I have failed to note Stephen F. Cohen's tackle of Paul Berman for affecting knowledge he doesn't have. The dispute concerns Nikolai Bukharin, a Soviet Marxist who was purged and tried and executed under Stalin. Bukharin's alleged confession to Soviet authorities was the inspiration for Arthur Koestler's famous book Darkness at Noon. In a piece on Koestler for the New Republic, Berman clucked that Koestler got "every little detail right." Not so fast. Cohen:
Scholars, myself among them, have long since presented evidence that Bukharin did not really confess in that tightly controlled, terror-ridden courtroom but instead waged a determined verbal duel with Stalin's prosecutor to the inexorable end. The evidence includes eyewitness accounts by a British observer and a New York Times correspondent who were in the courtroom, uncensored partial transcripts of the trial, and the conclusion of the Soviet judge who reviewed the original records and exonerated Bukharin in 1988. ..
Writing in 1940, Koestler could not have known all this, but Berman should have. Still more surprising, considering his expressed interest in "prison writing … as a pillar of Russian literature," Berman seems entirely unaware of the four book-length manuscripts Bukharin wrote in Lubyanka Prison while being "prepared" for the trial—an autobiographical novel, two volumes of philosophical and political commentary, and a thick volume of poetry. Each in its own way makes clear that he did not "confess" because of his corrupting ideas.
Bukharin's prison manuscripts were retrieved from Stalin's secret archive only in the early 1990s, so, again, Koestler did not know them. Berman, however, should have, all having now been published in English
In his response to Cohen, Berman basically shuffles his feet, and admits he is busted; then tries to say it is because he has gone after Tariq Ramadan!