Long-time readers will recall my conversion from the dark side of collectivism by Herr Doktor Richter back at the end of 1976 and the reading list (now lost) that he gave me to fill in the huge gaps of my "education" at the hands of the public schools and universities that I had attended up until then.
I am slowly reconstructing that reading list and after picking up a copy of Our Battle by the Dutch-American historian Hendrik Willem van Loon I realized that it had been on the list and that I had indeed read it before. I even now recall that I got a copy of it from the Interlibrary Loan department of the Columbus Public Library. Memory is a funny thing, and sometimes it takes just a slight jog to make a whole lot of pieces fall into place -- especially at my age.
Our Battle, subtitled "Being One Man's Answer to 'My Battle' by Adolf Hitler" was published in 1938 by Simon and Schuster. A slim volume reply to Mein Kampf, van Loon's critique of Hitler and the other collectivist dictators of the time is simple, direct and devastating. He ascribes the success of the autocracies of the 30s to the failures of democracies to secure themselves from the corruptions that breed the collectivist virus. From the introduction:
When a nation loses its interest in its own destiny, then that nation is doomed. I do not want to see our nation doomed, for then the last hope of the world for a truly decent and human form of existence would perish from the face of this earth. In that case, life would no longer be worth living. I, however, want to live and I want to live long enough to see the final and complete vindication of the principles of Thomas Jefferson and the other founders of our mighty experiment in self-government, and to witness the collapse of that insolent structure of autocracy which now rears its arrogant turrets across the distant horizon of the Atlantic Ocean, and which is intent upon destroying us because it fears and hates us and detests us as the last remaining bulwark of those ideals about the rights and duties of the average citizen which have made us what we are.
Sadly, van Loon died in March 1944, a time when Hitler and Mussolini were still very much alive and the issue of the Second World War was still in doubt. Stalin's system didn't collapse of its own weight until 1989. What van Loon would make of the current struggle against the Islamo-fascists, or worse, the successful subversion-attack upon the Founder's Republic by the current occupant of the White House and his corrupt familiars of both major political parties, doesn't take much imagination.