Features November 2020
Liberals on trial: Rebecca West & Alistair Cooke
On Rebecca West’s appraisal of the anti-liberal “liberalism” of Alistair Cooke.
Perplexed as we are by an age of splintering identities, it is tempting to look back on the Cold War as an ideologically simple time. The battles between liberal and Communist intellectuals—epitomized by the bitter dispute between Raymond Aron and Jean-Paul Sartre in France—are legends of Cold War history. So, too, are the stories of those that renounced Communism to become liberals or liberal-inflected conservatives, people like Sidney Hook, Arthur Koestler, François Furet, and Leszek Kołakowski. Yet the more we focus on liberalism’s conflict with Communism, and liberalism’s victory over it, the less likely we are to recall how liberals fought among themselves—about Communism.
One cleavage, and my topic here, concerns liberal attitudes to Communist conspiracy in...
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