Category Archives: Marx, Karl

A crashing bore actuated by burning hatred

Dalrymple writes that on the whole, the commentary evoked by the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth

obeyed the injunction not to speak ill of the dead, as if the passage of time and the deaths of millions in the name of the birthday boy did not somewhat attenuate the social imperative to mute one’s words.

Marx

believed that crises were inevitable until the advent of his utopia, in which such phenomena as private property, banks, and the bourgeoisie would cease to exist. In Marx’s vision, the ant would lie down with the anteater.

The combination, says Dalrymple,

of scathing criticism of the present and adolescent daydreaming is irresistible to quite a lot of people.

Dalrymple notes that Marx

was one of those people who love humanity and hate men. He was in most respects an unattractive figure, cocksure, domineering, intolerant, and hypocritical—though he had an undoubted charm in the domestic circle and was both very clever and intensely cultivated.

In his writing he was

a crashing bore with a brilliant turn of phrase. Burning hatred is never far from his prose, and gives it its spice. Nowhere is it clearer that hatred is by far the strongest of political emotions.

The anteater shall lie down with the ant

Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum

Cicero: to be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child

Quid enim est aetas hominis, nisi ea memoria rerum veterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur?

‘The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living’ (Marx) — today this, says Dalrymple,

is how history is taught or used, as if the past were something to liberate ourselves from.

History as nightmare

explains why Europe is so paralysed in its efforts to control immigration by people of very alien culture.

Dalrymple notes that any reference to national identity or desire for the preservation of a culture is

deemed the first step on the slippery slope to Auschwitz.

There have been nightmares in history — many — but history as nightmare, he points out,

is not the whole of history by any means. Only if you take all that exists for granted, as if it were a natural phænomenon something like the weather, can you fail to appreciate the achievements of the past. To lack interest in history except as an instrument in our hands is to become shallow.

The socialist wasteland

Marxism, Dalrymple explains, answers several needs.

  • It has its arcana, which persuade believers that they have penetrated to secrets veiled from others, who are possessed of false consciousness.
  • It appeals to the strongest of all political passions, hatred, and justifies it.
  • It provides a highly intellectualised rationalisation of a discreditable but almost universal and ineradicable emotion: envy.
  • It forever puts the blame elsewhere, making self-examination unnecessary and self-knowledge impossible.
  • It explains everything.
  • It persuades believers that they have a special destiny in the world. For disgruntled intellectuals, nothing could be more gratifying.

Yet the socialist reality is

  • lies
  • enforced ignorance
  • characters formed in an atmosphere of suspicion
  • compromise with evil
  • toadying
  • self-abasement

Dalrymple once met a Marxist who told him that the level of dialectical debate in Moscow was so much higher, and so much wider in scope, than in Western Europe or North America. Dalrymple’s reply was:

If only you could fix your mind on something important, like selling cosmetics or life insurance.

He notes that communist ideas, or prejudices,

live on in those countries where Really Existing Socialism, as the dialecticians used so elegantly to put it, has never been experienced.

In Britain,

the Marxist hatred of profit subsists happily with a Jane Austen-like coyness about where one’s money actually comes from. In Jane Austen, Trade is ungentlemanly; in Marx, it is wicked; in British literary circles, it is both. Given the nature of the output of British literary circles, this wouldn’t matter very much, except for the fact that the attitude has filtered down into the rest of the intelligentsia, and is nearly universal in the public service.

Unlettered whizzkids earning a fortune in the City

particularly excite ire (and envy); I have had many arguments in the doctors’ common room about the necessary and constructive part banking and trade play in any modern economy, irrespective of the existence of dishonest bankers and traders.

But the attitude persists,

the disdainful — and essentially snobbish — attitude that unites them with Castro and Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and Ulbricht, Lenin and Kim Il-sung. Any activity that is neither directly productive nor concerned with the welfare of ‘the people’ is parasitic.

The consequence of the philosophy

may be seen on the shelves of any communist supermarket or in any East European field piled with rotting potatoes.

A semi-literate Marxism is

the unchallengeable orthodoxy in British teacher-training colleges and colleges of further education. Here the politics of grievance are assiduously fostered, with ‘analyses’ of the exploitative nature of capitalist society, which causes the oppression of almost everyone except men in top hats. It is difficult to believe that something of this ideology is not communicated to children, and in my daily work I am often ‘accused’ by young patients of having a good job, as if personal activity had nothing to do with it and my privilege and their deprivation explained all.

Socialism continues to exert a strong influence in poor countries. Liberation theology, for example, is

Pravda with the word God thrown in.

There is a stifling orthodoxy among intellectuals about the origins of poverty. Poverty for them

is the dialectical opposite of wealth: we are poor because you are rich, and you are rich because we are poor. It is a destructive idea. Poverty is the result of exploitation and nothing else: the world is Marx’s Victorian England writ large. The global economy is a cake, and if Europe (the bourgeoisie) has a large slice, Africa (the proletariat) must have a small one. The immiseration of the workers in Marx is paralleled by the immiseration of continents, and has the same causes.

That poverty is the natural state of Man, and that

it is the ascent to wealth that needs explanation (Adam Smith asked the right question), never occurs to the embittered intellectuals.

Really Existing Socialism

The weak and vacillating West

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Evil: the threat

And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out….slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers. (Qur’an, 2:191)

Dalrymple writes that Islam, which was

the basis of great civilisations in the past,

has emerged

as the next potential totalitarianism.

Weak: the West's response

Weak: the West’s response

Islam in the modern world may be

intellectually nugatory,

but a large proportion of humanity is Muslim and

an aggressive and violent minority has emerged within that population with apparently very widespread, if largely passive, approval.

The leadership of western countries has, of course, shown itself to be

very weak and vacillating in the face of this, or any other, challenge.

Showdown with the kuffār

Just as Marx says that

a showdown between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is inevitable, leading to the triumph of the former and the subsequent establishment of a classless society,

so the Islamists think that

a showdown between believers and infidels is inevitable, leading to the victory of Islam, which will eliminate all religious conflict.

A brittle edifice

Dalrymple notes, however, that behind all the Islamic bluster about

the certain possession of the unique, universal and divinely ordained truth for man

is an anxiety among Mohammedans

that the whole edifice of Islam, while strong, is brittle, which explains why free enquiry is so limited in Islamic countries. There is a subliminal awareness — and perhaps not always subliminal — that free philosophical and historical debate could quickly and fatally undermine the hold of Islam on various societies.