Category Archives: Russian Revolution

The abominable McDonnell

Dalrymple notes that the historical figures that John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn’s second-in-command, most admires are Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky. McDonnell wishes the nationalisation of land, railways and public utilities,

which can be done only through rates of taxation so high that they would amount to the nationalisation of everything—with a resultant economic collapse—or by outright confiscation, destroying any faith in the rule of law for generations. It could also be done by agreeing on a price of sale and then inflating the currency afterwards, so that billions will not buy you an egg.

Dalrymple states that an economic disaster, far from deterring such a government,

would be of enormous advantage to it,

its purpose being

the exercise of control in the name of irreversible social and political change.

McDonnell’s nationalised industries

will be owned and run by the workers, just as they were supposed to be owned and run after the Russian Revolution. The state will wither away, as in Marxist theory (though not in Soviet practice), once all power has been handed to him.

The Labour Party

will not be just another political party in a competitive, pluralistic polity. It will be modelled on vanguardist movements from the glorious history of the 20th century.

McDonnell, says Dalrymple,

makes clear his commitment to and desire for socialist monomania.

The arrival in power of men such as Corbyn and McDonnell will, Dalrymple points out,

produce an immediate crisis, which they will blame on capitalism, the world economic system, the Rothschilds, and so forth. They will use the crisis to justify further drastic measures.

There will be

wholesale, de facto confiscation of houses. It is but a short step to communal flats or the nationalisation of bathrooms. Other charming proposals include the erection of tower blocks of public housing flats in old villages and leafy suburbs, à la Ceaușescu. If everyone cannot enjoy beauty, why should anyone?

Dear man held out hope of humanistic totalitarianism

Dalrymple finds that a century after the great October putsch, it is interesting to return to what was written 50 rather than 100 years afterwards, so he digs out Ironies of History. He notes that at the time of publication (1966) of Isaac Deutscher’s collection of essays,

the Soviet Union seemed as permanent a feature of the modern world as, say, global warming.

Deutscher had entered his phase as superstar of the New Left, on account of

  • his three-volume biography of his hero Trotsky, which offered willing dupes the hope of a humanistic totalitarianism
  • his opposition to the Vietnam War, during which he formed a tactical alliance with draft-avoiding students, the offspring of what, in other circumstances, he would no doubt have called the petty-bourgeois and kulak class

Such books as Deutscher’s Ironies, Dalrymple points out,

have gone the way of antimacassars and whalebone corsets.

Theodore is priceless

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New York: Horace Liveright, 1928

Faithful friend of the Soviet Union

Strolling in Amsterdam, Dalrymple finds that

there are some excellent second-hand bookshops.

At one of them he picks up

an irresistible book entitled Dreiser Looks At Russia. It ends with the unintentionally hilarious words:

Sleep well, Ilitch, father of a new and possibly — how shall we say? — world-altering force. How fortunate, you, its chosen if martyred instrument. How fortunate indeed.

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Theodore Dreiser: ‘a friend of the Soviet Union because he is a friend of Man, a champion of the democratic masses everywhere’

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Our Ilitch: ‘only the humanity of his spirit, enveloping aura-wise, could have evoked in those underprivileged millions the necessary faith in, if not an understanding of, his immense wisdom and human charity’

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Sleep well, Ilitch

Sleep of the righteous: Ilitch in his mausoleum

Charitable and wise

Ilitch the charitable and wise

'Chosen if martyred instrument of the world-altering force. How fortunate are the Russian masses!'

Ilitch the chosen one, the martyr

'Father of a new and possibly — how shall we say? — world-altering force'

Radiant Ilitch: ‘father of a new and possibly — how shall we say? — world-altering force’

‘Lenin, his Russia, the humanithy and justice which at last, and fully, he introduced into its government and statecraft, will succeed. The social illustration which he provided and which his associates and followers have since carried to its present great power and beauty will never be lost on future generations'

Power and beauty: ‘his Russia, the humanity and justice which at last, and fully, he introduced into its government and statecraft, will succeed. The social illustration which he provided and which his associates and followers have since carried to its present great power and beauty will never be lost on future generations’

The Russian masses, Dreiser wrote, ‘are determined never again to be enslaved. I do not doubt the outcome. Lenin, his Soviet empire, will triumph’

Ilitch triumphant: ‘the Russian masses are determined never again to be enslaved. I do not doubt the outcome. His Soviet empire will triumph’

When he was in Russia in 1927-28 in Russia Dreiser saw 'peasants and mechanics, women and men, kneeling here and there in worship, if not prayer, before Ilitch's candle-lighted bust, or standing uncovered with bowed heads before it, feeling him to be, as I assumed (and truly enough in my judgment), their saviour'

Ilitch the saviour: ‘I saw peasants and mechanics, women and men, kneeling here and there in worship, if not prayer, before his candle-lighted bust, or standing uncovered with bowed heads before it, feeling him to be, as I assumed (and truly enough in my judgment), their saviour’

Soviet communism’s abyssal evil

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 09.02.27In the scale, writes Dalrymple,

even Nazism could not compete.

Everyone involved in the Great Terror

knew that the arrest, trial and sentence were based upon lies from beginning to end.

No revolution

was more avid for the flesh of its originators than the Russian.

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The man who has studied is blinded by learning

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 00.22.30Dalrymple discusses Hugh Stewart’s Provincial Russia (1913):

There is no sense of impending doom or catastrophe, no intimation that a régime is soon to be established in the country that will regularly kill more people in a day than its predecessor in a century. On the contrary, if anything the march of progress, of ever-increasing wealth, education and enlightenment is taken for granted, as being more or less inevitable and unstoppable. Little did the author guess that it would take many years for Russia once again to reach the level of production of the year of publication of his book.

Dalrymple singles out a passage which he says is one of the least prescient prognostications he have ever seen in print. It reads as follows:

Since the emancipation the peasants have made immense progress. And now the rate of improvement can only accelerate with the influence of education, the breaking up of the commune, which was a heavy drag on rural enterprise, the political franchise, and the increased facilities offered by the spread of railways for disposing of surplus crops and developing the internal resources of the country. A great future assuredly lies before this remarkable people, with its physical and mental powers, it vigour, elasticity and youth. This may be a question of time, but it can scarcely be a matter for doubt.

It is needless, he says, to point out the inaccuracy of this prediction,

unless being the victim of one of the greatest and most vicious political experiments in history be counted ‘a great future’ for a people.

The prescient man, Dalrymple concludes,

is not the man who knows most. He is like the chess-player who takes in the situation on a board at once, the result of much study and the possession of instinct. The man who has not studied is blinded by prejudice; the man who has studied, but has no instinct, is blinded by learning.