A Challenge to Paul Buhle
New Criterion we examined examples of Paul Buhle's political extremism (among them calling Harry Truman America's Stalin) and questioned the accuracy of Buhle's charge, made in the May 2000 OAH Newsletter, that "the highly prestigious scholarly series, 'Communism in American Life,' was secretly planned by the board of the American Committee for Cultural Freedom." Not only did Buhle's cited source for that charge not support it, it directly contradicted his claim, noting that the ACCF tried but failed to influence selection of authors for the book series.
We also questioned the accuracy of his assertions in the Encyclopedia of the American Left -- made with no supporting evidence-- that American Communist assistance to Soviet espionage was dwarfed by "the largest incident of illegal activity: the shipment of arms and assorted war materials to the new state of Israel" and that "among those Americans wounded or killed in battles protecting Israeli gains from Arabs, Communists played a prominent role." We noted that such assertions were startling and that we had asked Buhle what his sources were. His letter asserts "had Klehr and Haynes done their homework in the Daily Worker files, they would have found evidence aplenty." But we asked Buhle for his sources -- and he sent us on a wild goose chase to an oral history interview that did not support his argument. When we e-mailed him that we could not find support for his claim, he never responded. The obligation to inform other scholars about one's sources ought to have led Buhle to tell us that he was relying on the Daily Worker but he did not.
If, that is, he actually has evidence from the Daily Worker. His letter provides no citations of what he asserts supports his claim -- only that he looks "forward to a full discussion in some neutral venue." We have our doubts that Communists published in the Daily Worker details of what Buhle calls "the largest incident of illegal activity" by the CPUSA. Usually organizations conceal illegal activities rather than writing about them in a daily newspaper. Moreover, as we reported in our article, a number of authorities derided his claim that American Communists were prominent among those killed in the Israeli War of Independence. Officers of American Veterans of Israel labeled it "absolutely false." The former Daily Worker correspondent in Palestine in 1947-1948 dismissed the claim as without merit. Israeli historians had never seen any evidence for the assertion. Editors at Jewish Currents, long associated with Communist causes before becoming an independent left-wing Jewish magazine, recalled no such individuals. If Buhle had such evidence, why did he not cite it in his encyclopedia entry or tell us where it was when we inquired? If he has evidence to support his claim that "among those Americans wounded or killed in battles protecting Israeli gains from Arabs, Communists played a prominent role" we would be delighted to see him post it on History News Network and explain why he refused to provide it when we asked last year.
But we suspect that his evidence either does not exist or does not show what he asserted. We await the information that will convince us, the organization representing Americans who fought on behalf of Israel, old leftists and historians of Israeli history that we have all been wrong and Paul Buhle, having discovered such startling new evidence, is finally prepared to reveal it.
Editor's Note In December HNN sent Mr. Buhle a copy of this article and asked him if he would like to respond. He declined:"My colleagues and friends in the profession have urged me to treat this matter in a scholarly journal, where evidence can be assessed by experts of the field. I look forward to an exchange in that venue." When informed of Buhle's decision, Klehr and Haynes sent us the following email:
We are not surprised that Paul Buhle has refused once again to cite the sources for his claim that American Communists were prominent among those killed defending the new state of Israel in 1948. He gave no documentation for the claim when he first made it in the Encyclopedia of the American Left. When we asked him for his sources, he gave us an oral history interview that did not support it. After we wrote an article in the New Criterion exposing his falsehood, he chose not to respond. In a recent letter to the editor of the OAH Newsletter, he chastised us for not looking in easily accessible Daily Worker files to find the source. Now, in response to our challenge to him, he has chosen not to cite a single article in the Daily Worker. (We have not requested anything complicated or unusual: only the minimal requirement of historical scholarship, citable documentation.) Instead of denigrating historians who uncover material that upsets his pet ideological fantasies, he might try writing history.
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marilyn baker - 11/30/2003
I know this is perhaps a bit off topic. But I am trying to find out the real name and particulars of a cartoonist by the name of Lola. He/she was reproduced in an article by Paul Buhle in Radical History Review, Spring 1980. I have only just begun this search but any speeding up of the process would be much appreciated.
He/she was published in Groysser Kundes, 1913 and 1919 according to Buhle.
Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
Van L. Hayhow - 11/19/2003
Since posting this message some time ago, I have read one of Klehr and Haynes books on the American communist party. It seemed extremely well documented. I have seen nothing which disputes the accuracy of that book. This gives further support to the position of Klehr. So I ask again, where is Paul Buhle?
Simona Pipko - 5/21/2003
I am a former Soviet lawyer, who recently published a book entitled "Baltic Winds: Testimony of a Soviet Attorney." As our political views coincide completely, I would dare to ask you to write a book review.
With hope and best wishes,
Orson Olson - 2/25/2003
Jim Aune writes:
"But why should we trust Klehr, since he's publishing in a journal heavily funded by right-wing foundations, and devoted to spreading the myth that American universities are in the grip of left-wing radicals?"
SO--guilt by association should trump a dispute over facts?
HELL NO, Mr. Aune--have you no shame?
Real scholars respect facts; they don't shoot the messenger because they loath the company he keeps.
Van L. Hayhow - 1/29/2003
I don't know either of these protagonists. If Buhle has a simple answer he can post it here or put in a link to his rebuttel. Many others on this site have done the same. I don't know if we should trust Klehr, but nothing has been posted to show he is wrong. Again, where is Buhle?
Jim Aune - 1/25/2003
But why should we trust Klehr, since he's publishing in a journal heavily funded by right-wing foundations, and devoted to spreading the myth that American universities are in the grip of left-wing radicals? (The New Criterion's defense of "our culture" of course never mentions the influence of schools of business on the undergraduate mind.)
Van L. Hayhow - 1/19/2003
I think this post raises serious issues that should be responded to. Where is Paul Buhle?
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