Category Archives: Soviet Union

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?

Psychoanalysis is that mental illness for which it regards itself as therapy

An American psychologist by the name of John Gartner argues that Donald Trump should be removed from office on psychiatric grounds:

We live in a pre-fascist society…The German psychiatric association said nothing during the rise of Hitler…We are facing a crisis that threatens to engulf the world in flames…Trump meets standards for commitment and should be required to undergo psychiatric evaluation, whether he wants to or not…The man is threatening to murder an entire country…We cannot call the authorities because the homicidal patient is the authorities.

Dalrymple notes that Gartner

displays no knowledge of or imaginative insight into what it is like to live in a totalitarian dictatorship—his Jewishness notwithstanding—despite countless memoirs, academic books, and films attesting to and describing life under authoritarian rule. Such ignorance or lack of imagination is culpable. For an American to compare contemporary life in the USA, no doubt unsatisfactory as it is in many respects, with life in a fascist dictatorship is self-dramatising, self-pitying, and an insult to those millions who suffered or died under totalitarian dictatorships.

It is legitimate to oppose the government and to despise the person of the president;

it is another thing to claim jurisdiction over whether he should be entitled to be president and whether he ought to be removed by committal to a mental institution. In the Soviet Union, psychiatrists occupied the kind of commissarship that Gartner is appealing for.

Gartner

shows an implicit contempt for US institutions and history if he thinks that the election of one allegedly unstable man can turn his country into a fascist dictatorship almost overnight.

He is

what Kraus said of psychoanalysis, a cause of the disease it pretends to cure. He believes that people who show instability, anger, paranoia, feelings of persecution, and cognitive confusion would and should be involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation.

Dalrymple suggests that Gartner read Chekhov’s 1892 short story Ward No. 6, in which Dr Ragin is committed to his own asylum.

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

Postcards from Latvia

At Riga airport, Dalrymple has some rather good Japanese noodle soup. It proves, he says, that

there is such a thing as progress.

The last time he was in Latvia,

it was Soviet. There was no question of udon soup in those days, to put it mildly.

Riga in the old days

The racist New York Times

Leafing through a copy of the New York newspaper the Times, Dalrymple finds France’s World Cup win described as

a victory of multiculturalism over identity politics. Not only did the victory celebrations signal what the Times called France’s embrace of multiculturalism, but it pointed out that the all-white Croatian team represented a country that was hostile to immigrants from very different cultures from its own.

This, says Dalrymple,

assumes two things, one of which proves the truth of one of modern American liberalism’s main planks, namely that racism is more difficult to eradicate from minds than one might suppose.

  • The newspaper assumed that the French team was multicultural ­because six of its players were of African descent, as if the colour of their skin and culture inevitably went together: once an African, ­always an African, presumably for genetic reasons.
  • By implying that the French victory signals some kind of cultural superiority, it ascribes to mere sporting events the ­importance that totalitarian ­régimes used to ascribe to them: we are back to the days when the Soviet Union used the victories of Tamara and Irina Press in putting the shot, throwing the javelin, etc. (it still has not been quite decided whether they were truly ­female), to suggest the superiority of the Soviet political and social system.

Tamara and Irina Press

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.

Some heroes are best avoided

Leafing through Isaac Deutscher’s Ironies of History: Essays on Contemporary Communism (1966), Dalrymple lights on this passage:

A society which has gone through as much as Soviet society has gone through, which has achieved so much and suffered so much, which has seen, within the lifetime of one generation, its whole existence repeatedly shattered, and which has again and again ascended the highest peaks of hope and heroism and descended to the lowest depths of despair—such a society cannot fail to draw from its rich and uniquely great experience equally great generalising ideas and practical conclusions and to embody these in actions worthy of itself. Nor can it fail to produce sooner or later the men and women strong enough in mind and character—a new ‘phalanx of heroes reared on the milk of the wild beast‘—to transform ideas into deeds.

Dalrymple comments:

I am not sure I would care much to meet a phalanx of heroes raised on the milk of the wild beast—in fact, I think I would cross to the other side of the street if I did so. (The quote, incidentally, comes from Alexander Herzen.)

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.

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 phænomenon 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.’