The debate over Diana West’s book American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character has been far below the intellectual standard set by the book itself. Both sides now seem to regret the fact that the debate has degenerated into a personal squabble and are keen to end “the war of words.”
In this spirit, hopefully we shall be excused for declining to respond to personal attacks against us, to accusations that we joined personal attacks against others, and to the criticism that we are blaming the wrong people for starting all those personal attacks. The serious issues raised in Mrs. West’s book certainly deserve a more intelligent debate.
Contrary to the complacent myths of the establishment, the United States and other Western democracies have not won the Cold War. Of course, on the simplistic view of it as a purely military confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the former can claim a formal victory simply by having survived its adversary.
However, the Cold War was always much more than just a military conflict. It was an ideological war waged by the totalitarian utopia of Socialism against our civilization; and on that level, the most optimistic view of it is that it still goes on. The Soviet Union is gone, but Russia is still governed by a junta of Gestapo officers; China is still governed by the Communist Party; and the Western world is governed by closet Marxists and Mensheviks, imposing on us yet another version of the same socialist utopia. Those are facts of life, and whether or not you accept Mrs. West’s explanation of their historic causes, they do need some explanation. Surely, if the free world really won the Cold War against totalitarianism, we should have been in a better shape now.
The truth is that the Western Establishment surrendered to Socialism long, long ago. Of course, the left was only glad to surrender: to them, the Soviets were no enemies, but allies pursuing the same goals, though perhaps somewhat mistaken about the tactics. Moreover, while the left surrendered enthusiastically, the right surrendered reluctantly–but they did surrender, too. The “conservatives” accepted socialism as the inevitable future of the world, which could, perhaps, be delayed, but could not be destroyed.
This is why, even at the better moments of the Cold War, their strategy was limited to “containment” of the communist expansion, but never went as far as “roll-back.” This is why, whenever a right-wing government succeeded a left-wing one, it always made a gloomy declaration that “you cannot unscramble the eggs,” and would not try to undo the damage caused by their predecessors. This is why, until the very last moment, anyone even mentioning the possibility of a collapse of the Soviet Union was considered a heretic, if not a lunatic. This is why the most conservative politicians of the West became loyal supporters of Comrade Gorbachev: if socialism as such was invincible, some moderate reforms of the system were the best you could hope for. And finally, this is why the downfall of Gorbachev’s regime came as a total surprise to the entire world–not as a long-awaited victory.
Vaclav Havel once complained that there were whole libraries written about the transition from capitalism to socialism, but not a single book about a transition from socialism to capitalism. Nobody thought that could ever happen. We had given up fighting long ago–and then, the Soviet monster suddenly died a natural death. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, socialism dies when it runs out of other people’s money. So it did in Russia, despite the entire world’s efforts to save it.
It was this capitulation that ultimately corrupted the Western world. To use Mrs. West’s controversial metaphor, it was a de facto Soviet occupation: government by quislings; demoralized, conformist population; desperate resistance from isolated groups of dissidents. Against the background of the “conventional” triumphalist mythology, the picture of “occupation” drawn in American Betrayal has of course caused some shock–and many denials. However, none of the critics have as yet offered a credible alternative explanation as to where it all went wrong.
This argument did not start yesterday, but it has been suppressed as rigorously as only the truth is ever suppressed. It has been a deliberate policy of the establishment to leave any discussion of the Cold War in the hands of the careful academics, to avoid debate, to stick to the consensus. Even sensational secret archives smuggled out of Russia would not be published in the West. Having spent many years in a desperate fight against that censorship, we appreciate what a major breakthrough American Betrayal is–and of course, we are not in the least surprised by the vehement campaign against the book. It is not simply a good book about history. It is one of those books which makes history.
For many years, we had been trying to explain that unless socialism is put on trial as Nazism was put on trial, unless we establish the full truth about the Cold War, we shall never free ourselves from the de facto Soviet occupation–we shall be governed by quislings and surrounded by conformists. In Vladimir’s case, he first made that prediction in early 1990s, even amidst the universal euphoria about the so-called end of the Cold War. Twenty years on, yet another version of the socialist utopia has been tried in the West and has failed, another messenger of truth has finally beaten the censorship–and yet, the establishment is still in denial and only tries to shoot the messenger.
Essentially, all we can contribute to this debate is exactly what we have been trying to say for all those years.
Vladimir’s book Judgement in Moscow, written in 1993 and published in most countries of continental Europe, was suppressed in the English-speaking world by means described in the first chapter of it. For many years, even mentioning the existence of that manuscript was something of a taboo in the Western media. Thus, when Claire Berlinsky was brave enough to mention it in the City Journal, that immediately provoked one of those Radosh pogroms against her.
The first chapter of the book, published for the first time by Breitbart News, is probably the best illustration of our thesis.