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Understanding Radical Islam & Communism

May 20, 2010
by Lawrence Gulotta

Understanding Radical Islam & Communism

“How to Understand the Intellectual Underpinnings of Radical Islam and Communism? Prison Culture.” by Paul Berman in the New Republic, May 15, 2010

I’ve read Paul Berman’s essay, “How to Understand the Intellectual Underpinnings of Radical Islam and Communism? Prison Culture.” with great interest. I try to read all of Paul Berman’s essays in the New Republic and Dissent and his  books. He is a very good teacher and scholar. What are my  issues with this essay?

1. The Islamic ideological link to Nazism is senior to its link to Stalinism. That the race-hatred and anti-Semitism of the radical, fundamentalist Islamic world view is deeply connected to Nazism and Hitlerism has been carefully analyzed and brought to the public’s attention. The New Republic recently published a thoughtful review of Dr. Jeffrey Herf’s new book,” Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World,” where the linkage is made explicit.

2. After years of activity by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and a pantheon of powerful scholars and activists in the cause of anti-communism and freedom, we inherit the “Tea Party” and its defenders in the conservative media. These folks are still unable to distinguish between Communism, democratic socialism and liberalism.

3. It is hardly an historical revelation that Lenin and the Bolsheviks wiped out the non-Bolshevik left wing: Anarchists, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, Jewish Labor Bund, etc.

4. Of course, Prince Peter Kropotkin opposed the Bolsheviks. However, Berman does not mention that he also supported the Allies’ position in the First World War. He broke with Enrico Malatesta and the other anti-war anarchists and was clearly moving toward new ground. Was Kropotkin the “first neo-con?” A pro-war anarchist?

5. Three cheers for the cloakmakers, the socialists in the trade union movement, the ILGWU, the Workmen’s Circle, the YPSL, etc. Unfortunately, far too many of the comrades became supporters of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan’s administrations. Some of the younger comrades took jobs in the Reagan White House.

6. I must say that Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman have great stories of life-long rebellion both political, sexual and social. Berkman’s attempted murder of Henry Clay Frick set back the labor movement, was the wrong strategy for labor and is not a hero of the American working class. The Workmen’s Circle should have expelled him for terrorist tendencies instead of giving him an organizing job recruiting subscriptions to the WC’s burial society. Frick deserves more credit for leaving an astonishing art collection for all economic classes to enjoy. Compare red Emma to Margaret Sanger. Who made a greater contribution to sexual liberation? Enough with anarchist hero worship.

7. Regarding Lenin and the claim he was responsible for “ten to twelve million deaths.” The Yale studies on communism claim Lenin was responsible for 1,100+/- political murders.

8. Koestler, Malraux, Orwell, Camus,Silone, Chiaramonte, deserve serious study. Perhaps while attempting to engage the hateful, totalitarian Muslim Brotherhood with a new Congress for Cultural Freedom, our modern democratic left can try to engage the American public, the Republican Party’s increasing extremism and  “Knownothingism,” along the way.

9. Life in prison. Unfortunately, Paul Berman omits, Eugene Victor Debs, Antonio Gramsci and Martin Luther King. Each is a model of politics in prison.   Debs runs for President while in the Atlanta Pen and receives millions of votes.  Gransci leaves us the famous “Prison Notebooks.” Martin Luther King, “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Who is more significant in our history, Alexander Berkman or Eugene Victor Debs, Martin Luther King, “Darkness at Noon’s” hero, Rubashov?

Paul Berman’s essays are so thoughtful, they should be required reading at every Workmen’s Circle meeting, at a minimum

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