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Response to Edward Cline’s Review of My Book “The Left is Seldom Right”
Edward Cline’s review of The Left is Seldom Right takes me to task for failing to meet his standards and propounds his own views on the correct use of Left-Right terminology. I should be grateful that Mr. Cline does correctly assess the intent of my book when he writes that it “challenges the Left-Right yardstick and offers ample evidence of its inadequacy to explain and incorporate all the varieties of statism and freedom.”
He then continues, “Berdichevsky, however, does not offer an alternative measure that would handily identify the particulars of the Left and Right. It owes much to Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, which pioneered the critiquing of the Left-Right yardstick.”
It was not my intention to offer my own alternative measure to identify the particulars of the Left and Right although I cite numerous examples and explain how they are improvements over the simplistic view of a simple one dimensional continuum (pp. 21-30). I also give full credit to Jonah Goldberg’s pioneering work, Liberal Fascism.
My three objectives clearly stated at the outset are to:
- Further document cases (with more emphasis on foreign affairs) that verify Goldberg’s thesis;
- Demonstrate that although the Left-Right terminology is the source of much misuse and misunderstanding, it is primarily the political Left today that has a vested interest in its maintenance due to the pervasive influence of three generations of American intellectuals, cultural figures, writers, Hollywood producers and the media (chapters 2 and 3). This has resulted in an acceptance by a large segment of public opinion identifying “Left” with liberal, cosmopolitan, generous, compassionate, popular, secular, and non-judgmental and “Right” with prejudiced, narrow minded, reactionary, bigoted, “ultra-religious,” racist, nationalist and anti-Semitic. A large part of the book demonstrates that the effect of these stereotypes has been the hardened and erroneous view that only the “Left” opposed Fascism and the Nazis during the lead up to World War II (see chapters 12-18 on the ultra-conservative, monarchist and conservative, “right wing” leaders such as Churchill, DeGaulle, Metaxas, Dollfuss, Pilsudski and Sorenson who resolutely opposed the Nazis while much “Liberal” opinion dithered or sought to compromise and promote policies of coexistence and appeasement);
- Show that some nationalist and “right-wing” movements and leaders were not necessarily anti-Semitic and that anti-Semitism today is generated primarily from the Far Left under the influence of Arab oil wealth and a misplaced identification with the “underdog” (i.e., the Palestinians).
I am pleased to acknowledge Cline’s statement that “Berdichevsky’s book, if nothing else, can enlighten a reader about so many past paradoxes, such as why the Left originally endorsed the founding of Israel but now is engaged in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel vitriol. Berdichevsky discusses the Spanish Civil War, the Greek and Argentine episodes of authoritarianism, and why the Left allies itself with Islam and the Right refuses to condemn that particular species of totalitarianism…”
Mr. Cline does, however, make several serious charges and assertions about me and the book that I refute as follows:
I am not “editor” of the New English Review, but only one of numerous contributors. Ten chapters are wholly new and never appeared in previous issues of the New English Review while the other fifteen, based on previous articles of mine, have been rewritten, updated and in most cases expanded (some to twice the original length). There is no index, which Cline assumes makes the book less scholarly, but each chapter contains numerous footnotes on a page by page basis to refer readers to the original source of information cited and quoted. The claim that my syntax is awkward and that the text is confusing is refuted by the 14 reviews now posted on Amazon.com, the great majority of which praise my engaging way of writing so that each chapter tells a story and is not just a collection facts. I leave the ultimate judgment to the readers.
Each chapter can stand alone. The book does not have to be read in sequence. Some chapters refer to supplementary material found in other chapters and expand the reader’s knowledge, which explains why occasionally, information on the same topic appears more than once.
I admit to the charge that I miscalled Attorney General Holder “District Attorney.” I am criticized for not mentioning Bismarck as the author of the statist/welfare philosophy in Germany but throughout the book I show that many ‘social welfare’ policies were promoted by notorious autocratic leaders and populist politicians considered to be on the Right, a la Huey Long. I highlight the adage that “anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools” by quoting the founder of the German Social-Democratic movement, August Bebel (p.276).
Chapter Two on important political films encompasses two dozen movies (pp.31-45) but omits Cline’s favorite film, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” an unforgivable admission in his opinion. Strangely, I am condemned as an “apparently anti-abortionist religious conservative” without any basis. And I am criticized for concluding that the attacks on William Jennings Bryan in the film “Inherit the Wind” reveal a Hollywood left-wing bias by completely ignoring the real facts of the trial and following a script that invents a fictional romantic relationship between Scopes, the teacher, and a girl whose father is a fundamentalist Christian fanatic. According to Cline, this proves that I am some kind of anti-progressive because H.L. Mencken condemned Bryan for his fundamentalist Christian views. I go to lengths to explain that Hollywood’s treatment of Bryan is doubly ironic because no other figure in American political history (nominated three times by the Democratic Party for President) is so closely associated with the cause of anti-imperialism (Bryan’s strong opposition to the Spanish American War) and his support of the “working class” manifest in the Cross of Gold speech.
Originally published in Accuracy in Media.