First Published: Morning Freiheit, July 15, 1984.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In a recent article entitled “On Perverting History” (Daily World, June 14, 1984), Herbert Aptheker of the Communist Party complained that the Reagan administration has been making it difficult for American historians to write truthful accounts of the nation’s history. Other historians are also aware of this problem and Aptheker based his complaint on information provided by Prof. Thomas G. Paterson of the University of Connecticut that was published in Perspectives (April 1984), the Newsletter of the American Historical Association.
Prof. Paterson charged that bureaucrats of the Reagan administration now prevent historians from examining important documents by imposing restrictions on their availability. An increasing number of documents are arbitrarily declared to be Top Secret and therefore can’t be seen for long periods. Another obstacle is that the charges for services that researchers have to pay to government offices have been raised.
Prof. Paterson noted, “...in so many ways our history is being managed for us.” He is worried that if these restrictive government practices are not changed soon there will be what he calls, a “snuffing out of the writing of thorough and respected history” in the United States. Paterson’s article is entitled, “The Present Danger of Thought Control”.
This is a troubling problem, indeed, but one can’t help wonder at the chootspah of Herbert Aptheker using this situation to pose as the defender of unrestricted research and free investigation. He, Aptheker, is the most predictable apologist of the same Soviet government which has a long record of its own suppressing, managing and perverting historic information to suit the needs of the ruling party.
This is a huge subject beyond the scope of a newspaper article. Perhaps one example will suffice. In Lenin’s time, some 60 years ago, Soviet citizens knew that Trotsky, Bukharin, Radek, Zinoviev and a host of others were all distinguished revolutionaries and leaders of the Soviet government. Yet, for the past 50 years or so, since Stalin decided to ruin their reputations and physically eliminate them, they are known only as “wreckers” and “enemies” of the Soviet state. These men were only critics of Stalin’s policies but he so cunningly perverted their views and records that they are still regarded as enemies of socialism by most Soviet citizens today. For two generations Soviet citizens have not been able to read the writings of these early Soviet leaders and they know only Stalin’s version of his victims’ opinions.
Not only did Stalin have his own role in Soviet history managed and perverted to suit his purposes but his flunkeys killed scores of honest Marxist historians who would not write history his way. Prominent Soviet historians, M.N. Pokrovski, Y.M. Steklov, V.G. Knorin, Y.T. Tevosian and many others were either executed or perished in the labor camps. Since Stalin’s death non-conforming historians are no longer executed but they are restricted in many ways and forced out of their profession. For example, Alexander N. Nekrich who investigated Stalin’s military blunders during the Second World War and Stalin’s mistreatment of the Crimean Tartars, was denied the right to have his books published and eventually he was forced to emigrate.
When one considers the record of the Soviet historians it would appear that Herbert Aptheker’s career as a historian in capitalist America was much more tranquil and successful by contrast.
Some may object that what was recalled above about history writing in the Soviet Union is all water under the bridge. This is not so. Right now the history of the Jewish people is being managed and perverted by “anti-Zionist” propagandists and there is no one in the Soviet Union who is able to publicly contest or refute their falsehoods.
Most progressive people still do not realize that the central feature of the official anti-Zionist propaganda in the Soviet Union is that there had been an historic cooperation or alliance between what is called “international Zionism” and German Nazism. According to this propaganda the Zionists helped Hitler come to power in Germany, they helped build his war machine and then they aided the Nazis in annihilating the Jews during the holocaust period (1940-1945).
This is not history but a grotesque perversion of history. Facts are invented to support the present Soviet case against the Israeli government and Israel is made to appear as the source of all evil in the Middle East if not in the entire world. All Jews are insulted by these wild charges against “Zionism” that go back 90 years and make most Jews appear as greedy, power-hungry people.
Among the promoters of this type of “anti-Zionist” propaganda is one, Genrikas Zimanas, a Jew and a party apparatchik in Soviet Lithuania who is the author of the following statement in Sovetish Heimland (Moscow, May 1983, page 149):
“...Zionism as an aggregate of political organizations really did render assistance to the German fascists...They [Zionists] helped slaughter the Jews of Vilna and Kovno, in the Western Ukraine and in Czechoslovakia. The Jews in Warsaw resisted the fascists only because there were few Zionists there and the leadership was basically conducted by Communists and Socialists.”
This is a mind-boggling falsehood. Zimanas does not cite a single source for any of these charges! There is not a single historian of the holocaust period whose writings confirm what Zimanas wrote. The martyr historian of the Warsaw ghetto, Emanuel Ringelblum, wrote scathingly about depraved Jews who served the Nazis but he never made the kind of charges that Zimanas makes. Neither did the later historian, Ber Mark, a Polish Jewish Communist.
Zimanas’s sickly malice is further exposed in his fantastic claim that:
“Jews in the Warsaw ghetto resisted the fascists only because there were few Zionists there...” The fact is there were still hundreds of Zionists left in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. Several Zionist organizations cooperated with the Communists and the Bundist Socialists in organizing the uprising.
The leaders of all these organizations chose the young Hashomer Hatzair member, a Socialist Zionist, Mordecai Anielewicz, to head the military uprising.
The Warsaw ghetto uprising of April 1943 was one of the glorious events in all Jewish history and all its brave fighters and martyrs are sacred to us whether they were Zionists, Communists, Socialists or whatever.
It tells us something of Aptheker’s politics that he invited this scribbler Zimanas to the United States only a few weeks ago and showed him off at a banquet in New York as an example of the successful Jew in the Soviet Union. Perhaps Zimanas did succeed, but at what price?
More serious perversions of Jewish history have been made by other anti-Zionist propagandists (Modzhorian, Skurlatov, Begun, Bolshakov, etc.) Most noteworthy is Lev Korneyev who appears to be an old time Russian chauvinist of the Black Hundreds type.
Korneyev slandered Jews by stating that “the pro-Zionist bourgeoisie of Jewish origin” controls the world’s arms industries and are the main merchants of death (Krasnaya Zvezda, Moscow, Nov. 16, 1977).
In a 1982 pamphlet entitled, On the Path of Aggression and Racism, Korneyev declared that the figure of six million Jews who perished in the holocaust was not true and that it had been exaggerated “at least two-fold or three-fold by the Zionists.” Previously, it had been the neo-Nazis and the Hitler apologists who challenged the figure of six million Jews who were victims of Nazi genocide. Now Korneyev is repeating their claim in a pamphlet that was issued in a hundred thousand copies by the Pravda Publishing House in Moscow. Is this not a perversion of history that ought to arouse Herbert Aptheker’s ire?
The slanders of Jews by the anti-Zionist propagandists in the Soviet Union have been strongly criticized by non-Jewish spokesmen of different European Communist parties. Herbert Aptheker, the assimilating Jew in the American Communist party has never made any meaningful public criticism of these defamations of our people by his ideological allies among the Soviet anti-Zionist propagandists.
Perverting history or managing history for political purposes is wrong whether it is done by Pres. Reagan’s bureaucrats in the United States or by anti-Zionist propaganda hacks in the Soviet Union. Obviously, Aptheker upholds a double standard in these matters. What is intolerable in the United States becomes quite permissible in the Soviet Union and this is justified with a line of bunk about the “class struggle.” We also know about the class struggle and as far as we are concerned nothing about it requires lying about the Jews.