by Espresso Stalinist
Grover Furr is an American professor and author. He has taught at Montclair State University in New Jersey for over four decades, and has written essays, articles and books on Soviet history in both Russian and English. Though his body of work covers a wide variety of topics, his most famous writings study the period of Soviet history under Joseph Stalin, particularly regarding controversies around the Moscow Trials, the Katyn “massacre,” the events in Poland in 1939, the murder of Sergei Kirov, the Ukrainian famine and Khrushchev’s “secret speech.” Furr’s research on the history of communism, Soviet history and the historical falsifications told against socialism is some of the most remarkable, ground-breaking and enlightening in the world. He uses a very precise and admirable document-based approach to research that is exceedingly valuable and hard to find elsewhere.
This approach, unsurprisingly, has won him more than a fair share of enemies and critics, not only on the right but the left as well. Those on the left who attack Grover Furr are the most peculiar of his critics. Professor Furr is someone that sets about examining historical allegations used to attack socialism, and in his published books and articles finds and publishes objective documentary and archival proof that it is not true, or at least deceptive. In other words, he spends a great deal of time and effort countering bourgeois propaganda about Marxism-Leninism. What has been their response? To attack him. One would think someone who speaks Russian, has translated Russian documents and has access to the archives would be of interest to those looking to learn about the history of socialism. One would further think, that a sincere person who considers themselves a socialist or a Marxist would thank Grover Furr for finding proof that a large portion of what we are told about Stalin and the U.S.S.R. are lies.
We live in an age where most Marxist or progressive academics who dare to challenge the status quo are fired, sidelined, driven out of academia or simply deemed irrelevant. Only a fool would pretend that academic repression isn’t a reality. Yet, when it comes to the brave, bold and challenging works Furr has published, critics universally dismiss them without reviewing the evidence he presents. In discussions, I have never heard them say, “No Professor Furr, I disagree with your thesis statement, and wish to make a counter-thesis. Here are my facts, arguments and sources backing it up.” Instead, what I hear over and over is his work dismissed as “absurd,” “insane,” or Furr himself labeled as a “crackpot” or “Stalinist.” There is almost always an attempt to link his methods of research to anti-Semites and fascists, or even outright call him a “Holocaust denier,” implicitly comparing Soviet history with Nazi Germany.
Why do his critics almost universally behave in this manner? The answer is simply: because they can’t refute anything he says.
For all Furr’s research has contributed to our understanding of Soviet history and to refuting the lies told about life in socialist countries, his critics and opponents have not offered any meaningful refutation of his works or even engaged with the evidence contained therein. When pressed to sum up his theses, the evidence he presents to support them, and then to offer counter-evidence and refutations of their own, silence fills the space. Very few, if any of his critics are capable of defining what specific points of his works they disagree with or can prove false. Often they assert things that are already addressed in the article in question. The opponents of Furr’s research, whatever their ideological differences may be, all share one common thread that over time is rendered impossible to miss. For all their ranting and raving, not a single one directly challenges him on the sources or attempts to refute his argument. There is a concrete reason for this – opposition to Furr’s research comes from knee-jerk anti-communism.
The pseudo-left’s endless venom towards Furr’s work is entirely (no, not partially, or even mostly, but from what I have seen, entirely) devoid of counter-criticism, counter-evidence, contrasting research or engagement in any way, shape or form with Furr’s work. At the present time, there are no scholarly refutations of Grover Furr’s work. Hostile reviews, on the other hand, are plentiful. Nor is there any lack of critics who chant “give us more evidence,” demanding a larger amount of evidence to their satisfaction – which of course, is a level of evidence that will never exist, no matter how much of it there is. Another consistent pattern with his critics is that they assume that an author must be able to prove the meaning of their research to the satisfaction of a hostile or skeptical critic in order to be considered valid. If the author fails to accomplish this task, it proves that he or she doesn’t understand what it means, and furthermore their failure to do so is definitive proof that the entirety of the research is consequently meaningless.
The debate on Grover Furr is always about form – the person, his writing style, his alleged motives, his allege dishonesty or lack of qualifications, and never about content – the evidence presented, what it shows, and whether it’s true or not. The infantile pseudo-left responds to science with provocation, facts with hostility, reason with insults, ideological questions with personal attacks, and the deep questions posed by Furr’s work with shallow criticisms. This is not to say that anyone who has criticisms of Furr’s work is automatically opposed to socialism. Far from it – criticism is an essential part of being a Marxist-Leninist. But by and large the criticisms of Grover Furr are not made from a principled standpoint.
“No one takes Grover Furr seriously” is the refrain. Yet, John Arch Getty, Robert Thurston, Lars Lih and many others have praised Furr’s work while disagreeing with his politics. One does not have to completely share Furr’s worldview to find a great deal of value in his essays, articles and books. In fact, any serious researcher, Marxist or not, can learn a great deal from the evidence he gathers to back up his viewpoints, evidence that is almost never studiously read or studied by those who violently denounce it. If the idea that Furr is not a serious academic is a legitimate position to take, then there should be criticisms of his scholarship. Perhaps not surprisingly, I haven’t heard a single argument as to why Grover Furr is an unacceptable source of information other than his opinions aren’t popular. If his arguments themselves cannot be addressed, then his critics have no right to reject the citing of his work.
Much is made of Furr’s “academic credentials,” or alleged lack thereof, to write about the subjects he chooses. He is an English professor they say, and therefore cannot be considered an authority on history. These noble knights dedicated to the defense of “credible” capitalist academia you see, must speak out against Furr. Yet, these same people have no problem with the works of Noam Chomsky, a linguist who writes an endless parade of books on a wide variety of subjects outside of his field, such as criticizing U.S. foreign policy, economy, science, immigration and the Cold War. Anyone who is familiar with Chomsky’s work knows his views are fairly traditional anarchism combined with Enlightenment-era classical liberalism. They are not friendly to socialism, and certainly no threat to anyone in the ruling class. Speaking out against imperialism in of itself is not a particularly radical act, especially when you’re not criticizing it from a Marxist perspective. Many far-rightists and libertarians speak out against U.S. foreign policy as well. Why the double standard? What is the difference between Furr and Chomsky? Quite simple, really. Chomsky is the poster boy of left anti-communism, of a “safe” and defanged leftism deprived of anything not acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile, Furr’s research attempts to refute popular anti-communist propaganda instead of accepting it. The pseudo-left would rather back the petty-bourgeois cause than the proletarian one, because they are “radicals” stuck in that method of thinking.
It is is absolutely inarguable that the modern view of the history of socialism has been shaped by those who despise it, and yet phony leftists have no trouble upholding the most vile smears against Soviet, Eastern European and Chinese history. In an atmosphere where the highly dubious works of Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes are upheld as a dogma and treated as material to be seriously engaged with or even refuted, Furr’s work is singled out by both reactionaries and the pseudo-left for outright dismissal and slander.
When denial is not enough, general charges are invented, such as the allegation his presentations of history are “conspiracy theories.” This has also been used to describe the works of other Marxist-Leninist scholars, such as William Bland. I stress again that until there are refutations, one cannot accept these charges. After all, with all the history of capitalist plots we’ve learned, can one seriously accept this level of argumentation? Are the facts true, or not? Blanket cries of “Stalinist” directed against Furr mean nothing. If critics have counter-evidence, then let them step forward and present it. This should not be an unreasonable demand for a Marxist – or for anyone, really.
When Furr speaks of opposition conspiracies within the Soviet Union, or of holes and outright falsifications in the official story of Katyn, these are treated with the utmost skepticism. The idea that the defendants of the Moscow Trials may have actually been involved in terrorist conspiracies to overthrow the Soviet government and assassinate officials is seen as nonsense. Yet, when we are presented with stories of a heinous conspiracy involving J.V. Stalin and a substantial number of other high officials to themselves assassinate Zinoviev, Bukharin and a number of others through judicial means, then this “conspiracy theory” is adopted as the default correct position. It follows that it is easier to go along with the dominant narrative – that is, that of the bourgeoisie – regarding the history of socialism than it is to objectively challenge these ideas.
With the fake left, the formula could not be more simple: U.S. Cold War propaganda is upheld, pro-communist scholarly research is not. Every charge against the socialist countries is true; every defense of socialism is akin to Holocaust denial. Those who would agree, at least in words, that the history of the Soviet Union is falsified by capitalist scholars and reactionaries, and that socialist leaders are routinely subjected to outright slander are declared “insane,” their research or conclusions “absurd,” and derided as “crackpots” or “Stalinists.” The critics do not review the evidence or engage with the thesis; they merely dismiss it. They do not present counter-evidence; they merely assert it. Furr’s fake “left” opponents claim that Furr is “not credible scholarship” only because they don’t agree with it. Furr is only a “crackpot” because they don’t like what he has to say. In their view, scholarly research that counters the bourgeois propaganda narrative of history should be cast aside, silenced, devalued, delegitimized, hidden from the public view and ultimately, destroyed.
It seems to me the “left” needs to look in a mirror and stare itself straight in the eye, and ask: what have we come to, if we cannot refute these works? What exactly does it say, when the entire pseudo-left cannot refute someone who is supposedly “a crackpot with no academic credentials?” What does it say, when they cannot even define the actual content of his work when asked, yet they have already declared it false on the whole? What does it say, when they have no evidence to counter Furr’s claims, but rely on attacking Grover Furr the person?
Any allegations that his works are “below criticism” are disingenuous. If they are worthy of such hostility, then they are worthy of honest criticism. If only all of us checked their facts and cited their sources for all to see like Furr does, rather than rest on our own preconceived notions and prejudices, perhaps the American left wouldn’t be in such a precarious position these days.
The pseudo-left’s hatred has nothing to do with honesty. This is because of anti-communism, not political disagreement, not ideological difference, not a problem with Furr’s research or his conclusions, not an issue with his methods, or legitimate criticism of his evidence. It is a liberal and reactionary view that anything anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin must be true, while anything that challenges that view must be attacked, smeared, demonized, ridiculed and silenced. When evidence is not engaged with or dismissed, and the person themselves is slandered, it is not principled disagreement, it is not ideological difference – it is hate and prejudice.
The question stands: why does the pseudo left hate Grover Furr? The answer becomes plain: they hate Grover Furr precisely because his works challenge the hegemony of the Trotsky-Khrushchev-Gorbachev-Cold War anti-communist anti-Stalin paradigm, the dominant paradigm of the bourgeoisie. In other words, they hate Grover Furr because he is a good communist in an age filled with fake ones. They hate Grover Furr because he is an honest researcher in an age filled to the brim with propaganda. They hate Grover Furr because he has evidence for the conclusions he draws and presents it openly, rather than relying on emotionalism. They hate Grover Furr because he challenges the bourgeois anti-communist understanding of Soviet history. These days pseudo-leftists are not just dishonest or liberal; they are avowed anti-communists.