Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Norman Berdichevsky, a contributing editor for New English Review and the author of more than 200 articles and book reviews that have appeared in a variety of American, British, Danish, Israeli and Spanish periodicals. He is the author of the new book, The Left is Seldom Right.
FP: Norman Berdichevsky, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Berdichevsky: Thank you so much. It is both an honor and a pleasure to reach FrontPage readers.
FP: Tell us what inspired you to write this book.
Berdichevsky: I wrote this book and chose its title to primarily reach those, who like myself, grew up in an ultra liberal environment, assuming that the “left is always right”. As I grew older, I discovered that many of my assumptions that I received as “conventional wisdom” in the area of politics from my family, neighbors, and friends in the Bronx proved to be faulty, misleading or wrong. This discovery was further illuminated by my experiences in doing research at graduate school and many years residence abroad in Israel, Denmark, Spain and the U.K.
FP: What are the central themes of your book?
Berdichevsky: Although no older than the French Revolution, the political terms “Right” and “Left” have largely become stale clichés and often reveal little about the intentions, motivations, conflicting policy choices and the platforms of political parties that change with circumstances. Nevertheless, many people continue to use them as synonyms for the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. We all know that “politics make strange bedfellows – this is apparent in every election for those who look more closely than instant soundbites. Take Dennis Kucinic on the Left and Ron Paul on the Right and you cannot distinguish between their views on American foreign policy although they may offer different explanations and propose different solutions.
Due to the tremendous influence of the past three generations of most of our intellectuals, academics, writers, artists and Hollywood film producers, the term “Left” has come to be identified in the public mind with the unconventional, radical, daring, adventurous, generous, tolerant, and “liberal” (in the old sense of respect for individual liberties) while “Right” rather than conservative has been the favorite target of every critic of American society who has attacked it as narrow minded, provincial, intolerant, conformist, retrograde, timid, bigoted, racist and “anti-Semitic” (explaining why so many American Jews have an inherited gut reaction against the Republican Party as if this were still 1931).
I argue that:
1. This current worldview inherited from so many of our intellectuals and reinforced by many pundits and political commentators in the media reinforces an erroneous analysis of political events and personalities. Jonah Goldberg first made this seminal point in his best seller Liberal Fascism, the title of which shocked so many readers with his massive and accurate research and documentation demonstrating that the two administrations of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the two 20th century icons of the Democrat Party, witnessed the most outrageous violations of the rights of American citizens (wholesale deportation of unwanted “reds”, critics of American entry into world War I and other “radicals” in 1917-1920 and the internment of Japanese-Americans on the U.S. mainland by executive order, 1942).
2. It is primarily the political Left that has a vested interest in the continued use of this Left-Right terminology owing to their assumptions that all other cultures are somehow more authentic, holistic, integral and devoted to a sense of solidarity and community. They portray the United States as the epitome of alienation, greed, hypocrisy and crass materialism and therefore somehow deserving of constant condemnation.
3. Anti-Semitism was not inherently part of many nationalist or “rightwing” movements and that it is generated today overwhelmingly from the Far Left under the encouragement of the wealth and power of a militant Islam.
Several chapters in the book take a close look at the regimes of General Franco in Spain, Field Marshall Mannerheim in Finland, “reactionary” Bulgarian leader King Boris III, Greek national leader Iannos Metaxas, Austrian Fascist leader, Chancellor Englebert Dollfuss and his successor Kurt von Schussnig, and the ‘Far Right” Dansk Samling (Danish Unity) Party were all ultra-conservative and took steps to protect their Jewish citizens, afford them refuge or actively oppose the Nazis.
FP: Share with us your own intellectual journey since your youth and how it led you to seeing the falsehood of the Left.
Berdichevsky: The book reflects my own thinking on diverse political issues as it evolved from my years of graduate study (1969-74) at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. My five years there brought me into close contact with the serene landscape of a beautiful nature transformed by several generations of pioneers from Central and Northern Europe, many of them of Scandinavian, German and Polish ancestry with family names of ten or more letters like mine who played such a formative role in the development of the American Midwest and American character.
It was here that I came to realize not only the beauty of America but the basic goodness and generosity of its people in the heartland (a fly-over zone for so many “liberals”) – not the superficial and trite caricature of leftwing propaganda displayed so often by unthinking critics on both coasts who were as mindless then of the inhumanity of the Vietcong as they are today towards Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah or the Taliban.
My views were further shaped by the career I chose and research done in the field of cultural geography where I developed my fondness for foreign languages, an important tool in research and so often neglected by so many Americans whose knowledge of the world is totally limited by what they are able to read in English.
Lastly, the time I spent in Israel as a graduate student doing my Ph.D. research and subsequent visits put into relief the crass and ignorant drift of much of the Left from its position in 1948 when Israel was its darling to the situation today where the country has become a pariah state and the most inhuman, brutal and reactionary forces in dozens of Muslim majority states (all of which fail to provide essential services or liberties to their own citizens) are regarded by many on the Left as a natural ally in their crusade to “reform” American society.
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