Anti-Hagiography for Celebrated Mass Murderers
by Anthony Gregory: The
Occupiers and the State
Wars & Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal (Auburn,
Alabama: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2010), 246 pages.
leaders, according to conventional appraisals, are usually those
who draw the most blood. Most opinion makers distance themselves
from Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and their ilk, although even here who
can doubt they tower over modern history precisely because of their
bloodletting? But in the West and especially the United States,
historians, journalists, pundits, and especially politicians tend
to admire leaders in proportion to the powers they claimed and exercised,
which almost always corresponds with war making and killing.
the most pernicious legacies of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao," writes
Ralph Raico, "is that any political leader responsible for
less than, say, three or four million deaths is let off the hook.
This hardly seems right, and it was not always so" (163). This
is an astute observation, and it has relevance even in considering
the "civilized" leaders of the United States and its allies,
to say nothing of the second tier communist butchers who continue
to enjoy a cult following.
conservative and liberal, when asked to rank U.S. presidents, consistently
put war presidents around the top and the ones who oversaw relatively
peaceful years for the republic near the bottom. Across the spectrum,
commentators adore both Presidents Roosevelt and swoon over the
idea of another Truman in the White House. Poor Warren Harding,
whose years were prosperous and relatively free, is universally
ranked as one of the greatest disappointments. Woodrow Wilson, his
predecessor, whose reign yielded over a hundred thousand dead Americans,
a pulverized First Amendment, a nationalized economy, not to mention
cataclysmic diplomatic consequences throughout the world, was one
of the best, everyone seems to agree.
In the 20th
century, it was Democrats who did the most to expand power, from
the Progressive Era and New Deal to the Great Society. And, perhaps
not coincidentally, they were most responsible for America’s biggest
wars – the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. Yet certainly by the
time of the George W. Bush administration, if not much earlier,
the Republican line was to claim the most power-hungry of Democratic
presidents as their own proper antecedents, and in fact to criticize
modern Democrats for betraying their 20th century roots
as the party of power.
Bush gave his second inaugural address in January 2005, championing
an active Wilsonian role for U.S. foreign policy in the new century,
conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh had this to say:
president did today was make the case for spreading human liberty,
defending human dignity, which were once largely the preserve
of liberalism. If you go back and look at FDR's speeches and look
at the number of times he mentioned God in his inaugurals. Go
back to JFK. "We will fight any foe. We'll go anywhere. We
will do whatever it takes to spread freedom and liberty."
Hey, he couldn't be a liberal Democrat today. JFK couldn't be.
Truman couldn't be. They were committed to the triumph of liberty
in the world, and that's what this speech was about today, the
triumph of freedom and liberty in the world – and it is now conservatism
that is propelling this.
libertarians were accustomed to describing this brand of conservatism
as "neoconservatism" – a bastardization of the breed that
had adopted its interventionist thirst for democratic revolution
from the left, and particularly from Trotskyite Marxists. Yet throughout
the Cold War, official conservatism from William F. Buckley on down
was not particularly inclined toward the Old Right antiwar position,
and in today’s world most conservatives do seem much more attracted
to FDR-style governance, especially abroad, than they do toward
anti-interventionism. Even when the price of war is domestic liberty,
and conservatives are presented with this trade-off, most choose
the glories of war and empire over the simple serenity of peace
and republicanism, as witnessed in the fact that nearly all prominent
conservative pundits would prefer one of the warmongering big-government
Republicans to Ron Paul in the Republican primary.
There is no
question that one’s comprehension of the nation’s history determines
one’s outlook on foreign affairs. The United States is currently
involved in nearly half a dozen wars, and it is widely seen as nothing
unusual. A whitewashed understanding of U.S. history is in play
in Americans’ acceptance of their empire. All the major wars are
sold to the public with warnings about the need to stop the world’s
next Hitler. In the mythology of American war-making, Hitler is
at once the greatest enemy of human decency ever to walk the earth
and yet also the perennial threat who will resurrect in the form
of a Noriega, a Milosovic, a Saddam, or a Gaddaffi, if America does
not stand guard. Hitler is simultaneously beyond comparison and
yet the demon against which to compare all other dictators.
Yet just as
important as the demonization of America’s greatest arch nemesis
in history is the glorification of America’s greatest superheroes
on the world stage. Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman,
and – perhaps we can call him an honorary American at the least
– Winston Churchill stand as giants in the usual narrative of international
progress, and despite their flaws, some of which historians quickly
concede, proud of the balance and sophisticated nuance of their
work, these men represent goodness nearly so much as Hitler represents
evil. Just as important, the great wars these allegedly great men
presided over have come to represent virtue and redemption nearly
inasmuch as the Nazis have come to symbolize barbarity.
dissents. In his terrific book Great Wars & Great Leaders:
A Libertarian Rebuttal, the venerable historian acquaints the
reader with the dark side of such revered great leaders. His volume
could be called an anti-hagiography, yet that is perhaps a grandiose
descriptor for what is in ways not so presumptuous a project. All
it takes is a fair account of what these men in power actually
did to destroy the textbook interpretations. But Raico has done
this deed masterfully, with a keen grasp of an enormous amount of
literature and a deep understanding of the domestic history, foreign
entanglements, shifting alliances, power politics, and sound economics.
This combined with the author’s obvious fondness for the great traditions
of Western civilization and his alluring writing style, which is
accessible, artful, and scholarly while being just often enough
polemic, makes for a terrific addition to the bookshelf of anyone
interested in modern history, U.S. foreign policy, or the story
of human freedom.
World Safe for Death and Destruction
World War I
was the defining moment in the modern era, marking the death of
monarchical Europe, the introduction of modern warfare to the global
scene, the dawn of a frightening new system in war making and governance.
For the United States, it was more transformative than any other
event, other than perhaps Lincoln’s war or maybe World War II. It
was as unspeakable tragedy, consuming almost 20 million lives and
opening the door to the totalitarian takeover of Russia and later
Germany. Nothing in history is more important to study, which is
why it is particularly sad that in America’s government schools,
it tends to be poorly taught or deemphasized in comparison to its
more popular sequel.
World War I "The Turning Point" in the first chapter of
his book. At just fifty-two pages, this chapter is the best World
War I summary of its length I have read. For everyone very familiar
with the war, this chapter is still worth reviewing, with many rich
footnotes, containing nuggets that are bound to be new for almost
anyone. Yet for someone who hasn’t read many full books on the war,
this chapter provides as good an overview that can be read in one
sitting as one is bound to find, particularly with an emphasis on
the American experience.
the roots of World War I back to the rise of the German empire in
the age of Bismarck, describes the emergence of the mutual defense
pacts that soon proved horribly disastrous, discusses the evolving
diplomacy between Germany, France and Russia, as well as German’s
naval arms race with Britain, the importance of war in the Balkans,
and the tensions among the various European powers playing out in
colonial exploits in Africa. He touches on the violent rise of the
Karadjordjevic dynasty in Serbia and its territorial hostility toward
Austria-Hungary culminating in the assassination of the Archduke
France Ferdinand and a game of chicken between Russia and Germany
where, tragically, neither side flinched.
In the immediate
aftermath of the war, all guilt was pinned on Germany, a blame game
that continues in some scholarly circles to this day. Yet Raico
finds that "there is no evidence whatsoever that Germany in
1914 deliberately unleashed a European war which it had been preparing
for years – no evidence in the diplomatic and internal political
documents, in the military planning, in the activities of the intelligence
agencies, or in the relations between the German and Austrian General
goals of Russia, on the other hand, have been much less emphasized.
Yet Russia was at least as bent on war: "Russia regarded Germany
as an inevitable enemy, because Germany would never consent to Russian
seizure of the Straits or to the Russian-led creation of a Balkans
front whose object was the demise of Austria-Hungary" (8).
Nor do many focus on Great Britain’s role in widening the bloodshed
and determining the outcome. "Britain’s entry into the war
was crucial. In more ways than one, it sealed the fate of the Central
Powers. Without Britain in the war, the United States would never
have gone in" (17).
Britain’s brutality in the war at least rivaled that of Germany.
Due to the propagandistic Bryce Report, grossly exaggerating German
atrocities in neutral Belgium, the impression at the time – and
one that continues to linger – was of a Germany out of step with
the civilized world in its engagement in the Great War. Yet London
was responsible for "the single worst example of barbarism
in the whole war, aside from the Armenian massacres" – the
starvation blockade directed against Germany, which killed perhaps
fifty times as many people, particularly civilians, as Germany’s
more often discussed submarine warfare against Britain (198, 202).
This all occurred in a context where Britain had designated the
whole North Sea a war zone "in blatant contravention of international
law" (24). In a book review on this topic, Raico notes that
in "December 1918, the National Health Office in Berlin calculated
that 763,000 persons had died as a result of the blockade by that
All in all,
the war amounted to an unfathomable massacre on the European continent.
In another chapter, Raico writes:
"the butcher’s bill," as Robert Graves called it, came
due at Verdun and at the Somme. Ill-educated neoconservatives
who in 2002–2003 derided France as a nation of cowards seem never
to have heard of Verdun, where a half-million French casualties
were the price of keeping the Germans at bay. On the first day
of the battle of the Somme, the brainchild of Field Marshal Haig,
the British lost more men than on any other single day in the
history of the Empire, more than in acquiring India and Canada
of the World War I discussion focuses on the United States. As usual,
here Raico puts the lie to the two-dimensional casting of events
as typically given, dispelling the common myths. For examples, although
not a proximate cause of U.S. entry, one of the key rationales was
and continues to be Germany’s sinking of the Lusitania, which
carried American passengers. Yet in a plea to the United States,
"the Germans observed that submarine warfare was a reprisal
for the illegal hunger blockade; that the Lusitania was carrying
munitions of war; that it was registered as an auxiliary cruiser
of the British Navy; that British merchant ships had been directed
to ram or fire upon surfacing U-boats; and that the Lusitania
had been armed" (27).
urgings for peace by such luminaries as William Jennings Bryan,
the president happily entered the war on the side of his beloved
Britain. Wilson, who once said, "I cannot imagine power as
a thing negative and not positive," used war as an opportunity
to expand vastly power in the center (18). The whole time he did
so with the bizarre Colonel Mandel House – "Wilson’s alter
ego" – hanging in the backdrop. Raico serves his readers well
by acquainting them with this rascal. "Never elected to public
office, [House] nonetheless became the second most powerful man
in the country" (20). Wilson himself verified the centrality
of this mysterious figure: "Mr. House is my second personality.
He is my independent self. His thoughts and mine are one" (21).
War I, the U.S. debt climbed from about $1 billion to about $25
billion, a whole assortment of industries were nationalized, thousands
of government bureaus were erected, and top income tax rates hit
seventy-seven percent. American economic liberty would never again
be restored to pre-war levels. Civil liberties took the greatest
hit since Lincoln’s War. Raico discusses the imprisonment of Eugene
Debs and others merely for criticizing the war or draft or America’s
ally Britain. Free speech took a beating in many nations during
the war, but there were unique aspects to Wilson’s crackdown on
dissent: "In 1920, the Untied States – Wilson’s United States
– was the only nation involved in the World War that still refused
a general amnesty to political prisoners" (41).
of Versailles, a Germany burdened by war guilt and a resentful,
demoralized, brutalized population, and the territorial changes
resulting from the peace resulted not in worldwide democracy or
an end to war, as promised, but more conflict, brutality, authoritarianism,
and eventually a war even much worse than World War I. Even more
politically incorrect to mention, the old order of Europe, as inequitable
as it might have been, was swept away, allowing for far greater
Had the war
not occurred, the Prussian Hohenzollerns would most probably have
remained heads of Germany, with their panoply of subordinate kings
and nobility in charge of the lesser German states. Whatever gains
Hitler might have scored in the Reichstag elections, could he
have erected his totalitarian, exterminationist dictatorship in
the midst of this powerful aristocratic superstructure? Highly
unlikely. In Russia, Lenin’s few thousand Communist revolutionaries
confronted the immense Imperial Russian Army, the largest in the
world. For Lenin to have any chance to succeed, that great army
had first to be pulverized, which is what the Germans did. So,
a twentieth century without the Great War might well have meant
a century without Nazis or Communists. Imagine that. (1–2)
of this turning point in the history of humanity alone makes the
book worth reading. His review essay on several new books on World
War I, and his favorable review of T. Hunt Tooley’s The
Western Front, are also included in Great Wars &
Great Leaders, and demonstrate his appreciation of this crucial
Killers of World War II
is surely more lionized than Wilson. The liberals love almost everything
about him. The conservatives can’t help but admire his leadership
in America’s bloodiest foreign war. Raico’s book has no extended
discussion of Roosevelt. For more of Raico’s insights on FDR, I
must recommend his great series of articles for the Future of Freedom
Foundation, "Fascism Comes to America."
the book, however, are some gems for the FDR-hater. One chapter
is a tribute to John Flynn, liberal hero of the Old Right through
the story of whose opposition Raico undercuts the myths of the New
Deal. Originally a progressive, Flynn became horrified by the centralization
of power in the 1930s. "Instead of opening up the economy to
competitive forces, Roosevelt seemed bent on cartelizing it, principally
through the National Recovery Act (NRA), which Flynn regarded as
a copy of Mussolini’s Corporate State" (209). In response to
criticism from Flynn, that man in the White House morphed into a
shameless despot: "The President of the United States wrote
a personal letter to a magazine editor declaring that Flynn ‘should
be barred hereafter from the columns of any presentable daily paper,
monthly magazine, or national quarterly’" (210). Citing Robert
Higgs and others, Raico explains that the New Deal did not, indeed,
end the Great Depression, thus validating Flynn’s contemporary critiques
of his president.
Roosevelt’s behind-the-scenes trickery to engineer American intervention
in World War II when the American people wanted nothing to do with
it, particularly through the backdoor via war with Japan, as well
as FDR’s nefarious intention to be in the war even before he was
reelected on the platform of keeping Americans out of it: "On
June 10, 1939, George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, visited
the Roosevelts at Hyde Park. In private conversations with the King,
Roosevelt promised full support for Britain in case of war"
(73). One chapter discusses the America First movement – the country’s
largest antiwar movement ever, which mobilized to prevent a repeat
of Wilson’s calamity. Many had suspected FDR of deceit in the run-up
to U.S. entry, and they were smeared at the time for it. But "[t]oday
Roosevelt’s record of continual deception of the American people
is unambiguous. In that sense, the old revisionists such as Charles
Beard have been completely vindicated. Pro-Roosevelt historians
– at least those who do not praise him outright for his noble lies
– have had to resort to euphemism" (222).
is more adored than his successor, he is probably also more despised.
Yet if there are any modern presidents worse than FDR, one of them
would have to be Harry Truman. Raico does a great service in shining
light on this president’s reign of tyranny.
explains how Truman’s Fair Deal was a fascistic advancement of FDR’s
ruinous policies. He discusses Truman’s attempt to draft striking
railroad workers into the Army and his dictatorial seizure of the
steel mills. He compellingly explains how Truman’s legacies in foreign
aid, the development of NATO, and the postwar U.S. stance toward
Israel are all blights that continue to burden America.
greatest sins have to be in the arena of war. First, we must consider
how he ended the conflict with Japan: by introducing nuclear warfare
to the world. Raico’s treatment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is excellent,
dispensing with the usual arguments about how these were cities
of military import and focusing on the utilitarian and terroristic
calculus of mass murder. We continue to hear the nukings saved lives.
inflated figure of a half-million for the potential death toll
– more than the total of U.S. dead in all theaters in the Second
World War – is now routinely repeated in high school and college
textbooks and bandied about by ignorant commentators. (136)
But Raico hones
in on the moral principle: "Those who may still be troubled
by such a grisly exercise in cost-benefit analysis – innocent Japanese
lives balanced against the lives of Allied servicemen – might reflect
on the judgment of the Catholic philosopher G. E. M. Anscombe, who
insisted on the supremacy of moral rules" (138).
In any event,
Raico explains that the Japanese were ready to surrender, only wishing
to retain their emperor, which they got to keep anyway. He cites
the top officials who opposed the act as unnecessary and barbarous.
He concludes: "The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was
a war crime worse than any that Japanese generals were executed
for in Tokyo and Manila. If Harry Truman was not a war criminal,
then no one ever was" (142).
Also in the
end of World War II did the world witness Truman’s despicable cooperation
with Stalin in conducting an unfathomable atrocity: "In the
early months of Truman’s presidency the United States and Britain
directed the forced repatriation of many tens of thousands of Soviet
subjects – and many who had never been Soviet subjects – to the
Soviet Union, where they were executed by the NKVD or cast into
the Gulag. (132)"
Yet it was
not enough for Truman to gruesomely end one world conflict, butchering
hundreds of thousands in alliance with Stalin. He then had the audacity
to turn against Stalin and use his former ally as a pretext to launch
the next global crusade. A fact that is obvious to Raico but that
liberals sometimes forget is, Truman was responsible for starting
the Cold War and securing the modern American empire and military-industrial
of all, Truman’s presidency saw the genesis of a world-spanning
American political and military empire. This was not simply the
unintended consequence of some supposed Soviet threat, however.
Even before the end of World War II, high officials in Washington
were drawing up plans to project American military might across
the globe. To start with, the United States would dominate the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Western Hemisphere, including
through a network of air and naval bases. Complementing this would
be a system of air transit rights and landing facilities from
North Africa to Saigon and Manila. This planning continued through
the early years of the Truman administration. But the planners
had no guarantee that such a radical reversal of our traditional
policy could be sold to Congress and the people. It was the confrontation
with the Soviet Union and "international Communism,"
begun and defined by Truman and then prolonged for four decades,
that furnished the opportunity and the rationale for realizing
the globalist dreams. (105–6)
In the midst
of America’s bloodiest foreign war, instead of restoring a stance
of peace, Truman solidified America’s global role as an imperial
one. His aid to Greece and Turkey occasioned the declaration of
the Truman Doctrine, which haunts us to this day. And then there
was the first major hot war undertaken by the United States, not
five years after the cessation of World War II.
War established the modern imperial presidency even more than previous
wars. For one thing, Truman didn’t consult Congress but launched
the war on his own. Before Truman, the principle that Congress,
not the president, declared war was "[s]o well-established.
. . that even Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, no minimizers
of executive prerogatives, bowed to it and went to Congress for
their declarations of war" (120). Ever since Korea, the president
has unilaterally opted to wage war after war after war.
in Korea was among the deadliest of America’s foreign adventures,
unleashing horrible short-term effects and carrying terrible long-term
consequences. Raico sums it up:
War lasted three years and cost 36,916 American deaths and more
than 100,000 other casualties. Additionally, there were millions
of Korean dead and the devastation of the peninsula, especially
in the north, where the U.S. Air Force pulverized the civilian
infrastructure – with much "collateral damage" – in
what has since become its emblematic method of waging war. Today,
nearly a half-century after the end of the conflict, the United
States continues to station troops as a "tripwire" in
yet another of its imperial outposts. (122)
Even more than
either Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman, another Allied leader
in World War II has risen as the most admired man of the hour, if
not the century. This of course would be Winston Churchill, who
to this day is adored by Americans, particularly nationalistic conservatives,
as some sort of emblematic example of bold and heroic leadership.
The central myth surrounds his willingness to stand up to Hitler,
in comparison to the supposedly weak Chamberlain whose capitulation
allegedly emboldened the Nazi regime. But in all admirable talk
of Churchill there is a more basic assumption: that he was an insightful,
courageous, and decent human being. Once again, we have to thank
Raico for coming to the rescue.
Churchill was a Man of Blood and a politico without principle,"
Raico writes. The British leader’s "apotheosis serves to corrupt
every standard of honesty and morality in politics and history"
was a racist goes without saying, yet his racism went deeper than
with most of his contemporaries. It is curious how, with his stark
Darwinian outlook, his elevation of war to the central place in
human history, and his racism, as well as his fixation on "great
leaders," Churchill’s worldview resembled that of his antagonist,
Raico backs them up.
as a conservative, became a liberal, and then went back to being
a conservative, yet throughout his political career, his one constant
principle was bolstering power. First, to explain to conservatives
why they should question the Churchill legacy, Raico points out
that, even before World War I, "Churchill was one of the chief
pioneers of the welfare state in Britain" (61). In league with
Fabian socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Churchill went on to
oversee the Board of Trade, where, "[b]esides pushing for a
variety of social insurance schemes, Churchill created the system
of national labor exchanges: he wrote to Prime Minister Asquith
of the need to ‘spread . . . a sort of Germanized network of state
intervention and regulation’ over the British labor market’"
(64). Decades later in the early 1950s, Prime Minister Churchill
continued to shore up the welfare state and placate the unions.
Yet war was
Churchill’s greatest love, and, becoming First Lord of the Admiralty
in 1911, "he quickly allied himself with the war party"
(65). He was an enthusiastic leader in the starvation blockade,
candidly boasting, in his own words, that the goal was to "starve
the whole population – men, women, and children, old and young,
wounded and sound – into submission" (198). In recalling an
episode concerning Herbert Hoover’s food aid to Poland, Raico notes
Churchill’s move to cut aid to the Poles to manipulate them: "Churchill’s
cherished policy of inflicting famine on civilians was thus extended
to ‘friendly’ peoples. The Poles and the others would be permitted
food when and if they rose up and drove out the Germans" (203).
suspect that Churchill engineered the sinking of the Lusitania.
But "what is certain is that Churchill’s policies made
the sinking very likely. The Lusitania was a passenger liner loaded
with munitions of war; Churchill had given orders to the captains
of merchant ships, including liners, to ram German submarines if
they encountered them and the Germans were aware of this" (67).
later, Churchill was involved in dragging America into war with
Germany again. British leaders considered a negotiated peace with
Germany, once hostilities began, which might have conceivably spared
many lives. This wasn’t good enough for Churchill, whose "aim
of total victory could be realized only under one condition: that
the United States become embroiled in another world war. No wonder
that Churchill put his heart and soul into ensuring precisely that"
(74). In 1940, Churchill sent his intelligence agent, codename Intrepid,
to New York to wiretap and infiltrate the anti-war movement. He
sponsored pro-British and anti-German propaganda in American films.
He also "threw his influence into the balance to harden American
policy towards Japan, especially in the last days before the Pearl
Harbor attack" (78).
seem the least bit implausible, given Churchill’s complete insensitivity
toward human life, particularly non-British life, during the war.
This lack of compassion extended to allies:
fall of France, Churchill demanded that the French surrender their
fleet to Britain. The French declined, promising that they would
scuttle the ships before allowing them to fall into German hands.
Against the advice of his naval officers, Churchill ordered British
ships off the Algerian coast to open fire. About 1500 French sailors
were killed. (89)
was much more enthusiastic in killing Germans, particularly in "the
terror-bombing of the cities of Germany that in the end cost the
lives of around 600,000 civilians and left some 800,000 seriously
injured" (89). Raico’s account of the deliberate destruction
of dozens of German cities is potent and heart-wrenching.
As for Churchill’s
alleged bold foresight and boldness compared to Chamberlain’s presumed
For all the
claptrap about Churchill’s "farsightedness" during the
’30s in opposing the "appeasers," in the end the policy
of the Chamberlain government – to rearm as quickly as possible,
while testing the chances for peace with Germany – was more realistic
than Churchill’s. (71)
As with the
other great leaders, Churchill always admired power more than liberty.
During World War II, only Churchill possibly rivaled Roosevelt in
the sickening admiration for history’s worst murderer, Stalin. "The
symbolic climax of his infatuation came at the November, 1943, Tehran
conference, when Churchill presented Stalin with a Crusader’s sword.
Those concerned to define the word ‘obscenity’ may wish to ponder
that episode" (57).
At the end
of the war came the ethnic cleansing, the divvying up of the war
spoils, the tightening of Stalin’s grip over his newly expanded
empire. Churchill was complicit in the Soviet expansion and forced
relocations. Many atrocities transpired.
all was the expulsion of some 12 million Germans from their ancestral
homelands in East and West Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania, and the
Sudetenland, as well as the Balkans. This was done pursuant to
the agreements at Tehran, where Churchill proposed that Poland
be "moved west," and to Churchill’s acquiescence in
the plan of the Czech leader Eduard Beneš for the "ethnic
cleansing" of Bohemia and Moravia. Around one-and-a-half
to two million German civilians died in this process.
these bring into question the morality of World War II, the "good
war," and they also undermine the typical treatment we see
of such great leaders as Roosevelt, Truman, and Churchill, whose
actions enabled such war crimes and mass slaughters.
Marxists and Defending German Culture
As the victorious
Russian forces swooped in at the end of World War II, they conducted
one of the greatest and least discussed wartime atrocities in modern
times. "The riot of rape by the Soviet troops was probably
the worst in history. Females – Hungarian, even Polish, as well
as German, little girls to old women – were multiply violated, sometimes
raped to death" (95–6).
We all know
that Stalin’s regime was brutal, and yet among the academic and
journalistic circles there has long been a favoritism toward the
communists that cries out for explanation. It is almost as though
Soviet acts of mass murder are weighed on a different scale as Nazi
atrocities. Certainly, Americans with sympathies for the Soviet
regime have generally been given a pass compared to those thought
to have sympathies for the Nazi regime. Raico compares the way historians
today regard the McCarthy era to their treatment of the Roosevelt-era
demonization of America Firsters:
conservatives who supported Senator McCarthy in the early 1950s,
it was essentially payback time for the torrent of slanders they
had endured before and during World War II. Post-war conservatives
took deep satisfaction in pointing out the Communist leanings
and connections of those who had libeled them as mouthpieces for
Hitler. Unlike the anti-war leaders, who were never "Nazis,"
the targets of McCarthyism had often been abject apologists for
Stalin, and some of them actual Soviet agents. (226)
of the American Cold War, as is evident in his trenchant critique
of Truman, Raico runs against the popular grain in his wholesale
critiques of communism. In the era of Lenin, American intellectuals
frequently whitewashed the Bolshevic regime. And during and after
World War II, war propaganda fostered a common tendency to view
even Stalinism in a more nuanced light than Hitlerism. But Communism,
in theory as well as in practice, is an all-out attack on liberty.
"Marxism, with its roots in Hegelian philosophy," writes
Raico, "was a quite conscious revolt against the individual
rights doctrine of the previous century" (144). Thus it is
no surprise that the first communist state became totalitarian immediately.
with the implicit notion, pushed by left-liberals and neoconservatives
(and certainly Marxists), that Stalin had betrayed the socialist
project, rather than simply continuing where Lenin left off. There
is a soft spot for Lenin in the writings of many modernists, who
seem to think he represented, at least in some way, an improvement
over the old Tsarist order. This is nonsense. The brutality of Communism
was seen right away:
of Cheka executions that amounted to legalized murder in the period
from late 1917 to early 1922 – including neither the victims of
the Revolutionary Tribunals and the Red Army itself nor the insurgents
killed by the Cheka – has been estimated by one authority at 140,000.
As a reference point, consider that the number of political executions
under the repressive Tsarist regime from 1866 to 1917 was about
44,000, including during and after the Revolution of 1905 (except
that the persons executed were accorded trials), and the comparable
figure for the French Revolutionary Reign of Terror was 18,000
to 20,000. Clearly, with the first Marxist state something new
had come into the world.
And this was
In the Leninist
period – that is, up to 1924 – fall also the war against the peasantry
that was part of "war communism" and the famine conditions,
culminating in the famine of 1921, that resulted from the attempt
to realize the Marxist dream. The best estimate of the human cost
of those episodes is around 6,000,000 persons. (150)
war communism, it "was no mere ‘improvisation,’ whose horrors
are to be chalked up to the chaos in Russia at the time. The system
was willed and itself helped produce that chaos," Raico writes
in a great chapter on Leon Trotsky (169). Trotsky "has always
had a certain appeal for intellectuals that the other Bolshevik
leaders lacked" (165). But Raico explains why, just as Lenin
was only better than Stalin as a matter of degree, Trotsky too represented
an ideology of evil and should not be looked upon favorably.
attempts by many to defend his vision as one of intellectualism
rather than brutality, Trotsky had no excuse not to understand what
communism in practice would yield. "[T]hat Marxism in power
would mean the rule of state functionaries was not merely intrinsically
probable – given the massive increase of state power envisaged by
Marxists, what else could it be? – but it had also been predicted
by writers well known to a revolutionary like Trotsky" (168).
He knew a ruling class would have come to dictate society in the
name of the workers, and he saw himself as part of that ruling class.
"When Trotsky promoted the formation of worker-slave armies
in industry, he believed that his own will was the will of Proletarian
Man" (175). He was a killer and tyrant who only slaughtered
fewer than Lenin and Stalin for lack of opportunity. Nevertheless,
Stalin does take the cake: "The sum total of deaths due to
Soviet policy – in the Stalin period alone – deaths from the collectivization
and the terror famine, the executions and the Gulag, is probably
on the order of 20,000,000" (155).
If even Soviet
killers have been treated rather charitably, Raico does not see
this to be the case for the Germans, who as an entire people have
often been unfairly smeared due to the twelve-year period of Nazi
rule. In "Nazifying the Germans," Raico humanizes one
ethnic group that it remains politically correct to ridicule and
a thousand years of history "on the other side" of the
Third Reich. In cultural terms, it is not an unimpressive record
(in which the Austrians must be counted; at least until 1866,
Austria was as much a part of the German lands as Bavaria or Saxony).
From printing to the automobile to the jet engine to the creation
of whole branches of science, the German contribution to European
civilization has been, one might say, rather significant. Albertus
Magnus, Luther, Leibniz, Kant, Goethe, Humboldt, Ranke, Nietzsche,
Carl Menger, Max Weber – these are not negligible figures in the
history of thought.
of course, there’s the music. (158)
the Germans" is but one jewel in a glittering crown of great
writing. Raico’s book reviews are all well worth reading, as is
the Foreword by Bob Higgs. The bulk of the book, however, focuses
on the great state criminals of the modern era, in particular the
first half of the 20th century, in many ways the darkest
period in human history. Demystifying World War I, taking Churchill
down a notch, summing up the case against Truman, and explaining
the practical horrors of communism in light of its theoretical degeneracy,
are each very worthy endeavors warranting a great scholar, well-versed
in history, fluent in economic theory, familiar with the words of
the court intellectuals as well as the revisionist dissenters, morally
committed to human dignity and freedom and willing to defend them
against their great historical enemy: war and state power. Raico
very uniquely qualifies on all these fronts and his book is a treasure.
Gregory [send him mail]
is research editor at the Independent
lives in Oakland, California. See his
webpage for more articles and personal information.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
Best of Anthony Gregory