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Don’t Call Robert Service a Neocon. Please?

My Anglophilia knows no bounds. One of the reasons I assiduously follow the political spats on the other side of the Atlantic is because they're so much more candid about ideological differences than what passes for partisan debate or controversy … Read More

By / June 11, 2007

My Anglophilia knows no bounds. One of the reasons I assiduously follow the political spats on the other side of the Atlantic is because they're so much more candid about ideological differences than what passes for partisan debate or controversy over here. You will still find the odd editor of a liberal broadsheet in London going moist in the orbs to remember the glory years of Leonid Brezhnev, or to recall how Stalin and Mao's nationalist pas de deux might have ended more amicably if it weren't for the machinations of Tito. These are old feuds that should be bygones, and they scarcely resonant with, say, the AARP readership of The Nation, a greybeard demographic that preoccupies itself more with the revisionist innocence of Alger Hiss, meaning it still denies that he was a fellow traveler and Soviet spy.

I've had my problems with Robert Service in the past, chiefly because I thought his Stalin biography was mediocre where it was orthodox and bad where it was heterodox.  But look at what happens when a scholar of Russian history writes a book called Comrades! that attempts to trace the lineaments common to all Communist regimes in the 20th century. Look at what idiot Kremlin lickspittles at the Guardian go and do to him:

All this I mentioned repeatedly in my book, but it was not quite what one reviewer, the Guardian's Seumas Milne, wanted. He denied that I stated that communist leaders unleashed a drive towards industrial and cultural modernisation. Next, he alleged that I followed a "neoconservative" agenda. He also maintained that the so-called "revisionist" school of Soviet history was not getting a fair wind in the western media.

His Stalinoid form and content of argument involved deliberate misrepresentation. It would seem that Milne and his like consider it fair game to denounce anybody who comes to a considered anti-communist standpoint as a neocon. This is a shoddy way to handle a serious political discussion. If this farrago had not come from the editor of the comment pages of one of our national newspapers, it would not be worth bothering about. What is more, Milne is typical of a more general trend that retains a nostalgia for communism, and it is a trend that ought to be repudiated.

There's barely even a conventional school of Soviet history in the western media since most of the stuff we know about the USSR comes from evidence that has only just been released and siphoned through. 

What a shame Service didn't go on record one way or the other about the Iraq war. Then Milne and his Hundred Acre Wood of Red hacks would have had easier epithets to hurl at him. 

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