Category Archives: Vietnam War

Human affairs will, to an extent, always be incalculable

The Vietnamese communist régime, writes Dalrymple,

though often brutal, never descended to anything like the horror of Cambodia.

Among the factors, he says,

must surely have been the character and personality of the leaders as well as of the countries themselves. The fate of countries cannot be reduced, either in prospect or in retrospect, to an invariable formula.

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.

Friends of Uncle Ho

It was one thing, writes Dalrymple, to oppose the Vietnam War

because you thought it was futile and ethically worse than not fighting it (not necessarily true, but at least an honest opinion),

quite another

because you thought that Uncle Ho was a good man who was leading his people to freedom and prosperity.

The latter is something that you could believe

only by employing all the human mind’s capacity for special pleading and self-deception.

Failure and feeble-mindedness of the Left

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-22-57-00Dalrymple writes that whenever the Left see

a foreign enemy of their own country whom they can usefully co-opt as an ally in their disputes with their own domestic enemies, they resort to nihilistic relativism and multiculturalism, thus explaining away the vileness of their new ally’s atrocities as being the expression of his sacrosanct cultural tradition.

The Left

has comprehensively lost the economic argument that was once its raison d’être, and is reduced to the work of cultural destruction and the balkanisation of society into little communities of ideological monomaniacs—the feminists, homosexual and animal liberationists, and so forth. The Left lost its soul when it lost the economic argument.

So complete has been the defeat of socialism

that anyone who now avowed a belief in the superior efficiency of state-run industry would be more a candidate for the lunatic asylum (supposing that any remained open) than for high political office.

All that the Left can nowadays propose is

social policy so destructive that it allegedly necessitates a vast state apparatus to repair the damage it does.

Of the domestic policy prescriptions of the Left,

multiculturalism is among the most destructive. It was once the honourable goal of the Left, at least in Britain, to spread higher culture to the working class, and to immigrants, so that every person capable by inclination and natural endowment of enjoying, participating in, or contributing to that higher culture would do so. More recently, however, the Left has devoted its energies to denying that there is any higher or lower, better or worse in cultural matters. Not coincidentally, this betrayal allows Leftist intellectuals to preen themselves on the broadness of their minds while they maintain their membership of a social élite. They rarely educate their own children as if their theoretical pronouncements were true.

With regard to the Vietnam War,

it was one thing to oppose it because you thought it was futile and ethically worse than not fighting it (not necessarily true, but at least an honest opinion); quite another because you thought that Uncle Ho was a good man who was leading his people to freedom and prosperity, something that you could believe only by employing all the human mind’s capacity for special pleading and self-deception.