Sunday, September 13, 2009

Navel Gazing and Revolutionary Mass Murder

I'm reading Amity Shlaes' excellent The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. Perhaps I'll review it here, by and by. In the meantime, a small anecdote that illustrates how some things never really change. In chapter two she's following a group of American progessive thinkers who in 1927 went on a fact-finding mission (that's what it would be called today) to the Soviet Union. Although this was before the worst excesses of communism, the communist revolution had already killed hundreds of thosands of people, and you needed to be a bit myopic or obtuse not to have noticed. Some were:
A number of the [...] travelers had also involved themselves with the Sacco and Vanzetti cause - Douglas, for example, had sent money for the defense. But the pleas failed, and the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti was expected to happen while the travelers were in Europe. This act seemed to confirm American barbarism. Roger Baldwin, especially, wondered whether Soviet Russia might have found a higher sort of freedom. (p. 59).
Baldwin was the founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU. To be fair, in the 1930s he recognized that Stalin was a monster. But that was later.


Anonymous said...

have read one of her pieces at Bloomberg and remember having heard her in a podcast about the Great Depression - find it hard to believe she could have written an excellent book - she sounds so very very much like a proselytizing missionary

Larry Rabinovich said...

I don't know why you would want to hide under a cloud of anonymity. The book is horrible ( although it is popular among right wing politicians )

Yaacov said...

What can I tell you, folks. I picked it up at an (American) airport. I'd never heard of it or her, but it seemed interesting so I bought it. Now that I'm reading I can say it's very well written and a good read. I'm only on page 200 or so, and cannot yet say if she's got a compelling thesis or not. The idea that the New Deal wasn't a monolithic well-thought-through program that saved the American economy in 100 glorious days, and that the economy never really climbed out of the Depression until 1940, is so elemental I don't need her to know it.

Beyond that, once I've completed the book maybe I'll tell what I got from it.