QpiMONS & Vii:ws TnThe Age of CriticismnPaul Hollander: Political Pilgrims:nTravels of Western Intellectuals tonthe Soviet Union, China, and Cuba,n1928-1978; Oxford University Press;nNew York.nby Lee CongdonnWe live in the age of criticism.nCritics of literature, art, drama andnfilm enjoy enormous prestige, andnschools of criticism sometimes overshadownthe creative work itself. Innphilosophy the heirs of Descartes arenubiquitous; still determined to arrivenat indubitable truth, critical philosophersnare feverishly engaged in “unmasking”nideologies, exposing “contradictions”nand “deconstructing” systemsnand traditions. Above all, however, oursnis the age of social and political criticism.nNever before has Western societynbeen subjected to such searching criticalnscrutiny. No injustice, however small,nescapes notice; no hypocrisy remainsnundetected. Ambitious theoretical attemptsnto design a total critique ofnmodern life compete for the attentionsnof a large and receptive reading public.nAccording to the adepts of “totality,”nwhat were once thought to be the inevitablenconcomitants of human ornerinessnare, on closer inspection, discoverednto be integral elements of an allpervasivensystem so monstrous and insidiousnthat its victims are oftennunaware of their status. “False consciousness”nblinds them to the truth.nAt a much lower level of sophistication,narmies of “investigative reporters” (or,nas they were once called, muckrakers)nscurry about hoping to uncover corruptionnor questionable dealings in highnplaces. In the depressing event of a slownnews day, they are not averse to inventingna scandal. (For especially imagina-nDr. Congdon is currently a fellow atnThe Institute for Advanced Study atnPrinceton University.n6 MMMMMiiiiiinChronicles of Culturentive efforts, one might even be awardedna Pulitzer Prize.) Still, the more articulatenintellectuals set the tone, resolvednas they are never to be taken in, particularlynby their own government. Soncommonplace have these observationsnbecome that intellectuals are often definednwith reference to their criticalndisposition.nIn his new and important book, PaulnHollander challenges the notion thatnWestern intellectuals can be understoodnas those who invariably assume ancritical, skeptical stance. He does notndeny, of course, that they stand in annadversary relationship to their own societies;nquite the contrary. What he suggestsninstead is that their critical attitudenis subject to selective and predictablensuspension. In support of thisncontention, he has documented innumerableninstances of gullibility or, if onenprefers, the will to believe. More spencifically, he has focused on the willingnessnof Western intellectuals to acceptnat face value the far-reaching claimsnmade by totalitarian states—almost allnof which are in the process of “buildingnsocialism.” He begins with the 1930’s,nsurveying Western apologies for thenSoviet Union. In the darkest days ofnStalin’s tyranny, many intellectuals—nincluding such luminaries as J. D.nBernal, Edmund Wilson, John Deweynand Harold Laski—contrived to see onlyna new and incalculably greater world.nnna land of social justice and equality, ofndedication and purpose, of self-sacrificenand community. In the home of socialism,nprisons were humane and the GulagnArchipelago nonexistent. As late asn1944 Henry Wallace, who fancied himselfnto be of Presidential timber, wasnmoved to sing the praises of Magadannin that vast, desolate region callednKolyma. Happily for him, he did notnlive to witness the appearance of twonrevelatory indictments: Robert Conquest’snpainstaking Kolyma: The ArcticnDeath Camps (1978) and Varlam Shalamov’snchilling Kolyma Tales (1980).nU.S. Ambassador Joseph E. Davies, anothernmonument to ingenuousness, wasndismayed by the doubts a handful ofnskeptics expressed concerning the authenticitynof the Purge Trials. “To assumenthat this proceeding [the Pyatakov-nRadek trial] was invented and stagedn.. . would be to presuppose the creativengenius of Shakespeare and the genius ofnBelasco in stage production.” And asnfor the Man of Steel himself, he wasnvariously and affectionately describednas democratic, modest, gentle andnreserved.nJjy the 1960’s, enthusiasm for thenSoviet Union had largely, if not completely,ndissipated. A new generation ofnradicals was coming of age, its membersnin search of a new, less-problematicnUtopia. Among several candidates, Cuba,nNorth Vietnam and China appeared tonoffer the most promise. With respect tonthese dictatorships, Hollander has assemblednan equally revealing collectionnof effusions from the 1960’s and 1970’s.nOnce more his principals are no-nonsensensocial critics like the late, unlamentednJean Paul Sartre, who assuresnus that Fidel Castro “can’t stand injustice.”nAccording to Julius Lester, thenblack American writer, “Fidel is Cuba,nCuba is Fidel,” a slogan that could onlynhave been penned by someone blissfullynunaware of Rudolf Hess’s Party Dayn