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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  November 28, 2009 1:00am-2:00am EST

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and what signals do we take seriously emanating from those countries from reports of those countries about what is going on and how we should decide when we say that's too far from democracy or that's close enough? before we start, i would like to
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do one thing because there are lots of states in this story, and it's fairly long ago which is to run a little bit through the chronology of american history and the cold war, the chronology of the subjects lived through. we start with the russian revolution, the bolsheviks came to power in the 1920's you have stalin consolidating power, the mensheviks are out, the moderates are out. stalin is pushing his co revolutionist south. trotsky, there's terrible famine in ukraine where millions died because of servile policy. 1933, it's the depression, the u.s. recognizes the soviet remember it as a sovereign nation. 1930's, well among other things there are the purge trials, the reign of terror in the soviet union putting the old revolutionaries, stalin's peers go on trial.
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that's what kessler is writing about in darkness and noon. 1939 stalin makes a pact with hitler and hitler invaded poland, so they are both together, and we are watching mostly on the other side, but watching. 1941 hitler invaded russia. suddenly soviet russia switches from an enemy to perhaps an ally becomes an ally. we are allies in world war ii. there are these great conference is selling hauer europe will be after the war, to iran yalta and potsdam were working with russia in this period, and then after the war 45 on world war ii is over, the cold war is beginning, we are beginning to realize russia is at least not the kind of ally we had imagined, so the point is this relationship, the u.s.-soviet relationship flip-flops' a lot and americans are going through this trying to figure out what they make of it all. professor fleming, you chose for
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figures. let's start with the lesser-known ones. who was jan valtan? >> guest: he was a sailor, second class merchant marine by born in 1905, and his life in some ways was a paradigm of the left-wing communist, powerful communist movement in germany but was crushed when adolf hitler came to power in 1933. krebbs joined the communist party quite early. there were to sort of pseudo revolutions in russia. one in 1919, and the more important one in 1923. krebbs is a very young cade, was involved in the 1923 uprising and soon thereafter became quite
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active in the common term, the comintern was the international communist party, and its chief jobs were espionage, propaganda, agitation and so on. on one of his missions to the united states in 1926, he committed an act of violence, and attempted murder in los angeles and was incarcerated in san quentin prison. this becomes a very crucial question as to the veracity of his famous book, "our of the night," in 1941, when eventually appears. immediately it had the following effect on him: krebbs became one of the editors and contributors to the san quentin prisoners magazine. he took lots of extension
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courses in writing from the university of california and at that point he determined to become a writer. he got all of san quentin in 1929, was deported, went back to europe and got caught up again and communist activities. according to him, he was thrown into jail by the nazis from which he escaped by the following routt: he converted to nazism, the nazis let him out so he could go out and be as it were a double agent for his former communist allies. they, however, didn't think there was anything phony about his -- about his conversion. and under these circumstances, he said he chased by the secret police, both of russia and of germany. he took off with the united states where he jumped ship in
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1938; got involved with some literary people in new york, especially the great anti-communist entrepreneur ai saddam levine. and in 1941, at the end of 1940, published an extraordinary book, 800 pages long, "out of the might" that seemed to be an autobiography. its content was implicitly very anti-communist, and therefore it cost a big stink with the left wing in this country and the communists to be done get. that is jan valtin was. >> host: can you put that in time if you publish it in the early 40's that is when we were allies with the soviet union. >> guest: that's absolutely right. obviously he couldn't have planned this, but the
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possibility of his publishing a major anti-communist book found exactly the right window of opportunity. that is in 1939, in august of 1939, hitler and stalin had announced a pact. this seemed extraordinary to the western left and oversaw communist party set to fall in line, turn on a dime for this. russia in many circles really fell into disrepute with even american intellectuals at that point. it was during this period, that is the pogo during which eckert and stalin were allies. this was the purpose as you already mentioned of the invasion of poland leader in 1940 the was the period of the fall of france in which arthur koestler was caught up. but in 1941, june, 1941 hitler
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stabbed stalin in the back and invade russia in operation barbarossa. from then on, it is very culturally rude to say anything wrong -- to say anything bad about the soviet union. krebbs looked out. he had the right moment. >> host: he published early enough. >> guest: that's exactly right. >> host: with the book continued to sell? >> guest: well, it partly continued to sell, but very soon krebbs himself -- jan valtin's real name was richard krebbs and he gets called both krebbs and valtin. but very soon he became the story because the communists -- the communist party in this country still had a fair amount of cultural clout and they certainly had a large periphery of supporters who were trying to debunk the book and to have
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krebbs deported. he had actually enter the country again illegally after all. he was a convicted felon. in order to survive, krebbs would have to do to seemingly impossible things. one, get a pardon from the government of california for the crime that had been committed in 1926, and second, get a special bill through the congress to make him a citizen. he did both things with the help of the sort of anti-communist mafia in washington. >> host: you sketched out some of the imperfections, perhaps fabrications of the book. maybe he was a prisoner where he said he was, maybe the things he said happened didn't happen and you look into the evidence for example of this incident on the west coast where he beats them end up. does that to your mind affect the message? >> guest: it does not affect the message. there's a lot of fiction that
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gets into autobiographies. in fact that's one of the themes i write about a bit now and again in this book. but krebbs got himself into a situation partly because the book had been adopted by the book-of-the-month club and these jurors for the book-of-the-month club wanted an ironclad guarantee that it was true as the gospel of luke which he gave to them, and it is an autobiographical fiction, i will put it that way. it has a lot of autobiography but it has an awful lot of fiction, too. >> host: welcome to be on both of right and left people are sometimes critical of books that and brighter or change what you mentioned a million little pieces, the book by james fry about his past of addiction. he went on oprah to describe this bad behavior dramatically, and it turned out he made some of it up and oprah was outraged. and on the right for example you
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have the historian paul johnson who wrote a whole book about how intellectuals are dishonest, and therefore that compromises their theory as well. so it's interesting negative reading your book one of the things i picked up about these characters, these desperate men who wrote these books and said communism is really bad is they were already a little bit crazy. >> guest: well, i -- >> host: by their own experience the kind you describe. >> guest: the term i use is damaged. as i said in a book, the term post-traumatic stress had not yet been invented but in the political life of every one of these writers certainly kravchenko if you had been through the purges and harassed so much; koestler who had been under condemnation of death in the spanish civil war; what eckert chambers, very strange and tortured. i think they are all damaged to
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some degree and it shows in their work. >> host: let's do a little about each of these other three starting with victor kravchenko, a different kind of background and education to start with than jan valtin, dan krebbs. >> guest: absolutely. kravchenko as they like to call him and i call him kravchenko was a ukrainian engineer, also born in 1905. three of these people were born in 1905, the year of the premature or failed russian revolution. but being born in 1905 meant that victor kravchenko's life exactly overlap with the development of bolshevik power so that he in his youth he had been excited, very excited by the revolution. he joined the communist party when he could. he was a technocrat.
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he was a great expert in metallurgy and especially pipe and making metal pipes, a very important part of the industrial process. and he experienced, he didn't go to the gulag, but he was likely harassed by the space all through the 1930's and he became to regard the soviet authority as atrocious and illegitimate. his dearest brother was killed in the war. he himself fought in the war. but he was then plucked out to be one of the representatives at the land lease office in washington. as you probably know our greatest contribution to the european war for the first two years of the war was material to britain and russia, and it was in washington with the help of
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some anti-communist russian friends and mensheviks actually that the possibility of defection became lively and in 1944 while the war was still on he defected although we didn't use that word then. >> host: end defection was a difficult thing because in that particular year in our chronology we were allies with russia, so it was a little bit different from -- >> guest: absolutely. kravchenko was a pioneer in many different ways, and he pulled this off marvelously. one thing i go into that is an important part of the book and relates specifically to kravchenko has to do with the european scene. >> host: yes, let's mention first the title of his book which is "i chose freedom." and then let's do talk about the kravchenko case.
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>> guest: okay. right. his book is a straight autobiography. it is called "i chose freedom" and he wrote this in a two year period beginning in april, 1944, comes out 1946. kravchenko was an engineer. he didn't know english, the english language at all when he arrived here. he was not a writer. under these circumstances, he collaborated with one of the famous anticommunists figures in the 1930's, eugene lyons, who had been a left-wing reporter in russia shortly after the revolution and then like so many people in that situation, he was deeply disillusioned and socialism. well, the lyons became one of
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the major features of the literary right. he was closely associated with "reader's digest," he was the editor of american mercury and so on. the collaboration between the two is extremely interesting, and i write about this at some length. but nonetheless, i chose freedom was not a ghostwritten book. kravchenko wrote the book and lions job was to structure it and put it in the american idiom which he did with great success. >> host: and the book said the soviet union government -- >> guest: kravchenko did make a few overt political points near the end of the book. he accused russia of having an absolutely duplicitous foreign policy, that it was not interested in cooperation with the united states. but the tremendous grinding condemnation of soviet communism that comes out of the book, "i
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chose freedom," is not theoretical. it's organic. it simply grows out of the narrative as you follow an idealistic hard-working industrial minded guy caught up in the madness of the bureaucracy and the gulag. >> host: and what was the kravchenko case in france? the book was published in french, he went there, there were some critical reviews? guess that's absolutely right -- >> host: and -- >> guest: this book, the focus of the book is on public opinion and to countries, the united states and france. the role of the united states i think is obvious to anybody here. the united states was the only country that conceivably could contain the soviet union in a
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military confrontation. but the communist party never was strong and communism was never really amounted to very much in the united states. so kravchenko, i mean his book was risk for the mill anti-communist but it didn't really change a great deal of the scene in the united states. the situation was very different in france. france by call the new germany meaning that just as the germany of post world war i was in a state that made it likely or at least highly possible that there would be a socialist revolution in germany this was the situation that now had obtained in france -- >> host: and we tend to forget that after world war ii france was simply got there, nests in france called eurocommunism. the communists were respected, that very many people out of the
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resistance were communists so people that fought the nazis and work tortured, the hero of the country were also communists, there was communism in italy and europe was a bit and play, there for kravchenko was attacked. i would say we have about ten minutes and then we will move on a little bit. but say a word or two about this trial. he wasn't the defendant, was he? >> guest: no. this is one of the berlin and things, credit we can give kravchenko because he thought of this himself so to speak. his book, when it appeared in a french translation was immediately and violently attacked in the communist press as total fraud, that is it was said kravchenko had never even written a book, first that he didn't exist, the book had been written by an american intelligence agent and so forth and so on. now what kravchenko did was to go to paris and sioux this
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journal for libel, and you had what was called off the trial of the century which as you notice appears about twice every decade. the trial of a century in which one after another famous french intellectual got up and swore on the stack of copies of the communist manifesto that there were no prison camps in russia, no gulag, nothing else and what kravchenko had done is ransacked the camps in western europe and produced one after another very telling eyewitness that is people who had actually been in the gulags including a sensational witness, margarita, who had been in prison first in the russian gulag of, then in one of hitler's's concentration camps and was able to make the kind of comparative judgment. >> host: and what did she find?
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>> guest: well, she tried to temporize i think on that, but it was quite clear that on the whole, it worse be five persons were to be preferred to stalin. >> host: so there is always this question which is worse, russia, the soviet russia or nazi germany behind all these writings, and for france to hear these testimonies was a new thing and kind of broke i don't know, use of the cultural bubble. anyway, there was enormous discretion and the trial. >> guest: it was practically dustin against the holy ghost in the western intellectual circles to suggest any possible parallel between fascism and communism. to a certain extent, it still is. most people you meet on the street if you ask them name me two or three german concentration camps, auschwitz -- ask the average man on the street what were the three largest components of the gulag
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geographically speaking they will have no idea even though there were more people destroyed in the gulag. >> host: you have a very interesting point in this book where you say constantly, and her freezing so forgive me, concentration camps or the nazi thing that we have in our head, nazi. and one way that it became -- it was demonstrated the soviet union was really dangerous, it was terrific was through making clear there were also camps, concentration camps or something like that in the soviet union that we leader got that for example. that was the way that the reality kind of penetrated because only by showing the soviet union also had camps were those who knew of all the trouble, the tragedy they are able to convey that tragedy. we have to other characters we want to get to where better known names. i think right now we're going to
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do arthur koestler. who was he and what was his book? >> guest: he was one of the grid intellectuals of the 20th century, and if people have read any of these books they are very likely to have read his great novel, "darkness at noon." "darkness at noon," published at the end of 1940 really almost exactly the same time that valtin's "out of the night," was coming out. the books had no connection. koestler had been a very active member of the german communist party. he had all sorts of exciting experiences with the party. he had traveled -- he was a secret member. there were both overt members of the communist party and secret members like koestler or alger hiss and the united states because it was thought that they could be more effective in their
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positions if they were not known to be communists. koestler got off course caught up in the spanish civil war mad. he was captured by the franco forces. he was about to be executed. he had a very adventurous life himself, but he partly through his experiences in 1938 in the spanish civil war he broke with communism and almost immediately began writing this novel quote cold darkness at noon." "darkness at noon," the plot is simplicity of itself. it is about a man named nicholas rusafa who is a fictional composite of several of the more famous bolsheviks who went down in the purges of the 1930's. the beginning of the book he's captured and arrested and incarcerated and at the end of the book he's shot. there is no suspense about it. the dynamism of the book
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consists in his conversations with himself, his memory and with two very different kinds of interrogators, kind of good cop and bad cop, and the question that this book asks as several other books of koestler is what is the relationship between ends and means. now if we are trying to arrive at a socialist communist nirvana, if we really believe in that, does that not justify us in doing everything we need to do to get their? >> host: and this is the best known book, the one we still read in school. you mentioned the modern library in the 90's pulled what are the hundred best novels and "darkness at noon" was number eight. we have a few minutes more now to talk about an america of the other things witnessed by whitaker chambers, about two or three minutes can you tell us
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about that book and his relationship with alger hiss? >> guest: yes i can. i thought it was important for the argument of my book to have a homegrown american communist, my three others of course are europeans. whitaker chambers was an american journalist, columbia job routt -- dropout who got involved in radical politics and joined the american communist party and soon thereafter went underground, that is actually became an espionage agent for the russians. his job was as a career taking documents that were stolen by other spies in washington, having them photographed and hold us by routine. and one of the people, one of
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the washington's bias according to his allegations, and as now is almost definitively demonstrated by historical documents of various kinds, one of his colleagues was a man named alger hiss. alger hiss was a high ranking civil servant. he had been in the state department, he had a lot of experience with government. he was the head of the carnegie at the time all this came out 1948 he was the head of a major foundation. >> host: professor fleming, forgive me. we have to take a break and after that we are going to come back to alger hiss. >> "after words" and several other c-span programs are available for download at podcast. more with john fleming and amity shlaes in a minute.
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did you know you can view book tv programs online? go to type the name of the author, book or subject into the search area in the upper left-hand corner of the page. select the watch link. now you can view the entire program you might also explore the recently on book tv box or featured programs box to find in a few recent and featured programs. >> "after words" with john fleming and amity shlaes continues. >> host: welcome back. i am amity shlaes. this is "after words." our guest today is professor john fleming, from princeton university with his new book, "the anti-communist manifestos." we talked a little bit about three of the four figures in the book. we are talking just a bit now
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about the fourth figure, whitaker chambers, the author of "witness." chambers took down hiss, suggested he was working with a communist, and the professor and i were talking about what a stunning obligation that was because hiss was someone very high in american society. >> guest: certainly very high in the esteem of the liberal establishment of many eminent people had testified to his good character. adamle stevenson for example, to sitting supreme court justices. hiss -- whitaker chambers alger hiss affair, which went from 1948 really to 1950 when hiss was actually convicted of treason remains it seems to me one of the great historical
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controversies of the 20th century. and it animates passions to this very day. in my book i try to claim that this is probably a mistake. that is to say that the reason it has caused so much passion is because what i called premature algerization. that is the fact alger hiss was a communist and was an, involved in soviet espionage need not bring with him a whole comet's tail of condemnation, of liberalism, the new deal. but this is how it has been seen historically. poor whitaker chambers. i do feel very sorry for him. no good deed goes unpunished.
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he thought he was doing a good deed and exposing a sinister conspiracy at the heart of american government. his reward was to become one of the most despised and rejected at least by the intellectual establishment figures of his generation. >> host: and what i recall reading about it was that a lot of the cost of the concentrated on his person. that he had bad teeth and he was a small, that his suit didn't look nice. succumb eight -- win there were attacks on the content, how did he alleged this of someone much loved in the establishment but also on the man himself, and that was so vicious, him and his family. you wrote -- i should appear to the convention this book appeared in 1952. >> guest: correct. >> host: you wrote and this is different from other books in that people knew what was coming because they have already heard in washington and hearings and
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testimony chambers, hiss. kube root of the book, quote koop to audiences awaited witness, a large public scandalized by alger hiss's treason and small army of elite reviewers who either actually believe in hiss's innocence or could regard such technical guilt as he might bergues the kneal when compared with the mortal sin of the means of exposure. that the way that chambers exposed hiss was tacky and low class that's what mattered more, and that was an attitude you would pick up when you read the letter a press certainly in the period. >> guest: arthur koestler became a friend of chambers and wrote a very elegant little squid and chambers died saying that i, something like this i always that would occur chambers was the most badly misunderstood man of our generation or something like this.
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chambers really brought down the historical obloquy upon himself koestler also had a nice phrase. he said that this drama of whitaker chambers and alger hiss was miscast from the cinematic point of view. alger hiss was a handsome slim tastefully dressed and so on. whitaker chambers was as you say rather sloppy looking, overweight, morose, long face kind of thing. and from -- if you are entering a world in which you like your heroes to have white hats and villains to have black hats it was the opposite way around this. furthermore, whitaker chambers became great buddies with people like richard nixon. he was agitated by ronald
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reagan. he was admired by jay edgar hoover and so on. all sorts of feelings of the intellectual left for the friends of whiteaker chambers. you can see that he's going to be a popular figure. list could you talk about what i would call esthetics which relates to your own work in the large part of your career you quote i believe from cromwell time around than you say the root of people that they were wrong but romantic or write the propulsive. >> guest: that is from a very amusing book by yates and and sellers called quote code 1066 and all that," a sort of joke history of britain. the roundheads as right but we will sieve and the cavaliers has wronged but romantic. you can apply that to some of
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our characters. >> host: we live in a visual age, so if someone is bad -- looks bad is he that? is that the entire impression? the entire intake in the impression should you do and that was clearly a lot of the tension was to make the people singing these things that the soviet union was so all of those who help the soviet communist party's were traitors, those people to look themselves repulsive was a lot of what was going on for a sample with chambers. but i want to switch now a little bit to yourself and who you are. it's very exciting to have someone from a slightly different field coming to this field. you're not a soviet always just, you are a professor of literature from so many years at princeton with so many students i should add who love you. you have an expertise in some of your other titles earlier what i found an introduction to the
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franciscan literature of the middle ages i found a book about the allegory, and in addition to writing about this period you also are i would say a lover of books. "the new york times" once reported to have an addition to a grand piano in your living room at least two old printing presses that you had metal type, i.e. it understand you find books. >> guest: that's right and that is the way i got into this project. in my professional life i have been a student of medieval literature and culture but of course also a wide leader in many other fields for example one of my great interests. i like to write about that some time. i'm very interested in the enlightenment of the 18th-century. but one of the fields in which i have read very lightly during my
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entire career is what i would call the principal political pathologies of the 20th century. nazi is some and bolshevism. well, how did i get into this project? i describe it in the book i am a bookbinder. that is all i -- we do -- i do read find a lot of my own books. we've even published some on my small press that i found. >> host: what are some of your republished or published books? >> guest: the book i am the most proud of is one of my first scholarly books. it's called the two poems, a tribute to john mechem of fiorina, which i rode with the great medieval list now dead marjorie reed said. i've published several books of poetry by friends and colleagues like theodore weiss, morose years, robert hollander and so on.
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but when you buy a book what we call board, that is discoverer of the book is actually made out of a thick piece of cardboard. it's become rather expensive like everything else, and i have started to do something naughty. i go to a second-hand dealer near me and my body of his jump books he's throwing away. that is very cheaply and i cut the covers off and recycle them. one day for some reason, the only obviously criterium i use in the circumstances is the fitness quality size of the board. one day i picked up one of these books and started reading it. it was out of the night. i never heard of out of the night or jan valtin. i went to the library to see if he had written anything else. to my amazement i discovered princeton had within weeks received all of his papers. i don't know how they came to princeton.
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but negative started reading them and here was this great story about and greed and neglected story and american intellectual history about the contest between communism and anti-communist and, just about the time of the beginning of world war -- world war ii. so, i also have to say that for more than ten years i wrote a regular weekly newspaper column for the daily princeton ne, our campus newspaper, and a net that i touched on all sorts of contemporary and political topics. so this isn't totally new for me. >> host: and you have a blog? johnvfleming? >> guest: weblog is called gladly lauren gladly page which is describing as you probably know but the way to get to the sec is at and
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has a blog reference. >> host: one of your neighbors george kennan, the great diplomat, and he was part of the history of this turning on the cold war. i worked the council on foreign relations and he wrote his famous essay sources of soviet conduct for our periodical foreign affairs and i believe 1947. >> guest: yes indeed. >> host: what did that and say say? >> guest: well, cannon, who i knew if reasonably well because we were members of the same church, tannin net route while he wrote all sorts of the famous things but the famous long telegram you know about and then the famous article and what he said was she agreed that soviet
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aims were the traditional ames of the tsar in pure realist russia for ever, that what was his wonderful phrase, they are unimpressed by the force of logic but they understand the logic of force i think is the way he put it and that the united states should contain, that is confront at every point the expansion of soviet power and i was very interested to see maybe you've read it, there was a brand new biography of ken and elf which i have not read, it only came out last week or a couple weeks ago. but it begins with tannin being quoted as saying actually i was rather misunderstood. cold war would have been shorter if it now had been -- if it had not been miller driest. actually i don't know how to read either one of those documents of kennan talking up
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the containment of soviet russia without involving military force but it is a very, i'm certainly looking forward to reading the biography. >> host: there was a certain ambivalence on kennan's part about the reaction that he provoked. but what he did is a big part of the story of your book because what he said is no soviet government, stalin, is not like us. he's not just a good buddy. they come out of an empire. they are not necessarily or friend. maybe containment is the only answer. and that i would say confirmed some of the things being suggested by the books you describe. >> guest: yes, other heroes of mine that get mentioned our their realm, the first great anti-communist intellectuals. he characterized the cold war as a situation, quote, and which peace is impossible but war is in probable.
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now, not many people were willing to believe that the war was in probable. so one of the great shocks of the international communist movement was the so-called peace campaigns. also david alan, the menshevik author who during this period wrote a very impressive academic book about slave labor and forced labor in russia and who was crouching go's chief contact with with fbi and the with new york times. he has a wonderful phrase somewhere. he says international affairs have to be conducted according to conventional truth and conventional why is. but he's not going to lie, and the great conventional why he
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was trying to expose is the russians after all are just kind of like us and we can all -- why can't we all get along so the rodney king kind of stuff. kravchenko and other people were trying to show you why that isn't going to work. host would talk about political correctness and if you don't have quite the right to view, maybe it is harder for the academy to get tenure, but i would say the limits today and constraints are nothing like the isolation that confronted these figures when they said these things because they might get a job, whitaker chambers worked for "time" magazine. but there were a lot of places where and what they said was too on coal, too much anathema for them to be employed. it was hard often to get tenure to be part of the academy. once you've said something like this you were often a bit isolated. >> guest: well, i mean
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chambers felt personally required to resign his job at times. he never went back. the only place that he could find work was with bill buckley and the "national review," and of course he went very far to the right and became a kind of doctrinaire conservative. a lot of people were chased in that direction. a lot of ex-communist either were converted to religion, christianity or returned to christianity or judaism, and i think a very important and largely negotiated trivialized part of witnessed which is one of the great autobiography's whenever you think of what eckert chambers as a person. fantastically impressive book and one of its least understood themes is the direct religious theme of redemption and
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conversion that he is writing about. and it's very impressive and it fits in the great american tradition. >> host: the government sometimes competes with the church or the political ideology of course competes with faith and what he was saying is i choose christian faith. >> guest: he did. one of the things i touch on, it's not hardly original with me, one of ramon verdone's books has the wonderful title referring to communism, the opiate of the intellectuals, taking up the marxist raise about religion being the opiate of the masses. it's obvious the classical communism of the midcentury was very much like a religious belief system. especially in france, and i try
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to talk about that. it had its own protocols. it had its own vocabulary, and of course it had its own intensity of theological hate for any heretics'. >> host: we have just a few minutes more. i think it's important to talk about how your books, to use your language, did shape the cold war. what was the political and economic context, how did the opinion change. we want to recall for example defense spending there as a share of the economy was greater than it is even now when we are in a war in afghanistan. we had this bitter cory in war. we had -- when these books came out of a changed the world because the average man would read jan valtin or arthur koestler and begin to understand maybe the corrine and war.
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what do you think? >> guest: well, one of the points i try to make here, and this goes out of my experience in my whole career, i am a medieval list. i deal with a very remote periods where the documentation is hard to get and it's an obscure languages and its patchy and so forth, and you constantly have to be reminding yourself that you're looking back into history and it's not going to be helpful to you to bring with you a whole set of your assumptions which you then imposed upon the materials. looking back at the cold war and at the 1950's and so on, it seems much more inevitable than it actually was. that is to say and intellectual circles and academic circles
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there was great enthusiasm for many decades for the socialist ideal and so on. there was indeed a kind of my eve attitude toward the soviet union. it had to be in some way confronted in a way that got a public head of steam behind it. everything that i'm talking about, you realize, with exception of -- with the exception of the later part of chamber's history is pre-mccarthy. that is these were among the things that changed people's minds. trey certain extent in this country but even more in france. i mean, the impact of darkness at noon and its french translation and the debate that came up around it. the impact of the kravchenko
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trial and then the copy trial that followed in which a french journalist brought a case against. these really did have a serious impact on public opinion. my publisher's first wanted to call this book the subtitle for books that caused the cold war. that is way over the top. there was going to be called war for all of the political reasons that kennan and others saw. but i'm trying to show that there is a genuine literary dimension and these books play their role. the books had to be very widely read and is rated super best sellers. they had to be publicly confronted and controverted and that is true of all four of these books. they are in the center of the four texts of study and they come out on the triumph and side.
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>> host: and in books we hope still do that now but other media do too i'm thinking flexible as you speak about and iran this spring there was a camera that caught the shooting of a demonstrator and she died on the street and the people around her are trying to save her and she died within minutes, and that crystallized the whole skepticism about the iranian government and elections. this young girl dying. what is the medium now that has the power of the books had been? is it still looks? is it television, is it twitter, is it youtube, is it yourself on camera? how do these moments come now that change things? >> guest: well, i am not an expert in cybernetics and communication theory, and i sit around probably like you, reading, my hands up as i read one essay after another seeing the book is dead or television is dead.
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what ever it is. i think that we now have a very large variety of media from which we are likely -- if you follow this thing with a.c.o.r.n. and a couple of coralville makers, i haven't seen the whole thing but a couple of amateurs seem to be having an impact on public policy and public perception in any event at a moment where this might spill over into the health care debate. who knows. host could you were talking before about the sort of sanctimony that he could never criticize the american establishment you couldn't say -- you could never say that russia might be as bad as nazi germany, that soviet russia. there is a little bit of that now. you can't criticize agencies
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that work with the government and when we began to say well a.c.o.r.n. is human, the people that work there might be susceptible to corruption, given the amount of money floating around, and there's the same my ghosh is this even possible, the same drama around these videos of a.c.o.r.n.. another when i am thinking of the media change do you remember in 1989 at the political turn people believed the facts was the new medium of political change. albert wohlstetter said the facts shall set you free because indianan and square the facts may settles read the fax is now past. so the media of course to change. maybe the message is what mattered. it's interesting i think books have done better than the facts, right? books are still here and the fax is less here. >> guest: either we have many sources of information and
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excitement and so on, obviously i am a rather old-fashioned college professor. i taught literature for four years. my investment is in books, and i do believe that the book is going to have in the future the same impact that it has had in the past with all the various kinds of competitors. one interesting thing that is related to what you're talking about is that so many of the techniques of the propaganda which is the form, the word the communist use that are now, that we are now seeing in this theater and that kind of thing were developed by a very capable communist operatives in the 1930's. the great genius of the german communist party propaganda william rosenberg who was a
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friend of koestler's, and actually plays a role also in valtin's "out of the night," and so one was an extremely invented by. he invented the drug organization useful idiots. all sorts of stuff, which we still see changing as they may have to change in the present climate. >> host: the reason your book is so interesting is because it asks does duty, propaganda well done, bring us closer to truth, to the actual reality underlying or does it get in the way? and it seems to me you're saying both. >> guest: from the theoretical point of view i think the closest that i get to that is in my discussion of truth and autobiography. i mean, you've already mentioned one of these episodes, james
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fry. he gets caught fibbing his wickedness and he gets scolded before millions of people by oprah winfrey. there is a fictional autobiography written which because of its politically correct content is given a pass. that was the question that was at play in the case of valtin's "out of the night." people but wanted to use the book for anti-communist purposes were willing to wink at it's obvious fabrications. >> host: we have time for one last question, and i will ask you a bit about the world now. what areas are of concern looking at russia uc president
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putin recently one of his colleagues said he's in danger of becoming like brezhnev, the cold war leader that is a sort of ossifying into permanent power. how do we know what goes on in china or russia? and who are the messengers, who are the valtin's, who are the other side? >> guest: certainly not me. i'm not an expert either in expert psychologists or so of the intelligence. i will say this, it seems to me definitive that the communism i am writing about has vanished permanently from the earth. it's partly a political expression but partly also historical time mound stylistic expression. the large questions that surround all of


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