Of Collaborators and Careerists

by Corey Robin on October 17, 2014

The announcement of the death of David Greenglass has got me thinking a lot about collaborators. Though much of twentieth-century history could not be written without some discussion of collaborators—from Vichy to Stalinism to the Dirty Wars to McCarthyism—the topic hardly gets a mention in the great texts of political theory. Eichmann in Jerusalem being the sole exception.

In my first book on fear, I tried to open a preliminary discussion of the topic. That discussion drew from a wide range of twentieth-century experiences, in Europe, Latin America, the US, and elsewhere, as well as from my reading of Eichmann and Montesquieu’s Persian Letters.

Reading over what I wrote, I’d say I failed. I was so intent on breaking apart the conventional understanding of the collaborator as someone who aids and abets a foreign enemy that I wound up broadening the category too much. So intent was I, also, on breaking apart the three-legged stool of perpetrator-victim-bystander—where was the collaborator in all this, I wondered—that I wound up conflating low-level perpetrators with collaborators; I now think there’s an important difference there.

That said, I thought I’d reprint my discussion here. As I said, political theorists have yet to grapple with the problem of collaboration. Or careerism, which is a related topic. One day, when I’m in my dotage, I’d like to write a book, a kind of political theory of careerism and collaboration. Arendt thought we should take our theoretical cues from actual political experience; political theory was first and foremost an attempt to understand what we are doing. That’s why she wrote books and essays on totalitarianism, revolution, action, and other political phenomena. But when it comes to careerism and collaboration, we have yet to understand what we are doing. So here goes.

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By conventional understanding, a collaborator is one who assists an enemy, helping groups to which he does not belong threaten groups to which he does belong. (1) But this definition, it seems to me, is too restrictive. It presumes that a group is a discrete whole, that once in it, we can’t get out of it or have competing affiliations.

Collaborators, however, cannot be so neatly bound. Some do not entirely belong to the group they betray; others, like the French fascists of Vichy, have a deep affinity for the enemy they aid. Informers are perhaps the most common kind of collaborator, but they are notorious chameleons, making it virtually impossible to pin down their affiliations at all.

Knud Wollenberger, an East German dissident who secretly kept the Stasi apprised of his wife’s subversive activities, claims that his collaboration was entirely consistent with his membership in the couple’s oppositional circle. One way to challenge the government, he explains, was “through open dissidence, and the other way [was] through government channels. I was on the inside and the outside at the same time.” (2)

Harvey Matusow joined the American Communist Party in 1947, began informing on it in 1950, recanted his testimony in 1954, and then lied about all three phases of his career in his memoir False Witness, published in 1955. So promiscuous were Matusow’s politics, it is impossible to know what he had been false to, except the truth. The title of another FBI informant’s memoir—I Led Three Lives (as Communist, informer, and “citizen”)—was more apt, suggesting the multiple identities the collaborator regularly assumes. (3)

I don’t wish to carry this notion of multiple affiliations too far. Wollenberger could very well be rationalizing a past of which he is ashamed, and Matusow may simply be the hollow man many at the time suspected him to be. Whether we belong to one group or another in some existential sense, in the course of our lives we do incur moral obligations to our comrades and friends, whom we betray when we aid our opponents.

But to avoid the question of identity that restrictive definitions of collaboration entail, I will use the definition contained in the word’s Latin root collaborare: “to work together.” By collaborator, I simply mean those men and women who work with elites and who occupy the lower tiers of power and make political fear a genuinely civic enterprise.

Collaborators may be low- or mid-level perpetrators; suppliers, like the warehouse in Jedwabne, Poland, which provided the kerosene local residents used in 1941 to burn a barn containing 1,500 Jews, or Ford and General Motors, which funded a Brazilian security outfit that interrogated and tortured leftists; attendants (cooks, secretaries, and other supporting staff); or spies and informers. (4) Though all are not equally compromised by their deeds, each is guilty of complicity.

The collaborator is an elusive figure. With the exception of The Persian Letters and Eichmann in Jerusalem, he seldom makes an appearance in the literature of political fear. One of the reasons for his absence, I suspect, is that he confounds our simple categories of elite and victim. Like the elite, the collaborator takes initiative and receives benefits from his collaboration. Like the victim, he may be threatened with punishment or retribution if he does not cooperate. Many collaborators, in fact, are drawn directly from the ranks of the victims.

Perhaps then we can distinguish between collaborators of aspiration, inspired by a desire for gain, and collaborators of aversion, inspired by a fear of loss. The first are akin to elites, the second to victims. But even that distinction is too neat. Elites also fear loss, and victims hope for gain, and as the economist’s notion of opportunity costs attests, the hope of gain often informs the fear of loss. (5)

Collaborators serve two functions. First, they perform tasks that elites themselves cannot or will not perform. These tasks may be considered beneath the dignity of the elite: cooking, cleaning, or other forms of work. They may require local knowledge—as in the case of informers, who provide information elites cannot access on their own—or specialized skills.

We often think of torturers, for example, as thugs from the dregs of society. But torture is a weapon of knowledge, designed to extract information from the victim, often without leaving a physical trace. The torturer must know the body, how far he can go without killing the victim. Who better to assist or direct the torturer than a doctor? Thus, 70 percent of Uruguayan political prisoners under that country’s military regime claim that a doctor sat in on their torture sessions. (6)

Second, collaborators extend the reach of elites into corners of society that elites lack the manpower to patrol. These collaborators are usually figures of influence within communities targeted by elites. Their status may come from the elite, who elevate them because they are willing to enforce the elite’s directives. (7)

More often, their authority is indigenous. Figures of trust among the victims, they can be relied upon to persuade the victims not to resist, to compound the fear of disobedience the victims already feel.

During its war against leftist guerillas in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Salvadoran army worked closely with such indigenous leaders. In 1982, a battalion officer informed Marcos Díaz, owner of the general store in the hamlet of El Mozote, with friends in the military, that the army was planning a major offensive in the region. To ensure their safety, the officer explained, the townspeople should remain in the village. Though many in El Mozote thought such advice unsound, Díaz was the local potentate who knew the army’s ways. His voice held sway, the villagers did as they were told, and three days later, some eight hundred of them were dead. (8)

Because their functions are so various, collaborators come in all shapes and sizes. Some travel in or near the orbit of elite power; others are drawn from the lower orders and geographic peripheries.

One common, though unappreciated, influence upon their actions is their ambition. While some collaborators hope to stave off threats to their communities and others are true believers (9), many are careerists, who see in collaboration a path of personal advance. In Brazil, for example, torture was a stepping stone, turning one man into the ambassador to Paraguay and another into a general, while doctors advising the torturers in Uruguay could draw salaries four times as high as those of doctors who did not. (10)

Whether the payment is status, power, or money, collaboration promises to elevate men and women, if only slightly, above the fray. Nazi Germany’s Reserve Police Battalion 101, for example, was a unit of five hundred “ordinary men,” drawn from the lower middle and working classes of Hamburg, who joined the battalion because it got them out of military service on the front. All told, they were responsible for executing 38,000 Polish Jews and deporting some 45,000 others to Treblinka.

Why did they do it?

Not because of any fear of punishment. No one in the 101 faced penalties—certainly not death—for not carrying out their mission. The unit’s commander even informed his men that they could opt out of the killing, which 10 to 15 of them did. Why did the remaining 490 or so stay?

According to Christopher Browning, there were different reasons, including anti-Semitism and peer pressure, but a critical one was their desire for advance. Of those who refused to kill Jews, in fact, the most forthright emphasized their lack of career ambitions. One explained that “it was not particularly important to me to be promoted or otherwise to advance. . . . The company chiefs . . . on the other hand were young men and career policemen who wanted to become something.” Another said, “Because I was not a career policeman and also did not want to become one . . . it was of no consequence that my police career would not prosper.” (11)

Though ambitious collaborators like to believe that they are adepts of realpolitik, walking the hard path of power because it is the wisest course to take, their realism is freighted with ideology. Careerism has its own moralism, serving as an anesthetic against competing moral claims. Particularly in the United States, where ambition is a civic duty and worldly success a prerequisite of citizenship, enlightened anglers of their own interest can easily be convinced that they are doing not only the smart thing, but also the right thing. They happily admit to their careerism because they presume an audience of shared moral sympathy. How else can we understand this comment of director Elia Kazan in response to a colleague’s request that he justify his decision to name names? “All right, I earned over $400,000 last year from theater. But Skouras [the head of Twentieth-Century Fox] says I’ll never make another movie. You’ve spent your money, haven’t you? It’s easy for you. But I’ve got a stake.” (12)

 

Notes

(1) According to Jan Gross, the word “collaboration” first took on this negative connotation—as opposed to the more neutral notion of two parties working together—with the Nazi invasion of France, whereupon it was used to refer to natives of occupied countries who colluded with the Germans. Jan Gross, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 5, 205-6.

(2) Tina Rosenberg, The Haunted Land: Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism (New York: Vintage, 1995), xiii.

(3) Herbert A. Philbrick, I Led Three Lives: Citizen, ‘Communist,’ Counterspy (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1952); Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Boston: Little Brown, 1998), 310-13, 344-349.

(4) Gross, 97-100; Lawrence Weschler, A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990, 1998), 44.

(5) Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope Against Hope (New York: Modern Library, 1970, 1999), 42; Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1958), 19.

(6) Weschler, 126.

(7) Levi, 33.

(8) Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War (New York: Vintage, 1993), 17, 20, 23, 50, 59.

(9) Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 77-82; Victor Navasky, Naming Names (New York: Penguin, 1980, 1991), 3-69; Gross, 37-40, 60-62, 65, 91, 123-125; Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York: HarperCollins, 1992, 1998), 162, 177, 180, 196-200, 202.

(10) Weschler, 76, 127.

(11) Browning, 1-2, 55-77, 169-170; Bauer, 37.

(12) Stefan Kanfer, A Journal of the Plague Years: A Devastating Chronicle of the Blacklist (New York: Atheneum, 1973), 173. Even if Kazan had refused to testify and been penalized by Hollywood, he undoubtedly could have had a thriving career as a Broadway director—a point he affirmed before his death. Bernard Weinraub, “Book Reveals Kazan’s Thoughts on Naming Names,” New York Times (March 4, 1999), E1.

{ 144 comments }

1

novakant 10.17.14 at 7:20 am

Interesting topic, Kazan’s case is much more complex than you suggest though

http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/navasky-chap7.html

2

Ze Kraggash 10.17.14 at 7:57 am

“Particularly in the United States, where ambition is a civic duty and worldly success a prerequisite of citizenship, enlightened anglers of their own interest can easily be convinced that they are doing not only the smart thing, but also the right thing. “

Why, not just in the United States, everywhere; this is a universal and relatively common worldview. For this worldview and in this context, the concept of “groups to which he does belong” is meaningless. Any belonging is opportunistic and accidental. You play the odds, bet to win. Unselfish loyalty to a group is not a virtue. Collaborationism is the norm, while loyalty to one’s group is unhealthy and amounts to fanaticism.

3

Jesús Couto Fandiño 10.17.14 at 10:17 am

I dont think that is a “common” worldview – I mean, of course it is not alien to any society in Earth, but the wide extent that success is worshipped in the US (and the extent lack of it demonized) is a bit alien to other societies.

For example, we may have excellent, world-class careeerists over here in Spain, (more or less 99% of our politicians), but most people idea of “ambition” used to be “If only I get a civil servant job, those are for ever, no matter if the pay is not good, security is the first thing”. What the average Spaniard prices is stability, safety and living a simple life – being obsessed with success is seen as tacky, maybe because we assume the only way to actually get it is to be a corrupt collaborator, maybe because envy is thought to be the national vice.

(Current neoliberal craziness is destroying that dream but not by convincing people it is not good, just by making it not true anymore)

That doesnt invalidate it being universal (one common insult here is “trepa” which means, basically, “climber”), but the whole Protestant worldview of success in life == high moral standing is not universal.

4

cassander 10.17.14 at 10:24 am

To call Mccarthyites collaborators is a rather gross abuse of the term. Mccarthy was an unpleasant fellow, but he was a demagogue riding a populist wave in opposition to the establishment of his day, not an agent of the powers that be (or were, I suppose). If anything, it was the communist spies of the 40s and early 50s, the Alger Hisses and Rosenbergs, that were the collaborators.

5

Vladimir 10.17.14 at 12:43 pm

I would suggest that under the ambit of collaboration we create two sub categories: perpetrators and informers. Among perpetrators we then are confronted with the fact that some perpetrators are individuals acting in an informal capacity i.e. outside laws and institutions and those who take on positions that part and parcel of governance. Prof. Robin has only cited examples of the last 70 years, collaboration as an accusation and moral judgement has a much longer history- sometimes it’s applied retrospectively. Empires have often, though not always, sought indigenous intermediaries. The problem with merely calling these notables collaborators is that they are not always subservient to the wishes of the imperial masters. Indeed they may become the only means by which a community can legitimately express its grievances. This is , in my view, an entirely different phenomenon than being a local brigand who for a small payment tortures, kills or rapes. Of course, the charge of collaboration often arises in war or during revolutionary political change. So context matters a lot. It’s selective and cynical in its application and reveals a lot about the politics of those making the charges. Regarding careerism , maintaining one’s socio-economic status can be as important as upward mobility. I don’t see why Horatio Alger type stories need be an important part of explaining collaboration. Informing in particular is subject to motivations such as jealousy, personal dislike etc.

6

Corey Robin 10.17.14 at 1:02 pm

Cassander at 4: “He [McCarthy] was a demagogue riding a populist wave in opposition to the establishment of his day, not an agent of the powers that be.”

That interpretation of McCarthyism was fashionable in the 1950s and 1960s, in part b/c it was the opinion of scholars like Richard Hofstadter, Daniel Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, and others.

It has since been thoroughly debunked. Starting with Michael Rogin’s *The Intellectuals and McCarthy* and Robert Griffith’s *The Politics of Fear*, both of which came out in the late 1960s and early 1970s, up through, well, there’s an entire cottage industry now on McCarthyism, virtually all of which rejects the populism thesis.

McCarthy was very much a creature of the Republican establishment, who only turned on him — very late in the game, in 1954, four years after he had begun his campaign — because he finally turned on him. Up until that point, they were only too happy to use and promote him, as he was very useful in taking on the Democrats, labor unions, and other liberal and left groups.

McCarthyism — broadly construed — certainly had its bottom up elements, though these tended to be concentrated and found in organizations like the American Legion, but it was also very much a top-down politics.

The stereotype of him as demagogue whipping up the masses against the elite just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

7

MPAVictoria 10.17.14 at 1:38 pm

@ Cassander

I have but one response:
“You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

8

Lynne 10.17.14 at 2:02 pm

There are some chilling examples in your piece. I guess no one can know how far they might bend their principles if they were threatened, but I find it incomprehensible that someone could kill for personal advancement, much less that 490 of 500 “ordinary men” could do so. I just don’t understand this. Were they able to tell themselves the 83,000 Jews would have been executed or sent to a death camp anyway, whether they helped or not? How is it possible so few of those men declined to kill when there was no coercion?

9

Ze Kraggash 10.17.14 at 2:08 pm

Cassander is right, I think, that group membership (as well as the understanding of what ‘threaten’ groups) is arbitrarily assigned by someone, by some biased observer usually. An American loyalist may live next to American patriot, but they don’t belong to the same group, and each views the other as a collaborator. Or, if they do belong to the same group, then their views of the interests of their group are radically different.

10

cassander 10.17.14 at 3:49 pm

@Corey

>McCarthy was very much a creature of the Republican establishment, who only turned on him — very late in the game, in 1954, four years after he had begun his campaign — because he finally turned on him.

McCarthy was born on a farm in wisconsin and started his career as a democrat. That’s about as far from the eastern establishment as you could get in the 1940s, and his rise and fall took place mostly during his first term in the senate, so he was hardly an insider. I think you have the causation a bit backwards here, people were afraid of McCarthy, including republicans, so they didn’t move against him until it was safe to do so, but they never liked him. They prefered more mainstream anti-communists like Nixon, who went after people who were actually guilty of spying. And even nixon, who made his name going after Hiss, stayed clear of McCarthy. Eisenhower, certainly, hated his guts.

>The stereotype of him as demagogue whipping up the masses against the elite just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny

That isn’t quite what I was claiming he was doing. there were some elements of that, but mostly he was just exploiting popular fears without any particular target. If he had an agenda beyond personal aggrandizement, I can’t discern it. he was just a rather low individual, not terribly bright, who found an applause line and ran with it well past the point of sense. That said, I don’t at all rule out the possibility that someone, presumably Hoover, got the ball rolling (or at least significantly sped up) by leaking him some names at first, then stopping later for his own mysterious purposes.

>Lynne

Most disturbing of all is the einsatz gruppen. It would be one thing if they just found sociopaths to staff them, but they didn’t. They were eventually abandoned largely because the constant executions were bad for moral. Murdering tens of thousands, apparently, will get you down. Not enough to make you stop, mind you, just enough to irritate your efficiency minded bosses.

11

Barry 10.17.14 at 3:55 pm

Corey: “McCarthy was very much a creature of the Republican establishment, who only turned on him — very late in the game, in 1954, four years after he had begun his campaign — because he finally turned on him. Up until that point, they were only too happy to use and promote him, as he was very useful in taking on the Democrats, labor unions, and other liberal and left groups.

McCarthyism — broadly construed — certainly had its bottom up elements, though these tended to be concentrated and found in organizations like the American Legion, but it was also very much a top-down politics.”

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…………………………..sounds like the Tea Party.

12

Corey Robin 10.17.14 at 4:17 pm

Cassander: Your general portrait just doesn’t fit with the historical record. If you’re at all interested in the depths of his connections and involvement with the Republican establishment, you should read Griffith’s book. I did a little brief piece on his close connections with Robert Taft. But the connections go far beyond that.

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/26/the_fallacy_of_the_republican_moderate_stop_being_nostalgic_for_the_right/

13

Shirley0401 10.17.14 at 4:22 pm

@ 2 and 3
Ze Kraggash: I’m with the OP and Jesús Couto Fandiño on this one.
One thing that’s struck me the times I’ve been lucky enough to travel internationally is how extreme the average American’s adherence to ambition as being a self-evidently positive thing is, when compared to the average person I’ve run across in Central America and Europe. While my evidence is entirely anecdotal, and I can’t speak for others, this is not an unusual observation to have made. (In France last summer, I got into a relatively long conversation with a member of the hotel staff about this very topic. Mid-20’s, educated, English better than many native speakers, completely unapologetic about not wanting “more,” or using his position as a stepping-stone to something else. But, as Jesús points out, this is becoming harder to do even in Europe, as folks are starting to feel the neoliberal pinch more and more.)
Even more than that, though, it strikes me that lack of ambition is almost always treated as some kind of personal failing here in the US, whereas in other places (such as Jesús’ Spain), it is generally seen as a perfectly acceptable personal choice (possibly with the qualification that it doesn’t unduly burden others).
I know it’s tangential to the primary topic, but I’ve recently been more frequently running across the idea that personal ambition is somehow natural, adaptive, and ultimately a positive thing. (Most often my folks who identify as conservative or libertarian, but there are plenty of them on the left, as well.)
But I’m rambling. Regardless, I’ve found personal ambition being treated as some sort of normal (and positive) universal trait to be far more common in the US than elsewhere. It’s one of the primary reasons I tend to fall into a funk when I get home from abroad — our selfish, petty personal aspirations seem so narrow. Not to mention destructive. And the insistence by so many that it’s the natural order of things, despite mounting evidence that it leads to awful outcomes for a whole lot of people, doesn’t help.

14

Ze Kraggash 10.17.14 at 4:48 pm

You may be right about Europeans, but what about China? India? Russia? Granted, those who I deal with are probably far from the average, but they seem more ambitious than their American equivalent.

15

cassander 10.17.14 at 4:50 pm

@Corey

First, you are leaving out a lot of history there. Mccarthyism didn’t come out of the blue. Between the soviet actions in eastern europe, the korean war, the unveiling of actual spies like Hiss and Fuchs, communism was not exactly an obscure issue in 1950. You ignore the fact that there was an entirely legitimate anti-communist movement that was convicting actual communist spies (and after june 1950, an anti communist shooting war) acting as a backdrop to McCarthy’s fables.

Second, the information you quote is hardly damning. Apparently, the top republican said nice things to and about a member of his caucus in public, then helped him get re-elected. That is hardly shocking. I can give many examples of politicians who hated each other but none the less helped each other get elected.

Third, even if it were unusual for him to do this, you present zero evidence that he did so out of genuine endorsement rather than fear. Every account I have ever read of Eisenhower’s presidency, and I have read many, talks about how he detested McCarthy, yet he did not move against him. from what you have presented, there is simply no reason not to accept the more straightforward tale, that a not very bright politician seized on an already existent red scare and ran with it till he ran out of pavement. I’ll check out the Griffith book, but if your article represents the sort of evidence it presents, I doubt I’ll be impressed.

that said, this has gotten rather far afield from the original topic. Even if everything you say was true and Taft grew Mccarthy in his backyard out of some sort of fungus, that does not make him any sort of collaborator.

16

Anarcissie 10.17.14 at 4:51 pm

I always considered myself a collaborator because I held a straight corporate job for years and years, worked hard, paid lots of taxes to the war machine, etc. I collaborated against the people of the world, against the spirits, and against myself. Now and then I suppose I engaged in a little spying or sabotage, so it wasn’t all bad. And one does have to make a living.

For an account of a more dramatic sort of collaboration, I like Vonnegut’s Mother NIght. But…. ‘the story is about you!’

17

Corey Robin 10.17.14 at 5:12 pm

Cassander: There is far more to the Republican establishment and the Eisenhower administration than Eisenhower. There were other Republican senators, Republican congressmen, and Republican party elites, and a great many officials in and around the White House. Far more than fear, they saw in McCarthy an opportunity: he was very very useful for going after liberals and Democrats, in Congress and the executive branch. (Incidentally, that’s quite consistent with Eisenhower personally detesting him.) They turned on him when he finally began going after them. In other words, the precise opposite of your claim: once they actually became afraid of him, they dispatched him with the greatest of ease.

As for your last comment, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I would never claim — and never did claim — that either McCarthy or Taft was a collaborator. They were at the top, spearheading a great deal of this stuff.

18

Fwum 10.17.14 at 5:12 pm

cassander: “If he had an agenda beyond personal aggrandizement, I can’t discern it. he was just a rather low individual, not terribly bright, who found an applause line and ran with it well past the point of sense.”

Of all the articles in all the world to offer that argument in defense of McCarthy…

Corey Robin: “”According to Christopher Browning, there were different reasons, including anti-Semitism and peer pressure, but a critical one was their desire for advance. Of those who refused to kill Jews, in fact, the most forthright emphasized their lack of career ambitions.”

…you had to make it in this one.

Completely unrelated: Hey Corey, is this part of your Eichmann in Jerusalem sequence?

“What stuck in the minds of these men who had become murderers was simply the notion of being involved in something historic, grandiose, unique (“a great task that occurs once in two thousand years”), which must therefore be difficult to bear. This was important, because the murderers were not sadists or killers by nature; on the contrary, a systematic effort was made to weed out all those who derived physical pleasure from what they did. The troops of the Einsatzgruppen had been drafted from the Armed S.S., a military unit with hardly more crimes in its record than any ordinary unit of the German Army, and their commanders had been chosen by Heydrich from the S.S. élite with academic degrees. Hence the problem was how to overcome not so much their conscience as the animal pity by which all normal men are affected in the presence of physical suffering. The trick used by Himmler — who apparently was rather strongly afflicted by these instinctive reactions himself — was very simple and probably very effective; it consisted in turning these instincts around, as it were, in directing them toward the self. So that instead of saying: What horrible things I did to people!, the murderers would be able to say: What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task weighed upon my shoulders!”

19

burritoboy 10.17.14 at 6:07 pm

Eisenhower was at the center or left of the Republicans, and further, wasn’t really a member of the Republican establishment at all (he wasn’t a career politician and had only a limited network within the party itself). Some of what McCarthy was trying to do was to purge and radicalize the Republican Party itself. We might view this, over the long-term, as the elite conservatives (Taft being a central figure in this effort) within the Republican Party purging the party through using McCarthy as their tool. (Of course, McCarthy did a lot of other things as well.)

We need to remember that the center-left and moderate Republicans’ interpreted FDR’s success in the Great Depression and WWII as an epochal game-changer – going forward into the future, effective technocratic management at the federal level was going to be where politics was at, in their view. This is partially why attacking Eisenhower’s administration and, through that attack, Eisenhower himself was so critical. Eisenhower was, of course, primarily known as the technocrat manager of FDR’s WWII effort in the European theater. Which was a centrally planned effort building upon the experience of Wilson’s central planning in WWI.

The conservative Republicans had to attack this record of success, because it precisely called into dire question their economic theories. McCarthy was one tool – and an important one- to try to drive out moderates and liberals out of the Republican party or at least silence or cow them.

20

cassander 10.17.14 at 6:30 pm

@burritoboy

again, I have to ask if you have ANY evidence for these claims that isn’t circumstantial? If mccarthy was a plot by the right wing republicans to drive out the progressives, then why did he fail precisely when he started attacking a progressive republican administration? Why throw him under a bus once he started putting the plan into action, and in doing so take down the entire anti-communist movement? that makes no sense. what does make sense is McCarthy acting as a demagogue for his own reasons, and exploding when he went after targets that were more popular than him. Politicians act as demagogues on hot button issues all the time, someone yelling witch when legitimate investigation is actually revealing that your town is infested with witches is hardly unusual human behavior.

@Corey Robin

>As for your last comment, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I would never claim — and never did claim — that either McCarthy or Taft was a collaborator. They were at the top, spearheading a great deal of this stuff.

you claimed that the mccarthyites were collaborators along with the stalinists and vichy(….ites?). I assumed that mccarthy counted as a mccarthyite. This is problematic, first because putting the mccarthyites, who killed no one unless you count the rosenbergs, on the same level as nazi and communist collaborators is absurd. But putting that aside, who were the mccarthyites collaborating with or on behalf of? the closest you get to collaborators in the red scare were the communist spies, and frankly I wouldn’t even count them. agents of a foreign power, willing servants to a bloodthirsty tyrant, but collaboration is a very specific charge I’m not sure they qualify for.

21

jgtheok 10.17.14 at 6:37 pm

“By collaborator, I simply mean those men and women who work with elites and who occupy the lower tiers of power and make political fear a genuinely civic enterprise.”

Err – so every employee of any government that has every existed? (Plus contract workers, and civic-minded types who will, say, call a police station in the middle of the night to report gunfire… ?) Or does ‘collaborator’ require some external judgment that the ends being pursued are somehow destructive towards the lower-status group to which they belong?

22

Corey Robin 10.17.14 at 6:37 pm

“you claimed that the mccarthyites were collaborators along with the stalinists and vichy(….ites?).”

If you could show me where I said that, I’d appreciate it. If you’re thinking of this — “Though much of twentieth-century history could not be written without some discussion of collaborators—from Vichy to Stalinism to the Dirty Wars to McCarthyism—” — you need to re-read the passage. Vichy is obviously not a collaborator. Nor is StalinISM. Nor are the Dirty Wars. Nor is McCarthyISM. That those phenomena entailed, indeed required, collaborators, is true. So then the question is who were the collaborators that made those phenomena possible. I would have thought it was quite obvious that in the same way that you could hardly say Stalin was a collaborator with Stalinism — he was its leading perpetrator — so could you not say that McCarthy was a collaborator with McCarthyism.

“the closest you get to collaborators in the red scare were the communist spies, and frankly I wouldn’t even count them. agents of a foreign power, willing servants to a bloodthirsty tyrant, but collaboration is a very specific charge I’m not sure they qualify for.”

Yes, well, the entire point of the post is that that is not the right way to think about collaboration, or at least that that is far too limited a way of thinking about collaboration. But don’t let that stop you. Carry on.

23

Corey Robin 10.17.14 at 6:49 pm

jgtheok: “Err – so every employee of any government that has every existed? (Plus contract workers, and civic-minded types who will, say, call a police station in the middle of the night to report gunfire… ?) Or does ‘collaborator’ require some external judgment that the ends being pursued are somehow destructive towards the lower-status group to which they belong?”

So, yes and no. As I said in the third paragraph of my intro, I think I vastly over-extended the definition of collaborator b/c I was trying to get us beyond the narrow definition that people like cassander, above, seem to subscribe to. So, you’re of course right that the danger in my definition is that it becomes just too all-encompassing. Which was the very point I was making in that third paragraph.

At the same time, you are getting at something important there which involves a judgment of the ends being pursued. What all of these phenomena have in common is that they are massively repressive enterprises, the purpose of which, IN PART, is to subjugate or suppress those at the bottom of the status ladder. (All of these phenomena are complicated and in some respects they also empower those at the bottom. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish.) To that extent, any employee of a state, particularly a repressive state (there are degrees of repression, of course), can be conscripted into that enterprise. And that was my point: not just the employees of state but the para-employees (the cooks and maids at Wansee, for instance.) But of course states are complicated entities and not all that they do can be characterized as subjugation of the lower orders; sometimes they are about emancipating those orders. And sometimes they’re just about enforcing the rules of traffic. And then I wouldn’t see this as a the same thing as collaboration. Remember this is from a book on the politics of fear, so I’m interested in not simply states but a particularly kind of state, a particular kind of politics. I don’t know how you get out of making a judgment about ends.

24

bob mcmanus 10.17.14 at 6:53 pm

Collaborators and Careerists?

Tezuka, Japanese Cinema Goes Global

Political-economic accounts tend to reduce radically the complex
micro-level contestations of powers that shape individual subject-hood
to the ideological domination by global capital, rendering the subjects
as “ideological dupes”

While the primacy of national identity and allegiance to one’s
national filmmaking community was usually taken for granted
in the pre-globalization days, loyalty to a transnational network
of filmmakers and responding to globally accepted — usually American
— norms and standards of filmmaking practice has become a
professional imperative for those who work in the film industry
of the global age.

By a relentless focus on historical “bad guys” and a motivation of fear, one misses most of the power of locally-enacted cosmopolitanism, for example how anti-communism as performed by McCarthy and Kazan in the US was also part of a global hegemonic strategy performed by creators overseas in Europe and Asia and by expatriates and nomadic agents moving between core and periphery. Like Hopper, Hayek…like Arendt?

25

Harold 10.17.14 at 7:00 pm

@22″Vichy is obviously not a collaborator”.

Obviously? Not to most people. Wikipedia’s article on collaboration identifies Pierre Laval and René Bousquet as “arch collaborators” and the Vichy government as “heavily engaged in collaboration”.

26

burritoboy 10.17.14 at 7:05 pm

“then why did he fail precisely when he started attacking a progressive republican administration?”

Because McCarthy had succeeded in the aims, which was precisely not to destroy the Eisenhower administration, but to push that administration in the “right” direction (to the right, naturally). Taft, for example, was well aware that he himself could not get elected to the Presidency (his opposition to WWII throughout the war and afterwards made that impossible), but he could push the administration and party around so he would get more of what he wanted. Most prominent conservative Republicans were in a similar boat, and were also more or less unelectable to the Presidency due to the debacle of their opposition to WWII. (Note that McCarthy and Nixon were well-decorated vets of WWII, insulating them from that criticism.)

Similarly, Taft couldn’t simply destroy the liberal Republicans. Nor, probably, did he ultimately want to. The leaders of the liberal Republicans were not people one could easily push out of the political arena – some were enormously wealthy (including the wealthiest people in the world at that time), some were scions of the most honored and storied political lineages in the country, some were incredibly popular politicians locally, some had huge influence or position in various institutional quarters. But he could push them away from further ties to liberal Democrats or to liberal causes, which is what the effort succeeded in doing.

S0, a. McCarthy had already succeeded and no longer served his purpose; b. wanted to grab more power for himself as an individual, and c. didn’t understand the goal of his work (to cow or influence, not destroy, the Eisenhower administration and the moderate and liberal Republicans).

27

cassander 10.17.14 at 7:24 pm

@burritoboy

>Because McCarthy had succeeded in the aims, which was precisely not to destroy the Eisenhower administration, but to push that administration in the “right” direction (to the right, naturally).

And by what measure did this happen? what programs did they stop or shift? what legislation did they prevent or pass? if anything the net effect of mccarthyism was to push the country to the left, because it utterly discredited aggressive anti-communism. Mccarthy’s fall allowed people to plausibly defend the innocence of people like Hiss for decades, despite the admissions that would come from kruschev just a couple years later.

28

bob mcmanus 10.17.14 at 8:30 pm

Second, collaborators extend the reach of elites into corners of society that elites lack the manpower to patrol. These collaborators are usually figures of influence within communities targeted by elites. Their status may come from the elite, who elevate them because they are willing to enforce the elite’s directives. (7)

Like I often say, you confuse me.

If this is the kind of thing you are exploring, I can only say that a lot of work has been/is being done on multiple subjectivities and political intersections within, for instance, East European filmmakers of the 50s-70s who had three “clients:” Moscow (education and training, material support, ideology), their state (same as Moscow, but also who wanted international recognition and foreign exchange/financing), and the global artfilm community (often very left, and desired films of national particularity, subtly resisting local oppression, yet needed their modernist aesthetic confirmed). Was Wajda a collaborator or dissident?

In any case, we could call it the dialectic between nationalism(s)/localism(s) and cosmopolitanism(s) and find whole shelves of work, historical and recent.

I can understand the social structures, forms, practices you are discussing but then your examples are all so uniformly negative, people we don’t like, people not like us , that I feel we must be talking about radically differing content. What am I missing?

29

Corey Robin 10.17.14 at 8:40 pm

Bob at 28: “but then your examples are all so uniformly negative, people we don’t like, people not like us , that I feel we must be talking about radically differing content. What am I missing?”

A lot. My whole point is that these are people like us. On two counts. First, the regimes themselves often feature elements that are held up by liberal pluralists as being good (this is an argument I’ve pursued elsewhere, so won’t rehearse it here.) Second, the individuals — with their ambition, desire for advance, etc. — are also all too familiar, not other. So, yeah, you’re missing a lot.

Harold at 25: “Vichy” is a complex of government, an ideology, a set of actors, and so on. My point is that, like Stalinism or McCarthyism, it is a political formation. In order to make that formation work, it requires individual collaborators. To conflate the formation with the individual collaborators is a mistake. (I was responding to someone who was trying to figure out how Joseph McCarthy could be a collaborator, which I pointed out was a silly way to think of this.) Now in Vichy’s case, you have the added fact that it is a collaborationist regime with the Nazis. I understand that that is what you mean, but I was referring to a different aspect of that regime: its repressiveness.

30

Harold 10.17.14 at 8:44 pm

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

31

bob mcmanus 10.17.14 at 10:12 pm

Collaborators, however, cannot be so neatly bound. Some do not entirely belong to the group they betray; others, like the French fascists of Vichy, have a deep affinity for the enemy they aid.

I still think a framework of elite cosmopolitanism is very useful here, especially since there has been so much work on cosmopolitanism vs nationalism, and cosmopolitanism in service of insurgent nationalism (Eastern European intellectuals in the 19th century.)

Atarashiki tsuchi 1937, is a fascinating artifact, in which director Arnold Fanck, who was in trouble with Goebbels, tried to improve his position by making a movie selling Japanese particularity to a Nazi audience by reference, subtle and overt, to shared values (blood, militarism, racial mysticism, sexism). And mountain climbing. It taught me that there can be right-wing cosmopolitanisms.

Once you start thinking about elites using cosmopolitanism (s) to get international assistance to gain advantage in locally contested spaces then it becomes a tool for understanding elite operations of both right and left for the subjugation of local populations, which can be either to the right or the left of the cosmopolitan elites. Neoliberal examples abound, and can be left to the readers.

Current reading involves cosmopolitan liberal elites (television producers) in Egypt currently attempting to guide their audience between the Scylla of globalist neoliberalism and the Charybdis of Islamism, using, believe it or, nationalistic iconic depictions of the patriotic working-class. Lila Abu-Lughod

Oh, and they certainly use fear, fear of deracination, fear of terrorism.

32

Omega Centauri 10.17.14 at 10:21 pm

I think in many many particularly lower level situations things are a lot more nuanced. Alleged collaborators, may either be believers in the foreigners project/ideology, or may at least initially think that can do more good, or reduce harm by working with him. Oftentimes, if he changes his mind later about the nature of the regime he’s become part of, acting on that change would create great personal risk.

And what about the guy who helps try to make the occupation less obviously awful, say by helping restore damaged infrastructure. To the hardcore militant opposition, he is a collaborator, working to damage their cause. But he probably thinks he is making things better for his group, but may pay a huge price if the revolutionaries succeed.

33

Peter Dorman 10.17.14 at 10:37 pm

I think it would be useful to put to the side, at least initially, the emotional and political buttons that are pushed when we hear the term “collaborator” and look at the issue dispassionately.

There is an ancient and ongoing tension between objective and subjective identities. We are born into a clan or nation or religious community or social class, and those who share that identity with us assume we are one of them; this is what makes such an identity objective. But we may also make common purpose with that group’s outsiders and enemies. We might do this because we have made a reasoned commitment to this other group or for expectations of personal advantage, out of fear or motivated simply by a sense of adventure. If we do that, if we join up with those our group views as an enemy, we become collaborators. A collaborator can be heroic, vile or simply someone who steps outside the norm.

Some famous examples: Rahab, who sheltered the spies Joshua sent into biblical Jericho, La Malinche who went over to Cortés, and yes the entire apparatus of Vichy, who worked on behalf of the German occupation rather than resisting it. What they have in common is not good or evil but simply choosing the “other” over their “own”.

Of course, there is a lot of ambiguity to be explored. What is objective and what is subjective? Clearly national identity is objective—ascriptive actually—as is kin identity. What makes Greenglass such a model informant/collaborator is that he helped the government convict and execute his own sister. I would argue, however, that once one takes a job one acquires an identity that is not simply chosen; you are identified with your coworkers even if you feel personally alienated from them, and in that sense it is more objective than subjective. Snowden collaborated with Greenwald and Poitras against his former colleagues at Booz Allen Hamilton and the NSA in the sense that the journalists’ mission was opposed to that of his coworkers, but his socially established identity at the time was derived from his work.

I would regard someone who informs on his circle of friends and lovers as a collaborator in this same sense, since to be part of a circle (even a circle of just one other person) is to acquire an identity from it. Undoubtedly, the struggle between loyalty to a friend and to ideals or external groups that require actions hostile to that friend is one of the oldest and deepest moral conundrums. Since collaborators nearly always establish personal ties to member of the groups they undermine, this comes with the territory. This is how we remember the anguish of Hollywood during the McCarthy era, for instance.

Perhaps we tend to foreground the “evil” examples of collaboration because of this shadow of personal betrayal—but “good” collaboration will probably betray in similar ways.

34

Harold 10.17.14 at 11:31 pm

Corey Robin @ 29, you have the advantage over your posters in that you presumably know what you mean by your definition of “collaboration” (noun) and “collaborationist” (verb) and we do not. If you want to split hairs, however:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaborationism#France
Excerpt:
France
In France, a distinction emerged between the collaborateur and the collaborationniste. The latter expression is mainly used to describe individuals enrolled in pseudo-Nazi parties, often based in Paris, who had an overwhelming belief in fascist ideology or were simply anti-communists.[6] Collaborateurs on the other hand, could engage in collaboration for a number of more pragmatic reasons, such as preventing infrastructure damage for use by the occupation forces or personal ambition, and were not necessarily believers in fascism per se. Arch-collaborators like Pierre Laval or René Bousquet are thus distinct from collaborationists.[7][8]

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaboration_with_the_Axis_Powers_during_World_War_II#France

35

Harold 10.17.14 at 11:41 pm

As far as Judge Irving Kaufman, he could be accurately described as a “careerist” and self-promoter, since it was his ambition to fulfill the so-called “Jewish seat” on the Supreme Court. He claimed that he consulted God, who instructed him to impose the death penalty. His sole regret after the verdict was that the ensuing controversy forestalled this ambition. He is said to have kept yellowing clippings about the case in his breast pocket for ever after to whip out at a moment’s notice in the event he was called on to justify himself.

According to the NYT obit:
Justice Frankfurter wrote to Judge Learned Hand: “I despise a judge who feels God told him to impose a death sentence. I am mean enough to try to stay here long enough so that K will be too old to succeed me.”

In sentencing the Rosenbergs, Judge Kaufman called their crime “worse than murder.” Later, he denied judicial clemency, despite what he called “a mounting organized campaign of vilification, abuse and pressure.” He complained of threatening letters and asked for and received police protection for himself and his family.

Two decades later, the controversy was rekindled, when Federal Bureau of Investigation documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act in the 70’s, disclosed that Judge Kaufman, who had said he had reached his decision to sentence the Rosenbergs to death in a solitary struggle of conscience, had actually had private discussions about the sentence with the prosecution and that he had repeatedly called the F.B.I. in an effort to expedite the executions.

The documents showed that the F.B.I. chief, J. Edgar Hoover, had opposed the death sentence for Mrs. Rosenberg.

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/02/03/nyregion/judge-irving-kaufman-of-rosenberg-spy-trial-and-free-press-rulings-dies-at-81.html?src=pm&pagewanted=2

36

notsneaky 10.18.14 at 4:31 pm

Was Wajda a collaborator or dissident?

Depends when. He dissented against the anti-communist opposition during Stalin and Kruschev, but began collaborating with the democratic anti-communist opposition when everyone started doing it (late 70’s) because it looked like the system’s days were numbered.

37

L.M. Dorsey 10.18.14 at 6:49 pm

By collaborator, I simply mean those men and women who work with elites and who occupy the lower tiers of power and make political fear a genuinely civic enterprise.

Surely it’s the French influence, but it’s worth remarking a the tang of irony about the term, a soupçon of moral distaste, a tacit claim that one’s own hands are clean.

Absent the moralism — and provided that some collaborators can be shown to advance to full partnership in the firm, then aren’t we describing what we Americans call “politics”? Or, as I think you are suggesting (?), that the line between collaboration and “getting ahead in the world” can be mighty fine. (Larry Summer’s warning to Elizabeth Warren comes to mind: “Insiders don’t criticize other insiders.”)

Apropos Kazan, there’s a review essay by Frank Rich in the 11/6 NY Review of Books.

38

tom 10.18.14 at 10:56 pm

Just to understand, according to your definition (or the ideal definition you would like to develop), Elia Kazan was a collaborator while Julius Rosenberg was not. Correct?

39

Corey Robin 10.19.14 at 12:11 am

There’s a reason, at least to my knowledge, that no one — forget me; no one — has ever called Julius Rosenberg a collaborator. He’s always been called a traitor or a spy. And traitors and spies there have been since the dawn of time. According to Jan Gross, the term collaborator as we understand it only developed during the Second World War with the Nazi occupation of Europe. I suspect that has something to do with the fact that the Nazi occupation was especially brutal, involving the subjugation of local peoples. Anyone who spied for them — or worked with them in any way — took on an extra burden of guilt b/c of that oppressiveness. A collaborator was not merely someone who betrayed his or her country; it was someone who worked with an enemy who was especially set on subjugating that person’s people.

Now we come to Julius Rosenberg. He passed on state secrets to the Soviets while they were allies of the US. That is, not at all set on subjugating the American people. In fact, the fact that they were allies made some people question whether Rosenberg could even be guilty of treason (and he wasn’t in fact charged with treason but for espionage). But in any event, no, I’d not call him a collaborator.

Now, had Rosenberg been a member of a group that was subjugated by Stalinism — say the kulaks or the Ukrainians or the Poles — and had secretly been working with the Soviet regime in order to help them continue that subjugation, yes, I’d say he was definitely a collaborator. As there were all throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (note my first example comes from East Germany).

40

tom 10.19.14 at 12:34 am

OK, thanks, Corey.

41

Derek Bowman 10.19.14 at 12:52 am

I wonder if an example more close to home might be a useful test case for different accounts of collaborators/collaboration:

Department heads and other academics involved in carrying out clearly exploitative hiring practices. These are people acting to exploit members of their own profession, but they also identify in various ways with the university system and the class-affiliation of those whose interests they are serving. These people often have limited direct control over their hiring budgets. But they do have control over whether they carry out the assigned duty of staffing classes under the exploitative terms. Their motives may well involve a mixture of fear (of losing their jobs) and ambition (for promotion or for reputation advancement either in their university or their discipline).

And we might also compare the actions of those adjuncts who accept such exploitative positions. They (we) too are also complicit in the continuation of those hiring arrangements. And they (we) similarly may be motivated by a mixture of fear and ambition.

Should a good theory of collaboration/careerism cover both of these cases? The former but not the latter? Neither?

42

Rich Puchalsky 10.19.14 at 1:13 am

I think that “collaborators only started with the Nazis” is not a good way to put it if you’re really looking to generalize the term. In particular, you miss out on one of the most interesting collaborators, Josephus (Titus Flavius Jospehus, or Joseph ben Matityahu if you prefer). A military leader of the Jews against the Roman invasion in 67 CE, he manipulated the fanatical guards around him who wanted to kill him instead of letting him be captured into killing themselves first, then surrendered to the Romans, ingratiated himself by buttering up Vespasian, and then called on his people to surrender Jerusalem. I don’t think “traitor” really is the right word, because when he wrote his own history of events, he presented collaboration as really the best thing to do (since otherwise more Jews would be killed in futile fighting).

In my opinion he should be pretty much a hero of the Jewish diaspora, one of the original survivors, in direct opposition to the glorification of the mass suicide of the Masada (which we know about mostly from him).

43

Peter T 10.19.14 at 2:10 am

Maybe Neville Morley could tell us whether medizing has the same flavour as collaboration?

44

Corey Robin 10.19.14 at 3:35 am

Rich: Just for clarification, I wasn’t trying to suggest that collaboration only began with the Nazis. Just that, at least according to one historian (I’ve no idea if he’s right), the term did not assume the connotation and meaning it has today until the Second World War.

It’s an interesting point re Josephus. It’s one of the basic moral issues that sometimes comes up among collaborators: whether what they’re doing helps or harms the community upon whose behalf they claim to be doing it. That was a huge issue with the Jewish Councils that Arendt talked about in Eichmann in Jerusalem — and it has been a controversy ever since — whether what they did was: a) for themselves or for the community; and b) if the latter, whether it really did help the community in the end; and c) even it did, whether or not it was worth it.

I think Claude Lanzmann’s recent film about the head of the Jewish Council in Theresienstadt gets into this as well.

45

Rich Puchalsky 10.19.14 at 4:19 am

“It’s one of the basic moral issues that sometimes comes up among collaborators: whether what they’re doing helps or harms the community upon whose behalf they claim to be doing it.”

Josephus is not our major surviving historical source, he was probably one of the few written sources even at the time. Nothing would have been simpler than for him to not write about the events that show him in a bad light, or simply not write about the war at all, so one of the things that’s interesting is his extreme (from a modern point of view) shamelessness. Here’s what appears to be a rather bad but available translation (from here) of a scene from when he’s going around the walls shouting pro-Roman propaganda:

In the mean time, Josephus, as he was going round the city, had his head wounded by a stone that was thrown at him; upon which he fell down as giddy. Upon which fall of his the Jews made a sally, and he had been hurried away into the city, if Caesar had not sent men to protect him immediately; and as these men were fighting, Josephus was taken up, though he heard little of what was done. So the seditious supposed they had now slain that man whom they were the most desirous of killing, and made thereupon a great noise, in way of rejoicing. This accident was told in the city, and the multitude that remained became very disconsolate at the news, as being persuaded that he was really dead, on whose account alone they could venture to desert to the Romans. […] Josephus soon recovered of his wound, and came out, and cried out aloud, That it would not be long ere they should be punished for this wound they had given him. He also made a fresh exhortation to the people to come out upon the security that would be given them. This sight of Josephus encouraged the people greatly, and brought a great consternation upon the seditious.

“The Romans will get you for hurting me” seems like something that many historians would have left out.

46

Rich Puchalsky 10.19.14 at 4:20 am

Oops, should have been “Josephus is not just our major surviving historical source […]”

47

ChrisB 10.19.14 at 4:35 am

In Australia in the 1950s I can recollect my father saying “All Australian children should be taught enough Chinese in school to be able to say ‘I am anxious to collaborate’.”
An earlier “And I for one welcome our new insect overlords” joke.

On a completely other issue, can I ask Corey (in another post) to respond to the “Unacceptable email” aspect of the Spurr case at the University of Sydney?
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/unpoetic-emails-derail-sydney-uni-professor-barry-spurr/story-e6frgcjx-1227093417695

48

cassander 10.19.14 at 5:35 am

@corey

>I suspect that has something to do with the fact that the Nazi occupation was especially brutal, involving the subjugation of local peoples. Anyone who spied for them — or worked with them in any way — took on an extra burden of guilt b/c of that oppressiveness

The problem with this theory is that the nazi occupation, in the west at least, was not especially brutal most of the time. I’d say the difference is that there was an occupation at all. that is, the enemy was in your midst, and everyone knew that they were the enemy because they spoke a different language, and yet members of our tribe helped them anyway! it wasn’t so much that they were working directly against the in group (that’s treason) but that they were working for the outgroup in ways that weren’t, usually, directly harmful to the in group. people didn’t call rosenberg a collaborator for the same reason they don’t call tokyo rose one. Of course, my theory breaks down a bit with Benedict Arnold, since the british were occupying the US and everyone calls him a traitor not a collaborator, but I chalk that up to american pride and romanticism.

49

Brett Bellmore 10.19.14 at 11:33 am

“He passed on state secrets to the Soviets while they were allies of the US.”

Did anyone actually think they were real allies? Rather than just enemies of the same enemy?

50

Michael Connolly 10.19.14 at 12:05 pm

Cassander at 20 and 28:

Why throw him [McCarthy]under a bus once he started putting the plan into action, and in doing so take down the entire anti-communist movement?

Could you please clarify this and similar statements? I grew up in a Republican family in the 50s and 60s and remember them quite differently. We watched William F. Buckley on tv in the late 60s and I went to a Massachusetts parochial high school where there was a chapter of a worldwide anticommunist student movement. I remember the United States assassinating the president of Vietnam and invading that country and, equally egregiously, organizing the coup in Indonesia that decimated the world’s largest communist party and killed over 1 million people in the process – with the enthusiastic support of the New York Times. The candidacy of Goldwater and the victory of his wing of the party less than 15 years later. The election of Reagan as governor of California – a first step. And so on.

51

J Thomas 10.19.14 at 1:14 pm

#49 BB

“He passed on state secrets to the Soviets while they were allies of the US.”

Did anyone actually think they were real allies? Rather than just enemies of the same enemy?

Yes, lots of people did think they were real allies. Anticommunism in the USA had not gotten that far yet, and there were a fair number of US communists and socialists who wanted to believe that the USA and USSR could be allies.

In today’s word that’s hard to imagine. How could they not realize that the USSR did not have any socialism but was really only state capitalism, the sort of thing we might get if Walmart got rid of every other business and took over the government? But they wanted to believe that socialism could work.

How could they not realize the USSR was evil with its vast concentration camps and oppressive secret police? They thought that this was exaggerated by capitalist propaganda. (And there was some made-up capitalist propaganda about it, which would have been an exaggeration if the truth had not been so bad.) They didn’t trust the media, so they believed their hopes. And there were excuses, the USSR was facing vast threats and might relax after those threats were reduced.

Those people had not yet been scared into submission in the USA. They hoped that the good people of the world could unite against the bad people and create a world of plenty and freedom. But the fear was coming.

In the USA we did not need concentration camps. After the Depression the threat of becoming unemployable was enough to shut them up.

52

Brett Bellmore 10.19.14 at 1:33 pm

I would think it would be enough to notice that the USSR started WWII on the side of the Nazis, and only switched sides when Hitler attacked them.

53

J Thomas 10.19.14 at 2:03 pm

#51 BB

I would think it would be enough to notice that the USSR started WWII on the side of the Nazis, and only switched sides when Hitler attacked them.

Yes, well, that’s because you get your information from liars, and you don’t check the parts that fit your own ideology.

The russians and the germans were having an arms race, and nobody else in the world was participating enough to keep up with either of them. (The USA *could* have kept up but didn’t, we built battleships but not many of our third-rate tanks.) Neither of them was ready to fight the other. The Russians, if they played it wrong, could lose all of Siberia to Japan. They had inadequate transportation to the east, if they lost there it would be very hard to get it back. So they put their best military stuff there to defend the east, and depended on Hitler’s promise not to invade. Meanwhile Germany was in no shape to invade and occupy the USSR, the German army was already stretched kind of thin. But they were losing the arms race and the later the war started the faster they would lose. Their best chance was surprise attack, take Moscow, grant freedom and self-government to the various nationalities that the USSR had oppressed and enlist their aid at beating back the soviet menace, etc. But they failed to take Moscow and they mistreated the subject races they needed as allies. It would have been a desperate gamble for someone else in their position, but for them the hope drained away pretty fast.

It’s a much bigger jump to say the Nazis and Soviets were on the same side than to say the Americans and Soviets were later on the same side. And the second one is not exactly true.

Why am I arguing with Brett Bellmore? I guess it’s just some sort of reflex.

54

Layman 10.19.14 at 2:23 pm

“I would think it would be enough to notice that the USSR started WWII on the side of the Nazis, and only switched sides when Hitler attacked them.”

Would it similarly be enough to notice that the USA started WWII on the side of the Communists, and only switched sides when the Communists had won the war for us?

55

cassander 10.19.14 at 3:05 pm

@Jthomas

>They didn’t trust the media,

the mediawas on their side

>The russians and the germans were having an arms race, and nobody else in the world was participating enough to keep up with either of them.

The british and french had larger stockpiles to built on, and, if somewhat reluctantly, more than matched german re-armament. During the battle of france, they deployed substantially more tanks, guns, and other material, much of it of superior quality to what the germans have. Only in aircraft did the germans have a numerical and qualitative edge.

> So they put their best military stuff there to defend the east,

they most certainly did not. First, there were the numbers, the russian forces in the east numbered in the tens of thousands, compared had millions in the west. Second, the eastern divisions were, in no sense, their best military stuff. They managed to paste the japanese army, but only because the Japanese military was woefully deficient in industrial warfare. the best of the army was in the west, invading the baltic states, poland, and Romania in accord with the nazi soviet pact.

>But they wanted to believe that socialism could work.

The worst part is, I agree with you here. Communists and fellow travelers in the US did really believe that the US and soviets could be allies. they did have hope, and that hope did lead them to swallow the absurd lies that the communists put out. What I cannot understand is why you think that is acceptable. The truth about communism was available almost from the beginning. the first terror started less than a year after Lenin took power. The USSR and communism spent the 1930s saying that fascism was the absolute worst thing in the world, then the nazi soviet pact comes out and the entire movement turns on a dime to accept that “fascism was a matter of taste.” I am used to political double think, but how anyone had faith in communism after that truly astounds me. I will never understand how Pete Seeger sang “So Mr. President, we’ve got this one big job to do, That’s lick Mr. Hitler and when we’re through.” just a couple months after singing “Franklin D., Franklin D., You ain’t a-gonna send us across the sea,” and “Wendell Willkie and Franklin D., both agree on killing me.”

These were not small lapses. communists willfully ignored lies and mass murder on the largest scale in history repeatedly, for decades. In any sane world, communists and people who spoke well of them would be given the same treatment that nazis and their sympathizers get, utter banishment from polite society, their name turned into a synonym for evil. Yet that is not the case. people like you continue to get away with to displaying the same sort of intellectual dexterity shown by seeger. You freely admit that communism was so bad that even the most absurd stories made up by its opponents turned out to be no worse than the truth, yet somehow capitalism remains the bad guy in your narrative. plenty of people believed in fascism and wanted it to work, that does not absolve them of what they did, nor redound to their judgement. Hope is not an excuse.

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mattski 10.19.14 at 3:47 pm

cassander,

You speak as though ‘communism’ was a monolithic phenomenon. Do you think it was?

Are you familiar with the evidence that JFK sought to normalize relations with Castro? Did that make him a traitor?

Do you think our intervention in Vietnam was a just cause?

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cassander 10.19.14 at 4:26 pm

>You speak as though ‘communism’ was a monolithic phenomenon. Do you think it was?

When stalin lived, it pretty much was. things did not go well for those who begged to differ. Of course, Fascism (TM) is condemned in strident terms, and associated with naziism despite being objectively far less less monolithic that communism was. Fascism never had an actual, global network of spies, political parties, and activists centrally directed from Berlin that could rely on the political and ideological allegiance of the overwhelming majority of people who called themselves fascists. Communism did have such a network emanating from Moscow, though it did not survive past the 50s.

>Are you familiar with the evidence that JFK sought to normalize relations with Castro? Did that make him a traitor?

I’m not familiar with said evidence. I am familiar with the many attempts JFK made on Castro’s life, however. That said, I was not talking of treason. It is difficult to accuse any president of treason, because to a substantial degree the president gets to speak for the United States.

>Do you think our intervention in Vietnam was a just cause?

I defer that question to the vietnamese, who fled the North in the millions when it was partitioned, and who fled in the millions again, at considerably greater risk, after the south fell after a decade of war, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands who were rounded up and put into camps, or merely executed. If fighting to prevent that atrocity was not just, then neither was world war 2. There is no excuse, however, for how incompetently the war was waged.

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J Thomas 10.19.14 at 5:47 pm

#54 Cassander

>They didn’t trust the media,

the media was on their side

This is what I get for trying to discuss it with you.

>But they wanted to believe that socialism could work.

The worst part is, I agree with you here. Communists and fellow travelers in the US did really believe that the US and soviets could be allies. they did have hope, and that hope did lead them to swallow the absurd lies that the communists put out. What I cannot understand is why you think that is acceptable.

It happened. Whether I accept that it happened affects me more than it affects anybody else. When I choose not to accept that reality exists, it’s likely to hurt me.

These were not small lapses. communists willfully ignored lies and mass murder on the largest scale in history repeatedly, for decades.

Some of them did, others rejected the USSR and hoped for real socialism etc elsewhere. Some of *those* accepted the same sort of lies about China that they had rejected for Russia. What I get from that is that human beings have a tremendous capacity for self-deception. We need to watch out for that because sometimes it hurts us as much as it does anybody else.

In any sane world, communists and people who spoke well of them would be given the same treatment that nazis and their sympathizers get, utter banishment from polite society, their name turned into a synonym for evil.

No, you’d need at least to pick and choose. There are left-libertarian “communists” who are no worse at all than right-libertarians. And consider for example Indonesia. They killed 2 million communists (and innocent bystanders who were in the wrong place at the wrong time) in a few days. Later revisionist historians decided it was probably only half a million, after enough time had passed for the records to be revised. Did Republicans denounce the dictator Suharto? No, they wanted him to kill communists. They considered him a good friend. We have a fair number of examples of US Republicans supporting the killing of large numbers of people for their own ideological reasons. The numbers are usually smaller than we assign to Russia and China, but enough to support giving all Republicans the same treatment we should give to all Nazis and all communists.

But it just is not practical. Instead, here I am discussing things with you as if you were a rational human being.

Anyway, I personally do not benefit if my society punishes people for thought-crimes. IME, when society splits into two sides and they fight, the guy who doesn’t fit in on either side has trouble no matter who’s winning.

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Bruce Wilder 10.19.14 at 6:40 pm

Thanks for that, J Thomas. Much nicer than the vivisection I would have liked to have administered.

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mattski 10.19.14 at 7:11 pm

When stalin lived, [communism] pretty much was [monolithic].

Really? SoRussia and China were tight allies? How about China and Vietnam?

“The last time the Chinese came, they stayed a thousand years. The French are foreigners. They are weak. Colonialism is dying. The white man is finished in Asia. But if the Chinese stay now, they will never go. As for me, I prefer to sniff French shit for five years than to eat Chinese shit for the rest of my life.” Ho Chi Minh, 1946

I defer that question to the vietnamese, who fled the North in the millions when it was partitioned

Well, I asked for your opinion. You don’t have one? Will you concede that the Eisenhower administration concluded that Ho would have won the unification elections agreed upon at the Geneva Accords? Certainly, that counts for something.

I am familiar with the many attempts JFK made on Castro’s life, however.

You should look into this further. I think you’ll be surprised if you do. Here’s a lead for you,

“I want to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

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cassander 10.19.14 at 7:24 pm

>We need to watch out for that because sometimes it hurts us as much as it does anybody else.

On this, I agree completely. I have no doubt that if some group of people in a far away land preaching cassanderism took over and started murdering people I would cut them far more slack than I should.

> There are left-libertarian “communists” who are no worse at all than right-libertarians.

If they do not want to be associated with the other communists, then they should renounce the name. I’m sure that there are some very nice people out there who would never hurt anyone, but really like the idea that instead of organizing democratically we should be organized economically, with the conflicts between these groups resolved by a state acting as mediator and collective consciousness of the nation. I doubt they go around calling themselves fascists.

>The numbers are usually smaller than we assign to Russia and China, but enough to support giving all Republicans the same treatment we should give to all Nazis and all communists

Not usually smaller, always smaller. Indonesia was as bad as white terror got, and even accepting your figure for the deaths, that puts it at at least an order of magnitude less bloody communism. Now, I will grant that the moral calculus of killing is complicated. the US probably killed at least as many germans as suharto killed indonesians and few call FDR a monster. that said, I am basically happy with a system of value that assigns negative moral brownie points based on how many people a given ideological has killed with splash points awarded to for ideological aid and comfort. Under that scheme though, the 20th century fellow traveller left left comes off looking much, much worse than the anti-communist right, yet it is mccarthyite that is the dirty word, not communist.

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Ze Kraggash 10.19.14 at 8:21 pm

“I am basically happy with a system of value that assigns negative moral brownie points based on how many people a given ideological has killed”

Maybe it would make sense for you to actually learn something about those ideas. Because by the same logic the primitive man could decide: the fire, dammit, it burns a lot; we’re better off eating our mammoth meat raw. And bye-bye fire. When we are children we do think like that, but as we get older we (usually) become capable of more sophisticated analysis.

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J Thomas 10.19.14 at 8:53 pm

#60

I am basically happy with a system of value that assigns negative moral brownie points based on how many people a given ideological has killed with splash points awarded to for ideological aid and comfort.

I am not. Once you have a system set up that kills people for having the wrong ideology, the number of people it kills depends on how long it lasts.

So the number of people killed by Nazis has probably already reached its high-water mark. There are very few Nazis left to kill people. Pretty likely there won’t be a lot more killings by communists, though the Chinese communists might. But the clock is still ticking for Republicans. One single nuclear war could raise their total beyond the USSR and China and Nazis put together. They could take the prize until somebody worse comes along.

I guess you can compete for the title of “Ideological murderers who haven’t yet killed as many as the Soviets” if you want to, but is that title worth having?

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Layman 10.19.14 at 9:28 pm

Perhaps the issue is not so much the ideologies in question, but rather the inevitable which ensues when particular individuals or groups use those ideologies to achieve totalitarian power…

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J Thomas 10.19.14 at 9:51 pm

#63 Layman

Perhaps the issue is not so much the ideologies in question, but rather the inevitable which ensues when particular individuals or groups use those ideologies to achieve totalitarian power…

Here is the almost-axiomatic pattern I see:

In almost any system, some people make a disproportionate share of the choices. There are competitors to make those choices, and there are methods they can get the right to increase their share of choice.

People who make the particular decisions which give them increased choice, get more later choices than people who choose in ways that do not give them increased choice. So the people who consistently make the choices that give them more choice, will tend to take away choices from people who choose on some other criteria.

So people who start out with some other goal, like increasing human happiness or human comfort etc, tend to find that they can only do that in marginal cases where their choice does not matter to the primary goal of getting more choice. If they do good and lose power, then they have less power in the future that could be used to do good.

There are people who claim that their own systems are immune to this. For example, there are people who claim that if a businessman always makes the choice which gives him the biggest profit, that will also result in the best outcome for the world. As near as I can tell, these people are wrong. But while their logic is wrong and their examples are dubious, still it is possible that they might happen to be right by accident.

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mattski 10.19.14 at 10:34 pm

JT 64

I would say, power accrues to itself. But I think that’s what you’re saying.

There will always be ambitious people, selfish people, etc. I think it’s more like learning to walk a tight-rope than finding the “right system.”

?

67

LFC 10.19.14 at 10:44 pm

I will refrain from substantive comment on the Vietnam War (which came up in discussion above). But I would note that the question of just cause (jus ad bellum) is separate from the question of just (legal/acceptable) means (jus in bello). I know how I answer both of these questions in the case of Vietnam, but I have no interest in derailing the thread. I only wanted to note the conceptual distinction (a clear statement of which is in Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, p.21).

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J Thomas 10.19.14 at 11:25 pm

#65 Mattski

I would say, power accrues to itself. But I think that’s what you’re saying.

Yes.

There will always be ambitious people, selfish people, etc. I think it’s more like learning to walk a tight-rope than finding the “right system.”

If you try to walk a tightrope where you balance doing good versus losing power, and you are competing with people who do not need to be on the tightrope because they only care about getting your power away from you, that’s very difficult for you.

It would be far better if you could perform in a system where you did not face that. It isn’t something you can fix very well on your own, trying to do good while others who care nothing for good try to defeat you using any weapon they can get. If there’s a solution it needs to be a systemic sort of solution. But I don’t know what a good system would even look like, much less how to get there from here.

69

ZM 10.20.14 at 12:07 am

J Thomas,

The first thing to do would be give the tightrope walkers an eight hour day, then they can study of an evening at the mechanics library, learn basic engineering of bridges, then build a bridge and then afterwards only people who enjoy daredevilry need walk tightropes – others will have a nice stable bridge to cross instead. We do not quite have a stable bridge – but we also are not exactly on a tightrope anymore either – there is education, there is the universal adult franchise, there are minimum wages, there are health and safety laws, and so on

70

Omega Centauri 10.20.14 at 12:56 am

ZM.
If I think of US politics, and even areas of civil service which are touched by politics, the bridge seems to me to be a single stranded cable at best. Our particular system seems to be rife with opportunists, both politicians and media types who profit by destroying others careers, by any means necessary. Inevitably doing the right thing can lead to actions which are easily misconstrued, given the sound-bite level of our discourse. Sure, education and critical thinking would help, but even this is becoming part of the partisan battleground.

71

floopmeister 10.20.14 at 1:18 am

Thanks to Rich for mentioning Josephus – I was going to do so if I reached the end of the thread without reading his name…

It’s the historical resonances that make his case so interesting, including his involvement (collaboration?) with the Romans which led ultimately to the destruction of the Temple.

The other interesting (literary) example is from the Borges’ parable The Story of the Warrior and of the Captured Girl in which the Lombard warrior Droc-tulft switches sides at the siege of Ravenna and dies fighting to preserve what he had originally come to destroy. Not exactly collaboration I guess, but interesting all the same…

72

Bruce Wilder 10.20.14 at 1:23 am

ZM: . . . there is education, there is the universal adult franchise, there are minimum wages, there are health and safety laws, and so on

All fading . . .

73

cassander 10.20.14 at 3:10 am

@Jthomas

>I am not. Once you have a system set up that kills people for having the wrong ideology, the number of people it kills depends on how long it lasts.

some ideologies are more virulent than others, again communism being the most virulent.

>There are very few Nazis left to kill people. Pretty likely there won’t be a lot more killings by communists, though the Chinese communists might. But the clock is still ticking for Republicans.

By that logic, the clock is also still ticking democrats, who supported the communists and thus far more killing than the republicans ever did, and we are clearly well past the point of rational sense.

>There are people who claim that their own systems are immune to this.

no system is immune, but some systems are less prone to it than others. the decentralization principle of capitalism being one of the ones most resistant.

74

Anarcissie 10.20.14 at 3:30 am

It would be nice to have a word which covered some of the concepts originally attached to ‘communism’, without calling up the shade of the seminarian Dzhugashvili. However, I have been assured by liberals, conservatives, and libertarians that any attempt at more than very limited equality will lead straight to gulags and death camps, so I guess they know what they’re doing, Orwellianly speaking. If you can’t say it, you can’t think it, and if you can’t think it, it will never happen and you don’t have to worry about it.

I am curious about the ‘decentralization principle of capitalism’, however. It seems to me capitalist entities and systems tend to become more integrated and centralized. This was why, back in the 1950s, Citizen Mikoyan told some American reporter that the US was much closer to communism (his meaning, not yours) than the Soviet Union.

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mattski 10.20.14 at 3:35 am

JT @ 67

Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I was trying to say that we are collectively learning to walk a tightrope. It’s a group effort, the effort to have a decent society with a high degree of fairness.

And as you suggest, we are speculating about things we really don’t know. Maybe–I hope so, and it seems plausible–one day decency will be so habitual that it no longer requires the vigilance of a ‘tightrope.’

76

Rich Puchalsky 10.20.14 at 4:49 am

floopmeister: “The other interesting (literary) example is from the Borges’ parable […]”

If we’re going to literary examples, then I might as well lower the tone. Michael Moorcock’s early-to-mid career work, including the Elric books, is all loosely part of the Eternal Champion Cycle. That starts with the novel of the same name, which features a protagonist who becomes a sort of ultimate collaborator.

77

floopmeister 10.20.14 at 5:00 am

Rich:well that made me pull out my old copy of Song of Swords by Hawkwind (to lower the tone even further…)

78

Brett Bellmore 10.20.14 at 9:38 am

“the media was on their side

This is what I get for trying to discuss it with you.”

Duranty. Seriously, Duranty. The media might not have been as much on their side as they wanted, perhaps because the media wanted to retain SOME credibility, but it was on their side.

79

J Thomas 10.20.14 at 12:45 pm

#73 Cassander

>There are people who claim that their own systems are immune to this.

no system is immune, but some systems are less prone to it than others. the decentralization principle of capitalism being one of the ones most resistant.

But there are no capitalist systems. Capitalism is only a part of other systems. So the capitalist system with slavery involved slaves who officially had no choices, and capitalism incorporated them just fine as property. They had to do as they were told on fear of whipping or worse.

But it turned out that wage slavery was more efficient. Wage slaves don’t have to be whipped, they try their best to please their master so they won’t be thrown away and made unemployed. In good times there are plenty of alternative jobs and they get some independence. But the system is designed to make sure there is enough unemployment to keep the wage slaves from getting uppity.

In general, when people decide for their own reasons to do ethnic cleansing or whatever, capitalists are eager to sell them the guns.

When christians say that christianity is a better system than most, people snicker — because they have heard about the Spanish inquisition and the Anabaptists etc. Anarcho-capitalists can argue that we have never had a truly capitalist system so we can’t blame past excesses on capitalism. But communists can make exactly the same argument. They say that the USSR was not communism but state capitalism. And they are right.

80

Brett Bellmore 10.20.14 at 1:16 pm

“When christians say that christianity is a better system than most,”

Most people don’t snicker, because they’re aware of this thing called a “present tense”.

81

mattski 10.20.14 at 1:16 pm

The ‘tightrope’ is the balancing act between too little centralization–laissez-faire–and too much. The terms ‘capitalism’ and ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’ are highly subjective and usually confusing.

But a vibrant market economy can’t survive without a competent, functional state. And a competent welfare state (socialism?) needs a robust market component.

82

J Thomas 10.20.14 at 1:30 pm

80 BB

“When christians say that christianity is a better system than most,”

Most people don’t snicker, because they’re aware of this thing called a “present tense”.

Show me a present-day society organized by christians strictly according to christian principles and I’ll be interested. But we have a history of christian societies and it is not pretty.

Communists could likewise make the claim that regardless of any mistakes of the past, present-tense communism is the best possible system for human beings to live with. I dunno. Show me the money. Maybe they’d do fine, but communists have a history of sometimes choosing bad premiers and chairmen just like christians have a history of sometimes choosing bad popes.

Capitalists don’t have a history of choosing bad leaders, though. They let somebody else choose bad leaders and then they live with the consequences.

83

mattski 10.20.14 at 1:37 pm

Capitalists don’t have a history of choosing bad leaders, though.

Wait a minute. Who chose GWB?!

:^)

84

Brett Bellmore 10.20.14 at 1:59 pm

“Show me a present-day society organized by christians strictly according to christian principles and I’ll be interested.”

That is precisely the point: Christians don’t demand that.

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J Thomas 10.20.14 at 2:00 pm

#83 Mattski

“Capitalists don’t have a history of choosing bad leaders, though.”

Wait a minute. Who chose GWB?!

Somebody in the GOP. The GOP is not a party of capitalists, it’s a party of people who admire capitalists. Like the difference between pro football players and football fans.

Bush repeatedly failed at the oil business.Then he bought a share of a baseball team and manged it for some years. The team got some successes right after he quit, and he sold his stock 5 years later at a big profit when the team was doing well.

But independent of his track record at running businesses, he did very well at politics.

If it’s true that there are capitalists who secretly control the GOP, then from my perspective they have done a bad job of it.

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J Thomas 10.20.14 at 2:05 pm

“Show me a present-day society organized by christians strictly according to christian principles and I’ll be interested.”

That is precisely the point: Christians don’t demand that.

They used to, and people remember.

Now we don’t get christian societies so they don’t get the blame or the credit for today’s outcomes. If somebody wants to say that christian societies tend to keep bad people from hogging the power, as some christians elsewhere have said, then I want to ask what christian societies do that and how do they do it? I don’t see any christian societies that do that, any more than I see capitalist societies that do that.

87

Brett Bellmore 10.20.14 at 2:10 pm

Again, present tense. If you don’t want to have your head chopped off over your choice of religion, where do you live today? In a society where Christians are the majority, or a society where Muslims are the majority?

Yeah, Christianity has a lot of stuff in the past to live down. Islam needs to live down it’s present, too. The present matters a lot, we happen to live in it.

88

ajay 10.20.14 at 2:16 pm

Collaborators may be low- or mid-level perpetrators; suppliers, like the warehouse in Jedwabne, Poland, which provided the kerosene local residents used in 1941 to burn a barn containing 1,500 Jews, or Ford and General Motors, which funded a Brazilian security outfit that interrogated and tortured leftists

Or, indeed, the Soviet oilmen, miners and metal workers who supplied the raw materials that Hitler needed to build his armed forces; working, as it turned out, directly against the interests of their own people. When the Wehrmacht rolled into the USSR in June 1941, a large number of its tanks and aircraft were running on Russian oil, built from Russian steel and aluminium, rolling on tyres made from Russian rubber, driven by soldiers fed on Russian grain and clad in Russian cotton – even firing shells capped with Russian metal.

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ajay 10.20.14 at 2:17 pm

“Show me a present-day society organized by christians strictly according to christian principles and I’ll be interested.”

The Iona Community? The Taize Community?

90

Ronan(rf) 10.20.14 at 2:28 pm

Afaik the only countries to still behead for execution are in the Gulf (the Arab states and Iran) This doesnt generalise to a ‘Muslim thing’ (I’m sure you have heard of the Guilllitone, Brett, and understand the extent to which beheading has been used – up to very recently, the 60s + in France? – as a mode of execution in countries at varying levels of development)
You could probably develop a semi plausible argument here, if you put in some effort and didnt just play the role of right wing windbag, for why Islam might lead to X (whatever X might be; underdevelopment, beheadings, war mongering..whatever your hobby horse) ..though I’d assume you’re not going to go to the effort of making that argument in good faith and a non idiotic manner.

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mattski 10.20.14 at 2:31 pm

The GOP is not a party of capitalists, it’s a party of people who admire capitalists.

You see, this is where people have a tendency to confuse things. You say the GOP admires capitalists. Well, what does a political party do? It serves it constituency! You say that if that is what the GOP is up to then they’ve done a bad job of it. I don’t necessarily disagree, but how does that change the basic truth of how our politics works?

You can argue that Democrats also serve capitalists and I would agree. But “capitalists” is a broad term. Very broad. Why not say, “business community” instead? And does it really matter what you call it? Democrats are pro-business but they also try to help the less fortunate. Republicans are pro-pro-pro-business and they throw some bones to the Christian right. And they’re typically pretty crude and unsophisticated in the way they serve moneyed interests. So? They’re generally a bunch of knuckleheads who cow-tow to anyone with a fat wallet.

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ajay 10.20.14 at 2:54 pm

Afaik the only countries to still behead for execution are in the Gulf (the Arab states and Iran) This doesnt generalise to a ‘Muslim thing’

23 countries have laws against apostasy, which is what he’s talking about specifically. The law prescribes execution in Afghanistan (stoning), Brunei (hanging), Mauritania (shooting), Qatar (beheading), Saudi Arabia (beheading), Sudan (beheading), the United Arab Emirates (beheading), and Yemen (shooting or stoning). Other countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria) tend to go for imprisonment, fines, confiscation of property, compulsory annulment of marriage and confiscation of children, that kind of thing.
Also, of course, there’s ISIL (beheading). Does it count as a country yet?

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Rich Puchalsky 10.20.14 at 2:57 pm

“Afaik the only countries to still behead for execution are in the Gulf”

Brett just, this month, wrote here that women who get late-term abortions should be hanged. This is presumably an extension of his Christian belief, or at least compatible with it. The U.S. is one of the leading states to still practice capital punishment, and is properly viewed as barbaric by more morally advanced societies. And our form of Christianity has a lot to do with that.

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Ronan(rf) 10.20.14 at 3:02 pm

ajay, fair enough on the clarification (going by your comment it might generalise to some extent as a ‘Muslim thing’ .. or perhaps a regional norm)

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/05/28/which-countries-still-outlaw-apostasy-and-blasphemy/

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Ronan(rf) 10.20.14 at 3:06 pm

“And our form of Christianity has a lot to do with that.”

Does it though ? To what extent could Christianity be said to be one of the main factors maintaining US capital punishment ?

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Ze Kraggash 10.20.14 at 3:08 pm

88 “When the Wehrmacht rolled into the USSR in June 1941, a large number of its tanks and aircraft were running on Russian oil”

Well, arguably, if not for the pact, the Wehrmacht would’ve rolled into the USSR already in 1939, to the delight of Atlantic powers. Pulling the UK and US into a real (as opposed to ‘phoney’) war probably the best (or the ‘least worst’) strategy.

97

Layman 10.20.14 at 3:49 pm

BB: “That is precisely the point: Christians don’t demand that.”

An absurd generalization. Some Christians demand precisely that. That they don’t get it is a function of secular, not Christian, traditions.

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J Thomas 10.20.14 at 4:01 pm

#87 BB

If you don’t want to have your head chopped off over your choice of religion, where do you live today? In a society where Christians are the majority, or a society where Muslims are the majority?

Which leads us directly to a “No True Christian” claim. Christians didn’t used to practice tolerance, for each other or for anybody else. Now we have a bunch of pretend-christians who show up for services on Christmas and Easter if that, and the minority who actually believe has to practice tolerance because they are too weak to do otherwise.

Yes, like you I also prefer to live with a religion that is too decrepit to do much harm, but so what?

There’s the argument that somebody-or-other is not as bad as Nazis. And the argument that Christians are not as bad as Muslims. This is what I call damning with faint praise.

The one place the argument looks appropriate is to say that Republicans, for all their massive George-Bush-like failures, are not as bad as Democrats. If you argue that one, you might be wrong — maybe Republicans are worse than Democrats after all — but at least in that example we are stuck with one or the other. So the second-worst choice is important that time.

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Brett Bellmore 10.20.14 at 4:18 pm

“An absurd generalization. Some Christians demand precisely that. That they don’t get it is a function of secular, not Christian, traditions.”

That the secular traditions matter in a country where the majority are some variety or other of Christians, while they get forcibly replaced with religious traditions in countries where the majority are some variety or other of Muslims, is precisely due to the differences between Christianity and Islam.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.20.14 at 4:24 pm

“To what extent could Christianity be said to be one of the main factors maintaining US capital punishment ?”

Fundamentalist Christian belief is highly correlated with right-wing political belief, which in turn is the influence within American politics which has meant that we still have capital punishment even as more civilized countries have given it up. And, in general, the U.S. is more religiously Christian than more civilized countries are.

People argue here with BB in ridiculous ways. We are his externalized good conscience, or superego if you prefer, keeping him from being as barbaric as the people he pretends to despise. There can’t be any real dialogue in that situation.

101

Robespierre 10.20.14 at 4:32 pm

I thought it was due to the fact that most Christians are no longer serious enough about their faith to be willing to kill and die for it, but many muslims still are. But even Christians are only as civilised as society compels them to be: get to Africa, and Catholic bishops still wisper that maybe, just maybe, ebola is due to the gays, and some American evangelicals openly support Uganda’s death-to-gays policies and even the Lord’s Resistance Army.

102

Brett Bellmore 10.20.14 at 4:42 pm

I think it’s two factors:

1. Christians not being terribly serious.
2. Christianity, unlike Islam, not having decisively rejected the concept of separation of church and state.

Christianity, taken seriously, is still consistent with separation of church and state; Render unto Ceasar, and all that. Islam rejects it, root and branch.

103

Ze Kraggash 10.20.14 at 4:45 pm

“I thought it was due to the fact that most Christians are no longer serious enough about their faith to be willing to kill and die for it…”

Some are still serious, the LRA for example.

104

Bruce Wilder 10.20.14 at 5:06 pm

After World War II, secular political movements came to dominate several Islamic and Arab countries. Both Iraq and Syria were governed by variations on the Ba’ath movement, which had influence throughout the Arab world. The United States destroyed the remnant of the Ba’athist Party in Iraq, along with a large part of the country’s frayed social fabric and infrastructure.

Countries like Syria and Iraq have been ground down. American policy has been a factor — sometimes secondary, sometimes not so secondary as in Iraq — in that grinding down. Once a society has been ground down, its institutions destroyed and economic foundations crumbling, it is not surprising that desperate people turn to religion and fundamentalist versions of religion particularly. They may also try to revive tribal or clan affiliations, as organizing principles to get some social solidarity started.

The Manichaeism that assigns Islam a dispositive philosophical content driving a “clash of civilizations” while ignoring the ways in which these polities have been systematically destroyed from without as well as from within seems to me to be remarkably and wilfully stupid, ignoring history and ignoring the responsibility the West bears for policies — particularly for its neoliberalism.

That’s not an endorsement of the lazy Leftist view that the U.S. is the only effective actor in the world, or that it is irredeemably racist to think that the peoples of these countries do not bear some primary responsibility for bad choices. It is to say that Manichaeism, whether it assigns the devil role to the U.S. or to Islam is ignoring the factors that really matter. Revolutionary violence is rarely driven primarily ardent pursuit of ideals of freedom; usually, hunger and desperation have a lot to do with it.

When I see Islamic fundamentalism dominating, I wonder why there are no competing institutions, but I do not imagine that Islam magically bars their development. I note that recent history, the history of the last 50 years say, might matter. Overpopulation might matter. Neoliberal policies that destroy institutions might matter. Western foreign policies dominated and shaped by oilmen and arms merchants might matter. Saudi willingness to fund religious schools in countries without much in the way of public education might have something to do with it. Authoritarian dictatorships might matter. And so on.

105

MPAVictoria 10.20.14 at 5:43 pm

“Christians don’t demand that.”

Some of them do.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominion_Theology

106

Salem 10.20.14 at 6:36 pm

@BW: I think you have it entirely backwards – Islamism in the Middle East is a response to the failure of those secular movements, which still exist in ossified form, but lack any broad public support. Arabs have been fed a secular mixture of socialism and Pan-Arabism for decades, with no positive results except the enrichment of a tiny corrupt elite who are just going through the motions, to the point where no-one believes in this stuff anymore. So people who talk about how great secularism is versus the superstition of religion are automatically discredited, because this is the already-rejected message of the obviously corrupt powers-that-be. It doesn’t make it false, but it does make it a hard sell – much like talking about the dangers of capitalism in Bucharest in 1989. It’s no co-incidence that the Middle Eastern country with the biggest secular movement (Iran) is the one country with an Islamic government.

And it also provides a different basis for the nation – Islam provides a common identity across fault-lines, that pan-Arabism ruptured. Instead of Kurds and Arabs, we are all Muslims together. Of course, it also creates new fault-lines – it is no coincidence that most of the founders of the secular movements were Christian or non-mainstream Muslim – but a common enemy is often a necessary part of a big movement. And Islam provides that spiritual edge, not just in terms of ideology, but on a practical sense. When people in the West think about Islamic martyrs, they think about in negative terms (suicide bombers), but people like Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr provide a lasting inspiration to millions, which it’s hard to get from a rational, interest-based politics.

But the thing to remember is that these aren’t countries that have been “ground down” – for the most part, they have been messed up for centuries. We are not talking about places that were beacons of liberal democracy that then degenerated, but very poor countries with weak social institutions that haven’t advanced.

107

cassander 10.20.14 at 6:38 pm

>But it turned out that wage slavery was more efficient.

this completely contradicts your first point. capitalism did not just happily absorb slavery, its internal mechanics worked to eliminate it, something no other society or system in history had ever done.

>But the system is designed to make sure there is enough unemployment to keep the wage slaves from getting uppity.

capitalism isn’t designed, that’s the whole point. no central designer means much less room for massive centrally designed fuckups.

> They say that the USSR was not communism but state capitalism. And they are right.

they are wrong, because it doesn’t matter that the ussr never achieved communism. every attempt to achieve communism, no matter the cultural background, failed in the same way that communism did, it turned into a totalitarian police state and started killing people. if you have an ideology for which every attempt to implement ends badly, you have a bad ideology.

108

Ze Kraggash 10.20.14 at 7:12 pm

“@BW: I think you have it entirely backwards – Islamism in the Middle East is a response to the failure of those secular movements”

I think BW is exactly right. The west much prefers Islamism to secular nationalism, which is, in fact, much more broad-based and effective. Israeli Zionists, for example, supported Hamas as a means to diminish secular PLO and to split the resistance. And it worked too.

“Instead of Kurds and Arabs”

Pan-Arabism is not a movement of the ethnic Arabs. It’s a secular anti-imperialist movement within the ‘Arab World’; and the Kurds living in it are included, along with all other ethnicities.

109

Harold 10.20.14 at 7:27 pm

If I recall correctly, Eliza Kazan starred as the eponymous hero of “Waiting for Lefty” (1935) in which it was roundly declared that the Soviet Union was the only country in which anti-Semitism was officially a crime punishable by law — in contrast to the US, where anti-Semitism was blatant and even written into law in many places and where furthermore it was taboo to even speak of this fact, much less protest it. This was a selling -point to people like Odets and the Rosenbergs, whose relatives overseas were probably being murdered during the years 1932-45 – and there was a taboo on speaking of that, too, hard as that is to imagine. The taboo was finally broken by Hannah Arendt in her New Yorker reportage.

The Rosenbergs were considered to have committed treason, a capital crime. Even today those who are so accused are deemed unworthy of a fair trial with presumption of innocence even when nominally legally entitled to one. They were accordingly railroaded. One can only imagine what kind of pressure David Greenglass was subjected to in order to force him to betray his sister.

Incidentally, the Soviet Union had a longstanding non-aggression pact with Japan as well as with Hitler, no?

110

LFC 10.20.14 at 7:43 pm

Salem @106
the thing to remember is that these… countries … have been messed up for centuries
Many/most of these countries came into existence as independent states only in the 20th century (and not the v. early yrs of it, either).

111

LFC 10.20.14 at 7:49 pm

Harold @109
The taboo was finally broken by Hannah Arendt in her New Yorker reportage.

Are you suggesting that there was no discussion in the U.S. about (what came to be called) the Holocaust before Arendt’s Eichmann articles? If I recall correctly, Anderson in a previous thread mentioned her drawing on Hilberg for some facts; if that’s correct, his work, or some of it at least, must have predated her articles.

112

Layman 10.20.14 at 7:59 pm

BB: “That the secular traditions matter in a country where the majority are some variety or other of Christians, while they get forcibly replaced with religious traditions in countries where the majority are some variety or other of Muslims, is precisely due to the differences between Christianity and Islam.”

In other words, you give Christianity the credit for the civilizing influence of secular, non-Christian thinking. How convenient!

ISTM the main difference is that largely-secular elites crafted a system of checks and balances which constrain the public scope of religion, and other mostly secular elites populate the institutions which maintain those constraints; a process you refer to as ‘legislating from the bench’, as I recall.

113

Harold 10.20.14 at 8:14 pm

I am not saying there was no discussion at all, but I can remember very well that the big corollary of the witchhunt was that Germans were now supposed to be our loyal friends and allies with the Dulles Bros. in the battle against Communism and one was not supposed to bring up the Jews or the Holocaust. My mother, who was Jewish, did bring it up from time to time, but she was unusually outspoken. People were supposed to “fit in”, shut up, and not make waves and they complied.

I remember, because my parents took me to see the “Night and Fog” exhibit in Paris in 1956, when I was about 11, and it was utterly shocking to me. I came back and immediately told all my friends and cousins what I had seen and they refused to believe me and said I must be mistaken. Not only that, but some playmates (whose parents were in the military) were forbidden to play with or speak to me ever again. A year or so later I brought it up in school, and although my teacher clearly approved, my classmates were upset and outraged and refused to believe it.

Marcus Marrus recounts that when Raoul Hillberg announced that he was writing his dissertation on the Holocaust as a graduate student at Columbia in the 1950s, he was warned by his advisers that dealing with the topic would debar him from ever getting an academic job — his book was published in 1961.

114

Harold 10.20.14 at 8:22 pm

I don’t know what forbidden words caused my answer to LFC’s comment to be put in moderation.

115

stevenjohnson 10.20.14 at 8:27 pm

Speak of the devil and he shall appear! John Oliver did his main story last night on how translators from Iraq and Afghanistan can’t get admission to the US, despite laws permitting it. He had an interview with one of the few who did (took him 3 1/2 years.) The pay was an important reason.

Also, Oliver did a puff piece on the Supreme Court. Really made them look good.

116

TM 10.20.14 at 8:44 pm

[Laymen, re your comment http://crookedtimber.org/2014/10/13/r-g/#comment-576749: You are correct that I mistakenly attributed an increase in 19th century capital/income ratio to Piketty. However, this strengthens, not weakens my point since the r > g model would predict such an increase for the 19th century (but none is observed), whereas it would predict no such increase for the 20th century (but Piketty says it has doubled). This isn’t about economic determinism but whether a model is at least roughly consistent with empirical data.

Sorry but is there any way of having the thread reopened? What’s wrong with continuing a debate for more than a week?]

117

Harold 10.20.14 at 8:46 pm

Try again. Publication of The Destruction of the European Jews (1961) Publication history excerpt: Breaking the taboo on official mention — note comment from Finkelstein at end.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raul_Hilberg
Wikipeida:
The Destruction of the European Jews[edit]
Main article: The Destruction of the European Jews
Hilberg is best known for his influential study of the Holocaust, The Destruction of the European Jews. His final doctoral supervisor, Professor Fox, worried that the original study was far too long. Hilberg therefore suggested submitting a mere quarter of the research he had written up, and his proposal was accepted. His PhD dissertation was awarded the prestigious Clark F. Ansley prize, which entitled it to be published by Columbia University Press in a print run of 850 copies.[25] However, Hilberg was firm in desiring that the whole work be published, not just the doctoral version. To obtain this, two opinions in favor of full publication were required. The work was duly submitted to two additional academic authorities in the field, but both judgments were negative, viewing Hilberg’s work as polemical: one rejected it as anti-German, the other as anti-Jewish.[26]
Struggle for publication[edit]
Hilberg, unwilling to compromise, submitted the complete manuscript to several major publishing houses over the following six years, without luck. Princeton University Press turned down the manuscript, after quickly vetting it in a mere two weeks. After successive rejections from five prominent publishers, it finally went to press in 1961 under a minor imprint, the Chicago-based publisher, Quadrangle Books. By good fortune, a wealthy patron, Frank Petschek, a German-Czech Jew whose family coal business had suffered from the Nazi Aryanization program,[27] laid out $15,000, a substantial sum at the time, to cover the costs of a print run of 5,500 volumes,[28] of which some 1,300 copies were set aside for distribution to libraries.[13]
Resistance to Hilberg’s work, the difficulties he encountered in finding a U.S. editor, and subsequent delays with the German edition, owed much to the Cold War atmosphere of the times. As Norman Finkelstein once observed,
****It is hard now to remember that the Nazi holocaust was once a taboo subject. During the early years of the Cold War, mention of the Nazi holocaust was seen as undermining the critical U.S.-West German alliance. It was airing the dirty laundry of the barely de-Nazified West German elites and thereby playing into the hands of the Soviet Union, which didn’t tire of remembering the crimes of the West German “revanchists.”[29]*****

118

Andrew F. 10.20.14 at 10:27 pm

Very interesting post and discussion. I have a preliminary question, and then just a couple of comments on the post. None of these is intended to be argumentative.

Question: what is the purpose of the concept of collaborator that you describe? It’s not a purely analytic purpose; that is, you’re not simply elucidating how we use the term collaborator in a philosophical attempt to delineate the contours of what we mean by the term. It seems to me – and I haven’t read your earlier work, so I may be entirely off – that the purpose of the concept is to capture an aspect of the politics of fear (of oppression?) that you think a triad of perpetrator-bystander-victim misses.

To the extent I understand the purpose, then, you’re really proposing a new use for the term. Although throughout the comment section I’ve read references to the negative connotations of the term in ordinary language, it’s worth noting that the negative connotation referred to is actually a distinct denotation, a separate definition. There is collaboration in the sense that this blog is a collaborative effort, and there is collaboration in the sense of French citizens who aided Nazi occupiers.

What you’re doing here is describing a third definition or use:

But to avoid the question of identity that restrictive definitions of collaboration entail, I will use the definition contained in the word’s Latin root collaborare: “to work together.” By collaborator, I simply mean those men and women who work with elites and who occupy the lower tiers of power and make political fear a genuinely civic enterprise.

So let me try to complicate matters a little. Suppose that during the civil rights struggles in the American South during the 1950s, there were FBI informants among segregationist whites providing intelligence on the KKK and other organizations with similar goals. Are such informants collaborators under this definition? How about Southerners who spied for and otherwise aided Union military efforts during the Civil War? How about informants among the Taliban for coalition forces in Afghanistan?

I suppose part of what I’m getting at is that your proposed definition of collaborator seems to assume the existence of a political structure with particular features, but the definition does not make clear what those features are (and this may be amply explained in your earlier work).

Another part is that I wonder whether you intend your definition to eschew any moral judgment at all, or whether the term is intended to imply moral judgment. All of the examples you gave – unless I’ve forgotten after attempting to quickly read the comment thread – are quite negative (and, again, this question may be quite clearly answered by your previous work – I have only this post to go on).

Finally, it seems obvious that intent is an essential component. Those who unintentionally provide aid don’t seem intended (sorry) to be captured by your definition. What about those who intend to provide aid, but who are duped as to the elite’s true goals or actual means?

119

LFC 10.21.14 at 1:49 am

@Harold
Thanks. If I have the chronology right, the pub. (1961) of Hilberg did precede the Arendt articles on Eichmann, albeit not by that much.

120

Harold 10.21.14 at 2:43 am

It had a publication run of 5,500 copies — not that many. I believe it was Arendt, and even more, the fact of the trial itself, and perhaps the presence of a new, Democratic regime in Washington that helped break the embargo on the subject. Of course, Arendt might have had access to pre-publication material from Hilberg.

121

dilbert dogbert 10.21.14 at 3:43 am

I think torture has two primary components, punishment and false confessions. Obtaining information is a secondary component.

122

Corey Robin 10.21.14 at 12:41 pm

dilbert dogbert: I wonder if that’s really true. From what I’ve read about the Dirty Wars, not really. But more important I wonder if this has become the left’s, or at least liberals’, way of opposing torture in the post-9/11 era. Rather than take on the wrongness of torture as such regardless of its results or consequences — that is, even if it does yield truthful information, it’s wrong — people take the easier path of saying, no, it doesn’t yield truthful information; it’s just a way of harming people or extracting lies from victims. Since harm and lies are bad, torture is bad. Not saying you’re coming from that position, but that’s what your comment made me think. In any event, there are certainly a lot of situations where extracting information is part of the point of torture; hence the doctors in Uruguay.

123

J Thomas 10.21.14 at 3:26 pm

#122

In any event, there are certainly a lot of situations where extracting information is part of the point of torture; hence the doctors in Uruguay.

Collecting information from people who don’t want to give it, is an art. No artist can guarantee a good outcome every time. Torture for information often fails, as do other methods.

I am convinced that what works best, when it works, is to persuade the partner that it doesn’t matter any more. “For you, the war is over.” If he can be convinced that it doesn’t really matter, then you can discuss what happened like old soldiers talking about old campaigns. But of course, if you also believe it doesn’t matter then why do you care?

If your partner is thinking rationally, and particularly if you give him small rewards and punishments, like food and cigarettes, or beatings/stress positions for lying or refusing to talk, then he has strong incentive to figure out what you will believe. He will pick up as much as he can from your questions and your reactions to his answers, to figure out what you want to hear. Telling the truth is of no value to him if you won’t believe it. He must find out what you will believe. So it turns into a cooperative game where he figures out what you want and gives it to you, while you give him what he wants — sleep, food, etc — instead of what he doesn’t want like bruises, sleep deprivation, etc. This is the best way to build a coherent story that will satisfy people who read it, but its truth depends on your luck at guessing from the early evidence. Because it is a cooperative story built from that.

Mild torture works by repetition. Ask them for a story, they provide it, you scream at them for lying and hurt them some. A few hours later do it again, in relays. They try frantically to come up with a story you will like, and they fail. Eventually, getting hurt repeatedly with no sleep etc, they give up on making stories. They tell the truth when nothing else works and they’re too tired to think. Then you scream at them for lying and hurt them again. Some people may settle on a lie and cultivate it so firmly that it’s what they repeat when they get too tired to do anything else. Some will tell the truth. They will be vague on details because they can’t think straight.

Severe torture works by getting your partner to give up. Say you start snipping off fingers, or castrate him, with an MD standing by to keep him from escaping into shock. He feels like his life is over, which it in fact is. In his grief, he has no attention to make up lies. What you get from him before he rethinks, is likely true. But you have to get his attention, and a dying man has only so much left to lose…. You’ll probably dispose of him soon, since you don’t want obvious torture victims. If you were planning on killing him soon regardless, then any information you get first is a lagniappe.

Sometimes people try to make their opponents afraid to take action against them. But as the Israelis found, this breeds suicide attackers. When your enemies are not afraid to die but are afraid to be captured alive, that creates certain problems for you….

I dunno. Nothing works with any consistency. Interrogation is an art, and the results probably depend more on the individual artist than the particular tools he uses.

124

novakant 10.21.14 at 9:16 pm

What I find disturbing is people on the left / liberals insisting that torture is always wrong, while making all sorts of excuses when it comes to justifying the routine killing of people “because war / terror / security / they started it …”

125

J Thomas 10.21.14 at 10:04 pm

#124 novakant

What I find disturbing is people on the left / liberals insisting that torture is always wrong, while making all sorts of excuses when it comes to justifying the routine killing of people “because war / terror / security / they started it …”

If you’re not a pacifist but you want to be a nice guy, then doesn’t it make sense to require that wars be fought according to rules? We might gradually tighten the rules to make the wars nicer. It at least sounds kind of like a good thing.

One of the problems with this approach is that when faced with military or political figures who don’t want to follow the rules, who claim that the current enemy will not follow the rules, their most self-consistent choice is to demand that we not fight that enemy.

But the choice that gets the maximum percentage of the public to not regard them as lunatics, is to tell the military to do whatever they want *this* time, but the next time that we fight good guys who follow the rules, we have to follow the rules too.

126

john c. halasz 10.21.14 at 10:57 pm

@120:

Arendt actually read the manuscript as a referee for a university press and opposed its acceptance. But I think the deal-breaker was Hilberg’s preface, which, without support from the empirical historiography of the book, polemicized about the continuous history of European anti-semitism. IIRC that preface was dropped from the finally published book, and Hilberg never re-issued that preface.

127

Harold 10.21.14 at 11:06 pm

@126 That is very interesting. Thanks.

128

floopmeister 10.21.14 at 11:38 pm

Robespierre 10.20.14 at 4:32 pm
I thought it was due to the fact that most Christians are no longer serious enough about their faith to be willing to kill and die for it, but many muslims still are.

Nietszche:

It is not their love, but the impotence of their love that keeps today’s Christians from burning us at the stake.

As someone else above noted, it is the increasing power of the secularist ideal that is the check on theocracy. Period.

129

LFC 10.22.14 at 12:57 am

jch @126
ditto what Harold said.

130

Brett Bellmore 10.22.14 at 10:46 am

Bt, wht s gng t chck th ncrsng pwr f th sclrst dl? t sn’t s thgh nly rlgn hs ld t ppl bng xctd fr nt mbrcng blf.

nywy, mch s lk sm f Ntszch’s phrsms, h’s wrng bt ths. Chrstnty hs hstrcl bss fr vlnt spprssn f dssnt, bt ls hstrcl nd dctrnl bss fr tlrnc. Tkng Chrstnty srsly cn g thr wy.

Th prblm s tht slm, bng fndd by wrlrd, hs nly th frmr. Srsly, dd p th tlrnt, sclr scts wth sld slmc mjrts. Nt lng lst.

131

J Thomas 10.22.14 at 11:23 am

#130 BB

Seriously, add up the tolerant, secular societies with solid Islamic majorities.

If monotheistic proselytizing religions tend to have a predictable lifespan (which is not really known since we don’t have a lot of examples, but could be so), then Islam is around 600 years earlier on its schedule than Christianity.

How many tolerant, secular Christian societies do you count in 1400 AD?

Anyway, why do you keep trying to argue that Christianity is better than Islam? If you’re trying to justify the continued existence of Christianity, you need to argue that Christianity is good, not that it’s better than Islam. Saying it’s better than Islam is completely useless as an argument in favor of Christianity.

132

Barry 10.22.14 at 12:48 pm

Brett: “Anyway, much as I like some of Nietszche’s aphorisms, he’s wrong about this. Christianity has a historical basis for violent suppression of dissent, but also a historical and doctrinal basis for tolerance. Taking Christianity seriously can go either way.”

Which is true of Islam.

133

Brett Bellmore 10.22.14 at 2:07 pm

“Whch s tr f slm.”

Ys, bcs wh cn frgt th trl f dth nd dstrctn Jss lft n th Mddl st, cnvrtng ppl t th pnt f swrd. Rlly, Jss, Mhmmd, thy’r prctclly ndstngshbl. Crtnly, thr tchngs dn’t hv dffrnt mplctns.

‘m nt rgng fr Chrstnty hr, jst bjctng t th mndlss rg t prtnd tht slm rlly s “rlgn f pc”. frm f Stckhlm syndrm, thnk.

134

Corey Robin 10.22.14 at 2:27 pm

Brett, this thread is not going to be used for you to make vast and nasty generalizations about Islam or Muslims, a topic about which you seem to be not even minimally informed. I’ve disemvowelled your last two comments. Knock it off or you’ll be banned from this thread.

135

Corey Robin 10.22.14 at 2:28 pm

Everybody else: again, we’re not debating what the essence of Islam or Muslims is on this thread. Get back to the topic of the OP or its related questions.

136

Brett Bellmore 10.22.14 at 4:13 pm

Hey, disenvowel away, but I notice you only did it to one side of the ‘derailing’. However, we could discuss that general phenomenon in a different, more relevant thread.

137

Harold 10.22.14 at 4:52 pm

[Drng th 16th Cntry Wrs f Rlgn] mltry fctr pprs t b ssntl n xplnng msscrs. Rprssn f th rlgs rbls ws bldy; t rsltd frm th Stt rsnl blt p gnst nsrgnts, trtd s crmnls glty f n rthly lès-mjsté ffnc, whthr thy hd rsn p n rlgs, scl r pltcl grnds. s rly s th 15th cntry, th nrly cts f th Nthrlnds wr sbjctd t dcl rgr, s n 1468, whn 5,000 ctzns f Lèg wr klld by th rmy f Chrls l Témérr (dk f Brgndy, frm th hs f Vls) fr hvng drd t dfy hm nd t bcm lls f Ls X. n 1535, n Grmny, th cptr f th cty f Münstr ws fllwd by th systmtc xctn f th lst 200 nbptsts, wh hd dfndd th cty gnst th Bshp-svrgn. n Spn, drng th rvlt f th Mrscs (frmr Mslms wh hd thrtclly cnvrtd t Cthlcsm), 4,000 f thm wr msscrd t Glr, n Fbrry 10, 1570.

Th rprssn f rlgs rbls fllwd th gnrl cstms f wr, whch tlrtd th slghtr f cvln ppltns f thy ffrd ny rsstnc. n th 16th cntry, th Grmn Lndsknchts’ chrtr frbd nly th xctn f prgnnt wmn, drng th cptr f cty. Hwvr, th cmpnnt f rlgs dspt ntrfrd wth Stt plcng prtns. n th n hnd, th thrts frd mkng mrtyrs f th rbls; n 1566, Mrgrt f Prm, th gvrnr f th Spnsh Nthrlnds, rdrd hr ffcrs t hv th Vlncnns nsrgnts hngd, nt brnd t th stk, whch ws rsrvd fr hrtcs. n th thr hnd, rlgs dspts cld stmlt htrd f thrs, whch prdcd mltry msscrs. n 1649, t th hd f th Nw Mdl rmy, Crmwll “pcfd” rlnd wtht ny qlms vr msscrng th grrsn f Drghd (3,500 wr klld), nr Dbln, thn th cvln ppltn f Wxfrd. dmttdly, n ths cs, th cnflct btwn Prtns nd Cthlcs sms t hv bn cpld wth thnc ntgnsm (Crltn, 1992; Clydn nd McBrd, 1998).

Ths, th St. Brthlmw’s Dy msscr cnstttd trnsgrssn bcs t ccrrd n pctm. Frthrmr, t tk plc n th ryl cptl, t th gvrnmnt’s nttv. n fct, t th tm, th jdcl rprssn f hrtcs rrly ld t mss xctns. ndr th ncn Régm, th jdcl systm rrly md t xtrmnt htrdxy s whl, bt rthr t crry t ccsnl, dsssv pnshmnt. n Spn, th t d f f Vlldld, n whch thrty Chrstns wr brnd t th stk fr thr vnglcl fth, n My 21, 1559, ws n xcptn. n Frnc, th jdgs f th x prlmnt, wh wr rspnsbl fr th msscr f 3,000 Wldnsns (n rly Prtstnt sct, ls knwn s Wldnss r Vds) t Mérndl nd Cbrèrs, n Prvnc (prl 18-19, 1545), wr trd n 1549, nd th Kng’s gnrl prsctr, Gllm Gérn, ws xctd fr ths bmntn.

ctlly, th nvlty f msscrs drng th Wrs f Rlgn rsdd n th fct tht thy wr bynd th cntrl f cntrl gvrnmntl thrts. Tw-thrds f th msscrs cmmttd by Cthlcs wr crrd t ndpndntly by cty-dwllrs. … th prptrtrs mtd t n nfrml vrsn f “jstc.” Thy crrd t th trdtnl frms f trtr rsrvd fr hrtcs … Th ppl tk t pn thmslvs t rnstt brnng ppl t th stk, pnshmnt th mnrch n lngr wshd t hv ppld. …
Prtstnts tht crrd t mss mrdr fllwd nthr lgc, whch shld b cmprd t cnclstc ddctcsm. Frst, thy wr rspndng t th Cthlc msscrs. Thr fvrt vctms wr prsts, ncknmd “th shrn” …. Dvd l Knz, Msscrs drng th Wrs f Rlgn, nln ncyclpd f Mss Vlnc, [nln], pblshd n 3 Nvmbr 2007, ccssd 22 ctbr 2014, RL : < hrf="http://www.mssvlnc.rg/Msscrs-drng-th-Wrs-f-Rlgn" rl="nfllw">http://www.mssvlnc.rg/Msscrs-drng-th-Wrs-f-Rlgn, SSN 1961-9898

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Corey Robin 10.22.14 at 5:02 pm

As I said, we’re not debating the putative essence of Islam. Nor are we adding comments that will provoke that debate. So let’s move off the question of how bloody religion — any religion — is and get back to the topic at hand.

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Harold 10.22.14 at 5:39 pm

I did not intend to show that one religion is more “bloody” than another. The quotation as a matter of fact shows the opposite of this. I posted it to show that elements of the populace frequently regard deviations from official ideology (religion) as a form of lèse majesté (treason) for which they will take punishment into their own hands, if necessary. In the case of the Rosenbergs it was the civilian prosecution and judge who did this, possibly with the collusion of the military. Interestingly, if the written record is to be believed, the authorities representing the state in the persons both of Eisenhower and J. Edgar Hoover opposed the judge’s decision as contrary to the norms of justice. I

http://www.massviolence.org/Massacres-during-the-Wars-of-Religion?cs=print

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Corey Robin 10.22.14 at 6:10 pm

I understand that, Harold. My point is that in the context of this thread, that post, however well intentioned, will inevitably prompt another round of discussion about matters far afield from this one. So let’s steer clear.

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LFC 10.22.14 at 10:22 pm

Re the relation between Hilberg and Arendt, which came up in this thread earlier: I’d forgotten that Corey had made some pertinent remarks on this toward the end of this post (which I think also appeared on CT; I’ve linked to the version at his blog).

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J Thomas 10.23.14 at 6:27 am

I wrote this on the lastest Eichmann thread, and it fits just as well here.

We shouldn’t judge morality by outcomes, because nobody really knows for sure what the outcomes are even after considerable study after the fact. You certainly can’t guess what all the outcomes will be because it isn’t over yet.

So we judge morality by intentions. In that context the drunk who kills a car full of strangers on the road is innocent — he had no idea it would happen and if he thought it was likely he wouldn’t do it. His judgement suffers, and we can’t blame him for accidents he did not expect.

We can blame him for making choices while his judgement is poor, but who among us is good at avoiding that? Suppose that you make a thoughtful, well-considered CT post which enrages some conservative to the point that he goes out and kills an abortion doctor. Shouldn’t you have had sufficient judgement that you would be careful not to do that? Ah, but your intentions were good. You only wanted to enrage him, you didn’t want him to do anything about it.

So if a collaborator believes that he is caught up in giant historical forces that will proceed about the same with or without him, he personally does better if he is allowed to join them. Like the song goes, “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail”. He doesn’t have to believe that his own contribution is decisive or even important. (Eichmann said he thought he was important, but many underlings will not think so.) If you do a good enough job that they don’t get rid of you and replace you with somebody better, then you can get by.

And so I think maybe the basic evil is the idea that you should look out for yourself and your friends more than you do for every single other human. If we try to do the best we can for everybody in the world, that’s good. Whenever we get away from “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” we are evil at heart.

It is a banal evil because almost everybody does it almost all the time.

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PGD 10.23.14 at 10:04 pm

On the death toll of communism — I think the *net* death toll created by Mao is in fact quite questionable. He did a lot of killing and made a lot of stupid decisions that led to deaths, but he also greatly improved many areas of Chinese life as compared to the century before he took over (1849-1949), which was dominated by brutal warlordism, widespread anarchy, and large periodic famines. If you believe pretty much all the statistics available, life expectancy improved and mortality dropped in China over most of the 1949-1979 period, with the exception of the big famines of the early 1960s. I think there’s a reasonable statistical argument to be made that the Chinese Communist party’s successes in many areas like health, public order, etc. led to increases in life expectancy that counterbalanced or more than counterbalanced the deaths they caused. And of course that case is only helped by what happened after Mao’s death when less radical leaders built on the national order he created but changed direction to use market incentives and openness to trade.

This isn’t attempt to justify the more horrible stuff Mao did — no doubt his reforms could have been achieved at a much lower cost — but there is a complete lack of contextualization of his regime in terms of the challenges of unifying and advancing a horribly poor and chaotic country within a couple of decades, and also frankly a total lack of any interest in the specific details of Chinese history outside of using Mao as an ideological whipping boy.

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Ze Kraggash 10.24.14 at 9:20 am

“but there is a complete lack of contextualization”

Well, contextualization/decontextualization is the whole game. One doesn’t accuse, say, Lincoln of murdering a half-million people, burning cities, etc. – because slavery, saving the union, etc. Plenty of context here. For the official bad guys, however, it’s just the body count.

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