Stalinism at the MLA

, Malcolm A. Kline, 2 Comments

Attending the Modern Language Association’s annual convention gives the uninitiated a chance to see how professors can pass off theories to their students that do not hold up to independent inquiry. For example, Grover C. Furr of Montclair State University in New Jersey is making a cause of proving the innocence of Joseph Stalin, who presided over three decades of genocide in the former Soviet Union.

“I worked with Russian scholars in the Comintern,” Dr. Furr told the audience at the MLA’s Washington, D. C. conference. “I call current anti-communist scholarship ‘lying, pseudo scholarship’.” For one thing, he claims that Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech about Stalin’s crimes was itself deceptive. “There was a secret speech behind the secret speech,” Dr. Furr said at the MLA conference at the Washington Hilton.

He suggests that Khrushchev may have had more to hide about his own guilt than he did to reveal about Stalin’s complicity in mass executions. To a point, Dr. Furr may be onto something: Khrushchev was Stalin’s lieutenant on the scene during the forced famine in the Ukraine that starved millions of farmers to death for their refusal to give up their farms.

The English professor also insists that Leon Trotsky, assassinated by Stalin’s agents, was guilty of treason during the Second World War. “All of the evidence supports the charge of Trotsky’s collaboration with the Germans and Japanese,” Dr. Furr says. “Trotsky was in touch with the Germans and Japanese.” But so was Stalin. In fact, he signed a non-aggression pact with Adolph Hitler in 1939.

Dr. Furr says that researchers who source the Comintern files as proof of Stalin’s reign of terror are wrong. But those writers actually give direct quotes from the files. Dr. Furr offers none.

By the way, at the time that Trotsky was assassinated, he was scheduled to testify before the U. S. House of Representatives Committee on UnAmerican Activities. In those days, HUAC focused nearly exclusively on efforts by the Axis powers—primarily Nazi Germany—to subvert American institutions and engage in espionage in the United States.

Former HUAC staffer Herb Romerstein shared the news of Trotsky’s planned testimony at one of Accuracy in Academia’s conferences. In a special report for Accuracy in Media, AIA’s parent group, Romerstein reported that the Soviets also lied about casualties in the Spanish Civil War. The “war heroes” that Soviet apologists celebrated for decades were actually deserters shot by their own comrades. This vignette did not make it into Dr. Furr’s talk either.

For their part, Dr. Furr’s colleagues on the MLA’s panel on “(Un)Critical Reading” want to restrict the flow of information in ways that would have made Stalin envious. It bears repetition that, in their courses, these professors can put their plans in action. “Reading is, and I exaggerate only a little, the other name of class,” says Kimberly DeFazio of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Dr. DeFazio offered up a “Labor Theory of Reading.” “Does one sell one’s labor to survive or does one purchase the labor of others?,” Dr. DeFazio says.

“We need a theory of class analysis for critical reading,” says Dr. DeFazio. “Spontaneous reading fosters unequal social relationships.”

She took a sideswipe at “imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” She also said that “The religious experience in America is funded by corporate donations.”

“Should critical reading focus on the class struggle?,” Vincent Barry Leitch of the University of Oklahoma asked rhetorically. “Yes,” he answered himself.

“Intellectuals are affected negatively by the capitalist inclination towards innovation.” But don’t real intellectuals like innovation? It depends on how you define intellectual.

“For some three decades or more, we have seen an antipathy towards Marxism,” Dr. Furr laments. Imagine.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.