Skip to comments.Studies in Herbert Aptheker, Esteemed Expert on Slave Revolts
Posted on 05/23/2019 5:29:41 AM PDT by SJackson
How a post-Stalin Stalinist suppressed slave revolt history.
Anthony Flood, Herbert Aptheker: Studies in Willful Blindness, 91 pages, 2019.
After U.S. recognition of the USSR in 1933, the Communist Party USA made significant gains in America. Many left the Party after Stalins show-trials and purges of the mid-1930s, and many others after the Stalin-Hitler Pact of 1939. By contrast, the American Herbert Aptheker joined the Communist Party virtually because of it, explains his former research assistant, friend, and comrade Anthony Flood.
Four years before the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Aptheker approved when Stalin shipped oil to Mussolini to aid the fascist dictators invasion of Ethiopia, and that drove some African Americans out of the Communist Party. After the war, Aptheker denied the anti-Semitism of the 1952 Slansky trials in Czechoslovakia, which prompted even Party faithful to depart.
Others left the Communist Party in 1956 after Khrushchev partially confirmed Stalins mass atrocities that had long been part of the historical record to all but the willfully blind. Still others abandoned the Party that same year, when the USSR crushed a rebellion in Hungary. For his part, Pact-Man Herbert Aptheker championed the Soviet invasion in The Truth About Hungary, a book he defended as late as 2001. And there were no rebellions in North Korea, Aptheker also wrote, because in the Communist dictatorship the people rule.
The record of this servile post-Stalin Stalinist, would be enough to disregard Aptheker as a scholar. On the other hand, his former acolyte Anthony Flood finds another issue of great significance. Though he passed away in 2003, Herbert Aptheker is still esteemed as a historian of slave revolts in the Americas.
The only such revolt that succeeded was Toussaint LOuvertures 1971-1804 uprising in the Caribbean. In 1938, Trinidadian historian C.L.R. James chronicled this revolt in The Black Jacobins: Toussaint LOuverture and the San Domingo Revolution. Though hailed by scholars as the definitive account, James work nowhere appears in the writings of the esteemed slave revolt expert Herbert Aptheker.
Aptheker could never bring himself to acknowledge James simply because he was a Stalinist and James was a Trotskyist, Flood notes. So the white Stalinist, ironically, rendered James an invisible man. At one point, The Black Jacobins author weighed in.
Aptheker has never once stepped outside the bounds of the limits prescribed by Stalinism for Negroes-as-manpower, as shock-troops and as deserving of recognition. So organic to present-day Stalinism is this attitude and so Stalinized is Aptheker that he can find in his quite extensive explorations only what fits this pattern, infinitesimal as it may be; and he is blind to everything else.
As Flood notes, the neglect of The Black Jacobins in Apthekers writings mirrored the CPs embargo on all things Trotskyist, virtually the Soviet Unions policies in microcosm. According to Communist Party boss Dorothy Healy, the only role Party leaders permitted intellectuals to play was providing a rationale for whatever the current Party line might be. And according to his former acolyte, Herbert Aptheker was a leading intellectual in Party circles.
Party discipline would have barred Aptheker from taking notice of The Black Jacobins in the classroom. That is why, as Flood notes, Sidney Hook asked, Should Communists be Permitted to Teach? in his famous 1949 New York Times article. According to Hook, author of Out of Step and other books, the problem was not Party membership but that Communists practice educational fraud.
Flood aims to modify the received opinion that Herbert Aptheker was a historian. His former friend and research assistant now finds him a lifelong denier of Communist holocausts, comparable to David Irving. And for most of his life, Aptheker marketed a totalitarian state. By any standard, Aptheker is not a historian, but might the Stalinist also be a racist?
C.L.R. James charged that, for Stalinists, blacks were only manpower and shock troops, but racism on the left goes all the way back to Communist patriarch Karl Marx. In 1862, Marx derided the Jewish n--ger Lassalle, a blend of negro stock, whose importunity is also n--ger-like. Flood does not explore this theme but his narrative, though on the brief side, does not stop with the back story.
In the 1970s, as Aptheker taught at Bryn Mawr, another Stalinist, Frank Marshall Davis, was mentoring a future president. That is another study in willful blindness, but heres the deal. Aptheker, the chief theoretician of the Communist Party during the Cold War, has been mainstreamed.
That is why, Flood concludes, Little Apthekers and kindred malevolent spirits have long been permitted to teach on Americas campuses. True to form, like Aptheker, Columbia University professor Eric Foner dismisses C.L.R. James The Black Jacobins as Trotskyist history.
A New York University graduate, Anthony Flood has written for American Communist History and the Journal of American History. Herbert Aptheker: Studies in Willful Blindness is Floods first book, a welcome addition to works on post-Stalin Stalinism, still a malevolent force long after the end of the Cold War.
Based on this thoughtful effort, Anthony Flood should get busy on books exposing those many little Apthekers and kindred spirits on campuses across the country. We are talking about willfully blind professors who got mixed up in Stalinist lies, deceived their students, and got what was coming to them. Thats a terrific story, as Michael Corleone would say. Readers just might like a story like that.
Herbert Aptheker bump
Talk about old memories. Just a few tidbits about Aptheker, James, etc.
Aptheker’s commie daughter is Bettina Aptheker of the Berkeley “free speech movement”. A hardcore psychopathic red, her picture appeared in a news photos debating an eye-patched Romanian refugee, Dan Teodoru, back in about 1965. Dan’s father was the head of the Romanian Red Cross and had to flee from a death sentence to France.
Danny and I went to So. Vietnam and Cambodia in 1970 on a fact-finding mission, which got our group invited to the White House in 1971 to brief Pres. Nixon in the Oval Office.
Re Herb, the red papa, I challenged him at a public forum at Temple Un. in either late 1965 or early 1966 on what he was telling the audience about the Viet Cong being a “national liberation movement” so that the people of Vietnam could determine for themselves who they wanted to rule them.
I used his own words against him and asked him why, if he believed so strong in “self-determination of peoples”, why did he support the Soviet Union/Bloc’s invasion of Hungary during the 1956 “Revolution” there.
He denied the Hungarians their own right to “self-determination”, which literally made the audience laugh except for a handful of reds in the audience. However, he and the audience got the point.
I later used this same turn-about tactic against George Novack, the theoretician of the Trotskyite “Socialist Workers Party” at his speech (1970 or so)at GWU in DC. when I asked him why he supported Ho Chi Minh when Ho and his Communist forces (the so-called Viet Minh), wiped out the better organized and widespread Trotskyite movement in Vietnam led by Thau Thu Tan (sp?).
His pathetic reply was that the Trots would settle their difference with the Stalinists when they got into power. Fat chance and this guy was once a Secretary of Trotsky in exile in Mexico. Nice guy but he should have gotten a job running a bookstore instead of trying to be the theoretician of a vibrant Trotskyite organization in the U.S. (Social Workers Party/Young Socialist Alliance; front - Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam - took it from the CP students faction in 1968).
CLR James. Sat next to and talked to him at a CP front meeting in DC at GWU. He was an interesting man, and actually a relatively knowledgeable person about Marxism in the Caribbean, which Aptheker was not.
Importantly, his refusal to let black Marxists, or blacks in general become the Communist Party USA’s footsoldiers (and WEB DuBois’ “Cannonfodder”) was a key tenant of DuBois’s 1930’s writing and warning to American black about just that (FBI On Line Electronic Library files of DuBois).
Damned. We had some interesting times back in the late 60’s/early 70’s and I was glad that I got to meet and even question these men (just as I did with KGB/CPUSA member I.F. Stone a few years later).
Reading a book by someone, or an article about them is still not the same as meeting and talking to them face-to-face, no matter what their views are. When you heard them speak (or “operate”), you got to see the “front persona” in operation and knew how to approach them intellectually and honestly.
NB: For my newspaper reporting in the 70’s, I did the same for getting first hand information from JDL leader Rabbi Meir Kahane (a big scoop in DC and Baltimore papers), Menachem Begun (he didn’t talk or answer a question I put on paper about a historical event in Israel. I was disappointed but knew why he didn’t answer it - lives could have been at stake); and Simon Weisenthal (Vienna Documentation Center and Concentration Camp survivor/Nazi Hunter).
Simon was great and gave me a lot of documents about ex-Nazis in the East German government including copies of SS membership cards. Used this information in a major story that literally knocked a CPUSA/KGB disinformation agent off of a major television network as a “Nazi hunter”. Revenge was sweet.
I’m getting old and sicker so I wanted to pass on some information to FR readers because you probably hadn’t seen these particular stories before from someone who was “there”.
Now to get back to writing a chapter for a book on communism’s cost in lives and destruction in Southeast Asia. Someone has got to speak for the dead.
It will eventually be available at the educational site “Vietnam Veterans for Factual History.org”. Check us out. I guarantee you’ll learn more about the truth of the Vietnam war there than you will in most popular histories by liberals and leftists. We are dedicated to the truth from our personal experiences and our contributors are among the best in the world, with an estimated 50-80 or more books amongst us (including prize winning history books), hundreds, if not thousands of articles, a couple of documentaries, and thousands of speeches from the National Archives to high schools, colleges, TV news shows, and conferences.
No rest for the weary but we’d never want it any other way.
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