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In Fairness to John Dewey

His show trials commission and Sidney Hook. Also: Ben Stein and Obama's latest war. Pawlenty and Franken. Plus more.

3.28.11

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DEWEY OUT OF STEP
Re: Paul Kengor's Dewey's Disciples: From Madison to Maryland and Beyond:

Paul Kengor's article is perceptive as always.. But in all fairness to John Dewey, he should have mentioned that while Dewey was pro-Soviet in the 1920s, in the 1930s he chaired the Dewey Commission ("Committee of Inquiry into Charges Made Against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials"), which published a 400 page book, Not Guilty, exonerating Trotsky of all the charges made against him by the Soviet regime, and exposing the Moscow Trials as a farce and an outrage. Today it's hard to imagine how any sane person could defend the Moscow Trials, but in the late 1930s the argument was that if you criticized the Trials, you became anti-Stalin, and therefore pro-Hitler. This argument was advanced, for example, by Will Herberg (who went on to become a distinguished conservative thinker and contributor to National Review), who maintained that even if Trotsky didn't actually collaborate with Hitler, his ideas pointed in that direction, so he was "objectively" guilty as charged! Of course, once Dewey came out in defense of Trotsky, the entire communist propaganda machine was turned against him. This incredible story is brilliantly told in Sidney Hook's memoir, Out of Step. (Sidney was the world's most vigorous anti-Stalinist, but he was also a devoted follower of John Dewey; indeed, he was called "Dewey's bulldog.") 
-- Joseph Shattan

Paul Kengor replies:
I'm honored to get a response from Joe Shattan, whose excellent book, Architects of Victory: Six Heroes of the Cold War, I've used in my classes at Grove City College.

Yes, Dewey did considerably better when it came to the Trotsky trials, which is a complicated subject, and didn't necessarily put Dewey in the camp of stalwart anti-communist -- though it did make Dewey anti-Stalin. The professor's actions were more in protest of Stalin rather than communism in general. Where Dewey stood on communism by the end of his life is another of those maddening aspects of Dewey and his writings that's exasperatingly difficult to pin down.

In April 1934, Dewey produced an essay titled, "Why I Am Not a Communist," published in Modern Monthly, and quickly thereafter (same year) reprinted in hardcover in a printed symposium edited by Sidney Hook. Dewey actually wrote the piece in 1933, and said it was the culmination of "reservations" that had begun to swirl in his mind back in 1931. Yet, it was clear from the essay that Dewey's problems were not so much with "communism" as a philosophy as much as official "Communism" as it was being pursued by Communist regimes at the time -- a reference to Stalin's current Russia. As the professor put it, he objected to "Communism, official Communism, spelt with a capital letter." It was not so much the ideology as the ideology being put into practice.

In fact, Dewey is such a remarkable story, requiring so much detail, that I went through this full history in my book, Dupes. There, I did three chapters on Dewey, after initially thinking I would need only one.

That said, none of this takes away from the central point in my article, which is that Dewey and the Bolsheviks formed a mutual admiration society in the 1920s, and specifically on educational policy, and his educational ideas in particular. They loved his work, and he was flattered by their appreciation. That both sides saw such a perfect fit is not good news for our educators who have been busy implementing Dewey in America for 100 years now -- or, at least, it wouldn't be good news if they actually knew about it.

DEPARTMENT OF AMPLIFICATION
Re: Roger Kaplan's Moving On With Moammar:

My contribution of March 21 mentioned an Algerian political figure, Ahmed Benbitour, born 1946, whom I described as a former prime minister and a leader of the new Alliance for Change. I should have added that although he hails from Ghardaia in the northern Sahara (sometimes described as the beginning of the Algerian south), a preponderance of whose inhabitants are Berbers of the Mozabite sect, Benbitour himself is neither a Mozabite nor a Berber, but rather a member of the Chaambas, who are an Arab tribe. I thank the editors for inserting this detail. Relations between Chaambas and Mozabites are at best fraught, and there were eruptions of violence in the city of Berriane, a major center in Ghardaia, in 2008 and 2009.
-- Roger Kaplan

ON ALERT
Re: Grover Norquist's The Battle Moves to the States:

A great article today, but remember that it won't just be the entrepreneurs that Texas attracts. Parasites need healthy hosts. Eventually the hangers-on will follow the productive class to the more prosperous states as well, but will bring their old thinking with them and change the voting demographic. The states with Republican majorities need to act now to institutionalize their productivity. Governor Walker is a good example of this, but even a state like Texas should lock in its small government now via its state constitution. Don't just assume that an enlightened electorate is the only safeguard you need.
-- David Barnes

THE SMALLEY FACTOR
Re: Nicole Russell's Sam's Club President:

Pawlenty is a gutless piece of crap who either ran away from the Dems when they engineered their putsch back in Nov. '08 giving us Senator Stuart Smalley and in essence guaranteed Obamacare, or if you prefer, was Pontius Pilate washing his hands while American patriot Norm Coleman got crucified AFTER WINNING that election. Heck, this little Timid Timmy has NEVER addressed the subject of his cowardice, not even in his self-serving book, and yet you and others buy the myth this RINO is churning out about being a "Conservative."

Pawlenty is a coward and a liar, just like Obama. Difference is, we know what we're getting with Barry Boy. We don't know how Timid Timmy will hold up...if he couldn't stand firm and resolute in 11/08 how do we know he'll be any different in the Oval Office?

No thanks, Timmy. Go back to being a wimp and washing your hands like a good little boy. And American Spectator, please don't give him any more publicity. Thank You.
--
Alan Rockman
Phoenix, Arizona

MIXED MESSAGES
Re: Ben Stein's One World Government Obama and We Have an Illegal War:

 Ben Stein is an astute political observer and a great American. He more than almost all politicians has his finger on the pulse of the American majority.

But more than that his personal sense of morality and justice reflect what used to be the American identity. He should be a write-in candidate for president of the United States. I've emailed him twice previously to offer feedback on his speeches and he's responded kindly within minutes both times.
-- Mike Ligon

I can concur with Stein's position and critique on Libya, but did he take the same positions on our illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan that were precipitated by the previous administration? If he takes the position that we were attacked by Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or some other mythical lie concocted by our government to justify the previous administrations illegal invasions, then I have a bridge to the moon that I can sell you. The U.S. does not care about the Libyan people, it's all about destroying Gaddafi's military capability so he does not attack oil production, Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait.
-- Harvey Rifkin

I call your attention to one pertinent fact: that the Europeans are taking the initiative. That is most uncharacteristic, given, for example, that they were AWOL when war raged in Kosovo --their back yard. Therefore, they must have a strong motive for intervening here. The only obvious one is to stem the flood of most unwelcome refugees, all bound for Europe. Thus the goal is cynical and simple: end the conflict quickly --no matter who takes over afterwards. Why Zero is carrying their water for them is another question, but a minor one --I'm sure he doesn't really know himself.
--
Mike Walsh

Where were you when President Cheney and is puppet Bush were ignoring the Constitution with the lies that lead to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Answer, You were their most consistent cheerleader. Your bleating here about your new-found respect for constitutional government strike this reader as too little, too late.

The United States hasn't declared war since 1941, but that hasn't stemmed the death toll of our soldiers, nor the destruction of the economy, that is the inevitable end of all empires. The destruction of our country comes from the collusion of both sides of the aisle, or I should say, flip sides of the same coin. The only principled position is in opposition to the whole sordid affair presented by our two party oligarchy.
-- Kit Maira
San Fernando, CA

President Obama got the right to send the country to war from George W. Bush. The Constitution was laid to rest under George W. Bush. There was no resolution to spend money on the invasion of Iraq, no declaration of war against Iraq, just an excuse for Bush to order an illegal invasion. Yes, illegal. Saddam complied with every requirement that was made of him, and Bush invaded anyway.

Oh, in case you forgot, the justification for the war was, originally, Saddam's failure to comply with UN requirements. Ex post facto it was justified by the fact that he was killing his own people.

So, yes, President Obama got the authority to attack Libya from your support of Bush's invasion of Iraq. What? No congressional debate? Since when did congressional debate mean anything in the real world? Saddam Hussein and Iraq were no threat at all to the United States, a fact that was known to the Bush administration before the invasion. Reread the Senate Select Committee report on pre-war intel again, only this time really read it. Both parts. Oh, and read the inspectors reports while you are at it.

As to the "Third Concurrent War," your side would have no problem at all with that were the target Iran, or even Venezuela.

As to going on vacation the same day, I don't know just which day it was, but I do recall George H.W. Bush racing around in the waters off Maine in his gas guzzling cigarette boat while U.S. troops were preparing for war in Iraq the first time around.

Where did President Obama get the authority to send U.S. forces to attack Iraq? From G.W. Bush, and from your support for G.W. Bush and his war for oil.
-- Bob Klahn
USAF 1967-1971 SSGT

I am quite right wing but just as I don't like the left reading out of a playbook that applies to the right as well. If Stein would have kept his comments to questioning whether the president of the U.S. has the right to declare war then that is a reasonable argument. To focus only on Obama, and to snidely refer to him as "Mr. Barack Obama" shows that Stein, and by extension, the Spectator are simply reading from the right-wing playbook. Other presidents, including Reagan, Bush 1 and 2, have done similar things. Show some intellectual consistency if you expect to expand your readership. You've lost mine.
-- Victor Kharmalov

Ever sadder that the Republican leadership is so quiet on the issue. Elections have consequences? Not when Republicans win.
-- John Schuh

"The left uses opposition to unpopular wars to recruit supporters the same way young men use poetry and cute dogs to pick up girls."

Please stop corrupting the minds of our young. Only the dog works.
--
D. Gurevich

Thank you, Ben.
-- Jeremiah in the Rockies

QUR'AN CRITICISM
Re: George Wittman's Democracy and Islam:

Islam (as religion and as culture) is an oxymoron to the idea of democracy. Just spend some time learning about Islamic ideas and the historical record! Many of the "experts and academically-educated talking heads" from our universities and "think tanks" are blinded by arrogance and ignorance directed by political correctness. 

Islam is the only major culture where political and theological (spiritual) powers are vested in one center (caliph). Historically, Islam is an imperialistic culture governed by Mohammed's concept of jihad. The Qur'an's Islamic doctrine of abrogation (naskh) is the theory where Allah's later revelation to Mohammad cancels out the earlier ones. According to this idea the verses of the ninth sura (Verse of the Sword 9:5), "slay the unbelievers wherever you find them" repeal the peaceful verses revealed earlier. The ninth sutra is the last section of the Qur'an revealed to Mohammad.

It was with the assistance of arrogant, ignorant and cowardly, politically-accommodating "intelligencia" that fascism-Nazism and communism in the 2oth century could exist. I wonder what can be expected today!
-- Milan Alexander.
 

ROBERT REICH SENT ME
Re: Peter Ferrara's Bush Tax Cuts Still Working -- For Now:

A 15% tax rate for all individuals? What utter arrogant nonsense. What is needed is a return to Eisenhower days with max rates of 70%. Those with incomes over $250K do not pay anything close to their fair share today. Every person earning $1M or more should be taxed at a 50% rate at minimum. As for the thought that having low taxes causes jobs, don't make me laugh. That old chestnut has been disproved more times than I can count. What low tax rates do for the rich is enable them to retain more wealth, not spend it. As for estate taxes, they should be raised to 50% of everything over $500K. Let each successive generation start out on a more or less equal footing. 
-- Michael Harrison
Lititz, PA

ASKING FOR TROUBLE:
Re: Robert Stacy McCain's The First Casualty of War:

Give me more Stacy McCain!!!
-- Mike Anderson
El Segundo, CA

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