Category Archives: Marxism

What sort of moral idiot embraces Marxist dogmas?

Answer: the Jeremy Corbyn type

By about 1936, writes Dalrymple, communism in Russia had brought

  • two massive famines causing the deaths of millions
  • routinely more executions in a day than Tsarism performed in a century (and this from the very first moment of Bolshevik power)
  • the establishment of vast forced labour camps in which hundreds of thousands had already died
  • the utter decimation of intellectual life

It is, he points out,

a myth that none of this was known or knowable at the time: on the contrary, it was all perfectly well known, if widely ignored.

What sort of moral idiot embraced communist dogmas? It is intrinsically unlikely, Dalrymple points out,

that a man espouses a totalitarian doctrine of proved and indisputable viciousness and violence from a love of peace and a dislike of poverty.

Attention is often drawn to the economic and political context in which Western European and American communists and fellow travellers operated, suggesting that in the context,

any generous-minded and generous-hearted man concerned about the fate of the world might have made the same decision.

This, says Dalrymple, is false. Communists in the West swallowed many things without any of them impinging on them in the slightest, such as, to name but a few:

  • the famines
  • the show trials
  • the Gulag
  • the Great Terror
  • the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact
  • the ludicrous cult of Stalin’s personality
  • the removal of entire populations
  • the Doctor’s Plot
  • the show trials in Czechoslovakia, Romania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe
  • the Berlin and Hungarian uprisings

The fact is, says Dalrymple, that those who become communists were attracted by precisely those aspects of communism that would repel most decent people, namely,

  • its violence and ruthlessness
  • its suppression of all views inimical to it
  • its cruel wholesale restructuring of society according to the crude and gimcrack ideas of arrogant, ambitious but profoundly mediocre intellectuals

What many communist utopians dreamed of was

  • mass murder
  • deportations
  • suppression of people who differed from them
  • complete control over the lives of everyone
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The proliferation of perverted sub-ideologies

A picture of hate: anti-hate-speech protester, Lewes literary festival, November 2017, in Dr (Mme) Dalrymple’s classic photograph

A million monomanias now

The totalitarian impulse, writes Dalrymple,

did not die with the Soviet Union.

Rather, it

fractured into many different monomanias.

The desire for ideology, he points out,

did not die with the failure of Marxism.

On the contrary,

the desire found its fulfillment in a variety of strange sub-ideologies. Future historians will surely find one of the strangest of these to be that of strident transsexualism.

An eschatological philosophy in a post-religious world

Marxism, writes Dalrymple,

served more than one psychological purpose.

It gave those who adhered to it

the comforting feeling that they understood the inner or hidden workings of the world; that they were far superior in this understanding to those who did not adhere to it; and that they were participating in something far bigger than themselves. It gave them an illusion of transcendence.

Dalrymple points out that although many Marxists claimed that communist Russia’s downfall did not affect their faith in the truth of their secular religion,

Marxism as an intellectual system was deeply discredited by the now-undeniable failure of the Soviet Union to deliver on any of its utopian promises.

On the contrary, Marxism

provided the pretext for the murder, as well as causing the miserable living conditions, of many millions of people; and it was as implausible to deny the connection of these with Marxism as it is now to deny the connection of terrorism with Islam.

Key players

Nothing is so foolish, writes Dalrymple,

that some philosopher has not said it, and no idea has been so discredited that it has not continued to be touted.

He points out that intellectuals are

particularly unsusceptible to refutation by experience, because they much prefer complex rationalisations to the patently obvious — which is a threat to their livelihood, for the patently obvious needs no priestly caste of interpreters. There is no experience that they cannot rationalise away.

Intellectuals who claim not only to be rationalists but rational are often drawn, Dalrymple notes

to gnostic doctrines that claim to reveal the hidden meaning not just of something, but of everything about human existence. Marxism, Freudianism, and, in its most recent form, Darwinism are examples of such doctrines. For many, they held, or hold, the key to reality as Mary Baker Eddy held the key to the Scriptures.

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.

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 ‘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.

It makes you nostalgic for Marxism

Perhaps in earlier times, writes Dalrymple, Salman Abedi

would have found a Marxist groupuscule providing the total explanation of all the ills of the world that troubled youth so often seek, and suggesting to them the total solution. But the downfall of the Soviet Union destroyed the prestige of Marxism, so Abedi sought his total explanation and solution elsewhere. The obvious place was Islam, for he was of Muslim descent and heritage and there were no other contenders for possession of his soul, both little and grandiose.

Of interest to psychopathologists

Happier days

Dalrymple comments:

I never thought I would lament the demise of Marxism, but I have recently begun to remember it rather more fondly. By comparison with Islamism, it was intellectually compelling; Marxists could have interesting things to say, however mistaken they were, which Islamists never can and never will be able to do. At most, they are interesting to psychopathologists.

The ideology of the caliphate, he notes,

is so absurd and intellectually vacuous that to try to refute it is to do it more honour than it deserves or is capable of supporting.

But, he says, history proves that

absurdity is no obstacle to acceptance, even (or perhaps I should say especially) by the intelligent and educated.

Cherchez les Saoudiens

Moreover, Islamism in Europe, Dalrymple points out,

can count on the financial support of, or sustenance by, the Saudi, or Wahhabi, state, which has spent untold millions in spreading its version of rigourism, on creating the atmosphere in which it flourishes and without which it would not survive.

God of the utopian adolescents

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-17-25-17Herbert Marcuse, Dalrymple explains,

popularised the notion of ‘repressive tolerance‘, according to which the freedom to express any opinion without fear of retribution resulted in, or served, repression: it duped people into supposing that they were free. They could say anything they liked, but they lived in a society in which they decided nothing for themselves and in which they were straitjacketed by laws, conventions, moral codes, all to the material benefit of a small élite (Marcuse was some kind of Marxist).

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-17-31-41This notion,

which was expressed in the dullest of prose, was appealing to utopian adolescents who

  1. wanted to deny that they were the most fortunate generation that had ever lived
  2. dreamed of a life completely without restraints on their pleasure

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-17-32-01screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-17-33-26

Man and meaninglessness

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-10-27-27Lack of meaning is a serious problem in modern Man, says Dalrymple. This is so particularly in Europe.

Dalrymple asks us to consider the possible sources of meaning in people’s lives:

  • the struggle for existence. This no longer applies. It is impossible to starve in the West.
  • religion. In England, and certainly in France, it is nearly dead. England is a very irreligious country, and France is an anti-religious country. (The English are too lazy to be anti-religious; they’re just not religious.)
  • politics. Whatever you say about Marxism, it provided people with a transcendent purpose. They thought they were taking part in something bigger than themselves. They were. Unfortunately, it was something very bad.
  • Participating in or contributing to culture. There has been an almost deliberate cutting-off of people from any sense of continuation of a culture. It’s not as bad in France as in Britain.
  • patriotism. In Europe this is shunned. It is equated with the worst of excesses.

What is left? Advocates of the unitary European State try, says Dalrymple,

to make the European Project (as they call it — they never tell you what it actually is) a source of meaning, but it is no source of meaning.