THE RISE OF RADICALISM by Eugene H. Methvin

THE RISE OF RADICALISM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sort of conservative answer to Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station, this polemic tries to link Marx and Engels with the worst side of various utopians, terrorists, populists, and nihilists. Beginning with Rousseau and progressing through Babeuf to Nechayev, all significant revolutionaries have been (a) psychologically deranged, (b) conspiratorial, even when ""openly"" conspiratorial, (c) devoted to ""hate propaganda,"" and (d) disposed toward tyranny. When Marx and Lenin tried to develop a mass movement instead of an elitist putsch, this simply proved their superior knavery in manipulating the masses. Needless to say, the social roots of radicalism are not explored: one of the many cliches Methvin employs as a substitute is the notion of frustrated intellectuals, along with the idea that Marxism is simply Marx's secular translation of the Judaic idea of ""God's chosen people."" The book is rather intriguing up to a point, because Methvin has done a lot of research and uses interesting primary sources. Still the rampant misconceptions are most striking: Mussolini, for instance, is viewed as a Marxist-Leninist to the end -- ""a radical is a radical"" -- though he happened to attack the workers and base himself on ""a different constituency."" And Hitler is labeled ""the electronic leninoid,"" his Leninism inferred from the fact that he sought a broad popular appeal. The book ends with perfunctory smears of campus radicals and the Black Panthers. There are conservatives who respect their opponents' intelligence and integrity, and relish a genuine theoretical battle; Methvin, in contrast, respects not even the intelligence of the reader, no matter what his political persuasion.

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 1972
Publisher: Arlington House