All Commentary
Monday, July 1, 1974

A Reviewer’s Notebook – 1974/7

William and Elizabeth Paddock have written a sockdolager of a book in We Don’t Know How: An Independent Audit of What They Call Success in Foreign Assistance (Iowa State University Press, $9.95 cloth; $4.95 paper). What it proves, with on-the-spot evidence gathered often with feelings of great reluctance about hurting well-meaning idealists, is that our foreign aid program has been largely a bust, bringing virtually no permanent improvement to anybody. It might be an overstatement to say that $150 billion have gone down the drain since the U.S. started to shore up what is euphemistically called the free world, but surely, on the basis of what the Paddocks have learned by the most careful sort of digging, the money would have done everybody much more good if it had been left in the pockets of Americans at home to buy bananas, coffee, oil, rubber or whatever else the “undeveloped” countries have to sell.

William Paddock and his wife make a team. They are both B.S.’s from Iowa State University, which means that they have farming in their bones. An authority on corn, William once headed Guatemala‘s corn improvement program, working with the U.S. mission in Guatemala itself with interludes at an Iowa State University experiment station. His wife, a home economics instructor, spent some time as a Care volunteer distributing food in rural Honduras and as a ghetto social service worker in Guatemala. They knew something of the world of foreign aid from the inside before they started a 25,000-mile trip through Mexico and Central America to inspect programs which the administrators of development organizations considered especially effective. In the course of a year of wandering in the field away from capital cities in Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador and Mexico, the Paddocks not only held more than two hundred prearranged interviews but also talked with everybody they ran across, from government officials and merchants to peasants, doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs.

What they took in through their eyes and ears startled them. Once in a while they hit upon a development that had had effective results, but when some actual good resulted it was usually in a quite unforeseen way. Normally, however, the projects, whether they were undergirded by the Peace Corps, the Inter-American Development Bank, AID (the Agency for International Development), or even the Rockefeller Foundation, suffered from a lack of carry-through, inability to preserve meaningful records, and a tunnel vision that would disgrace a mole.

The Rubber Fiasco

It was at Los Brillantes, a “model” station near Chocola in Guatemala, that the Paddocks first learned about the pattern of foreign aid. The Paddocks knew from a previous stay in Guatemala that rubber seedlings had been distributed to the Chocola area farmers over a five-year period. Some 27,000 acres had been planted to rubber. But, to the Paddocks’ amazement, the whole project had trailed off into nothing. The reason: no continuity. The farmers, so the lone remaining U.S. expert told the Paddocks, were only interested in planting rubber as long as AID provided money on easy terms. When the original loans were used up (one farmer received $884,000), the project went dead. What the Paddocks couldn’t figure out was why the news of the collapse of the rubber experiment hadn’t yet reached AID headquarters in Washington.

Thirty minutes down the road from the scene of the rubber fiasco the Paddocks visited some beautiful buildings at Chocola which had once housed the local directors of the U.S. International Cooperation Administration, AID’s predecessor. The chairs, typewriters, desk and furniture were still there, but human activity had apparently ceased. Chocola, so the Paddocks surmised, was another illustration of the big tragic shortcoming in our development work. AID had no memory of what its predecessor agency had done. The law of politics is that whenever there is a new foreign aid program, or a new set of administrators, the old slate is wiped clean. A long-time AID friend told the Paddocks, “Every morning we wake up and laboriously reinvent the wheel.”

Saving the Seed Corn

So it went in other areas in Guatemala. Deane Hinton, a U.S. AID mission director stationed at the Embassy, told the Paddocks that the local agricultural school at Barcenas had the most effective AID program in the country. The Paddocks went and had a look. In the meantime Deane Hinton moved on to Santiago in Chile to head up a different program. Mr. Paddock didn’t have the heart to write him that he had found Iowa corn seed sitting in a storeroom at the Barcenas experiment station where it had been put in storage ten years ago. A faithful Guatemalan was keeping the seed collection intact, “just in case someday someone wants to use it.”

In Washington Jack Hood Vaughn, Sargent Shriver’s successor as head of the Peace Corps, told Mr. Paddock about the legendary exploits of one James Portman in El Salvador. Portman, according to the reports, had revolutionized the little nation’s tomato industry. He had shown the farmers how to mulch their rows for moisture conservation. He had introduced contour terracing. He had started tomato, pineapple, watermelon and banana clubs. He had showed the girls how to can pickles. He had given haircuts to demonstrate a sure way of discouraging lice. But when the Paddocks visited the scene of Port-man’s supposed triumphs, they found no evidence of a tomato industry. A few townspeople did recall that Portman had planted some tomatoes in a church garden, and had had a second garden elsewhere. He had used cow dung as fertilizer. But when a storekeeper asked Portman how to get rid of insects that were devouring his tomatoes on the stem, Portman had said he “did not know anything about tomatoes, only corn.”

In checking the whole thing out, the Paddocks learned that Portman was liked in El Salvador because he was “young and attractive.” But Portman himself had written: “Do not believe everything you read about James J. Portman and El Salvador. R. Sargent Shriver in the early days was a little too eager as far as public relations were concerned.”

Some Good Results

The Paddocks did find good things on their 25,000-mile trip. They found a boom in Monterrey. The reason: three local families had made good use of their capital, amassed out of a transport business that had made good connections with the railroad to Texas. At San Pedro, in Honduras, there was prosperity. The reason: the United Fruit Company paid an average daily wage of $4.97, which stimulated worker training in the whole area. United Fruit is called El Pulpo, meaning the Octopus, but it does know how to grow bananas. The company brings in thirty-five per cent of Honduras‘s foreign exchange, so, as the Paddocks put it, “one-third of Honduras‘s share of the twentieth century is paid for by company activity.”

If El Pulpo had been broken up into small plots when the first winds of “land reform” began to blow, who would have heard of San Pedro, or even of Honduras itself? The Paddocks tremble to think of it.

The Paddocks looked into the Rockefeller Foundation, which has sustained Dr. Norman Borlaug’s experiments with rust-resistant wheat in northwest Mexico. This wheat, along with “miracle” rice, is credited with setting the so-called Green Revolution in motion. The Paddocks give Borlaug’s plant research good marks, but they give even better marks to the Mexicans for learning how to apply irrigation and fertilizer to their wheat acres.

The “green revolution” is undeniably worth having, but the Paddocks worry about its advantages being eaten up by rocketing population growth. They sadly conclude that it will take a lot of El Pulpos to support the new millions that continue to encroach on the limits of the food supply all through Mexico and Central America. What is particularly ominous is that El Pulpos, being capitalist in organization and motivation, aren’t liked. The masses, bemused, don’t know their best friends.


LEFTISM (FROM DE SADE AND MARX TO HITLER AND MARCUSE) by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1974, 653 pp., $12.95)

Reviewed by Allan C. Brownfeld

The teachers of political science used to tell their classes that political philosophies ran along a straight line from left to right, that Nazism and Fascism occupied the far right portion of the spectrum and Communism the far left.

Happily, most teachers of political science have finally moved away from that simplistic, and false, notion. As for the rest, a reading of the recently published volume, Leftism (From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse) by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, should — as the common phrase of the day has it — expand their consciousness.

Dr. Kuehnelt-Leddihn is an Austrian scholar who reads twenty languages and has taught at many universities, including Beaumont College in England, the Georgetown Graduate School of Foreign Service, and who, during the period when the Nazis occupied his country, was head of the History Department at St. Peter’s College in New Jersey. His book is lengthy and learned, but not beyond the general reader’s comprehension.

What he has done in this volume is range across the centuries to show the links between the perversion of de Sade, the revolutionary mystique of Marcuse and the brutalities of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. The purpose of the book, writes the author, “is to show the character of leftism and to what extent and in what way the vast majority of the leftist ideologies now dominating or threatening most of the modern world are competitors, not enemies.”

He makes a powerful case, for example, that Hitlerism was a movement of the left, not the right. “At heart Mussolini was always a socialist,” he writes. “Hitler, on the other hand, had never formally belonged to the Socialist Party, although he had drunk from almost the same ideological sources. His Weltanschauung too had been largely fathered by the image of the national socialist laborites.” He notes that official utterances declared that Nazism stood firmly on the left, and reveals Hitler’s “genuinely leftist turn of mind,” showing that the economic order under the Nazis was thoroughly socialistic, and reminds the reader that besides the Jews, the groups most hated by the Nazi leaders were royalty and nobility.

The difference between the “left” and the “right” is essentially related to their divergent views of the nature of man and the state. It is a common characteristic of the left — socialists (national and international), as well as more moderate welfare-staters and 20th century liberals, according to the author, to view man as “Individual subject to the will of the majority. He is a mere number of the democratic process who can be added or subtracted. He is embodied and personified by the “leader” or by a delegate. The individual is nothing, the ‘People’ everything. The individual is a mere fragment of the ‘collective masses’.” Those on the right, to the contrary, view man as “A person with an intransferable destiny, unique, created in the image of God… endowed with an immortal soul.”

More simply put, the left views man as a means to some other end, the right views man as an end in himself. All leftist ideas, from the most extreme to the more moderate, reject individualism and urge collectivism.

What the left has done since its modern creation at the time of the French Revolution is, writes Dr. Kuehnelt-Leddihn, to exploit “the envy… among the masses, coupled with the denigration of individuals, but more frequently of classes, races, nations or religious communities… The history of the Western world since the end of the 18th century cannot be written without this fact constantly in mind. All leftist ‘isms’ harp on this theme, i.e., on the privilege of groups, minority groups, to be sure, who are objects of envy and at the same time subjects of intellectual-moral inferiorities…. They ought to conform to the rest, become identical with ‘the people,’ renounce their privileges…”

Such forced conformity has taken different forms. Hitler killed Jews. Stalin killed landlords. The French Revolutionaries insisted that all Frenchmen have a common language and the Jacobin clubs began a crusade against all languages but French — Provencal, Breton, German, Flemish, Basque. “We get a hint,” writes the author, “that the French Revolution was not only a forerunner but an ideological steppingstone to the slow growth of Nazi ideas.”

The totalitarian attitude of the left is clearly found within the French Revolution. The speech of Saint-Just on October 10, 1793, for example: “You have to punish not only traitors, but even those who are indifferent: you have to punish whoever behaves in the Republic in a passive spirit and does nothing for her, because ever since the French people has manifested their will, everything outside of the sovereign is an enemy.” Similarly, Robespierre spoke of “collective liberty” and on February 7, 1794, said that, “The Government of the Revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.”

Looking back at the Reign of Terror in France, at the Nazis, the Fascists and the Communists, the author declares that, “The all-powerful state is a creation of the leftist mentality… two wishes of the leftist find their fulfillment, the extension of government and the dependence of the person upon the state which controls his destiny from the cradle to the grave. Every movement of the citizen, his birth and his death, his marriage and his income, his illness and his education… everything is to be a matter of knowledge to the state.”

All of these tyrannies, the author writes, have come about in the name of the collective “will of the people.” He quotes Salvador de Madariaga who said that Western civilization rests on two deaths — the death of Socrates and the death of Christ. He notes that, “Indeed the crucifixion was also a democratic event. When Our Lord was brought before Pilate and told him that He had come as a witness to Truth, the governor, a true agnostic, asked Him, `What is truth?’ And without waiting for an answer, he passed Him by and consulted `the people.’ The vox populi condemned Our Lord to death as it had Socrates more than three centuries earlier.”

What most Americans forget, Dr. Kuehnelt-Leddihn believes, is that democracy and freedom do not necessarily go hand in hand. Democracy rests on two pillars: majority rule and political equality. Freedom, however, has nothing to do with democracy itself. The repression of 49 per cent by 51 per cent or of 1 per cent by 99 per cent “is most regrettable, but it is not `undemocratic’.” Liberals, in the classical sense, correctly understood this point. Liberalism did not answer the question, as democracy does, “Who should rule?” but, “How should rule be exercised?” The reply is, “Regardless of who rules… government should be exercised in such a way that each citizen enjoys the greatest possible amount of liberty.”

Dr. Kuehnelt-Leddihn believes that the U.S. Constitution was “a serious attempt to establish a mixed government with democratic, aristocratic, and monarchical elements, a government of checks and balances.” He quotes a letter from John Adams in which he insisted that democracy would inevitably evolve into oligarchy and oligarchy into despotism, a notion he shared with Plato and Aristotle.

The fact is that tyranny came to Germany through the democratic process. By July, 1932, Dr. Kuehnelt-Leddihn notes, the two big totalitarian parties, the Nazis and the Communists, held 319 seats in the Reichstag out of 608 — an absolute majority which proves that more than half of all Germans emphatically rejected parliamentary democracy. This means that the democratic republic uncompromisingly demanded by Wilson was the basis of true slavery in Germany, the door through which tyranny entered. Hitler declared that, “There is more that unites us than divides us from Bolshevism… above all the genuine revolutionary mentality. I was always aware of this and I have given the order that one should admit former Communists to the party immediately.”

Goebbels had stated unequivocally that he “paid homage to the French Revolution for all the possibilities of life and development which it had brought to the people. In this sense, if you like, I am a democrat.”

Dr. Kuehnelt-Leddhin understands that total power, whether in the hands of one man or a majority, is an evil and that freedom has always been lost as a result of it. The real business of those who seek to learn from the past is to diffuse power so that no matter who rules, individual freedom can be preserved.

The Western world, however, seems to be moving away from its traditional belief in individualism, and more and more looks to the state as the answer to all problems, making a false god of politics. For those who are interested in considering where a trip down that path will lead, this book will be a valuable road map.  

  • John Chamberlain (1903-1995) was an American journalist, business and economic historian, and author of number of works including The Roots of Capitalism (1959). Chamberlain also served as a founding editor of The Freeman magazine.