Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Thomas Riggins

These comments are based on Adam Tooze's review of the Davies book [Europe at War] in the TLS of 11-16-2007. Tooze has a low opinion of both the book and of Davies' scholarship. This is why.

Davies has a right wing revisionist view of the history of WW2 and uses his book as the basis for an attack on the USSR wherein he argues for the moral equivalency of the USSR and Nazi Germany. "The war in Europe was dominated by two evil monsters, not by one. Each of the monsters consumed the best people in its territory before embarking on a fight to the death for supremacy."

Tooze says Davies' "unrelenting revisionism" needs "a disciplined presentation of reasoning and evidence." Davies book fails this test. Some of the statistics and casualty figures he uses, especially concerning loss of life caused by the allies in the air war, to bolster his arguments are BOGUS. He mentions a nonexistent air raid on Berlin, for example and cites some figures "preferred only by propagandists of the extreme right."

Tooze says it "is hard to take seriously" some of Davies' assertions. It appears that Tooze rejects "moral equivalence" but points out that Davies' is really beating a dead horse. The consensus of Western historians for the last generation is that "Stalin's Soviet Union was an oppressive regime of extreme brutality."

A second major point Davies wants to make is that the Eastern Front was more important than the Western. This too has been settled for a long time. It "was Stalin's forces," Tooze writes, "that played the main part in the battlefield defeat of Hitler's Wehrmacht."

Davies book is also notable for "imprecision about sources and methods." In general, "Davies fails to make good on his polemical intent." But Davies does put forth some information that Western readers in general are probably unaware of. We tend to think that D Day was the greatest military operation of WW2. But D Day was not as important as Operation Bagration on the Eastern Front. Launched by the Soviet Union on 6-22-1944, "This assault," Tooze points out, "which resulted in the destruction of an entire German army group in a matter of weeks, is widely regarded as the single most dramatic operation conducted by any Allied army in the entire war."

However, since the Red Army can do no good, Davies attributes the victory of Operation Bagration mostly to Lend Lease and Soviet numbers, "the familiar excuse of the Wehrmark."

For those of us who have read Michael Parenti's work on the exaggerated numbers of people killed by Stalin [Blackshirts & Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, City Lights Books, San Francisco, 1997], Davies bogus numbers will be all too familiar, especially his use of "Robert Conquest's discredited numbers for the famine of the 1930s...." In any event, Davies' attempt to find a "moral equivalence" between the Nazis and the Soviets doesn't hold water and is just an example of right wing JUNK HISTORY being passed off as scholarship. Tooze is no friend of Stalin, but he concludes we can't really understand the complexities of WW2 and the Eastern Front "if we adopt Davies 's moralistic lens."

You can read more about Norman Davies in Wikipedia, from which this tidbit comes: "Davies’ historical treatment of the Holocaust was cited as a factor in a controversy at Stanford University in which Davies was denied a tenured faculty position for alleged 'scientific flaws'." Stanford!

from PAEditorsBlog

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