Category Archives: Stalin, Joseph

Dalrymple schools a brute and a barbarian

Debate on the propaganda campaign to persuade people that the brutalist strain was a glorious episode in architectural history

Detail of Balfron Tower (Ernő Goldfinger, 1965-67)

DALRYMPLE: It has the ring of guilty people who protest their innocence too much, who know that they have been complicit in many crimes but hope that by noisy protestation they can drown out their conscience and befuddle the judgment of others. The architects who practised brutalism were brutes. No invading barbarians could have done more damage to towns and cities. Of course, there is no accounting for taste. As James Curl pointed out in debate with an apologist for brutalism, if you do not apprehend the horrors of brutalism at once, there is little that anyone can say. It is like trying to persuade someone that genocide is wrong who does not apprehend it at once. The great mass of the population rightly detests brutalism.

BRUTE: The newly-gained attractivity is growing by the day. In troubled times where societal divides are stronger than ever around the globe and in a world where instantaneous rhymes with tenuous, brutalism offers a grounded style. It’s a simple, massive and timeless base upon which one can feel safe, it’s reassuring.

DALRYMPLE: The idea that brute concrete could create any kind of security other than unease or fear is laughable. When defenders of brutalism illustrate their articles with supposed masterpieces, it is hardly a coincidence that they do so with pictures of buildings devoid of human beings. A human being would be as out of place in such a picture, and a fortiori in such a building, as he would be in a textbook of Euclidean geometry, and would be as welcome as a termite in a wooden floor. For such apologists for brutalism, architecture is a matter of the application of an abstract principle alone, and they see the results through the lenses of their abstraction, which they cherish as others cherish their pet.

BARBARIAN: Unrefined concrete was an honest expression of intentions, while plain forms and exposed structures were similarly sincere.

Le Corbusier: evil

DALRYMPLE: This is like saying that the Gulag was an honest expression of Stalin’s intentions. Sincerity of intentions is not a virtue irrespective of what those intentions are, and those of the inspirer and founder of brutalism were evil, as the slightest acquaintance with his writings will convince anyone of minimal decency.

BARBARIAN: Beyond their architectural function, brutalist buildings serve other uses. Skateboarders, graffiti artists and parkour practitioners have all used Brutalism’s concrete surfaces in innovative ways.

DALRYMPLE: To regard the urban fabric as properly an extended playground is to infantilise the population. Extension of graffiti artists’ canvas to large public buildings is a surrender to vandalism. No one would say of a wall, ‘And in addition it would make an excellent place for a firing squad.’

BARBARIAN: Brutalism evokes an era of optimism and belief in the permanence of public institutions—government as well as public housing, educational and health facilities. While demolishing Brutalist buildings often proves politically popular, they are typically replaced by private development.

DALRYMPLE: Many brutalist buildings, especially those devoted to public housing, have been demolished within a few decades at most because they have been so hated, not to mention dysfunctional and impossible to maintain. They evoke not permanence but the wish that they be pulled down as soon as they are erected. If many survive, it is because they are too expensive to pull down and reconstruct. Private development as architecture can be good or bad, but whether it is one or the other does not depend upon its being private. Much private development is as hideous as anything the government has managed, but that is because architects are terrible and patrons have no taste.

So you want to be a suicide bomber

A convict tells Dalrymple of his wish to kill innocents. He is

more hate-filled than any man I have ever met.

The offspring of a broken marriage between a Muslim man and a female convert, he

has followed the trajectory of many young men in his area: sex and drugs and rock-and-roll. Violent and aggressive by nature, intolerant of the slightest frustration to his will and frequently suicidal, he experienced taunting during his childhood because of his mixed parentage. After a vicious rape for which he went to prison, he converted to a Salafist form of Islam and has become convinced that any system of justice that takes the word of a mere woman over his own is irredeemably corrupt.

The underlying emotion is hatred

Dalrymple notices one day that his mood has greatly improved.

He is communicative and almost jovial, which he has never been before. I ask him what has changed in his life for the better. He has made his decision, he says. Everything is resolved. He is not going to kill himself in an isolated way, as he previously intended. Suicide is a mortal sin, according to the tenets of the Islamic faith. No, when he gets out of prison he will not kill himself; he will make himself a martyr, and be rewarded eternally, by making himself into a bomb and taking as many enemies with him as he can.

Enemies, Dalrymple asks; what enemies? How can he know that the people he kills at random will be enemies?

They are enemies, he says, because they live happily in our rotten and unjust society. By definition, they are enemies—enemies in the objective sense, as Stalin might have put it—and hence are legitimate targets.

Dalrymple asks him whether he thinks that, in order to deter him from his course of action, it would be right for the state to threaten to kill his mother and his brothers and sisters—and to carry out this threat if he carried out his, in order to deter others like him.

The idea appalls him, not because it is yet another example of the wickedness of a Western democratic state, but because he cannot conceive of such a state acting in this unprincipled way. In other words, he assumes a high degree of moral restraint on the part of the very organism that he wants to attack and destroy.

Mass murder’s star philosopher and proselytiser

The repellent American Left

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Alger Hiss: their lion

Alleged ignorance of the reality of Russian communism in no way excuses the US Left, writes Dalrymple, since

the horrors were known and documented from the very first. For decades the Left preferred to ignore the facts than abandon its fantasies. There was hardly any revolutionary violence to which the American Left did not provide aid and comfort, repeating its original sin ad nauseam. It rewrote its own history as assiduously and dishonestly as Stalin wrote his.

As for the so-called New Left,

the internal logic of its socialist beliefs led it to support or make excuses for totalitarian regimes such as Castro’s, just as the previous generation of orthodox communists had done. It also indulged in what would have been comic-operetta revolutionism had it not been for the extreme criminal nastiness of the acts which it excused, condoned, concealed or perpetrated.

Hobsbawm the hypocrite and moral monster

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Companion of Honour (‘In action faithful and in honour clear’)

Both Dalrymple and Ed Miliband, leader of the British Socialists, had Marxist fathers, but in Dalrymple’s case

it turned me against all that my father stood, or pretended to stand, for. I saw that his concern for the fate of humanity in general was inconsistent with his contempt for the actual people by whom he was surrounded, and his inability to support relations of equality with others. I concluded that the humanitarian protestations of Marxists were a mask for an urge to domination.

In addition to the ’emotional dishonesty’ of Marxism, Dalrymple was impressed by

its limitless resources of intellectual dishonesty….I quickly grasped that the dialectic could prove anything you wanted it to prove, for example, that killing whole categories of people was a requirement of elementary decency.

Dalrymple lists Stalin’s countless useful idiots, prominent among them Eric Hobsbawm CH:

Being an intellectual is never having to say that you are wrong. To the end of his days the historian Eric Hobsbawm, whose twisted mouth was…an appropriate physical characteristic for so dialectical a materialist, and who never refused any honour offered him by the system he affected to despise, could not admit that supporting an ideology responsible for the deaths of scores of millions was an error of judgment so colossal that it amounted to moral blindness at best and moral monstrosity at worst.

The Britons to whom Stalin was and is a god

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E.J. Hobsbawm: awarded the CH for services to Stalin apologetics

What are they like, the apologists for tyranny, the supporters of Mao or Hitler or Stalin, the defenders of the gulag, the enemies of a free and open society, the admirers of terror and genocide, the ones who want to see what Orwell called the ‘boot stamping on a human face — forever’? What are creatures like Eric Hobsbawm really like?

Dalrymple brings out some of their attributes in the course of an account of a visit to North Korea as part of a delegation to the World Festival of Youth and Students.

I was accepted as a member [of the delegation] because…I was a doctor who had practised in Tanzania, whose first president Julius Nyerere was a close friend and admirer of Kim Il Sung.

He describes some of the delegates.

They were hard-faced communists, who dressed tough and cut their hair short so that their heads should appear as bony as possible. I overheard one of them describing a demonstration he had attended in England, in which there had also been a member of Amnesty International with a placard.

‘I went up to him and said, “I don’t believe in that bourgeois shit.” And he said, “Do you think political prisoners should be tortured and killed, then?” “Too fucking right, I do,” I said.’

The person to whom he related this charming little exchange laughed. What I found frightening about the pair of them was that their faces were contorted with hatred even as they laughed, and when they talked of killing political prisoners they meant it. They were members of a little communist groupuscule for whom Stalin was a god, not in spite of his crimes but because of them.