9 August 2004
Why don’t left-liberals have epiphanies?
By Craig J. Cantoni
August 4, 2004
Many people are libertarians and classical liberals because they had an epiphany at some point in their lives about the danger of concentrated state power, central planning and socialism, often from reading such novels as Atlas Shrugged and such economic treatises as The Road to Serfdom.
My epiphany began as a kid from reading every history book I could find on the evils of the Third Reich, which, as I came to understand, was exactly like the Soviet Union in terms of putting the interests of the state before the rights of the individual. The totalitarianism of both the Third Reich and the Soviet Union sprang from poisonous cultures that had a long history of squelching individualism.for the ”greater good” of society.
Now, 40 years later…
...I’m wondering why left-liberals do not have similar epiphanies. Why do they and their allies in academia and Hollywood demonize Hitler and fascism so much more than Stalin and communism? And why are there so many more popular books and movies about the horrors of Hitler and fascism than about the horrors of Stalin and communism?
Whatever the reasons, the result is that left-liberals only get it partially right. To their credit, they respect civil liberties. To their discredit, they espouse group rights based on class and race, they enact speech codes and restrictions on political speech, they restrict the right of free association, they believe that an individual’s money belongs to the collective to be redistributed for the ”greater good” of society, they see nothing wrong with the government and unionized teachers having a monopoly on K-12 classroom thought, they have utopian notions about what people should drive and where they should live, and they disparage capitalism, which is nothing more than the manifestation of economic freedom.
In short, left-liberals believe that the individual is secondary to the state and society. They believe this because they have not had an epiphany about the nexus between socialism and fascism. And they have not had an epiphany, I believe, because Hollywood and academia have not demonized socialism to the same extent that fascism has been demonized.
Such thoughts are on my mind for two reasons. First, I am reading an excellent new book about Stalin and the Bolshevik Revolution: Stalin: The Court of the Red TSAR, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Second, for about the tenth time, I recently watched the classic movie Judgment at Nuremberg, starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, and Montgomery Clift. Clift felt so strongly about the importance of the movie that he acted in it without recompense—and, in my opinion, gave one of the best performances in the history of cinema.
The movie is a fictional account of German judges being judged by an American tribunal for following Nazi law and holding sham trials. I know of no comparable film that dramatizes how Soviet judges followed the diktats of Stalin and held sham trials. Nor do I know of any left-liberal actor who has starred without recompense in a movie that shows the horrors of Bolshevism.
Of course, there were never Nuremberg-like trials of Stalin’s evil cabal after the Second World War. To the contrary, in an ugly display of hypocrisy and double-standards, Soviets were allowed by the United States and the other allies to join them in sitting in judgment of the Nazis for crimes against humanity that rivaled the crimes against humanity committed by the Soviets.
I understand the political reasons at the time for the hypocrisy and double standards, but I do not understand why the hypocrisy and double standards continue today in the unequal treatment by Hollywood, the publishing industry and academia of the two equally evil ideologies.
Yes, equally evil.
Stalin and his henchmen killed as many of their fellow citizens as Hitler and his henchmen. The difference was that Stalin’s genocide was based on class while Hitler’s was based on race. Ironically, many of the perpetrators in the Politburo and Congress of Soviets were Jews, while most of the victims in the Third Reich were Jews—a fact that some people stretch to explain why Hollywood has demonized fascism more than communism.
In any event, images are permanently etched in American minds of the unspeakable horrors of Nazi concentration camps. I still remember horrific documentaries that were shown in Catholic elementary school in the 1950s of the concentration camps being liberated and the piles of bodies, spectacles, gold fillings and hair. (No mention was made by the nuns of the Vatican’s Concordant with the Third Reich.) The images have been refreshed by such fairly recent documentaries as Shoa and by such powerful movies on the Holocaust as Schindler’s List, Sophie’s Choice and The Pianist.
Speaking of the The Pianist, it shows, through the masterful direction of Roman Polanski, the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto by Nazi troops. But to the best of my knowledge of movies, there is not a similar American movie that details the complicity of the Soviets in the quelling of the Warsaw Uprising. Soviet troops were close enough to Warsaw to come to the aid of the city, but Stalin chose to let the Nazis do the dirty work that he would have to do later to subjugate Warsaw and Poland.
Tellingly, there is a paucity of movies about Stalin and a plethora of movies about Hitler. For example, I recently went to Hollywood Video to rent the movie Stalin, one of the few movies about the Bolshevik dictator, starring Robert Duvall. The store did not carry the movie.
There were only two movies at Hollywood Video on the Bolshevik Revolution, Doctor Zchivago (1965) and Reds (1981), neither of which glorifies communism but both of which gloss over Bolshevik atrocities.
The same is true for the movie Stalin. Having seen it before, I know that it touches on Stalin’s genocide, but unlike movies about Hitler’s genocide, it does not show graphic reenactments or actual footage of the genocide. For example, it does not show millions of peasants being sent to Siberian concentration camps for the ”crime” of owning land and wanting to keep some of the fruits of their labor. Nor does it show women and children dying ghastly deaths from starvation, unlike movies on the Holocaust that show women and children being gassed in the ”showers.”
In a similar vein, there is a Holocaust museum and memorial on the Capitol Mall but not a museum and memorial dedicated to the hundred-million or so who have been slaughtered in the name of communism.
Even current political language and labels perpetuate the unbalanced view of the Left and Right. For example, the epithet ”right-wing extremist” is used far more in the mainstream media to describe conservatives than the epithet ”left-wing extremist” is used to describe liberals—as if left-wing extremism is somehow morally superior to right-wing extremism.
A similar phenomenon (propaganda?) has occurred with respect to the portrayal of Israel by Hollywood and academia. In such movies as A Woman Called Golda (1982), early Zionists, many of whom were Bolsheviks, were shown as beleaguered heroes standing for democracy against Arab barbarians. The portrayals conveniently overlooked the sordid history of the Balfour Declaration, the fact that Jews and Moslems were living in relative harmony in Palestine before Britain and France began carving up the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and how American Jews hypocritically went against their commendable belief in the separation of church and state by influencing American foreign policy to support the religious state of Israel.
The adjective ”left-wing” was not used by left-liberals to describe the early Zionists, even as they formed collective communes. Today, however, as left-liberals have come to see the Israeli government as increasingly capitalistic and militaristic, they use the adjective ”right-wing” with regularity to describe it.
In summary, left-liberals do not have epiphanies about the evils of leftism for one reason: They believe their own propaganda.
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Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Filed under: Craig-Cantoni