Exterminating Fantasiesrnby Frank Brownlowrn”[Socialism is] the combination of religious sentimentality, industrial insanity,rnand moral obliquity.”rn—F.J.C. HeamshawrnThe Lost Literature of Socialismrnby George WatsonrnCambridge: The Lutterworth Press;rn112 pp., £25.00rnSome years ago, George Watsonrnwrote two remarkable articles forrnChronicles describing how the Soviets,rnthose heroes of socialist resistance to fascism,rncarried on using German concentrationrncamps for their original purposesrnuntil the early 50’s (“Buchenwald’s SecondrnLife (July 1989) and “ForgottenrnVoices; How Buchenwald Lived On”rn(October 1992)). And only last January,rnChronicles printed a piece by him aboutrnthe hypocrisy of the British leftist rulingrnclass who send their children to expensivernprivate schools while doing their bestrnto abolish the same kind of educahon forrntheir poorer fellow coimtrymen. Norndoubt there is some cool postmodernistrnword to account for phenomena like thisrn(“dissonance” comes to mind): Certainlyrnthey pose —for non-leftists —a problemrnthat has so far resisted analysis, except inrnFrank Brownlow is the Gwen and AllenrnSmith Professor in English at MountrnHolyoke College. His most recent bookrnis on the life and writing of RobertrnSouthwell.rnthe form of jokes about people like TeddyrnKennedy and rude remarks about professorsrnin general. But the elitism of thernleft is a worldwide phenomenon. is anrnliCnglish friend said, on hearing the newsrnof the last British general election,rn”You’ve got to admit the English systemrnworks. . . . We’ve just had the first realrnworking-class prime minister in our histor’,rnand he’s been defeated by an upperclassrnpublic-school boy calling himself arnsocialist.”rnWliat do we make of these contradictionsrnbetween received opinion and apparentrnfact? Apparently, nothing. Itrnseems not to bother the shapers and retailersrnof received opinion that Fidel Castrorn—like several hundred other men ofrnhis kind —is not only one of the richestrnmen in the world, but one of the morernimpressive murderers of his own people.rnNor does it bother any of the usual dispensersrnof wisdom that, over the last 50rnyears or so, for people in the business ofrncultivadng and circulating ideas, agreeingrnwith Castro—or Marx, or Lenin, orrnMao, or any of their acolytes for that matterrn—has brought wealth, influence, andrna deeply rooted conviction of being onrnhistory’s right, as well as winning, side.rnTo offer one hny example: In a book publishedrnin 1990, Prof Stephen Greenblatt,rnmodestly famous as the founder of thernmovement known to academic literaryrncridcs as the “New Historicism,” cheerfullyrnacknowledged that he was, in essen-rnHals, a Marxist. By 1990, after the collapsernof the Soviet empire, no ordinaryrncitizen minimally acquainted with historyrncould have admitted such a thing withoutrnat least a twinge of shame and contrition.rnNonetheless, in the milieu inrnwhich Professor Greenblatt was pursuingrna career, Marxist socialism, despiternruined societies and millions dead, stillrnstood for science, truth, and social justice.rnGeorge Watson, one gathers, has devotedrnmany thoughtful hours to the problemrnof the crimes, privileges, and generalrnbehavior of the socialist elite. By readingrnthe forgotten, unread literature of the firstrnsocialists and their antagonists in the libraryrnof Lord Acton, now preserved atrnCambridge University, he has succeededrnin producing a stardingly simple explana-rnOCTOBER 1999/27rnrnrn