Category Archives: communism

The curse of communism

Cumberland Clark, writes Dalrymple, was

an early and ferocious critic of communism.

His

Curse of Communism was vastly more perceptive than many an apologia published at the time.

If he harped with uncomfortable insistence on the proportion of early Bolsheviks who were Jewish,

he was right about the new kind of evil that the Bolshevik state represented.

Dalrymple points out that Clark was more prescient about communism than many a celebrated Western intellectual. Clark wrote:

Wherever a dictatorship of the proletariat is set up, there will inevitably be a Tcheka, crushing freedom and happiness and living on terror and death, overriding the workers’ soviets and concentrating power in its own hands.

Cumberland Clark (1862-1941)

Clark was aware, Dalrymple says, of all that Bolshevism from the first instituted, viz.

  • terror
  • mass executions
  • famine
  • wanton destruction
  • lying propaganda
  • tyranny
  • universal spying

Dalrymple notes that Clark was clear on the means by which the Bolsheviks deceived foreign guests, much clearer than many of the guests themselves, then and for many years afterwards. Clark wrote:

They are given a cordial welcome, and special trains, luxurious lodgings, and magnificent banquets are prepared for them. They are conveyed in comfortable motor cars and attended by courteous guides, who act as interpreters. These interpreters . . . are none other than members of the Tcheka, and it is absurd to believe that a Russian would speak of his miseries to a stranger with one of the dreaded Inquisition to translate his complaint. Even were he fool-hardy enough to do so, the translation would bear a very different complexion from the original remark. . . . The Bolshevists have brought the fooling of the Socialist visitors to a fine art.

Dalrymple points to Clark’s descriptions of

the Potemkin institutions that the willingly duped visitor was shown — the technique that I observed in Albania and in North Korea more than sixty years later.

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The Domino Theory

Dalrymple explains that according to the theory,

all the countries of Southeast Asia (and beyond) would fall to communism if one of them did so. It was therefore vital to prevent any of them from falling.

He asks:

Who can say what would have happened in Southeast Asia if the Americans had acted differently, according to some other geopolitical theory? It is not even possible definitively to decide whether the policy followed was a success or a failure. Even at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives and untold destruction, to say nothing of the economic cost to America itself, it did not prevent the spread of communism in Indochina.

On the other hand, communism

spread no further, nor did it last indefinitely.

Whether its durance was longer or shorter because of the war

will remain forever a matter of speculation.

Dalrymple notes that the Domino Theory seemed to have held in Eastern Europe, though in reverse.

Brezhnev enunciated a doctrine of his own, namely that a country, once communist, could not return to capitalism.

This, Dalrymple points out, was

the Marxist equivalent of the Islamic doctrine that once Islamic, a country could not revert, which is one of the reasons why Spain, or al-Andalus, looms so large in the minds of fanatics.

But

it was obvious that once an Eastern European country had seceded from communism, the holdouts — Rumania and Albania — could not long survive.

One day the North Korean tyranny will fall

In 1989, Dalrymple embedded himself in a delegation to the World Festival of Youth and Students (run by the World Federation of Democratic Youth), which was then being held in Pyongyang.

In his 1991 book The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World (also published as Utopias Elsewhere), he observes closely some of his fellow delegates to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commenting thus about a female cadre:

A young woman of clearly middle-class origin, who wore only black shapeless clothes and had owlish round spectacles, was shocked how people who called themselves caring could eat meat.

She was

a person of very definite opinions, including a rather poor one of the male sex in general: when she signed her name, she appended a cross to the ‘o’ it contained, to turn it into the biological symbol for female.

Dalrymple describes a couple of male delegates:

They were hard-faced communists, who dressed tough and cut their hair short so that their heads should appear as bony as possible. I overheard one of them describing a demonstration he had attended in England, in which there had also been a member of Amnesty International with a placard. ‘I went up to him and said, “I don’t believe in that bourgeois shit,” and he said, “Do you think political prisoners should be tortured and killed, then?” “Too fucking right, I do,” I said.’ The person to whom he related this charming little exchange laughed.

Dalrymple’s disgust cannot be disguised even in this propaganda film

What Dalrymple found frightening about the pair

was that their faces were contorted with hatred even as they laughed, and when they talked of killing political prisoners they meant it. They were members of a little communist groupuscule for whom Stalin was a god, not in spite of his crimes but because of them.

Dalrymple reports that the Scandinavian guests,

to my great admiration, unfurled two banners, one asking why Amnesty International was not permitted to investigate conditions in North Korea, and another expressing solidarity with the Chinese pro­-democracy students who had been massacred in Tiananmen Square. Later, when the Scandinavian marchers returned to the body of the stadium, scuffles broke out as security men tried to wrest the banners away. A few of the Scandinavians were punched and kicked.

When these scuffles broke out,

I overheard some of my fellow delegates, the hard-faced communists, express a willingness, indeed an anxiety, to join in – on the side of the North Koreans, ‘to beat the shit out of them’.

Discussing among themselves the Peking scene when the single student (since executed) stood in front of the column of tanks and held them up by moral force alone,

one of them remarked that if he had been the tank driver he would have driven ‘straight over the bastard and squashed him’. And his face showed that he meant what he said.

Dalrymple refuses to stand for the entry of the Eternal President and mouths a version of Luther’s Hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders! Gott helfe mir, Amen!

The foreigners, caught up in the atmosphere of hysterical self-abasement, stood up and applauded as if to save their lives. I am not by nature brave, or even unconventional, yet in the moment of Kim Il-sung’s entry I decided that I would not stand, not if everyone in the stadium should hurl abuse at me. I was so appalled by the sight and sound of 200,000 men and women worshipping a fellow mortal, abdicating their humanity, that I should rather have died than assent to this monstrous evil by standing (my mother was a refugee from Nazi Germany). There I sat; I could do no other. The terrible obedience of the crowd, uncoerced at least in the immediate sense, indicated the power of the régime, a power that seemed absolute and limitless, that had entered the very recesses of minds, that had eradicated any countervailing force.
Yet the power that was so strong Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 09.53.35
was brittle. It would only have taken 10,000 people not to have stood up for Kim Il-sung when he entered the stadium – the omission of one small act of obedience – and his power and mystique would have snapped like a twig, to remain broken and irrecoverable. My refusal to stand was a feeble, isolated gesture; but a tiny crystal thrown into a sea of saturated solution can cause an immense precipitate, and one day such a thing will happen in North Korea and everyone, wise after the event, will marvel that it didn’t happen sooner.

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Seek ye first the political kingdom

and all things shall be added unto you

So said Kwame Nkrumah, first president (1960-66) of independent Ghana, also winner (1962) of the Lenin Peace Prize.

Dalrymple writes that Nkrumah sought and found the political kingdom,

and within a few years his formerly prospering country was bankrupt, obliged to spend several decades trying to recover from his short reign.

Dalrymple points out that

within quite a range of circumstances, purely political action, however necessary it might sometimes be, does not produce the happy economic results expected of it. Prosperity for whole nations or large groups of people cannot simply be conjured by political fiat from a total economic product that already exists. The people themselves must have the attributes necessary to prosper; and no amount of political posturing by their leaders, whether they be self-appointed or democratically elected, will give them those attributes.

American justice

Joe Jones, 1933. Columbus Museum of Art. Dalrymple writes: ‘There were Communists among the American artists in the 1930s who probably would have become socialist realists à la Stalin, if (as was, in reality, impossible) the US had turned Communist; but in the US political context, theirs was an art of protest, not unjustified in itself but ill-assorted with their blindness to the incomparably worse horrors of Soviet Russia. The working-class, self-taught Jones painted his powerful work to protest lynchings and the continued existence of the Klu Klux Klan. This was perfectly justified; lynchings, though not numerous given the size of the US population, must have exerted an influence far beyond their statistical importance, not unlike Islamist terrorism today; yet even lynchings were a minor phenomenon compared with the mass executions and starvation synonymous with Communism from its inception. Despite his obvious and sincere sympathy for the impoverished and downtrodden, Jones could not imagine that anything was worse elsewhere—least of all in his imagined utopia-on-earth.’

In pursuit of an enemy to eliminate

Dalrymple writes: ‘Kazimir Malevich’s Red Cavalry [Russian Museum, St Petersburg] of 1932—the last year with any scope left for ambiguity in Soviet art before socialist realism was pronounced the one true style—was a response to increasing pressure on him, one of the originators of abstract painting, to return to figuration. It is still partly abstract, with kilim-like colored stripes representing land below a pale sky that shades upward into indigo; but over the land thunder 12 rows of schematic Red Cavalry, as though crossing the endless plains of central Russia. Nothing in the picture, however, indicates whether their cause is good or evil, whether the horsemen are heroic or vicious. Since all of Malevich’s other figurative paintings of the time show heads without faces—an oblique commentary on the Soviet dream of cloning communist Man socially, if not genetically—it is fair to conclude that the artist did not intend his Red Cavalry to be seen as wholly heroic—though one could interpret them that way if proceeding from the premise of their heroism.’

How socialism works

The Left, writes Dalrymple,

is forward-looking and judges the present not by what has existed in an imperfect past, or by what is possible for human beings given their essential and abiding nature, let alone by any deontological precepts, but by a future state of perfection that will allegedly be called into existence.

Communism was supposed to

usher in an era of such material plenty, spread not equally but according to what each man needed (as judged by himself), that Man would be all but freed from labour, and the full beauty and potential of his personality would thereafter blossom. Government would wither away; and when it did, let a thousand Mozarts bloom!

What actually happened

was so preposterously different from this adolescent Marxian nonsense that the ideology could not long survive in the hearts and minds of millions its encounter with reality.

As time went on, with no utopia (or even adequate levels of material prosperity) in the offing, propaganda

was no longer an attempt to persuade the population, but became an attempt to humiliate and thus render it docile. Perpetual shortage was represented as unprecedented abundance, either present or to come. Constant intrusion and surveillance was represented as the highest form of freedom.

The error

was to be relatively specific about what utopia would look like. Whatever material abundance meant, it could not possibly mean queueing for five hours for a few measly potatoes.

Tyrants are their heroes

The list, writes Dalrymple,

of influential intellectuals who have given their blessing to the most obviously terrible régimes is impressive.

The dilapidated West

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-08-14-36Dalrymple points out that with the economic centre of gravity having shifted to Asia,

North America does not seem able to assure its population of an increasing standard of living, and Europe is sluggish.

Paris, for instance, is

tired. One feels it is in a time warp of the trente glorieuses, during which it modernised with the help of a concrete-based infrastructure that looks past its best. France has an almost communist air of dilapidation; this is a society that has to run very hard just to stay where it is.

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From strumming guitars to decapitation in three months

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 08.49.34Dalrymple notes that in the Dhaka cafe terror attack, the six Islamist killers

were not downtrodden, like so many of their countrymen. They were scions of the small, rich, and educated local élite. They were privileged as only the rich in poor countries can be privileged.

Vice

knows no class barriers and education is often more an aid than a hindrance to evil committed in the name of ideology.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 08.50.21The Soviets recruited their useful idiots in the West

not from the supposedly ignorant proletariat but from the ranks of the educated.

But even such pitiless people as the Soviets

did not expect their recruits personally to hack people to death if they could not recite the Communist Manifesto—and go straight to heaven as a result.

1Some of the Bangladeshi perpetrators

fanaticised themselves only recently. The parents found it difficult to believe that their sons—previously polite and without apparent problems, indeed with ‘humanitarian’ sentiments of the modern kind—should have suddenly turned so psychopathically brutal.

The killers

could not have expected anything but a smooth passage through life. Lack of prospects was certainly not what impelled them.

After the downfall of Communism, Islamism

is the only ideology that supposedly answers all life’s questions and can appeal to the adolescent search for certainty about what life is for. It appeals only to born Muslims and a small number of converts. It has none of the cross-cultural appeal that Communism did. But why person x rather than person y falls for it—that is a question that can never be fully answered.