Dismantle for Disarmament?
Jack Wheeler ("How to Dismantle the Soviet Empire," Nov.) writes well, his heart is in the right place, and Reason was right to publish his provocative article. However, he makes some of the same errors as the CIA.
The "nationalities" problem, whose treatment by Stalin first brought him to Lenin's attention, has been recognized as one of the breeders of discontent and revolt in the USSR by many writers, including me in Power Through Subversion (1972). As the history of subversion therein related shows, revolt and overthrow must come from within, although in the USSR, they can and should be nourished even in the preparatory stage by money and, when propitious, by arms from without.
Mr. Wheeler has fallen into the treaty trap; the aim of reaching a disarmament pact with the USSR is erroneous. All nations have regularly broken their treaties, and disarmament treaties cannot be "verified" by "national technical means." Moreover, it will hardly inspire the trust of dissidents to inform them that we intend to help them in order to obtain disarmament and, if achieved, to abandon them. Their reason for dissidence is not armament but rather the conditions imposed on them by their Moscow masters.
Laurence W. Beilenson Los Angeles, CA
Someone tell Mr. Davidson to settle down ("Weep Not for the Wizened," Viewpoint, Oct.). Someone tell him that every elderly person that he blames for the mess this country is in is a potential supporter of liberty. Sure, they voted for the clowns that have brought this country to its economic and moral knees. That's what they were taught to do. Vote, don't think. Obey, don't question.
Davidson gives a decisive and unarguable position on Social Security. Why not leave it at that? Instead, he continues on and hammers away at the unsuspecting and innocent elderly reader, placing entire blame for the mess this country is in on their shoulders. In my opinion, if Davidson's purpose was to alienate the elderly from an individualist view of Social Security, he succeeded.
Robert D. Johnson Midland, MI
Please cancel my subscription immediately. The article by Mr. Davidson in your October issue was such an anti-elderly collection of slop as I have ever seen in my life. I can't think of anything that burns me up more than someone who is so arrogant, sneering, and pompous and thinks they have all the answers to the problems of the world like you people do. Well, someday your philosophy is going to blow up in your face.
Guy W. Loeb San Diego, CA
Just for the record, did Tibor Machan ("You Can't Have Marx Without Stalin," Oct.) really mean to write that "an estimated 250 million people have been murdered in the Soviet Union alone"-or was this a typographical error that went uncorrected? And, if he really did mean to write that, who is responsible for this grossly inflated "estimate" of the number of victims of Soviet Communism?
L. A. Rollins Los Angeles, CA
Tibor R. Machan's quandary about the intellectual appeal of communism seems contrived. Among other things:
There is nothing wrong with man building "on past visions while urging more modern methods." Intellectual man does envision a society where the monarchs, oligarchs, and robber-baron capitalists are not the only ones who can be individualists and exercise the right of property. Such a society is barely more than a vision; and, incorrect though it is, communism is, for the visionary, the most cogent social doctrine of our time. Unfortunately, anticommunists have little to offer except rhetoric such as Machan's. Good rhetoric though it may be, it has little intellectual appeal.
Though the appeal of communism for some men may be the altruistic pretensions of Marx, most men are attracted to communism precisely because it is an intellectual basis for egoism and authoritarianism. But certainly altruism is not bad because a pretended altruist developed an egoistic doctrine. Moreover, altruism is not necessarily a "moral imperative of individual self sacrifice." Altruism can be no more than the granting to others of the right to live their lives in peace. And it is altruism, not egoism, which is compatible with individual liberty in the political realm....
The most important intellectual appeal of communism is one which Machan either ignores or is ignorant of-dialectics. Dialectics is a profound intellectual, philosophical concept which is a fundamental part of communist thinking. Those who would oppose communism on a logical instead of a rhetorical basis need come to grips with that concept.
Bernard Curry Glendale, CA
Mr. Machan replies: The estimate of 250 million was made by Robert Conquest, noted Sovietologist. It is interesting that Mr. Rollins knows that this is a "grossly inflated 'estimate' of the number of victims of Soviet Communism" prior to checking out the basis of it. I found it incredible myself, but I examined the method of estimation, and my mind was changed.
Regarding Mr. Curry's letter: Visions, like "the brotherhood of humankind," are bad in any case but mainly because they are nothing but empty fantasies- visions. The rest of Mr. Curry's letter I am unable to follow.
The relationship between Marx and Stalin can be easily explained using the analysis provided by Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. A theory of justice holds either that certain processes are just or unjust or that certain results are just or unjust. In libertarian theory, processes which involve the initiation of force are unjust. In Marxist theory, justice depends upon whether a particular result is achieved; it necessarily follows that process constraints, such as individual rights, which impede the attainment of that result, are unjust. In other words, one cannot have both freedom, a process, and equality, a result. Ergo, Stalin.
Richard D. Fuerle Monroeville, PA