A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism
Harvard University Press, 2018.
The writing and discussion of Jewish historiography in contemporary mainstream academia requires a sublime choreography. It’s basically a series of evasions resembling dances, in which facts are presented and parried, and flamboyant narratives are advanced which everyone knows to be false but which emerge repetitively and shamelessly. My attention was first drawn to Paul Hanebrink’s A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism by Christopher Browning’s recent glowing review, titled “The Fake Threat of Jewish Communism,” in the New York Review of Books. Browning is an establishment historian with a record of legally assisting Jews — for the right price. As well as receiving over $30,000 from Deborah Lipstadt to testify against David Irving, Browning has testified against a significant number of European ex-soldiers at war crimes trials. Although his most notable work, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (1992), contains the less than remarkable thesis that war turns ordinary men into killers, Browning’s dedication to the Jewish narrative has led to his becoming a true guru of Jewish victimology. Having received awards and funds from organizations including Yad Vashem and the USC Shoah Foundation Center and copious promotion in mainstream media and academia, Browning’s certificate of praise in the field is potentially career-making. Evidently, he has chosen to bestow his magic touch on Paul Hanebrink. In this essay I want to explore the approach of both Browning’s review and Hanebrink’s text as exercises in the manufacture of duplicitous histories.
I had to look twice at Browning’s headline. My first thought was: “Really? You really want to take this subject matter on? You really think you can ‘debunk’ the facticity of Jewish Communism?” Such an endeavor would unquestionably require abundant chutzpah, but it is clear from the very beginning of the review that this will be an effort of evasion rather than outright debate. As Browning states in the opening paragraph, “Hanebrink’s approach is not to repeat what he considers an error of the interwar era—the futile attempt to refute a myth on the basis of historical facts and statistical data.” Although this evasion is predictable, it’s quite remarkable to see a more or less open admission from two allegedly masterful historians that they don’t possess facts sufficient to dispel the very “myth” they set out to challenge. To describe any such presentation of facts as a “futile attempt” seems intellectually flaccid; a concession of the weakness of one’s case.
But what is really presented here, of course, is the standard structure of Jewish historiography: avoid the facts, downplay them if concession is absolutely necessary, and move the discussion into abstractions and sophistry. Taking a page from the ADL playbook, Browning mewls coyly that “a small kernel of truth underpinned the stereotype of the Jewish Bolshevik,” but insists, regarding Communism, that “the Jew as “the face of the revolution” was a “culturally constructed” perception.” We therefore arrive at the familiar position where facts don’t matter and everything Jews don’t like is triumphantly declared a mere construct. Read more