Posted -- January 29, 2001
David Lieberman, "Scholarship as an Exercise in Rhetorical Strategy: A Case Study of Kevin MacDonald's Research Techniques"
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MacDonald's most extensive citations to Schatz appear in The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements, the concluding volume of his Judaism trilogy. In this volume MacDonald argues in effect that Jewish self-identification, either conscious or unconscious, has inspired behavior ranging from the duplicitous to the brutal as Jews sought to maximize opportunities to serve their own group interest and to minimize non-Jews' opportunities to serve theirs. These behaviors, manifestations of such distinctively Jewish genetic traits as "their high IQ, their ambitiousness, their persistence, their work ethic, and their ability to organize and participate in cohesive, highly commited groups," [MacDonald, The Culture of Critique, p. 4] include such intellectual movements as Boasian anthropology (which sought to devalue evolutionary thinking as a legitimate tool of social science, thereby minimizing the possibility that the Jewish evolutionary strategy would ever come to light), Frankfurt School socio-cultural critique (which sought to stigmatize antisemitism as a pathological condition), and Freudian psychoanalysis (which sought to stigmatize normative "Western society itself" [MacDonald, The Culture of Critique, p. 139] as a pathological condition). Various political movements also emerge as Jewish group-oriented behaviors, especially immigration reform (encouraging the migration of non-European peoples to the U.S. and thereby limiting the ability of Americans of "Northwest European" descent to safeguard their own interests), and Communism. All of these "may therefore be conceptualized as secular versions of historical Jewish groups not only because of the high levels of Jewish identity characteristics of group members, but also because these groups retained the essential characteristics of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy." [MacDonald, The Culture of Critique, p. 5]
Jaff Schatz's volume The Generation seeks to provide a thorough account of Jewish participation in the Communist Party in Poland before, during, and after the Second World War -- these Jewish communists constitute the "generation" of the title, a term Schatz uses throughout his text. Although an assessment of Schatz's research is beyond the scope of this discussion, The Generation appears to be a fair and thorough treatment, and MacDonald does not have to work very hard to extract from it a truly damning assessment of Jewish communists who, after all, were communists. At issue, however, is not the quality of Schatz's research, but MacDonald's use of it, a discussion that relies less on topical expertise than on a willingness to conduct close comparative readings. From this perspective, one can see MacDonald exerting considerable effort to force Schatz's work into a close fit with his own thesis, which requires not only that there be evidence of reprehensible conduct on the part of Jewish communists in Poland, but that there also be evidence that Jewish communists used their power to secure the interests of Jews (as opposed to the interests of communists) at the expense of the interests of ethnic Poles. Toward this end, MacDonald adopts a citation practice characterized by misleading paraphrases and significant omissions, consistently misrepresenting Schatz in order to bolster his own thesis.
Jewish ethnic background was particularly important in recruiting for the internal security service: The generation of Jewish communists realized that their power derived entirely from the Soviet Union and that they would have to resort to coercion in order to control a fundamentally hostile noncommunist society ([Schatz 1991,] p. 262). The core members of the security service came from the Jewish communists who had been communists before the establishment of the Polish communist government, but these were joined by other Jews sympathetic to the government and alienated from the wider society. This in turn reinforced the popular image of Jews as servants of foreign interests and enemies of ethnic Poles (Schatz 1991, 225).[MacDonald, Culture of Critique, p. 66; emphasis added]Compare the foregoing with what Schatz actually says on page 225. The following would appear to be the text upon which MacDonald bases the assertion I have emphasized above:
To begin with, there was the basic fact of the general society's hostility toward the regime and the latter's need for trusted cadres. Old Communists, among them members of the generation [i.e., Jewish communists], had to be relied on as their core. [Schatz, The Generation, p. 225; emphasis added]Schatz is quite clear: Jews numbered among those Old Communists who initially filled the ranks of the internal security service. MacDonald's paraphrase would have it that these positions were filled exclusively by Jews, a claim for which he has no evidence. The effect is to exaggerate ethnic hostility or rivalry as a motivational factor for the secret policemen while at the same time encouraging a reaction of real ethnic hostility on the part of his non-Jewish readers. Moreover, MacDonald utterly ignores this passage, also appearing on page 225:
How many Jews, in general, and how many prewar Communists, in particular, served in the security service is impossible to say. Their number and role must have been much smaller than the propaganda campaign, undertaken by Soviet intelligence and aimed at putting all blame for "errors and distortions" on Jewish officials, had it. In addition, it must be stressed that contrary to the popular stereotype of a Jewish secret police official and his non-Jewish victim, 40 percent of those affected by secret police officials are reported to have been of Jewish descent. However, the number of Jewish secret police officials and, most important, their visibility must have been significant enough to justify the hopes of the initiators of the campaign and its relative success. [Schatz, The Generation, p. 225]MacDonald's desciption of an exclusively (or even predominantly) Jewish secret police force in Communist Poland appears, then, to perpetuate a myth Schatz explicitly attributes to Soviet propaganda. Schatz's conclusions may or may not be correct on this score, but insofar as MacDonald cites no source to contradict Schatz, he can offer no grounds for a) misrepresenting the "core" ethnic makeup of the secret police as reported by Schatz, or b) ignoring Schatz's contention that Soviet propaganda exaggerated Jewish participation in the secret police -- no grounds other than preconceptions driven by the theory of Jewish group behavior he is ostensibly proving by reference to Schatz.
MacDonald chooses not to alert his readers to the existence of branches of the security service that had nothing whatsoever to do with advancing Jewish interests. Instead, he subtly conflates the whole of the security service with its internal branch (i.e., on page 66 of The Culture of Critique he claims that Jews were "the core members of the security service"), ignoring sections in which Jews either did not play a significant role, or in which Jews themselves -- both in and out of power -- were placed under surveillance. He ignores, for instance, the role of the Informacja:
Until the thaw [i.e., the mid 1950's], the Polish security apparatus was totally controlled by the Soviet secret police. Seen as a whole, it had a double function; it served as an instrument of Soviet control over Poland and its regime while, at the same time, securing the Polish Communist party's monopoly of power. This apparatus consisted of the military counterintelligence called the Informacja, the civilian security service known in common parlance as the Bezpieka, and the so-called Department Ten, whose task was to supervise the loyalty of the highest strata of party and state leadership ...Poles' willingness to serve in the Informacja, which Schatz calls "the most important instrument of Soviet domination in Poland," undermines MacDonald's contention that Polish participation in the communist government was a deceptive sham, an attempt "to place a Polish face on what was in reality a Jewish-dominated government," [MacDonald, The Culture of Critique, p. 67] and it explicitly contradicts his assertion that the "Jewish-dominated government" was "the agent of Soviet domination in Poland" [MacDonald, The Culture of Critque, pp. 68-69]. He chooses, therefore, to ignore the Informacja entirely.
The Informacja was created in November 1944 as a Polish version of the Soviet counterintelligence agency, Smersh. It was formally placed under the Polish Ministry of Defense but was in fact the most important instrument of Soviet domination in Poland. ...
The first Polish officers in the Informacja were recruited from among the so-called Spaniards (the Polish veterans of the Spanish civil war), the Communist armed underground during the German occupation, and the repatriated Polish members of the French Communist party. The bulk of the Polish Informacja officers, however, were recruited from among young peasants and workers with little formal education and no political experience. The role of the members of the generation [i.e., Jewish communists] was negligible. Forming a segment of the initially recruited small group of prewar Polish Communists, those few who left the army to join its service were gradually eliminated. [Schatz, The Generation, pp. 222-23]
He deals similarly with the problems raised by Department Ten, also mentioned in the passage quoted above. Created in 1948 (i.e., at the presumable height of Jewish domination of the Polish government), Department 10 appears to have been preparing the way for a systematic campaign against "Polish-Jewish Communists [with] accusations of cosmopolitanism and Zionist conspiracy" almost from the moment of its inception [Schatz, The Generation, p. 224]. MacDonald's hypnotically frequent references to "the Jewish-dominated government" notwithstanding, a fuller consideration of Schatz's description of the security appartus suggests that Jewish communists in Poland hardly had an exclusive or even pre-eminent hold on power at any point in the post-war period. Instead, they appear to have been pitted, perhaps deliberately, against a variety of other blocs, hardly a situation one could fairly define as "domination."
Even MacDonald's exemplar institution of Jewish domination, the internal security service, raises problematic issues as a model for Jews in positions of power serving Jewish interests at the expense of ethnic Poles. As MacDonald again fails to mention to his readers,
[a] Jewish section [of the civilian security service] was organized within the frame of the political department of the ministry of public security. In this period, it was manned almost solely by functionaries of Jewish descent and carried out an intensive surveillance of all institutions within the Jewish sector, their activities, employees, and clientele.[Schatz, The Generation, p. 223]Noting that "Jews were very prominent in the domestic security forces in Poland" [MacDonald, The Culture of Critique, p. 80] without also calling attention to the fact that some number of them were tasked with the surveillance of other Jews amounts to a fairly significant distortion of the record. One would expect a responsible social scientist to wonder what proportion of Jews in the secret police were assigned this duty, and whether this would have accounted in some measure for "Jewish prominence" in the internal security service. It might also occur to a social scientist to wonder what the perceived need for a "Jewish section" of the civilian security service would imply about the government's relationship with the Jewish community; at the very least, and in spite of MacDonald's assertions to the contrary, the government's perceived need to create a special office to track the activities of "the Jewish sector" suggests that the loyalty of the Jewish community could not be taken for granted. Given the behavior Schatz attributes to the majority of Jews in Poland during the immediate post-War years, the communist government's mistrust of the Jewish community may indeed have been well-founded -- I will address this behavior in more detail in the next section of this article.
The pattern of omissions that characterizes MacDonald's discussion of
the security service as an institution also extends to his discussion of
Jewish secret policemen as individuals, particularly with respect to their
motives for joining the security service. Here, a
side-by-side comparison of MacDonald and Schatz may be helpful:
|MacDonald, The Culture of Critique, p. 66||Schatz, The Generation, pp. 226-227|
|Jewish members of the internal security force often appear to have been motivated by personal rage and a desire for revenge related to their Jewish identity:||The picture of their motives for joining the security service is mixed. For some, the primary motive appears to be an overwhelming sense of identification with the new order and a sense of personal responsibility for defending it against its enemies. Others, initially hesitant to join the service, had to be persuaded by appeals to their Communist responsibility or with orders to take it on as their party duty. Although they might have preferred to work in other sectors, a disciplined Communist could not resist this kind of argument. However, there were also other motives. For some of the policemen, equal to or more important than their sense of personal duty was a desire for revenge and a personal rage.|
Their families had been murdered and the anti-Communist underground was, in their perception, a continuation of essentially the same anti-Semitic and anti-Communist tradition. They hated those who had collaborated with the Nazis and those who opposed the new order with almost the same intensity and knew that as Communists, or as both Communists and Jews, they were hated at least in the same way. In their eyes, the enemy was essentially the same. The old evil deeds had to be punished and new ones prevented and a merciless struggle was necessary before a better world could be built. (Schatz, 1991, 226)
|Their families had been murdered and the anti-Communist underground was, in their perception, a continuation of essentially the same anti-Semitic and anti-Communist tradition. They hated those who had collaborated with the Nazis and those who opposed the new order with almost the same intensity and knew that as Communists, or as both Communists and Jews, they were hated at least in the same way. In their eyes, the enemy was essentially the same. The old evil deeds had to be punished and new ones prevented and a merciless struggle was necessary before a better world could be built. Another, often closely related, motive was the pure desire for power and might. Thus achieved, power could be intoxicating. Those policemen for whom this was the primary motive could "hear the houses tremble" when walking the streets -- and loved it. Still another motive was a general desire to find some position within the system, quite independently of what sector or the system that happened to be. Had such people been proposed for or found themselves in other positions, they would have taken them gladly. Thus, their initial involvement in the security apparatus was quite coincidental.|
The only motive of relevance for MacDonald is that dealing explicitly with Jewish identity; he ignores others, preferring instead to offer a skewed rendition of Schatz as a demonstration of his thesis. Note that the point is not that the other explanations are at all exculpatory; they are inconvenient for MacDonald because they do not provide direct evidence of Jews acting in the interest or in the name of the group, rather than in the interest of the Communist Party or in their own individual interests. Even his indicator of indeterminate number is unsupported in the source: where Schatz is only willing to say that "some" Jewish secret policemen acted out of a sense of "personal rage," MacDonald intensifies the point by claiming that this was "often" the case. How often is "often"? One would, again, expect a social scientist to ask such a question before resorting to a loaded adverb suggestive of a widespread phenomenon, perhaps even a typical pattern. A casual reader could well be forgiven for concluding that a significant percentage -- if not the majority -- of Jewish secret policmen were motivated by a desire for vengeance in the name of the group.
Of course, MacDonald himself does not know how often "often" is because his source does not say -- in fact, his source quite explicitly states that reliable statistical data that might show how often "often" is does not exist. The absence of such data does not discourage MacDonald from making a broad and, given the range of alternative explanations he omits, quite unwarranted generalization. Such practices -- and this is far from an isolated example -- make it difficult to believe that he is not actively enouraging his readers to adopt precisely the sort of vague impressions of widespread Jewish malevolence that effectively validate antisemitism. And it is precisely such rhetorical strategies that undercut MacDonald's contention that he bears no personal responsibility for his popularity with right-wing extremists.
MacDonald's discussion of Jews in the secret police, illuminating as it is as a demonstration of his cavalier and opportunistic use of secondary sources, is to some extent itself a secondary matter. His treatment of Schatz is characterized throughout by a far more egregious misrepresentation. This mispresentation forms the subject of the next section of this article.
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