MILLS VS. HOWE
Commenting on C. W. Mills’ “Causes of World War III” in the Spring DisSENT, Irving Howe charges Mills with “a relentless thrust of assertion” and “analytic carelessness and moral disequilibrium.” It seems to me that in this review it is Howe rather than Mills who is guilty of these qualities.
Howe says that Mills underrates “the role of Communist ideology.” I should say that Howe vastly underrates the role of anti-Communist ideology in our society. Howe says that Mills “minimizes the differences in nature and quality between the Western World and the Communist countries.” But Howe, by using the term “Western World,” appears to ignore the differences in nature and quality of the various societies and political systems within the nations which are so loosely called the “Western World.” Howe further compounds this confusion by shifting, in the same paragraph, from “the Western World” to “America, a democratic country” with the implication that the democratic qualities inherent in our own traditions are similarly inherent throughout the “Western World.” Surely this is “analytic carelessness” of a high order.
Howe says that “There is a crucial difference between America, a democratic country that shows some signs of drifting toward authoritarianism and Russia, which for decades has been something considerably worse.” Doesn’t this comment miss the point, which is surely the direction of the trend of development? Since Russian society has traditionally been authoritarian, any trend toward a lessening of totalitarian controls could be considered as progress; whereas in our own country, since our tradition has been democratic, any trend in the direction of totalitarian controls is retrogressive. Those concerned with the problem of how to protect and advance democratic and humanistic institutions and values must be more alarmed by the retrogressive direction of our own society than by the fact of the totalitarian nature of Russian society under Communism. Howe minimizes the trend toward totalitarianism in our country—”shows some signs of drifting toward authoritarianism,” is the way he phrases it. But this seems startling “analytic carelessness” since even our President in a press conference said that if our current trend continues we would become a “garrison state.”