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Context of 'Late 1930s - 1950s: Neoconservative Philosophy Grows from Communist Intellectuals’ Disenchantment with Soviet Ideology'

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The philosophy that becomes known as “neoconservativism” traces its roots to leftist ideologues in New York City who, before World War II, begin sorting themselves into two camps: those who support Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic “New Deal” policies, and more radical individuals who consider themselves followers of Soviet communism. Many of these radical leftists are Jews who, staunchly opposed to Nazi-style fascism, find themselves finding more and more fault with Stalinist Russia. In their eyes, Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union has betrayed the ideals of the original Russian Revolution, and has instead created a monstrous regime that is as bad towards Jews and other ethnic and cultural minorities as Germany’s Adolf Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini. The betrayal they feel towards the Soviet Union, author J. Peter Scoblic will later write, cannot be overestimated. Seminal movement figures such as Irving Kristol (see 1965) lead a small cadre of academics and intellectuals far away from their former leftist-Communist ideology, instead embracing what Scoblic will call “an ardent nationalism” that they see as “the only feasible counterweight to the Soviet monster.” The USSR is as evil as Nazi Germany, they believe, and as committed to world domination as the Nazis. Therefore, the USSR cannot be negotiated with in any form or fashion, only opposed, and, hopefully, destroyed. During the 1950s, Scoblic will write, “these intellectuals adopted a strict good-versus-evil outlook—and a scorn for radical elements of the American Left—that was not unlike that of the ex-communists… who were defining modern conservatism.” But unlike their conservative counterparts, Kristol’s neoconservatives either espouse a more liberal social construct similar to Roosevelt’s New Deal, or care little one way or the other about the entire skein of issues surrounding economic and social policy. The neoconservatives will drive themselves even farther right during the social upheaval of the 1960s, and, according to Scoblic, will hold leftist leaders in contempt in part because they remind the neoconservatives of their Stalinist compatriots of thirty years ago, colleagues whom they have long since abandoned and held in scorn. The fact that some antiwar New Left figures will support Soviet, Chinese, and Vietnamese communism will further enrage the neoconservatives. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 83-85]

Entity Tags: J. Peter Scoblic, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Irving Kristol

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Irving Kristol’s 1995 book, ‘Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea’Irving Kristol’s 1995 book, ‘Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea’ [Source: Yurica Report]Academic Irving Kristol founds a magazine, “The Public Interest,” and fills it with political and social commentary by himself and his increasingly conservative followers. Kristol will later describe himself and his comrades as “liberals mugged by reality.” He leads a nascent ideological movement—later turned “neoconservativism”—marked by attacks on President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” economic policies and “New Left” thinkers. Early shapers and proponents of this new, aggressive conservatism include Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Norman Podhoretz, Diana Trilling, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Midge Decter. The more unpopular their views become with their friends and academic colleagues, the more insular and withdrawn they become. Author Craig Unger will write in 2007, “In part, their apostasy could be attributed to angst about their careers and social standing” along with their shifting political beliefs. Kristol’s group tends to live, work, and socialize with one another, in an increasingly exclusive and insular group. Much of their attacks on their former liberal and counterculture friends are rooted as much in personal antipathy and a desire to avenge social slights as in ideological differences, and their attacks tend to veer away from criticism of positions and into personal invective. (Interestingly, Podhoretz once tries to convince his former friend, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, to join his neoconservative group, an effort which Ginsberg harshly repudiates. The poet later recalls Podhoretz’s conversion attempt as “an epiphanous moment in my relation with Podhoretz and what he was part of—a large, right-wing, protopolice surveillance movement.”) At this point, most neoconservatives still identify themselves, however reluctantly, with the Democratic Party. [Unger, 2007, pp. 35-36]

Entity Tags: Norman Podhoretz, Seymour Martin Lipset, Midge Decter, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Lyndon B. Johnson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Allen Ginsberg, Irving Kristol, Diana Trilling, Craig Unger

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Because neoconservatives have so little influence in the Clinton administration, two founding fathers of the movement, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, begin advocating for the forging of an alliance with the Christian Right, no matter how undemocratic some fundamentalists can be. In his book Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea (see 1965), Kristol wrote: “[C]onservatives and the Republican Party must embrace the religious if they are to survive.… Religious people always create problems since their ardor tends to outrun the limits of politics in a constitutional democracy. But, if the Republican Party is to survive, it must work on accommodating those people.” Following Kristol’s lead, Podhoretz writes that Jews should ignore the direct anti-Semitism of televangelist Pat Robertson because “Robertson’s support for Israel trumps the anti-Semitic pedigree of his ideas.” Neoconservative academic and intelligence figure Michael Ledeen makes numerous appearances on Robertson’s televised 700 Club to promote the strategy of revamping the Middle East to suit Israel and the US, reaching millions of fundamentalist viewers. [Unger, 2007, pp. 150]

Entity Tags: Pat Robertson, Irving Kristol, Michael Ledeen, Norman Podhoretz, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

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