Saturday, 29 July 2017

Useful Idiots

It Was Taken For Granted

Author, Doris Lessing who died a few years ago in 2013, at the age of 94 was a celebrated lady-of-letters.  Like many of the "intelligentsia" in Britain, Lessing went through a stage in her early professional life--in her twenties, early thirties--when she joined the Communist Party in the UK.   

Towards the end of her life, she wrote (in Volume 2 of her autobiography, Walking in the Shade) how she rationalised this allegiance at the time.
I decided to join the Communist Party.  And this at a time when my "doubts" had become something like a steady, private torment.  Separate manifestation of the horror that the Soviet Union had become were discussed, briefly, in lowered voices--the equivalent of looking over one's shoulder to see if anyone could hear.  I do not remember one serious, sit-down, in-dept discussion about the implications of what we were hearing.  Rather, sudden burstings into tears: "Oh, it's so horrible."  Sudden storms of accusation: "It's just anti-Soviet propaganda, anyway."  Marital quarrels, even divorces . . . .

The first and main fact, the "mind-set" of those times, was that it was taken for granted capitalism was doomed, was on its way out.
 Capitalism was responsible for every social ill, war included.  Communism was the future for all mankind.  I used to hear earnest proselytizers say, "Let me have anyone for a couple of hours, and I can persuade him that communism is the only answer.  Because it is obvious that it is."  Communism's hands were not exactly clean?  Of, to put it as the comrades did, "There have been mistakes"?  That was because the first communist country had been backward Russia; but if the first country had been Germany, that would have been a very different matter!  Soon, when the industrially developed countries became communist, we would all see a very different type of communism. . . .

Arthur Koestler said that every communist who stayed in the Communist Party in the face of all the evidence had a secret explanation for what was happening, and this could not be discussed with friends or comrades.  Some the the communists I knew had decided that yes, the reported crimes were true--though of course not as bad as the capitalist press said--but that Comrade Stalin could not possibly know about what was going on.  The truth was being kept from Uncle Joe.  My rationalization, my "secret belief" was that the leadership of the Soviet Union had become corrupt but that waiting everywhere in the communist world were the good communists, keeping their counsel, and they would at the right time take power, and then communism would resume its march to the just society, the perfect society.  Thee was just one little thing: I didn't realize Uncle Joe had murdered them all. [Doris Lessing, quoted by David Kynaston in Family Britain: 1951--1957 (New York: Walker and Co., 2009),  p. 93f.  The excerpt was taken from Lessing's autobiography, Walking in the Shade, 1997.]
What is striking about this account is how belief in the cause could be so effectively maintained by "group think".  An essential component of that particular groupthink was to rationalise away, or ignore, the depredations of Stalin in the only communist country in the world at that time.  The Soviet Union did not represent real Communism, but primitive, backwards Communism because Russia was a primitive, backwards country.  Once the ideology captured more advanced, Western countries the brutality and oppression would fade away, etc. etc.

Lenin, it has been said, characterised such people as Lessing to be "useful idiots".  Although the attribution to him is questionable, the sentiment is apt.

What is striking in our day is the parallel phenomenon amongst the "intelligentsia", the Chattering Classes, and the media, towards Islam.  There is on display the same self-willed blindness towards the depredations practised for centuries by that religion.  The rationalisations and excuses are equivalent to that described by Lessing with respect to Stalin.  Like Stalin's Russia, many Islamic nations are, of course, backwards, poor, and ignorant.  Western Groupthink says once Islamic disciples enjoy a massive redistribution of wealth from the West (by means of open immigration into the West, coupled with government welfare), your ordinary, average Islamic believer will lay aside primitive belligerence and will transform into a reasonable, moderate, pacific citizen.

These rationalisations with respect to Islam, universal throughout the West, evoke exactly the same phenomena described by Lessing of the systemic rationalizations of UK Communist Party members towards the violent depredations of the Soviet Union and Stalin.

As the pundit said, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  It took Lessing ten to fifteen years of living in denial before she was able to toss her Communist Party membership card in the rubbish bin.

One suspects that the average member of the Western "intellectual classes" are not as honest nor perceptive nor self-critical as Lessing.

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