‘PR’ and its Funding
In his review of Frances Stonor Saunders’s Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (LRB, 30 September 1999), Edward Said has maligned me and Partisan Review. Among other things, Said reports that ‘Saunders’s account of Partisan and its editor, the insufferably pretentious William Phillips … is devastating’; that the magazine was on the CIA payroll; and ‘had been carried financially by Henry Luce’, the owner/editor of Time-Life – just because Daniel Bell, who was a friend of ours, arranged for a one-time gift of $10,000. Said also implies that, later on, Allen Dulles – chief of the CIA – kept the magazine afloat. When answering Saunders’s questions, I told her that I did not know why the Luce organisation was interested in making a contribution to Partisan Review, but that literary magazines have always lost money and needed financial help from like-
minded people. (Said, who at the time also wrote for Partisan Review, must have been aware of that fact.) Yes, the American Committee for Cultural Freedom allowed contributions to the magazine to be exempted from tax after the IRS ruled that our exemption should be revoked – because we sold copies on news-stands. Yes, we once received $2500 from the Farfield Foundation which, as we found out much later, did funnel some CIA funds. But, according to Jack Thompson, then director of the Foundation, whom I recently contacted, this money came from a private donor. Moreover, when asked by Saunders why we hadn’t sued when others implied that we had been funded by the CIA, the editor, Edith Kurzweil, told her that unfortunately little magazines did not have the money for it. Said knows that too. Moreover, the sums Saunders claimed we received at most would have covered between 5 and 10 per cent of one year’s budget.
Partisan Review, New York
Do they drink the oil?
To read Richard Gott on Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, the latest Third World chap in uniform to take his fancy (LRB, 17 February), is to be plunged back in time, into traps and tropes one had thought (or hoped) extinct. What could it mean for Venezuela to defy globalisation? Do they drink the oil? And if previous attempts at state-led ‘endogenous development’ ended in tears, corruption and rusting white elephants, why should it be different this time? If the economics is utopian, the politics is frankly ominous. Chávez, Gott tells us, ‘does not really like political parties at all’. Being ‘first and foremost a soldier’, what he wants is to militarise society, apparently permanently. He has already sidelined most existing political institutions: Gott quaintly calls this ‘reorganising the political superstructure’. True, Chávez has popular support, but when that ebbs, what’s to stop him doing as they all do: in Brecht’s phrase, dissolve the people and elect another?
What clinches it is that trip to the interior. For the President to alter his diary at a day’s notice and drag half the Cabinet with him flatters Gott, but is it any way to run a country? On the ground, marching about hectoring everyone, Chávez comes across like Kim Il-sung, whose ‘on-the-spot guidance’ added endless micro-damage to the macro-disaster already being inflicted by his policies.
Enough already. Gott’s ‘late unlamented 20th century’ gave us Nasser and Ben Bella, Mao and Pol Pot, Castro and Perón. It taught most of us the hard lesson that there are no short cuts to development; and that those who overthrow established institutions to pursue economic chimeras are the worst menace of all. At the end Gott rhetorically raises some doubts, but only to dissolve them in a mist of wistful thinking. To give Chávez the last word: ‘How many times have we failed in the past? We can’t fail this time.’ We shall see.
‘O Happy Dames’
The essence of Colin Burrow’s review of Henry Howard, The Poet Earl of Surrey (LRB, 11 November 1999), is that the author, W.A. Sessions, makes poor use of his archival research. Burrow himself, however, commits many errors of fact. I confine myself to a few examples. His statement that ‘Howard blood was blue enough to pose a threat to the succession’ misses the point. Surrey’s half-uncle Thomas had no claim to the throne worth mentioning: he was just one of the many descendants of Edward I, but not of Edward III. His secret marriage or engagement to Lady Margaret Douglas (whom Burrow later calls Mary) was dangerous entirely because of her royal blood. Burrow says that Surrey’s landlady Millicent Arundel predicted that his father, the Duke of Norfolk, might become king when she maintained that Norfolk ‘should stand for king’. The OED is quite clear on the term ‘standfor’. Definition 71.h: ‘To represent, be in place of, take the place of, do duty for’, while definitions 71.a-g and i-l clearly show that the basic concept here is ‘substitute’. In other words, Mrs Arundel meant that Norfolk might become Lord Protector if Henry died, which makes good sense as Norfolk was the premier nobleman. Burrow says that Mrs Arundel said that the arms on Surrey’s bed were ‘very like the King’s’. She didn’t say that – her maid Alice Flaner did. And Flaner showed her ignorance of such matters by referring to Surrey as a peer.
Later, Burrow says that Surrey returned to England in disgrace after his men fled at St Estienne. St Estienne certainly played a part in Surrey’s recall, but almost three months, which included a victory by Surrey, lay between the two events, and virtually no one at the time, not even Surrey’s enemy Elis Gruffydd, claimed that the first event led to the second. Burrow seems not to know the intervening events, particularly the machinations of Surrey’s enemies at court. He gets credit for asserting that Surrey ‘almost certainly’ had the right to use St Edward’s arms, but then flops by saying that Surrey was required to use three silver labels to distinguish his use from the heir to the throne’s. The silver labels are the heir apparent’s mark that differentiates him from his father, who uses the arms without a mark of difference. Surrey’s indictment says that he used St Edward’s arms with three silver labels – that is, with the heir apparent’s mark of difference.
Charles Landon (Letters, 17 February) is quite right to point out that there is a long tradition of British racism in southern Africa, including Natal. Indeed, in the British self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia, white artisans and farmers were also protected by legislation from African competition, and, as in Natal, there was a less liberal attitude to race than in the Afrikaner-dominated Cape. Moreover, the National Party’s introduction of a ‘civilised labour policy’ after 1926 was supported by its largely anglophone Labour Party coalition partners. However, I do not think it at all misleading, in a review of a novel about Afrikaans-speaking poor whites, to have concentrated on the Afrikaners and their own tradition of ‘affirmative action’. After all, virulent as the racism of their anglophone compatriots often was, it was the Afrikaner Nationalists who developed the most complete and systematic form of racial segregation and gave it a name which would return to haunt them.
John Vincent’s review of Conrad Russell’s An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Liberalism (LRB, 3 February), misrepresents the principles of Liberal Democrats in arguing that ‘in all except some deeply cherished nomenclature and some eccentric trappings, they are modern social democrats.’ Certainly, the Party took on Social Democratic thought as a result of the merger, but its policies in the new Scottish Government point to a true liberal lineage: the consistent support for devolution; the principle of free education through the abolition of student tuition fees; a Freedom of Information Bill stronger than the English counterpart; and proposals for land reform.
Uses of the Holocaust
In his criticism of Norman Finkelstein, William Rubinstein (Letters, 3 February) asserts that David Wyman is not a Zionist. Wyman writes in The Abandonment of the Jews: ‘Today I remain strongly pro-Zionist and I am a resolute supporter of the state of Israel.’ Rubinstein also asserts that Daniel Goldhagen has ‘no expressed views on Israel or Zionism’. The whole point of Hitler’s Willing Executioners is that there was no way Jews and Christians in Germany could live together in peace and harmony before the creation of Israel. Zionists fully agree. Indeed, Goldhagen’s Zionist assumptions are the only thing that provides Hitler’s Willing Executioners with what little internal coherence it possesses.
University of Pittsburgh
Alan Bennett’s waspish aside (LRB, 20 January) about the ‘children’ of Field Marshal Haig – he must mean Haig’s son, aged 81 – suggests the neglect of two principles usually dear to the liberal mind. One is that you do not visit the sins of the fathers on the children. The other is that at the bar of history, as at the Old Bailey, a man has a right to be judged by his peers. That is, by the standards of his own age. Perhaps the present Earl is as puzzled as I am about what is considered uniquely ‘brutish’ about his father compared with all other commanders of all nations in an age when heavy casualties were considered inevitable.
My own favourite instance of the phenomenon known as ‘mondegreen’ and described by Pat Hutley (Letters, 3 February) was provided by Stephen Fry on a radio programme. According to Fry, one of his friends repeatedly misheard the words ‘The girl with kaleidoscope eyes’, from ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, as ‘The girl with colitis goes by.’
How did Kate Croy get home?
Edith Wharton's account of Henry James in A Backward Glance makes it clear that the great man's unshakable conviction of his ability to find his way in the physical world was matched only by his incompetence in this respect. It is beautifully consistent that he should have muddled the Underground stations (Letters, 3 February). I wish I understood why it should be worth bothering about, but mention this with misgivings, recalling the success of John Sutherland's exercises in literary nit-picking.
John Sutherland demonstrates a clear and reasoned understanding of maritime matters in his discussion of Isabella Thackeray’s suicide attempt (LRB, 20 January). What a pity he made the error of giving a steamship speed in knots per hour. The term ‘knot’ expresses ship speed in nautical miles per hour.
Can you spot the reader?
Was the assumption in Wendy Doniger’s article on Harry Potter (LRB, 17 February) that those over 12 who read the LRB wouldn’t read the Harry Potter books? Or that those over 12 who read the LRB and the Harry Potter books are an emotionally grounded lot who wouldn’t be upset at having the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban divulged? Or maybe that those over 12 who read the LRB are such an advanced species that they would all have finished reading The Prisoner of Azkaban by now? Hoping she meant the last, I confess that I am about to start Chapter 10, ‘The Marauder’s Map’, and so, sadly, am a little less advanced than my fellow LRB/Harry Potter readers.