Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Angry Reader 12-03-2018

From An Angry Reader:

This was the worst piece of historical analysis I’ve ever read in any halfway respectable publication. Please ask your alma mater for a refund on all degrees earned. There isnt (sic) enough time in the day to go through all the stupidity you posted, but I will point out what is perhaps the biggest error – your hot take on Brest-Litovsk. There was no sense of internationalism or any ideological factor that caused the reds to sign that treaty – it was the simple fact that they were fighting a civil war and did not need to fight Germany, AH and the Whites.

Craig Johnson

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Dear Angry Reader Craig Johnson,

Why all the ad hominem invective? Let your argument speak for itself without the resort to slurs and smears. The tired rhetoric trope that “there is not enough time to list all the errors” usually means there are no errors. You confirm that fact when you list only one—and the supposed “biggest”—which unfortunately reveals your own historical ignorance.

You write:

There was no sense of internationalism or any ideological factor that caused the reds to sign that treaty – it was the simple fact that they were fighting a civil war and did not need to fight Germany, AH and the Whites.”

My take is not “hot,” whatever that silly usage means, but is historically accurate and, in fact, non-controversial. Ideology—specifically the naive Marxist idea of an anticipated global and internationalist communism making the European nation state irrelevant—most certainly was the chief factor in the Bolsheviks’ disastrous signing of such an otherwise humiliating peace—one that was immediately seen as an abject betrayal of their Western allies and allowed the transference of at least 500,000 troops to the Western front.

Many in the nascent Soviet originally and vainly felt that they might at least drag out the humiliating negotiations for weeks in some pathetic expectation that their war-weary Western European “comrades” might in the meantime likewise revolt when learning that the war was ending in the East and a communist revolution was ascendant, and thereby force an end to the war in the West as well and join a communist continental take-over.

A desperate Lenin, a zealot beholden to Marxist ideology, had demanded of the Central Committee that it sign the “humiliating” peace in order to save the “world revolution.”

Your point about the communists’ need to be free to concentrate on the whites and not lose more blood and treasure to Germany and Austria-Hungary is banal and yet of course has the force of nullifying your own adolescent argument: Lenin and the communists were not nationalists, but ideologues, and global ones at that. And they felt confident in the future of a world communist revolution—but only if ensured by its beginning in a viable Soviet Union relieved of conflict, a surrender judged far more important to the international communist agenda than any worry about the individual fate of the old nation-state of Russia. Your own use of “reds” for Soviet communists is itself an internationalist ideological term and concedes that the Russian negotiators saw themselves in 1918 first as committed communist comrades and second, if at all, as Russian nationalists.

Ignorance when coupled with arrogant vitriol is a regrettable.

Victor Hanson

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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