[Marxism] He should rot in hell

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Sep 18 13:47:52 MDT 2009

Washington Post
Friday, September 18, 2009 3:25 PM
Irving Kristol, Architect of Neoconservatism, Dies at 89

By Adam Bernstein

Irving Kristol, 89, a forceful essayist, editor and university professor 
who became the leading architect of neoconservatism, which he called a 
political and intellectual movement for disaffected ex-liberals like 
himself who had been "mugged by reality," died Friday at the Capital 
Hospice in Arlington.

He spent much of his career in New York but had for the last two decades 
lived at the Watergate apartments in the District. He died of 
complications from lung cancer, said his son, William Kristol, the 
founder and editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine.

The elder Kristol founded and edited such magazines such Encounter and 
the Public Interest that aimed at an elite audience of political, social 
and cultural tastemakers. In addition to his professorship at New York 
University, he advanced his ideas through monthly opinion pieces in the 
Wall Street Journal and a fellowship at the American Enterprise 
Institute think tank. He was for many years an editor at Basic Books, a 
small but distinguished publisher of social science and philosophy.

Karl Rove, a Republican strategist who advised former president George 
W. Bush, called Mr. Kristol an "intellectual entrepreneur who helped 
energize several generations of public policy thinkers."

Through his editing, writing and speaking, Mr. Kristol "made it a moral 
imperative to rouse conservatism from mainstream Chamber of Commerce 
boosterism to a deep immersion in ideas," Rove said. He added that Mr. 
Kristol helped create a synthesis of Cold War Democrats and Reagan White 
House anticommunist hawks, which proved decisive in influencing foreign 
and military policy in the 1980s.

Mr. Kristol and his historian wife, Gertrude Himmelfarb, along with a 
group of sociologists, historians and academics including Norman 
Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer, Richard Pipes and for a while Daniel P. 
Moynihan, emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s as prominent critics of 
welfare programs, tax policy, moral relativism and countercultural 
social upheavals they felt were contributing to America's cultural and 
social decay.

His father was an immigrant garment worker from Eastern Europe, and Mr. 
Kristol grew up under humble circumstances that shaped his beliefs. 
"Those who have been raised in poor neighborhoods -- the Daniel Patrick 
Moynihans, Edward Banfields, Nathan Glazers -- tend to be tough-minded 
about slums and their inhabitants," he told the New York Times.

Middle-class sociologists, he said, "are certain that a juvenile 
delinquent from a welfare family is a far more interesting figure -- 
with a greater potentiality for redeeming not only himself but all of us 
-- than an ordinary, law-abiding and conforming youngster who is from 
the very same household."

Mr. Kristol had grown dismayed by the fragmentation of the Democratic 
Party over the war in Southeast Asia and remained a vigorous defender of 
a strong military to combat communist threats. He championed a steady 
focus on economic growth that gives "modern democracies their legitimacy 
and durability" but cautioned against running deficits. He popularized 
supply-side economics, long considered a fringe belief that tax cuts 
would lead to widespread financial prosperity. Supply side became a 
leading conservative cause in the 1980s and influenced the Reagan White 
House tax policy.

Mr. Kristol and many of his colleagues were dubbed neoconservatives, a 
term introduced by social critic Michael Harrington to describe the 
rightward turn of onetime liberals such as Mr. Kristol, whose 
extraordinary political odyssey had taken him from Depression-era 
socialist to anticommunist Cold Warrior and Vietnam War hawk.

While Harrington's use of neoconservative was not intended as a 
compliment, Mr. Kristol embraced the term and became its widely accepted 
godfather. A cover story on Mr. Kristol in Esquire magazine in 1979 
helped legitimize him as the leader of a full-fledged movement, even as 
he played down the idea that such a formal faction existed.

"We are not a movement," he once said. "There has never been a meeting 
of neoconservatives." He called it an "intellectual current" that came 
to prominence after a "gradual evolution."

Mr. Kristol found his public profile raised greatly by the Reagan 
presidency, when many neoconservatives, such as Paul Wolfowitz, William 
Bennett, Richard Perle and Elliott Abrams, began to occupy 
administration jobs and found themselves in positions of influence over 
domestic, diplomatic and defense policy. Neoconservatism also formed the 
core beliefs of many advisers to George W. Bush, who gave Mr. Kristol 
the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, 
for helping set "the intellectual groundwork for the renaissance of 
conservative ideas in the last half of the 20th century."

Cultural and intellectual historian Paul S. Boyer of the University of 
Wisconsin called Mr. Kristol "one of those who helped make conservatism 
intellectually respectable" in the 1960s when New Deal liberalism was 
still a dominant political philosophy. Conservatives, Boyer said, had 
long been marginalized as backward-thinking scolds who denounced social 
policies created by the central government.

In the late 1960s, Mr. Kristol helped form a new conservative philosophy 
that advocated moderation against what he viewed as the excesses of the 
far right and far left. He wrote that "the historical task and political 
purpose of neoconservatism would seem to be this: to convert the 
Republican party, and American conservatism in general, against their 
respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to 
governing a modern democracy. . . . It is hopeful, not lugubrious; 
forward-looking, not nostalgic; and its general tone is cheerful, not 
grim or dyspeptic."

Jacob Heilbrunn, author of "They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the 
Neocons," said Mr. Kristol's thinking "played a big role in reshaping 
the Republican Party."

"He told traditional conservatives you need to accept New Deal and 
accept the achievements of liberalism," Heilbrunn said. "You don't try 
to roll it back but stop it from expanding further. He and other 
neoconservatives of his generation, including Norman Podhoretz, had a 
galvanizing effect on the Republican Party, and were viewed as heretics 
and ostracized by a mainstream intellectual establishment that was 
overwhelmingly liberal. Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz come out of 
that radical and liberal tradition and they were seen as apostates."

Mr. Kristol's intellectual transformation began in the late 1940s, when 
he heard political philosopher Leo Strauss argue against a utopian view 
of government that could solve all societal problems. Mr. Kristol said 
he did not think it was up to the government to "shape society according 
to some design of perfection."

Mr. Kristol made a distinction between such programs as Social Security 
and Medicare, which collectively benefited society, and specific 
programs to help the poor that he felt inflamed class resentment. He 
said that many Great Society programs of the 1960s came too close to a 
form of income redistribution anathema to capitalism. He also denounced 
public-interest lawyers and environmentalists as malevolent forces in 
American society who contribute nothing economically but want to expand 
the size of government.

"Compassion organized into a political movement is a very dangerous 
thing and, I think, a wicked thing," he once wrote. "If you want to be 
compassionate, go out and be compassionate to people. If you want to 
give people money, give people money. If you want to work with poor 
people, go out and work with poor people. I have great respect for 
people who do that. But when people start becoming bureaucrats of 
compassion and start making careers out of compassion -- whether 
political, journalistic or public entertainment careers -- then I must 
say I suspect their good faith."

Irving William Kristol was born Jan. 22, 1920, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and 
attended City College of New York because of its free tuition. His 
classmates at a school dubbed a "Jewish proletarian Harvard" included 
many who would become the leading intellectuals of their generation, 
including sociologists Daniel Bell and Glazer, and literary critic 
Irving Howe.

They were featured in Joseph Dorman's 1998 acclaimed documentary 
"Arguing the World," which detailed their ideological and personal 
growth over the decades.

Howe, who remained a social democrat and later became an adversary of 
Mr. Kristol, once said he "recruited" Mr. Kristol to the Young People's 
Socialist League. Mr. Kristol allied himself with an anti-Stalinist wing 
of the group. "It was obvious that he was a tyrant, a butcher, a liar," 
he said of Stalin. He balked, however, at the radical left's 
restrictions on what he could and could not read. After graduating in 
1940, he was a machinists' apprentice at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during 
World War II before serving in the Army in Europe. By the end of the 
war, he began to shy away from what he saw as the parochialism of "the 
New York Jewish view of the world."

"Joining a radical movement when one is young is very much like falling 
in love when one is young," he wrote years later. "The girl may turn out 
to be rotten, but the experience of love is so valuable that it can 
never be entirely undone by the ultimate disenchantment."

In 1942, he married Gertrude Himmelfarb, whom he met at a Socialist 
League meeting. She survives, along with their two children, William 
Kristol of McLean and Elizabeth Nelson of Charlottesville; and five 

After World War II, Mr. Kristol became managing editor of Commentary 
magazine and helped shape its anti-Communist editorial view. He also 
wrote one of his most provocative essays, "Civil Liberties, 1952 -- a 
Study in Confusion," that said liberals were wrong to stand in the way 
of every internal security hearing or effort by Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy 
(R-Wis.) to find Communist subversion in government and Hollywood.

"For there is one thing that the American people know about Senator 
McCarthy; he, like them, is unequivocally anti-Communist," he wrote. 
"About the spokesmen for American liberalism, they feel they know no 
such thing."

He said he went to London to escape the uproar over his piece, and while 
there helped start the magazine Encounter with poet Stephen Spender in 
1952. Mr. Kristol remained with the magazine for five years and it 
attracted cultural and political analysis by such contributors as Nancy 
Mitford, Albert Camus, George F. Kennan, Isaiah Berlin and Vladimir 
Nabokov. Once called England's "leading highbrow magazine," Encounter 
derived its influence not from its circulation -- which peaked at about 
40,000 in the 1960s -- but from its high-profile readership. It was 
publicly revealed years after Mr. Kristol stepped down from the masthead 
that the CIA helped financially sustain Encounter.

He told the Times he would not have taken the job if he had known about 
he CIA's underwriting, but he was not alarmed by the revelation. "In 
those years,'' he said, "the Russians were carrying on a tremendous 
campaign against America, charging germ warfare and much else. There was 
certainly a case for the American Government responding."

Mr. Kristol had a brief stint editing the Reporter magazine in New York 
in the late 1950s, then joined Basic Books and New York University, 
where he was for many years the Henry R. Luce professor of urban values.

In 1965, during the foment of the Vietnam War and the rise of the 
counterculture movement, Mr. Kristol and his old classmate Bell started 
the Public Interest. Bell left in the early 1970s after a series of 
ideological clashes that culminated in Mr. Kristol's support for Richard 
Nixon while Bell supported the presidential candidacy of George 
McGovern. Bell was succeeded as co-editor by Glazer, who had been among 
its roster of neoconservative contributors. Nixon appointed Mr. Kristol 
to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Mr. Kristol remained associated with the Public Interest until it folded 
in 2005, and also found time to start the National Interest foreign 
policy journal in 1985. His books included "Two Cheers for Capitalism" 
(1978) and "Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea" (1995). Mr. 
Kristol had by that time become a gray eminence of conservatism with 
many of his ideas having been adopted by mainstream Republican 
strategists and policy makers.

One of his most prescient ideas was his argument that liberals were 
wrong to assert the Republican Party needed to distance itself from the 
"religious right." To Mr. Kristol, "religious conservatives are already 
too numerous to be shunted aside, and their numbers are growing, as is 
their influence. They are going to be the very core of an emerging 
American conservatism."

Despite his influence in public life, he kept a low profile. "People 
like Arthur Schlesinger go to 'in' restaurants, hang around with 
beautiful people," he once told The Washington Post with a shrug. "I 
never do that. I stay home and watch TV. I like Westerns and cop shows. 
Nothing solemn or instructional."

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