[This book review, by historian Otto Scott, appeared in the December 1987 issue of the
By Otto Scott
Dr. Dwight Murphey of
has written a quartet of books examining, describing and defining the western political position. In the course of this undertaking, which consumed years of effort, he examined socialism, Burkean conservatism, classical liberalism and modern liberalism. Wichita State University
Unlike most such studies, Murphey’s did not consist of abstracting arguments or paraphrasing these positions. Instead, he cites named views and traced the impact of these various attitudes through the careers of their leading spokesmen.
This is an important and realistic approach. To know the ideas that motivate influential men is crucial to understanding both such ideas and the way they are used to move the world. For men do not move at random, but along the rails of ideas. To understand movements, we must understand ideas.
In this respect, Dr. Murphey’s work is invaluable. For instance, citing names and examples, he defines the modern American liberal as a Socialist who has chosen to conceal his position under protective coloration.
Furthermore, he has unearthed, traced and described a compatibility between liberalism/socialism and totalitarianism. He cites at least two occasions of an American liberal drift toward openly embracing totalitarianism. These were in the “early 1930s and the late 1960s.”
In penetrating the disguises of American liberals, Dr. Murphey has made a major contribution to American political thought. He has revealed a stream of prominent persons linked to specific events that pursued a pattern of deliberate dissimulation.
In the course of this analysis, many prominent names appear: Herbert Croly, Theodore Roosevelt, Christopher Jenks, Robert Heilbroner, Robert Lekachmen, Irving Howe and many others—in a new and not admirable light.
It should go without saying that by producing this body of evidence and observation Dr. Murphey has not enhanced his academic career. Reviews of his work have been few and sparse. I understand that the editors of The World and I, an enormous, 700-page monthly compendium of everything on earth, have refused to recognize Dr. Murphey’s book, though they also claim to be conservative seekers after truth.
What Dr. Murphey has done is, however, of far deeper importance than an explication of modern political thought. His inspiration seems to have come from Ortega y Gasset’s Revolt of the Masses, in which Ortega said that while the ancients feared the barbarian hordes outside the gates of civilization, we should fear the rise of barbarians in our midst. He called these “vertical barbarians.”
Murphey has defined these vertical barbarians in secular terms. He begins with the observation that “antagonism to Communism today should be as important and as valid as an opposition to Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s.” But his studies reveal that for thirty years The New Republic and The Nation were not anti-Communist, and not tolerant of those who were.
Since World War II, observed Dr. Murphey, the situation has grown more complex. For a time American liberals said they were anti-Communist, but they dropped that position to a considerable extent during the 1960s. Then the liberals moved toward the argument that independent Communist nations posed no danger. “This,” said Murphey, “placed the liberal intellectual culture in a sympathetic relationship with all parts of the world Left except a narrowly defined Soviet bloc.
“At the same time, any form of anti-Communism that has not embraced the world Left has seemed to the liberal intellectual culture to be misguided and even vicious.”
In effect, the three decades covering the 1917-1947 period, and the four decades that have followed, have been marked by a consistent intolerance toward anti-Communists. “By playing down… the problem of Communism, while virtually all anti-Communists are subjected to unrestrained attack,” we are being maneuvered in a Communist direction.
Dr. Murphey cites numerous examples of this before Senator Joseph McCarthy began his anti-Communist activities in 1950. And he observed that every criticism leveled against McCarthy had earlier been charged against previous anti-Communists. In other words, McCarthy would have been painted black no matter what his methods.
Beyond that, Murphey says, “Contrary to public opinion today, Senator McCarthy’s ‘methods’ were, with only minor exceptions, legitimate, and were the same that liberals themselves had long favored in the investigation of other subjects.
“The cause that he championed,” Murphey wrote, “was of the utmost validity and importance. When Senator McCarthy raised the issue of Communism as a moral imperative and insisted it was not to be evaded… he spoke for hundreds of millions who no longer had a voice to speak for themselves….. The five years immediately prior to 1950 had seen 600 million new victims fall under Communist dictatorship. Stalin was still in power and shielded by a veil of silence from the world intellectual culture, and held millions enslaved in his concentration camps. These facts are essential for an adequate perspective of Senator McCarthy’s crusade. It is important, too, that we recognize… that the terrible years of the New Left, which were soon to follow, demonstrated the enormous power of Leftist subversion in the
itself. With these facts in mind, we can conclude that, whatever we may think about Senator McCarthy’s lack of gentility, he was vastly superior to his detractors in both insight and moral sensibility. United States
“Of course, McCarthy’s defeat was a major victory for the Left and marked the silencing of articulate anti-Communism.”
That silence has, however, been ended by Dr. Dwight Murphey. He spent 21 years writing his quartet and still awaits public notice of his efforts. He has put together not simply a description, but an ongoing analysis, with names, dates and examples, of the barbarians inside our gates. Once you read Murphey, you will know why liberals are so intolerant. The University Press of America, (
4720 Boston Way, Lanham, MD 20706) will, in years to come, be praised for publishing this author.