You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
…But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
… You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
…But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
“Historian” Michael Kazin, who writes for such scholarly periodicals as The Nation, has written a book purporting to tell the story of both the successes and failures of the American Left. It is about how the Left “Changed a Nation” but failed to ever get a majority of Americans to back an all-out socialist or communist government. Kazin completely leaves out the most important point — one crystallized by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in their 1968 song Revolution: “But when you talk about destruction/ Don’t you know that you can count me out…” Indeed, the author completely ignores the violence and destruction that characterized the political Left, not only in the 1960s, but throughout the century.
E.J. Dionne loves Kazin’s new book, calling it a “masterwork” that can inspire young progressives about their noble heritage. Eric Altermann calls it a “tour de force of good scholarship.” One can’t help but wonder, however, how the victims of the American Left will embrace Kazin’s tactic of whitewashing the violence out of the history of American leftism. To be sure, what will the family of Betty Van Patter, who was murdered by the Black Panthers, think? Kazin only reports that the Panthers “advocated violence, but discusses none of the actual crimes of this criminal gang – spelled out powerfully by David Horowitz in his memoir Radical Son.
My guess is that the neither the family of Sgt. Brian V. McDonnell, the San Francisco police officer who was killed by a bomb set by the Weather Underground (run by Obama mentor Bill Ayers) nor Officer Robert Fogarty, who was severely wounded in the blast, would be amused by Kazin’s affectionate recounting of the terrorist group as the “most inept terrorists on the planet,” only mentioning the members who blew themselves up while making a bomb to plant at an upcoming Fort Dix dance to take out not only soldiers, but their families as well.
The people of Poland will also probably not consider the central tragedy of the Hitler-Stalin Pact to be the crisis of conscience and bad PR it caused for the American Communist Party.
This is not even mentioning the 150 million human beings murdered in the last century by the governments supported by the Communist Party USA, which Kazin romanticizes in “American Dreamers,” and without whom we would apparently be a society of slave-holders, surfs whose women would not be allowed to vote or get a job.
Under the guise of being frank about the political failures of the Left to rule under the banner of leftism due to– he would have us believe, romantic overreach– Kazin whitewashes the violence that also undercut their cause at every turn. He omits one historical fact after another. For instance, he discusses early unions and is open about their socialist roots, but there is no mention of the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building by Iron Workers Union radicals that killed 21 people that was part of a concerted conspiracy of union intimidation.
Clarence Darrow also makes an appearance as a People’s Champion. The inconvenient truth that the labor movement united behind defending the union terrorists and that Clarence Darrow was almost disbarred for trying to bribe jurors in the case probably kept what was for a long time one of the worst terrorist incidents on American soil on Kazin’s cutting room floor.
Margaret Sanger is lauded as a pioneer who “fought for the rights of women as well as the emancipation of the working class.” The fact that prominent Nazis were allowed to write about eugenics for her publication? The fact that she wanted to limit numbers of people of particular ethnic backgrounds? Not worthy of mention.
Alger Hiss is described by Kazin as “the former diplomat convicted for lying about his communist past.” This is technically true, but what goes unmentioned is that Hiss’s trial occurred because he was an agent of the Soviet Union who committed treason, and declassified documents have proven this to be an undeniable historical fact.
And the list goes on… and on.
Unforgivably, for a book written in 2011 that spends a big percentage of its space on American Communism, Kazin makes no mention of newly declassified material like the famed Venona transcripts, or any or source, foreign or domestic, that proves just how active Stalin and the Comintern were in the activities of these supposed idealists.
Kazin also mentions David Horowitz in passing, as an example of a former member of the Left who is now an active opponent of his former cause—but ignores the detailed first hand accounts of the criminality of the Panthers, contained in Horowitz’s milestone book with Peter Collier, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the 60s. Read their account of the life and times of Huey P. Newton, Baddest, and then try to reconcile that with Kazin’s benign picture of anti-racist and anti-imperialist crusaders whose rhetoric went a bit too far.
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