, dropping the “democratic” tag, became the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Trotsky then maintained that Lenin had learnt his lesson! Not so. For Lenin, correct demands arose from an analysis of the balance of forces at the partic- ular historical conjuncture. For Trotsky, the formula became ahistorical dogma – abstracted from the realities of the situation.
The mistakes of Trotsky on these questions are often repeated by modern Trotskyists. A recent article by Mandel (On the Current Stage of the World Revolution – Imprecor, 10 June 1976) had this to say:
From a programmatic standpoint, the slogan of the Socialist United States of Europe has now been superseded by the need to fight for the Socialist United States of the World.
This unfortunately continues the weaker strand in Permanent Revolution of metaphysical internationalism, ignoring national peculiarities in the process of seizing power. One example is that Trotskyists characterise the demand for national independence as ultra-leftism and a betrayal of the international revolution. Thus Otelo de Cavarhlo’s campaign in the elections of summer 1976 in Portugal was attacked for not putting forward “principled” socialist positions and, in particular, for raising the slogan of “national” independence. Of course, aspects of Otelo’s programme must be criticised, particularly the “non-partyism”, but this is secondary to the point. The importance of his campaign was its ability to mobilise a substantial mass of the Portugese proletariat around a left programme, to revitalise the movement and give it confidence and space to develop in a period of right-wing offensive. The fact that more than 20% voted for the left platform certainly restricted the plans of the bourgeoisie. A vote of 5% for a so-called “principled” platform would surely have been a defeat. That is why all the revolutionary groups in Portugal (UDP, MES, PRP etc) with the exception of the LCI (4th International) supported Otelo. It is worth recalling Marx’s advice to the European communist movement in the Critique of the Gotha Programme – “one step of real movement is worth a dozen programmes”. The role of revolutionaries is to analyse the balance of forces between proletariat and bourgeoisie and to raise slogans and demands which meet the needs of the situation.
The point about such “principled programmes” is that they are often abstractly imposed on the situation. Even if people did fight for them it would tend to result in confusion and demoralisation.
For us, national independence can be an element in the strategy for socialism under particular conditions. Revolutionary movements and governments are faced with real political and economic survival problems. National independence in such circumstances is aimed at finding the space for the proletariat of that country to move against the vestiges of the bourgeoisie and to avoid dependence on international imperialism by fostering links with progressive countries. Trotskyism tends to deny this phase of internal strengthening and consolidation. Permanent Revolution only recognises the two extremes of world capitalism and world socialism. It has little to say about the long period of transition between the two and specifically rejects the possibility of a socialist “bloc” existing alongside a capitalist one, before finally overcoming it: as this quote reveals:
The opportunist concept that capitalism can be overthrown gradually, first on one sixth, then one third, then one half of the world’s surface ... and so on ... is nothing more than an updated extension of the Stalinist concept of socialism in one country. (Mandel – On the Current Stage of World Revolution)
We are left with nothing but the cataclysmic vision and exhortations to build the world revolutionary party that the theory of Permanent Revolution has become.
Here's the INTRODUCTION of our recently published book, More will follow later (but buy the book now).
II. 1905 to 1917: Bolshevism and Trotskyism
1. Bolshevism versus Menshevism
2. Trotsky's disagreements with the Bolsheviks
3. Methodological roots of Trotsky's position
4. The practical consequences of Trotsky's position
III. 1917 to 1928: Debates within the CPSU
1. Trotsky's 1919 evaluation of Bolshevik policy
2. `Lessons of October'
3. Trotsky on China: from Leninism to ultraleft fantasies
IV. 1928 to 1940: Trotsky's defence and `generalisation' of the theory of permanent revolution
1. Trotsky's new line on China
2. Trotsky's defence of his pre-1917 permanent revolution theory
3. Trotsky's identification of Bolshevik policy with Menshevism
4. Trotsky's `generalised' theory of permanent revolution
Available from the DSP National Office or the Resistance Bookshop in your city (79 pp, $6.95)
Also see ... Early DocumentsDSP History Socialist classes Also see DSP Documents
Leon Trotsky was one of the outstanding Marxist revolutionaries of the 20th century. A leading figure in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party from the time of its second congress in 1903, after joining the Bolsheviks in July 1917, Trotsky rapidly became one of its central leaders. When the Bolsheviks won a majority in the Petrograd soviet (council) of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies, Trotsky was elected its president and in that capacity headed the organisation of the insurrection of November 7 (October 25 in the tsarist calendar). A member of the first Soviet government, he served as People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs until the signing of the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty between Soviet Russia and imperial Germany, and then as People’s Commissar of War. In the latter capacity, he was responsible for the organisation of the Red Army in 1918 and was its supreme commander during the 1918-21 Russian civil war. A central leader of the Communist International during its first five years, from the mid-1920s he became the chief spokesperson of the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition within the Soviet Communist Party, fighting against the antiproletarian line of the Stalin bureaucracy.
During the 1930s Trotsky made his most significant contributions to the theoretical arsenal of the Marxist movement. In 1932-33 he wrote a three-volume History of the Russian Revolution, providing an incomparable Marxist exposition of the events that led to the Bolshevik victory in 1917. During the same period, in his writings on Germany, he made the first systematic Marxist analysis of the nature of fascism and of the strategy and tactics needed by the working-class movement to combat and defeat this reactionary phenomenon. In his 1936 book The Revolution Betrayed he provided the first consistently Marxist explanation of the nature and causes of the regime established in the Soviet Union under Stalin.
From the time of his exile from the USSR by Stalin in 1929 until his death at the hands of a Stalinist agent in 1940, Trotsky dedicated himself to the forging of a new international organisation of Marxist cadres — the Fourth International — based upon the defence of the political heritage of Bolshevism and the programmatic acquisitions of the early years of the Communist International. He regarded this as his most important contribution to the revolutionary movement.
James P. Cannon, one of Trotsky’s key collaborators in this project, pointed out in The History of American Trotskyism that: "Trotskyism is not a new movement, a new doctrine, but the restoration, the revival of genuine Marxism as it was expounded and practised in the Russian revolution and in the early days of the Communist International."1 In one important doctrinal respect however the movement that Trotsky founded in the 1930s departed from this claim.
Explaining the factors that were responsible for the success of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Lenin noted in 1919 that one of these was that "Russia’s backwardness merged in a peculiar way the proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie with the peasant revolution against the landowners". Elaborating on this point, Lenin added:
As long ago as 1856, Marx spoke, in reference to Prussia, of the possibility of a peculiar combination of proletarian revolution and peasant war. From the beginning of 1905 the Bolsheviks advocated the idea of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.2
Despite the fact that the 1927 platform of the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition in the CPSU had argued in favour of this idea, counterposing it to the Stalinists’ neo-Menshevik formula of a "bloc of four classes" (i.e., a regime "uniting" representatives of the workers, peasants, petty-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie), from its foundation the international Trotskyist movement officially rejected the Bolshevik formula in favour of a revived version of Trotsky’s pre-1917 theory of "permanent revolution".
The Opposition platform had argued that:
The slogan of "soviets" proposed by Lenin for China as early as 1920 had every possible justification in the conditions existing in 1926-27. Soviets in China would have offered a form through which the forces of the peasantry could have been consolidated under the leadership of the proletariat. They would have been real institutions of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry…
The doctrine of Lenin, that a bourgeois-democratic revolution can be carried through only by a union of the working class and the peasants (under the leadership of the former) against the bourgeoisie, is not only applicable to China, and to similar colonial and semicolonial countries, but in fact indicates the only road to victory in those countries…
It follows from this that a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, taking the form of soviets in China, would have every chance, in the present age of imperialist wars and proletarian revolutions and given the existence of the USSR, of developing relatively rapidly into a socialist revolution…
In mockery of Lenin’s teaching, Stalin asserted that the slogan of soviets in China would mean the demand for an immediate formation of the proletarian dictatorship. As a matter of fact Lenin, as long ago as in the revolution of 1905, advanced the slogan of soviets as organs of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasants.3
The first resolution adopted by the international Trotskyist movement, however, stated that one of the fundamental principles of the movement was "[r]ejection of the formula of the ‘democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’ as a separate regime distinguished from the dictatorship of the proletariat, which wins the support of the peasantry and the oppressed masses in general; rejection of the anti-Marxist theory of the peaceful ‘growing over’ of the democratic dictatorship into the socialist one".4
This position was enshrined in the basic programmatic statement adopted by the Fourth International at its founding congress in 1938. This document — the "Transitional Program" — declared that the Bolshevik formula of the "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry" had been "buried by history" and that the Stalinists had "tried to revive" it. Moreover, it claimed that when they "had revived" this formula the Stalinists had given it "a completely ‘democratic’, i.e., bourgeois content, counterposing it to the dictatorship of the proletariat".5 Instead of the Bolshevik formula, the document declared that the "general trend of revolutionary developments in all backward countries can be determined by the formula of the permanent revolution in the sense definitively imparted to it by the three revolutions in Russia (1905, February 1917, October 1917)".6
This implied that Trotsky’s pre-1917 theory of "permanent revolution" was superior to the Bolsheviks’ policy as a guide to revolutionary action in industrially backward countries. This view was to become an officially endorsed article of faith among Trotskyists.
The Trotskyist movement has been the main vehicle through which the legacy of Bolshevism and the early years of the Communist International has been transmitted to many revolutionary-minded workers, students and intellectuals in large parts of the world, particularly the advanced capitalist countries, in the last decades of the 20th century. Any attempt to build an international movement that is really based, as Cannon put it more than fifty years ago, on a revival of "genuine Marxism as it was expounded and practised in the Russian revolution and in the early days of the Communist International", cannot avoid dealing with the misrepresentations of Bolshevik theory and policy made by Trotsky in the 1920s and ’30s. This work is a contribution to that task.
I have limited the discussion of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution to those aspects of his theory which differ from the theory and policy of Leninism. The Stalinists claimed that the theory of permanent revolution was opposed to Leninism because Trotsky rejected the idea that a socialist society could be brought into being in one country, i.e., the USSR, without the victory of socialist revolutions in the industrially more developed countries. While rejection of the Stalinist theory of "socialism in one country" was a key part of Trotsky’s theory, as he presented it from the late 1920s on, this aspect of Trotsky’s theory fully accorded with the views of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Indeed, until late 1924 Stalin himself rejected the idea that socialism, i.e., a classless society of freely associated producers, could be achieved in one country alone. In the first edition of his pamphlet Foundations of Leninism, published in May 1924, Stalin wrote:
Can this task be fulfilled, can the final victory of socialism be attained in a single country without the joint efforts of the proletariat in several advanced countries? No, it cannot. In order to overthrow the bourgeoisie, the efforts of a single country are sufficient; this is proved by the history of our revolution. For the final victory of socialism, for the organisation of socialist production, efforts of a single country, and particularly of such a peasant country as Russia, are inadequate; for that, the efforts of the proletariat of several advanced countries are required.7
Here Stalin was only repeating Lenin’s view of the matter. In 1922, for example, Lenin wrote:
But we have not finished building even the foundations of socialist economy and the hostile powers of moribund capitalism can still deprive us of that. We must clearly appreciate this and frankly admit it; for there is nothing more dangerous than illusions (and vertigo, particularly at high altitudes). And there is absolutely nothing terrible, nothing that should give legitimate grounds for the slightest despondency, in admitting this bitter truth; for we have always urged and reiterated the elementary truth of Marxism — that joint efforts of the workers of several advanced countries are needed for the victory of socialism.8
I have also not attempted to take up the innumerable distortions of Lenin’s views on the question of the class dynamics of the Russian revolution made by later Trotskyists and by writers influenced by Trotskyism, preferring instead to concentrate on the original source of these distortions, i.e., Trotsky himself.
Surely it isn't modesty that makes the neocons shy away from the spotlight. Yet how else can we explain Joshua Muravchik's shock at the sudden discovery that entering the term "neoconservative" into Lexis-Nexis will cause an aborted search because "the number of entries exceeds the program's capacity"?
That's what's so unique about the neocons: any other political movement would welcome all that publicity. But not them. Oh no: quite the contrary. Until very recently, most neocons denied their very existence as a coherent faction. Irving Kristol, author of Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, is the only self-admitted member of the species, and, as such, to him has fallen the task of issuing pronouncements in its name, such as this recent manifesto. But the neocons have been outed, so to speak, by their own success: not in building a mass movement, but in penetrating the top echelons of the U.S. government. As our great "victory" in Iraq turns out to have been purely Pyrrhic, people are casting about for some explanation. How did we fall into this quagmire quickly becomes: who dragged us in?
A surprising number of ideologically diverse writers have come up with a similar answer: the neocons. Spanning the spectrum, from left to right, they include Michael Lind, Elizabeth Drew, Pat Buchanan, Joshua Micah Marshall, Jim Lobe, Paul Craig Roberts, to mention just a few. But Muravchik, writing in Commentary [September 2003], protests that neocons are just liberals who developed "misgivings" about the Great Society and a Democratic party gone soft on the cold war. The "conspiracy theorists" have conjured up a bogeyman, according to Muravchik, a "sinister" and
"Strange, veiled group, almost a cabal, whose purpose is to manipulate U.S. policy for ulterior purposes."
Muravchik scoffs at the idea that the neocons owe much of anything either to the cult of Leo Strauss, the philosopher of the "noble lie," or to Leon Trotsky, whose legacy informed such proto-neocons as Max Shachtman, Philip Selznick, and Irving Kristol.
I will pass, for the moment, on the subject of the Straussian connection, since I have never been able to read a single one of Strauss's books all the way through. I am told that he is boring on purpose, because, you see, only the dogged few will get the true – esoteric – meaning. This seems fitting for a philosophy that, from what I can tell, is founded on the primacy of deception. Clearly this methodology is tailor-made for the gang that lied us into war.
On the subject of the neocons' leftist roots, however, I feel more qualified to comment. Muravchik disdains "ancestor-hunting" as "typical of the way most recent analysis of neoconservative ideas has been conducted," but surely one way to understand an idea is to describe its history. He earlier complains that "few of those writing critically about neoconservatism today have bothered to stipulate what they take [its] tenets to be." He then turns around and declares that any attempt to understand how these ideas evolved over time is somehow not valid. His argument, in effect, amounts to "Move along, nothing to see here."
But there is plenty to see, first and foremost the Trotskyist DNA embedded in the neocon foreign policy prescription. Even if Muravchik was right – and he isn't – to say that "I can think of only one major neocon figure who did have a significant dalliance with Trotskyism" – the parallels between Trotskyism and neoconservatism would still be striking.
The Trotskyists argued that the Communist Revolution of 1917 could not and should not be contained within the borders of the Soviet Union. Today's neocons make the same argument about the need to spread the American system until the U.S. becomes a "global hegemon," as Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol puts it. Trotsky argued that socialism in one country was impossible, and doomed to failure: encircled by capitalism, surrounded by enemies constantly plotting its downfall, the "workers state" would not survive if it didn't expand. The neocons are making a similar argument when it comes to liberal democracy. Confronted by an Islamic world wholly opposed to modernity, Western liberal democracy must implant itself in the Middle East by force – or else face defeat in the "war on terrorism." Expand or die is the operative principle, and the neocons brought this Trotskyist mindset with them from the left.
The idea that Irving Kristol is the lone ex-Trotskyist in the ranks of the neocons has got to be some sort of joke. If so, it is a weak one. Albert Wohlstetter, the grand-daddy of what Lind calls the "defense intellectuals" – and who has a conference center named after him over at Neocon Central, the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington, D.C. – was a member of the League for a Revolutionary Party (LRP), a Trotskyist grouplet founded in the 1930s by B. J. Field, a labor leader who led the New York hotel strike of 1934. (A close associate of his at the Rand Corporation has confirmed this to me.) Gertrude Himmelfarb, Seymour Martin Lipset, Martin Diamond, all were members of Max Shachtman's Workers Party, and then split into their own faction, the "Shermanites," who upheld an ostensibly revolutionary socialist doctrine that was, nonetheless, avowedly "anti-Bolshevik." And what about Sidney Hook, who never renounced socialism and yet was awarded the Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan: what is he, chopped liver?
It's not like the neocons' Trotskyist legacy is any big secret. Even Jonah Goldberg knows about this. Jeanne Kirkpatrick's reminiscences of her education in the Young Peoples' Socialist League (YPSL, known as Yipsels) were a matter of public record until the Social Democrats USA took it off their website.
Speaking of the YPSL, Muravchik is the past national chairman of that group. If he is saying that he knows of only one leading neocon with any roots in the Trotskyist movement, then perhaps he ought to be introduced to – himself.
Muravchik disdains the term Shachmanite to describe his former political allegiances – but it is hard to believe that the former national chairman of the Yipsels, (1968 –73), the Social Democratic youth group, could have been anything other than a follower of Max Shachtman. According to the chronology in Peter Druckers' 1994 book, Max Shachtman and His Left, in 1965 "YPSL [was] reconstituted under Shachtman's control."
Lest anyone think that I am merely red-baiting Muravchik, by the time he was national chairman the group had abandoned its revolutionary razzle-dazzle, as Drucker points out, and become a stepping stone for careerists on the make:
"Shachtman extended his AFL-CIO network by helping his young followers get union staff jobs. In 1965, following the 1964 collapse of the YPSL, he reconstituted it under his right-wing followers' control. The new group had barely a shadow of the independent spirit of Shachtman's earlier youth groups. Even Tom Kahn, who had joined Shachtman's youth group in a livelier time, regretted that the group now had few vigorous debates. But debates were no longer the group's main point. Its main point was to take young people whom the 1960s had begun to radicalize, immunize them against the New Left's subversive appeal, and train them for AFL-CIO or other social democratic careers."
The post-Trotskyist ideology developed by Max Shachtman, who broke with Trotsky over the nature of the Soviet Union, took on a life of its own during the cold war years. Evolving from an orthodox Trotskyist, he later upheld the "third camp" – "Neither Washington, nor Moscow!" – and wound up supporting the cold war wholeheartedly, including the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Vietnam war. Devoted to spreading "global democracy," Shachtman's former followers soon coalesced into a potent intellectual force that had no trouble taking over the intellectual institutions of the Right as they made their way from one end of the political spectrum to the other. The indelible imprint of their Trotskyist legacy is a principled bellicosity: combined with intellectual aggressiveness and a capacity for bureaucratic infighting, the neocons in power make formidable opponents.
The rest of Muravchik's screed is an attempt to smear critics of the neocons with the brush of anti-Semitism. That so many of these critics are Jewish, according to Muravchik, merely proves that they have "ulterior motives." Since he doesn't name these motives, or try to describe them, the reader is left wondering. If Muravchik wishes to deny that the neocons pursue the Likud party line with as much alacrity as the old Communist party cadre once followed the Soviet line, then I challenge him to come up with a single instance in which a prominent neocon criticized the government of Israel. In any dispute between Israel and the U.S., when has any neoconservative taken the American side? The answer is: never.
Muravchik makes much of the Jewish heritage of many neocons, and tries to conflate anti-neocons with anti-Semities. But the ethnic factor is a historical accident: the really significant factor is the intellectual history of the neoconservative idea, especially as it relates to American foreign policy.
In tracing the intellectual ancestry of the neoconservative persuasion to its Trotskyist roots, its critics are pointing, with alarm, to its revolutionary utopianism, its dogmatism, its bloodthirstiness as characteristics inherited from the ruthless founder of the Red Army. The point of exposing the neocons' far-leftist origins is to show that they are in no way a conservative force. There is nothing conservative about embarking on a campaign of conquest in the Middle East and uprooting most of the regimes in the region. The neocons are, as one critic put it [PDF file], really neo-Jacobins. Theirs is a revolutionary project, one that violates the precepts of the Founders – and would have to mean the overthrow of the Republic.
A recent article in the Canadian National Post suggests that President Bush's advisors were influenced by Leon Trotsky, the big loser in the Bolshevik power struggle after Vladimir Lenin's death, hounded out of the country by Stalin and eventually murdered by Stalin's agents in 1940. Although the link between dedicated Communist Leon Trotsky and the conservative Bush administration is tenuous, the author, Jeet Heer, pursues the link with zeal. According to him, Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz frequently consult an Iraqi-American intellectual, Kanan Makiya, who was once a Trotskyist. In addition, Christopher Hitchens, another former Trotskyist, serves the White House as an "ad hoc consultant." Finally, Wolfowitz in particular worked with some former Trotskyists during the early 1970s, in the offices of Senator Henry Jackson. Jeet Heer makes great efforts to insinuate that these former Trotskyists served as a transmission belt for Trotskyist ideas, especially the idea of 'pre-emptive war,' which were then used by White House officials for their own conservative purposes.
In other words, the article's a smear job, albeit an unusual one. Bush administration attacking Iraq? That's because of any legitimate reasons, but because Bush has been influenced by a bunch of leftover Communists gone right-wing but still retaining elements of their peculiar Commie philosophy. The argument, of course, is bunk. Christopher Hitchens' influence in the White House has been greatly exaggerated, while Kanan Makiya's Trotskyist past has been irrelevant for decades. Also, the last time I checked, pre-emptive war isn't solely a Trotskyist idea. Nor is it a particularly prominent one. Yet I'm sure the National Post article will be added to the pile of 'evidence' accumulated by the one group of the population who cares about such arguments, the isolationists led by Pat Buchanan and conspiracy-mongers like Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo. Although supposedly to the right, that crowd spends most of its time attacking conservatives, claiming that true conservatism has been hijacked by a cabal of 'neo-conservatives'.
One of the isolationists' key arguments is that that the neo-cons are all secretly Trotskyists; more to the point, Jewish-American Trotskyists. (Many commentators have noticed the isolationist right's tendency to use 'Jew', 'neo-conservative', and 'Trotskyist' interchangeably.) According to Justin Raimondo, although they were no longer seeking world socialism, these ex-Trotskyists kept their decidedly un-conservative Trotskyist tactics - nothing had changed but the name of the enemy. Many articles can be found that repeat this same tired theme.
The conspiracy theories of Raimondo and company have legs, because they're built on a small foundation of facts. Prominent conservatives were Trotskyists at one point in their lives, including James Burnham, Irving Kristol, and the Middle East expert Stephen Schwartz. So have much less prominent conservatives - namely, myself. Before I became a conservative, I was a member of the Communist League of Canada, a minor political sect with bookstore-based offices in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. The Communist League is the Canadian affiliate of the New York-based Socialist Workers' Party, which was once the largest and main Trotskyist party in the United States. Trotsky himself helped establish the Socialist Workers Party in the late 1930s from his final home in Mexico.
Although both the Communist League and the Socialist Workers Party began quietly dropping the Trotskyist label around 1990, the other members reassured me repeatedly that this was merely a tactical issue. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, they felt that they could claim the sole mantle of Communism for themselves, and avoid confusing a working class that had never heard of Trotsky. And make no mistake - Trotskyism is a variant of Communism. This shouldn't be glossed over; ex-Trotskyists like myself are ex-Communists. But let me also make this clear - the transformation from Trotskyist to conservative involves a fundamental break with the main tenets of Trotskyism. By suggesting that a conservative can remain in some way a Trotskyist, the isolationist right traffics in oxymoron, and their conspiracy theories fail bitterly.
To understand this, we have to look at the two main aspects of Trotskyism itself: on the one hand, its opposition to the crimes of Stalinism and the totalitarian, Stalinist regimes; on the other, its opposition to the system of capitalism and its desire for international Communist revolution. Both of these aspects are essential to Trotskyism; neither are unique to it. Take away the opposition to Stalinism, leaving only the revolutionary opposition to capitalism behind, and you're left with any of a hundred other varieties of Communism, including Stalinism itself. Remove the opposition to capitalism and the desire for international Communist revolution, leaving only the opposition to Stalinism, and you're left with what could be any of a hundred different political ideologies, from the social democratic anti-Stalinists in the American labor movement to the isolationist Right anti-Stalinists of the John Birch Society, or anywhere in-between. Trotskyism requires both forms of opposition to be recognizable as Trotskyism: opposition to Stalinism and opposition to capitalism. Commitment to Communism and revolution is an essential component of Trotskyism.
I want to take the time to explain this, because Jeet Heer's June 7th article has generated some controversy. In the original article, conservative author Stephen Schwartz, an ex-Trotskyist who has become both a respected figure on the Right and a frequent contributor to FrontPage Magazine, said he saw "a psychological, ideological and intellectual continuity" between Trotskyism and neo-conservatism. He went on to explain that there were two things neo-conservatives and Trotskyists had in common: "the ability to anticipate rather than react and the moral courage to stand apart from liberal left opinion when liberal left opinion acts like a mob." Two days letter, an article appeared in National Review Online, criticizing Jeet Heer's piece. Written by Hoover Fellow Arnold Beichman, it quite succinctly took the National Post article apart and exposed it as the smear job it was. Two days after that, Stephen Schwartz responded angrily in National Review Online, accusing Beichman of slandering not Trotsky, but all former leftists influenced by Trotsky. He argued that there was no need for former Trotskyists to renounce their pasts, that Beichman was demanding an apology for something not warranting an apology, and that he would defend to his last breath "the Trotsky who alone [sic.] said no to Soviet coddling of Hitlerism, to the Moscow purges, and to the betrayal of the Spanish Republic, and who had the capacity to admit he had been wrong about the imposition of a single-party state, as well as about the fate of the Jewish people."
This whole tempest in a teapot raises several questions. Do former Trotskyists have anything to apologize for? Is there really any continuity between Trotskyist ideology and neo-conservatism, as Stephen Schwartz suggests? Is Trotskyism and Trotsky himself worth defending?
The short answers - a qualified no, no, and no.
First off, is there anything for Trotskyists to apologize for? Even if they weren't members of the Communist Party, they were Communists, so why shouldn 't they have to publicly recant and apologize for their beliefs? The answer lies in the difference between thought and action. Trotskyism is a form of Communism, and Communism is an evil philosophy. Although its adherents believe it will bring about a better world, and adopt it because they naively want to do good, in practice it always ends badly, not due to failures of any particular implementation of Communism, but due to the basic character of the Communist philosophy itself. But I can't condemn someone for being naïve, even someone naïve enough to become a Trotskyist, as long as they aren't personally supporting or committing evil acts. Therefore Communist Party apologists for Stalin and his crimes owe the world a mea culpa that Trotskyists critical of Stalin do not. Communist Party members who spied for the Soviet Union owe the world a debt that Trotskyists do not. As long as a Trotskyist isn't supporting or supported by totalitarian foreign powers, the only question we have to consider is this: are they doing any evil at home?
The answer: not much. This might hurt the feelings of Trotskyists past and present, but Trotskyism has never been influential in the United States. They led one general strike in Minneapolis in the 1930s, and were responsible for the construction of one of the many anti-Vietnam War coalitions in the late 1960s. Perhaps they led a couple of other localized labor actions. But that's largely it. From time to time, they pop up in a campaign large enough to be noticed by the press; today, far-left groups with a Trotskyist past like the Workers World Party are far more influential than any actual 'Trotskyists.' But none of these groups has ever been able to put together even 2,000 members nation-wide, at any time in their histories from founding to present. Their protests, like the recent anti-war protests put together against Operation Iraqi Freedom, were full of sound and fury, but ultimately, they signified nothing. When I was a leftist, I can't think of a single issue where I actually affected something. Neither can any other Trotskyist. Despite their ludicrous claims that their protests stopped the Vietnam War, or the more recent claim that they prevented the Bush administration from invading Syria, the achievements of the Trotskyist left add up to null. Therefore, what have they got to apologize for? Thought crimes?
As far as I'm concerned, there's only a few qualified instances where a Trotskyist might actually do something worthy of an apology. First, they might cross the line into violent action; domestic terrorism sprouted from the far Left in the early 1970s, and there's no guarantee it won't again. For instance, the members of the Workers World Party who helped incite prison riots during the 1970s should be held accountable. Secondly, they might ease up on their Trotskyist critique of Stalinism, and begin treating Stalinist regimes uncritically, out of the pure psychological need to have some revolution, any revolution, that can serve as a role model. For instance, I owe the world an apology for my and the Socialist Workers Party' s uncritical support for totalitarian Cuba. To my shame, I defended an evil regime; luckily, I don't think anyone actually was convinced by my defense. Last of all, Trotskyist groups can collude directly with a hostile foreign power. For instance, the leaders of the Workers World Party have made numerous trips to North Korea and the Middle East, as Steven Schwartz himself has noted in FrontPage. If they're receiving money from foreign powers, they need to be held accountable. (Which may very well be the case; in National Review Online, Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking intelligence officer to ever defect from the Soviet Bloc, claimed that the Workers World Party was entirely a construct of the KGB.)
Despite these unsavory connections, the historical record of Trotskyism in the United States is worthy of nothing more than a halfhearted shrug. Trotskyists who avoided treason and violence did little harm at most. Therefore it's not hard to look back at one's days as a Trotskyist as a bit of a youthful lark, enabling even a conservative giant like Irving Kristol to say, "I regard myself to have been a young Trotskyite and I have not a single bitter memory." And why not? They didn't support existing totalitarianism abroad and, despite their own horror-show politics, were too ineffective to mess up things in America itself. Having done no evil and having supported no evil, Kristol can treat his Communist past as an amusing interlude if he likes. And I can look back on my period in the Communist League and say to myself "no harm done - thank God." Knowing what I do now, I would have preferred to avoid my time in the Communist League - the money I sank into dues and fundraising drives could have bought a car - but its impact on society was zero.
But can we say there's continuity between Trotskyism and neo-conservatism, as Stephen Schwartz claimed? Kristol did become a prominent conservative, as did Schwartz. Again, the answer is no, because nothing unique to Trotskyism survived their political transformation. Once the desire for revolution passed, and the opposition to capitalism faded - in other words, once the Trotskyists became less naïve - they completely ceased to be Trotskyists. All that remained was their anti-Stalinism, and that wasn't unique to Trotskyism; instead, it was shared by many conservatives with no experience with the Left. The two things Schwartz claims were taken from Trotskyism by neo-conservatives aren't particularly unique to Trotskyism, either: "the ability to anticipate rather than react" is found in energetic people from all points of the political spectrum, and "the moral courage to stand apart from liberal Left opinion" wasn't just practiced by Trotskyists, but also by conservatives completely separate from the Left. The number of conservatives coming over from the Trotskyist Left was significant, but limited; many more were conservative all their political lives. The zeal, drive, and moral courage of modern conservatism therefore only obliquely comes from Trotskyism; the bulk of it comes from the conservative tradition itself. Remember, the ex-Trotskyists joined the conservative movement, and not the other way around.
Last of all, is Trotskyism and Trotsky worth defending? Once again, no. Certain aspects of Trotskyism were worth defending, in particular his opposition to Stalin - for that, Trotsky can be praised, and on that basis alone, Trotskyists are less repugnant than the Stalinists of the Communist Party. But those actions of Leon Trotsky can't be separated from his basic Communist philosophy, and the evil empire he helped construct in the 1910s and 20s. Unlike Irving Kristol, Stephen Schwartz, and, far less importantly, myself, Trotsky was in a position to put his ideals into action. Trotsky was Commander in Chief of the Red Army; and Trotsky therefore shares some responsibility for the 20th century's bloody Communist mess. His correct evaluation of Stalin no more absolves him than a convict's time off for good behavior does for his crimes; anti-Stalinism makes Trotskyism no more palatable than welfare reform made the eight years of the Clinton administration.
When Stephen Schwartz writes that he will defend Trotsky to his last breath, and "[l]et the neofascists, and Stalinists in their second childhood, make of it what they will," I must respectfully disagree. Trotsky's simply not worth it; the good points of Trotskyism weren't unique, and the bad points outweigh the good. But I disagree even more strongly with the attempts of the isolationist Right to slander good conservatives with a philosophy they've left behind, and stronger still with any suggestion that these former Trotskyists in America must perpetually apologize for their past, forever excluded from the realm of 'real' conservatives. The works of someone like Stephen Schwartz, who has contributed so much to our knowledge of Wahhabist Islam, speak far more eloquently than any writing he could do about his Trotskyist past. Critics of him or any other ex-Trotskyist conservative ought to direct their attention, not on former Trotskyists who changed their ideology for the better, but those ex-Trotskyists, ex-Communists, and other former radicals who left their organizations only to slither into the ranks of the Democratic Party, to continue advocating the same hard-left ideology behind a 'liberal' mask.
Just when one thought things couldn't get any weirder in the festering mess that is today's "conservatism," monstrosities have hatched from it so hideous, so perverted, so wretchedly deformed, that one might take them for hallucinations — caused, perhaps, by Saddam's elusive chemical weapons, secretly infused by Osama bin Laden into one's breakfast orange juice. They're not, though. They're for real:
1. "... We will have to pursue the war against terror far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe." (Michael Ledeen, "What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?", National Review, March 10, 2003)
2. "A new law being proposed by Republican senators will serve to prohibit criticism of Israel on American college campuses." ("Criticizing Israel will be a taboo in United States," The Balochistan Post, April 24, 2003)
After my wife threw a glass of cold water in my face, I calmed down and realized that those news items merely signal the next logical steps along "conservatism's" careening flight into Mussolini-style fascism.
Take Michael Ledeen. If I hadn't actually met him in the flesh many years ago, I would be tempted to write him off as a made-up cartoon character, a sort of political Daffy Duck, whose columns are concocted as comic relief by clever National Review editors. I can assure you, however, that he actually exists — or did, anyway. In an earlier column on my own Web page (http://www.thornwalker.com/wright/011207 .html), I highlighted one of his unbalanced rants in National Review, in which he lost control of his syntax and gibbered that the United State needed to go to war with the entire Muslim world:... We need to sustain our game face, we must keep our fangs bared, we must remind them daily that we Americans are in a rage, and we will not rest until we have avenged our dead, we will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle.
The U.S.'s glorious victory over Saddam's decayed, badly led, under-equipped, and demoralized military has whetted Ledeen's appetite for more blood, and he's studying menus right along with the rest of the neo-Trot horde.  In fact, he's now raised his sights from merely subjugating all of Islam to vanquishing the filthy Europeans as well! It turns out that those devious, ungrateful little Frogs and Krauts are plotting to overthrow the Empire's enlightened plan for world domination:They dreaded the establishment of an American empire, and they sought for a way to bring it down.... How could it be done? No military operation could possibly defeat the United States, and no direct economic challenge could hope to succeed. That left politics and culture. And here there was a chance to turn America's vaunted openness at home and toleration abroad against the United States. So the French and the Germans struck a deal with radical Islam and with radical Arabs: You go after the United States, and we'll do everything we can to protect you, and we will do everything we can to weaken the Americans. The Franco-German strategy was based on using Arab and Islamic extremism and terrorism as the weapon of choice, and the United Nations as the straitjacket for blocking a decisive response from the United States.
Is this for real? More importantly, is Ledeen running around loose? Or does the American Enterprise Institute, where he holds the bizarrely named "Freedom Chair," prudently keep him chained to it in the basement, like the character "the Gimp" in "Pulp Fiction" — bringing him out every once in a while in a leather leotard and spiked collar to lumber about, roll his eyeballs, and shriek hideous threats? Good boy, Mikey! Have a piece of raw flank steak!
In any case, it takes a truly fevered brain to decide — with no evidence whatsoever — that French president Jacques Chirac and German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are "striking a deal with radical Islam" to "bring down" the Empire. Even a superficial look at European politics reveals a number of other legitimate reasons that the regimes of France and Germany might wish to publicly oppose U.S. imperialism in the Middle East — that is to say, as legitimate as the motives of any ruling regime ever are. Most conspicuous is the huge outcry against the Iraq invasion from their own voters. Another is the large numbers of Muslims that both regimes have arranged to have live in their countries. A third is the fact that Europe is much more dependent on Persian Gulf oil than America, and has more to lose if the supply is disrupted — not to mention the European oil interests that will be shouldered aside when Bush's friends take over production in Iraq.
Ledeen apparently doesn't consider that Chirac and Schroeder may be motivated by a desire simply to boost their domestic approval ratings using a can't-lose issue — while avoiding riots by their Muslim populations. But even if that were proven true, it wouldn't count for much to any of the neo-Trots. In fact, the very idea that other countries have interests different from those of the United State is intolerable to the new imperialists. As Steve Sniegoski pointed out to me recently: "The neocons claim that spreading democracy around the world will bring peace, but then find that America's enemies are — democratic countries!"
I think we can tentatively assume that the United State won't find it expedient to start a war with Europe — at least, not for a while. So if Ledeen's idea catches on, we'll probably just be subjected to more inane insults about cheese- and schnitzel-eaters, and more calls to boycott French and German goods by Limbaugh, Hannity, and other reductionist "conservative" charlatans. But a boycott or sanctions may present problems.
It's one thing to boycott French goods — after all, there are other sources of decent wine, cheese, and brandy — but the neo-Trots may be hard-pressed by a boycott of Germany. Besides beverages such as Beck's, St. Pauli Girl, and Liebfraumilch, Germany produces the BMWs, Audis, Mercedes-Benzes, and expensive Braun coffee-makers and shavers adorning the comfortable lives of many of those well-sinecured vicarious warriors. 
In addition, the diplomatic problems caused by such lunacy would undoubtedly lead to difficulties for the Bush administration — especially if they resulted in pressure to pull U.S. troops out of Europe, where there's no legitimate reason for them to be anyway.
Welcome - Right Web - Institute for Policy Studies
Neoconservatism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia James Burnham - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
TROTSKY, STRAUSS, AND THE NEOCONS - tribe.net
ESR March 22, 2004 Neoconservatives and Trotskyism - Page 1
Trotskyism to Anachronism The Neoconservative Revolution Foreign Affairs John B. Judis August 1995
For 14 years, from the 1973 Jackson-Vanik amendment until the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a group of intellectuals known as neoconservatives shaped, and sometimes dominated, American foreign policy.
Trotsky, Strauss, and the Neocons, by Justin Raimondo
America the Abstraction by J.P. Zmirak (The American Conservative, January 13, 2003 Issue )
WaPo Neocon movement began with Leon Trotsky Politics in the Zeros
Good bibliography from a bad neocon apology ESR March 22, 2004 Neoconservatives and Trotskyism by Bill King
1 Sam Tanenhaus, "Hello to All That: The irony behind the demise of the Partisan Review", Slate, April 16, 2003, http://slate.msn.com/id/2081610 (April 24, 2003).
2 Jeet Heer, "Trotsky's Ghost Wandering the White House", National Post, June 7, 2003; Jim Lobe, "What is a neo-conservative anyway?", Asia Times Online, August 13, 2003, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/EH13Aa01.html, (August 14, 2003).
3 Dimitri K. Simes, "America's Imperial Dilemma", Foreign Affairs, November-December 2003, p. 95.
4 Stephen J. Tonsor, "Why I Too Am Not A Neoconservative", National Review, June 20, 1986, p.55.
5 Leon Hadar, "The "Neocons": From the Cold War to the "Global Intifada"", WRMEA, April 1991, http://www.washington-report.org/backissues/0491/9104027.htm (May 10, 2003).
6 Alexander Bloom, Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals & Their World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 369.
7 See Paul Gottfried and Thomas Fleming, The Conservative Movement, (Boston: Twaine Publishers, 1988), and Gottfried, The Conservative Movement, Revised Edition, (New York: Twaine Publishers, 1993), p. 161.
8 Paul Gottfried, "The Trotsky Hour", Lewrockwell.com, March 6, 2003, http://www.lewrockwell.com/gottfried/gottfried46.html, (May 10, 2003).
9 Daniel McCarthy, "Springtime for Trotsky", Lewrockwell.com, Nov. 6, 2001, http://www.lewrockwell.com/dmccarthy/dmccarthy23.html, (May 10, 2003).
10 Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism. (New York: Pathfinder, 1990), p.63.
11 Alan M. Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930's to the 1980's (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press), p.350.
12 Seymour Martin Lipset, "Steady Work: An Academic Memoir", Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 22, 1996, pp. 1-27.
13 Gary Dorrien, The Neoconservative Mind (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), p. 71. See Enquiry, vols. 1-2, 1942-45, particularly the articles by Philip Selznick.
14 Robert Alexander, International Trotskyism: 1929-1985 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), p. 812-813. See also Eric Chester, Socialists and the Ballot Box (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1985), pp. 135, 146.
15 Srdja Trifkovic, "Neoconservatism, Where Trotsky Meets Stalin And Hitler", Chronicles Extra, July 23, 2003, http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/News/Trifkovic/NewsST072303.html (July 27, 2003).
16 Justin Raimondo, "Smoking Gun", Anti-war.com, May 9, 2003, http://www.antiwar.com/justin/j050903.html, (May 10, 2003).
17 A compelling case can be made that the legacy of Shachtmanism is found not in the right wing of social democracy, but in the International Socialist current that split from the SP-SDF/YPSL in the early 1960's and was led by long-time Shachtmanite Hal Draper. See Alexander, Trotskyism, p.899, and also Milton Fisk, Socialism from below in the United States: The origins of the International Socialist Organization (Cleveland: Hera Press, 1977).
18 Joshua Muravchik, "Socialists of America, Disunited", The Weekly Standard, August 28, 2000, http://www.aei.org/news/newsID.11887,filter./news_detail.asp, (May 15, 2003).
19 J.P. Zmirak, "America the abstraction", The American Conservative, January 13, 2003, http://www.amconmag.com/01_13_03/cover7.html (July 26, 2003).
20 J.P. Zmirak, "Lies, Damned Lies, and Anti-Semitism", America's Future Foundation, July 24, 2003, http://www.americasfuture.org/viewBrainwash.cfm?pubid=215 (July 26, 2003).
21 Gary Dorrien, Neoconservative, pp.381, 36.
22 John B. Judis, "Trotskyism to Anachronism: The Neoconservative Revolution", Foreign Affairs, July/August, 1995, http://www.foreignaffairs.org/19950701fareviewessay5058/john-b-judis/trotskyism-to-anachronism-the-neoconservative-revolution.html (April 24, 2003).
23 Through an approach that resembles "six degrees of separation" more than historical research, it has been suggested that because Wolfowitz, Perle, and James Woolsey were influenced by military strategist Albert Wohlstetter (who was not a neoconservative) in the 1970's and 80's, and because Wohlstetter had in the 1930's belonged to a breakaway Trotskyist splinter group, that this therefore demonstrates a link between neoconservatism and Trotskyism. See Heer, "Trotsky's Ghost". For Wohlstetter, see Wald, Intellectuals, p. 107.
24 Michael Lind, "The Weird Men Behind George W. Bush's War", New Statesman, April 7, 2003, http://www.newamerica.net/index.cfm?pg=article&pubID=1189, (April 24, 2003).
25 William Pfaff, "Al Qaeda vs. the White House", International Herald Tribune, Dec. 28, 2002, http://iht.com/articles/81589.html (April 24, 2003).
26 William Pfaff, "The philosophers of chaos reap a whirlwind", International Herald Tribune, August 23, 2003, http://www.iht.com/articles/107407.html, (August 25, 2003).
27 For a cringe-inducing article on George W. Bush's supposed adherence to Trotskyism, see Ted Rall, "Permanent Revolution", Progressive Populist, Feb. 19, 2003, http://www.populist.com/02.19.rall.permawar.html, (April 24, 2003).
28 Joseph Stromberg, "Neocons and Total War", LewRockwell.com, Sept. 27, 2001, http://www.lewrockwell.com/stromberg/stromberg21.html (April 24, 2003); Michael Ledeen, "Creative Destruction", National Review Online, Sept. 20, 2001, http://www.nationalreview.com/contributors/ledeen092001.shtml (April 24. 2003).
29 See Leon Trotsky, Permanent Revolution (New York: Merit, 1969).
30 It is true that the Trotskyists' "dual theory" of Stalinism (opposing the bureaucracy but "defending" the nationalized economy) led them to offer post-fact justifications for the Soviet invasion of Finland in late 1939. However, offering justification for an invasion is not the same as advocating that invasion, nor does it mean that they proactively called for such invasions in general as the way to advance world revolution. It is also worth noting that the justifications were accompanied by warnings from Trotsky that such "shameful" military actions on the part of the Stalinist bureaucracy would end up harming the "degenerated workers' state". See Leon Trotsky, Writings: 1939-40 (New York: Pathfinder, 1973), pp.142-143.
31 See Christopher C. DeMuth (ed) The Reagan Doctrine and Beyond (Washington DC: AEI, 1987), pp.21-30.
32 John B. Judis, "Apocalypse Now and Then", The New Republic, August 31, 1987, p.29
Weak attempt to disprove valid claims.
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