Category Archives: Trotsky, Leon

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.

Hitch is not great

Lying not far beneath the surface of neo-atheist books, writes Dalrymple,

is the kind of historiography that many of us adopted in our hormone-disturbed adolescence, furious at the discovery that our parents sometimes told lies and violated their own precepts and rules. It can be summed up in Christopher Hitchens’s drumbeat in God Is Not Great: ‘Religion spoils everything.’ What? The St Matthew Passion? The cathedral of Chartres?

The emblematic religious person in the neo-atheist books

seems to be a Glasgow Airport bomber—a type unrepresentative of Muslims, let alone communicants of the poor old Church of England.

It is

surely not news, except to someone so ignorant that he probably wouldn’t be interested in these books in the first place, that religious conflict has often been murderous and that religious people have committed hideous atrocities.

So have secularists and atheists, and

though they have had less time to prove their mettle in this area, they have proved it amply. If religious belief is not synonymous with good behaviour, neither is absence of belief, to put it mildly.

In fact, says Dalrymple,

one can write the history of anything as a chronicle of crime and folly. Science and technology spoil everything: without trains and I.G. Farben, no Auschwitz; without transistor radios and mass-produced machetes, no Rwandan genocide.

Hitchens, Dalrymple notes, fell prey to the illusion that the striking of trivial attitudes was generosity enough for a lifetime. He

commodified his dissent, albeit in a niche market (though niches in America are larger than entire markets elsewhere).

While his brother has thoroughly repented, Hitchens retained

an emotional sympathy for his former views. In others, he would no doubt espy in this intellectual dishonesty and historical distortion; in himself, he sees truth to his own generous principles.

Hitchens’s review of a reissue of Deutscher’s three-volume biography of Trotsky, for example,

presents Trotsky principally as a gifted journalist and sage — a little like Hitchens himself, in fact — the force of whose ideas, or phrases, made the unjustly powerful tremble everywhere.

Why Hitchens’s unusual delicacy over this moral monster? Because, says Dalrymple, he

was himself once a follower of Trotsky and does not want to admit that he was, by implication, a supporter of mass murder, the ruthless suppression of opponents and the kind of tyranny that made all previous tyrannies appear bumbling and amateurish.

It was not that Hitchens wanted

to bring about such a tyranny, let alone live under one (anyone who did would hardly decamp to the US). Rather, he fell prey to the adolescent illusion that the striking of attitudes is generosity enough.

Gifted journalist and sage

Other people had only

walk-on parts

when Hitchens was striking attitudes, which was most of the time, and his hatred of religion

strikes me as adolescent. We most of us know by now that religious bigotry is a bad thing — though the record of hardline secularists in the 20th century is not exactly spotless — but only an adolescent sees in the religious history of mankind nothing but intolerance. Compulsory attendance at school chapel must have been a traumatic experience for Hitchens.

Gifted journalist and sage

Fashionable Leftism of the kind espoused by Hitchens is not, says Dalrymple, a case of Lenin’s ‘infantile disorder’ or like a childhood illness such as mumps, but rather

a chronic condition with lingering after-effects and flare-ups. Those who suffer it only very rarely get over it, Hitchens being a good example of one who did not. He could never bring himself to admit that he had for all his life admired and extolled a man who was at least as bad as Stalin, namely Trotsky; and his failure to renounce his choice of maître à penser became in time not just a youthful peccadillo of a clever adolescent who wanted to shock the adults but a symptom of a deep character flaw, a fundamental indifference to important truth.

The fatuity and nastiness of Leon Trotsky

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-11-47-13Dalrymple examines Trotsky’s Literature and Revolution (1924), and finds it

stuffed full of exceptionally nasty sentiments and half-baked adolescent ideas, with violence seeping out of every figure of speech.

He cites its peroration:

It is difficult to predict the extent of self-government which the man of the future may reach or the heights to which he may carry his technique. Social construction and psycho-physical self-education will become two aspects of one and the same process. All the arts — literature, drama, painting, music and architecture — will lend this process beautiful form. More correctly, the shell in which the cultural construction and self-education of Communist man will be enclosed, will develop all the vital elements of contemporary art to the highest point. Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonised, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-11-51-49This sort of thing, Dalrymple notes, is

deeply fatuous.

Compared with such tosh, he says,

Ella Wheeler Wilcox is Plato.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-11-55-27

Hitch’s smug, adolescent exhibitionism

A spotty record, to put it most kindly

Self-satisfaction seeping from every pore: the slightly sickening forms of cheap dissent exhibited by Hitchens went down well with certain sections of the US public. Rather than following Brecht and making one of the people’s paradises, such as the GDR, his home, he preferred the capitalist hell that is America, where as it happens he lived very comfortably indeed

Christopher Hitchens, writes Dalrymple, fell prey to the illusion that the striking of trivial attitudes was generosity enough for a lifetime. He

commodified his dissent, albeit in a niche market (though niches in America are larger than entire markets elsewhere).

While his brother Peter has thoroughly repented, Christopher retained

an emotional sympathy for his former views. In others, he would no doubt espy in this intellectual dishonesty and historical distortion; in himself, he sees truth to his own generous principles.

His review of a reissue of Isaac Deutscher’s three-volume biography of Trotsky, for example,

presents Trotsky principally as a gifted journalist and sage — a little like Hitchens himself, in fact — the force of whose ideas, or phrases, made the unjustly powerful tremble everywhere.

Why Hitchens’s unusual delicacy over this moral monster? Because, says Dalrymple, he

Guaranteed gentle handling: Hitchens knew the pleasures and glories of ultra-low-risk Western protest

Guaranteed gentle handling: Hitchens knew the pleasures and glories of ultra-low-risk Western protest

was himself once a follower of Trotsky and does not want to admit that he was, by implication, a supporter of mass murder, the ruthless suppression of opponents and the kind of tyranny that made all previous tyrannies appear bumbling and amateurish.

It was not that Hitchens wanted

to bring about such a tyranny, let alone live under one (anyone who did would hardly decamp to the US). Rather, he fell prey to the adolescent illusion that the striking of attitudes is generosity enough.

Other people had only

Self-regarding to the end

Self-regarding to the end

walk-on parts

when Hitchens was striking attitudes, which was most of the time, and his hatred of religion

strikes me as adolescent. We most of us know by now that religious bigotry is a bad thing — though the record of hardline secularists in the 20th century is not exactly spotless — but only an adolescent sees in the religious history of mankind nothing but intolerance. Compulsory attendance at school chapel must have been a traumatic experience for Hitchens.

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 11.31.20

The gagged Hitchens

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 08.18.54A strange disappearance, behind which there is something probably disreputable

Britain’s Mail on Sunday newspaper has silenced its best columnist, Peter Hitchens. His columns have been spiked. The skewering was timed to coincide with the British general election.

The spike: destination of Hitchens’s last two columnsIt is speculated that the newspaper, recognising the commercial imperative of identification with the winning side, has gagged Hitchens so as to ensure that readers do not follow his (wise) advice, which has long been that right-thinking, decent people ought to desist from voting for the corrupt Tories.

In the republic of the Rothermeres, Hitchens has become an unperson.

According to the magazine Private Eye, Hitchens is ‘now talking to his lawyers’.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 08.22.35

In the run-up to the election and after, suddenly absent. Why?

Censored

This is a disgrace because Hitchens is a writer and broadcaster of a high order. He is also personally admirable for having the guts to admit that his youthful communist leanings were dangerous, murderous folly.

Dalrymple writes that Hitchens has

undergone a real and painful repentance for all that he formerly was and did.

Hitchens

has discovered that it is he, and not just the world, that was and is imperfect and that therefore humility is a virtue, even if one does not always live up to it.

The first sentence of Hitchens’ 2010 book The Rage Against God reads,

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 08.25.36I set fire to my Bible on the playing fields of my Cambridge boarding school one bright, windy spring afternoon in 1967.

One senses, writes Dalrymple,

the deep — and, in my view, healthy — feeling of self-disgust with which he wrote this, for indeed it describes an act of wickedness.

Hitchens does not believe, says Dalrymple,

that man can live by his own individual reason alone.

He believes that

something else is necessary and inevitable.

From the magazine Private Eye

From the magazine Private Eye

Muslim moral, economic and social sordor

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 23.36.38

Milestones, 1964, founding text of Islamo-Trotskyism

The pain of being in possession of the highest truth yet finding oneself sunk in squalor

The only deliverance, writes Dalrymple, lies in Islamo-Trotskyist permanent revolution, of the kind espoused by Sayyid Quṭb سيد قطب, until the whole world accepts Mohammedanism.

  • All that is not Islamic must be hated and contemned
  • Mohammedanism is the one true religion
  • All that existed before Islam was mere جاهليةǧāhiliyyah or ignorance
  • Real as against pseudo-peace necessitates the acceptance everywhere of Mohammedanism
  • Islam in one country is untenable, just as, for Trotsky, socialism in one country was untenable
  • No consideration whatsoever is due the polytheists
  • A merciless war against the polytheists not only can, but must, be fought

Hitch’s conceit

Deep character flaw

The eternal adolescent

Fashionable Leftism of the kind espoused by the late Christopher Hitchens is not, writes Dalrymple, a case of Lenin’s ‘infantile disorder’ or like a childhood illness such as mumps, but rather

a chronic condition with lingering after-effects and flare-ups. Those who suffer it only very rarely get over it…Hitchens being a good example of one who did not. He…could never bring himself to admit that he had for all his life admired and extolled a man who was at least as bad as Stalin, namely Trotsky; and his failure to renounce his choice of maître à penser became in time not just a youthful peccadillo of a clever adolescent who wanted to shock the adults but a symptom of a deep character flaw, a fundamental indifference to important truth.