"Why We Must Defend Formosa"
TO THE EDITOR OF COMMENTARY:
I was delighted with G. F. Hudson’s article
"Why We Must Defend Formosa" (April
1955). It is very important that the political
aspect of this question should be given more
recognition, as most people seem to think only
of Formosa’s strategic value.
There is just one point which Mr. Hudson
did not mention. Outside of China, there are
fifteen million Chinese living throughout the
Far East. They constitute highly important
groups, both economically and politically, from
Singapore and Indonesia up to the Philippines.
Many of them are fighting valiantly against
Communism. They are more aware of its
danger than the people among whom they live
because of their direct experience of Commu-
nist conquest. For them it is most important
that they should not lose such a center for
political orientation and national allegiance as
the Chinese government in Formosa continues
to offer them. With Formosa lost, the great
Chinese communities of southeast Asia would
probably lose much of their political vigor, and
with the rise of an unoriented younger genera-
tion . .. might… become … tools for Com-
munism in its effort to conquer the rest of Asia.
FREDERICK M. STERN
New Rochelle, N. Y.
To THE EDITOR OF COMMENTARY:
G. F. Hudson has written an admirable piece on why we must defend Formosa, though I
disagree that we should ever formally agree to
peace being made between the two Chinas.
Mr. Hudson’s views are pretty well accepted
in this country. What a pity that he does not
devote more time and energy to getting them
accepted in Great Britain, where many people
labor under a complete misapprehension as to
the nature and intentions of Red China.
EDGAR ANSIL MOWRER
Washington, D. C.
In Defense of Yeshivas
To THE EDITOR OF COMMENTARY:
Mr. Walter Goodman in his otherwise fairly
interesting article "The Hasidim Come to Wil-
liamsburg" (March 1955) writes as follows:
"The English instruction given at these yeshivas
(presumably including Torah Vodaath) rarely
satisfies the state completely, although the boys
invariably manage to pass their regents exami-
nations. Discipline and instruction tend to be minimal." Mr. Goodman does not bother to cite
evidence for this statement. The least that can
be expected of one who undertakes to cast as-
persions on the labor of scores of teachers and students is to go through the motions of pre-
senting evidence. Perhaps Mr. Goodman would
be interested in the following:
1) On the current Dean’s List of Brooklyn
College, out of 168 names, 10 are graduates of
2) Of 35 students graduating in the class of 1954, two were the winners of New York
3) Of 16 students elected to Alpha Sigma
Lambda (National Honorary Society of Eve-
ning Colleges) at Brooklyn College this term,
three were graduates of Torah Vodaath.
To me this does not sound like the fruit of
"minimal" instruction. But, of course, I am a
graduate of Torah Vodaath who looks back
on the years spent there with many good feel-
ings. It may be that the "minimal" of Torah
Vodaath is as good as the "maximal" of Mr.
The City College of New York
New York City
To THE EDITOR OF COMMENTARY:
Allow me to express my belief that a cam-
paign of misinformation about Indo-China, and
of slander against the Prime Minister of South
Vietnam, is being conducted in the United
States, for which I see new evidence in Mr.
Peter Schmid’s "Free Indo-China Fights Against
Time" (January 1955)….
I have just spent two months in South Viet-
nam and . . . am convinced that the situation
there is not hopeless. It is simply not true that
the majority of the Vietnamese people sym-
pathize with or support the Communist Viet-
minh, or that a Communist underground is al-
ready in control of a large part of the country
LETTERS FROM READERSCOMMENTARY
in the south. South Vietnam is not lost. It will
only be lost if we continue to identify the unde-
feated cause of democracy in Vietnam with the
defeated and indefensible cause of French co-
lonialism, and if we hesitate [to provide] whole-
hearted American support for a truly indepen-
dent Vietnamese government. What a sad spec-
tacle to see that on this issue, American public
opinion, instead of supporting and pushing
ahead of a conservative and timid administra-
tion, actually lags behind the position adopted
by our State Department.
As TO Mr. Schmid’s article in your magazine
· . . let us merely call him an unwitting agent
of Communist propaganda for his remark that
censorship in South Vietnam "eclipses anything
I have seen even under outright fascist dictator-
ships." This is characteristic of everything Mr.
Schmid has to say about South Vietnam. Also,
you will notice that the stories Mr. Schmid tells
of his visit to the town of Tan Ky and the vil-
lage of Cay Coc do not at all prove that "people
are already preparing themselves inwardly for
the Communist victory"; they prove exactly the
opposite. This is in the Center region. Mr.
Schmid assures us that "things are different in
the South," where Ho Chi Minh "is still mas-
ter" and "most of the people continue to obey
the cells and secret courts of the Vietminh." Un-
fortunately, we are not told a single story to
show that this is really the case.
With his description of Prime Minister Ngo
Dinh Diem, Mr. Schmid reveals the source of
his journalistic inspiration: the defeated French
colonialists who try to salvage as much as pos-
sible in a deal with the Vietminh and who have
already joined hands with the Communists for
the purpose of preventing the establishment of
a strong, independent government in South
Vietnam. According to their Machiavellian non-
sense, a good man can never be a strong politi-
cal leader. The main trouble with Mr. Diem
seems to be that he is honest and has principles,
instead of being a gangster (a "sublimated gang-
ster," says Mr. Schmid, with his talent for obvi-
ous contradictions). The Prime Minister is "too
brave and too virtuous to have anything to do
with the compromises demanded by politics,"
says Mr. Schmid, so much so that "he refused
to work with the Japanese" and even spurned
Ho Chi Minh "when the Communist leader
tried to get Mr. Diem’s cooperation in 1946."
Mr. Schmid makes it quite clear that he does
not approve of such rigid clinging to principle.
That this could be the main source of the Prime
Minister’s present political strength is a thought
that does not seem to occur to him …
New York City
MR. SCHMID writes:
It is hard to reply pertinently to a letter that
in place of pertinent argument indulges in
suspicion and insult. I think I can ask Mr.
Buttinger, with much more justice than he
asks me, to show where he cites a single fact
to substantiate his thesis. I must suppose that
he has failed to understand what exactly my
article was saying. Under these circumstances
I am not surprised to find myself being termed,
as in the jargon of certain mindless fanatics,
"an unwitting agent of Communist propa-
ganda." Meanwhile the weakness of anti-Com-
munism in East Asia continues to be revealed to
me in the course of my further travels through
Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos, much as I
saw it in Vietnam-it has no "myth" of its own
with which to fire the imagination and devotion
of the masses; all conservative and traditional
ideas, mainly because of the egotism and torpor
of the ruling groups, have become discredited.
(I might also have reported on this point from
Vietnam, and indeed there was material avail-
able in Premier Ngo Dinh Diem’s immediate
family circle-this perhaps would have thrown
into bolder relief the latter’s moralistic
We shouldn’t fool ourselves; the strength of
a movement does not rest on the exaltedness of
its ideals, but quite concretely on the number of
people who are ready to die for it. The over-
whelming majority of Southeast Asians have for
the most part no political will of their own,
and so find themselves being carried along in
the wake of a determined minority that never
for a moment forgets its goal, whether outright
Communism, or, as in Cambodia, a vague
socialistic neutralism; but in any case the direc-
tion is left. One single determined man in a
village-this was apparent from my description
of central Vietnam-can give that village its
political stamp and allegiance, and it is un-
fortunately only too well known that in South
Vietnam the plantation workers are organized
by the Vietminh. But even the villages of
Diem’s loyal allies, the Hoa-Hao, have been
infiltrated by the Vietminh and today we sud-
denly find even the chief of the Caodaists de-
manding cooperation with North Vietnam.
Of course, information of this kind is diffi-
cult or impossible to verify because an Anna-
mite of no matter what camp only tells a Euro-
pean what duplicity, caution, or self-interest
suggests. How does one know if the French
are telling the truth? Are they acquainted with
the American agents, most of whom have en-
tered on their task with the double handicap of
not knowing the French or the Annamites?
The difficulties in the way of reporting accu-
rately are huge; I am far from wishing to claim
496LETTERS FROM READERS
that I have made no mistakes. But I cannot
help feeling much surer of my own reporting
than of Mr. Buttinger’s terrible simplifications-
as happy as it would make me to find his
optimism about South Vietnam’s anti-Com-
Father-Figures and Maiden Aunts
To THE EDITOR OF COMMENTARY:
In Mr. Henry Elkin’s letter in your April
issue, it is his contention, as I understand it,
that Nathan Leites’s book on the character of
the Bolshevik is limited by the "inadequacies of
(his) Freudian theory," but that from a "broad-
er, anthropologically sounder psychological
viewpoint" many things left unexplained in Mr.
Leites’s work can be illuminated satisfactorily.
It is not hard to guess what this broader,
sounder psychology might be. Mr. Elkin’s letter
is addressed from Zurich, but he is modest
enough not to drop names. However, there may
be other psychological viewpoints, some of them
even sounder and broader than Dr. Jung’s, and
from the standpoint of one of these (which I shall leave nameless) Mr. Elkin’s argument is quite dubious, and, on certain things, downright
For instance, Mr. Elkin identifies Malenkov with the trend toward the Mother-figure (lov- ing, bounteous) and even uses Malenkov’s plumpness to fortify this point. Quite simply this is incredible. If Malenkov was overthrown
by the Sons of the Father (the successors to
Stalin) then we are faced with a fact which has no consistent anthropological proof-viz., the murder of the Mother by the Sons. I believe
even Mr. Elkin will grant this is absurd.
There is, however, another loving, bounteous figure with which Malenkov may be truthfully identified, and once this is done the inadequa- cies of both Mr. Leites and Mr. Elkin wilf be
corrected. Malenkov was an Uncle-figure, a type which can be both good and evil but is at all times mythically alive. This would make the collective leadership that succeeded Stalin not a band of Sons, but curiously enough a group of Nephews. Murder of uncles by nephews and nephews by uncles is a common historical inci- dent and in the present case only follows a well- traveled road.
The Father-figure, therefore, is not a deep necessity at this moment in Russia and Mr. Elkin’s surmise that the Soviet generals will per- haps come to play that role is quite without grounds.
Actually, the "impressively uniformed and bemedalled generals" are by the very laws of
symbology barred forever from the seats of power. It should be obvious that the very uni- forms and medals are a limiting factor, symbol- izing one function and one function only. They are part of the family, yet outside it. They are not Cousins, for cousins are only related, not part of the family at any time. The generals are then quite simply Brother-in-law figures and, as such, attentive to their wives who are the Sisters
of the Nephews now ruling Russia. With the Father dead, the Uncle overthrown, and with the Mother never having played any role at all, it is difficult to see how Mr. Elkin’s argument
can now be taken seriously.
And as a last triumphant proof that the fore- going analysis is correct, let us consider the case of Mr. Bulganin, the Soviet Premier. It is well known that Mr. Bulganin is one of the rulers of Russia, a Nephew. Yet he appears before us in the guise of a Brother-in-law, a general. This signifies that as Prime Minister his power is that of a Brother-in-law, strictly nil, and that the real strength still lies with the ununiformed
Nephews. All authorities on Russian affairs are unanimous in the opinion that Mr. Bulganin is merely a figurehead, and this opinion is now verified by psychology.
Let me add that out here in Los Angeles we are tensely awaiting the appearance of the Maiden Aunt. This formidable figure is death on Nephews and her arrival will mean the end of the Soviet dictatorship. At that time Mr. El- kin’s hope for the return of God the Father may be realized. Let us hope so.
BORIS SOBELMAN Los Angeles, California
Torah and Nature
To THE EDITOR OF COMMENTARY:
Lionel Trilling’s observations on "Words-
worth and the Rabbis" (February) show a sensitive understanding of Wordsworth. The similarity that is suggested between him and the rabbis, however, is more superficial than
Mr. Trilling’s reading of Herford’s edition of Pirke Avot would indicate.
The substance of his argument rests on two principal contentions: firstly, that the Torah,
for the rabbis, like Nature for Wordsworth,
represents a divine object which mediates be- tween man and God and to which one can be in an intimate, passionate relationship; second- ly, that to Wordsworth, as to the rabbis, there
is no sense of a struggle against evil, no affirma-
tion of the virtue of courage, but rather a quietism and non-militancy of spirit exemplified among the rabbis by the gentleness of
Hille non-af tion of courage in rabbinic. The non-affirmation of courage in rabbinic
literature, however, does not stem from quietism
at all, which is more a subjective and psycho-
logical thing, but from a basic difference of
orientation in Jewish theology. Indeed, Mr.
Trilling’s reading of Dr. Kadushin’s book The
Rabbinic Mind should have been sufficient to
indicate that Judaism, as a religion, does not
affirm personal virtues which one acquires, but
universal values in which one participates. Now one of the basic distinctions between
Judaism and Christianity, and a distinction
which finds Wordsworth, except in one im-
portant matter, in the camp of Christianity, is
the problem of evil. To the Christian, evil is
fundamentally inner evil; his reading of the
fall of Adam finds man himself cursed with
original sin, his passions suspect, his will per-
verted. It is man himself who must be regen-
erated, by sacraments, election, or a profoundly
subjective and inward conversion experience.
. . . The unregenerate Christian soul is a
house divided against itself-unless it be wholly given over to the devil, where the seven car-
dinal virtues and the seven deadly sins are
engaged in a battle not wholly ended until
death itself. The Castle of Alma remains for-
ever under siege. In such a frame of reference,
the self becomes peculiarly suspect. Of all the
deadly sins, pride is the deadliest, since it
affirms the entire self, corrupt, depraved, and
self-willed. The Christian must lose himself
to find himself; he must be twice born….
If to Rashi the Bible should properly begin
with the first mitzvah, to the Christian it must
begin with the temptation and the fall. The
Jewish Messiah, who is a human being in
origin, promises all mankind a period of uni-
versal peace. The Christian Messiah, who is
God himself in origin, offers each individual
vicarious personal atonement.
,Indeed, to the Jew, this entire preoccupation
with the self, with deadly sins and cardinal
virtues, with the everlasting yea and the ever-
lasting nay, with the state of depravity as op-
posed to the state of grace, is a wholly alien
mode of thinking. Evil is not a corruption but
a fact, not to be brooded about but overcome.
The fall of man is not original sin, the damna-
tion of man’s soul, but the disruption of his
harmony with the universe. In the Bible story,
Adam himself is not cursed, but the earth is
cursed for Adam. Satan, except in folklore, does
not represent an insurrection in the universe
… but is the Satan of the Book of Job, God’s
single-minded prosecuting attorney, the Kategor
of the High Holiday service. Even the yetzer
horah, the evil impulse, is overcome through
care and the cultivation of good habits, not
through soul-searching and despair….
The Jew, then, is not born with a corrupt
soul that he must redeem as fully as possible,
but is born into a corrupt universe whose frag-
mented values he must participate in and har-
monize as richly as possible. Indeed, the very
affirmation of courage implies a preoccupation
with the self that is beneath the dignity of the
rabbis. Let the Jew cultivate proper habits,
affirming a life in which Torah and gemilas
chesed take their proper place, and his death
al Kiddush ha-Shem is only the last of a long
series of mitzvoth….
From this point of view it becomes apparent
that Wordsworth’s entire frame of thinking is
Christian, save that he has dropped the con-
cept of original sin and so lessened the strain
of inner conflict. But the author of the Prelude
is still a twice-born individual. His preoccupa-
tion is still with the self, its generation, its
struggles and "fall from grace," and its final
regeneration. In this it is in line with Pilgrim’s
Progress rather than the Pirke Avot. If Words-
worth does not affirm courage, it is not because,
as with the rabbis, courage is not organic to the
system of values which they seek to affirm, but
because quiescence, rather than courageous
action, is Wordsworth’s path to a state of grace,
as well as its characteristic once attained….
On the other hand, Mr. Trilling’s comparison
of the Torah with Wordsworth’s "Nature" as
divine objects to which one forms intimate re-
lationships, the breath of God made manifest,
as it were, is an arresting parallel…. The
relationship of the rabbis to the Torah, how-
ever, is, once again, a far more active one than
Wordsworth’s to Nature. Can one say of
Wordsworth’s nature, as of the Torah, "Turn
it over and over, and examine it closely, for
everything is in it?"
Let us make no mistake about it, the life
of rabbinic Judaism is a very strenuous one.
Its serenity stems not from quiescence but from
a confidence in its supreme worth in the sight
(Rabbi) JUDAH STAMPSER Director, B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation
University of Manitoba Winnipeg, Canada
In our issue of March 1955, the price of
The Alphabet of Creation, published by
Pantheon Books, was incorrectly given as
$5.00. The price is $15.00.
"Why We Must Defend Formosa"