Why Academics Hate Diana West
Groundbreaking books about the history of communism, such as Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago or Viktor Suvorov’s Ice-Breaker, are never written by "professional" historians. Indeed, historians typically meet those books with remarkable hostility.
Yet, non-academic history books certainly have their advantages. For one thing, they are readable. More often than not, they are better researched too. Above all, they are intellectually honest, free from the unspoken taboos of the academic world and from allegiances to theories and to colleagues that tie the hands of many an academic.
Where a professional historian pursues an academic career, the amateur seeks after the truth. Ignorant of taboos, the amateur can follow the trail of evidence to wherever it leads and discovers things which, according to the academic conventional wisdom, are best left untouched and unsaid.
That is what Diana West does in American Betrayal:The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character. By her own admission, she started that book with no intention of writing much about the Cold War. She started not as a historian, but a simple mortal puzzled and disturbed by the obvious question: how on earth could this great civilization of ours have degraded into such a hypocritical nonsense as political correctness? Having written her previous book about the death of the civilization of grown-ups, now Mrs. West, in her own words, attempts a post mortem--only to discover unmistakable signs of a murder.
She digs deeper, “tracing references and footnotes backward along a well-mapped historical route that has simply fallen into disuse”, as she puts it--and discovers the true history of the 20th century, the history of communist crimes against humanity, to which so many in the Western Establishment were accomplices and collaborators; and then a massive cover-up of those crimes, which infested our entire public life with a culture of hypocrisy and double standards.
It is this search for the causes of our moral crisis that brings her as far back in history as 1930s, when the Great Famine was artificially organized by the Soviets to force the peasants into collective farms, and the Western media consciously helped Stalin to cover up that mass murder. She cites a fascinating account by a repentant journalist who had been present at the meeting of Moscow press corps with the Soviet chief censor, Umansky, to work out a “formula of denial," after one reckless correspondent reported the news of the famine in 1933.
After “much bargaining in the spirit of gentlemanly give-and-take”, the “formula” was agreed, wherefrom the Western journalists and the Soviet censor proceeded to party with vodka and luxurious snacks until early hours in the morning. The next day, it was infamous Walter Duranty who took the lead in attacking the famine report as an incompetent and biased “big scare story”, and then explaining: “There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition”.
“To understand this episode,” Mrs. West comments, “is to understand the extent to which Orwell’s ‘Newspeak’ had its birth in the pages of the free press as much as in the totalitarian censor’s office. […] Looking back over more than three-quarters of a century of Big Lies to follow, this initial instance, this first time, demands a level of scrutiny and reflection it doesn’t ordinarily receive, not having been recognized as the Original Sin that would ultimately corrupt us all. It was as if society suddenly became incapable of making the most elementary if vital connections between facts and conclusions, logic and judgment, ideas and implications, and truth and morality.”
By that time, she discovers the likes of Duranty were not only the opinion-makers in the West, but also the decision-makers. Thus, the architects of the "New Deal," including FDR himself, consciously intended it as the beginning of socialism in America. That, according to their designs, would open a way to a gradual convergence with Stalinist Soviet Union under a future socialist world government. In a way, that convergence had already begun, as the Roosevelt Administration was full of Soviet agents of influence, including Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, and crucially, Harry Hopkins--FDR’s alter ego, his "personal foreign secretary," and the most powerful man in the White House.
In the face of those proven facts, most of them now recognized even by academics, Mrs. West asks some bold but legitimate questions. Did all these people (the glorious FDR administration) really conduct the Second World War in the interests of Western democracies, or was it in the interests of Comrade Stalin? Having declared that war to defend the freedom of Poland, the Western democracies ended it by surrendering Poland and a dozen other nations to a totalitarian empire worse than Hitler’s. Was that really a victory? Above all, was that outcome inevitable, or did it, to a greater or lesser extent, result from the work of the Soviet agents of influence in the positions of power in the West?
Having researched the mountains of evidence, she persuasively demonstrates:
- How the most important strategic decisions of the WWII, such as effectively abandoning the Italian front to concentrate forces for the invasion of Normandy, were taken because Stalin demanded them. Against the counsel of Churchill and military commanders on the ground, the pro-Soviet FDR administration rejected such sensible alternatives as advancing from Italy to Balkans and Eastern Europe, which might have limited the Red Army’s advance to the West.
- How every attempt by anti-Nazi underground in Germany to secure Allied support for their plots to overthrow the Nazi regime was thwarted by Soviet agents in Washington – because the German conspirators were anti-communist as well as anti-Nazi. So another opportunity to destroy the Nazi regime and win the war without letting Stalin conquer half of Europe was lost.
- How the notorious Yalta division of Europe, surrendering half the continent to Stalin, was accepted by the pro-Soviet FDR administration without any serious attempt to find an alternative solution. In effect, the US simply went along with the Sovietisation of Eastern Europe in breach of Yalta Agreement, and betrayed the allied democratic governments of East European states.
- How thousands of American POWs “liberated” by Soviets from the Nazis were simply abandoned to rot in the Gulag as hostages to Stalin, in the vain hope of preserving good relations with Moscow after the war.
Conversely, our own research in Soviet secret archives has led us to very similar conclusions about FDR and his administration. For example, here is a couple of quotations from transcripts of FDR’s conversations with Stalin while Churchill was away. At Tehran Conference:
Roosevelt says it would be better not to mention India when talking to Churchill, because he, Roosevelt, knows that Churchill has no thoughts concerning India. Churchill plans to postpone the solution of this problem till the end of the war.
Com[rade] Stalin says that India is a sore point for Churchill.
Roosevelt agrees. However, he says, Britain will have to do something about India. He, Roosevelt, hopes to discuss the problem of India with Marshal Stalin one day. He finds the parliamentary system of government to be unsuitable for India and it would be better to create something like the Soviet system in India, beginning from the bottom rather than from the top. Perhaps, that would be the system of Soviets.
Com. Stalin answers that to begin from the bottom would mean taking the revolutionary path. There are a lot of various nationalities and cultures in India. But there are no forces or groups capable of taking power in the country.
(Russian state archive of social and political history (RGASPI), fund 558, inv. 11, file 235, pp. 8-12)
And this one occurred on FDR’s arrival in Yalta two years later:
Roosevelt says that now, after he had seen the senseless destruction Germans caused in Crimea, he would like to liquidate twice as many Germans as he wished before. It is absolutely necessary to liquidate 50 thousand German-Prussian officers.
(RGASPI, fund 558, inv. 11, file 234, pp. 3-7)
Mrs. West has proven her point without access to secret archives on the basis of published sources alone. She would have found this much more difficult if she tried to continue her narrative much beyond the Second World War. Scandalously, most secret archives of that period remain classified to this day, and very few historians ever complain about that. It required some extraordinary efforts on our part to smuggle some of those archives out of Russia and make them available to the Western public. Of course, our efforts were attacked furiously by the very same academics who now attack American Betrayal, using exactly the same expressions. It is their job to suppress any truth about the Cold War. However, despite all their efforts, we now know that the so-called Cold War was never particularly cold on the Soviet side and never much of a war on the Western side:
- How the "consensus" of Western Establishment had accepted socialism as the inevitable future of the world, and "convergence" with the Soviet system as the only alternative to the Cold War.
- How Western leaders developed their "détente" with the Soviets secretly, treacherously, through KGB channels, as a means to achieve that "convergence."
- How all Western policy throughout the Cold War was aimed to preserve ‘stability’ of the Evil Empire and not to achieve its destruction.
- Finally, how all Western governments sided with the last Soviet leader against his people, and secretly worked with Comrade Gorbachev in the last desperate attempt to save his regime and his empire. Ever at Gorby’s service, they did everything in their power to prevent unification of Germany, de-communisation of Eastern Europe, collapse of the Soviet Union, and finally--alas, successfully--a Nuremberg-style trial of communism.
That treacherous Establishment is still there. We are still governed by a nomenklatura of collaborationists, Petains and Quislings of the Cold War. Mrs. West has reached that conclusion merely by examining the first chapters of this sad story. Sure enough, there are mountains of other and more recent evidence to support her conclusions. But of course, whatever the evidence, the "consensus" will never plead guilty. Rather, they will try and usurp the judicial seat.
As Mrs. West rightly points out, the moment the free world recognized the evil empire of Communism as a country we could make deals with, even alliances with (be that even in such desperate circumstances as the Second World War)--that moment was “a Faustian turning point." By the very nature of the Soviet system, the history of "East-West relations" could only be a history of deals with the devil, with all the unfortunate consequences such deals had always been reputed to entail. From Yalta to Malta, all those summit-meetings were cannibal feasts of the same kind as Western journalists’ party with a Soviet censor in 1933 Moscow. Therefore, if some 80 years later we find the Western Establishment to be utterly corrupt, we should know what has corrupted them.
The Left have learned a lot since the times of Duranty and Agitprop. They no longer try to argue with such books as Mrs. West’s. They no longer try to sue us for libel in the courts of law. They quietly assassinate such books well in advance, by confidential e-mails to publishers and editors. In rare cases when that does not work and the book is out, they simply ignore it and wait for another crisis in the Middle East, or the release of the next series of the latest blockbuster, or mid-term elections, to distract the public attention from everything else. They simply let the dangerous revelations sink in the massive flood of information that overwhelms today’s readers.
Fortunately, this did not happen with American Betrayal. The Left held their nerve all right; but--perhaps unexpectedly for Mrs. West--her book greatly offended certain "conservative" academics as well. It emerged that, in her “reckless” quest for the truth, she broke a number of taboos recognized across the academic world, Left to Right.
She attacked certain cows that are sacred across the political spectrum; gentlemanly "formulas of denial" long agreed between academics of all colors; certain "common values of mankind," to use Comrade Gorbachev’s favorite phrase. Her facts (it has been reluctantly admitted) are of course correct, but her awful conclusions contradict “the consensus of every historian of the war”. The “consensus” is that Soviet agents of influence had no real influence, that FDR was a great patriot and war leader, and that Stalin’s occupation of half of the world was the best possible outcome of the war. On these points, it has emerged, the "conservative" and "liberal" academics have no disagreements. All their disagreements are about how exactly to explain away the facts that do not fit into their “consensus," and how exactly to suppress dissent.
So, while the Left applied their usual tactics of silent censorship, the less advanced "conservative academics" have only reached the mediocre Agitprop level and responded with a Soviet-style propaganda campaign against Mrs. West and her book. In the best traditions of those campaigns, most of the eminent critics attacked the book without ever reading it, and some of them even admitted this. Come to think of it, one hardly needs to read a book in order to accompany any mention of it with a garland of epithets such as “awful”, “embarrassingly kooky”, “poorly conceived”, “ill-informed”, “conspiracy-mongering”, “preposterous”, “incompetent”, and “dishonest”, and to insult the author in similarly intelligent expressions, including positive assertions that Mrs. West is insane (pity Professor Lunz is no longer with us). This is all the "conservative academics" did, all they could do, and all they needed to do. Just look at their headlines:
- McCarthy on Steroids;
- Diana West vs. History
- Why I Wrote a Take-Down of Diana West’s Awful Book;
- Diana West’s Attempt to Respond;
- Diana West Down Crackpot Alley;
- Diana West Invents a New Conspiracy; etc., etc.
Amazingly and alarmingly, it was FrontPage Magazine that published the Pravda-style header which triggered that campaign, and provided a catalog of smears and insults for endless repetition by other members of the consensus. No doubt a highly distinguished "conservative historian" named Professor Ronald Radosh wrote a lengthy review of American Betrayal, headlined (with remarkable wit, good taste, and academic courtesy, if we may say so) McCarthy on Steroids. There, the Learned Professor dismissed the author as Sen. “McCarthy’s heiress” and the book as a “yellow journalism conspiracy theory” not really deserving the honor of his eminent critique. In his infinite generosity, however, the Learned Professor reluctantly agrees to provide some, and picks several specific points from American Betrayal to accuse Mrs. West of dishonesty and incompetence.
For anyone who has read both Mrs. West’s book and the Professor’s review, however, it is the review that is dishonest and incompetent. The Professor’s trick is to pick a couple of minor points from the book, invent a few more points of his own which he falsely attributes to the book, declare all those points to be “the pillars of West’s conspiracy theory," and then to "disprove" them with all academic solemnity. Unable to argue with the book itself, he instead argues with his own misrepresentation of the book.
He starts with Harry Hopkins, FDR’s alter ego and the most important Soviet agent in his administration. The fact that Hopkins was a Soviet agent has been known for a long time (though perhaps not as widely known as it deserves to be). Mrs. West simply brought together the mountain of evidence already available. That includes the testimony of Oleg Gordievsky, a very high-ranking and very reliable KGB defector. That includes the statement of George Marshall, the wartime US Army’s Chief of Staff and Hopkins’s friend, who told his official biographer: “Hopkins’s job with the president was to represent the Russian interests. My job was to represent the American interests.” That includes the episode documented in the Mitrokhin archive about Hopkins tipping off the Soviets about the FBI surveillance of certain Soviet spies; and so on, and so forth. There are several chapters in the book devoted to the evidence of Hopkins’s treason. In addition to all that, in one paragraph Mrs. West mentions the suspicions, expressed by some, that the mysterious Soviet agent identified in Venona cables only as "Agent 19" was none other than Hopkins.
And here is what is supposed to be a fair summary from Professor Radosh: “A key assertion for West is that FDR’s closest advisor, Harry Hopkins, was actually the Soviet agent known in the Venona decrypts as ‘Agent 19’." In the next thousand words, the Professor endeavors to prove that Agent 19 was in fact another man, and then hastily concludes that Hopkins therefore was not a Soviet agent, and therefore Mrs. West’s book is rubbish.
Whoever "Agent 19" in fact was, it appears to have escaped the scholarly attention that the very codename "Agent 19" suggests that there might have been more than one Soviet agent in wartime Washington. Hopkins still might have been one of them, and a lot of other evidence suggests that he was. But even if he was not, the difference between an agent and a fellow-traveler is hardly significant for Mrs. West’s argument. She is writing not about cloaks and daggers, but about the moral corruption of the Western world, resulting from complicity of the likes of Hopkins in Stalin’s crimes, and the subsequent cover-up of that complicity. How does it matter whether this particular Hopkins was in fact recruited by the Soviets or simply acted as a Soviet agent by his own choice? The difference is no greater than between a "liberal" academic liar and a "conservative" one.
Next, Professor Radosh takes objection to Mrs. West’s point about the massive military supplies to the Soviets under the ‘land lease’ program, administered by Hopkins. Mrs. West cites evidence that those supplies were given a priority even over urgent needs of US troops on the grounds, and that this policy contributed to such major catastrophes of WWII as the defeat on Philippines and the fall of Singapore. Rather sensibly, she links this with the evidence of Hopkins’s treason. Among other things, she cites interesting evidence that under the cover of ‘lend lease’, Hopkins secretly supplied the Soviets with top secret technology, including details of the Manhattan Project and sensitive atomic materials such as uranium and heavy water.
In response, the Learned Professor solemnly proves that the uranium was in fact Uranium-238, not Uranium-235, and therefore did not help the Soviets to make the nuclear bomb; that the first Soviet nuclear bomb was only made in 1949; and that it was made of plutonium. Ergo, all the "lend-lease" supplies to the Soviets were perfectly kosher and in the national interest.
With equal honesty, Professor Radosh then conclusively disproves several amusing historical anecdotes which he falsely attributes to Mrs. West’s book. Towards the end, however, he has another trick to play. Mixed into his list of alleged factual inaccuracies (which are not really in the book), we suddenly find Mrs. West’s alleged opinions about the merits or motives of FDR’s decisions to invade Normandy, not to work with German anti-Nazi underground, or to go along with Sovietisation of Eastern Europe. Not only does the Learned Professor distort the substance of those opinions, he also treats them as if they were factual inaccuracies; and then purports to "disprove" them by citing the conventional opinions of people such as Averill Harriman, whom he describes as “a stalwart anti-Communist."
Having thus demonstrated that Mrs. West’s conclusions contradict the academic consensus, Professor Radosh evidently considers this to be the end of the matter. The rest of his review is just a copy-paste of his usual comments on anything new anybody said or wrote about the Cold War in recent years (or at least, anything without a satisfactory number of Radosh quotations). As per usual, this book is another “yellow journalism conspiracy theory," it is McCarthyist, there is nothing really new in it, and academics know best.
This "review," with all its hatred and lies, comes as no surprise to those of us who have had the misfortune of hearing about Professor Radosh before. What is disquieting is the sight of the "conservative" crowd rushing into that campaign on sheer herd instinct, not only without reading the book, but apparently even without reading the Radosh review.
After all, its dishonesty is crying out to be noticed. It is dishonest to use meaningless labels in a debate. It is dishonest to attack anything whatsoever as "McCarthyist." It is dishonest to attack anything as a "conspiracy theory." So long as there are conspiracies in the world, a conspiracy theory may be perfectly true. It is a conspiracy theory that Al Qaeda organized the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and yet, it happens to be true. It was a conspiracy theory that the Nazi leaders plotted aggressive wars and genocide, but it was proven, and the conspirators went to the gallows. Unlike "academic consensus," conspiracy is a concept with a clear definition; so much so that prosecutors can prove conspiracy theories beyond reasonable doubt in court. Moreover, the criminal law concepts of conspiracy and complicity are not very far apart. Almost anything we say about communist crimes against humanity can be attacked as a conspiracy theory--and, as a rule, is attacked in these terms by Radosh & Co.
It is high time to stop dismissing things as conspiracy theories or accepting things as being consistent with the academic consensus. Some of us here are talking about truth and lies. And this, perhaps, is precisely what annoys the academics, whose monopoly on writing history depend upon the half-truths of the "consensus."
There is another danger in attacking books without reading them. Aimed at the fake Radosh version of American Betrayal, the criticism obviously missed its target. Better still, the campaign has been a perfect illustration of the very point of the book (in Diana West’s original version): that "the consensus" about the Cold War is false and corrupt. It is a product of the great cover-up. It was the same consensus who first denied the facts about the Soviet crimes and Western complicity, then reluctantly admitted the facts but explained them away, and has never permitted any honest conclusions or even an honest debate.
It used to be a consensus that there was no famine in the Soviet Union, just a mortality from diseases due to malnutrition. It used to be a consensus that Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg were innocent victims of "McCarthyism," convicted by so many conspiracy theorists. Unless we are confusing him with some other pre-eminent historian, Professor Radosh’s own claim to fame is that he first attacked the Rosenbergs judgement in pretty similar terms to his review of American Betrayal, but then considered the evidence, changed his mind, and wrote a book persuasively re-arguing the prosecution case some 30 years after the verdict. There was a time, too, when the innocence of Alger Hiss was as much of a consensus as the innocence of Harry Hopkins. It is the same consensus which cultivated the myths about the struggle of "hawks" and "doves" in the Politburo, and indignantly dismissed any suggestion that the Soviet Union might one day collapse. Instead, the consensus prescribed to place all our hopes into Comrade Gorbachev and his forthcoming renewal of socialism. It is the same consensus which misinformed the most disastrous decisions of the Cold War--responsible, perhaps, for millions of deaths. In any other walk of life (say, medicine), incompetence at a much smaller scale would cause those "specialists" not only to be disqualified, but to be sued in courts for the rest of their lives.
It is in the nature of a totalitarian regime to try and corrupt not only its own society, but anybody within its reach. This is how they conquer the world. Communism has corrupted greater men than a few arrogant academics. Indeed, the academics turned out to be one of the easier targets. As "Sovietologists" and "Kremlinologists," their position depended on their ability to travel to Moscow, and therefore, on KGB’s good will. Having now mutated into "Cold War historians," they are dependent on having such limited access to secret archives as Moscow would choose to grant them. As academics, they are committed to their own theories, true or false. As a ‘community’, they are bound together with their corrupt colleagues, and have to defend their collective monopoly against intruders. It is for a very long time that they have been no more than a self-serving nomenklatura, caring nothing about the truth, but only about their own elevated positions. Like politicians. Like the media. Like the rest of the modern world.
American Betrayal is a book about the origins of that corruption. No wonder it has been so popular with thousands of readers who are sick to death of today’s world with all its hypocrisy and lies, and long for an explanation of our moral crisis. Mrs. West sought an answer and found it. As a civilization, we have gone through a major moral disaster. We have been accomplices to mass murders. Moreover, we then tried to cover them up and to live on as if nothing happened. Without a reckoning, without so much as facing the truth about our history, we shall never recover:
We condemn the German population of the police state from looking the other way from and doing nothing about the Jewish annihilation under way in Nazi concentration camps; we never ask to question ourselves living large in the free world and looking the other way from and saying nothing about ethnic, political, class and religious annihilation under way in Soviet concentration camps. This split vision derives from the triumph of Communism’s unceasing world revolution against “traditional” morality, objective morality, the morality of fixed standards by which men navigate, or at least perceive the shoals of evil and treacherous behaviors. Such morality tells us there is no separating the idea from its toll. This is the lesson we have erased from our slate.
No wonder, too, that this book is hated by 'the consensus," who feel perfectly comfortable in today’s world, and see no moral crisis at all. They have never thought of the Cold War as a great battle against the ultimate evil that has changed our civilization beyond recognition. To them, the history of that battle has been no more than a comfortable job. They never saw establishing the truth about it as a sacred duty we owe to the memory of millions of victims; but merely as a matter for “gentlemanly give-and-take” between "liberals" and "conservatives," leading to a sound academic consensus.
Yet, they instinctively know this whole subject to be a minefield. The more evidence comes to light, the more scholarship is required to explain it away.
Any discussion of the Soviet influence in the West must be channeled, carefully and professionally, into the issue of Soviet "agents" (leaving aside all other kinds of secret collaborators, fellow-travelers, useful idiots, and other forces of progress). Then, as swiftly and skillfully as before, the idea of "agents" must be replaced with ‘spies’, leaving aside the only kind of Soviet agents who mattered--the agents of influence. And then, you can argue as long as you like about whether or not one particular Hopkins or another really passed secret information to Moscow, and if yes, just how sensitive that information was, and whether it really helped to create the Soviet nuclear bomb… A nice, endless debate with no practical conclusions– just what the academics need.
Diana West, with her “reckless” discoveries, has jeopardized their comfortable world. Once you start talking about moral responsibility for crimes against humanity, what is left of that academic hair-splitting which has been the whole basis of their consensus, and their very existence? How great is a moral difference between an executioner and a mere conformist, between an agent and a sympathizer, between a "liberal" academic and a "conservative" one?
One thing that has particularly irritated the Consensus was Mrs. West’s comparison of America, governed by Soviet agents, to an occupied country. No wonder. If the country was occupied and governed by quislings, we have to stop talking about "spies" and instead have to talk about collaborationists. Any country that has done this in the past could not escape the conclusion that the entire Establishment, to a greater or lesser extent, had been responsible. And this is one conclusion which the entire Consensus had been working hard to avoid for the past 75 years.
While American Betrayal does reveal many little-known and interesting facts, Mrs. West is very far from claiming any credit for her discoveries. She pays excessive tribute to her academic sources. What she does say is that all those facts do not fit into the overall "conventional" theories of history; that the known facts invite very different conclusions from those we have been offered. The only role she claims is that of the child from Andersen’s fairy tale, pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes on, while the chamberlains still walk behind him bearing the train that isn’t there. She only claims “to connect the dots," which is a very modest description of the huge and brilliant work she has obviously done. Yet, it is a fairly accurate description of what the Learned Professors have obviously failed to do. No doubt, when they angrily protest that they had known all these facts all along, they are for once truthful. The sheer number of their academic degrees bears witness to their infinite knowledge. It is just that they lacked honesty and courage to tell us the truth.
Clearly, history is far too important to be left to the historians.
Vladimir Bukovsky is one of the founders of the Soviet dissident movement. He spent twelve years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals during his fight for freedom. In 2007, he was nominated for president of Russia by the democratic oppostion in moral protest of Putin's powers. His many works include To Build a Castle and Judgement in Moscow.
Pavel Stroilov is a Russian exile in London and the editor and translator of Alexander Litvinenko’s book, Allegations. He is co-author with Bukovsky of EUSSR: The Soviet Roots of European Integration, and the author of Behind the Desert Storm: A Secret Archive Stolen From the Kremlin that Sheds New Light on the Arab Revolutions in the Middle East.