Sunday, November 27, 2011

Was Nation Magazine pro-Stalin?


My dust-up with Nation Magazine contributing writer Ari Berman occurred at the onset of what I had hoped would be a constructive conversation on my radio program “The Fairness Doctrine - left, right and uncensored. My co-host, liberal commentator Patrick O’Heffernan had invited Berman on the air to discuss President Obama’s State of the Union address. I began by asking if it was ok if I diverged from the topic briefly to clear up a matter regarding a piece of history related to his magazine. Then came the fireworks.

I brought up that fact that the editor of Nation Magazine, Freda Kirchwey, had been a loyal Stalinist in the 1930’s and 1940’s and remained loyal to Stalin after the 1939-1941 Hitler-Stalin Pact. The pact divided Poland between the two socialist behemoths, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and triggered World War II. Kirchwey became editor of Nation in 1937 and had turned the magazine into a virtual organ of Stalinism. This meant, I contended, that Kirchwey and many of the writers for Nation were therefore de-facto pro-Nazi in those years.

In 1939 Kirchwey criticized the Committee for Cultural Freedom, a group whose members included eminent leftists with a conscience such as Sidney Hook, Max Eastman and socialist Norman Thomas, for releasing a statement condemning both the Nazi and the Soviet dictatorships as totalitarian. This was too much for Kirchwey who wrote that the term totalitarianism should only apply to Fascism and not Communism and that the group threatened left-wing unity. Hook responded to Kirchwey writing that her statement “brings the Nation that much closer to 13th Street (Communist Party Headquarters) in the public mind; some members of the committee have told me that after reading your editorial they felt as if the Nation had died.” Kirchwey’s selective condemnation was a blind spot that still infects many leftists today, one that stands in stark contrast to the consistent conservative position of accurately condemning both Nazism and Communism equally and on the same moral grounds.

Berman responded to my remark with the claim that the American right had been pro-Hitler. His evidence to back up this absurd statement was that the right was non-interventionist before America got into the war. This would be as ridiculous as claiming that all who opposed the Iraq War were pro Saddam Hussein. If he had done some research before throwing out such an ugly slur Berman would have known that the America First Committee, the most prominent American anti-war group at the time, was made up of both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, left and right. America First counted as members such prominent leftists as Chester Bowles, former Nation editor Oswald Garrison Villard, and socialist Norman Thomas. The only major group in America that was pro-Hitler in the years leading up to the war, other than the Nazi Party itself and their small coterie of followers was the Communist Party and its fellow travelers during the 1939-1941 Hitler-Stalin pact.

Before hanging up the phone, Berman asserted that he really couldn’t comment on any of this since it happened before he was born. This juvenile line of reasoning would, assumedly, limit any discussion of the Nazi Holocaust to those born before 1945. Berman’s archive on the Nation Magazine website reveals the same sort of rabid partisanship that would have no doubt done Freda Kirchwey proud. He writes under the assumption, for example, that the right was responsible for the Arizona shooting but he does it in a sophistic and indirect style that employs innuendo and guilt by association.

A Google search of Ari Berman reveals a handsome young man and Berman is as smart as a whip. Hopefully he will mature to the degree that his mind won’t be warped and his moral compass won’t be permanently shattered by this sort of hyper ventilating partisanship and blind goose-stepping to a party line. But than again, by taking such positions, Ari no doubt is invited to many fashionable parties and is looking forward to a career filled with accolades and trophies.

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