US – Oliver Stone Has The Right Idea, We Should Learn More About Henry Wallace – 23 January 2013

Speaking of the firebag left – I wonder if people have a moment to consider a little history. Oliver Stone apparently is now producing a television show about “Hidden History” in which he is making the claim, among other absurd claims, that there was a conspiratorial effort to keep Henry Wallace from succeeding FDR and becoming president.

Henry Wallace is an interesting person for Stone to latch onto for a number of reasons. Wallace’s 1948 campaign demonstrated amazing naïveté about Soviet intention (Wallace thought, for example, that the coming to power of the Communists in Czechoslovakia was a geopolitically useful hedge against “fascism” rather than the domination of the Czechoslovak government by political extremists). I suppose this kind of geopolitical naïveté mirrors Stone’s own attitudes about Islamists today, although Stone might find it interesting that Wallace was also firmly a Zionist and supported the right of Jews to have a nation-state that protects them in Israel, a point of view Stone apparently associates today with the political right-wing.

It’s even more interesting to note that two years after running his 1948 campaign, Wallace changed his mind and became critical of the Soviets. The Korean War made it clear to Wallace that the Soviets were not misperceived “liberals in a hurry” but the extremists most of the rest of us got that they were. By 1952 he had written a magazine article called “Why I Was Wrong” and specifically calling himself out for having supported the Communist government in Czechoslovakia. The firebaggers conveniently forget Wallace did this. I wish they had more of a political memory, because Wallace was indeed most commendable for finally having figured this out, and doing something to convince the rest of us of what he had learned.

If he had stopped there, I would have called Wallace an intellectual for having grown and learned – something a lot of our intellectuals do not do. Unfortunately, Wallace did not. He apparently decided that he could no longer stick it out with the Left at all after coming to his realisations about the Communists, and backed Eisenhower and Nixon in subsequent elections. Again, firebaggers conveniently forget this – to acknowledge this would make liberals like Arthur Schlesinger, who was always critical of Wallace’s naïveté about the Soviets, look good. (Of course, if you look at the commitments Schlesinger had over the course of his life, the fact of the matter is, this “Cold War liberal” looks a lot better than any of Oliver Stone’s firebag heroes.)

On the plus side for Wallace – his campaign in 1948 attracted the votes of millions of people who wanted immediate action about civil rights, and also introduced at least some criticism of Harry Truman’s less reflective foreign policy ideas, like, for example, throwing the country’s lot in with autocracies like the Greek dictatorship.

But the real story of Henry Wallace is that he was a firebagger who figured out what’s wrong with firebagging. I hope that, when others of that political tendency wise up as he did, maybe they will not try to compensate, as Wallace did, for having had poor political judgment by lurching rightwards.

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