Category Archives: Soviet Union

American justice

Joe Jones, 1933. Columbus Museum of Art. Dalrymple writes: ‘There were Communists among the American artists in the 1930s who probably would have become socialist realists à la Stalin, if (as was, in reality, impossible) the US had turned Communist; but in the US political context, theirs was an art of protest, not unjustified in itself but ill-assorted with their blindness to the incomparably worse horrors of Soviet Russia. The working-class, self-taught Jones painted his powerful work to protest lynchings and the continued existence of the Klu Klux Klan. This was perfectly justified; lynchings, though not numerous given the size of the US population, must have exerted an influence far beyond their statistical importance, not unlike Islamist terrorism today; yet even lynchings were a minor phenomenon compared with the mass executions and starvation synonymous with Communism from its inception. Despite his obvious and sincere sympathy for the impoverished and downtrodden, Jones could not imagine that anything was worse elsewhere—least of all in his imagined utopia-on-earth.’

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In pursuit of an enemy to eliminate

Dalrymple writes: ‘Kazimir Malevich’s Red Cavalry [Russian Museum, St Petersburg] of 1932—the last year with any scope left for ambiguity in Soviet art before socialist realism was pronounced the one true style—was a response to increasing pressure on him, one of the originators of abstract painting, to return to figuration. It is still partly abstract, with kilim-like colored stripes representing land below a pale sky that shades upward into indigo; but over the land thunder 12 rows of schematic Red Cavalry, as though crossing the endless plains of central Russia. Nothing in the picture, however, indicates whether their cause is good or evil, whether the horsemen are heroic or vicious. Since all of Malevich’s other figurative paintings of the time show heads without faces—an oblique commentary on the Soviet dream of cloning communist Man socially, if not genetically—it is fair to conclude that the artist did not intend his Red Cavalry to be seen as wholly heroic—though one could interpret them that way if proceeding from the premise of their heroism.’

Sincere, modest Stalin versus the Nazi sodomites

Dalrymple leafs through Eyes Left! (1943) by Reg Ellery, the Australian psychiatrist and fellow traveller, and is amused by this sort of stuff:

The Soviet Union must be the pattern for our reconstructional efforts. We should remember that it succeeded in spite of overwhelming obstacles because the socialist ideology appealed to men and women with courage and enthusiasm, willing to risk personal pleasure and private satisfaction for the splendid purpose in the task that lay ahead of them. We, likewise, can succeed if we can enlist the pliant sympathies of youth to a doctrine which aims at the abolition of the exploitation of man by man.

As for Stalin, Ellery found him to be

a man whose modesty is as disarming as his determination is inflexible—a man of great vision, a sincere student, a warm friend.

Dalrymple explains also that Ellery felt that he had discovered the secret source of German fascism, which he identified as homosexuality. He appeared to blame the whole of Nazism on homosexuality, latent or otherwise. Ellery wrote:

Nazism is a homosexual culture. The Nazi ideal is masculinity. The typical Nazi has the homosexual’s fear of the female. Hitler and his satellites, under the strong pressure of their own latent homosexuality, have foisted this masculinity on the German nation once again, knowing, perhaps, that militarism flourishes best in the atmosphere of repressed homosexuality.

Why Dalrymple voted for Brexit

Dalrymple spends part of every year in his house in Shropshire

Despite the fact that the European Union is far from being the cause of all the country’s problems, the outcome of the 2016 UK EU membership referendum steers Britain away from a potential monster, Dalrymple tells an interviewer.

Although no sensible person would liken it to the Third Reich or the Soviet Union, the EU nevertheless bears the seeds of an unfree state. It wants to force different peoples together in an artificial union. Dalrymple notes that Belgium is such a union: it holds together, more or less, but to do such a thing on a larger scale is to court major problems.

And the argument that the EU is the only way for Europe to play a role on the world stage can be swept aside. The EU has shown only weakness.

The European project, says Dalrymple, is little but misplaced megalomania.

 

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.

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Surely no human existence can be as empty of meaning as this

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-28-10From time to time Dalrymple receives invitations to attend conferences on something called medical leadership. The invitations ask,

Do you want to be a leader?

The answer, in Dalrymple’s case, is

No.

The latest conference on medical leadership, Dalrymple reports,

has 80 speakers and lasts three days. The organisers seem to believe that the longer the conference and the larger the number of speakers on so patently dull a subject, the more impressive it is, no doubt in the way that a big box of chocolates impresses a greedy person more than a small one. All things considered, I’d rather stay at home and read the collected works of Kim Il-sung.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-25-28Dalrymple looks at the biographical details of a couple of the speakers, taken from the list at random.

Mr R.

is founding Director of Harthill Consulting. His extensive practitioner background includes working with senior leaders from organisations such as Fujitsu, Danone, Shell, Hewlett Packard, Volvo, Eli Lilly and Microsoft. Co-author of HBR’s award-winning article ‘Seven Transformations of Leadership’ (April 2005) it has since consistently been named as one of HBR’s ‘Top 10 Must Reads’ on Leadership. He recently co-authored and contributed to the large-scale 2015 PwC study on leader transformation and retention. His expertise is exploring leadership as a process of evolving ‘wisdom’ — enabling individuals to integrate discernment, courage, power and compassion.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-31-37Ms A.-M.

is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Chief Executive of Real World Group (a University of Leeds spin-out company). She is also Adjunct Associate Professor at the Centre for Sustainable Business and Enterprise, University of Southern Queensland. She has been working with Real World Group for the past 15 years, supporting leadership development with both individuals and groups up to Board level globally. She has a particular passion for a focus on positive psychology and diversity & inclusion in leadership. She has helped establish Real World Group’s approach to Engaging Leadership, based on uniquely proven research involving tens of thousands of people across the world, and has authored or co-authored most of Real World Group’s diagnostic instruments. The research she has been involved with has established the common sense but often missing behaviours that distinguish leaders from managers, and effective leadership among teams and organisations. They are factors that drive productivity in a sustainable way, even when resources are diminishing. As a result of her research and experience in working with organisations, she has been invited to speak at international and national conferences, and consults on behalf of Real World Group with organisations from the UK, North America, South East Asia and the wider Asia Pacific region. She has worked extensively in Higher Education, including at leading Universities and with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. She has authored and co-authored a number of articles in practitioner and peer-reviewed journals, as well as book chapters in academic books by leading publishers on leaders’ career development. She is Co-Chair of the Steering Group of the government sponsored Engage For Success movement (www.engageforsuccess.org) and the editorial committee of the International Congress on Leadership, Management and Governance. She has an MSc in Occupational Psychology from the University of London, Birkbeck College and an MSc in Positive Organization Development and Change from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-22-57In case, says Dalrymple, the above

should be insufficiently enticing to prospective attendees,

it is explained why they should attend the conference:

Be a part of the first Leaders in Healthcare conference, which will bring together both the future generation and most senior of healthcare professionals and managers. The event aims to focus on the leadership challenges all nations face in healthcare to improve the care we deliver for our patients. Learn about and be part of widespread discussions including standards, professionalism and the opportunity for a step change in quality, the leadership challenges facing healthcare on a national and international scale and how we, as a profession, will face these, and contemporary leadership theory from international experts. Attend interactive workshops and hear from inspiring speakers exploring the essentials of what you need to know to continually grow your leaderships skills, how innovation in healthcare can change the way we work, and how medical education can improve leadership, clinical performance and patient safety. Represent the voice of medical students by planning your leadership skills development at an early stage of your career. Explore sessions to understand the essentials of leadership and how to take charge of your own development, and network with peers and senior medical leaders. Develop essential skills for being an effective leader who can motivate and inspire others in the team, influence the way care is given, ensuring it is high quality, compassionate and responds to individual needs, and network with the full spectrum of healthcare leaders from all professional backgrounds. Network with a broad range of healthcare professionals, develop a shared understanding of what good leadership is and how working together can benefit service delivery and patient care, consider how we can encourage greater involvement of healthcare professionals, service users, communities and the general public in shaping healthcare services that are fit for purpose, and network in a unique multi-professional healthcare leadership event embracing all levels and sectors. Leaders in Healthcare 2016 welcomes other professionals who share our passion for excellence in leadership and management.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-38-20After reading a few lines of such prose, Dalrymple’s mind

goes fuzzy as if I were suffering from a hangover, or as if an almost physical shutter comes down in my brain, just as it does on reading a paragraph of Kim Il-sung. The prose destroys my capacity, even my will, to concentrate or fix my mind on anything. My remaining thoughts are fleeting and desultory: ‘Can anyone really have a passion for diversity and inclusion in leadership?’ or ‘What can the life of someone who does have such a passion be like?’ I try to imagine it, but nothing comes to mind. Surely no human existence could be as empty of meaning as that.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-23-09Then Dalrymple begins to wonder what Alexander the Great or Napoleon would have made of the conference on leadership.

Would they have been able to reach a shared understanding of what good leadership is? If Alexander had only been better able to integrate compassion into his discernment, courage, and power, would he have found new worlds to conquer? If Napoleon had learned about leader transformation, would he have crowned himself emperor earlier in his career than he did?

Who would pay good money for such a conference?

The taxpayer. He would not attend the conference himself, of course, but he would pay for employees to attend it who needed or desired a three-day break from their work in a public hospital or as part of their mandatory continuing professional development. He would also pay the fees of the speakers, some of them flown in from distant lands.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-40-36The attendees, Dalrymple notes, would learn about something called lean management, one definition of which is as follows:

If someone tells you that ‘lean management is this’ and not something else, if someone puts it in a box and ties a bow around it and presents it in a neat package with four walls around it, then that someone knows not of what they speak. Why? Because it is in motion and not a framed picture hanging on the wall. It is a melody, a rhythm, and not a single note.

This, says Dalrymple, is

the mysticism of apparatchiks, the romanticism of bureaucrats, the poetry of clerks. From my limited observations of management in public hospitals and other parts of the public health care system, it seeks to be not lean, in the commonly used sense of the word, but fat, indeed as fat as possible; nor are large private institutions very much different.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-43-08We have entered, writes Dalrymple,

gradually and without any central direction or decree, a golden age of langue de bois or of Newspeak. Langue de bois is the pompous, vague, and abstract words that have some kind of connotation but no real denotation used by those who have to hide their real motives and activities by a smokescreen of scientific- or benevolent-sounding verbiage. Newspeak is the language in Nineteen Eighty-Four whose object is to limit human minds to a few simple politically permissible thoughts, excluding all others, and making doublethink — the frictionless assent to incompatible propositions—part of everyday mentation.

Langue de bois and Newspeak

are no longer languages into which normal thought must be translated; rather they have become the languages in which thought itself, or rather cerebral activity, takes place, at least in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy that rules us. If you ask someone who speaks either of them to translate what he has said or written into normal language, it is more than likely he will be unable to do so: His translation will be indistinguishable from the words translated.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-13-49-41It is therefore clear that,

where culture is concerned, the Soviet Union scored a decisive and probably irreversible victory in the Cold War.

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Is putting the shot the proper study of Mankind?

The Press sisters, Dalrymple reminds us,

precipitately retired when obligatory sex tests were introduced.

These days, however,

such tests would not put them off or be regarded as relevant. You are the sex that you think you are.

The Press brothers’ success

was promoted in some quarters as evidence of the superiority of the Soviet social and political system, as if putting the shot, or throwing the discus, or jumping the hurdles (all activities in which the Presses excelled, at least against feminine competition) were Pope’s ‘proper study of Mankind’.

Irina (left) and Tamara Press

Irina (left) and Tamara Press

Citius, Altius, Fortius, Hermaphroditus

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 22.51.33Dalrymple reminds us that in the 1960s,

medical cytologists were called in to determine the sex of female athletes suspected of being men. The careers of the Press sisters of the Soviet Union, so successful at the Rome Olympics, came to a mysterious end when such tests became routine.

He also points out that doctors

acted as advisers to the sporting authorities in the communist countries when they were determined that their young female gymnasts should dominate the sport. The activities of those doctors were ethically little better than medical participation in torture.

Dalrymple’s own objection, however, to these deformities is different:

that to devote one’s life to, say, throwing a javelin a fraction of an inch further than anyone else has ever thrown it is a deformation of the soul.

Islamism is a response to a psychic problem

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 08.58.38

Adel Kermiche

Mohammedanism, writes Dalrymple,

rushed in to fill the gap left by the collapse of the Soviet Union and its collateral damage to the prestige of Marxism. How many of us predicted that this current of something that only vaguely approximates thought, and is more like an inflamed state of feeling, would become so important?

From the intellectual point of view,

even gender studies are more interesting than Islamism. No doubt the history of the world is replete with absurd doctrines for the sake of which people have been ready to kill and to die, but one might have hoped that in the 21st century no part of mankind would be any longer susceptible to Münster-Anabaptist-type delusions.

Anyone, says Dalrymple, who has read Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones

quickly appreciates the almost pathetic thinness of the political thought behind it.

The appeal of Islamism

is not to the head but to the gut. Young European-born Moslems who go to join Isis have biographies that are depressingly similar. Often (though not quite always) of poor educational attainment and economic prospects, and resentful of their subordinate place in society, they nevertheless take with enthusiasm and gusto to the less refined aspects of contemporary Western culture. Before conversion, as little boys go through a dinosaur stage, they go through a rap-music, drink, drug and petty-crime stage.

Mohammedanism

is the answer to their impasse, there now being no other on offer. Suddenly they are superior instead of inferior, important instead of insignificant, feared instead of despised; best of all, they are licensed to kill. Better a dead lion than a live rat.

Grisly heartlessness of Eric Hobsbawm

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Companion of Honour

In his videolettera to Antonio Gramsci, Eric Hobsbawm CH says in part:

Anche se sei morto da più di settant’anni, sei vivo per tutti coloro che vogliono un mondo dove i poveri hanno la possibilità di diventare dei veri esseri umani.

Dalrymple comments:

These words to me are chilling, all the more so when you realise that they were uttered by a man who, towards the end of his very long life, said that if the deaths of the 20m people who died in the Soviet Union (it was probably many more) had brought about true socialism, then they would have been worth it.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 23.21.44

Please address all videoletters to A. Gramsci, c/o The Protestant Cemetery, Rome

Dalrymple has spent much of his life

among the poor or relatively poor. I can honestly say that it never occurred to me for a single moment that any one of them was not a true human being. Indeed, if they were not true human beings, their poverty would be nothing to worry about. I neither romanticised them as the fount of all goodness and wisdom nor saw them as mere objects.

Hobsbawm’s remark,

supposedly so generous but in fact utterly heartless, was of a piece with Mao’s chilling remark about the Chinese people being a blank sheet of paper on which the most beautiful characters (ideographs) could be written. For people like Mao and Hobsbawm, it is for other people not to be truly human, never themselves.

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A colourful character

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