In the same way, I would like to say to some people who write books on subjects connected with Communism: "Try thinking. You will find your work much easier."
Almost accidentally I came across an interesting sounding book by Francis Beckett Stalin's British Victims. It turned out to be less interesting thanTim Tzouliadis's The Forsaken, which takes up the story of all the, mostly non-Communist, Americans who had gone to the USSR to work and who came to a very bad end. Mr Beckett, a man of the left, tells the story of four women who were one way or another involved with Communism, lived, worked and married in the Soviet Union, where they, eventually, suffered the fate of many though at least two of them managed to get back to the West and tell their tales.
What struck me about Mr Beckett, who tells the story of the four women with interest and compassion if not always with comprehension, is the extraordinary mental gymnastics he has to go through to justify the fact that he still cannot quite see what is wrong with Communism:
There are two views of Stalins's purges in 1936 - 8, in which millions were judicially murdered. One, articulated by Nikita Khrushschev in his expose of Stalin in 1956, was that these events were simply the result of Stalin himself, a pot of poison at the heart of an otherwise benevolent social system. The other is that they were an integral part of the Soviet system inaugurated by Lenin in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. This second view was most neatly summed up by Robert Conquest:Or, in other words, Conquest was absolutely right, something that Mr Beckett would have understood even more clearly if he had bothered to look at the full history of the Soviet Union and not just the purges as directed against Communists. Try thinking, dear boy. It's so much easier.
There was a grreat Marxist called Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That's a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.
If pressed I incline to the Khrushchev view. Conquest is less than fair to Lenin. Communism did not have to be the murderous, viciously petty-minded, sectarian and vindictive thing my four principal characters found in the Soviet Union. In theory, communis is a generous and fair-minded creed, which rejects, for good reason, the poverty amid plenty which is the hallmark of capitalism. There's a case for saying that it was simply hijacked by a cold-blooded mass murderer. But for that to be possible, the fault line had to be there. And the fault line was there. The seeds for the Stalin terror were there; but they needed a mosnter like Stalin to nurture them. The fault line was the sectarian intolerance and the lack of feeling for individual human beings which Russian communists tookd to be virtues.