Thank you for the opportunity to read The Naked Capitalist and Midgley’s review of it. I think his review is very perceptive, and there is very little I can add to it.
Midgley is correct in his basic statement that Skousen has simply taken extended passages from my book, in violation of copyright, and put them together in terms of his own assumptions and preconceptions to make a picture very different from my own. Skousen is apparently a political agitator; I am an historian. My book merely tried to give an account of what happened in the world in the early part of the 20th century. I did a good deal of independent research on it, much of it in places which did not attract Skousen’s attention at all (such as French economic history, and economic history in general). The book was published five years ago. On the whole, except perhaps for my section on Red China, it has stood the challenge of later information fairly well. The chapter on “Germany From Kaiser to Hitler” has just been re-published by Houghton Mifflin in a book entitled Why Hitler?
Midgley has pointed out the chief distortions of my materials in Skousen’s book. My picture of “Financial capitalism” said that it was prevalent in the period 1880-1933. Skousen quotes these dates in several places (p. 14), yet he insists that these organizations are still running everything. I said clearly that they were very powerful, but also said that they could not control the situation completely and were unable to prevent things they disliked, such as income and inheritance taxes. Moreover, I thought I had made it clear that the control of bankers was replaced by that of self-financing or government-financed corporations, many of them in the West and Southwest, in oil or in aero-space, arid I saw a quite different alignment of American politics since 1950 (pp. 1245-1247). Skousen implies that financial capitalism was not only omnipotent but immoral, both of which I denied.
Most notably, Skousen asks in his foreword: “Why do some of the richest people in the world support communism and socialism?” He says that I give the answer. I never anywhere said that financial capitalism or any of its subsidiaries sought to “support communism.” On the contrary, I said two things which Skousen consistently ignores: (1) that bankers sought to influence all shades of American political opinion across the board from Right to Left (p. 945); and (2) that Wall Street support of Communist groups was based on three grounds, one of which was to “have a final veto on their publicity and possibly on their actions, if they ever went radical” (p. 938). Morgan’s pipeline to the Liberals (the Straights) was no more liberal than his pipeline to the Communists (the Lamonts) was communist. Skousen simply assumes that anyone who tries to infiltrate the communists or contributes funds to them must be a sympathizer, but, as he must know, the FBI has been doing this for years, as the CIA has been doing it all across the political spectrum on American campuses in recent years.
I must say that I was surprised at the picture of myself which I found in Skousen. Midgley is correct in his statement that I never claimed to be an “insider” of the Eastern Establishment, as Skousen seems to believe I was; I simply said that I knew some of these people, and generally liked them, although I objected to some of their policies. It seems to me that Skousen is unable to understand their point of view, simply because he upholds what I would regard as “the Radical Right” view that “exclusive uniformity” is the basis on which our society should be based. My own view is that our whole Western tradition rests, despite frequent aberrations, on what I call “inclusive diversity.” These are the last two words of my book, and they are its chief message, which seems to me to be one of the chief aspects of the Christian way of life: that diverse peoples with diverse beliefs must live together and work together in a single community. It seems to me that the Wall Street power group sincerely held this belief; that is why they made Harvard and other institutions they influenced so “liberal.” They felt strongly that communists and the Soviet Union and other diverse peoples were in this world together and had to live and let live in order to co-exist. It seems to me that this is what Skousen cannot accept. His political position seems to me to be perilously close to the “exclusive uniformity” which I see in Nazism and in the Radical Right in this country. In fact, his position has echoes of the original Nazi 25 point program.
Midgley says that Skousen was triggered into writing The Naked Capitalist by my critical remarks on the Radical Right. I agree with him. If you will look at my book (pages 146-147), you will see that the Round Table Group, under the influence of Lionel Curtis, held basically Christian beliefs. These were sincere. But they bungled them greatly in application. Perhaps it was intellectual arrogance to expect to “build the Kingdom of God here upon this earth,” and they certainly failed disastrously. No one knows this better than I do. But I still cannot condemn them, and I cannot see that the American Radical Right has anything better to offer. I think the Round Table effort failed because they tried to work through government, rather than through each person’s individual effort in his private life.