Ms. Kessler-Harris's defense of Hellman and others who refused to abjure Stalinism will sound familiar. While some party apparatchiks were "vaguely aware in the 1930s of Stalin's increasingly ruthless methods"—a rather limp way of describing a roiling genocide—one must remember that "this was, after all, a period when rumors flew." Soviet enthusiasts like Hellman, Ms. Kessler-Harris writes, were merely showing a commitment to "social justice" and not Stalinism per se. The Communist Party plumped for the noble goals of racial equality and a vaguely defined "peace," leading Ms. Kessler-Harris to ask: "How could [Hellman] not have joined?"People confabulate all the time, myself included, but many people consciously confabulate and excuse lies, and this is quite different. Usually this happens when they see a greater good, as illustrated not merely by Hellman's life, but by her sympathetic biographer. Note that Ezra Pound and Martin Heidegger are generally consider morally bankrupt for embracing fascism, which to me isn't worse than whatever you want to call what Stalin and Mao were doing. White lies have their place, but not for big intellectual debates like the viability of socialism.
Friday, May 04, 2012
Hitler vs. Stalin
review of a Lillian Hellman biography, a popular author who like most mid century intellectuals was enchanted by communism: