February 23, 2003

History Rhymes

Stephen Schwartz, perhaps best known today as an expert on Wahhabism, was, like many of today's neo-cons, a red diaper baby, and a communist and New Left activist in his youth. He also, it turns out, went to Lowell with the recently-convicted SLA terrorist Michael Bortin. His reflections on his old high school pal, and the kind of "activism" in which he and his ilk indulged, make for interesting reading. The complaint about "johnny-come-latelies" ruining the scene is, of course, as old as any other scene-related phenomenon, but as we're talking about terrorism as well as fashion here it is of more than passing interest.

How did the '60s Left turn "utterly rotten" so quickly and irredeemably? In part, Schwartz implies, it was failure to question the authority of the authority-questioners, a failure that was ironically inherent in the rebellious ideology itself:

By 1968 many of the "young pioneers" had personally and professionally moved on from mindless activism... But the tone in the mass movement was increasingly set by the Johnny-come-latelies, which seems to be an inevitable outcome in leftist history. They were not big readers or thinkers; their intellect was located somewhere between their viscera and their sexual organs. They were having the time of their lives, and nobody was going to get in their way, as the family of Myrna Opsahl learned, the hard way.

I now believe the speed with which the '60s Left turned utterly rotten had more to do with a particular ideology than with inexorable historical laws. Between the Bolshevik revolution and the surrender of the global Left to Stalinism required the passage of 20 years, the imprisonment and massacre of numerous revolutionary "pioneers" of that time by the Soviet secret police, and the rise of Stalinism's homologue, Nazism. Yet with all the moral evil of Bolshevism, its lies were resisted by many radical intellectuals.

Our lies went unresisted.

We told our generation that the Cold War had been created by the U.S. as a scheme to perpetuate an undefined "imperialism"-- a lie echoed today by the marching morons who parade in defense of Saddam.

We told our generation that the only alternatives were peace or war, i.e., acceptance of Russian expansionism or a devastating nuclear conflict.

We told our generation that Martin Luther King, Jr. a true man of God and righteous leader in the greatest political transformation of the 20th century, the American civil rights movement, was a weak leader susceptible to surrender.

We told our generation that petty thugs were selfless heroes. These included Ho Chih Minh, who had murdered hundreds of Vietnamese Trotskyists before attacking his neighbors; like Fidel Castro, a whiter version of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, in military dress like Franco or any other Hispanic caudillo; Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a physician who ordered liquidations in violation of his Hippocratic oath; and Yasir Arafat, who enriched himself by keeping the Palestinian Arabs in a state of abjection and dependency.

We told our generation that the Soviet turn toward support of corrupt Arab regimes did not represent a devil's deal with anti-Jewish hatred, stirred up in the Soviet camp under the pretext of criticizing Israel.

We told our generation that terrorism was not a crime against humanity.

All lies; and the indoctrination of millions of American young people in such lies could not but lead straight to Emily Harris and her shotgun, killing Myrna Opsahl.

There are lessons here for anyone who has ever been tempted to join a "movement." "Swimming against the stream," even if (especially if?) it's a stream within a stream, can save your life.

The intriguing postscript is worth noting, as well:

There remains a major unanswered question in this depressing affair: who arranged for Kathleen Soliah and James Kilgore to travel to southern Africa? I have my own sources on these matters, which I am following up. But will we have to wait for the opening of Cuban archives to learn the full truth about the malign activities of these rotten adventurers?

(via Michael Totten, who as it happens, unwittingly hired Bortin to do his floors shortly after 9/11. Apparently, he did a good job.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 23, 2003 08:24 AM | TrackBack