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Communism

AN Wilson on the nauseating Eric Hobsbawm

Tuesday, 29 January, 2019

“It was apt that as the most beguiling of communist intellectuals, he was born in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution.” So wrote AN Wilson as he warmed up to his task in The Times on Sunday. The job at hand was a review of Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History by Richard J Evans.

Who was Hobsbawm? He was a popular British historian and an academic who taught for many years at Birbeck, University of London. “His best book was Captain Swing, a study of mob violence, which he wrote in collaboration with the French intellectual George Rudé in 1969,” says Wilson before turning the screw. “Evans says that ‘most of the detailed research [was] carried out by Rudé.’ The sentence would probably be truer if the word ‘most’ were changed to ‘all'”.

Getting into his stride now, Wilson charges: “His books sold in enormous quantities in translation, especially in South America. Many of the sloppy half-thoughts of the Left, in this country and abroad, owe more than is sometimes realised to a perusal in student days of Hobsbawmn’s eminently readable left-wing hogwash, in which the Americans always come out as the villains of history and the Soviet and Maoist mass murders are glossed over, or even condoned.”

Hobsbawmn, the admirer of monsters, was admired in his day, not least because of the “legendary” dinner parties his wife, Marlene, hosted for the chattering classes in their bourgeois residence in Hampstead in London. However, “If Hobsbawm had meant what he wrote and said, and if a Stalinist revolution in Britain had occurred, then nearly all the guests eating Marlene’s delicious dinners in Nassington Road, would have been sent to the gulag, and Social Democrats such as Evans would probably have been shot.”

AN Wilson’s parting shot is an appeal to readers to “think of the population of Eastern Europe condemned to 50 years of enslavement after 1945; they will remember the millions who died in the gulag, in Ukraine, in China, countless more than were killed by Hitler. For them, the preparedness of a comfortably placed British don to sit in a warm drawing room in north London justifying such horrors can create only feelings of nausea.”

That same feeling of nausea is created by those who justify the actions of socialist thugs such as Maduro in Venezuela and his enablers in Cuba, another thuggery.

Stalin


New year, new repression

Wednesday, 2 January, 2019

The old year was ebbing towards its end when Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran, took to Twitter to wish people “from all races, religions and ethnicities — a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.” This is the height of cynicism, given that Zarif represents a regime that supports terrorism, pushes gays off buildings, forces women to wear mediaeval garb and refuses to allow the people of Iran free access to the internet.

Just as vile as the regime in Tehran is the regime in Hanoi, which has imposed a draconian new law requiring internet companies in Vietnam to remove content the communist authorities regard as “toxic” and compels them to hand over user data if asked to do so. The law also bans internet users from spreading information deemed to be “anti-state or anti-government,” as well as prohibiting use the internet to “distort history” and “post false information that could cause confusion and damage to socio-economic activities.” The law came into force a week after Vietnam’s Association of Journalists announced a new code of conduct on the use of social media, forbidding its members to post news and photos that “run counter to” the state.”


Socialism with an inhuman face

Tuesday, 21 August, 2018

Declaring itself the salvation of mankind, the ideology of Marx, Lenin and Stalin once ruled one-third of the world’s population. The authority of socialism appeared indisputable; the inevitably of communism looked assured. But the ideologues ignored the old warning: “The kingdoms of men shall all pass away.”

In 1968, the Soviet Union and its allies celebrated their crushing of the “Prague Spring” with a huge military display in the city that was home to a short-lived attempt to break free from communism. Twenty-one years after this photo was taken, the “Evil Empire” collapsed and was cast into the dustbin of history.

Crushing the Prague Spring

History: The Prague Spring was a phase of political liberalization in Communist Czechoslovakia. It began on 5 January 1968 and continued until 21 August when the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country to suppress the “socialism-with-a-human-face” reforms initiated by Alexander Dubcek.


China: The brutal and corrupt hegemon

Monday, 23 July, 2018

Nothing seems to delight a certain section of the chattering class more than the vision of China replacing America as the global hegemon. Out with jeans, peanut butter and bourbon and in with…? Exactly. What will China offer its admirers in Brussels and Silicon Valley: vast markets, cheap labour, re-engineered IP? Beijing offers all these and more and the more includes “a complete and utter lack of respect for the individual or person in China.”

Says who? Says Christopher Balding, an associate professor of business and economics at the HSBC Business School in Shenzhen and author of Sovereign Wealth Funds: The New Intersection of Money and Power. After teaching in China for some years, he’s now returning to the US and his parting shot is a blogpost titled Balding Out. Snippet:

“I rationalize the silent contempt for the existing rules and laws within China as people not respecting the method for creating and establishing the rules and laws. Rather than confronting the system, a superior, or try good faith attempts to change something, they choose a type of quiet subversion by just ignoring the rule or law. This quickly spreads to virtually every facet of behavior as everything can be rationalized in a myriad of ways.

Before coming to China, I had this idea that China was rigid which in some ways it is, but in reality it is brutally chaotic because there are no rules it is the pure rule of the jungle with unconstrained might imposing their will and all others ignoring laws to behave as they see fit with no sense of morality or respect for right.”

For cossetted fans of communism, such as the Guardian columnist Owen Jones, China may offer a more appealing ideology than the one that nurtured Lincoln and Ford, Rosa Parks and Jimi Hendrix, but one suspects that he’d tire very quickly of typing about the glories of the Belt and Road Initiative for the People’s Daily.


Murderous Marx @ 200

Saturday, 5 May, 2018 0 Comments

They’ll be celebrating the 200th birthday of Karl Marx in his hometown of Trier today and, no doubt, many fancy speeches will be made praising his “relevance” to our 21st century. Naturally, the enormity of the crimes committed in his name will be ignored and the millions of Marxism’s victims will not get a mention. A classic example of this dishonesty was provided earlier this week by the New York Times, which published “Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!” by Jason Barker, an associate professor of philosophy at Kyung Hee University in South Korea and author of Marx Returns. Snippet: “The idea of the classless and stateless society would come to define both Marx’s and Engels’s idea of communism, and of course the subsequent and troubled history of the Communist ‘states’ (ironically enough!) that materialized during the 20th century.”

Note there the use of “troubled”. No one would ever say that genocidal fascist dogma had a “troubled” history, but ideologues like Barker get away with praising Marxism as a virtuous philosophy, detached from the nightmares of the GULAG and Pol Pot’s killing fields. In his summary of the estimates in The Black Book of Communism, Martin Malia suggested a death toll of between 85 and 100 million people, and all this murder and suffering was done in the name of Marx’s theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, violence as the midwife of history and individual rights as a bourgeois crime.

The most surreal defence of this evil was served up yesterday in a Reuters article titled “No regrets: Xi says Marxism still ‘totally correct’ for China.” It’s totally fitting that the autocratic leader of a country where a ruling class ruthlessly exploits the masses and where no labour movement is allowed legitimizes his hegemony with Marx.

Karl Marx belongs in the rubbish bin of history. Our thoughts today should be with the innocents murdered in his name.

Marx and his pupils


Marx, Marxism and its cardinal horror

Tuesday, 27 March, 2018 0 Comments

On Saturday, 5 May, the world will observe the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. In some places, as in Trier, his birthplace, the event will be celebrated; in many other places, the date will resonate with the screams of all the millions of people, from Albania to Zimbabwe, who have died at the hands of the ideologue’s evil disciples as they attempted to create Socialist hell on earth.

Because timing is so important in comedy and history, it’s hilariously appropriate that the current Archbishop of Munich is called Marx, and, true to form (nomen est omen), Cardinal Reinhard Marx never misses an opportunity to mention his namesake. Recently, he authored a rambling homily for the leftist Süddeutsche Zeitung titled “Where Marx is right” that was speckled with the usual buzz words: digitization, capitalism, markets, Communism.

The real Marx As an antidote, one should read “I Am Not a Marxist” by Ana Stankovic. She gives the old monster both barrels at the get go: “CALL ME A KILLJOY but I am sick to death of hearing about Karl Marx,” she says. “I am sick of his name, his -isms, his undoubted genius, and his ‘philosophy.’ I am sick of him ‘having reason,’ as the French say, or ‘being right.’ But most of all I am sick of his ‘relevance.'” That “relevance” has blinded “the multitude of professors and graduate students who have wasted their time and talent deluding themselves and indoctrinating the youth to an irrational hatred of Capitalism to be followed by personal failure.” That’s good and so is this:

“But! his devoted fans insist, Marx cannot be blamed for the crimes carried out by the inheritors of his political legacy! Which is like saying that the makers of gunpowder cannot be blamed for its misuse. That is perfectly true — assuming we can agree on what might constitute ‘misuse.’ Gunpowder isn’t intended for washing the dishes. It’s made for the express purpose of blowing things up.”

Let’s leave the final word to Irving Berlin: “The world would not be in such a snarl, had Marx been Groucho instead of Karl.”


Capitalism vs. Socialism: Gough vs. Mason

Monday, 31 August, 2015 0 Comments

“When women protest against misogyny in India, Mason interprets this as an anti-capitalist protest. This is ahistorical nonsense; the status of women in India has been terrible since at least the Islamic invasions of the 5th century. Women were burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyres until the arrival of the (capitalist) East India Company, which banned the practice.”

That’s a snippet is from Julian Gough’s scathing review of PostCapitalism: A Guide To Our Future, by Paul Mason, the economics editor at the UK’s Channel 4 News. The Irish Times does little justice to Gough’s dismemberment of Mason’s work, however, by linking to it from its homepage via an image adorned with the text: “Paul Mason: Capitalism is at the heart of the world’s woes“. A more fitting caption would have been: “Julian Gough: Socialism is at the heart of the world’s woes”.

Paul Mason review

Here’s Gough poking fun at Mason’s grim world view: “From page one, everything bad is capitalism’s fault. Russian invasion of the Ukraine? The rise of Islamic State? ‘These are the signs that the neoliberal order has failed.’ Not signs that, say, totalitarian Russian rule might be in crisis; or that 1,000 years of brutal Sunni/Shia sectarian conflict might have caused some longterm problems in the region.”

Gough notes that Mason became a teenage member of Workers’ Power, “one of the more charming and earnest English Trotskyist outfits. (Current membership, after the last split, about 35.)… And, like all Marxists ever — including Marx — he is bitterly disappointed in the actual, non-theoretical working class. (Though, fair play to Mason, he does say Lenin was wrong to call them a labour aristocracy and try to kill them.) Mason despairs: ‘It has become impossible to imagine this working class — disorganised, in thrall to consumerism and individualism — overthrowing capitalism.'”

So what’s the solution? Simple, really. All we need is to return to the 20th century and the visions that led to millions of murdered innocents. Mason says “We need to be unashamed utopians.” Gough counters, “No, we don’t. Utopianism has never led to anything other than catastrophe, because it isn’t anchored in reality. The trouble with Paul Mason’s prescription is not that it requires a new kind of financial system; it is that it requires a new kind of human being. As ever, we, the actual workers, are not good enough for the revolution.”

Julian Gough deserves praise for swimming against the luvvy tide here. Paul Mason is a media darling and an unashamed admirer of the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. In fact, he provided the foreword for Varoufakis’s book, The Global Minotaur: America, Europe, and the Future of the Global Economy. Greater love hath no Utopian.


Robert Conquest RIP

Wednesday, 5 August, 2015 0 Comments

“There was an old bastard named Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That old bastard Stalin did ten in.”

Robert Conquest, born 15 July 1917, died 3 August 2015.

“Of his many works on the subject, perhaps the most important was The Great Terror, published in 1968 and detailing the full enormity of what Stalin had done to the Russian people in the 1930s and 1940s. The Mexican writer Octavio Paz paid the most succinct tribute to this book when he said in 1972 that The Great Terror had ‘closed the debate’ about Stalinism.”

That’s a snippet from the Telegraph obituary for the late Robert Conquest, who died yesterday aged 98. In the foreword to The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, Conquest noted: “By the deeds that are recalled here, it was not 20 people per word, but 20 people per letter in this book who were killed.” And this was the ideology that was idealized by the Left?


#StandWithHK

Monday, 29 September, 2014 0 Comments

The BBC is doing an excellent job with its LIVE Hong Kong protests: “11:16: Michael Schuman, says Hong Kong’s economic success is ‘inexorably intertwined’ with the civil liberties its citizens enjoy. ‘If Beijing knocks one of those pillars away ­if it suppresses people’s freedoms, or tampers with its judiciary, ­Hong Kong would become just another Chinese city, unable to fend off the challenge from Shanghai.'”

A estimated 50,000 residents of Hong Kong have taken to the streets to demand the democracy that so many of us enjoy and take for granted. Let’s stand with them in their brave fight against corruption, cronyism and totalitarianism. And it is a brave fight, considering the precedent:


Tank Man on Tiananmen Square

Wednesday, 4 June, 2014 0 Comments

Twenty-five years after the massacre of pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, nothing recalls the horror of it all better than the photo of the incredibly brave Tank Man by Associated Press photographer Jeff Widener. Today, China is seeking to suppress all discussion of the massacre by arresting, charging or harassing dissidents, artists, scholars, lawyers, bloggers and relatives of the victims.

Tank Man on Tiananmen Square


Journalist of the day: Robert Bruce Lockhart

Friday, 11 April, 2014 0 Comments

When the Russian Revolution broke out in early 1917, Robert Bruce Lockhart was the Acting British Consul-General in Moscow. Working for the Secret Intelligence Service, he set about creating a network of undercover agents, but he and fellow British spy Sidney Reilly were soon arrested. Robert Bruce Lockhart Instead of getting the expected 9mm of lead in the back of their necks, however, they were exchanged for the Russian diplomat Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov. Lockhart wrote about his experiences in Memoirs of a British Agent — a bestseller that was made into the film British Agent in 1934.

11 April 1929: “Priceless story of Lenin and the death of his mother-in-law (Krupskaya’s mother). Krupskaya tired of watching at the death-bed asked Lenin to sit by her mother while she slept. He was to call her if her mother wanted anything. Lenin took a book and began to read. Two hours later Krupskaya came back. Her mother was dead. Lenin was still reading. Krupskaya blamed him: “Why did you not let me know?’ Lenin replied: ‘But your mother never called me!’ Still, Lenin was not inhuman.” Robert Bruce Lockhart (1887 — 1970)

And thus ends our week of journal entries. It’s good for mind and soul to keep a journal says Oliver Burkeman: “Write about your most profound fears, your feelings of loneliness, of regret and grief. Then hide it somewhere where nobody will ever find it, don’t tell a soul…”