Peace and Socialism

First, Diana Johnstone’s memoir is a classic, and will be read and quoted as long as we keep struggling for peace and justice. It is one of the great personal accounts of the anguished decline of our uncivilization, both a riveting eye-witness account of many of the horrors and perfidies, and a primer for students of history and all those struggling to not only dismantle the beast, but to prepare us for what follows it.

Read it and weep. And smile at the follies. And shout ‘Yes!’ as light bulbs flash in your mind.

Johnstone’s concern in Circle in the Darkness Is not so much ‘the lived experience of the transitory nature’ of things but ‘especially of the moral environment.’ She was blessed to to begin at the beginning of the end. At the empire’s undisputed zenith under FDR. And though not a card-carrying anything religious or left wing, she grabbed that blessing and stoked and nurtured it, creating her life, her jobs, a single mother raising a daughter in Minnesota and then France, seeing through the cant everywhere and using her only weapon, the pen, to expose it.

It is a frightening, unremittingly gruesome, Dantesque journey, but Johnstone’s steady moral compass sees us through and is uplifting.

February 22, 2020. The sun was brilliant, the slogans and posters striking, the round dance in the heart of Canada's financial district, the 6 concentric circles of the real Canadians, those who honour Canada's First Nations, made February 22, 2020 a historic occasion. The largest show of native solidarity in Canada's history, the day was celebrated across the country. Here are a few memories courtesy of my cell phone.
And here's my take on Presstv I'm on at 3:30.

The culmination of Toronto’s Global Climate Strike on Friday September 27, 2019 made history. 20,000 demonstrators flooded downtown Toronto with a dazzling array of colourful, often witty, some devastating posters, vowing to stay the course in the battle with corporate society gone mad in a race to destroy the planet.

Here are a few of my highlights (please forgive heads and banners cut off!). I was astounded at the creativity both in image and word. I managed to scribble down 80 (more or less). Not quite Mao's hundred, but i'm sure I missed at least 80 more.

Leading the march were #FridaysforFuture, S27 Coalition Demands and #Climatestrike

I finished Victor Grossman/ Stephen Wechsler’s* A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee (2019) with a sigh of regret. His memoirs of living in East Germany from his defection from the US army in 1951 to his witnessing the post-collapse ’freedom’ was as close to building socialism as I’ll ever get. What a great life he led, quiet, without the rat race, surrounded by socialists living socialistically.

Sure, after 1917, those of us born and bred in the West who wanted to help 'build socialism' could join the appropriate communist party, hurriedly set up by eager enthusiasts in the 1920s. But, as Grossman describes his own experience in the CPUSA in the late 1940s, this was like having your teeth pulled in some modern day Inferno.

For an all too brief 40 years, Germans had the rare chance to free themselves from their capitalist puppet-masters. Some, the best, braved the shrill cries of red, traitor, fool and choose socialism. Thousands of non-Germans did too, escaping death, prison, torture, like Grossman and Chilean socialist Michelle Bachelet, who returned to become president of Chile in 2006. Despite the nightmare conditions of isolation, sabotage, the heavy cultural hand of FRG media pouring lies and distortions, sugar-coated with Camels and nylons. We don’t make our history as we please, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

Though #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list for 13 weeks in 1952, beloved of William Buckley and Ronald Reagan ("As long as humanity speaks of virtue and dreams of freedom, the life and writings of Whittaker Chambers will ennoble and inspire."), despite being hailed as "one of the dozen or so indispensable books of the century" (George Will), Witness quickly disappeared from our collective consciousness. We remember its most famous victim, Alger Hiss, as a nice guy who was mercilessly hounded, the prelude to the McCarthy purges of the 1950s, a gruesome stain on US history.

Chambers was a talented writer, penning popular short stories in the New Masses in 1931, a full time editor and journalist at Time. His autobiography is full of details of both sides of the so-called treachery of the times, and Chambers’ own ruminations about love and death and the whole damn thing. It swings from over-the-top self-righteousness to self-abnegation, maniacal zeal as a communist, then as a spy, then as self-proclaimed Mr Right, and woe to anyone standing in the way of his mission to Save the World from Communism.

Like his closeted father, his uncle and brother, all of whom committed suicide, he was possessed by a demon, which drove him to an early grave, working 36-hour days at Time in the 1940s, first doing book reviews, then editing the foreign news page (till he had his second heart attack), then back to books. His fellow journalists resented his new-found conservative attacks on their liberal New Dealer mindset, seeing them all as commie dupes. He immortalized himself destroying the careers of ‘good guys’, Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White among many others, for their idealistic sins. He became a born-again Quaker, though, like fellow Quaker Richard Nixon, he still believed in ‘just wars’ against commies.


His worldview was apocalyptic, first through pink lenses, then puritan. Evil is the central problem of human life. The two opposing worldviews: man as flawed/ sinful (Christianity) vs man as good/ perfectable (enlightenment, liberalism -> communism).

Receive email notifications when new articles by Eric Walberg are posted.

Please enable the javascript to submit this form

Connect with Eric Walberg

Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here

'Connect with Eric on Facebook or Twitter'

Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

Purchase Eric Walberg's Books

Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here