Slow history and the mysterious 20th century
As any Alice Waters devotee will tell you, one heirloom Arkansas Black picked by eye and plucked by hand, wiped on your shirt and bitten in a single motion, weighs more than a climate-controlled tractor-trailer full of Red Delicious. It’s the same with history. Slow food is easy to find these days. Slow history—not so much.
There is nothing intrinsically foul about commercial bulk apples. Theoretically, a mechanical system could be constructed that grew Arkansas Blacks in Chile, scanned their peels with machine vision and sniffed them with gas spectrometers, picked them at their perfect peak, and transferred them immediately to ballistic launchers that sent them arcing, cushioned and heated, through space to the Safeway in Walnut Creek. Could this super space apple be just as good as the one you just picked? Why not? In practice, however, a commercial apple travels through far more mundane processing steps, each of which does its small part to reduce fruit to flavored styrofoam.
Consider Franklin D. Roosevelt. Like Red Delicious apples, information about the first president of USG 4 is not in short supply. But what is the quality of this information? Who has processed, filtered, packed and shipped it?
Just as Chilean space apples would eliminate our need for slow food, a time machine—even one which could only observe—would eliminate our need for slow history. Suppose some physicist could plant a retroactive bug on FDR, so that we could hear everything “that man” said from 1933 to 1944. Would the 20th century have any secrets left? Not many, I suspect.
As it turns out, we actually have 8 hours of FDR tapes. These were made inadvertently, so they are of the highest historical quality—like the time-machine bug, not processed for any audience. Here is the real FDR.
That was not a Red Delicious apple. Can you taste the difference? You can, can’t you?
Even the difference between the actual audio and a mere transcript matters, for interesting things can happen between the tree and the hand. (If you’re curious about John Dean and the true history of Watergate, I strongly recommend this work despite its slightly overstated title.)
Hence slow history. The student of slow history, who has no faith at all in consensus wisdom, official truth, and “everybody knows” chestnuts, is willing to rest enormous judgments on a single, indisputable, authentic primary source.
For instance, when I state that US foreign policy in the 20th century is historically rooted in post-millennial Protestant theology, I can link directly to my favorite primary source—this TIME Magazine article from 1942.
It is simply a fact that in 1942, TIME’s writers and its readers knew what a “super-protestant” foreign policy was, because it is a fact that this article was written, edited, and read. It could have been inserted in the TIME archive by crafty anti-Protestant hackers, or for that matter by aliens, but the student of history need not give these fantasies much weight. And without them, globalist foreign policy is the work of “organized U.S. Protestantism.” Believe it or not, the YMCA is an important actor in the period. Now, it might be that some even more sinister group was behind the “Y”—the aliens, the Jews, the Ogpu, etc.—but when we write the YMCA out of 20th-century history, we are writing bad history. And I can prove it, because I have that link.
Today I want to perform another such feat of “slow history.” I’ll be explaining the entire 20th century from a few fragments of text in the diaries of Ulrich von Hassell. I do not read German, so I am subject to the translator’s whim, and of course one never knows what has been done to a document before it hits the presses. Aliens, Jews, government historians, etc., could be involved. But still, my trust in this document is only slightly lower than in the TIME archives. And these diaries are diaries, so not written directly for publication.
I trust the author, too. In my view, there is no group or faction without blame in the tremendous tragedy of World War II. But it is widely acknowledged that some of the most meritorious actors were the aristocratic German nationalists of the July 20 plot, and so far as it goes I agree with this consensus—which certainly fits my own ideology. Hassell, a German diplomat of the best breeding and education, was picked as the Foreign Minister of the post-Hitler Germany. After Hitler survived Tom Cruise’s bomb, Hassell was naturally shot, but his diaries were in a safe place. He comes about as close as possible to the stereotype of the “good German,” and his diaries display a cultivation and clarity rare in any era. They are far superior to the Ciano diaries, and the Ciano diaries are pretty good.
Hassell, who occupied no position of serious responsibility during the war (the Nazis, not being entirely stupid, did not trust him) was extremely well plugged-in to diplomatic reality across the New Order. For instance, his information on the Holocaust is excellent. December 1942, p. 277:
Frauendorfer, SS man and wearer of the gold Party badge, was most impressive in his boundless despair about all he had lived through in Poland. It was so terrible that he could not endure it. Now he wants to go to the front as a simple soldier. Continual, indescribable mass murder of Jews. SS people rode around in the ghetto after the curfew hour for Jews and used automatic pistols on anybody who was still out, for example, children who lingered playing in the streets.
May 15, 1943, p. 302:
Shocking reports come from the good Frauendorfer in Poland. While Frank publicly declares he wanted to give Poland a dignified and free existence… the SS in Poland carries on most shamefully. Countless Jews have been gassed in specially built chambers, at least 100,000… Meanwhile the unhappy remnants of the Jews prepared to defend themselves, and there is heavy fighting which will certainly lead to their complete extermination by the SS. It is Hitler’s achievement that the German has become the most loathed animal in the whole world.
Sorry, Nazis. This is hardly the only or even the best attestation of the Holocaust; what it shows is simply that in 1943, Hassell through his social contacts was (a) aware of this tightly held military secret, and (b) reports it both correctly and conservatively.
But there is nothing surprising here. The mysterious 20th century? Comrades, we understand the 20th century completely! After all, we just lived through it, didn’t we? And the good guys won, and good guys tell the truth. Quod erat demonstrandum.
Did the good guys win? The guys who lost were certainly bad. But there is a leap of logic here. We certainly have a lot of facts about the 20th century; here is one we have that Hassell didn’t. My first ellipsis above conceals a rather interesting error. Let me restore it:
Shocking reports come from the good Frauendorfer in Poland. While Frank publicly declares he wanted to give Poland a dignified and free existence, and while the gang tries in vain to befuddle world opinion about the Katyn murders, the SS in Poland carries on most shamefully. Countless Jews have been gassed in specially built chambers, at least 100,000…
Hassell, one breath before accurately reporting the Holocaust, is completely suckered by Allied propaganda. He quite naturally assumes that Goebbels (“the gang”) is lying here as well. In fact, if you were a student of history at any time before 1950, and you wanted to know the truth about Katyn, your only choice was the Ministry of Public Enlightenment.
Here, from Wikipedia itself, is how our own Dear Leader handled this matter:
In the United States, a similar line was taken, notwithstanding that two official intelligence reports into the Katyn massacre were produced that contradicted the official position. In 1944 Roosevelt assigned his special emissary to the Balkans, Navy Lieutenant Commander George Earle, to produce a report on Katyn. Earle concluded that the massacre was committed by the Soviet Union.
Having consulted with Elmer Davis, the director of the Office of War Information, Roosevelt rejected the conclusion (officially), declared that he was convinced of Nazi Germany’s responsibility, and ordered that Earle’s report be suppressed. When Earle formally requested permission to publish his findings, the President issued a written order to desist. Earle was reassigned and spent the rest of the war in American Samoa.
A further report in 1945, supporting the same conclusion, was produced and stifled. In 1943, two US POWs—Lt. Col. Donald B. Stewart and Col. John H. Van Vliet—had been taken by Germans to Katyn for an international news conference. Later, in 1945, Van Vliet submitted a report concluding that the Soviets were responsible for the massacre. His superior, Maj. Gen. Clayton Bissell, Gen. George Marshall’s assistant chief of staff for intelligence, destroyed the report.
FDR: accessory after the fact (at the very least) to genocide. Uncontroversial consensus history. Scroll back up and listen to the man with the cigarette holder. Don’t you think he’s capable of it? Americans were certainly capable of voting for him. “It is Hitler’s achievement that the German has become the most loathed animal in the entire world.” Collective guilt: not only for Germans.
But why is Ulrich von Hassell fooled? He is anything but a Communist, or even a liberal. But he knows that (1) murdering Polish intelligentsia was the policy of the SS, the “black pirates” as he calls them; and (2) Goebbels is capable of lying about anything. The sins of the Allies are relatively distant from his mind. The sins of the Nazis obsess and devour him. Shouldn’t they?
What Ulrich von Hassell is: a traditional European Anglophile diplomat. He can be under no illusions as to the Nazis; he is surrounded by Nazis. But his England is distant and idealized. His America is even more distant and idealized. The closer to Berlin we get, the more reliable a time machine we have in Hassell. Farther away, it is his errors that become interesting.
Here is Hassell on a mystery that remains controversial. July 20, 1943, p. 312:
There is absolutely no foundation for the assertion that Russia wanted to attack, or would have attacked later… Russia would never have attacked Germany, or at least never have attacked successfully, so long as Germany possessed an unbroken army.
May 27, 1944, p. 345:
An incident which took place recently at the Beuths’ seemed significant to me. Someone expressed the opinion that we had indeed been forced to attack Russia, otherwise the Soviets would have attacked us. I burst out with: “I am absolutely convinced of the contrary!” Whereupon there was a very obvious, embarrassed, and frightened silence. At last someone said: “But it would be terrible if you were right!”
What is Hassell talking about? The Icebreaker controversy. Briefly, the early events of Operation Barbarossa, in which German forces captured enormous Soviet formations utterly unprepared to defend themselves, are attributed by consensus historians to Soviet carelessness, incompetence or even naivete. Wikipedia:
In August 1940 British intelligence had received hints of German plans to attack the Soviets only a week after Hitler informally approved the plans for Barbarossa. Stalin’s distrust of the British led to his ignoring the warnings, believing it to be a trick designed to bring the Soviet Union into the war. In the spring of 1941, Stalin’s own intelligence services and American intelligence made regular and repeated warnings of an impending German attack. However, Stalin chose to ignore these warnings. Although acknowledging the possibility of an attack in general and making significant preparations, he decided not to run the risk of provoking Hitler. He also had an ill-founded confidence in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which had been signed just two years before.
Despite the Axis failure to achieve Barbarossa’s initial goals, the huge Soviet losses caused a shift in Soviet propaganda. Before the onset of hostilities against Germany, the Soviet government had said its army was very strong. But, by autumn 1941, the Soviet line was that the Red Army had been weak, that there had not been enough time to prepare for war, and that the German attack had come as a surprise.
In 1941, Stalin says: Hitler attacked peace-loving, naive, incompetent, Stalin. In 2010, does the Soviet party line of 1941 ring true to you? It still rings true to Wikipedia, and to most Western historians. It also rings true to Ulrich von Hassell—but so did FDR and Stalin’s line on Katyn. That lie did not hold past the ’50s. But others could have.
Suvorov, whose work I find plausible if not completely overwhelming, has a different explanation: Soviet forces were defenseless because they were positioned not for defense, but mobilized for their own surprise attack, possibly scheduled as little as a few weeks later. Hence, as Wikipedia puts it:
At the time, 41% of stationary Soviet bases were located in the near-boundary districts, many of them in the 200 km (120 mi) strip around the border; according to Red Army directive, fuel, equipment, railroad cars, etc. were similarly concentrated there…. Enormous Soviet forces were massed behind the western border in case the Germans did attack.
However, these forces were very vulnerable due to changes in the tactical doctrine of the Red Army. In 1938, it had adopted, on the instigation of General Pavlov, a standard linear defence tactic on a line with other nations. Infantry divisions, reinforced by an organic tank component, would be dug in to form heavily fortified zones. Then came the shock of the Fall of France. The French Army, considered the strongest in the world, was defeated in a mere six weeks. Soviet analysis of events, based on incomplete information, concluded that the collapse of the French was caused by a reliance on linear defence and a lack of armored reserves. The Soviets decided not to repeat these mistakes. Instead of digging in for linear defence, the infantry divisions would henceforth be concentrated in large formations. Most tanks would also be concentrated into 29 mechanized corps, each with over 1031 tanks.
If Suvorov is right (and Hassell wrong), it is not hard to see the reality behind this rather transparent cover story. “Enormous Soviet forces were massed behind the western border in case the Germans did attack.” Certainly, the German invasion forces were massed into large formations of mechanized corps. Had the Soviets thrown the first punch (as Suvorov points out), the German panzer spearheads would have been no less defenseless.
The student of history is also suspicious when he sees multiple, contradictory explanations of the same phenomenon. Stalin trusted Hitler, except that he didn’t trust Hitler. So he prepared his defenses, but he prepared them wrong. He abandoned his linear defenses, one year after having his ass beaten black and blue by the Mannerheim Line. Instead, he moved the Red Army up to the border and organized it into offensive formations, strictly for counterattacking of course.
The task of history is the comparison of alternate pictures. Why do I believe in the consensus explanation of the Holocaust? Because I cannot form a picture of the 1940s in which the Jews of Central Europe simply disappear, and nobody explains where and why they went. If the Holocaust revisionists of the world stopped playing “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” and spent a tenth of the time explaining what happened to the shtetl Jews who weren’t gassed by the SS, they might have a chance of convincing me. If they could, wouldn’t they? Whereas, in my true history which contains the Holocaust, all the pieces seem to fit together.
The story of Stalin the innocent, peace-loving klutz, as purveyed by Stalin, fits awkwardly at best. The story of Stalin who was about to launch a blitzkrieg against the Third Reich fits quite well. Of course, this would have been a military secret at the time, and of course military secrets remain military secrets by default. Thus, the secrets of 1941 remain controversies in 2010. The 20th century: still mysterious, comrades.
What do we learn from Hassell here? Hassell does not believe in Stalin’s invasion. He doesn’t believe in Katyn, either. Moreover, by his disbelief, he illustrates the fact that officials of the Third Reich generally did believe in Stalin’s invasion. It was not just the Nazi line, though it was the Nazi line; it was also the confidential, cocktail-party truth. “But it would be terrible if you were right!”
To non-Anglophile Germans, the reality of 1941 was that Hitler, who had always argued against a two-front war, invaded the Soviet Union as a desperate act of self-defense against the Bolshevik hordes. Who, when they got into Europe, behaved almost precisely as Hitler predicted. Could it be true? My magic 8-ball says: more likely than not. A very different history, comrades.
The most interesting question about the hypothetical Soviet invasion of Europe, one I have never seen broached, is what FDR knew. Certainly, he would have welcomed such an attack. If one was scheduled, did Harry Hopkins know about it? Was it planned, even, in Washington? Was the entire Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact a gambit to set up this endgame? Certainly, FDR had no qualms about his sponsorship of Stalin in any other context.
The possibility is not at all unthinkable. It is neither beyond the intellectual or practical capacity of the actors, nor outside their moral horizons, nor would have been disclosed by now if true. In fact, such an arrangement might never have been committed to paper—much as Hitler never put an order for the Holocaust on paper. We might never know. The 20th century: still mysterious.
But still, there is more. March 29, 1943, p. 296:
Meanwhile, Mr. Wallace, Vice-President of the United States, made his address on the three ideologies. The “Christian-democratic” view had to prevail over the “Prussian-militaristic” view (in spite of its unquestionable qualities which were used to advance a wrong purpose). The third ideology, the “Marxist,” would have to be rejected. Except for the usual identification of Hitlerism and Prussianism (which I reject), the speech shows the deep-seated differences between the eastern and western allies, and indicates what opportunities there would be for a different German regime.
In this connection Gerstenmeier had a highly interesting conversation in Sweden with clergymen and ——- about the secret Germany. The same question always comes from abroad: “Is there a secret Germany? Why does it put up with all that goes on?”
On the occasion of Wallace’s speech, the Neue Züricher Zeitung for the first time takes sides unmistakably with Germany’s enemies. A speech by the Turkish Prime Minister is clearly pro-Anglo-Saxon.
A grotesque byplay: Old Prince Chigi, Italian and fascist, visits the American Archbishop Spellman in Vatican City in order to confer on him the Cross of the Order of Malta (certainly not without Mussolini’s permission!) The Osservatore Romano treats bolshevism as a thing that must be completely rejected, but emphasizes that it is an indigenous European growth which by chance has matured in one country (Russia). Consequently there was no reason for the Pope to take sides against this nation.
We see clearly how Hassell’s reliability diminishes as we move away from Berlin. Of all figures in the world, he has just allowed Henry Wallace to convince him that there is a fundamental difference between Eastern and Western Allies—between communism and liberalism.
Henry Wallace, of course, was perhaps America’s most distinguished anti-communists of the ’40s. Wallace, who later became one of Alger Hiss’s principal persecutors, would later be influential in founding the John Birch Society, and most famously charged that President Eisenhower was secretly in cahoots with the Bolsheviks… oh, sorry! I was thinking of Robert Welch.
As for the real Henry Wallace, who a year later would set out with Owen Lattimore on the Great Siberian Gulag Tour of 1944, Wikipedia tells us:
In 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea, Wallace broke with the Progressives and backed the U.S.-led war effort in the Korean War. In 1952, Wallace published Where I Was Wrong, in which he explained that his seemingly-trusting stance toward the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin stemmed from inadequate information about Stalin’s excesses and that he, too, now considered himself an anti-Communist. He… advocated the re-election of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.
This is the great thing about the Cold War. Any liberal, even Henry Wallace, can be an anti-communist at any time. He can be a communist, then an anti-communist, then a Communist again, then an anti-communist again. In a word, he’s pragmatic. He is not to be confused, of course, with a dogmatic red-baiting paranoid fanatic—like Robert Welch. Who thought Dwight D. Eisenhower was a communist. But how could Dwight D. Eisenhower be a communist, when he was supported by a famous anti-communist—like Henry Wallace?
Thus the student of history finds himself confronted with two kinds of anti-communist: the Henry Wallace kind and the Robert Welch kind. They do not appear to much associate with each other. If Robert Welch is an anti-communist, what is Henry Wallace? The short answer is: a liberal. And what is the relationship between liberalism and communism? Well, whatever it is, simple it ain’t.
The division between Henry Wallace and Joseph Stalin, assuming for purposes of argument its reality, is a classic case of sectarian conflict on the left. Leftism is riddled with sects; Trotskyists versus Stalinists versus Maoists, and the like. There is no denying that American liberalism was broadly allied with Moscow in 1944, and broadly in conflict with Moscow in 1948. This is best seen as a sectarian schism in a single church; the “Cold War” is not an existential conflict of Left and Right, like the war on Hitler, but a fracture in a single global movement. As we speak of the Sino-Soviet split, we might speak of the “Anglo-Soviet split.”
This is certainly not a point of view that leads us to agree with Hassell’s Osservatore Romano, in its judgment that Bolshevism is “an indigenous European growth which by chance has matured in one country (Russia).” The opposite hypothesis is suggested: that Bolshevism is an exotic, non-European growth. I.e., an American growth. I.e., when America infects Russia with liberalism, the spore (lacking native enemies) grows into its malign form of Bolshevism. Contra Hassell, democracy and communism are two forms of the same disease.
This explanation of the 20th century is held by… no one. Well, hardly anyone. Stanislav Mishin might give it the time of day. And, of course, it also reminds us of Hitler’s explanation—but without that awful, anti-Semitic edge.
In truth, when we see that even a sophisticate like Hassell understands America so poorly that he can fall for Henry Wallace as a staunch anti-Communist, we find it easier to explain if not excuse Hitler. How on earth was Hitler to know that FDR wasn’t a puppet of the Elders of Zion? Hassell was a jet-setter avant la lettre, comfortable in all European capitals; Hitler was a rube, who had never been west of Ypres. What basis would he have for distinguishing the YMCA from the Elders of Zion, messianic Protestantism from messianic Judaism, liberalism from freemasonry, Anglophilia from Hebrolatry? Zero.
And certainly, the Allies spared little effort in reinforcing his fears. Whatever the psychological motivation for his merciless Teutophobia, FDR’s forces displayed exactly the same ruthlessness and energy we’d expect if the Elders of Zion were out to conquer the world and Germany had just pissed in their Cheerios. Again: how was Hitler to know he wasn’t fighting a race war against the Jews? Who should he have asked?
If we accept this theory, the entire basis of the July 20 rebellion, which postulated that Germany would continue to fight for an honorable peace and resist Bolshevism, was entirely flawed. If Tom Cruise had blown up Hitler, the Third Reich would have suffered exactly the fate of Badoglio’s Italy (or, for that matter, Ebert’s Germany). Within days, weeks or hours, peace negotiations would instantly have morphed into conditional surrender, which would have morphed into unconditional surrender. Certainly by 1944, insane Nazi fanaticism was the only thing that could have kept Germany fighting.
And the future of a defeated Germany? Again, it’s hard not to think that Hitler’s predictions of 2010 might be more accurate than Hassell’s. The differences between the EU and the late USSR are increasingly difficult to define. It appears that revolutionary communism and peaceful liberalism are very different roads to a very similar destination—a sort of Western Brezhnevism. And isn’t it the goal, not the methods, that define the ideology? By this standards, you will search hard for any definition of the differences.
Which leads us to the most provocative section of the Hassell quote above:
The same question always comes from abroad: “Is there a secret Germany? Why does it put up with all that goes on?”
“Is there a secret Germany?” Now, imagine this question is coming from, say, Sweden. If you were from Sweden, under what condition would this be a natural question? If there was a “secret Sweden?” Or if there was no “secret Sweden?”
Suppose you were from a country where there were prostitutes, and you visit Germany. You might ask: “are there German prostitutes?” This would be a very natural question. If you were from a country with no prostitutes, however, it would be an unusual question.
Sweden, of course, is a minor case of “abroad.” What Hassell really means by “abroad” is the Anglophile world—the world Nazi Germany is rebelling against. Thus, when interlocutors from England and America ask about the “secret Germany,” we can at the very least suspect the existence of a “secret England” and a “secret America.”
Conspiracy theorists unite! Which leads us to the famous Carroll Quigley quote:
The radical Right version of these events as written up by John T. Flynn, Freda Utley, and others, was even more remote from the truth than were Budenz’s or Bentley’s versions, although it had a tremendous impact on American opinion and American relations with other countries in the years 1947–1955. This radical Right fairy tale, which is now an accepted folk myth in many groups in America, pictured the recent history of the United States, in regard to domestic reform and in foreign affairs, as a well-organized plot by extreme Left-wing elements, operating from the White House itself and controlling all the chief avenues of publicity in the United States, to destroy the American way of life, based on private enterprise, laissez faire, and isolationism, in behalf of alien ideologies of Russian Socialism and British cosmopolitanism (or internationalism). This plot, if we are to believe the myth, worked through such avenues of publicity as The New York Times and the Harold Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post, the Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Magazine and had at its core the wild-eyed and bushy-haired theoreticians of Socialist Harvard and the London School of Economics. It was determined to bring the United States into World War II on the side of England (Roosevelt’s first love) and Soviet Russia (his second love) in order to destroy every finer element of American life and, as part of this consciously planned scheme, invited Japan to attack Pearl Harbor, and destroyed Chiang Kai-shek, all the while undermining America’s real strength by excessive spending and unbalanced budgets.
This myth, like all fables, does in fact have a modicum of truth. There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international anglophile network which operates, to some extent, in the way the radical Right believes the communists act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other groups and frequently does so. I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960’s, to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. I have objected, both in the past and recently, to a few of its policies….but in general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.
Please do not run out and buy a copy of Tragedy & Hope on the basis of this quote. Quigley is in fact turgid and quite unreadable, and not at all informative. You would do much better to read Flynn, Utley and Budenz.
Quigley’s first paragraph above is in fact more or less the truth about the 1940s, although stated in pejorative terms to discredit itself. Connoisseurs of 20th-century propaganda will be very familiar with this technique. Straight-up ridicule is the propaganda equivalent of running the ball up the middle: it’s a play you can call when you can’t think of any other play. Think of all the proposition that ordinary propaganda consumers believe, for no other reason but that they consider the converse ridiculous. Or possibly evil. Or maybe just insane.
I personally have read more 20th-century anti-communist writing—genuine anti-communist writing, not Henry Wallace anti-communist writing—than, perhaps, any person living. If you own a book published between 1945 and 1975 by Devin-Adair or Western Islands (publishing arm of the JBS) or the old Regnery or Arlington House, the odds are at least 50–50 I’ve read it. This material is hard to find, in the sense that you are unlikely to find it unless you look for it; but fortunately, a lot of it was printed, so it tends to be quite cheap used. The Western Islands “Dozen Candles” paperback box set, with covers by Peppino Rizzuto, is a particular favorite. After the ’70s, the quality of anti-communist writing deteriorates sharply. The better material is almost invariably the product of a prewar education.
My personal prediction is that all writing in English not part of the anti-communist tradition will eventually, however long it takes, be discarded and left to specialists. We can see this process clearly in the fall of Nazism and, somewhat less clearly, Bolshevism. The path of intellectual history, sub specie aeternitatis, flows through the honest and independent and the successful careerists. As Edith Hamilton said to Freda Utley: “don’t expect the material rewards of unrighteousness, while engaged in the pursuit of truth.” The canon will one day be reconstructed, and a lot of reconstructing it will take.
We may still criticize the anti-communist tradition, however, even in its golden age. While generally engaged in the pursuit of truth, American anti-communism remained a democratic endeavor. It could not avoid seeking power through control over public opinion. Thus it was led, if unconsciously, to tell Americans what they wanted to hear—and not what they didn’t.
What is the truth about the “secret America?” The truth, which no one wanted or wants to hear, is that communism is as American as apple pie. Communism is a form of American liberalism, or progressivism. It is not, as so many anti-communists liked to suggest, an exotic foreign import. When imported from exotic lands, it’s because we exported it there in the first place. In America it may speak with a Russian accent; in Russia, it speaks with an American accent.
By the 1930s, communism with a strong Protestant flavor had become the dominant religion of American high society—the wealthiest and most fashionable Americans. But it was not yet the dominant religion of the American population, and America was a democracy. Thus the strong flavor of secrecy and intrigue, often frankly anti-democratic, that we find in the progressives of the early 20th century.
With a figure like Colonel House, for instance, the conspiracy theorist cannot find much else to ask for. Was Colonel House a free agent? Or did he report to some committee of bankers? How would we ever know? Frankly, in the Colonel’s world, the Elders of Zion hardly seem necessary.
Thus, as Quigley himself pointed out, the crusade of anti-communism was doomed from the beginning. Rather than attacking a foreign infection, anti-communism was attacking the host: the American social establishment. For this purpose it was a little short of lymphocytes. No surprise, thus, that it should fail and be consigned to historical ignominy.
Moreover, this social mismatch has been entirely rectified. What the bohemians of Greenwich Village believed in 1923, everyone in America (and the world) believes now. The beliefs of an ordinary Calvin Coolidge voter would strike the ordinary John McCain voter as outlandish, ridiculous, insane, and often downright evil. America has no surviving intellectual tradition besides progressivism—which is no more than a synonym for communism. (My own grandparents, lifelong CPUSA members, used “progressive” as a codeword all their lives.) Communism is as American as apple pie, and America today is a completely communist country. As Garet Garett put it 70 years ago, the revolution was.
So when we read Hassell and think, “is there a secret America?”, the answer is: yes. There was a secret America. There was also a secret Germany, and those of its conspirators who were not shot in ’44 and ’45 later became its rulers—its establishment. It is no secret that the governing classes of 2010 are not terribly concerned with nations and nationality. Culturally, they are all descendants of the fashionable conspiracies of the early 20th century—Quigley’s Round Table Group, the Coefficients, the Fabians, the Inquiry, and so on, down to our own dear CFR. Even the CFR, as late as the ’50s, retained a certain “Fight Club” mystique. Now, even the dogs in the street know all about it. The Hassells of the world, and there were some in every country, were the ancestors of the global governing establishment of our own era. Secrets it retains, but its existence is not among them.
The liberal regimes of the early 21st century still keep secrets. But they no longer can be classified as conspiracies. With the elimination of any serious competition, they have become bureaucracies. By definition, any regime is a conspiracy in its youth and a bureaucracy in its maturity. Was the collaboration of the New Deal state, USG 4, with Stalin morally culpable? Certainly. Was it secretive? It was extremely secretive. Do some of those secrets repose still in its files? Are new diplomatic secrets born every day? Of course they are.
But by the 1950s, this conspiracy was also quite firmly in charge. It could no longer be described as a conspiracy. A conspiracy is something that hides, that sneaks, that can be smashed by a superior establishment. After World War II, the “secret America” was the establishment itself—a bureaucracy.
The match is not to be mistaken for the fire. It may even continue burning along with it. Once the house is on fire, however, you can’t put it out by putting out the match. Hence the problem with conspiracy theory. Even when its history is 100% true, its relevance is deceptive. Our New World Order may have been founded by the YMCA, but abolishing the YMCA is no longer sufficient to abolish the New World Order.
For the American bureaucracy, the attempts of the “McCarthyist” period to purge Washington of communists was as pointless as it was painful—so what if high civil servants had collaborated with Stalin? Even if Stalin was evil? If anyone was guilty, everyone was guilty. Did McCarthy have another State Department to replace the one we had? If not, what was the point? When Dean Acheson refused to “turn his back” on Alger Hiss, I’m quite confident that it was because he knew Hiss had informal, high-level authorization for every time he slept with Moscow. If so, Hiss was punished for his loyalty; he was purged because he refused to rat on his “secret America.”
So what we see in American anti-communism is an attempt to produce salt-free salt. And, fundamentally, a cop-out. If we take communism as an exotic pest, an intruder into the American myth, Americans can restore Americanism simply by expelling communism.
But if communism—which killed 100 million people, at least, and is nowhere near dead—is fundamentally American? We face a far more difficult question: the question of national guilt. Real guilt; for the American communist excels at nothing so much as inventing false crimes to repent for, typically the crime of not being communist enough. He thereby avoids any repentance for his actual offenses.
And Americans of both sides must experience this national guilt, exactly as all Germans have. For the Germans either supported Hitler, or did not oppose him enough to get the job done. Likewise, Americans of the left supported and exported communism; Americans of the right, due to their failure to truly search their consciences, carped at, complained, and tolerated it.
Or if they did something, what was the result? Nothing. What happened to American anti-communists? They lost. Where can I find a street named after Robert Welch? Freda Utley? Louis Budenz? Nowhere, which is a pretty good sign that a figure has been defeated. Instead, the historical mainstream runs straight through the anti-anti-communists: the Henry Wallaces. (Indeed, Henry Wallace was finally elected in 2008.)
So, for failing, the American right is just as guilty as the left. If they were bound to fail, should they have fought at all? And they failed, we see, because they fooled themselves and those they wrote for. Without these enemies, the “secret America” might have found it easier to come to its senses. In statecraft, as Fouché put it, a crime can be worse than a mistake.
This is the 20th century in a nutshell: behind the secrets, unspeakably vile in every way. All are guilty; the entire era is damned. No faction finds any redemption. There is only the mystery of human life, which by some miracle survived and for the moment continues.