Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stalin, Pol Pot, Eric Hobsbawm, and me

A commenter with the nom de plume 'poodag' is unimpressed with my criticisms of Martin Doutre, the Holocaust-denying pseudo-historian who has been an architect of John Ansell's new campaign against the Treaty of Waitangi. In a rambling missive left on an old page of this blog, poodag condemns the critics of the 'valiant Doutre' as 'domesticated/numbered sheep and morons', who are cogs in a venerable conspiracy:

Eisenhowers death camps, Stalins rape and liquidation of Germans, Mao's sixty million murdered brethren, Jewish influence and control over this worlds affairs and globalism since 1900 a.d. Hush! Hush! It is verboten! The auther of "Reading the Maps" is an obvious hateful devil of the same ilk as Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot etc.. Constant division and hate and change and revolution is their agenda, it is the enemy of mankinds agenda... it is in Marx's words International Socialism... constant division and revolution so that national bonding and unity is forever destroyed. Welcome to the conspiered and established global machine that no one can escape.

Any expression of anti-semitism depresses me, but I find something particularly melancholy about the conspiracy theory in which poodag and his ilk so often embed their Jew-hatred. For the poodags of this world, every aspect of political and economic life, from the vacillations of sharemarkets to parliamentary debates to industrial conflicts, is the product of a carefully guarded and impossibly clever scheme, hatched by a few crook-nosed men in a secluded beige room. All of the extraordinary variety of the world, with its two hundred or so nations and innumerable political and religious ideologies, and every curious niche and cranny of history is ultimately the product of this handful of conspirators. Opposition to the 'global machine' which these conspirators oil and polish is, of course, futile. The likes of poodag make an infinitely complex and endlessly malleable world into something homogenous and invulnerable to influence. Their ideology is not only bigoted - it is dull and hopeless.

Poodag's anti-semitism may be relatively rare today, but his inability to appreciate the complexity of the world and its history is not. I've argued before that citizens of the twenty-first century West have difficulty  in relating to the past. We either treat the eras which preceded ours as completely alien, with no lessons to offer us, or else we go to the opposite extreme, and consider the past wholly in terms of our contemporary values and preoccupations.

The recent passing of a great historian has prompted a typical outpouring of historical misunderstanding. Eric Hobsbawm, who died last week at the age of ninety-five, had been the most famous and longest-surviving the young historians who socialised and studied together as members of the Communist Party of Great Britain during the years after World War Two. Where most other members of the Communist Party Historians Group, like Christopher Hill, who revolutionised our understanding of the English revolution, and John Saville, who helped bring oral history to Britain, left the party in 1956 or 1957, after the invasion of Hungary and revelations about the extent of Stalin's crimes, Hobsbawm remained in the organisation as a sort of 'internal exile'. His politics moved to the right over the years, and in the 1980s and early '90s he became a mentor to first Neil Kinnock and then Tony Blair, as they moved the Labour Party away from its working class and social democratic roots.

After making his name with a series of lapidarian studies of nineteenth and early twentieth century English history, including an essay which magisterially disposed of the myth that Methodism prevented an English revolution early in the nineteenth century and a long and contemptuous consideration of the Fabian Society, Hobsbawm began to travel in time and space, producing a book about Peru, a treatise on  the history of banditry, and, eventually, a series of bestselling volumes which traced the history of the entire world from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution until the end of the Cold War.
While most major newspapers have awarded Eric Hobsbawm long and respectful obituaries, some right-wing publications and a great number of right-leaning blogs have condemned him in extravagant language. Writing in the Daily Mail, one of Blighty's more febrile tabloids, AN Wilson called Hobsbawm a 'barmy old fool' who 'openly hated Britain' and thought Stalin 'wonderful'.

For blogger John Phelan, Hobsbawm was 'the Marxist version' of notorious Holocaust denier David Irving. Phelan cannot understand why an old commie like Hobsbawm, who was a member of the party during Stalin's rule of the Soviet Union, did not attract the same oppobrium as an ex-Nazi:

It is one of the great mysteries of intellectual life in the last few decades that anyone who confesses to a youthful flirtation with Nazism or fascism is shunned by polite society until a sufficiently long and intense period of penance had passed, while a youthful fondness for communism is presented as one of those harmless things...

Instead of trying to engage with the history of the most tragic years of the twentieth century, Hobsbawm's critics make a series of deductions. They are note that Stalin was a tyrant and a mass murderer, remember that Hitler was also a tyrant and a mass murderer, and then decide that members of a political party which supported Stalin in the 1930s and '40s must have been, for all intents and purposes, no different from members of a Hitlerite organisation.
When we consider the policies and internal cultures of communist and fascist political parties in the '30s and '40s, though, we discover vast differences. Whereas Hitler's Nazi Party and Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists preached a racist, misogynist and ultra-imperialist doctrine, romanticised war, and made themselves the enemies of modern art and the intelligentsia, their communist counterparts proclaimed a message of anti-imperialism, racial and sexual equality, and peace, and successfully courted many of their era's leading artists and intellectuals. It was the Communist Party of Great Britain and its sister organisations around the world which called for the decolonisation of Asia and Africa, rallied in defence of the Spanish Republic, and continually publicised the demands of both employed and unemployed workers. Bigotry was a virtual prerequisite for membership of a fascist party; humanitarianism and idealism, by contrast, motivated many rank and file communists in the '30s and '40s.
Unfortunately, organisations like the Communist Party of Great Britain combined their calls for peace, full employment, and democracy in Spain with celebrations of Stalin and of the Soviet Union. In the CPGB's Daily Worker, Stalin was regularly hailed as a theoretical genius and a great humanitarian, and the Soviet Union was presented as an earthly paradise.

Hobsbawm's critics might reasonably argue that the veneration of Stalin by western communist parties was just as ignoble as the adulation that fascists gave to Hitler. But whereas Hitler's behaviour was a fulfilment of fascist doctrine, Stalin's crimes were a betrayal of the principles that he and his followers proclaimed. Stalin denounced imperialism whilst deporting whole nations, like the Crimean Tartars, to the obscurity of the Siberian taiga. He paid tribute to the workers of the world while assembling armies of slaves to dam and drain the Volga and a score of other rivers. He spoke of defending Spanish democracy whilst using Soviet troops to crush the democratic workers' and peasants' councils of Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia. He praised poetry while sending poets to their deaths.

The split between the rhetoric and reality of Stalinism reflected the history and sociology of the Soviet Union. The Russian revolution of 1917 was made by workers and peasants organised into grassroots democractic councils, but in the 1920s a caste of the bureaucrats gradually took control of the society the revolution had made.  These usurpers claimed to represent workers and rank and file communists whilst serving their own ends. Their revolutionary rhetoric contrasted with their cynical stewardship of the Soviet state. As the usurper-in-chief, Stalin took hypocrisy to an extreme. He praised and buried the revolution at the same time.

Hobsbawm became a teenage communist in Berlin, while watching Hitler march towards political power in the early 1930s. In 1933 he fled to Britain, where he soon joined the local communist party. For Hobsbawm and thousands of other young men and women, the party was the only force in British life prepared to oppose the insurgent fascism and decadent capitalism of the '30s.

If we understand the differences in the policies and culture of communist and fascist parties of the 1930s and '40s, and if we consider Eric Hobsbawm's biography, then we can see his membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain as something other than an expression of 'hatred for Britain' or love of Stalin's purges and gulags. To appreciate the differences between a rank and file Nazi and a rank and a rank and file communist in Hobsbawm's era, though, we have to make an effort of historical imagination. We have to project ourselves into the world of the '30s, with all contradictions, complexities, and confusions, rather than make pat judgements from our perch in the twenty-first century.

[Posted by Scott/Maps]

36 Comments:

Blogger Chris Trotter said...

Fantastic exposition of the moral difference between the adherents of the fascist and communist ideologies, Scott.

Better, I agree, to be a duped and disappointed humanitarian than a clear-eyed bigot whose every brutal fantasy achieved historical fulfilment.

10:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is what the average right-wing American considers an intellectual
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2214020/Republican-state-rep-Jon-Hubbarb-calls-slavery-blessing-Charlie-Fuqua-advocates-deporting-Muslims-books.html

11:33 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The split between the rhetoric and reality of Stalinism reflected the history and sociology of the Soviet Union." Does it follow then that "the UNITY of rhetoric and reality of NAZISM reflected the history and sociology of Germany"? Not sure what point I'm making but it seems to logically follow.

12:29 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Thanks Chris.

Anon, I think that the Soviet Union differs from Germany, and for that matter Russia, in that it embodies a distinct political and social experiment. Its history is the history of the Russian revolution and the degeneration of that revolution.

I was arguing that the split between Stalinist rhetoric and reality reflected the fact that the bureaucratic caste which had taken control of the Soviet Union had to pretend to govern in the interest of workers, even as it was oppressing those workers.

I don't think there was a similar contradiction involved in Nazism.

12:49 pm  
Blogger Rob's Blockhead Blog said...

Hmm. What did Hobshawn do when Hitler & Stalin made their pact in '39, if he was so motivated by horror of Hitler?

Genuine question - I honestly don't know, but it seems to me this is a pretty key question to ask in establishing whether a communist of that generation was a genuine idealist or someone who was motivated by something a little more pathological.

1:41 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

I think that a lot of commies of that generation were confused or even disturbed by the alliance with Nazi Germany.

The CPGB initially supported the British declaration of war against Hitler, but after week, and under intense pressure from Moscow, the party changed its line, and accepted the Hitler-Stalin Pact.
Party boss Harry Pollit resigned in protest, but was made leader again after Germany broke the pact and the USSR joined the war in 1941.

Many British communists, including for instance EP Thompson's ill-fated brother Frank, defied the Moscow line and volunteered for service in 1939. Others, like Frank's close friend Iris Murdoch, supported the new line.

The young Hobsbawm co-wrote a CPGB pamphlet supporting the Soviet invasion of Finland with that other future intellectual giant, Raymond Williams. Nobody seems to be able to find the text, but I assume it would have argued that the West had refused to make an alliance with the Soviet Union against Hitler, despite repeated pleas, that the pact was necessary to buy time, and that the invasion of Finland was necessary to buy space to protect the socialist motherland from a future attack from the West.

But before we convict of Hobsbawm of incurable Stalinism based on his pamphlet, we ought to remember that Stalin's great enemy Trotsky also wrote in defence of the invasion of Finland.

3:43 pm  
Anonymous anti-imperialist said...

The crimes of Stalin pale beside the crimes of European colonialism. So why does Niall Ferguson a historian famous for celebrating the British Empire never get criticised by the right. Is tyranny alright when wielded by white men in pith helmets over black, brown, and yellow people?

3:55 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

I remember encountering this cartoon by David Low in a high school history class:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/history/images/hist_rendezvous_low.gif

Low brings out the bizarre nature of the sudden alliance between Hitler and Stalin in 1939, and of their partition of Poland.

8:45 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I think they had to make a deal with Hitler while they armed themselves. It may at least have seemed that way then.

I think this split of rhetoric anr relity etc ahppens lwasy but it began already with Lenin and Trotsky.

They both, however, strongly believed in progress and humanity and socialism and in the early years encouraged experimental art and so on. But the desperation to keep the USSR 'intact' so to speak lead to excessive paranoia and for these and other reasons what is loosely called "revisionism" happened and was well on the way by the time Stalin took over.

I believe though that your overall picture of Hobsbawn is good and he is not to be confused (I don't know a lot about him except some of your work and some of what Eagleton says in some interviews I read).
But I think he began as an "idealist" with hopes of a good alternative to fascism.

9:17 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I meant not to be confused with Ansells, Doutre, anti-Semitics and Nazies etc

The concept that a handful of evil bankers and "bloodlines" or hooked nosed Jews (or the Rothschilds who my son says are only pretending to be Jews!) are bringing about all the evil of the world is attractive BECAUSE it is simple and in fact thus very dubious.

The human brain likes certainties* and it is easier to settle for one overarching idea than deal with the real, complex, world, which entails ambiguities). The same problem (inherent, neurological?) affected the way communists thought (or think) about the world.

Hence the toggle over to the right by Hobsbawn?



*I think neurologists have shown this to be true.

9:28 pm  
Anonymous Robert Bollard said...

Scott,
Your argument is almost identical to one I made once in one of my better undergraduate essays and which I have long been looking for an opportunity to reproduce online to inevitable plaudits and applause. So yah booh sucks to you for that.
Apart from this statement of thwarted ambition, I have a couple of observations to add. The first is that you are arguing here with a demented anti-semitic fringe dweller, whereas here in Australia there is at least one more substantial target for this argument, none other than Robert Manne, an example of that rare species, the former cold warrior who, since the Wall went down has rediscovered other divisions and other imperatives and is now, so to speak, generally on the side of the angels. But he does not resile in any way from his former conservatism on the basis that Stalin killed Kulaks, Communist supported Stalin. They would have killed kulaks (or whatever the Antipodean equivalent of that would be) and so on.
The other point is a subtle addition to your argument. You have mainly focussed on the reasons people became Communists, and in doing so have concentrated on the ideolical contradiction between Stalinism as it appeared outside of Russia and as it was inside ther monolith.
But it wasn't just a question of idea. People didn't just become Communists because the Communists talked about equality and workers' power and so on. They became Communists because what the Communists did (for the most part, outside of REussia) was generally positive. The only political party to oppose the White Australia Policy was the CPA, and its members endured repression to organise Aboriginal people, including pastoral workers in the Northern Territory and |Western Australia. The experience of being a party member in the 1930s and 1940s was to be involved in generally successful struggles to establish the 40 hour week to raise the question of equal pay for women and so on.
You wouldn't in the course of this liquidated a single Kulak or knocked on anyone's door in the early hours of the morning to spirit them away to the Gulag.
Stalinism's influence on the |Communist parties could be seen in the parties' hierarchical and undemocratic internal regimes and in their occasional tactical and strategic inepititude as they followed the diktats of Moscow.
But most of the time, being a member of the party would have been an immensely positive experience and one that appealed to and affirmed values and principles that we can recognise today as positive.
To be a member of a fascist group at any stage meant, by contrast, that you beat up Jews and immigrants (or Communists of course). There was no contradiction in being a fascist. You LIKED the concentration camps. You wanted "a firm hand".

1:36 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

This post raises the broader question of intentions, and to what extent they should matter when assessing any political figure (or fellow human being, for that matter). Rightists here in the US (the only kind with which I am familiar) are fond of denigrating historical and present-day socialists as naive do-gooders, whose efforts to make a better world are doomed by the very fact of their good intentions. The worldview seems to boil down to this: Try to improve things, and those things inevitably get worse as a result. Try to make lots of money, on the other hand, and the Invisible Hand will improve mankind’s lot by accident, never mind your intentions. Intentions, then, are held to be, morally speaking, empty, or worse. Except, curiously enough, when someone brings up US foreign policy, and how it so often shocks the conscience, at which point the rightist begins a lecture to the effect that, while our military kills plenty of civilians, it doesn’t TARGET civilians (nonsense, of course, but that’s another argument), making us, for all our faults, plainly superior to the enemy, who DELIBERATELY go after non-combatants. So, apparently, intentions mean a great deal, as long as the right people are doing the intending, and private property remains safe.

9:44 am  
Blogger Chris Nimmo said...

David Lindahl doesn't seem very subtle.

10:08 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Richard,

I think there's an interesting difference between the way Lenin and Trotsky on the one hand and Stalin on the other wrote about repression in the Soviet Union. Lenin and Trotsky openly admitted that they were using dictatorial methods, and even engaging in terrorism, in the early 1920s. They argued that such desperate measures were justified by the desperate situation of the Soviet Union, as it tried to defeat a White insurrection and the interventions of a dozen or so foreign armies. Trotsky even wrote a (dodgy) book called, without apology, Terrorism and Communism.

Stalin, by contrast, pretended that he was presiding over a land of milk and honey whilst sending whole nations into gulags.

Hi Robert,

I'm sorry for pinching your idea! Am I right in thinking that Robert Manne's departure from the Quadrant group of right-wingers was caused by the Helen Demidenko hoax? I was impressed by his book-length condemnation of Demidenko's bogus account of the Holocaust in the Ukraine, and was amazed that anyone would have wanted to defend her. Frankly, I wish we had some right-leaning intellectuals like Manne here in New Zealand, instead of rednecks and hack journos...

7:36 am  
Blogger Dr Jack Ross said...

If it comes to a choice between hypocrisy masking almost inconceivable brutality (Stalin / Mao) and unashamed aggressive oppression (Hitler / Franco / Mussolini), then I think it's just as easy to come up with lame excuses in favour of the latter (the oppression and debt-slavery of Versailles, etc. etc.) as it is with palliatives for the former.

I agree with you, Maps, when you say that it's a good idea to avoid "pat judgements from our perch in the twenty-first century", but it seems to me that that's precisely what you're doing. In fact, I can imagine you sitting in a Spanish War committee arguing the "expediency" of revealing (say) the horrors of collectivism and the anti-kulak movement since it might "distract" from the war against fascism.

Why not simply state that both movements - whatever their pretensions - were obscene and horrific failures? That doesn't, to me, imply any statement of "preference" for capitalist wage slavery or the genocidal horrors of colonialism in the Congo or the Philippines.

Might I suggest that denouncing all such horrific and dehumanising systems and philosophies alike is a perfectly tenable moral position?

9:32 am  
Blogger Chris Trotter said...

All very well, Jack, but your call for a blanket denunciation of both fascism and communism overlooks the very cogent points made by other commentators regarding the behaviour of those communists outside the Soviet Union who devoted their lives to the achievement of progressive changes which we all now take for granted - like sexual and racial equality.

I'm not prepared to condemn communism outright. What I will condemn is the totalitarian apparatus perfected by Stalin and his allies in the CPSU and the countless crimes for which they, and it, were responsible.

I think there is an important moral and historical distinction to be drawn between these two groups of political actors.

It is also worth reiterating that fascism, in its core beliefs, unashamedly proclaims the moral and political efficacy of violence and oppression.

The same cannot be said of the communist ideology.

11:16 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

I just can't see that the communist movement in either Britain or New Zealand during the '30s and '40s was an 'horrific failure', Jack - I think it tended to be on the side of the angels, despite the negative influence of Moscow.

Robert has pointed that it was communists, and often communists alone, who championed the rights of indigenous peoples in Australia. In much the same way, it was the communists who stood up for Maori land rights and for the independence of Samoa in 1930s New Zealand, at a time when such issues were extremely unfashionable in Pakeha society. It was communists who built the mass unemployed workers' movement of the '30s, which helped pressure the first Labour government to build a proper welfare state, and it was communists who laid the foundation for the modern women's movement, by founding organisations like the Family Planning Association and campaigning for the legalisation of abortion and contraception.

We shouldn't miss the fact that, in New Zealand at least, it was commies who tended to lose their civil rights at the hands of both right-wing and social democratic governments. During the late '20s and early '30s many communist activists lived semi-underground existences, because they were liable to be arrested simply for advocating that a socialist society be established. Many of them did time for selling texts by Marx and similar authors. And later, during World War Two, the Communist Party had its paper and its meetings shut down because it opposed the Fraser government's introduction of military conscription. RAK Mason ended up in a cave in Otahuhu churning out copies of a semi-fugitive replacement for the People's Voice.

And after the war it was a Labour government which brought McCarthyism to New Zealand, when it stirred up hysteria over red under the bed and smashed the carpenters' union simply because that organisation had democratically elected a communist leadership. The destruction of the carpenters' union and the related scare campaign by the Fraser government set the scene for the waterfront conflict of 1951, which saw, for five months, the creation of a genuine police state in this country.

I think it would be unfair to condemn New Zealand's communists for authoritarianism, when it was their opponents who actually attenuated or extinguished civil rights here.

I tend to agree with EP Thompson, then, that we can contrast the often noble behaviour of rank and file communists in the West with the ignoble actions of the Soviet leadership during the '30s and '40s. There is much in the lives of Kiwi communist activists like Elsie Locke, Dick Scott, and Connie Birchfield to celebrate and learn from, just as there is much in EP Thompson's early political career that is inspiring.

My view on the divisions inside the left in Spain is pretty much that of George Orwell and the Trotskyists - I think, in other words, that Stalin killed the revolution there whilst claiming to save it - so I'd be emphasising rather than denying the crimes of Moscow inside any meeting I attended back in 1937!

12:34 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Scott I understand the subtleties but do you realize that Lenin himself predicted that a "failed" socialism would become even more oppressive than the previous systems? The rot set in early after the initail revolution:("who is and or what is undermining or Socialism? do we put suspected comrades to work? is it the "sugar coated bullets" or is it CIA agents (equivalent of), or White Russians, or is it...? So they need secret police and perhaps a more secret police to police the secret police...the people are thus neglected as those who need to "police" their own state...it spirals). Stalin was the Child inheritor of the Madness. The Man of Iron became The Man of Steel.

I had a huge rebuttal to Jack (with his favourite things of mine such as "the sun could explode tomorrow", thrown out in media res, etc); as Jack seems to be denying History itself but Chris Trotter's comment I felt was perhaps more succinct and to the point than I can ever be!

Talking of Mao Trotsky and Lenin I took part in the protest against Nationals stupid Welfare Reforms in Henderson recently and saw good old Dave, Tim Birch (the mad old poet who knows about Eric Satie and much else) and others. I saw Mana's Minto there.

What's your view of recent developments? I heard Harawira was arrested in GI protesting the onslaught on workers rights and housing.

12:48 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Richard,

I think part of the mystery of life is that moral virtue seems to move so easily between individuals and groups. The Jehovah's Witnesses are creepy cultists who wake me up by banging on my door on Sunday afternoons (I like to have a nap then), but was any more group more extraordinary and noble in its opposition to Nazism during World War Two? The Catholic church seems a permanent obstacle to social and political progress in the Philippines, but it has been, along with 'Atenisi, one of the engines of the pro-democracy movement in Tonga. Elsie Locke was a heroic communist fighter for mother's and workers' rights in New Zealand, at the same time that the Stalinist government she idolised and idealised was shooting thousands of working class opponents in the depths of the taiga.

I think that we have to be wary of treating any ideology as something possessed of an inner coherence and a destiny, and instead examine what it means to particular groups at particular social and historical conjunctures.

As for Hone: the incident in GI only underlines, for me at least, why he's far and away the most admirable of our MPs!

1:23 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes I agree with most of your views here. Hobsbawm and others of the NZCP and the Trotskyists and others were rather flawed -in fact there were struggles inside the CP between Frank Lnae and his mother who was member of the Australian Communist Party as a young woman and the NZCP and there were struggles and battles with various other groups. There was strange breakaway group in about 1970 or so run by Dr Steve Taylor who lived not far from where I was (on Ponsonby Road - remember it was working class area in those days) and for all the strangeness of his group (I forget what his 'angle' was but he was still a Marxist but believed also in lot of strange ideas related to vegetarianism etc) he staged a heroic hunger protest which lasted for about 25 days or something. As a doctor he knew what he was doing (and the dangers) but we used to visit him in Albert Park. His hunger protest was more or less his own idea and my then girlfriend and I used to visit him in Albert Park where he was in the Rotunda.

But you might fault say Len Parker's views but for my money eh was better than a lot of the other politicians around he stayed in that house on his protest until the police moved him (they were impressed and patted him on the back away from the TV eyes) but Banks slung off against him on his talk back.

No the Commos were flawed bu many of the major reforms and so on came via them. Mao tse Tung wrote (correctly) of the constant struggle of ideas. Mao was betrayed by anti-Communists and liberals but we cant ignore the huge achievement of the Chinese people lead by the Chinese CP that brought China in to the 20th century.

It is significant that Cambodia had East German (probably ex-Nazis I suspect a lot of so-called Communists in the USSR we by that time were either de facto Nazis or some were ex from the II W. War or were acting much as if they were, as the USSR was basically a right wing dictatorship) advisers in there and also in other parts of Indo-China so we have to remains skeptical of the "evil" of Pol Pot and much else as much of it is rabid anti-Communism (often fueled by CIA-KGB (the USSR were in cahoots with the US on at least one level - many levels in fact): money and propaganda from the British, French and US and USSR Imperialists) which has resulted in unfortunate and extensive distortions and fabrications to discredit the possibility of working class progress or their empowerment - whatever, you are right about the Seventh Day Adventists - weird as their ideas are - they are sincere in their beliefs.

I understand how Hobsbawn transformed. The world is complex.

8:40 pm  
Anonymous free us said...

Communists rule us TODAY.

Read Karl Marx Communist Manifesto, the check list for it, is obviously siting on Owebama’s desk.
1) nationalization of private industry, Bank of America, General Motors—Owebama appointees run them
2) confiscation of personal and private property, $350 billion worth of properties bought off the banks and put in control of the nationalized Bank of America (Owebama’s first idea-—rent them back to the public).
3) control of the food supply, the many of those toxic assets were farms, look how controlling USDA has gotten, even to the point of controlling kids menu’s in schools (does anybody remember Hitler’s favorite Oxtail and cabbage soup that was all that was on the grocer’s shelves?)
4) separate the people from their faith
5) nationalization of health care
6) class warfare
7) abolition of inheritance rights (look at Owebama’s stance on that—he wants to take the biggest share of it)
And on top of that, he wants to throw islamofascism right on top of it, which is basically the same thing with a barbarianism thrown on top.

The two beasts of Revelation: corrupt government and corrupt religion. What government is more corrupt than communism? What religion is more corrupt than Islam? In the end, the two work together to serve the dragon, Satan.

The goals of communism and Islamism end up being the same.

Everything Obama has ever done serves the purposes of both communism and Islamism. He is the union of the two towers, the two beasts which both serve the dragon.

Do not fall for the lies the Dems will tell. Obama does not “redistribute” wealth. I know that when the government taxes me, they are not redistributing anything. Because to say that means that you agree that the money was distributed to you or me in the first place. We EARN our money, it is not distributed to us. This is the first line I always take in an argument with a Lib/Dem/Socialist.

10:28 pm  
Blogger Jack Ross said...

It's not that there's nothing to admire in the actions and beliefs of individual communists in "either Britain or New Zealand during the '30s and '40s" (the need to qualify the statement so severely in itself speaks volumes), or even in the stated aims of Communism itself, Scott - the point is that I'd make the same admission for Quakerism and lots of other utopian creeds.

I continue to feel that the fine distinctions and back-slapping you apparatchiks are indulging in would be cold comfort to the slaughtered anarchists of Catalonia, let alone the myriad victims of the artificial famines of the 1920s and 30s, without even going into show trials, the gulag (which, as Solzhenitsyn reminds us, started in 1918, not 1924), and all the other horrors inflicted on Russia and its satellite in the 20th century.

As for your pious horror at my "call for a blanket denunciation of both fascism and communism," Chris, I'm afraid I'm quite unrepentant. Nor is the fact that communists were (by and large) in favour of "sexual and racial equality" any proof that they made much more of a contribution to achieving it than, say, Liberals, Fabians, or any number of other left-leaning idealists.

Call me a Menshevik if you like, but I'm quite astonished at how ready so many of you are to overlook and "contextualise" mass murder. Richard's quote from Lenin, "that a 'failed' socialism would become even more oppressive than the previous systems" seems rather apposite here.

10:34 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Jack,

I don't know if you're necessarily disagreeing completely with folks like Chris and me, because do you seem to accept, in the first paragraph of your comment, that there was a radical difference between the behaviour and motives of many communists in the West back in the '30s and '40s and those of the Soviet leadership.

I've criticised Stalin in print - in my book on Thompson, for instance - for crushing the Catalonian revolution, but I don't condemn, say, Tom Wintringham, a staunch communist party man and the commander of the British section of the International Brigades, who nearly got himself killed campaigning against what Stalin was doing in Catalonia. Nor do I condemn rank and file Labour Party men who agitated against their organisation's betrayal of the Catalonians, and against the numerous dirty deeds the Lab-Tory coalition of the early '40s perpetrated in various parts of the British Empire.

I don't see the sort of distinction I've been making as hairsplitting: in fact, I don't know how I could study history without it.

10:59 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

I suppose my question is: what is a blanket condemnation of communism supposed to consist of? If it's a repudiation of Stalin and gulags, then I consider that I've been laying down blanket condemnations for many years.

But if a blanket condemnation has to involve repudiating all of the work and writings that folks like Thompson, Hobsbawm, and Tom Wintringham did when they were members of pro-Moscow communist parties, then I'll have to refrain.


11:23 am  
Blogger Jack Ross said...

I think my point is that one should be more critical of those who belong to one's own side (more or less), than of one's obvious ideological opponents.

Studying history seems to me to demand a certain objectivity and - however reluctant - admission rather than palliation of the sins of the past.

I guess it's because my own sympathies are (broadly speaking) leftist that I don't want to see any sentimentality creeping into the almost impossible task of comparing the effects of these two world-historical movements.

It may be difficult to come up with a bunch of virtuous Fascists to weigh against your heroic communists (Locke, Wintringham, Mason et al.), but I fear that the Right in general has plenty of comparable heroes to show (Plato among them, I fear) ...

11:26 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

I agree with you about the need to avoid sentimentality Jack.

I think the Indian National Army is an interesting example of a pro-Nazi group which had some progressive qualities back in the '40s. Huge numbers of Indians joined the army, and many more supported it - and yet it fought with the Japanese and aligned itself, rhetorically at least, with Hitler. After the war independent India honoured the INA, giving its veterans pensions while snubbing the men who fought with Britain.

I think we'd be making a mistake if we condemned the INA as completely evil, simply because its leader hobnobbed with Hitler and uttered pro-Nazi slogans. As appalling as that stuff looks, I think it's obvious the INA rank and file joined up and fought because they wanted to get the British out of their country, not because they wanted to massacre Jews or create an Aryan state. And when we think of what the British were doing in India during the '40s, often with the guidance of the instruction of fine upstanding social democrats like Attlee, it is hard not sympathise with the INA rank and file. British rule in the '40s was tyranical, and it was directly responsible for a famine in Bengal which killed several million people.

I'm not suggesting we should defend the INA leadership's alliance with Japanese and German fascism: I'm just arguing that the organisation's rank and file shouldn't be conflated with the leadership, and that the rank and file in many ways had rational reasons for joining the organisation.

11:41 am  
Blogger Jack Ross said...

Quite so, Scott -- German-supporting Irishmen in both wars also many and complex reasons for the positions they took up.

I'm certainly also prepared to concede that we may be using the term "Communism" in very different senses. I don't doubt that the socialist philosophy outlined by Marx & Engels is a far cry from the "perversion" of the doctrine embodied by Stalinism / Marxism-Leninism or whatever else one wants to call it.

12:09 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Animal Farm is really a study of what happens - "two legs is bad" becomes "two legs is good" when the revolution goes Revisionist to put it simply. Dick Fowler showed me picture of Lenin speaking to workers in (1918 or so) but he then showed me another piture painted or re-painted a few years later (way before Stalin, who Lenin, by the way didn't really want to follow himself). Already Lenin now looked fierce and unremitting. Some - a few figures -had been removed. It had been changed. The democratic or people's participation was starting to go. The huge enthusiasm for innovative art was starting to become "dangerous" 1984 was already happening. Communism (which has never exited anywhere yet and predated Marx as an idea) was transforming into Fascism.

This doesn't mean Hobsbawn was bad or Elsie Locke. They were passionate about ab idea - sometimes you have to maintain some untruths to counter the "truths" of the right. Rhetoric. All politicians use rhetoric or jargon - mostly too much of course.

But we cannot see everything all the time.

History s NEVER objective. There is no real history. All our histories are different. It depends what we read, who we talk too, what we are, when we read or do what we do and much else.

We are possibly racing backwards into the future as in Klee's picture of an angel (of history or fate or something?) as depicted via Benjamin. Or we are speeding away from a clock that says it is 2 pm at the speed of light - and as Einstein at the age of 14 thought - the time would stay at 2 pm forever!

In deep sense there is nothing nobler in Christianity, or Buddhism, or Marxism or Nazism. They are all noble and ignoble, true and untrue. 9/11, was, according to Stockhausen, the greatest work of art in the 21st Century (a bit premature! There were 99 years to go!): this he retracted but what he said rings true. It was like Hollywood's masterpiece. Whether by the CIA and there mates or insane Muslims it is all the same. We only see the "truth " of that history in books or on flat TV screens. We cannot verify anything much about it except that it happened.

Of course the Irish and the Indians sided with Hitler. I would if I had been an Indian then. I've heard Indians berate (to put it mildly) the British but they are not interested in Europe's little domestics before 1950...For India 1947 is their big date.

The ultimate question is will a certain "way" or "system" work. There is a gap between ideas and reality of course. It is a part of the ongoing struggle of nature.
These, revolutions, The Spanish Civil War etc are all bumps in the greater struggle of history. We cant extrapolate the graph. The happy wavy line might just do a sudden dive. Then the rest will be silence.

What will "save us" are not ideas as such but our biological nature (we are "social animals". And chance, luck. Otherwise we are all either monsters or saints, or we are duffers.

As the great German-Jewish philosopher, mathematician, friend of Einstein and ex World Chess Champion (with the longest "reign" of anyone) repeated to my young adolescent reading mind in his "Lasker's Manual of Chess" -

'In life as in Chess, we are all (and always) duffers.'

He saw life as a struggle. As for Geoff Dyer in "Otherwise Known as the Human Condition' it is the endless excited search for the perfect doughnut and a cappuccino.

1:08 pm  
Anonymous free us said...

The Devil's had 5 thousand years to learn our weak spots. He KNOWS how to get to us.

7:38 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well if you have genuinely read his books and heard his statements and not just truncated incomplete quotes then you would know he spoke out against the Soviet suppresion of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.

He was mostly connected to the 'Eurocommunist' school of thought which if you know anything of the topic will understand that they opposed Stalin and supported parliamentary democracy.

He mellowed as he grew older and was accused by Arthur Scargill of being too moderate.

He went on to have friendships and political association with Labour Party and this indicated that he was a realist and in reality was more a 'social democrat' or 'democratic socialist' than his previous party membership would suggest.

His early party membership has much more to do with being a Jew resident in Berlin at the time of the Nazi rise to power. Politics at the time was paramilitary and to seek alignment with their opponents was understandable especially if one was in fear of liquidation. He was only 14 at the time he joined I understand.

9:34 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps this is not as widely known as I had assumed. The evidence that Karl Marx was a practising Satanist is overwhelming. His diaries contain a reference to the initiation rites that he underwent in becoming an initiate.

This article is particularly revealing: http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/communism/marx.htm

10:21 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quote from [Marx's] drama Oulanem:
And they are also Oulanem, Oulanem.
The name rings forth like death, rings forth
Until it dies away in a wretched crawl.
Stop, I’ve got it now! It rises from my soul....

Yet I have power within my youthful arms
To clench and crush you [i.e., personified humanity] with tempestuous force,
While for us both the abyss yawns in darkness.
You will sink down and I shall follow laughing,
Whispering in your ears, “Descend, come with me, friend.” [p.12]

10:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeremy Clarkson branded Britain a nation of ‘utter b*****ds’ after Twitter trolls mocked him over the death of his dog.

Jeremy Clarkson has never been known to hold his tongue, but now he has insulted everyone in Britain branding the whole country ‘complete and utter b*stards.’

Clarkson went on to say that Brits invented torture and slavery and sent the White Russians to be slaughtered by Stalin.

“Outwardly, we hated communist Russia; inwardly, it’s what 95 per cent of the country wants,” he said.

Writing in Top Gear magazine, Clarkson made the comments after claiming he was he was inundated with abuse and jokes when he Tweeted about the death of his black Labrador Whoopi.

Clarkson, wrote: “A few moments ago , my dog died, and, as an experiment, I announced the fact on Twitter.

“Now, everyone must have known that when a family pet is put down, the family in question is bound to be upset.

“So you’d expect a bit of sympathy. And, in America, that’s what you’d get.

“Not in Britain, though. Moments after I posted my Tweet, a man called Ryan Paisey asked: “How does she smell?”

Clarkson said another man had said the news was ‘kinda funny.’

Another Twitter user Phil May wanted to know if it was James May’s fault, and Tom Green said simply: “Good”.

Clarkson said within five minutes he had suffered a ‘tirade of abuse.’

He added: “Britain is a nation of 62 million complete and utter b*****ds. We are the country that invented the concentration camp, and international slavery.

“Hanging, drawing, quartering: that was us too. And who was it that sent the White Russians home to be slaughtered by Stalin? Yup. Us.

“Outwardly, we hated communist Russia; inwardly, it’s what 95 per cent of the country wants .

“Bankers, Estate Agents, Politicians, Journalists. Anyone in a suit is basically evil and must, after they’ve been sacked, go to prison.

“Anyone in a donkey jacket? They’re basically good and must have a plasma television immediately.”

10:21 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An Indian tribute to Hobsbawm:
http://www.frontlineonnet.com/stories/20121102292109500.htm

9:32 pm  
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9:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Whereas Hitler's Nazi Party and Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists preached a racist, misogynist and ultra-imperialist doctrine, romanticised war, and made themselves the enemies of modern art and the intelligentsia, their communist counterparts proclaimed a message of anti-imperialism, racial and sexual equality, and peace, and successfully courted many of their era's leading artists and intellectuals"

So why did Hobsbawm continue to fawm over the USSR after the scale of its horrific crimes was revealed?

9:08 am  

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