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The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War

The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War

Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 182
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    The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War
    Book Description:

    As more and more people are questioning the assumptions of present U.S. foreign policy they are reexamining the roots of these policies in the diplomacy of the Cold War. This scrutiny has made the origins of the Cold War the most controversial issue in American diplomatic history. Now a complete new dimension has been added to the debate by the charges leveled by Robert James Maddox inThe New Left and the Origins of the Cold War.

    How did the Cold War begin? Who or what was responsible? Could it have been avoided? Was it a temporary condition created by a combination of individual personalities and historical factors, or did it represent the clash of fundamentally irreconcilable political systems? The orthodox explanation of the Cold War is that it was "the brave and essential response of free men to Communist aggression." A number of scholars more or less identified with the New Left have challenged the conventional explanation by asserting that the U.S. bears the major responsibility for its onset. One group of revisionists sees this as the result of a failure of statesmanship on the part of Truman and the advisors around him, the other that the Cold War was the inevitable result of the American system as it developed over the years.

    Their conclusions have often been challenged in matters of interpretation. Robert Maddox, however, believes that an examination of themannerin which new interpretations are reached should precede dialogues over the ideas themselves. Consequently he has examined seven of the most prominent New Left works:The Tragedy of American Diplomacyby William Appleman Williams;The Cold War and Its Originsby D. F. Fleming;Atomic Diplomacyby Gar Alperovitz;The Free World Colossusby David Horowitz;The Politics of Warby Gabriel Kolko;Yaltaby Diane Shaver Clemens; andArchitects of Illusionby Lloyd C. Gardner. After detailed comparisons of the evidence they present with the sources from which it was taken, he concludes that these books are based on pervasive misuse of the source materials and fail to measure up to the most elementary standards of good scholarship.

    Originally published in 1974.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7291-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
    (pp. 3-12)

    In recent years the most controversial issue in American diplomatic history has been the origins of the Cold War. As more and more people have come to reexamine their assumptions about present U.S. foreign policies, they have called into question the roots of those policies. How did the Cold War begin? Who or what was responsible? Could it have been avoided? Was it a temporary condition created by a combination of individual personalities and historical factors, or did it represent the clash of fundamentally irreconcilable systems? Beginning earlier, but attracting wide attention since the mid-1960’s, a number of scholars more...

    (pp. 13-38)

    By far the most influential American revisionist interpreter of the origins of the Cold War has been William Appleman Williams. As early as 1952, a time when the political and intellectual climate was most uncongenial to such interpretations, Williams’sAmerican-Russian Relations, 1781–1947anticipated many of the themes later revisionists would amplify. Then, in 1959, his more sophisticatedThe Tragedy of American Diplomacyappeared, a book which a sympathetic scholar has called “perhaps the finest interpretive essay on American foreign policy ever written,” and which even an unfriendly reviewer conceded was “brilliant.”¹ In addition to his own writing, Williams inspired...

    (pp. 39-62)

    Pinning labels on historians is a hazardous enterprise at best, but in general the terms “New Left” and “revisionist” are synonymous when applied to interpretations of how the Cold War began. D. F. Fleming is an exception. He wrote his massive, two-volumeThe Cold War and Its Originsas an unreconstructed Wilsonian, not as a critic of the American system as such.¹ To Fleming, the train of events in 1945 which led to the Cold War closely paralleled what happened at the close of World War I. In the first instance, vindictive, backward-looking “isolationists” had sabotaged the structure of international...

    (pp. 63-78)

    In 1965 Gar Alperovitz publishedAtomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam, The Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American Confrontation with Soviet Power,a dramatically revisionist essay on the origins of the Cold War.¹ Since then his book has become a staple of “New Left” historiography; portions of it can be found in the most popular anthologies, and even those “orthodox” historians who do not accept its conclusions generally have treated the work as a scholarly enterprise.²Atomic Diplomacy,Christopher Lasch has proclaimed, “made it difficult for conscientious scholars any longer to avoid the challenge of revisionist interpretations.”³ That orthodox...

    (pp. 79-102)

    David Horowitz’sThe Free World Colossus: A Critique of American Foreign Policy in the Cold Warwas all but ignored by professional historians when it first appeared in 1965. Despite this initial lack of interest in it, the book has become a standard work in the growing body of Cold War revisionism, and its republication in 1971 attests to its sustained popularity.¹ In his Preface to the new edition, Horowitz tried to account for the delayed recognition of his contribution. Until 1965, he wrote, “Cold War revisionism—that is, accounts of postwar history significantly at variance with the State Department...

    (pp. 103-122)

    In recent years a growing number of revisionist historians have devoted their attention to World War II as well as its immediate aftermath. Of the works thus far produced, Gabriel Kolko’sThe Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943–1945is the most comprehensive.¹ Scholars of all persuasions greeted this book as a formidable assault on “orthodox” interpretations. Phrases such as “immense achievement,” “the most important and stimulating discussion of American policy during World War II to appear in more than a decade,” “provocative, intrepid,” and “a turning point in the historiography of the war and...

    (pp. 123-138)

    Diane Shaver Clemens’sYaltais one of the more recent contributions to revisionist historiography on the origins of the Cold War.¹ The book appears to have been written by two different people. The bulk of it, having to do with the Crimean conference itself, is a detailed, at times penetrating analysis of the negotiations carried on there. Her conclusions, though often debatable, are crisply argued and compel one’s attention. Her comparisons of American and Russian sources are especially noteworthy. In her final chapter, however, Clemens abandoned the role of historian for that of prosecutor. Charging that the United States systematically...

    (pp. 139-158)

    Lloyd C. Gardner’sArchitects of Illusion: Men and Ideas in American Foreign Policy, 1941–1949is the most sophisticated and convincing account of how the Cold War began yet written from the New Left point of view.¹ Wholly lacking in the stridency that characterized previous revisionist works, it is persuasively argued and extremely well-written. One reviewer, in a major historical journal, called it “the most important contribution to the continuing debate on the origins of the Cold War.”² It is also, one must add, a compendium of myths invented by earlier revisionist writers, and it contains as well an impressive...

    (pp. 159-164)

    InHistorians’ FallaciesDavid Hackett Fischer tells the apocryphal story of a scientist who published an astonishing generalization about the behavior of rats. A doubting colleague visited his laboratory and asked to see the records of the experiments upon which the generalization was based. “Here they are,” said the scientist, producing a notebook from his desk. And pointing to a cage in the corner, he added, “there’s the rat.” Fischer used the story to illustrate the danger involved in developing broad theories from isolated facts. But it offers another lesson as well. An examination of themannerin which new...

  13. INDEX
    (pp. 165-169)