Category Archives: intellectuals (Western)

A blueprint for all that was most harmful to development

The currency was called ‘pictures of Nyerere’

Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania, writes Dalrymple,

illustrated best and most clearly the politicisation of life that foreign aid promoted.

It was regarded by silly Western intellectuals as

a beacon to Africa, if not to the world. Mwalimu, or Teacher, was admired because of his apparently modest manner and lifestyle. Because of the uncritical high regard in which he was held, the economist Peter Bauer called him ‘St Julius’.

What had Teacher taught, and what were the miracles that St Julius had wrought? The country

was impoverished, with young men walking around in Western women’s coats, sent out in bundles by charities from Europe. There was nothing to buy. The currency was called ‘pictures of Nyerere’. Everyone was thin except for members of the Party of the Revolution, who were inclined to be portly. You could tell a party member in the countryside by his girth.

Party of the Revolution

Dalrymple explains that every 10th household had a 10-cell leader,

a man whose certificate of political reliability it was necessary to secure even for a child to continue beyond a certain age at school. This became a system of bribery that reached into the tiny interstices of life. It created, in conditions of penury, a cadre who were not only the eyes and ears of the régime, but loyal to it for the small advantages it gave them. (One thinks here of Freud’s phrase, the narcissism of small differences.)

Nyerere

was adept at talking the language of left-wing European intellectuals, while blinding them—in all conscience, not a very difficult thing to do—to the natural consequences of the forcible collectivisation of peasant agriculture and the removal of millions of people from where they were living, on the supposition that it was only thus that equal and equitable development could take place while the government provided the population with its inestimable services.

The maintenance of this system required tyranny and corruption even on a micro-level. Dalrymple had a patient, an Indian trader,

who had contracted tuberculosis in a Tanzanian prison, to which he had been sent for six months during one of Nyerere’s so-called economic crackdowns, conducted by the army to search out people who had supposedly dealt on the so-called black market (which Bauer would have preferred to call the open market). My patient—one of a class of admirable people, small merchants who had begun their careers by bringing a few simple consumer goods to remote rural areas where it was still possible to be attacked by a lion, and who had gradually reached a modest prosperity—had been found to be in possession of six cups and saucers for which he did not have a receipt.

Foreign aid paid for this iniquity. (Dalrymple also was a small beneficiary of the aid, buying his first house from the proceeds.) The collectivisation

was predictably such a disaster, economically, that there was only one solution: more foreign aid. 90% of the people lived on the land, but still the population could not feed itself, and produced practically no cash crops, they being subjected, if grown, to forced requisition by state marketing boards.

Nyerere recognised the nature of his system when he explained why he refused to devalue the currency.

Such a devaluation would have destroyed his powers of political patronage, for access to foreign currency to favoured persons was a way of ensuring their loyalty. ‘And I would lose everything I have,’ were Nyerere’s precise words.

 

British intellectuals loathe Britain

Self-hatred is neither attractive nor constructive. It is not only insincere but unjustified

The British, Dalrymple writes,

are fortunate enough to be the inheritors of a tradition as great as (though not necessarily greater than) any. Why reject it?

He writes from India, where he says

it is far easier to find genuine and knowledgeable admirers of British culture than it is among Britain’s own political class. This is the saddest commentary on the condition of England.

In Great Britain, says Dalrymple, you find

officially-sponsored indifference or hostility to anything which might be considered part of the European and British cultural and religious heritage.

This is combined with

a tender regard for any non-European and non-British cultural heritage.

For example,

no British minister would go to Brick Lane in East London and say it was horribly Bangladeshi; but a British minister had no compunction in complaining of an institution that it was horribly white.

English intellectuals, Dalrymple points out,

have long harboured a hatred of their country and its culture. The attitude has deeply infiltrated the political class, and has come to affect legislation.

Moral exhibitionism

But it is

insincere. Those who adopt it are not admirers of other cultures, for to admire other cultures it is necessary to study them. To know another culture is not a matter of slipping down once in a while to a restaurant that serves its cuisine: it is very hard work indeed, and the more different that culture is from one’s own, the harder the work it is.

When members of Britain’s political class express their adherence to multiculturalism,

they are not expressing their love of other cultures, they are expressing hatred of their own. It is this which explains the discrepancy in the way a Christian who derides Islam can expect to be treated by comparison with a Muslim who derides Christianity.

The hatred of that section of the political class for their country’s culture, traditions and past is insincere in another sense, Dalrymple notes.

By expressing that hatred, they imagine themselves to be exhibiting their moral superiority for all the world — and especially the intelligentsia — to see.

Rubbing their noses in diversity

Another factor in the political class’s hatred of their culture is that it is politically advantageous. Mass immigration,

with the concomitant ideological glorification of the multicultural society, has had as its purpose the production of a permanent change in the nature of the British population, which can be relied upon to vote for ever for the kind of politicians who brought it about. It is one thing to encourage immigration because your commerce is so strong that there is a labour shortage; quite another when neither of those conditions obtains. Britain’s commerce was never strong and there never was a labour shortage. The country imported people while there was still mass unemployment (disguised as sickness) to create a vote bank for those who brought this about.

Western intellectuals and the Maoist tyranny

Communist dictatorships, Dalrymple points out,

were at their most popular among Western intellectuals while they still had the courage of their brutality. Once they settled down to grey, everyday oppression and relatively minor acts of violent repression (judged by their own former standards), they ceased to attract the extravagant praises of those intellectuals who, in their own countries, regarded as intolerable even the slightest derogation from their absolute freedom of expression.

It is as if, he says,

not dreams but totalitarian famines and massacres acted as the Freudian wish-fulfilment of these Western intellectuals. They spoke of illimitable freedom, but desired unlimited power.

Mao Zedong, Dalrymple notes,

was the blank page or screen upon which they could project the fantasies that they thought beautiful.

China

was a long way off, its hundreds of millions of peasants inscrutable but known to be impoverished and oppressed by history; its culture was impenetrable to Westerners without many years of dedicated and mind-consuming study.

Western sinologists,

almost to a man, upheld the Maoist version of the world, some of them for fear of losing their access to China if they did not, and thereby created the impression that Maoism was intellectually and morally respectable. And so perfect conditions were laid for the most willing and total suspension of disbelief.

Mao’s Thoughts

— that is to say, clichés, platitudes, and lies — were treated by intelligent and educated people as if they were more profound, and contained more mental and spiritual sustenance, than Pascal’s.

As so often before,

mere reality as experienced by scores of millions of people was of little interest to intellectuals by comparison with the schemata in their minds and their own self-conception. ‘Let the heavens fall so long as I feel good about myself’ was their motto.

The ‘potential space’ of Islamism

With its ready-made diagnosis and prescriptions, writes Dalrymple, it

opens up and fills with the pus of implacable hatred for many in search of a reason for and a solution to their discontents.

According to Islamism, Dalrymple notes, the West can never meet the demands of justice, because it is

  • decadent
  • materialistic
  • individualistic
  • heathen
  • democratic rather than theocratic

Only

a return to the principles and practices of 7th-century Arabia will resolve all personal and political problems at the same time.

This notion, he points out, is

no more (and no less) bizarre or stupid than the Marxist notion that captivated so many Western intellectuals throughout the 20th century: that the abolition of private property would lead to final and lasting harmony among men.

Western intellectuals’ grisly infatuation with tyrants

Dalrymple explains that Paul Hollander has had

a long interest in political deception and self-deception — not surprising in someone with first-hand experience of both the Nazis and the Communists in his native Hungary.

In 1981 Hollander published

his classic study of Western intellectuals who travelled, mainly on severely guided tours, to communist countries, principally Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, and Castro’s Cuba.

The intellectuals had returned

with glowing accounts of the new (and better) worlds under construction there. The contrast between their accounts and reality would have been funny had reality itself not been so terrible.

Tyrants are their heroes

The list, writes Dalrymple,

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

Fidel’s fantasy of making the world anew — violently

Dictador Supremo: José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia

Dictador Supremo: José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia

Fidel Castro, writes Dalrymple,

was the José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia de nos jours. Yet Francia had one great merit by comparison with Castro and his admirers: he made no pretence that the régime represented democracy of a higher or better kind than the parliamentary variety. Francia did not pretend that it was a democracy of any kind, and came right out with it: his self-chosen title was Dictator.

Castro was the darling of the intellectuals

partly because, like them, he was so slovenly in appearance, partly because he represented their wish fulfilment (inside every rebel there’s a dictator trying to get out). To rant for hours in front of a captive audience unable to answer or object: what greater bliss for an intellectual?

Admiration for Castro in the West was, of course, from afar. Dalrymple points out that Castro’s admirers

would not have found the régime they affected to admire supportable for a single day.

The admiration in the West

for Castro and his appalling sidekick and potential rival, Ernesto Guevara, was essentially frivolous, more a question of style than of substance. It was the promise of eternal adolescence that the two revolutionary egotists held out that rendered them so attractive at a time when adolescence was regarded as the finest of the seven ages of man.

Alberto Korda with his photograph

Alberto Korda with his photograph

Dalrymple notes that

if the photographer Alberto Korda had not snapped Guevara in an uncharacteristically romantic pose (usually he looked dishevelled and unwashed), the cult would not have existed. This was the face that launched a thousand T-shirts, not to say berets, badges, posters, coffee mugs, car stickers, and other items of kitsch.

Dictador Dalrymple would force

anyone guilty of wearing a Guevara T-shirt to read 20 pages of his writings, which make those of Leonid Brezhnev seem like P.G. Wodehouse.

When Dalrymple contemplates

the printed acreage of praise of Castro by Western intellectuals, I recall the words of Thomas Carlyle with regard to what he calls the gauchos of Paraguay:

These men are fit to be drilled into something! Their lives stand there like empty capacious bottles, calling to the heavens and the earth. ‘Is there nothing to put into us, then?’

Dalrymple:

Yes, there is: fantasies of omnipotence, fantasies of making the world anew, with us in charge.

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-19-43-52

Revolutionary egotists

Castro’s Cuba: a pile of rubble flying a skull and crossbones

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-22-47-22The dictator’s end came 60 years too late

Fidel Castro, writes Dalrymple,

was his own greatest admirer. His ego was more important than the fate of anything in the world, or of the entire world. As he put it in a speech, ‘The Cuban people did not hesitate to face the dangers of thermonuclear war.’ It goes without saying that Castro did not invite the Cuban people to express an opinion on the matter of their incineration by nuclear bombs. The Romans said, ‘Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.’ Castro, in effect, said, ‘Let the world end, so long as I play an important part in it.’ His willingness to approve an apocalypse for his own people was paralleled only by that of Hitler.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-22-48-22When the Russians ignored Castro in their negotiations with the Americans,

he felt humiliated by his insignificance in the larger scheme of things. The extent of his moral frivolity was demonstrated by the fact that he was reconciled with the Russians a year later after a long tour of the Soviet Union, during which the Russians fêted him as they had never fêted anyone else.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-22-49-41He liked nothing better, Dalrymple points out,

than to harangue hundreds of thousands of Cubans in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución for several hours at a time. (Attendance was compulsory.)

A diplomat in Havana told Dalrymple that he had once dined with Castro,

who had spoken uninterruptedly for seven hours, pausing only briefly to take food and drink.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-23-27-46Castro was a master at

manipulating the opinion of Western intellectuals, many of whom supported him unconditionally. His creation of an utterly servile Press and suppression of all liberty of opinion did not bother those intellectuals either. The combination of his rebellious rhetoric and defiance of the US more than compensated them for the dilapidation of Cuba, the tyranny, and the large numbers of political prisoners.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-22-54-36Dalrymple notes that Castro knew how to get the most out of foreign interviewers.

His technique was to keep journalists waiting for days or weeks, so that their tension mounted, and then suddenly call them at 3am. Their relief was so great that they were disarmed, and susceptible to Castro’s magnetic charms. Dutiful propagandists, they would trot out Castro’s achievements in health and education, which were said to counterbalance the food rationing, the deterioration of the housing stock and the absence of elementary freedoms.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-22-43-54His daughter Alina Fernández, who has inherited Castro’s temper, once shouted at him: ‘You’re a mediocrity!’ Although this sounds

absurd, given Castro’s career, it contains a truth: for all his ebullience and activity, his ideas never rose above the level of cliché, and mistaken cliché at that.

The centralised economy he established

did not work, because such economies cannot work. Havana, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is crumbling into dust through lack of maintenance. Hundreds of thousands of people inhabit the ruins of a previous civilisation.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-22-59-07The only institution that functions in Cuba with anything approaching efficiency is

the secret police.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-23-03-12

Muggeridge was right — about Russia and about TV

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 08.49.24Malcolm Muggeridge, Dalrymple explains, was a correspondent for the (then-Manchester) Guardian in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, but

far from finding the paradise he had expected, he found a kind of hell. During the Ukrainian famine he sent back truthful reports to the Guardian, which published only some of them. He was outraged by the Western intellectuals who took starvation for plenty and tyranny for freedom, and satirised them mercilessly in his book Winter in Moscow.

For Muggeridge,

the most encouraging thing about the Soviet régime was its failure. If it had succeeded…I would have known that there were no limits to the extent to which human beings could be terrorised and enslaved.

Later in life, Dalrymple notes,

Muggeridge became a fervent and somewhat unctuous Christian, by no means a popular thing to do in the 1960s. Perhaps he did so because it was his temperament to swim against the tide. He denounced television from his pulpit—which was, of course, television. He denounced it with all the fervour of a temperance preacher denouncing gin or of a modern public health official denouncing tobacco. At first I laughed at him, but then I saw that he was quite right. Television is an evil.