If a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, then what is an evil consistency?
On June 22, 1941, Hitler’s Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands upon thousands of tanks and aircraft, even greater numbers of trucks and transport all poured across the frontier. It remains and perhaps will forever remain the largest single unitary military operation in history. Germany’s assault caught the Red Army not completely unprepared, but largely so. Most of their air force was destroyed on the ground, the first day. Writing on the vast canvas of the Eastern European plains, the Wehrmacht wrought large the tactics their parents’ generation had first pioneered (ironically, also in Russia) in 1916-17. Seeking weak spots, avoiding confrontation with strength, surrounding, always surrounding, the Germans bagged hundreds of thousands of prisoners at a time in enormous encirclements. It was more than a bit like modern industrial drift-net fishing.
For decades the standard line on Stalin was that he’d finally met his master in treachery. Koba had trusted Adolf, you see; he’d trusted him to abide by the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Treaty signed back in the warm August night of 1939, when Molotov and Ribbentropp whacked up Poland and the Baltic countries between them. Under the commercial arrangements entered into, Stalin kept up his deliveries of oil and other strategic materials literally until the last minute – the final train crossed the border into Germany less than eight hours before the invasion. Later more revisionist histories I’ve read deny that Stalin was duped. According to them Stalin was playing desperately for time while he in fact prepared his own attack on Germany. Under the newer theory, Hitler simply got the drop on him.
Of the two opposing theories of “what in the hell possessed Stalin?” I have to say I like the newer one better. It has the advantage of being perfectly consistent with everything else that has ever been known about Joe Stalin. The original take requires one to accept the proposition that someone as cold-bloodedly calculating as Stalin just this once, and despite years of careful observation, behaved utterly unlike his past and subsequent actions. To get an idea of just how devious he was, there is good indication – now that the NKVD archives have been at least partially opened – that the Germans’ surreptitious poison pen correspondence fraudulently implicating Marshal Tukhachevski and others in sundry plots against Stalin, which were filtered to the NKVD, and which then became part of the basis for the disastrous 1937 purge of the Red Army’s senior command, were in fact planted on the Germans by Soviet agents whose mission was to set up the Red Army commanders. Someone who could cook up something that sinister is supposed to have been taken in by a man as un-subtle as Adolf Hitler? Leopards do not change their spots, and then change them back.
It wasn’t as if Hitler hadn’t bird-dogged his intentions in the East for years, after all. As early as the first volume of Mein Kampf Hitler had proclaimed the need for Lebensraum for the German people, and identified the only place in Europe for that living space to be acquired. Although the National Socialists had originated as a garden-variety leftist party – the original name, which it still carried the night Hitler attended his first meeting in 1920, was the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the German Workers Party – no later than June 30, 1934 the few remaining leftish elements were killed off in Hitler’s orgy of retribution. The constant bogeyman the Nazis held up to the Germans scared stiff by the social and economic upheavals of the post-war period was the communist, red in tooth and claw. The skulls the Sturmabteilung cracked during the early 1930s were largely communist skulls.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem as if Germany played nearly the role for Stalin that the Soviet Union did for Hitler. Russians in general and Stalin in particular were so over-the-top paranoid of everyone that I’ve never noticed in any history or biographies of the times or key players any especial pattern of concentration on Germany or Hitler. In fact, among the most frequent bogus allegations of espionage hurled against Stalin’s victims was spying for Japan and for Britain. Germany was lumped in with China, with Argentina, and other equally-improbable countries.
The Comintern (which Stalin also ruthlessly purged in the 1930s) was a different story. Germany was very much a focus of their squawking. It was the communists and the socialists who were the first groups to go behind the barbed wire in the newly-created concentrations camps. They were the first who were systematically disappeared after the Gleichschaltung. It would have been curious indeed if the Comintern had not damned Hitler and his movement to all who would listen and most who wouldn’t (like the various fans of the Nazis elsewhere in the world . . . like Franklin Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, and the rest of them).
The Comintern of course took its marching orders directly from Stalin. They screeched about what he told them to screech about, and about nothing else. That last is important to realize. The Western communists bewailed (properly, let it be remembered) the evils of the Nazi regime long and loud, from the time of its coming to power. All the way up, that is, until August, 1939 and the Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact. After that point the word went out that Germany was off-limits.
And the commies the world over meekly took their marching orders and clammed up about the man and party who’d imprisoned and killed their comrades.
Why is this important, Gentle Reader asks, and what does this not-quite two years of silence have to teach us today? It is important today because there is a straight line between the Comintern of August, 1939 – June 22, 1941, and the modern American left. For starts, the modern American left is much more radical than used to be the case. Once upon a time the left was all about not hanging people because they had the wrong skin color, or not allowing employers to view the female staff as random bed-mates. While the New Dealers were enthusiastic fans of socialism, both in its Soviet and Nazi manifestations, their socialism was very much softer around the edges.
As inspector Clouseau would say, not any more. In today’s left the Alinskyites have triumphed, and are much closer to their 1930s communist ancestors than they are to the New Dealers. The philosophy behind Cloward and Pivens’s “The Weight of the Poor” (about which I am working on a rather lengthy post . . . honestly I am) has now become the central pillar of the Democrat Party program, at least at the national level. That philosophy can be pretty neatly summed up as the use of transfer payments to cement electoral coalitions of people who otherwise haven’t the least affinity for each other. It is neither more nor less than the notion of spending other people’s money to maintain oneself in power. The mathematics of that approach are not without their outer limits, as Detroit and Illinois are discovering.
Or at least the math is not unlimited so long as you cannot keep your population in place and under your thumb. There is a reason that all the various 19th Century utopian settlements eventually blew up. Without coercive power to keep people living there, they leaders of those efforts had no way reliably over time to enforce the penny-ante socialism that was all those places’ organizing principle. Nowadays the tourists go and spend gobs of money eating over-priced food and staying in over-priced rooms to sleep on uncomfortable beds in New Harmony, Indiana. Nowhere does anyone point out the moral violence that was the foundation on which it was built. That “new harmony” was the harmony of the plantation, of the Kolyma, of the Belomor.
But what if you could run an entire country like Detroit? Now there’s an idea. It’s much harder to get up and leave your country than to let your Camden, New Jersey tract house go up the pipes for unpaid real property taxes and move to New Hampshire. Millions of Europeans left for our shores during the 19th Century in order to escape the lash, the press gang, the tax collector. But as great an influx of humanity as it was from America’s perspective as the destination country, I still don’t recall that a single European despot changed his manner of operating one iota because of losing population to the U.S. The overwhelming majority of people stood still and took it (aside from the revolutions of 1830 and 1848), and at that level of population retention and growth (recall how explosively Europe grew in that century) there was simply no demographic incentive for the tyrants to change.
The current administration of Dear Leader has exactly such a transformation in mind for the entire country. We are all to become Detroit writ large. He’s never made much of a secret of it, either. While he was just a “community organizer” and all the while he was running for his various offices he kept trumpeting his intent of “fundamental transformation” of American society and polity. It is irrelevant to him and his supporters that in order to crush dissent you have to use the IRS as your political enforcer; that you use the ATF and OSHA to threaten the very livelihoods of people who too effectively oppose what you’re trying to do. Have the U.S. Attorney General sue every state and county he can find which looks like it’s making actual progress towards ensuring that all but only eligible voters vote in elections? Not a problem. It’s all in the service of a higher goal.
And from the self-appointed Fourth Estate, the forever-patting-themselves-on-the-back watchdogs of democracy? Crickets. Nothing. They even accept instruction from the administration about what they can and cannot quote insiders as saying, meekly submitting their copy beforehand for approval of quotations. The DoJ decides to wiretap their phones in order to catch a leaker who let out secrets no worse than what the president himself brags about (remember it was Dear Leader who boasted that we were behind Stuxnet, the computer malware which came within a whisker of crashing the Iranian nuclear weapons program), and the press just makes propitiatory grimaces and promises to be even more subservient in the future.
These days in the press it’s no longer about truth, about things which you can say in fact happened or didn’t happen, and then go check it out for yourself. Now it’s about “The Narrative,” a mind-set which gives us Journolist, and the expression “fake but true.” The Narrative is, of course, what you want to be true, or perhaps more cynically expressed, what you want others to believe to be true. “Truth” is what tends to establish The Narrative. Gentle Reader will recognize the circularity of the dynamic: narrative is what is to be “true,” and “truth” is anything which confirms narrative.
Once upon a time a paragon of the American left, Daniel P. Moynihan, famously observed that while everyone is entitled to his own opinion, he is not entitled to his own facts. Poor Danny Boy; so behind the times. Nowadays we have supposedly learned folks asserting, with all seriousness, that “we each have our own truth.” By that standard the Holocaust deniers are not in fact deniers; they’re merely asserting “their own truth.” In this connection it is not unhelpful to remind ourselves that one of the foundation stones of this mindset, “deconstructionism,” was the bastard offspring of a gentleman name of Paul de Man, who ended his days full of honor and years as a professor at Yale. The essential assertion of deconstructionism, which has — by their fruits shall ye know them — further spawned such intellectual nonsense as “critical legal theory,” is that words, and therefore texts, mean what the beholder chooses they should mean. That of course is a suggestion pregnant with foreboding for the public sphere, because it then becomes vitally important to be the one who chooses the beholder, the actors whose office it is to behold texts like the constitution for all of us, and to command the application of that meaning upon all our backs. Yes, dear Prof. de Man ended his days at Yale, but that’s not where he started out. He wasn’t born American, you see; he was born in Antwerp. And during the Nazi occupation of Belgium he wrote over 200 articles for a collaborationist newspaper. Two hundred. For a newspaper collaborating with a country that’s invaded and raped your country twice in as many generations. Not exactly a youthful indiscretion, is it? But if nothing has irreducible meaning, then it really didn’t count, did it?
Fast forward from the Stalin-worshippers and Nazi collaborators. How about all the lefty outfits that spent the entire eight years of the Bush 43 presidency weeping and lamenting the civil rights cataclysm of warrantless wiretapping of international communications? Now the FBI admits to using drones to spy on American soil and you can hear a pin drop in the meeting hall. It takes a filibuster on the U.S. Senate floor before the administration will state, in so many words, that it does not claim the authority to order the extra-judicial killing of American citizens on American soil. One of the most justly feared and historically abusive government agencies of all – the IRS – is unashamedly used as a tool to silence a great chunk of the American political spectrum, and from the liberty mavens we hear . . . nothing. Zero.
It is so important to today’s left that the aspiration of breaking American society succeed that no hint of criticism may be allowed to disrupt it. The reduction of the citizen to become the tool of the state – which is the sine qua non of all leftist hope and ambition – is so important, so close to realization, that it is worth accepting anything, any violation of principle, any swallowing of pride to bring it off.
How again is this silence in the face of violence to the supposed pillars of the lefty faith not indistinguishable from the Comintern’s silence as Hitler rolled over Poland, and France, and the Low Countries, and Denmark, and Norway? I assert that precisely the same philosophical mechanisms are at work now as were at work then. The left, both then and now, demonstrates a remarkably consistent acceptance of outright evil if commanded by one’s political bosses.
But Gentle Reader will counter that this trait of the left is not peculiar to the left. I do not think so. Recall that it was senior Republicans on the Hill who went to Nixon and told him the game was up (recall also that one of the articles of impeachment was using the IRS in manners indistinguishable from Dear Leader’s deployment of it). The American right has supported unsavory characters over the years, but if we look at those, the common thread is that they were unsavory characters who were actively engaged in combat against communist subversion of nations. At the most you can accuse the right of having supported evil to fight evil (and in this connection we might remind ourselves of Churchill’s comment to the Commons that if the devil himself would ally himself in the fight against Nazi Germany, Churchill would find something good to say about him on the floor of the House). I would challenge Gentle Reader to find a single instance in which large numbers of the American right have supported or held their peace in the face of someone or something as indefensible as Hitler. Or have engaged in the organized suppression of information in the manner of the Journolistas.
No, conscious support of evil men and evil measures for purely political (as in partisan) purposes is a copyrighted trademark of the left. All of which makes one wonder, with trepidation, whether there will occur another — mercifully, and as we piously hope, non-military — Barbarossa moment for today’s lefties.