Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dan Stone's "Goodbye to All That?"

Dan Stone is Professor of Modern History at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is a historian of ideas who has written or edited over a dozen books on subjects including the Holocaust, genocide, fascism and eugenics, including the The Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Goodbye to All That?: A History of Europe Since 1945, and reported the following:
Goodbye to All That? is about what I call “the rise and fall of the postwar consensus.” It argues that in both Eastern and Western Europe a variety of antifascism was employed to build up and to legitimize the postwar regimes: communism in the east and welfare capitalism and anticommunism in the west. It goes on to argue that this settlement has been dismantled since the 1970s, decisively so since the end of the Cold War. The economic restructuring of Europe away from heavy industry and towards the service sector has been accompanied by a revision of the past in which the “losers” of World War II have revived arguments tending towards fascism which break the postwar consensus in the sphere of European “collective memory.”

Page 99 deals with the cultural Cold War and is mostly taken up with an analysis of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a body which promoted liberal, anti-communist thought in the West. Led by noted intellectuals such as Raymond Aron, Daniel Bell, and Arthur Koestler, it proved a powerful weapon in the Cold War of ideas until Ramparts and the New York Times revealed that it was being funded by the CIA.

One sentence in particular here catches my eye: “For such intellectuals, their anti-communism followed naturally from their antifascism, and they therefore tended to admire the notion of totalitarianism which was such a powerful tool of Cold War historical and political analysis.”

What this suggests is that antifascism, a concept usually identified with communism (the regimes instrumentalized it to provide them with one of their few sources of legitimacy) was also significant for Western European liberalism and anti-communism. What better way to highlight the evils of communism than to compare them with those of fascism? The book goes on to argue that this antifascist consensus has been seriously challenged in the last three decades. But for the first thirty years after the war, antifascism of one variety or another was at the heart not just of the economic rebuilding of Europe but of the renewal of its value system. Analyzing the dismantling of that value system can help us to understand the complexities and conflicts that plague Europe today.
Learn more about Goodbye to All That? at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue