Trotskyism and Neoconservatives: No Link

Bill King, who has a BA in History and Sociology from Simon Fraser University and is a former trader for one of Canada's major banks; his articles have appeared at and In enterstageright (March 22, 2004):

In one of the first in-depth studies written about neoconservatism in the 1970s, The Neoconservatives: The Men Who Are Changing America's Politics (1978), Peter Steinfels observed that it is impossible to understand the neoconservatives without understanding their history. Yet it is precisely the history of"the neocons" that is today being systematically distorted by paleoconservatives through the polemical campaign they are waging against leading neoconservative intellectuals and the foreign policy of the Bush administration.

As part of the two-decade old civil war within intellectual conservatism, paleoconservatives have forcefully asserted that neoconservatism is a descendant of American Trotskyism, and that neoconservatives continue to be influenced by the ideas of the exiled Soviet revolutionary in their view of foreign policy. In fact, in the period since the attacks of 9/11 the isolationist paleocons have made the"Trotskyist neocon" assertion one of their main weapons in the ongoing feud. Web sites such as The Center for Libertarian Studies' and , and magazines such as Pat Buchanan's American Conservative and the Rockford Institute's Chronicles , have all featured articles focusing on the supposed link between the neocons and Leon Trotsky. The most extreme paleocons, who flirt dangerously with outright anti-Semitism, claim not only that neoconservatism is derivative of Trotskyism but that a" cabal of Jewish neocons" is manipulating US foreign policy and actually implementing Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution from the White House.

While paleoconservatives usually have little impact outside of intellectual circles, their"Trotskyist neocon" assertion has rapidly entered mainstream political discussion. To a large degree this is due to the efforts of anti-neocon liberal pundits, such as Michael Lind and William Pfaff, who popularized the neoconservative-as-Trotskyist theme both before and during the initial ground war in Iraq. The assertion is now so widely accepted that a writer as far removed from paleoconservatism (or anti-neocon liberalism) as Vanity Fair's Sam Tanenhaus can claim that,"…a belated species of Trotskyism has at last established itself in the White House." [ 1 ] Ostensibly serious discussions of neoconservative"Trotskyism" have also appeared in mainstream newspapers throughout the world, from Canada's National Post to Hong Kong's Asia Times Online . [ 2 ] And even as respected a foreign policy commentator as Dimitri K. Simes, co-publisher of The National Interest , has joined the"Trotskyist neocon" chorus, writing recently in Foreign Affairs that the neoconservatives' belief in"permanent worldwide revolution" owes more to the founder of the Bolshevik Red Army than to"America's forefathers". [ 3 ]

But despite its current popularity, the"Trotskyist neocon" assertion contributes nothing to our understanding of the origins, or nature, of neoconservatism. In fact quite the opposite. While it is based on elements of truth, the assertion for the most part consists of exaggerations, misrepresentations, and even outright falsifications whose end result is a thoroughly distorted view of the history of neoconservatism. ...

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