April 29, 2005


Opting for Truth Over 'Triumph' (Anne Applebaum, April 27, 2005, Washington Post)

Try, if you can, to picture the scene. A vast crowd in Red Square: Lenin's tomb and Stalin's memorial in the background. Soldiers march in goose step behind rolling tanks, and the air echoes with martial music, occasionally drowned out by the whine of fighter jets. On the reviewing stand, statesmen are gathered: Kim Jong Il, the dictator of North Korea, Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the former dictator of Poland -- and President George W. Bush.

That description may sound fanciful or improbable. It is neither. On the contrary, that is more or less what will appear on your television screen May 9, when the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II is celebrated in Moscow. I have exaggerated only one detail: Although Kim Jong Il has been invited, his attendance has not yet been confirmed. But Jaruzelski is definitely coming, as are Lukashenko, Bush and several dozen other heads of state. President Vladimir Putin of Russia will preside.

Not every European country will be represented, however, because not everybody feels quite the same way about this particular date. In the Baltic states, for example, May 1945 marked the end of the war but also the beginning of nearly a half-century of Soviet occupation, during which one in 10 Balts were murdered or deported to concentration camps and exile villages. The thought of applauding the same Red Army veterans who helped "pacify" their countries after 1945 was too much for the Estonian and Lithuanian presidents, who have refused to attend. Although the Latvian president will attend the Moscow festivities, she's had to declare that she will use her trip to talk about the Soviet occupation. The president of Poland also has spent much of the past month justifying his decision to celebrate this particular anniversary in Moscow. By May 1945, after all, the leaders of what had been the Polish anti-Nazi resistance were already imprisoned in the Lubyanka, the KGB's most notorious Moscow prison.

Part of the Left's pathological hatred of the Poles derives from the prick they represent to conscience and the reminder that WWII was lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2005 6:18 PM

These post just grate on my nerves, and I wish I could let it go, but...World War II was fought against the Germans, Italians and Japanese - and was won. The fact the the Soviets won too, does not mean that we lost. They were on our side!

Posted by: Brandon at April 29, 2005 6:33 PM


That's why it was lost.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 8:02 PM

they were not our allies; in the early 30s, Stalin
gambled, thst a Nazi regime, would make it easier
for the Communists to ultimately triumph in Germany (considering what happened in the Eastern
part of Germany, that wasn't such a totally crazy
idea)To that end, the Second International, used
its union and other affiliations, most memorably recorded in Jan Valtin's The Night that was left behind, to gang up aganst the Social Democrats, going so far as to brand them Social Fascists. In
addition, the Locarno pact, had committed Soviets
to train Luftwaffe and Reichwehr units on Russian
soil. The nature of the unreality that these progressives were encouraging can be seen in a Spring 1932 Nation issue, which essentially dismissed Hitler's prospects. The same military back channel allowed the Nazi's to plant the seed of his Army purge. In the US, these same networks in the aftermath of the Hitler/Stalin Pact, argued almost in tandem with the Bundists, and the America First coalition, against intervening in Europe, the seeds of this sentiment, having been sowed by the Nye Committee's witchhunt against arms manufactures, whose staff included the young future? spy, Alger Hiss. We went to war,
to save Poland, and more directly to save China;
both were sacrificed; the London opposition to the Lublin committee, and Chiang to Mao, although
that took longer with the assistance of Harry Dexter White, John Lattimore, et al (Ironically,
one of the point persons on the Flying Tiger's
operation, Lauchlin Currie, later turned out to
be a Soviet agent)

Posted by: narciso at April 29, 2005 8:33 PM


So you think the Poles prick the consciences of Europeans because they remind them of facts relating to your personal interpretation of WWII that hardly any of your fellow conservatives even support? Please note that at least conservatives are admirably well-disposed towards America, while a sizable number of Europeans appeared to view America and the Soviet Union as morally equal at best. Hard to believe that they viewed untrammelled Soviet control of Eastern Europe as a "loss" in any significant sense.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 30, 2005 4:12 AM


They also resent that the Poles are the only European nation to defeat the Soviets and put up a decent fight against the Nazis.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2005 8:33 AM

i don't think most eurpoeans see the u.s. and the cccp as morally equivalent -- they see the cccp as morally superior, and not by a little.

i was not aware that other europeans view the polish people with antipathy; can anyone (please) point me to an article discussing this ?

Posted by: cjm at April 30, 2005 1:28 PM

This book is superb on the topic:


But read anything about FDR and Churchill and you'll find they gleefully left the Poles in Soviet hands out of antipathy.

Or just wait for Harry, a quintessential New Dealer, to chime in. He hates the Poles more than he does Hitler, who was at least socialist.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2005 2:41 PM

I despise the Poles the same way and for the same reason I despise the Germans.

Both Germans and Polish Catholics considered it moral to kill Jews, a bad thing in my book.

The Poles, being more ignorant, had more practical use for Jews than the Germans, who could all read and do arithmetic. Therefore, the Poles were restrained from killing all of them.

But they certainly had no objection to killing them now and then, simply for being Jews, and beating them up everyday.

And no Polish Catholic did not believe that Poland wouldn't have been better with fewer Jews in it.

That had nothing, really, to do with why the war was fought -- wars are never started for moral reasons -- but it does affect my attitudes toward the players.

Nobody cared about the Poles before the fighting began, and nobody cares about them now.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 30, 2005 2:55 PM



Posted by: oj at April 30, 2005 3:00 PM

Orrin loves Poles and German Nazis.


Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 30, 2005 3:08 PM

I do love the Poles and hate their enemies, whether Nazis or Communists.

I'm disinclined to say you love Stalin (I don't think that poorly even of you) but you do hate his enemies with disturbing consistency, the Poles, Nazis, Reagan and the Cold Warriors, churches, etc..

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2005 3:47 PM

Curiously, Harry, the modern Polish electorate has virtually no anti-semitism, in no small part due to the Communists' willingness to pander to it during the 70s and 80s. The Communists never failed to emphasize the Jewish ancestry of Solidarity activists like Kuron, Michnik and Geremek. There are some anti-semitic rallies still, but most of their supporters are far more concerned about the price of unsalted butter and Dentucreme.

While Cardinal Glemp has been worse than useless in this regard, the late Pope was certainly a man with little truck for Jew-hatred.

The prewar Polish elites which sponsored laws equivalent to the Nazi Nuremburg Laws prior to the war get no support from me either, as do the London Poles who happily rounded up Jews to hand over to the Nazis while receiving plenty of American money.

Posted by: bart at April 30, 2005 4:14 PM


Not just a Polish tendency; more like humanity in general has this thing about killing defenseless people.




Welcome back! Where've you been?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 1, 2005 12:40 AM


Whoops, linked to Google. Go here.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 1, 2005 3:49 AM


Two weeks in Atlantic Beach, FL on an emergency basis where I have been taking care of my parents, both of whose health took a significant downturn last month. They seem better but I'm going back in the first two weeks of June and if necessary will have to relocate entirely.

I may be back in the world of academia, hustling for adjunct jobs, by September.

Posted by: bart at May 1, 2005 7:06 AM


Oh, I see. Sorry to hear about your parents. Both of them at the same time? That sucks.

Hey, didn't you advise me once that a career in academia was a waste of time? What, you keep trying to get out and they keep sucking you back in? ;-)

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 1, 2005 12:19 PM

Thank you, Matt. I am not familiar with that book.

I think Will is wrong, about atomism, anyway.

Not every Polish town experienced that degree of murder.

My point is the opposite, in fact. Although Polish Catholics never had recourse to nationwide mass murder, their entire history approved of and encouraged the occasional murder of and daily brutality toward Jews.

The fact that there was also and simultaneously a considerable amount of intermarriage just emphasizes -- as if it needed emphasizing -- that humans are not capable of behaving consistently for long.

It is, to my mind, exactly the same argument I make about slavery.

Everybody is against being enslaved himself. It only becomes a moral position if you are against seeing other people enslaved.

Moral antislavery is decent.

Some people -- not many -- are capable of even better. They embrace noble antislavery, opposing slavery even if they would be the slaveowners.

Once you declare Jews subhumans, you're out of the running in the morality stakes. Poles and Germans had different styles, but they both put themselves out of the running.

We could speculate that if they had not been Christians, the Poles and Germans would have created a class of others to oppress, because of some innate need to oppress.

But that is mere airy speculation. We know the facts. The facts were that Christianity marked the Jews for damnation hereafter and persecution here.

(It also isn't true that the Poles fought effectively against the Germans. They were a poor, incompetent nation that could not have offered much resistance anyway, but they punched well below their weight.)

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 1, 2005 3:54 PM


I tend to agree with Will, though, that this is at bottom a human problem and not ethnic. Any time you revoke the law's protection from some category of human beings, those human beings (I don't care who they are...left-handed blue-eyed grad students, for example) will not be around very long. I don't expect any better from humanity.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 1, 2005 4:34 PM

Thanks, Matt.

I always enjoyed the teaching, but I hated the publishing, since I have no illusions that I am intellectually capable of adding anything to the panoply of probability theory beyond the utterly pedantic. I could never teach high school, because the lack of discipline would grind me into a fine powder. Undergraduate courses are more my speed, discipline isn't an issue and the kids are generally respectful, so none of my paranoia ever takes over.

There are enough local schools so that between courses and my squirreling away of investments over the last few years, I'll be more than OK, so long as I don't overdo on the truffles.


I think you are being unfair to the average Pole. Until recently, Poles were kept ignorant and exploited by their feudal masters. So, it should not be surprising that they behaved out of ignorance. You cannot judge a nation like Poland the same way you would judge Germany or for that matter the US. The Germans should have known better. They had the opportunity to know better. The Poles didn't.

If you want to blame the traditional leadership classes of Poland, its feudal nobility and the Church, claiming that they have little more moral standing than the Nazis, you would have a point. Both encouraged the hatred of Jews in the interwar years, for their own purposes. The record is clear.

Posted by: bart at May 1, 2005 4:54 PM

Anti-slavery is an empty boast for modern men. We kill enemies instead and then enslave their countries.

It was, of course, biology and Darwinism that made some humans sub-human. Persecuting people for their ideas is perfectly acceptable. Interesting to note that biology required extermination, but religion didn't.

Posted by: oj at May 1, 2005 5:03 PM

Tell that to the Albigensians.

Posted by: bart at May 1, 2005 6:31 PM

they were heretics, not a race and got what they deserved.

Posted by: oj at May 1, 2005 6:53 PM


How so?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 1, 2005 7:43 PM

So, in other words, sectarian disputes justify mass murder? Would you approve of mass murder of people who don't accept trans-substantion for example?

Posted by: bart at May 2, 2005 8:07 AM

Yes, sectarian disputes can justify removing people who can not conform from a society, as we did with Indians, Nazis, communists, militiamen, radical Muslims, etc.

Yes, the wars over issues like transsubstantiation were quite sensible and useful.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 8:25 AM

What does 'conform' mean? Certainly, in the US, there is no problem with people from a whole menagerie of religious faiths, from Diabolists to Bahai to followers of SSPX, functioning as a society. The narrow issue of harm to others is where the distinction gets drawn. A Christian Scientist, for example, should not be allowed to let his kid die because of his refusal to provide medical care. An Aztec should not be permitted to kidnap people and eat their hearts. Animal sacrifices can shock the conscience, but again these are narrow areas.

Southern Baptists would not take kindly to people murdering them for their position on Communion and the fact that they have no sacraments.

Posted by: bart at May 2, 2005 10:21 AM

It gets drawn wherever we feel like drawing it. In a stable and secure society like ours we can draw it fairly far down the road. In less stable or secure countries and circumstances you draw it earlier.

The Baptists will be the ones doing the drawing,

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 10:33 AM