What follows is a New Year’s present to Diana West and a tardy acknowledgement of the work of two more writers who rose to her defense. (Our donors are well-acquainted with my particular brand of ‘tardy’ — its forms are usually just as long as this one will prove to be.)
Here are two reviews of Diana West’s book American Betrayal by people who actually read it with care and give the book its proper historical context.
These reviews would have been re-posted here sooner, but when I heard The Bully Boys would be gathering once again in another futile attempt to quash and/or disqualify American Betrayal, it seemed wiser to hold these two arrows and release them at the right moment. Thus I waited until after their pile-on went public to present these authentic responses.
I’m told the essays are a “seminar” or a “symposium”. Do esteemed historians hold symposia in which the author who will be the center of their attention is not invited or notified? Seriously? This tale wanders on, and the levels of bizarre accumulate. Anyone got a Geiger counter handy?
This beat down is far past customary and usual. We have entered some strange country by now. Surely Ms. West must feel like a shank of bone being chewed to death by the neighborhood’s pesky dogs. Sniffing and growling, they are worrying the subject of Diana West’s book to death. Obviously they’ve failed to grasp that each new gnaw and growl simply shows them up more certainly as beyond reason…or Reason. After this regression, they will need to be house-trained all over again.
To change metaphors a bit, think of prepubescent boys who fall all over themselves to pull the pretty girl’s pigtails while denying the truth — i.e., they’re bewitched by her charms. Each new protestation and hair-pull underlines this fatal attraction. It’s obvious to everyone but themselves.
The whole thing makes you wonder what would ever make them stop their attacks. Are they even permitted to do so or must this charade, sans truth or grace or integrity, go on until they shuffle off this mortal coil? Will only death permit them to shrug off the harness? They are so far past normal behavior that simple compassion makes one want to look away from their laborious strain and suffering.
I do declare, boys can be such a bother when they can’t admit they’re bewildered by a woman’s power. Ah well, let’s leave them to their firecrackers and slingshots and the increasingly impatient comments from their readers, many of whom have pointed out how the ugly demeanor of their enterprise undercuts any points they’d hoped to make.
Meanwhile, back in the world of reason and adulthood, are the two reviews I received…well, as of today I received them last year. It’s that tardy thing.
The first response is from Joshua Pundit. As you peruse his post, notice that he actually read the book.
In the original post, he prefaces his review with puzzlement about David Horowitz’ animus. Like many of us he finds the anger and vitriol puzzling and off-putting.
I’ve cut and pasted here, but I urge you to read his whole review. It is thoughtful; his criticism is measured, taking into account geographic reality as well as political implications. The emphases bolded below are mine:
“American Betrayal”, briefly, is a meticulously sourced history of the Soviet penetration into American life and culture and especially records the influence Soviet sympathizers and actual Soviet agents enjoyed in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Even more importantly to my mind is the parallel she draws between the pro-Soviet influence in that time and the influence of Islamists in the Bush and the Obama Administrations today, something I’ve written about frequently on these pages and which I think is a great deal more dangerous than we realize.
The Soviet’s use of Gramscian warfare — named after Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, one of Lenin’s favorite communist strategists — started with the establishment of the Comintern in 1919, a Soviet institution designed to bring every communist party worldwide under Soviet control and domination for the purpose of exporting the Bolshevik revolution to the West. Gramsci’s strategy, which Lenin and the Comintern adopted, was to do this covertly by penetrating and corrupting a nation’s cultural, educational, political and labor institutions from within and dominating them, while marshaling the members under ‘party discipline’, which meant essentially following Soviet orders without question.
Anyone seeking to know more about this then we once did now has the tools of the Venona papers, an Army intelligence project started to intercept and translate Soviet cables to their agents here in America and the records of the Soviet archives, which scholars enjoyed brief access to during Boris Yeltsin’s tenure as Russian president.
West documents how the Roosevelt administration was totally penetrated. One of FDR’s first moves as president in 1933 was to pioneer the formal recognition of the USSR in spite of the show trials, the terror famines and the ruthless nature of Stalin’s regime.
Soviet agents like Alger Hiss, Owen Latimore, Harry Dexter White, virtually the entire staff of the influential wartime Office of War Information (OWI) and a number of others tended to occupy key advisory posts behind the scenes rather than high profile spots in the administration, with one possible exception…FDR’s ‘co-president’ Harry Hopkins, who controlled much of the access to the president especially in later years and was at best a Soviet sympathizer, at worst a possible Soviet agent.
Especially of interest is how Hopkins, who was in charge of U.S. aid to our allies in WWII via the Lend-Lease program put the Soviets at the top priority for U.S. arms shipments, even ahead of the British or our own forces. The Russians, who were happily trading with Hitler until the Nazi invasion of June 1940 received the equivalent over $300 billion in military aid from the U.S. in today’s money, much of which they later used to occupy eastern Europe. West presents evidence that this aid may even have included nuclear materials, although other sources suggest that the evidence is mixed.
When at one point J.Edgar Hoover told Hopkins that an FBI investigation had discovered that Russian diplomat (and Comintern agent) Vasily Zarubin had made a payment to U.S. Communist Party official Steve Nelson to help place espionage agents ‘in industries engaged in secret war production’, Hopkins actually warned the Soviet embassy in Washington DC about the investigation and the FBI’s knowledge of the relationship between Nelson and Zarubin, according to documents from the KGB archives smuggled out by [former Soviet intelligence officer Vasili] Mitrokhin.Hoover never trusted Hopkins again.
One of the chief contentions Diana West makes is that the entire Second Front and the D-Day invasion in Normandy was essentially a betrayal of American interests by communist agents and sympathizers in DC designed to allow the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe. As evidence for this, she cites the winding down of our front in Italy, Allied insistence on ‘unconditional surrender’ and our failure to utilize supposed anti-Nazi movements in Germany led by figures like the Abwehr’s head Admiral Canaris.
That…is one of the places where the book delves into…speculation…
West’s argument in the book — and hence the title — is that this appeasement of what President Reagan aptly called the Evil Empire affected our national character adversely. Certainly, it led to the enslavement of Eastern Europe and decades of Cold War with a huge expense in treasure and American lives. There’s a great deal of truth in that, and FDR’s 1933 recognition of the Soviet Union helped the process along immensely. But it’s also worth remembering that even prior to 1933, the Soviets were busy at work infiltrating American institutions. Men like Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White and Alger Hiss did not suddenly materialize out of thin air:
“The fact is, the implications of normalizing relations with the thoroughly abnormal USSR didn’t just reward and legitimize a regime of rampantly metastasizing criminality. Because the Communist regime was so openly and ideologically dedicated to our destruction, the act of recognition defied reason and the demands of self-preservation. Recognition and all that came with it, including alliance, would soon become the enemy of reason and self-preservation. In this way, as Dennis J. Dunn points out, we see a double standard in American foreign policy evolve, and, I would add, in American thinking more generally. It was here that we abandoned the lodestars of good and evil, the clarity of black and white. Closing our eyes, we dove head first into a weltering morass of exquisitely enervating and agonizing grays.”
And documenting that is one of the most important aspects of West’s book. While one can disagree with some of her conclusions about WWII, there’s no mistaking that she documents quite well how the Soviets used Gramscian warfare against the United States to subvert academia, our media, our culture and our political institutions…and her linkage …establishes…what’s happening with the Islamist penetration in DC today is important, even if shoe merely touches on it.
That, and West’s accessible style makes this book a must read.
Joshua Pundit’s review is so refreshing after the many meretricious “arguments” employed to destroy her work and her character. I’m sure he’d welcome any comments on the original post itself rather than having to come over here to see them. Considering how long it took me to post his remarks, your visit there would be a most welcome remediation to my long silence.
The second review is quite different. Instead of JP’s notice of the Gramscian influence on Soviet and Western communism, Richard Falknor discusses George Orwell’s contemporaneous experience in England, comparing it to what was going on in the US, and what has transpired since Diana West’s delineation of America’s betrayal by CPUSA.
For those of us whose knowledge of Orwell doesn’t extend beyond 1984 this pairing is helpful. One can see even more clearly how pervasive Soviet Communism was throughout the political and academic strata in the U.K. and in the U.S. [And yes, the irony in Blue Ridge Forum’s choice of a New Criterion essay here does indeed resonate]. The USSR devoted immense capital in people and treasure to undermine the West, but nowhere else received the kind of attention to which the Anglo-world was subject.
I have come to enjoy the idiosyncratic formatting of the Forum’s essays, though it took some getting used to. Since it would be time-consuming to reproduce exactly the ‘how’ of their choices, I’ve elected to use only their method of emphasis via a change in font color while reverting to GoV’s employment of blockquoting large sections. This may help clarify the message.
Again, I urge you to visit , the original in order to pick up on the extensive links, which are not included here. Just following those links and picking a book or two for your own early 2014 edification would be worth your time. Our generation is sadly short of history.
My own few emphases are bolded (as is the title).
1930s & 1940s Soviet Illusion: Orwell’s Experience; West’s Exposé
by Richard Falknor
George Orwell (Eric Blair) — remembered most for his novels Animal Farm and 1984 — faced serious pro-Soviet hostility from the British chattering classes in the 1930s and 1940s.
This hostility to truth-telling about the Soviets — in the 1930s and 1940s — illustrates the wide reach of their influence, which Diana West chronicled for us at home in the United States in her American Betrayal.
These were times when so many — even in the English-speaking world — had lost their good judgment about Moscow and its lethal objectives. [NOTE: unfortunately once the Berlin Wall went down it seemed to take our hard-earned knowledge with it — D ]
David Pryce-Jones last month reviewed…Peter Davison’s George Orwell: A Life in Letters. (Of Davison, “the undisputed keeper of the [Orwell] flame,” and of the book itself Pryce-Jones declares “to have Orwell speaking in his own voice while accompanied by so informed a guide is to recover more of his daily life than would be possible in a biography.”)
In his November 2013 The New Criterion post “A Man of Letters,” Pryce-Jones illuminates the political atmosphere of Britain during the 1930s and 1940s—
And then there are the Communists of the period, of course writers, journalists, and academics to the fore, but also churchmen, aristocrats, trade unionists, miners, flapper girls, and film stars, the lot. Prince Potemkin had once put up false villages whose pretense to prosperity hid the background misery, and in just that manner the Communists presented the Soviet Union as the perfect universal society. For reasons that must go deep into the human psyche, Soviet deception met a corresponding need to be deceived. Replacing reality with illusion, rejecting cause and effect, Communism was an irrational mass movement the like of which had not been seen since the credulous Middle Ages.”
National Review senior editor Pryce-Jones points out—
The Soviet Union disposed of a huge co-ordinated apparatus of Party members and fellow-traveling supporters. They were treating betrayal of principle, the use of military force, and the crushing of opinion as the modus operandi for the future. It was completely unforeseeable that a not-very-well-known English writer would alert the world by means of two short fables. Quite simply, George Orwell had found the form and the words to explode the pretensions of Communism. No English writer since Dickens or Kipling has had such influence on opinion.”.
And getting Animal Farm finally into print in 1945? Pryce-Jones explains—
Animal Farm, his fable about the Soviet Union, then an ally, and that too now belongs to the national story. T. S. Eliot, not a pansy Leftist, was one among several publishers to turn it down because this was not ‘the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time.’Put another way, even a conservative poet like Eliot preferred to suppress a masterpiece rather than criticize the Soviets. Other publishers rejected it for the same political reasons until Fredric Warburg came to the rescue.
Too many voices during this period apparently shared a contempt for parliamentary capitalism.
Historian John Lukacs writes in The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler about June 1940 — just after the fall of France:
Many people in the world saw in what had happened an evidence and a justification of their own ideas about the corrupt and inefficient, the hypocritical and antiquated nature of parliamentary government, of bourgeois democracy, of liberal capitalism — institutions and causes of which, after the collapse of France, Britain seemed to be the only remaining representative in Europe. This current surfaced across the globe.On the day of France’s capitulation Gandhi wrote in the Indian newspaper Harijan, on 22 June: ‘Germans of future generations will honour Herr Hitler as a genius, as a brave man, a matchless organizer and much more.’
Lukacs compiles a “list of European thinkers and artists who in 1940 welcomed what they saw as a cleansing wave of the present and future.” The list ranges from the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin to the writer Andre Gide.[NB: Lukacs’ book would be well worth reading just for this list — Dymphna]
Pryce-Jones continues —
Thousands of English men and women had been on conducted tours of Republican Spain, returning home eager to pass their deception and self-deception on to others. While still in Spain recovering from his wound, Orwell had written to his publisher Victor Gollancz, ‘I hope I shall get a chance to write the truth about what I have seen. The stuff appearing in the English papers is largely the most appalling lies.’ The obstacles that he then encountered in telling the truth were to be enshrined in the British national story. Appeasement of Communism was a stronger influence on public opinion than the Chamberlain government’s appeasement of Nazism. The New Statesman, the voice of the intellectual Left, accepted Orwell’s suggestion for an article about events in Spain, only to reject his first-hand report of the criminal suppression of his anarchist colleagues. Kingsley Martin, the magazine editor responsible, was an archetypal Soviet apologist and fellow-traveler. Homage to Catalonia was Orwell’s longer account of his Spanish ordeal and his first political book. Gollancz, also a Soviet apologist and fellow-traveler, most certainly was not going to allow Orwell the chance to tell the truth. He refused to publish what has become a classic of reportage.
So how does Orwell’s experience relate to Diana West’s exposé, American Betrayal?
West’s is a tale of Soviet influence, not just spying, in the United States during much the same period. But to succeed, this influence had to be nourished by the credulity of America’s political and fashionable and artistic classes. And, as West argues, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt set the national tone by his 1933 “normalization” of relations with the Soviet Union. But, like the United Kingdom of the 1930s and 1940s, as Pryce-Jones relates—
Replacing reality with illusion, rejecting cause and effect, Communism was an irrational mass movement the like of which had not been seen since the credulous Middle Ages.”
Many if not most influential American voices then believed in some flavor of the progressive movement. A few, apparently from another perspective, such as Anne Morrow Lindbergh, argued in The Wave of the Future, that (in John Lukacs’ summary) “the old world of liberal individualism and parliamentary democracy was being replaced by something new.”
And today? In spite of the danger of president Barack Obama’s lawless governance, however, there are substantial numbers of outspoken Americans who believe in genuine constitutional government. But in the 1930s and 1940s, we simply did not have the well-developed, widespread articulate conservative movement we know today, leaving America then all the more vulnerable to the Soviet deception.
Providentially, our society survived that threat of over a half-century ago. But we must study these past perils in order effectively to combat grave current ones, always bearing in mind historian Stan Evans’ wry maxim—
Evans Law of Inadequate Paranoia, which says no matter how bad you think something is, when you look into it, it’s always worse. And this — this has been totally vindicated. Every time I turn around, I find something else that makes me say, “I can’t believe it”.
Particularly for American conservatives in the mid-Atlantic region, the Blue Ridge Forum’s voice is important in our ongoing battle against the entrenched me-tooism of the Republican party, especially in its current deformed shape inside the Beltway.
For links to previous articles about the controversy over American Betrayal, see the Diana West Archives.