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This review is reprinted from the Winter 2011 issue of Midstream.
United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror. By Jamie Glazov. Los Angeles: WND Books, 2009. xxxii + 264 pp.
Jamie Glazov was born in the USSR in 1966. His parents were both dissidents, who felt they had to flee. They left the USSR in 1972 and settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1975. Glazov grew up in a family that knew about the horrors of totalitarianism. He eventually earned a Ph.D. in history and is now the managing editor of Frontpage Magazine, an online political journal that fights totalitarian tendencies in leftist thinking. To a certain extent, Glazov is continuing a fight against totalitarianism and anti-Semitism that was begun by Hannah Arendt.
In 1951, Arendt wrote a book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, which has since become a classic, exploring the 20th-century phenomenon of totalitarianism. One-fourth of this work is devoted to the question of anti-Semitism. Arendt wrote the book shortly after World War II, but her decision to link an ancient prejudice to a modern political ideology is as valid today as it was then. Glazov, in his book, provides us with a quotation to illustrate this connection. Ulrike Meinhof, one of the founders of the terrorist Baader-Meinhof Gang, said, “Auschwitz meant that six million Jews were killed … for what they were: money Jews. … Anti-Semitism is really a hatred of capitalism.” Meinhof was proud of her anti-Semitism.
Meinhof, to be sure, was a terrorist. Unfortunately, many leftists who have never committed acts of violence take positions approaching hers. Noam Chomsky, for example, would never describe himself as an anti-Semite and became famous for his writings on linguistics before he had published anything about politics. Chomsky visited Hezbollah in 2006 despite the fact that its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, had said about Jews, “If they all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” Chomsky showed by his visit that he had chosen not to understand that Nasrallah was calling for genocide.
Glazov feels that there are two basic reasons that the left has joined Muslim terrorists to oppose Jews and Israel. “First … leftism, like Islamism, detests modernity, individual freedom, and any value placed on individual human life. … In addition, Jews are seen as being synonymous with the oppressive structures of corporate capitalism and globalization.” Oddly, nowhere in the book are Israel’s kibbutzim ever mentioned. Before Israel became an independent state, its cultivated land consisted of either kibbutzim (communal farms) or moshavim (cooperative farms). A kibbutz was unambiguously a socialist enterprise; a moshav was partly private and partly communal. Since farms take up much more space than cities and towns do, most of the land owned by Jews during the days of the British Mandate was either entirely or partially the property of socialist communities. Corporate capitalism indeed! Leftist opponents of Israel have chosen not to know this fact, and Glazov has not reminded them or us about this piece of history.
Glazov’s book is divided into four sections: (1) The Believer, (2) Romance with Tyranny, (3) The Death Cult Cousin: Islamism, and (4) Romance with Terror. The first part sets the tone for the whole book. Believers don’t question. They have faith. Marxism is not a religion, but it does demand belief—blind belief—in the doctrines it teaches. Leftists today may ignore Marx’s writings about economics, but they support and have always supported regimes that suppress free thought. As we saw above, Glazov says that rejecting modernity and individuality is what links leftism to Islamism..
Some readers may disagree with Glazov’s allegation that leftism detests modernity, individual freedom, and the value of individual human life. At this point, we should remember that a liberal is not a leftist For example, Nadine Gordimer, responding to an interviewer who described her as a white liberal, said, “I happen to be white, but I’m not a liberal, my dear. I’m a leftist.” Glazov writes of many leftists who certainly are not liberals but rather supporters of totalitarianism, the various systems of thought control that Arendt talked about in her 1951 book.
Hannah Arendt’s good friend, Mary McCarthy, praised North Vietnamese society because she felt it had controlled thought and recreated human nature. McCarthy wrote, “The phenomena of existential agony, of alienation, don’t appear among the Vietnamese—probably in part because they lack our kind of ‘ego,’ and our endowment of free-floating guilt.” It is amazing that a novelist as informed and sensitive as McCarthy could actually believe that North Vietnam had ended ego and free-floating guilt; it is even more amazing that she could believe this was a good thing. McCarthy certainly was not alone. Shirley MacLaine, who visited China in 1972, wrote that she had never seen a quarrel in China and went on to say that “it slowly dawned on me that perhaps human beings could really be taught anything, that we were simply blank pages upon which our characters are written by parents, schools, churches, and the society itself.” MacLaine is unambiguously cheering the idea of thought control and the desirability of erasing human differences. I should add a personal note here: I lived in China twice, during the spring semesters of 1984 and 1989, and I saw and heard lots of quarrels. MacLaine, of course, is echoing Marx and Engels, who said that after the final stage of communism was achieved, people would no longer have any disagreements and the state would wither away.
Glazov, as we saw above, said that the left had joined with Islamism to oppose Jews since Jews were linked to globalism and capitalism. But there is a more profound factor in the hostility that totalitarians feel toward Jews: Jews argue. They think dangerous thoughts. Marxist regimes reject thinkers and intellectuals. Chairman Mao exiled teachers and writers to the countryside to learn from the peasants. Pol Pot simply killed them. Mao and Pol Pot didn’t attack Jews because there weren’t any in China and Cambodia (the Jews of Kaifeng, China, had assimilated and become invisible long before Mao ruled the country). Hitler, to be sure, never explained why he had to kill people who were Jews or descended from Jews. Perhaps he felt that the genetic flaw he had to eradicate was the argument gene.
Since Jews argue, a variety of beliefs may be found among them. There have certainly been Jews who were Communists; there are even Jews today who are sympathetic to Islamism. All the same, it is logical that argument and free thought are a problem for totalitarians. Totalitarians hate Jews. Hitler’s decision to try to eradicate Jews from the world was nevertheless irrational. Germany was a country that always respected scholars and intellectuals, and Hitler did not eliminate scholars the way Mao and Pol Pot did. Jews were heavily represented among Germany’s academics and scientists. Hitler knew he needed scientists because he wanted Germany to be able to produce atomic weapons, but anti-Semitism took priority over this need. Einstein fled Germany; Edward Teller and Szilard fled Germany’s ally, Hungary. Enrico Fermi, who was not Jewish but was married to a Jew, fled Europe when Mussolini extended Hitler’s racial laws to Italy. Hitler, for reasons that will never be fully understood, felt that killing Jews was virtuous and that virtue took precedence over his country’s military needs.
Hitler was a music lover who admired the music of Anton Bruckner, Richard Wagner, and Richard Strauss. He almost certainly would have adored the music of Gustav Mahler, but anti-Semitism came first. Mahler had been born a Jew, and so his music was banned, as was the music of Mendelssohn, another composer of Jewish descent. Jewish musicians fled, if they were lucky and able to do so. Those who didn’t escape were murdered.
Today, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is echoing the irrationality that Hitler put into effect 70 years ago. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has led many nations to impose sanctions against it. Israel may decide that it has to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Ahmadinejad has no practical need for these weapons, which are threatening his country’s security rather than protecting it. But he is amassing atomic bombs as part of a policy announced by moderate President Ali Akhbar Rafsanjani, who has in effect suggested that Iran should turn itself into a suicide bomb. In the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) sermon given on December 14, 2001, Rafsanjani said that if one day the world of Islam comes to possess nuclear weapons, Israel could be destroyed. He went on to say that the use of a nuclear bomb against Israel would leave nothing standing, but that retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely do damage to the world of Islam.
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