My Trotskyite Critic

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by Paul Gottfried by Paul Gottfried

The following is a response to a letter sent to American Conservative by Stephen Schwartz concerning "my latest chaotic and apparently improvised effusion," an essay "Mussolini in the Middle East" published in the aforementioned fortnightly (July 5, 2005). Unlike this response, Schwartz’s freewheeling attacks and the editors’ rejoinder are both scheduled to appear in the next issue.

It may be proper to begin by apologizing to Stephen Schwartz for something that apparently is bothering him, namely that I dropped the "t" in his family name, an orthographic oversight that the editors failed to catch. I shall avoid committing such an error in the future. As for my being a "weighty theorist of politics and contemporary history" who is really "a bluffer who cannot be expected to get even the basic facts right," Mr. Schwartz has not demonstrated his charge, as opposed to spraying me with invectives in a way that suggests his need for anger management. Furthermore, I have trouble determining what exactly are my "usual gross errors of historical analysis and vagrant libels," since it is "beneath my [his] dignity to address" them.

The closest Schwarz comes to showing that I am engaged in a "vagrant libel" is at the end of paragraph two. There he correctly notes that I cannot prove that he has been "invited to, or addressed, any meeting of either the Heritage foundation or the American Enterprise Institute." But this needs a bit of unpacking. Even if Schwartz did not do what I claimed, that is, serve as a formal speaker, he has enjoyed past associations with both Heritage and AEI: as a fellow of the Heritage Asian Studies Center, as a collaborator of Heritage staff member Ariel Cohen and as an advisor to A.E.I. for speakers on Islam. Moreover, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, whose staff Schwartz adorned until very recently as a senior researcher and whose shenanigans Dan McCarthy analyzes in American Conservative (November 17, 2003) has close ties to these other institutions. The foundation to which Schwartz was long connected shares board members and funding sources with the two neoconservative foundations that I mention, and all of them sound like dead ringers for each other in their foreign policy prescriptions, especially for the Middle East.

Even more telling, Schwartz has expounded his views on Islamofascism on Frontpage and in the Weekly Standard and written on this subject, while having his book praised, in the Wall Street Journal. The linkage between outcries against "Islamofascism" and neoconservative geopolitical designs seems to me self-evident. The throwing together of Muslim theocrats with fascists, a practice that neoconservatives and the New Republic have repeatedly engaged in (See my essay in American Conservative) is aimed at exploiting the Left’s fixation on fascist dangers. This problematic linkage is obviously intended to pull the anti-fascist Left into the neoconservative foreign policy orbit. And it is not much of a stretch for neoconservatives to make these supposed "fascist" connections since they themselves have never ceased being part of the obsessively anti-fascist Left. The most Schwartz can do to rebut my contention is to bluster, as he habitually does in everything of his that I have read.

It is also unclear why the editor of American Conservative, Scott McConnell, should publish Schwartz’s broadside against me because, as Schwartz reminds him, he has already published McConnell’s supposed "acolyte" Justin Raimondo, who has made Schwarz the "object of a long campaign of libels and harassments." McConnell’s decision to publish Justin, and to put him on his editorial board, does not prove that Justin is subservient to McConnellu2014any more than I am because my occasional writings can be found in American Conservative. Nor does Scott’s presumed friendship with Justin require him to publish Schwartz’s ill-mannered and largely unsubstantiated screed against me. Schwartz’s letter never explains how condition A mandates that McConnell should perform B. Least of all, does he prove, by saying so, that Justin has slandered him.

While I cannot claim to have seen all of Justin’s negative remarks against Schwartz, one of the commentaries I did see correctly discerned in him an unmistakably Trotskyite mindset, which informs his neoconservative approach to foreign policy. From what I have seen of Schwartz’s tirades against Justin, I am struck, like several of the other readers who have commented online about his website attacks, by the frequent use of "fascist" and by the dredging up of Stalin’s crusade against Trotsky to describe Schwartz’s enemies on the right. Finally I am skeptical about Schwartz’s characterization of himself on Frontpage (March 21, 2003) as a "former Trotskyite." It seems to me rather that he continues to represent the never quite subdued Trotskyite gestalt behind the never-quite-finished neoconservative implementation of a world revolution always in progress. I would recommend that the reader consult my book on the Postmarxist Left, which will be out later in the summer, and includes specific recommendations made by Schwartz on how Trotsky’s legacy can be applied to furthering our "global democratic mission." One wonders whether the self-proclaimed apostle of capitalism Steve Forbes, who has lent his name to the Foundation’s board, knows of Schwartz’s contribution toward making Trotsky relevant for world democracy. As the old adage goes, he who lies down with thieves should expect the worst. The same may be equally true for those who consort with graying Trots.

June 27, 2005

Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College and author of, most recently, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt.

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