Category Archives: dialectical materialism

Imbecility of Isaac Deutscher

A learned, intelligent and gifted fool

Dalrymple writes that

it is curious, but significant, that a moral imbecile such as Isaac Deutscher should ever have commanded such respect and rapt attention (though not from George Orwell, who included him on his list of communist sympathisers, or from Isaiah Berlin, who did everything he could to stand in the way of any academic appointment for Deutscher).

Deutscher’s prose

is that of the romantic revolutionary bureaucratic mass-murderer,

and when one reads it,

one can only wonder whether the words correspond to any actual thoughts running through the head of the man who wrote them, and if so how terrible it must have been to be such a man.

Deutscher’s judgments

might have been laughable if they had not been so horribly detached from any vestige of human feeling.

He also

had the gift of unfailing negative foresight, possible only for someone as learned as he in the dialectic. To be always wrong implied knowledge of a kind.

Deutscher demonstrates, Dalrymple observes, that

it is possible to study something all one’s life and understand nothing whatever about it, despite an immense accumulation of learning.

It would have been difficult

not to convict Deutscher of outright lying had his mind not been so warped by the dialectic: the denial of the principle of non-contradiction rendering truth-telling impossible for him, and therefore also lying.

Dalrymple points out that it is easier to perceive moral imbecility in retrospect than contemporaneously, and asks:

Who is the Isaac Deutscher de nos jours? There must be one—or many.

Deutscher’s convoluted abstractions and chilling impersonality

Dalrymple points out that Isaac Deutscher was, to put it mildly, deficient in intellectual probity. He

believed in something called the dialectic; and the dialectic is to moral and intellectual dishonesty what Freud said dreams were to the unconscious, namely the royal road.

Deutscher was

one of those Marxists who could not quite make up his mind whether mass murder in the right hands did or did not serve the long-term interests of humanity.

Dalrymple notes that Deutscher’s prose style

is the man himself: evasive, slippery, an equivocator with evil and with the soul of an NKVD apparatchik.

What Deutscher writes

is chillingly impersonal: if he had been writing of the extermination camps, he might have done so by reference to their carbon dioxide emissions. It was as if he believed that if you were cold-hearted and impersonal enough, you became scientific. He saw classes of men, not men. His convoluted abstractions were more real to him than anything as concrete or vulgar as a bullet in the back of someone’s head.