Most readers will be familiar with Vladimir Bukovsky, the respected writer and former Soviet dissident. In collaboration with Pavel Stroilov, he has written a review of Diana West’s book American Betrayal for Breitbart.
As listed at the foot of the review, here are the bios of the authors:
Vladimir Bukovsky is one of the founders of the Soviet dissident movement. He spent twelve years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals during his fight for freedom. In 2007, he was nominated for president of Russia by the democratic opposition in moral protest of Putin’s powers. His many works include To Build a Castle and Judgement in Moscow.
Pavel Stroilov is a Russian exile in London and the editor and translator of Alexander Litvinenko’s book, Allegations. He is co-author with Bukovsky of EUSSR: The Soviet Roots of European Integration, and the author of Behind the Desert Storm: A Secret Archive Stolen From the Kremlin that Sheds New Light on the Arab Revolutions in the Middle East.
So Messrs. Bukovsky and Stroilov have paid their dues as victims of communist oppression, Mr. Bukovsky through his time in the gulag. In their Breitbart piece the two men have done more than write a favorable review of the book: they have deconstructed the malicious ad hominem attacks on its author, and offered plausible explanations for the reprehensible behavior of people who otherwise seem sane and rational.
David Horowitz has already responded at FPM, saying: “Now, in the pages of Breitbart, even Vladimir Bukovsky, the great Soviet dissident, whose work we have previously admired in these pages, and will continue to admire, has joined [Diana West’s] wolf-pack.”
Well… I thought it was a “kook army”, but now it seems to be a “wolf-pack”, with Vladimir Bukovsky baring his fangs at the front of the ravening horde.
This is very strange, considering that Front Page Magazine has sung the praises of Mr. Bukovsky so many times in the past. Ten or twelve years ago, Jamie Glazov, Mr. Horowitz’ assistant, was particularly generous in his admiration of the courageous Soviet dissident.
But not any more. That was then, and this is now: I’m told that Messrs. Bukovsky and Stroilov first submitted their review to FPM, but Mr. Glazov turned it down. The authors’ opinions presumably failed to accord with the current party line laid down by the
politburo editorial staff at FPM.
Below are excerpts from their review, “Why Academics Hate Diana West”:
Groundbreaking books about the history of communism, such as Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago or Viktor Suvorov’s Ice-Breaker, are never written by “professional” historians. Indeed, historians typically meet those books with remarkable hostility.
Yet, non-academic history books certainly have their advantages. For one thing, they are readable. More often than not, they are better researched too. Above all, they are intellectually honest, free from the unspoken taboos of the academic world and from allegiances to theories and to colleagues that tie the hands of many an academic.
Where a professional historian pursues an academic career, the amateur seeks after the truth. Ignorant of taboos, the amateur can follow the trail of evidence to wherever it leads and discovers things which, according to the academic conventional wisdom, are best left untouched and unsaid.
That is what Diana West does in American Betrayal:The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character. By her own admission, she started that book with no intention of writing much about the Cold War. She started not as a historian, but a simple mortal puzzled and disturbed by the obvious question: how on earth could this great civilization of ours have degraded into such a hypocritical nonsense as political correctness? Having written her previous book about the death of the civilization of grown-ups, now Mrs. West, in her own words, attempts a post mortem — only to discover unmistakable signs of a murder.
She digs deeper, “tracing references and footnotes backward along a well-mapped historical route that has simply fallen into disuse”, as she puts it — and discovers the true history of the 20th century, the history of communist crimes against humanity, to which so many in the Western Establishment were accomplices and collaborators; and then a massive cover-up of those crimes, which infested our entire public life with a culture of hypocrisy and double standards.
In the face of those proven facts, most of them now recognized even by academics, Mrs. West asks some bold but legitimate questions. Did all these people (the glorious FDR administration) really conduct the Second World War in the interests of Western democracies, or was it in the interests of Comrade Stalin? Having declared that war to defend the freedom of Poland, the Western democracies ended it by surrendering Poland and a dozen other nations to a totalitarian empire worse than Hitler’s. Was that really a victory? Above all, was that outcome inevitable, or did it, to a greater or lesser extent, result from the work of the Soviet agents of influence in the positions of power in the West?
Mrs. West has proven her point without access to secret archives on the basis of published sources alone. She would have found this much more difficult if she tried to continue her narrative much beyond the Second World War. Scandalously, most secret archives of that period remain classified to this day, and very few historians ever complain about that. It required some extraordinary efforts on our part to smuggle some of those archives out of Russia and make them available to the Western public. Of course, our efforts were attacked furiously by the very same academics who now attack American Betrayal, using exactly the same expressions It is their job to suppress any truth about the Cold War. However, despite all their efforts, we now know that the so-called Cold War was never particularly cold on the Soviet side and never much of a war on the Western side:
- How the “consensus” of Western Establishment had accepted socialism as the inevitable future of the world, and “convergence” with the Soviet system as the only alternative to the Cold War.
- How Western leaders developed their “détente” with the Soviets secretly, treacherously, through KGB channels, as a means to achieve that “convergence.”
- How all Western policy throughout the Cold War was aimed to preserve ‘stability’ of the Evil Empire and not to achieve its destruction.
- Finally, how all Western governments sided with the last Soviet leader against his people, and secretly worked with Comrade Gorbachev in the last desperate attempt to save his regime and his empire. Ever at Gorby’s service, they did everything in their power to prevent unification of Germany, de-communisation of Eastern Europe, collapse of the Soviet Union, and finally — alas, successfully — a Nuremberg-style trial of communism.
That treacherous Establishment is still there. We are still governed by a nomenklatura of collaborationists, Petains and Quislings of the Cold War. Mrs. West has reached that conclusion merely by examining the first chapters of this sad story. Sure enough, there are mountains of other and more recent evidence to support her conclusions. But of course, whatever the evidence, the “consensus” will never plead guilty. Rather, they will try and usurp the judicial seat.
The Left have learned a lot since the times of Duranty and Agitprop. They no longer try to argue with such books as Mrs. West’s. They no longer try to sue us for libel in the courts of law. They quietly assassinate such books well in advance, by confidential e-mails to publishers and editors. In rare cases when that does not work and the book is out, they simply ignore it and wait for another crisis in the Middle East, or the release of the next series of the latest blockbuster, or mid-term elections, to distract the public attention from everything else. They simply let the dangerous revelations sink in the massive flood of information that overwhelms today’s readers.
Fortunately, this did not happen with American Betrayal. The Left held their nerve all right; but — perhaps unexpectedly for Mrs. West — her book greatly offended certain “conservative” academics as well. It emerged that, in her “reckless” quest for the truth, she broke a number of taboos recognized across the academic world, Left to Right.
She attacked certain cows that are sacred across the political spectrum; gentlemanly “formulas of denial” long agreed between academics of all colors; certain “common values of mankind,” to use Comrade Gorbachev’s favorite phrase. Her facts (it has been reluctantly admitted) are of course correct, but her awful conclusions contradict “the consensus of every historian of the war”. The “consensus” is that Soviet agents of influence had no real influence, that FDR was a great patriot and war leader, and that Stalin’s occupation of half of the world was the best possible outcome of the war. On these points, it has emerged, the “conservative” and “liberal” academics have no disagreements. All their disagreements are about how exactly to explain away the facts that do not fit into their “consensus,” and how exactly to suppress dissent.
So, while the Left applied their usual tactics of silent censorship, the less advanced “conservative academics” have only reached the mediocre Agitprop level and responded with a Soviet-style propaganda campaign against Mrs. West and her book. In the best traditions of those campaigns, most of the eminent critics attacked the book without ever reading it, and some of them even admitted this. Come to think of it, one hardly needs to read a book in order to accompany any mention of it with a garland of epithets such as “awful”, “embarrassingly kooky”, “poorly conceived”, “ill-informed”, “conspiracy-mongering”, “preposterous”, “incompetent”, and “dishonest”, and to insult the author in similarly intelligent expressions, including positive assertions that Mrs. West is insane (pity Professor Lunz is no longer with us). This is all the “conservative academics” did, all they could do, and all they needed to do. Just look at their headlines:
- McCarthy on Steroids;
- Diana West vs. History
- Why I Wrote a Take-Down of Diana West’s Awful Book;
- Diana West’s Attempt to Respond;
- Diana West Down Crackpot Alley;
- Diana West Invents a New Conspiracy; etc., etc.
Amazingly and alarmingly, it was FrontPage Magazine that published the Pravda-style header which triggered that campaign, and provided a catalog of smears and insults for endless repetition by other members of the consensus. No doubt a highly distinguished “conservative historian” named Professor Ronald Radosh wrote a lengthy review of American Betrayal, headlined (with remarkable wit, good taste, and academic courtesy, if we may say so) McCarthy on Steroids. There, the Learned Professor dismissed the author as Sen. “McCarthy’s heiress” and the book as a “yellow journalism conspiracy theory” not really deserving the honor of his eminent critique. In his infinite generosity, however, the Learned Professor reluctantly agrees to provide some, and picks several specific points from American Betrayal to accuse Mrs. West of dishonesty and incompetence.
For anyone who has read both Mrs. West’s book and the Professor’s review, however, it is the review that is dishonest and incompetent. The Professor’s trick is to pick a couple of minor points from the book, invent a few more points of his own which he falsely attributes to the book, declare all those points to be “the pillars of West’s conspiracy theory,” and then to “disprove” them with all academic solemnity. Unable to argue with the book itself, he instead argues with his own misrepresentation of the book.
This “review,” with all its hatred and lies, comes as no surprise to those of us who have had the misfortune of hearing about Professor Radosh before. What is disquieting is the sight of the “conservative” crowd rushing into that campaign on sheer herd instinct, not only without reading the book, but apparently even without reading the Radosh review.
After all, its dishonesty is crying out to be noticed. It is dishonest to use meaningless labels in a debate. It is dishonest to attack anything whatsoever as “McCarthyist.” It is dishonest to attack anything as a “conspiracy theory.” So long as there are conspiracies in the world, a conspiracy theory may be perfectly true. It is a conspiracy theory that Al Qaeda organized the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and yet, it happens to be true. It was a conspiracy theory that the Nazi leaders plotted aggressive wars and genocide, but it was proven, and the conspirators went to the gallows. Unlike “academic consensus,” conspiracy is a concept with a clear definition; so much so that prosecutors can prove conspiracy theories beyond reasonable doubt in court. Moreover, the criminal law concepts of conspiracy and complicity are not very far apart. Almost anything we say about communist crimes against humanity can be attacked as a conspiracy theory — and, as a rule, is attacked in these terms by Radosh & Co.
It is high time to stop dismissing things as conspiracy theories or accepting things as being consistent with the academic consensus. Some of us here are talking about truth and lies. And this, perhaps, is precisely what annoys the academics, whose monopoly on writing history depend upon the half-truths of the “consensus.”* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
There is another danger in attacking books without reading them. Aimed at the fake Radosh version of American Betrayal, the criticism obviously missed its target. Better still, the campaign has been a perfect illustration of the very point of the book (in Diana West’s original version): that “the consensus” about the Cold War is false and corrupt. It is a product of the great cover-up. It was the same consensus who first denied the facts about the Soviet crimes and Western complicity, then reluctantly admitted the facts but explained them away, and has never permitted any honest conclusions or even an honest debate.
No wonder, too, that this book is hated by ‘the consensus,” who feel perfectly comfortable in today’s world, and see no moral crisis at all. They have never thought of the Cold War as a great battle against the ultimate evil that has changed our civilization beyond recognition. To them, the history of that battle has been no more than a comfortable job. They never saw establishing the truth about it as a sacred duty we owe to the memory of millions of victims; but merely as a matter for “gentlemanly give-and-take” between “liberals” and “conservatives,” leading to a sound academic consensus.
Yet, they instinctively know this whole subject to be a minefield. The more evidence comes to light, the more scholarship is required to explain it away.
Clearly, history is far too important to be left to the historians.
Read the rest at Breitbart.
For links to previous articles about the controversy over American Betrayal, see the Diana West Archives.