Category Archives: famine

The only good anti-communist is a mute anti-communist

There has never a good time to be anti-communist

Dalrymple writes that those who early warned of the dangers of bolshevism

were regarded as lacking in compassion for the suffering of the masses under tsarism, as well as lacking the necessary imagination to build a better world.

Then came the phase of

denial of the crimes of communism, when to base one’s anti-communism on such phenomena as organised famine and the murder of millions was regarded as the malicious acceptance of ideologically-inspired lies and calumnies.

Unforgivable bad taste

When finally the catastrophic failure of communism could no longer be disguised, and all the supposed lies were acknowledged to have been true, to be anti-communist

became tasteless in a different way: it was harping on pointlessly about what everyone had always known to be the case.

Dalrymple points out that to be right at the wrong time

is far worse than having been wrong for decades on end. In the estimation of many intellectuals, to be right at the wrong time is the worst possible faux pas.

South Africa takes the road to penury, tyranny, and famine

Dalrymple writes that farmers, however efficient,

tend to be heavily indebted, but their debts are performing so long as they produce profitably. Expropriation of their land leaves the banks holding huge unserviced debt, for the new owners, producing much less or nothing at all, have no means to service them. The only way to prevent the banks from collapsing is drastically to increase the money supply and to keep doing so.

One might have hoped that the example of Zimbabwe, with its long border with South Africa to the north and its long stream of refugees to the south,

would have been sufficient warning to South Africa not to embark on any similar policy. After all, the stakes are much greater than they were in Zimbabwe. The population is many times larger than Zimbabwe’s, and vastly more urbanised, so that any last resort to subsistence farming is impossible. There is no south for the population to flee to. South Africa’s is already a much more violent society than Zimbabwe’s ever was, with more severe social problems. A catastrophe could easily ensue.

A fifth of white land in South Africa has already been transferred on the basis of willing seller, willing buyer.

  • Why were the sellers willing to sell when they had been settled for so long? Because the longer-term prospects for them in South Africa are dim; many white farmers have been murdered and the rhetoric towards them has long been of a threatening kind which sooner or later would have to be acted on if the rhetoricians were not to lose face.
  • Have the persons to whom the transfers were made maintained former levels of production? It would be surprising if productivity were not changed for the worse. Large-scale commercial farming is not something that is learned in the twinkling of an eye.

From Marx, Capital, volume 1, chapter 32

Dalrymple notes that commercial farms in South Africa

are heavily indebted to the banks. If the farms were expropriated without compensation, the state, or to whomever the state passed on the farms, would be taking on the liabilities as well as the assets. State farming does not have a very good record anywhere in the world, to put it mildly; and it is unlikely that people could be found to continue farming the land profitably. Either the banks would be obliged to write off enormous debts, with the consequent possibility of collapse, or a Zimbabwe-type inflation would have to come to their rescue. This is without mention of the severe food shortages that would occur. The expropriators are expropriated. The problem is that those in whose name the expropriations take place starve to death afterwards.

The very possibility of expropriation without compensation

will have a devastating effect on production, for who will invest if it is only to be expropriated later? That is one of the reasons why security of property is so important, and the South African parliament has shown that it does not understand this. The spectre of expropriation will encourage more commercial farmers to leave and they will not easily be persuaded to return.

Dalrymple says that expropriation without compensation

is so obviously a bad idea that the wonder is that it has been voted as a possibility, all the more so as there is the experience of South Africa’s northern neighbour to draw upon.

Mere stupidity does not account for the proposal.  When Dalrymple was in South Africa he met prominent members of the African National Congress. He had the impression that they were

positioning themselves much as the Russian oligarchs positioned themselves. It was a question of the division of the spoils in a corporatist state. They would set about disproportionate self-enrichment under cover of the rhetoric of dramatic change after an oppressive past.

Rhetorician of resentment

The ANC’s task now

is to ensure the continued loyalty of the political class. There is no better way of doing this than by arrogating powers of patronage, both to confer and to confiscate property. This can all be done under cover of the rhetoric of resentment; and the policy will be disastrous only if its aim is the betterment of the lot of the population. If its aim is the consolidation of power, at least for a time, it makes perfect sense.


The curse of communism

Cumberland Clark, writes Dalrymple, was

an early and ferocious critic of communism.


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.