Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Divergent Pictures

From To the Finland Station, by Edmund Wilson, writing on the Paris Commune:
It is a proof of the divergence of the tendencies of the socialist and the bourgeois pictures of history--and from now on there will be two distinct historical cultures running side by side without ever really fusing--that people who have been brought up on the conventional version of history and know all about the Robespierrist Terror during the Great French Revolution, should find it an unfamiliar fact that the Terror of the government of Thiers executed, imprisoned or exiled more people--the number has been estimated at a hundred thousand--in that one week of the suppression of the Commune than the revolutionary Terror of Robespierre had done in three years.
This divergent picture of history gets more pronounced all the time, and it seems to me that here in the United States we have at least three. The difference between a certain leftwing view of American history and that held by liberals or progressives--who, for example, all too often cling to the notion of the United States as well-intentioned actor on the world stage and fail to grasp the implications of the Progressive Era--is huge.

And yet the liberal view is accuracy itself when compared to the lunatic version of history carried around by the American Right.

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