Category Archives: NKVD

Moral equivalence and egotism

The inability to distinguish between different scales of suffering

Dalrymple writes:

The inability of western intellectuals to distinguish between the major suffering of others and their own minor irritations and frustrations goes back a long way: Virginia Woolf is a prime example, as are the many who could not see the difference between the House Un-American Activities Committee and the NKVD. It is as if the suffering of a prominent Western intellectual counts many times as much as the suffering of anonymous exotics who will never so much as write a newspaper column.

It implies,

and will be understood by our enemies to mean, that we have nothing much in our tradition to defend. If there is no real difference between the oppressive practices of Moslems, including forced marriage on pain of death, and the treatment of women in the west only 50 years ago—and if any difference between the lot of western and Moslem women of today is ascribable solely to the recent efforts of a handful of feminists—then there cannot be much to choose between Western and Islamic culture.

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.