It is often said that

It is often said that history is written by the winners (with the implication that we should on that account be suspicious of it). This silly cliche sounds like it ought to be true, but isn’t. On the contrary, it is interesting to observe how often the history that we know comes from the losing side. Most of what we know of the Romans’ crushing of the Jewish rebellion comes from Josephus; our image of Sparta comes mostly from Athenians; we know little about the Visigoths, Huns, Vikings and various other conquering peoples other than what was recorded by those they defeated; for generations the principal historians of the American Civil War were Southerners. The war between freedom and socialism dominated the last century; it began with the Russian Civil War and did not end until National Socialism was defeated in 1945 and Marxian Socialism in 1989. One might expect that the story of this great contest, capped by the unequivocal victory of the forces of freedom and progress, would be written enthusiastically by the victors’ historians. Just kidding. There is, of course, a grave danger that the lessons of the great war against socialism will be lost because that history will be told untruthfully. Not by Russian or Chinese historians, but by our own historians, journalists, moviemakers and television producers. Hence there can never be too much anti-Communism, even now that Communism has been defeated. A relatively small number of scholars have worked heroically for many years, and especially since the fall of socialism in 1989, to try to prevent the hijacking of the great story of the 20th story. One of the stalwarts of this effort has been Ronald Radosh. This review of two books, Orwell’s Victory by Christopher Hitchens and Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War, edited by Radosh and others, nicely sums up George Orwell’s role as a prophet of anti-Communism. Orwell’s efforts brought him little but calumny in his lifetime; posthumous vindication, even on such a grand scale, seems rather cold comfort. The effort by objective scholars to set the record straight may or may not succeed. We live in a curious time in which virtually no one defends Communism, but premature anti-Communism is still grounds for a kind of intellectual ostracism. This is not without precedent. Proust writes about the fact that, after a long struggle, the Dreyfusards triumphed politically, but never did prevail socially. That is, even though everyone was ultimately compelled to admit that Dreyfus was innocent, and certain reforms followed, those who had argued all along that he was innocent were not received in the higher levels of society. It seems to me that we see a rough parallel in America today. The anti-Communists were indisputably right, but they are still largely scorned in both academic and popular culture. Still, whether conservatives are invited to Washington dinner parties or published in the New York Times is of little concern. What does matter is that the truth about the war between freedom and socialism be taught to our children and their descendants. History, in this case, must be taught from the perspective of the winners.


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