Tom Woods has provided a vivid picture of the ideological hysteria that has gripped Harvard University. In “Memories of Harvard” he elaborates on how that institution celebrates Angela Davis and other Stalinists while treating self-identified conservatives (even low-octane ones like Scoop Jackson-Democrat Harvey Mansfield) as outcasts.
Allow me though to make one critical observation regarding the explanation suggested for this situation. One may infer from Woods’s remarks that sympathy for the Communist Left is running riot among Harvard’s student body. This may be true but is an insufficient cause for what has been described. My own perception is that Communist sympathy explains less about the political attitudes in question than the kind of militant “anti-fascism” that Harvard faculty and students represent.
At Harvard and its clones, being “anti-fascist” means opposing white, Western, Christian civilization, especially as incarnated by heterosexual males. Communism is talked up as an “anti-fascist” force but particularly when defended by a black feminist, Angela Davis. That is to say, Communism is embraced to whatever extent it is identified with anti-religious social engineering, undertaken to overcome the past. The point is not whether Communist regimes are on the same wave length as the American academics and students being presented. In my opinion, Communists are less lunatic, not more so, than the fellow-travelers now defending them. But what draws our own cultural gravediggers to anything smelling of Communism is a search for allies.
Friends are needed to accomplish the task of getting rid of the homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, sexist, and capitalist burden of history. Note this has zip to do with Communism as dialectical materialism or with Angela Davis’ meditations on Stalin as a Marxist theorist and practitioner. It is entirely a question of joining up with other presumed enemies of those one hates.
Two other considerations should be kept in mind to grasp how Harvard, Yale, Penn. and other schools of this caliber developed their present attitudes. One, only about a quarter of their student bodies (one might imagine that the faculty percent is even lower) come (most broadly understood) from white Christian families. That percent shrinks even more if one distinguishes between males and females, the sad reality being that the gender gap is very much alive in education as well as in politics.
Feminism is thriving among the female academics of my acquaintance; and this identification is far more critical for them than being WASPs, Irish Catholics, etc. Two, the groups that have come to dominate universities are either hostile or at the very least indifferent to what these schools had been founded for. Those in vocational fields, by and large, have little interest in the humanistic and religious things that some of our best universities were meant to carry on. As long as they receive grant money and technological assistance, these representatives of nontraditional fields will stay out of harm’s way or support whatever establishment provides them with funds and equipment. Moreover, elite universities have transformed themselves ethnically as well as in terms of disciplines. They have drawn in groups—e.g., self-conscious blacks, Jews, and Hispanics—who feel, and are politically encouraged, to feel, and act like marginalized victims.
These aggrieved minorities do not feel a part of the culture and history that Ivy League institutions once proudly claimed to uphold. Why should these people rally to what they see as the source of their group’s suffering and oppression, particularly when the majority society tells them this revulsion is justified?
The point being made is that the adulation of black Stalinists at Ivy League schools is the least of our cultural, social worries. Far more ominous is the “anti-fascist” terrorism that engulfs our education and political life. It betokens the ruthless war now being waged against the Western past and Western heritage, indeed against anything that can not be fitted into the pc grid. If some terrain has to be sacrificed as the good guys regroup, I’d be happy to leave the universities to the Devil. These collections of lunatics and those impersonating them would drive the poor wretch crazy.
Paul Gottfried is professor of history at Elizabethtown College.