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Ron Radosh

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer of 1964: 1000-plus white volunteers went South to Mississippi to help local African-American citizens register to vote, a right they had largely been prevented from executing since the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction. PBS recently aired a major documentary on the effort; the summer indeed is worthy of remembrance.

There is, however, one major myth about Freedom Summer that has stuck and which has been repeated many times. The myth comes from two quarters: the American left, and the proponents of black nationalism that emerged soon after the Freedom Summer, promulgated by the late Stokely Carmichael (who later changed his name to Kwame Ture), who first developed the rallying cry of “black power.”

This past Sunday, the New York Times allowed its op-ed pages to be taken over by one of these mythmakers: Professor Peniel E. Joseph, who leads a “Center for the Study of Race and Democracy” at Tufts University and who authored a recent biography of the black radical leader titled Stokely: A Life. According to Dr. Joseph, the fracturing of the civil rights movement after Freedom Summer took place because the white liberals in the movement eventually sold the blacks out by refusing to confront “racism on a national scale.”

They did this by supposedly hampering black activists from creating a non-segregated independent party that could gain recognition and replace the all-white Democratic Party Mississippi delegation at the coming Democratic National Convention. That group, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), was led by former sharecropper and local black activist Fannie Lou Hamer, who — in a dramatic TV appearance before the Democratic Convention’s Credentials Committee — told her own story of deprivation and suffering that black people like herself were experiencing in the deep South in that time.

As Joseph and others argue, white liberals — led by Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota — thwarted the MDFP’s demands, proposing a compromise that did not entail disqualifying the all-white Democratic Party delegation from Mississippi, and instead offering them only two at-large convention seats. The MDFP rejected this offer, despite it having been accepted by Martin Luther King, Jr., Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s counsel and civil rights activist Joe Rauh, civil rights leader and organizer of the March on Washington Bayard Rustin, and UAW chief Walter Reuther. The consequences, writes Joseph, were that black civil rights activists led by SNNC’s Stokely Carmichael soured on white liberals and turned against interracial political alliances.

In a short time, whites were pushed out of what had been the interracial SNNC. Instead, Carmichael and his followers adopted the position of creating a new black power movement that sought black freedom through all-black political parties, and by resorting to a strategy associated later with the Nation of Islam’s (NOA) New York City leader, Malcolm X, who called for obtaining freedom “by any means necessary.”

They rejected Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategy of adherence to both interracial coalitions and non-violence, and their action marked the start of a new black radicalism, epitomized by both the NOA and the all-black revolutionary group founded in San Francisco, the Black Panther Party (BPP) led by Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver.

That, to Professor Joseph, is “Freedom Summer’s most enduring legacy.” It is obvious that Professor Joseph believes that is a good thing.

Professor Joseph ignores the horrendous legacy of black radicalism, that of the birth of identification by the black leftists and black nationalists with the worst repressive Marxist and theocratic third-world regimes — Carmichael, for example, loved both Qaddafi’s Libya and Fidel Castro’s Cuba. He also ignores the thuggery and murderous activity of the BPP, and the anti-Americanism of Malcolm X that he persisted in holding even after he left the NOA and stopped viewing white people as “white devils.”

But it is Professor Joseph’s claim that white liberals sold out the blacks at the 1964 Democratic Convention held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is especially mistaken.

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The American Left has been expert in indoctrinating a new generation with false history. We have seen this with Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s Showtime TV series on the Cold War, and especially with the writings and pseudo-history of the late Howard Zinn. While conservatives — with some laudable exceptions — concentrate largely on policy issues, the left knows that it is not sufficient to work only for its own political agenda. The left realizes it needs to capture the realm of culture, which includes the portrayal of the American past.

The left believes that if the American past is to be accurately understood, its citizens must be educated to understand that their country was always the real oppressor of both its own citizens and the world community. Then, the evil of virtually all administrations will be seen not as an aberration, but as the result one should expect.

In order to understand this, it is necessary for the left to create myths. It does not matter if they have already been challenged and accurately discredited. They merely repeat them as fact.

In the past two weeks, a few examples have surfaced that illustrate how this is done.

1. How American Communists see the Haymarket bombings

The first example concerns what took place as part of the convention of the American Communist Party recently held in Chicago. As reported in the Chicago Tribune by reporter Ron Grossman, a man named Tim Yeager took the comrades on a history tour of Chicago. Yeager is described as juggling three jobs — “United Auto Workers union organizer, Communist official, and Episcopal priest” (consider for yourselves what that reveals). The article tells us what Yeager presented to  his CP group on a tour of labor-related sites in Chicago:

Friday morning, Yeager led a bus tour of some party history. The first stop was at the Haymarket statue on Desplaines Street just north of Randolph Street, where in 1886 a bomb thrown during a labor rally killed seven police officers and at least one civilian.

Known radicals, some not even present at the rally, were rounded up, speedily convicted and hanged. Several were buried at Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, making it a pilgrimage site for labor activists and the second stop on Friday’s tour. The Haymarket affair made Chicago the natural site for the Communist Party’s founding convention in 1919.

Yeager noted that the Chicago establishment leaders who called for swift punishment of the Haymarket martyrs were “the 1 percenters of that day” — the favored few who enjoyed immense riches while the majority toiled for crumbs.

In the CP’s version of events, the radicals at Haymarket were framed for what was clearly a police provocation, an excuse to arrest and condemn the radicals for their protest of bad working conditions. As John J. Miller explained last year in National Review, labor historian Timothy Messer-Kruse has written a book that demolishes the myth and tells the truth: the trial was not a travesty of justice, as the left has always argued, but a real anarchist conspiracy meant to create an insurrection starting with attacks on the police.

The prosecution proved its case, and was able through solid evidence to show that the anarchists were responsible for the throwing of the bomb that led to the death of the police officers. It was not “one of the great miscarriages of justice,” as one mainstream textbook tells its readers.

Messer-Kruse is an honest historian who personally is a social-democrat. “I drunk the Kook-Aid,” he told Miller, but he now puts accurate history in front of ideology. It is more than likely, he says,  that the seven dead policemen were not killed by the bomb, but shot in cold blood by the anarchists present at the rally. It was, as I put it in my own PJM column, the destruction of “another historical myth.”

The people Comrade Tim Yeager took on his tour, or the many thousands who read Howard Zinn’s falsehoods, believe the frame-up myth. And if they come across anyone who disputes it, they respond by attacking the person as a turncoat and a traitor, and by repeating the myth to their own students, over and over. The myth cannot be allowed to be exposed, or the result will be a possible rethinking of everything they have learned from the falsifiers of history

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With its cover story on Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, The New Republic has hit an all-time low. Written by TNR Senior Editor Alec Macgillis, it reads as a commissioned hit job meant to lessen Walker’s chances of entering the GOP presidential race.

Let’s start with the cover: superimposed over a photo of the governor standing by his desk is the title: “Scott Walker is So Hot Right Now: Too bad he owes his success to a toxic strain of Racial Politics.” Inside the issue, the title becomes: “The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker: A Journey Through the Poisonous, Racially Divided World that Produced a Republican Star.”

What you will not find anywhere is a discussion of what led the electorate to not only vote for Scott Walker, but to elect him despite the combined opposition of the AFL-CIO, the Occupy movement, and the entire left-wing media. After all, why bother with facts when readers are told he is “unelectable”?

For those desiring to find out about Walker’s record and why he would make a strong Republican national candidate, you can find it summed up by Marc Thiessen in the Washington Post, and in a column I wrote last November.

Whatever the future holds for the governor, this story reveals something that was not TNR’s or the author’s intent. They are worried that Scott Walker has broad appeal and that he would make a formidable opponent. This article is meant to nip any Walker candidacy in the bud, and to assure that he will not even try to enter the race. In carrying out this task, journalist Macgillis has written an article devoid of any real charges of merit against Walker, and in which he brings up much that cannot be tied to Walker in any meaningful way.

What really irks TNR is not anything Macgillis brings up in the article, but Walker’s many accomplishments. The most important one, as they well know, was that he successfully took on the teachers’ union and public sector unions, whose tie-ins with Democrats assured them the kind of benefits private sector workers do not have and which worked to break the budget of the state government. By taking away their right to bargain over fringe benefits,  Walker took away the incentive for many teachers and public workers to stay in the union, and the ranks of those who belonged began to drop tremendously. Taxes were lowered, the state’s budget was brought into balance, and other conservative reforms were implemented. As Marc Thiessen wrote, “Walker has long found a way to appeal to the center while governing as a conservative.” And he actually received in his election as governor the votes of a large number of voters who also voted for Barack Obama.

That kind of success puts a scare into TNR’s left-leaning editors.

So what does Macgillis actually write that supposedly damns Walker? A good part of his story is an intelligent portrayal of demographic changes that took place long before Walker was in politics. Simply put, whites left the city of Milwaukee for the suburbs, and African-Americans moved in. The result was a split city. From the ’60s to the ’90s, the black population shot up tremendously, to 30 percent of the population. That figure increased to 40 percent by 2014. This coincided, Macgillis notes, with the collapse of the industrial base and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs they once had, so that today “it has the second-highest black poverty rate in the United States.”

What does any of this have to do with Scott Walker, who became governor after all this had occurred? Nothing at all.

Moreover, the kind of educational reforms Walker supports are precisely the kinds of things that would help the black underclass receive a better education and gain a chance for their children to work their way out of the poverty of their parents’ generation.

Macgillis cannot come up with anything racist, at all, that Walker said which might feed white hostility towards African-Americans. Since he cannot, his answer is guilt by association.

He spends a good part of his piece attacking two talk-radio hosts who broadcast in Milwaukee, Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes. Their impact is profound, he claims, and he links as an example the loss of the chances of two moderate Republicans running in a primary election to these broadcasters’ opposition to them. How is Walker tied to them? Walker ran, he says, after the result of their power, when white Milwaukee was receptive to “anti-Obama ferver,” and Walker won a primary in which another conservative had been originally favored as a result of the radio hosts’ endorsement of Walker.

And why is any of this racist?

Macgillis gives the answer by saying Walker’s base is in the suburbs. Since Milwaukee is where the blacks live —  and they did not vote for him — this proves that Walker is a racist, and the white man’s candidate.

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America has no good options in Iraq. The real possibility that the Maliki government could collapse reflects an epic failure of our foreign policy and will pose a severe national security threat to the United States.

Liberals and leftists put the blame for this dire situation on the administration of George W. Bush and his key officials, especially Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Some conservatives agree, arguing that it was foolish and wrong for the United States ever to have intervened to remove Saddam Hussein from power. But most argue that the truth is that real gains were made in Iraq to create stability and the chance for a representative Iraqi government to emerge, after the military surge put into place by Bush — against the advice of many of his own team — proved effective.

There is truth in all sides. As Daniel Pipes put it, U.S. intentions were over-ambitious, and it was “George W. Bush [who] made the commitment to remake Iraq and … signed the ‘Status of Forces Agreement’ in 2008 that terminated the American military presence in Iraq at the close of 2011. For the Republican Party to progress in foreign policy, it must acknowledge these errors and learn from them, not avoid them by heaping blame on Obama.”

While the Bush administration may have made a call that turned out to cost far too many lives, both Iraqi and American, our intervention was based on false intelligence that was taken to heart by a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans. While Democrats attack the previous administration for its entry into Iraq, most prefer to forget that they too supported that intervention. At best, like Hillary Clinton, they acknowledge that they did, but say that they long since have publicly stated that they were wrong.

I think Dan Pipes is wrong, however, on one major point. A must-read article is out from the correspondent Dexter Filkins, a man widely acknowledged to be the best reporter and analyst on the region. Writing in the New Yorker blog yesterday, Filkins writes that when the U.S. first went into Iraq in 2003, “they destroyed the Iraqi state — its military, its bureaucracy, its police force, and most everything else that might hold a country together.” After many years of sacrifice, we worked to help the Iraqis reconstitute the state and maintain some stability. The failure of the Obama administration was not to keep a strong residual force in Iraq which would have provided a “crucial stabilizing factor,” training Iraq’s army, providing intelligence against Sunni insurgents, and curbing Maliki’s sectarian impulses. With our departure, Filkins concludes, we removed “the last restraints on Maliki’s sectarian and authoritarian influences.”

Most important, however, is the fact that the surge was successful, as was the military policy pursued by General David Petraeus. Ironically, the city of Mosul, which has now fallen to the Sunni extremist Islamic radicals, was in 2003 won by the classic counterinsurgency tactics initiated by the general. There — as his Wikipedia entry notes — his troops acted to “build security and stability, including conducting targeted kinetic operations and using force judiciously, jump-starting the economy, building local security forces, staging elections for the city council within weeks of their arrival, overseeing a program of public works, reinvigorating the political process, and launching 4,500 reconstruction projects in Iraq.”

These were substantial achievements, all of which have now gone down the drain.

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Perhaps the president’s handling of the Bergdahl-Taliban swap will be the one action that will turn the tide, pushing even his most stalwart supporters to become fed up.  I say this based upon a phone call my wife received last night from a relative, one of those perennial liberals who up to now has supported virtually every Obama policy and act. True, this is hardly a scientific poll or sampling. But we were stunned to hear this relative tell us how angry she was with the president. The deal, she said, was unconscionable and dangerous.

There is legitimate debate to be had about whether or not the administration should have moved to get Bowe Bergdahl back. Charles Krauthammer, in his much discussed column, argued in favor of Bergdahl  being freed and then tried by the military. At NRO, Andy McCarthy wrote a strong critique of Krauthammer’s argument, arguing that in the midst of a war that is not yet over, giving five top jihadists at Gitmo for one possible deserter is more than counter-productive. Moreover, it is quite possible he will never be court-martialed. Michelle Malkin reminds us that ten years ago this very month, a Muslim Marine deserted and although he was supposed to be court-martialed, a trial never took place.  This particular soldier was known to be supporting jihadists and regularly listened to their propaganda tapes.

As yet, we do not have all the facts about Bergdahl’s  desertion. Was he simply unbalanced and naïve? Was he an actual sympathizer seeking the Taliban  out? Or was his conversion to Islam and documented training with Taliban members done to save his life and prevent them from killing him? Or did it arise from a case of Stockholm syndrome?

Despite administration denials, especially Susan Rice’s now famous claim last Sunday that he served with “honor and distinction,” we know that the desertion took place. And there is good reason why the military treats deserters harshly. An armed force cannot survive, and ensure that dangerous missions are carried out and that discipline is maintained, if any soldier can decide at any time that he cannot fight and has to walk away.

It is also an insult to those who go into battle knowing that they may never come back. We were reminded of that when we paused to honor the sacrifice and heroism of those who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, where thousands were cut down, especially in the first group who left the boats and faced a barrage of German fire without any defenses to protect them.

The filmmaker Ron Maxwell reminds us in a Facebook post that during our Civil War in the extremely cold winter of 1862-1863, Stonewall Jackson’s aide-de-camp reported that three soldiers from the Stonewall Brigade had deserted. He  hoped that because of their age and that they had fought honorably with the unit for two years, they would be spared. Jackson replied  that it was a plea he could not accept. In a scene from his movie Gods and Generals, Maxwell writes what he thinks is likely Jackson said when he denied this appeal.  “Desertion is not a solitary crime,” Stonewall Jackson tells his aide-de-camp. “It is a crime against the tens of thousands of veterans who are huddled together in the harsh cold of this winter.” And so the deserters are tried in a court-martial and then shot.

In World War II, Private Eddie Slovik was sentenced to death by firing squad for desertion. Many now believe he was unfairly singled out as an example. Out of the 50,000 deserters in the war, many of whom received long sentences of jail time at hard labor, he was the only soldier executed. As WW II veteran Nick Gozik, who observed his execution by firing squad, has noted, Slovik was a brave man. He was given two chances to rip up his letter of intent to desert by officers, and rejected them. Slovik believed he was not constitutionally fit to engage in warfare, and he went to his death bravely without even flinching. But his execution — fair or not — indicates how seriously the U.S. Army dealt with deserters in World War II.

Some years ago, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, historian Michael Oren, wrote a prescient article about whether it is right to honor those who deserted in past wars, as had been the case when the British government erected an actual monument to those who had been shot for desertion in WW I, and then retroactively pardoned them. Oren worries that excuses for desertion might spread, and that Europe’s views “are symptoms of European attitudes toward not just World War I soldiers but toward all soldiers, even those who fight in just causes. And, if that is true, one might well ask: Can a society that valorizes its deserters long survive?” Oren believes that an attitude is developing that, since many now believe all wars are immoral,  deserters can be viewed as honorable. Would, he asks, Americans honor a soldier who deserted from the Union Army when its task became liberating slaves? Indeed, he notes that the Union Army actually had far more deserters than did the Confederacy. Oren writes:

For some Europeans, the aversion to military force is insufficient; they want Americans to lay down their arms as well. The Wall Street Journal recently profiled U.S. Army Specialist Andre Shepherd, a deserter living in Germany. Shepherd, with assistance from German peace activists, is seeking to stay in the country under an EU directive offering asylum to soldiers who refuse to fight in illegal wars. The German government has been paying for Shepherd’s room and board. “It’s just amazing here,” he told the Journal.

Today, the American left wing deals with the issue of Bergdahl’s desertion in two ways. The first is the growing chorus of those who blame his own unit for lax security, and imply that his fellow soldiers themselves were an undisciplined and carefree bunch. This is the editorial position of the New York Times, whose editors write that “the army’s lack of security and discipline was as much to blame for the disappearance, given the sergeant’s history.” The editors believe that Bergdahl is simply “a free-spirited man” who is unfairly being demonized by those who call him a “turncoat.”

What Michael Oren called “the eagerness to immortalize deserters” has already been taken up by some on the left, who justify Oren’s fear that some Americans might follow the European attitude. This time, it comes from The Nation magazine, the flagship publication of the American left.  Writer Richard Kreitner’s article is titled “The Honorable History of War Deserters.”

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Two Anniversaries and Their Meaning

June 3rd, 2014 - 7:29 am

This week, two major anniversaries will take place. On June 6, Americans will observe the 70th anniversary of the landing of U.S. and Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy, the largest land invasion in military history. Three hundred thousand soldiers and 54,000 warships took part in the landing. As most of us know from Tom Hanks’ movie Saving Private Ryan, their effort was carried out at a momentous price and was truly heroic.

It is most likely, as Time magazine notes in a poignant article, that this will be the last observation held in Normandy at Omaha beach (they occur every five years) with D-Day veterans in attendance. Those still living are in their 80s and 90s. “The reason why World War II has such a powerful influence on our imagination,” the British military historian Antony Beevor told Time, “is because the moral choices were so great and important. That’s the most important lesson for younger generations.”

Today, it seems that there are not many  heroes (outside of those in the armed forces)  the equivalent of those young men who now are referred to as “the greatest generation.” One has to pause and wonder: if America was under attack now as it was at Pearl Harbor, would so many rush to Army recruiting stations to voluntarily enlist to defend our nation?

We are reminded of how lucky we are to be living in the United States of America when we reflect on the meaning of the other anniversary that takes place only two days later after the conclusion of the Normandy landing. This one, remembered today-June 4th, will sadly not be remembered publicly in the country in which it took place.

I’m referring, of course, to the forthcoming 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in the People’s Republic of China, in which thousands of democracy protestors were forced to end their non-violent demonstration in an orgy of spilled blood. The so-called “People’s Army” shot young Chinese protestors on the orders of the Communist Party leadership.

The New York Times reports that we are now learning more about what happened on that day. It seems that one army general, chief of the powerful and large 38th Group Army, bravely told the party leaders when summoned to headquarters that he believed the demonstrations could only be resolved by the political process, and not by military force. Major General Xu Qinxian told a historian: “I’d rather be beheaded than be a criminal in the eyes of history.”

History is precisely what the Chinese government fears, to this day. Since Tiananmen, hundreds of Chinese have moved into the middle class, others have joined the world’s super-rich, and yet the bulk of farmers still live in rural poverty or flee to the cities to try to find work. What the Chinese do not have is any semblance of political freedom.  Dissenters are arrested and thrown into jail, the internet is heavily controlled, and accurate memory of past repression — especially that undertaken at the party’s command on June 4 twenty-five years ago at Tiananmen Square — is prohibited.

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You may not have heard of reform conservatism, but you should. For those who want conservative ideas to be taken seriously and to gain adherents of market-based reforms addressing the plight of the working middle class and the remains of the blue-collar class, the movement is imperative. It is simply not enough to yell “repeal Obamacare.” The conservative movement desperately needs new thinking that shakes things up and provides the kind of reforms that will address the problems our nation faces.

I view it as a most encouraging development that American Enterprise Institute, along with the Young Guns Network and National Affairs, hosted a major event last week to present leading reform conservatives, who spoke alongside both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Other prominent speakers included Ramesh Ponnuru, Reihan Salam, Ross Douthat, Peter Wehner, and Yuval Levin.

To understand precisely their approach, you can download their new e-book, Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class. The book has important essays by some of the most important and talented of serious conservative thinkers, who present new ideas on health care, tax reform, K-12 education, what kind of safety net conservatives should support, and almost every major policy issue. The thrust of their approach is what Peter Wehner notes to be the importance of developing policies that will “assist and empower working families — those who are, and those who want to be, in the middle class.”

Without the kind of effort these reform-conservative intellectuals have put forth, conservatives will always be vulnerable to the charge constantly made by left/liberal and social-democratic Democrats: Republicans don’t care about those who work, or about the poor and minorities. In his essay, Yuval Levin builds upon that task, and writes that conservatives have until now failed to put the call for limited government within the context of taking on what he calls the Left’s “technocratic approach to American society,” as well as its demands for an ever-expanding and limitless welfare state that avoids dealing with “the decentralized vitality of American life” while proposing programs that undermine its moral and economic foundations.

What these writers and thinkers are doing is taking on the ideology and assumptions of the Left’s vision of the world, both by challenging it head-on as well as offering alternative proposals that address the issues the Left always claims conservatives do not care about.

Already, only a scant few days from its unveiling, the left-wing is responding, realizing that this new effort is not just more of the same politicking. First came New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, arguing that a great gap exists between the group’s ambition and its actual ability to influence any Republican politicians. Chait goes back to what the Republican journalist Josh Barro told him last June, which is that “Republicans lack the imagination to come up with ideas to get higher wages, more jobs and affordable health care to the middle class. It is that there is no set of policies that is both acceptable to conservatives and likely to achieve these goals.”

Of course, the new effort precisely addresses Barro’s previous concerns. Of course, the skeptics are like E. J. Dionne, who has evolved over the years from a sharp centrist liberal to an apologist for the Obama administration, and who argues that whatever their intent, they will not succeed. He writes: “they are also limited by an increasingly conservative Republican primary electorate, the shift in the GOP’s geographical center of gravity toward the South, and a rightward drift within the business community.” In essence, his advice is give up — it won’t work, no one will listen, and everyone should accept the inevitable triumph of the Democratic Party and a forthcoming social-democratic European-style welfare state. Dionne, in other words, does not want the reform conservatives to succeed. As he puts it, “reform conservatism is better than the conservatism we have had. … But the conservatism we have had — and the politics it entails — will make it very hard for members of this movement to be as bold or as creative as our national moment requires.”

The Left, as Ross Douthat told Chait, believes that “American conservatism in its very essence is intent on soaking, punishing and immiserating the poor.” The goal of these reformers is to show that this is indeed not what conservatives want. One might ask Chait what he makes of the failures of LBJ’s “Great Society” program, which turned out to be an abysmal failure on many levels, and which they are now celebrating on its 50th anniversary, proclaiming the need to return to and finish Lyndon Johnson’s programs.

One positive sign that goes against the grain is Danny Vinik’s article in TNR, in which he admonishes liberals to take reform conservatism seriously. He suggests that the approach of Dionne and Chait is a cop-out, since instead of taking their ideas seriously and debating them, they respond by simply arguing that Republicans won’t act on any of their proposals. He has one point: there is a tension between trying to get politicians to listen while at the same time critiquing what they have come up with so far. Josh Barro, who is now with the New York Times, comments on what some of the problems are and argues that conservatives do address the deficit, but have not come up with ways to implement the tax cuts they propose.

At least Vinik is honest enough to write that “responding to valid conservative ideas like increasing the child tax credit or converting antipoverty programs into a universal credit is more intellectually challenging. Many liberals are concerned that after eight years of Barack Obama and potentially eight more of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s agenda will grow stale. Without a contested primary, how will the party continue to improve and adapt? Democrats can start by evaluating their policies in comparison to those of reform conservatives.”

I don’t think many on the Left will listen to someone who actually uses the words “valid conservative ideas.” Instead, they will continue to push for a shift further to the left, arguing that their party of choice should follow the lead of either Elizabeth Warren or, God forbid, Bernie Sanders. But, if they have their dithers, the Left should instead take Vinik’s advice: “Liberals should not dismiss [the reform conservatives] because reformers may have underestimated the gap between their ideas and the Republican Party’s current platform.”

If that happens, then we can have a real and meaningful and honest debate between those of us who hold a conservative vision and others who adhere to a leftist and social-democratic one. In the meantime, the smart group of reform conservatives have made a challenge to all conservatives and Republicans to come up with new ways of thinking. It’s about time.

The Soviet Union and the United States were involved in an ideological, political, and military fight almost as soon as World War II came to an end. The United States took the leadership of the fight for freedom against the forces of totalitarianism, then under the control of Joseph Stalin. The situation has some similarities with the one existing today, especially with the emerging differences over Ukraine and Putin’s attempt to revive the Soviet empire in a new form.

With the new deal between Russia and China, Putin has managed to gain the funds he needs to feed his ambition, just when the economy of Russia was beginning to tank. During the Cold War, the Nixon administration managed to play Mao’s China against the Soviet Union, thereby weakening Russia’s grip on the world and its desire for hegemony. That option does not exist today.

There are, however, other major similarities that are pointed out today in a very important speech by Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic. Together with Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who has been writing some of the most insightful articles about Ukraine (such as this one, and this blog in the New York Review of Books), they put together a major conference of Western and Ukrainian intellectuals in Kiev, which was held a few days ago.

Wieseltier, in his introductory remarks, makes a telling analogy. He argues that the events in Russia bring to mind the historic Congress for Cultural Freedom, held in Berlin in the early days of the Cold War, in which anti-Communist liberals and conservatives put aside their differences. They sought to work together to let those in the West understand why it was imperative that the Soviet Union — then still run by Joseph Stalin — not be allowed to succeed in its goals of building a Communist world. The Congress, as Peter Coleman subtitled his book, was a “struggle for the mind of postwar Europe.” Wieseltier writes:

All historical analogies are imperfect, but they are not for that reason false. The analogy between 2014 and 1950 is in some ways imprecise and hyperbolic: Putin is not Stalin, for example. But Putin is bad enough. Putin is very bad. It is not only evil in its worst form that we must resist. The discontinuities of recent histories must not blind us to the continuities. It is also the case — here is another discontinuity — that the United States and its European allies are not inclined now toward a geopolitical struggle that would in any way resemble the Cold War, which many Westerners regard as a dark and cautionary tale. I am not one of those Westerners: Unlike many American liberals, among whom I otherwise count myself, I regard the Cold War as a mottled tale of glory, because it ended in the defeat and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, which was indeed (for American liberals this is a heretical prooftext) what Ronald Reagan said it was — an evil empire.

Wieseltier considers the condition of Ukraine as one of “the proving grounds of principle in our time,” and it is a “modern struggle for democracy” akin to that which took place in the 1950s against Stalinism. So he and Snyder sought, in creating this event, to show the solidarity of Western European and American intellectuals with their Ukrainian counterparts. He argues that the Ukrainians were fighting for principles Americans endorse: liberty, truth, and pluralism. He marvels at the arrogance of Putin, whose propaganda proclaims the Ukrainian activists fascist, when it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black — “a fascist regime [which] has the temerity to call you fascist.”

Wieseltier, one must stress, is indeed a man whose position is similar to that of a once-large group, but now a dying breed: the so-called “Cold War liberals.” This was a favorite term of hatred used by the Left to describe those who fought the Popular Front initiated by the Communists in the days of World War II and the U.S.- Soviet alliance, and which they sought to maintain in the early days of the Cold War.

Nevertheless, today’s liberals — really those who take the positions of the far Left — have already sought to attack Wieseltier’s speech. The first culprit, and I am sure more will follow, is well-known liberal writer Jim Sleeper, whose response appears at the Huffington Post. He titles his article “Ukraine’s Neo-con Champions Champion Mainly Themselves,” a title meant to show his leftist readers that he has nothing but disdain for their efforts at solidarity. In so doing, he ironically shows that his position is analogous to that of the fellow-travelers and Communists who attacked the Congress of Cultural Freedom in similar terms in the 1950s.

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At the very start of the early New Left — circa the 1964-65 academic year — students in Berkley, California, started what was called the Free Speech Movement (FSM). Back in those days, university administrators did not allow early supporters of the civil rights movement to try to gather support on campus or solicit donations to various civil rights organizations. The police were called in to arrest the offenders, mass arrests were made, and giant rallies surrounding the Sproul Hall steps had nationwide repercussions, including a backlash to the protests from California residents who backed Ronald Reagan’s campaign for governor of California a few years later. Reagan emphasized his opposition to the actions of the student radicals.

It also led to a speech by a young student named Mario Savio, whose following words sound today like a clarion call by a libertarian:

But we’re a bunch of raw materials that don’t mean to be — have any process upon us. Don’t mean to be made into any product! Don’t mean — Don’t mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We’re human beings! … There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious — makes you so sick at heart — that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

How times have changed. The very New Left students of that era — so many of whom now run the universities against which they once protested — have moved from support of free speech to what might be termed the “No Speech Movement.” Or, perhaps more accurately, speech for which only those whom they approve should be allowed. Nowhere has this been clearer than in the various incidents surrounding invited graduation speakers at some of the most well-known private liberal arts colleges as well as one state university.

Last week, Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund,  announced that she would not appear at Smith College in order “to preserve the celebratory spirit” of graduation ceremonies at the college. One must wonder what anyone objected to in the choice of Ms. Lagarde, a woman who by any standards ranks as highly accomplished. The answer came in an online petition signed by 480 students and 120 faculty members, all of whom believe that Lagarde works for an institution that is part of “imperialistic and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.” Even the public statement by Smith’s president, who wrote students that an invitation to speak did not mean an “endorsement of all views or policies” of the IMF or Lagarde and that their petition was “anathema to our core values of free thought and diversity of opinion,” did not succeed in stopping Lagarde’s decision to step down.

Then, following Lagarde’s withdrawal by one day, Haverford College made known their strong opposition to scheduled commencement speaker Robert J. Birgeneau. Ironically, he was the former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley — the very university in which the FSM was born. Moreover, Birgeneau was a man of the political Left. Indeed, he was well known as an advocate for LGBT rights, the rights of undocumented immigrants (that is, illegal aliens), and “faculty diversity,” which many of us would call hiring by racial and gender classifications. What, indeed, could the student activists find objectionable in his scheduled commencement appearance?

One might consider his forced withdrawal a case of irony, as the chickens came home to roost, except for the fact that  it revealed only how far the collapse of free speech has taken place. Fifty students — 50, mind you — hardly a huge number, revealed that Birgeneau could appear, if only he accepted nine conditions they then laid out. First, they objected that in 2011, he had supported police being called to campus to deal with “Occupy Wall Street” protestors demonstrating at the infamous Sproul Hall. They demanded his admission that he played a role in police arrests and actions at the site, that he “support reparations for the victims of the November 9th beatings and arrests,” and that he publicly admit in a letter to Haverford students that his own “actions have not been in line with the values of peace, non-violence, and political participation.” This brings to mind  China’s Red Guards in the era of the ’60s “Cultural Revolution,” when the guilty had to confess their sins in a ceremony of humiliation. Birgeneau simply responded: “First, I have never and and will never respond to lists of demands. Second, as a long time civil rights activist and firm supporter of non-violence, I do not respond to untruthful, violent verbal attacks.”

Thankfully, Harverford’s president told students in a letter that they sounded “like a jury issuing a verdict.” And as Daniel Henninger put it in a superb column in the Wall Street Journal, “No one could possibly count the compromises of intellectual honesty made on American campuses to reach this point. It is fantastic that the liberal former head of Berkeley should have to sign a Maoist self-criticism to be able to speak at Haverford. Meet America’s Red Guards.”

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I was a friend of Marty Sklar since 1955, when I first met him as an entering freshman at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  His name had been given to me by a friend in New York City, who said that Marty was a leading figure on the left in Madison, and would gladly take me under his wing. He was also my graduate teaching assistant in the U.S. history course I took in Madison.

Since that meeting, I have been engaged with Marty for over half a century, agreeing and disagreeing with him about history, politics, and the state of American society. Throughout these years, one thing was constant about Marty: he said in 1955 — and held to this belief up to his passing — that he was a socialist.

Marty’s definitions of socialism, however, were something other than how most people would define that system. I have written about his concept before at PJ Media, particularly in this column, in which I tried to explain his original theory called “the mix,” in which he argued that all modern societies are composed of elements of both socialism and capitalism. This led him to argue that he considers himself to be a “Freedom Leftist” who believes in a pluralist-democratic and “publicly accountable left,” as opposed to Obama, whom he considers to be a “left sectarian doing his mass work.”

At his core, Sklar writes, Obama’s “world view is ‘Third-Worldist sectarianism.’” Moreover, he argues that Obama’s economic proposals are a high-tax, protectionist, and slow-growth program. Those of Republicans, in contrast, were based on a lower-tax, low-cost energy, “high-growth/job stimulus” program, and are not “ensnared in the green business/academia lobby agenda of high-cost energy,” which would work to both restrict economic growth and workers’ incomes.

Here is what Sklar wrote in 1999 in an essay titled “Capitalism and Socialism in the Emergence of Modern America,” which appears in Reconstructing History: The Emergence of a New Historical Society. His paragraph defines how he looks at both capitalism and socialism:

Social change in [the Progressive era] inaugurated an incessant interaction, both antagonistic and complementary, between capitalism and socialism that shaped and reshaped American society in the twentieth century. The continuing corporate reorganization of enterprise and the national economy has in its essence involved the meshing of capitalism and socialism in an American society distinguished politically by liberal democracy. … The rise of corporate capitalism in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century may therefore be understood as also representing the early phases of a sociopolitical reconstruction of American society based upon a hybrid of capitalism and socialism in a liberal democracy.

Sklar was insistent on the principle that state and society had to be separate from each other, and that the individual and liberty had to be protected against all encroachments by the state against individual citizens. Capitalism, he believed, broadened individual initiative and guaranteed principles of liberty and efficiency, as well as egalitarian values and behavior.

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