Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Socialist Party and the Old Right

By Arthur Bloom

Greetings. As the token conservative on the panel, I intend to get to what the Socialist Party has to say to us, but I’d like to begin, true to form, by complaining about the liberal media.
In September of last year, the New Republic released a 100th anniversary anthology with a more insurgent title than the magazine has ever earned, called “Insurrections of the Mind,” curated by their recently deposed editor Franklin Foer. In it he offers a succinct summation of what one might call Crolyism for the 21st Century: “the marriage of welfare statism and civil liberties is essentially the definition of American liberalism.”
In the Baffler this month, the estimable left-wing writer George Scialabba corrected him, noting the marriage in question “has actually been a love triangle,” with interventionist foreign policy as the third leg.
As the New Republic and its counterpart the Nation go through their anniversary retrospections, one in its 101st year and the other in its 150th, both have published long essays taking stock of their past. In the New Republic’s case, we might have hoped for a critical reevaluation of its mostly unbroken century of interventionism, before both World Wars right up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Instead, what we have is an extended mea culpa of a cover story about the magazine’s support for welfare reform and its failure to hire a diverse enough staff. Whatever the merits of this newfound sensitivity, to focus on that to the exclusion of the magazine’s militarism seems like a cop-out. In 2015, to diversify a magazine will earn you plaudits from all corners of respectable society. To question war and empire, on the other hand, usually means sacrificing one’s reputation.
DD Guttenplan, the London correspondent of The Nation, hints at this in his multi-part history of the magazine in its 150th anniversary issue, writing, “Pearl Harbor … put the seal on something The Nation hadn’t had in a long time: respectability.”
Guttenplan’s article credits Oswald Garrison Villard, the broadly libertarian editor from 1918 to 1932, and grandson of the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, with radicalizing the magazine and allowing for vigorous debate. But he doesn’t mention that Villard cut ties with the magazine in 1940 after having his pay cut over its support for rearmament. His history also doesn’t mention that Freda Kirchwey, Villard’s successor, was an apologist for Stalin’s show trials, which may have indicated something about her reasons for supporting war.

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