Category Archives: Trotskyists

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.

Message to the world’s remaining Marxists

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 19.31.35Dalrymple has this to say to those who continue to profess communism:

It takes considerable stupidity, lack of moral imagination, or an egotism more profound than that of the most voracious Wall Street banker to proclaim yourself a communist after all the human disaster that the doctrine wrought in the past century.

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 uncolumnist

Hitchens is a onetime communist (Trotskyist, to be more precise) who unlike so many of this species has had the guts to admit that he was wrong and that the doctrines he espoused were evil

Hitchens is a onetime communist (Trotskyist, to be precise). Dalrymple points out, however, that unlike so many of his kind, Hitchens has had the courage and intellectual honesty to admit that he was profoundly wrong — indeed, crack-brained — and that the doctrines he espoused were murderous and evil

The Mail on Sunday censor has been at work. Peter Hitchens, the onetime Trotskyist who is the Rothermere-owned newspaper’s best writer, has had his columns spiked, the skewering being timed to coincide with the run-up to, and the aftermath of, the British general election.

It is speculated that the newspaper, recognising the commercial imperative of identification with the winning side, decided — after seeing which way the wind was blowing — that it would back the Conservatives. It would help that disreputable party secure a convincing victory. It gagged Hitchens so as to ensure that readers would not be influenced to follow his (wise) counsel. This has long been that right-thinking, decent people ought to desist from voting for the corrupt Tories.

According to the magazine Private Eye, Hitchens (who has not been silenced altogether — there remains much engaging material on his blog) is ‘talking to his lawyers’.

Reviewed by Dalrymple: Hitchens's 2003 polemic

Reviewed by Dalrymple: Hitchens’s 2003 polemic

Dalrymple reviews Hitchens’s A Brief History of Crime

Hitchens’s rage at what has been done to British society is more than justified, Dalrymple writes. In A Brief History of Crime, Hitchens is especially astute on the matter of the failings of the British criminal justice system. Hitchens has discovered, Dalrymple points out, that the systemic corruption causes people no longer

to believe very deeply in the majesty of the law or the legitimacy of the British State; and this disillusion in turn must lead to a kind of resentful apathy.

Hitchens appreciates, says Dalrymple, that such a state of mind

will be highly receptive to authoritarianism: for order will come to be valued over freedom. As the author points out, this is useful to many politicians and it explains why the rigorous enforcement of the law is so essential to liberty.

The spike: destination of Hitchens’s two most recent columns for the British newspaper the Mail on Sunday

The spike: destination of Hitchens’s most recent articles for the British newspaper the Mail on Sunday

Dalrymple writes that in A Brief History of Crime,

Mr Hitchens traces the descent of Britain, in only a few decades, from being one of the best-ordered societies in the western world to being among the worst-ordered.

Hitchens places the blame, explains Dalrymple,

firmly where it belongs: on a supine and pusillanimous political establishment that, for four decades at least, has constantly retreated before the verbal onslaught of liberal intellectuals whose weapons have been mockery allied to sentimental guilt about their prosperous and comfortable lives, and whose aim has been to liberate themselves from personally irksome moral constraints, without regard to the consequences for those less favourably placed in society than themselves.

How Hitchens became an unperson at the Mail on Sunday, as reported by the magazine Private Eye

How Hitchens became an unperson at the Mail on Sunday, as reported by the magazine Private Eye

Dalrymple says that Hitchens’s outrage at the compromising and besmirching of British traditions, values and liberties is palpably

of the genuine and generous variety that comes from a real understanding of the conditions which millions of people now endure — unlike the simulated and self-regarding outrage that is common among liberal reformers.

Examining the way in which British peace and order have gradually disappeared,

Mr Hitchens in every case finds the self-satisfaction of people such as Roy Jenkins, who introduced lenient treatment for criminals without ever having personally to face the social consequences.

Dalrymple thinks Hitchens

Not so optimistic any more: Hitchens discusses the election result on his blog

Not so optimistic now: Hitchens discusses the election result on his blog

is too optimistic about the prospect of the nation coming to its senses: the march of ‘progressive’ sociology through the institutions has been so thorough that there is no constituency left which could preserve the kind of traditional limited polity that he believes Britain once was and which he would like to see restored.

Judging from Hitchens’s pronouncements on his blog and on Twitter since the election, he is no longer nearly as optimistic as he was when he wrote A Brief History of Crime, which Dalrymple commends as

a lucid polemic by a man who is so obviously more interested in the welfare of the common man than in the approbation of his peers.

Hitchens in the People's Republic of the Rothermeres: now you see him, now you don't

Now you read him, now you don’t

 

Hitchens as he was: the conceited Marxist participant in cheap middle-class protest

Hitchens as he was: the conceited Marxist, active in cheap middle-class protest. He gave up the Leninist claptrap along with the donkey-jacket many years ago