From USSR to ISIS
How modern progressives are the heirs of Stalin’s “alibi armory.”
Ben Rhodes, the president’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, recently told the New York Times Magazine that newspapers no longer have foreign bureaus, so “they call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo.” The average reporter Rhodes encounters is 27 years old and “their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
One of the things they know nothing about is the major movement of modern times, Marxism-Leninism, also known as Communism, which first appeared nearly 100 years ago in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. From the start, the movement attracted attention around the world.
“I have seen the future and it works,” wrote American Lincoln Steffens, and that set the trend for “progressives,” as Communists and fellow travellers styled themselves. With the USSR firmly identified with the future, and the United States and other democratic capitalist nations cast as representatives of the past, defense of the Soviet regime became job one. When Stalin took the helm, the progressives hit stride.
“I put my money on Stalin,” was a favorite phrase of New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty. When Stalin starved to death several million Ukrainians, a technique he pioneered, Duranty wrote that there was no famine at all, and in fact abundance prevailed. He won a Pulitzer Prize and his articles played a role in U.S. recognition of the USSR. Duranty knew full well what was going on, but as a progressive guardian of the regime, he did his job.
So did Anna Louise Strong, the progressive American journalist who edited the Moscow News and wrote for the Atlantic Monthly, Harpers and The Nation. “One must not make a god of Stalin,” the feminist Strong wrote in her 1935 book, I Change Worlds. “He was too important for that.” That is hard to top but many other progressives had a go, as Paul Hollander chronicled in Political Pilgrims. Together they formed an alibi armory for the Soviet regime during the nadir of its brutality.
After the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, Stalin’s vast repressions of the late 1940s, and Khrushchev’s revelations in 1956, many progressives left the Communist Party, never to return. The Soviet Union lost its status as the representative of the future, and progressives turned their attention to the various Third World Communist regimes. When their murderous reality became evident, the progressives no longer hailed such regimes as models for the west and the wave of the future. On the other hand, the progressives’ antipathy for the West in general, and United States in particular, retained its full force.
Enter militant, supremacist Islam, as retrograde a force as ever existed: theocracy, oppressive Sharia law, and no semblance of human rights for anyone, particularly women. This is hardly the vision of social justice and diversity that progressives claim to espouse. Feminists, one would think, would be on the front lines against arrangements, but for the most part they are missing in action. Islamic regimes were allegedly victims of Western colonialism, and that outweighs any impulse to speak out.
Supremacist Islam justifies terror, mass murder, and slavery. It pursues a global vision of an Islamic world, and in this vision, as with the expansionist Soviet Union, the United States is glavy vrag, the main enemy. Progressives, bound by their ongoing grievances, respond with classic cognitive dissonance.
The threat is from some disembodied “extremism,” detached from its source. Those who perpetrate terrorism have complaints rooted in colonialism, or as the State Department contends, they can’t find a job that pays enough. On this theme, the worst offender is President Obama, a lifelong radical progressive.
When Islamic terrorists kill innocents, he invokes the crusades, in which the United States was not involved, and tells Americans to get off their high horse. Recall self-described “soldier of Allah,” Nidal Hasan, consulting with Anwar al-Awlaki about killing Americans. At Ford Hood in November 2009, Hasan murders 13 unarmed American soldiers while yelling “Allahu akbar!”
The President of the United States wondered what could have motivated Hasan to act, and called the mass murder “workplace violence.” It did not even qualify as “gun violence,” one of the president’s favorite themes. And of course, he refuses to use the word “Islamic” in regard to terrorism. This may be because, as The Audacity of Hope explains, he went to a “predominantly Muslim school” in Indonesia. On the other hand, one sees the same dynamic as the progressives who stood guard for Stalin. For progressives, the fault lies with the West in general and United States in particular.
For all their hatred of the West, and the notion that Communism was replacing capitalism, the Soviets never infiltrated agents to kill innocent civilians at random as on 9⁄11, in San Bernardino, Orlando, Paris and Nice. In radical Islam, in contrast, those who commit such deadly acts of terror gain the approval of Allah. As C.S. Lewis wrote, nobody will torment us more than those who do so with the approval of their own conscience. That warrants extreme caution that seems missing from progressives, and from the media.
The know-nothing reporters helped Ben Rhodes create an “echo chamber” that “validated what we had given them to say” on the Iran deal. In his speech to the DNC, the president claimed that, through diplomacy, “we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” On the other hand, many believe the progressive president’s deal with Iran virtually guarantees that the Islamic regime will acquire nuclear weapons.
In the West’s long standoff with the Soviet Union, no nuclear attack occurred, and there was no case of nuclear terrorism. With nuclear weapons in the possession of a radical Islamic regime, a major sponsor of terror whose mantra is “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” the result could be radically different. As inspector Claude Lebel told Madame De Montpelier in The Day of the Jackal, “be in no doubt as to the seriousness of your position.”
Meanwhile, progressives of a certain age might recall the famous poster from the 1960s about what to do in case of nuclear attack:
1) Stay clear of all windows.
2) Keep hands free of glasses, bottles, cigarettes etc.
3) Stand away from bar, tables, orchestra, equipment and furniture.
4) Loosen necktie, unbutton coat and any other restrictive clothing.
5) Remove glasses, empty pockets of all sharp objects such as pens, pencils etc.
6) Immediately upon seeing the brilliant flash of nuclear explosion, bend over and place your head firmly between your legs.
7) Then kiss your ass goodbye.