Gabriel Kolko has passed away

by on May 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm in Books, History, Political Science | Permalink

You will find Twitter commentary and links here.  There is one appreciation here.

For the pointer I thank Rob Bradley.

1 Art Deco May 20, 2014 at 10:52 pm

I imagine his family will miss him. I bet Spiro Agnew’s did too. Kolko’s most salient work was The Politics of War, a piece of diplomatic history completed with the aid of the Institute for Policy Studies. It’s a crafty bit of press agentry for the Soviet Union, not a scholarly work. For normal people, that’s not what you want in your obituary.

2 Cahokia May 20, 2014 at 11:14 pm

What a predictable comment from the marginal revolution peanut gallery.

Kolko deviated from Marxist orthodoxy in so many ways that his work only gained prominence on account of how much it bucked left-wing myths. For that matter he ended his life repudiating his left roots entirely, for what it’s worth.

Not to mention, he published in the paleo-libertarian site But I imagine that makes him a Soviet double agent in your neoconservative eyes.

3 Art Deco May 21, 2014 at 12:09 am

He was a human being and in a nexus of other people who likely appreciated him for ‘a that. He also had a public career. No need to pretend that career was anything but what it was. It is a matter of no interest that he was involved in intramural spats with other gauchistes. It is mordantly amusing (and not at all surprising) that the man took up contributing to Dennis/Justin Raimondo’s site; same piece of music, different key.

That obituary in Reason mentions a slew of books, but not The Politics of War. Writing an apologia for the breaking of Eastern Europe was the most salient thing this man ever did. Sorry acknowledging that offends your sensibilities.

4 So Much For Subtlety May 21, 2014 at 1:39 am

That is not fair. His works explaining how the Vietnamese Communists were so brilliant and so righteous while the Americans were so stupid and the South Vietnamese government the *real* terrorists, are also important.

I think the comparison with Spiro Agnew is unfair. Poor Agnew.

What is interesting in how the ideas of what we might call the post-Trotsky Trotskyites found a home among libertarians like Reason. The letter Reason reproduces is amusing. But it does raise the obvious question – if this former Marxist thought socialism was dead, and Capitalism still evil, what was left? What did he have left to believe in? It sounds like a tragic old age.

5 Bob Johnson May 21, 2014 at 12:52 am

Truly a tragedy. “Triumph of Conservatism” saved the libertarian movement from turning into apologetics for big business. W/o Kolko, their would be no timothy carney.

6 So Much For Subtlety May 21, 2014 at 7:40 pm

I am mildly concerned that there isn’t more feeling about Kolko. No one cares about him at all? Not enough to make a comment on a website? Either positive or negative. He must have had some students, some colleagues.

How can someone write so many books and teach for so long and yet his death is met with indifference?

7 Art Deco May 21, 2014 at 8:01 pm

His diplomatic histories were still assigned ca. 1984 as representative of an important perspective. No more, perhaps?

What troubles me is the fondling he’s getting from libertarians. No critical voices whatsoever.

8 So Much For Subtlety May 21, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Strange bed fellows. But that is nothing compared to the love-in going on among the most paleo of paleo-cons and people like Noam Chomsky.

I wonder if they would have liked Kolko too if they had ever heard of him.

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