The Ugliness of Intellectual Fraud:
an Apologist for Communism

Pt 3    Apologist for Catastrophe

The tensions between apology and science that pervade the book can be fully understood only by the professional scholar. Nevertheless, even the layman who will read the book primarily with a pragmatic interest in current politics will get an inkling now and then of the problems involved, for the author very considerately caters to this interest by bringing his story up to date. As a matter of fact, I have never seen a book quite as up to date as this one. On page 545 we find, "The USSR, Britain, and the United States, along with all other victims of the Nazi assault on civilization, were necessarily preoccupied in 1945-46 with de-Nazifying Germany, punishing war-criminals, collecting reparations, and rendering the Reich militarily impotent." The events of 1946 are reported in the past-tense in a book that was released on February 11, 1946, while the sentence presumably was written before January 1, 1946.

In this case there is perhaps some hope that the post-diction may prove correct when we consider it on December 31. In his elaborate interpretations of postwar Russian policies with regard to the area south of the border from Creece to Cathay, however, the author may have run ahead of events in the wrong direction. In these days, when secret agreements pop up before breakfast, when the several secret services waltz separately around each other and all together around the atom bomb, when dark things are going on in Iran and Manchuria, and when in general history happens much faster than even a brilliant intellectual can write, the layman may read about these matters any day in his morning paper and then resort to Soviet Politics in order to experience the unholy joy of catching the author with his comments down.

We cannot close without giving consideration to an argument that pervades the whole book and forms the cornerstone of the apology: the misery inflicted by the Soviet regime on the Russian people and the terroristic suppression of all opposition that arouse the resentment of the West have to be understood as a reaction to the threatening attitude assumed by the outside world toward Communism since the October Revolution. The experience of intervention and the later fear of attacks on the part of Western powers motivated the building of the industrial apparatus and of the war machine at the tremendous cost of human happiness. The policy was amply justified by events, and we have all to be grateful to the Soviet leaders for the foresight that enabled them to stop the German attack.

Hardly anyone will disagree with Schuman's political judgment concerning the importance that the Russian military performance had for us; none of us cares to imagine what might have happened if the Russian front had cracked. So far, so good. But while the time span of a decade may limit the horizon of a political intellectual who wishes to plead a cause, the political scientist has to place the events into a somewhat larger context of historical time. And while the scientist will agree that in the short term the Soviet policy was justified, if ruthless, in face of the Nazi menace, he will also have to raise the question whether the Nazi menace would have arisen at all if Marxism and the victory of the October Revolution had not been introduced as determining factors into Western politics.

In the perspective of a century we have to say that the socially disruptive and irresponsible gibberish of half-baked intellectuals about class wars and dictatorships of the proletariat has created the symbols and evoked the patterns for the solution of political problems that, once they are launched on their public course, are at everbody's disposition. They can be used not only by the intellectuals who created them, and not only in the interest of the class for which they were originally meant; they can also be used for mobilizing the war of the lower middle-class against the proletariat and for the establishment of fascist dictatorships.

Once the patterns of violence and atrocity are set, one never can know what effects they will have. The ways of causation in these matters are tortuous and often incredible. Those who scream today in horror at the Nazi gas chambers, for instance, might read with profit Mein Kampf in order to learn when and where Hitler's idea of judicious extermination of political enemies by means of poison gas germinated (Reynal and Hitchcock edition, p. 984).

The paths that lead from the Communist class-war to Fascism, however, are not so obscure. Anybody who cares to study the intellectual biography of Georges Sorel will recognize the transitions. And there is a direct relationship between the fasci of industrial workers, founded in the 1870s in the Romagna by Bakunin and his friends during the expansion of the First International, and the fasci of the Romagnole Mussolini whose parents grew up in this environment.

The book under review shows no traces that the author is aware of such connections; there is no awareness that the deeds of hatred have a habit of growing into further deeds of hatred with an increasing ferocity; and there is no awareness that the end of this chain of intensification may not have been reached. Not only is there no such awareness, but Schuman adopts an ethics of raison d'etat that connives unconditionally in atrocities and approves the pattern of hatred. Political necessity justifies the means as long as the end is Communism.

When, for instance, the idea of a Communist society and proletarian dictatorship runs into the reality of the independent Russian peasantry, who after all are the majority of the Russian people, political necessity does not require that the Communist intellectuals beat a retreat and leave the peasants alone when the intellectuals cannot influence them by persuasion; political necessity requires that the peasants be butchered in the name of the holy class-war until the survivors see the light and let themselves to be organized in collective enterprises.

The continuation of the apologetic game into such situations, the disrespect for the victims of a historical catastrophe, and sometimes even a tone of flippancy in the face of their suffering are truly regrettable features of the book. They will arouse the revulsion of many readers, who for their "sentimentalism" will promptly be classified as "crypto-Fascists" by the author, and they will arouse an apprehension of the Nemesis that will overcome the intellectuals of whom the author is representative.

In spite of all that had to be said, Schuman's book is the outstanding treatise on Soviet politics and by far the best that can be recommended to the reader for information on this subject. Let us be clear, however, that this recommendation is the worst condemnation conceivable of the present state of political science.

Selected Book Reviews
CW Vol 13
[Review: Soviet Politics: At Home and Abroad ,
by Frederick L. Schuman
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946)]
pp 143-146.