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The Historian Who Called Harry Truman "America's Stalin"

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Paul Buhle teaches courses on American civilization at Brown University, a prestigious Ivy League institution in Rhode Island. In 1994, he called President Truman "America's Stalin." This is what he wrote in an academic magazine, Radical History Review: "Like all post-World War II presidents, Richard M. Nixon stepped into the shoes of America's Stalin, the initiator of the peacetime military-industrial economy and security state, Harry S. Truman."

Having equated President Truman with Stalin, Mr. Buhle went on to say "when the judgment of the 20th century's second half is made, every American president will be seen as a jerk. After Truman, Nixon yields only to Reagan — still another Truman heir — as the jerkiest of all."

Mr. Buhle repeated the description of Truman as "America's Stalin" in 2002 in a Swedish film history journal. And more recently he wrote: "Our task is to use all means available to combat the global race to the bottom (and toward ecological hell); to help students, colleagues, and the public understand that capitalism's much-vaunted 'progress' endangers everything we hold dear."

Why bring up Mr. Buhle's writings in Radical History Review? After all, most mainstream American historians share his views. Why not forget it? Impossible, because more recently this academic has demonstrated professional irresponsibility in another article in which he claims members of the American Communist Party fought alongside Jewish settlers in Israel in 1948 and that a series of books on American communism published by the Fund for the Republic were CIA projects.

He has been challenged by other scholars to produce a single piece of evidence to support these allegations. He has declined to do so. Mr. Buhle is an editor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left. Such behavior by a faculty member at a university of distinction borders on the scandalous.

Mr. Buhle's actions fit the pithy description by City University Professor John P. Diggins: "in our academic world of postmodernism, where all politics is power and knowledge has no foundation in truth... ."

Here's the background on another one of the many scandals that have afflicted American historians in the last three decades. Between 1959 and 1966, before American history had been politicized by the academic left, the Fund for the Republic, a spinoff from the Ford Foundation, financed and published 10 highly prestigious volumes on communism in America. They were written by distinguished scholars and publicists: Daniel Aaron, Theodore Draper, David Shannon, Clinton Rossiter, Ralph L. Roy, Nathan Glazer, Frank S. Meyer, Earl Latham and Robert W. Iversen.

Mr. Buhle charges that these volumes were secretly planned by the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, (ACCF). No evidence is offered for the charges. (The ACCF was an affiliate of the Congress for Cultural Freedom which was exposed in 1967 as a CIA stipendiary.)

Well, I can offer some personal evidence, having been a charter member of the ACCF executive committee and its last chairman. The ACCF suspected that the parent Congress financing came from the CIA and when we were stonewalled by the Congress about their finances, we rejected their subsidies and announced that the ACCF was "an independent affiliate" of the Congress. And as for involvement by the ACCF in the Fund for the Republic volumes, I can say from personal knowledge that we were not involved in selecting topics or authors because the Fund for the Republic declined our offer of help.

Professor Harvey Klehr of Emory University and Dr. John Earl Haynes, 20th-century political historian in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, have challenged Mr. Buhle's research. He wrote in the Encyclopedia of the American Left with no supporting evidence that American communist assistance to Soviet espionage was dwarfed "by the largest incident of illegal activity: the shipment of arms and assorted war materials to the new state of Israel [and] among those Americans wounded or killed in battles protecting gains from Arabs, communists played a prominent role."

Where is the evidence, they asked in a long article in the New Criterion? Go look in the Daily Worker, Mr. Buhle replied, but he offered no dates or citations from the presently defunct communist daily. The former Daily Worker correspondent in Palestine in 1947-48, derided his claim.

Mr. Buhle also came up with an oral interview that did not support his argument. The fact is Mr. Buhle has no evidence for his claims. He simply made up his assertions out of hot air. The biases and corruption of the history profession are such that left extremists such as Mr. Buhle can make preposterous claims, confident they will not be challenged.

Mr. Buhle's shoddy scholarship is regarded by the liberal historical establishment as useful for bashing conservatives, so his egregious violations of fundamental scholarly requirements such as documenting assertions will be passed over in silence by establishment historians who know very well that Mr. Buhle's facts are falsehoods and distortions.

Copyright © 2003 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times:"Visit our web site at http://www.washingtontimes.com."