He’s All Dwight

Dwight Macdonald
Dwight Macdonald; drawing by David Levine

When I was asked to write a brief introduction to the reprint edition of Politics I was tempted to yield to the rather pleasant melancholy of “once upon a time” and to indulge in the nostalgic contemplation that seems to be the appropriate mood for all recollection. Now that I have carefully reread the forty-two issues which appeared from 1944 to 1949—more carefully, I am sure, than I read them more than twenty years ago—this mood has vanished for the simple reason that so many of its articles, comments, and factual reports read as though they were written today or yesterday or yesteryear, except that the concerns and perplexities of a little magazine with a peak circulation of not much more than 5,000 have become the daily bread of newspapers and periodicals with mass circulation. For the issues, far from being outdated, let alone resolved, by the enormous changes in our everyday world, have only increased in urgency.

This is true for draft card burning, black power (then called “Negroism”), and mass culture; for the military and political futility of “massacre by bombing”; for the military-industrial complex (a “permanent War Economy” was proposed in January, 1944 by Charles E. Wilson, then head of the War Production Board, and the atomic bomb was hailed by Harry Truman as “the greatest achievement of the combined efforts of science, industry, labor and the military in all history”); for the breakdown of democratic processes in the democracies (England and the United States); and it is, of course, true for the cold war, which, however, in its beginning “reflected a genuine horror at Russia’s record in Europe” (George Woodcock) and was not merely the result of big-power politics. It is especially true for issues that lay dormant for long years, such as the question of responsibility for the horror of Nazi death camps, which came to the fore only much later, in the late Fifties, with the new series of war crime trials that culminated in the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem; or for the restoration of the status quo in Europe after the liberation from Nazi occupation. The series of articles on Greece, beginning in January, 1945, and running through the whole year, is still an excellent introduction to what happened in that country in 1967. For it seems that only now are we beginning to pay the full price for the annihilation of all European underground movements against fascism and Nazism, an annihilation which succeeded because it was one of the very few items on which the Allied powers wholeheartedly agreed.

The magazine followed with close and moving attention the half-forgotten tragedy of Warsaw, when for two months Polish resistance fighters rose up against the German Wehrmacht only to be betrayed by the Red Army and finally massacred by the Nazis. This episode was a condition for Soviet rule in East Europe, in much the same…

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