Thursday, January 15, 2015

Plus ça change ...

One of the books I an reading at the moment is The Secret World, a collection of writings, published and unpublished by Hugh Trevor-Roper, Lord Dacre, an eminent historian with one or two lapses of judgement (well, one in particular) on the subject of the Secret Service in which he served during the Second World War and in which he remained interested ever after.

The articles, letters and book on Philby, reprinted here in full, are wonderfully well written. Professor Trevor-Roper was a stylist that few could rival. Much of it is of enormous interest but he also shows a good deal of closed mindedness of the kind he accuses his own wartime superiors and colleagues. On the whole, I'd say he never came to terms with the extent to which Communists agents of espionage and influence, penetrated various British and American institutions, displaying a certain amount of censoriousness towards anyone who tried to unravel this. (And I find it particularly infuriating that he and, I am sorry to say, his editor, Edward Harrison, refer to Russia when they mean the Soviet Union.)

The review of Andrew Boyle's The Climate of Treason, a crucial publication in the history of that unravelling is dismissive: no real need for it, nothing important in it and, in any case, the three rather sordid traitors (how right Trevor-Roper is on that adjective), Burgess, Maclean and Philby, did very little real harm.

Just as one despairs at such willful misreading one comes across this paragraph. Having analyzed why so many young people joined or supported the Communist Party in the thirties for what seemed like very good reasons at the time, he adds:
There was also another reason, less reputable, but not, I think, less real. Intellectuals often pretend that, as a class, they are advocates of liberty. This is seldom true. Intellectuals like the beauty of mathematical order. They like tidiness, symmetry. Liberty is untidy, asymmetrical. Consequently young intellectuals, even when they speak of liberty, really worship power. they generally grow out of this when they realise that they are less likely to exercise power themselves than to be the victims of it. But for a time they think that they respect it. Communism, as intellectually justified system of total power, has a fatal fascination for young intellectuals seeking short cuts to total solution.
One could point to other displays of total power that intellectuals or those who think themselves to be intellectuals, support. But, when it comes to Communism and its one manifestation in the thirties, the Soviet Union (not Russia), though the same would apply to the supporters of Mao in the fifties and sixties, there is another consideration.

Even more than fascism or Nazism, Communism is a political system that purports to be constructed on an intellectually coherent base. It is not anything of the kind, as it happens, but that is what a good many people, more intelligent and intellectual than the Cambridge five and others of that ilk have believed. Even Albert Camus differentiated between the "irrational terror" of fascism and the "rational terror" of Communism. In actual fact, Stalin was often considerably less rational than Hitler and the terror introduced in Bolshevik Russia and the Soviet Union was no more rational than that introduced in Nazi Germany, though often considerably more bloody.

On top of this, it seemed that the Soviet Union really valued and cherished its intellectuals while the higgledy-piggledy Western systems did not. Somehow, it did not appear to be important to many that those intellectuals, so cherished at first, often found themselves, as was well known even in the thirties, in prisons, in torture chambers, in labour camps and execution chambers. Other intellectuals appeared to take their place and the life of the intellect was still, apparently, cherished.

Naturally, the Soviet Union's propaganda machine played on the Western intellectuals' sense of grievance and treated them as highly honoured guests as well as highly honoured agents. The easiest person to fool is the man (or the woman but more often the man) who thinks he is the only one to know the real truth but nobody appreciates it. Too much has been written about various fellow travellers for me to have to reiterate any of it (though I may well do another time) but the intricate relationship between intellectuals and absolute power or what they see as absolute power needs to be studied now just as it was by Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper.


  1. Very well put; the smug excuses of and for leftist 'intellectuals' are still the same and the consequences of their egotistical words and deeds are still glossed over.

  2. Good article Helen. As well as being intellectuals most of the people attracted to Communism, and the other creeds, in this country at any rate seem to be largely drawn from the upper middle classes. We see it today in the Guardian. Perhaps there is some combination of guilt for being so well off, combined with the ability this wealth gives them to indulge themselves.

    I think Jarvis Cocker had it right in "Common People". "Still you'll never get it right, 'cause when you're lying in bed at night, watching roaches climb the wall, you know you can end it all, with just one call to your Dad".

  3. What roaches? Who has them here, anyway? Actually, there is evidence that very soon after the Bolsheviks had consolidated their power they very definitely set out to recruit supporters, mostly secret ones, among the well educated classes. The policy paid off. I shall be writing about that as soon as I get through another book that is lying there, waiting for me to read: Victor Madeira's "Britannia and the Bear".

  4. The Solution:

      Procedure By Which conservatives Could Control  Parliament
    If UKIP  is  Lucky,  UKIP could  get,   perhaps,  get   ten to thirty   seats
    in  Parliament.  Do  not   forget,   the  public  still regards  UKIP  as   a
    one  issue  party.  To gain  control of  Parliament  UKIP  and  (and frie-
    nds) should  form a  new  conservative  party  with  a  platform that is 
    close to that of the existing Conservative party, omitting, of course, 
    policies that are objectionable to conservatives. The purpose would
    be to make a bed that would be easy for conservatives to slide into,
    including  the eighty  percent  of  the Conservatives who left Conser-
    vative  associations. UKIP and the  conservatives  should   then  form
     a  political  association  in  each  parliamentary  district.   UKIP   could
    merge with the new party, thus getting rid of the one issue problem. 
    Every one who would have worked  to  form  the new,  conservative,
     party   should   be   prevented   from    joining    the    new   party    for
    a  period   of time  to  prevent  the  impression  that  UKIP  controls  it.
    The two or three conservative parties should hold a primary election
    to determine who runs as the Parliamentary candidate, with the losers
    to help the winner. The cost of forming new associations can be raised
    by local contributors. It is suggested that the  new   conservative   asso-
    ciations and the political party be controlled by the lowest level of con-
    servatives, such as teachers, small businessmen, solicitors, professionals
    etc. If the  above   procedure   can  not  be  completed  in  time  to   get 
    candidates   elected   to    Parliament,  the  new  party  must  wait  until
    after the  election  and  hold  a  petition  demanding  that  the  elected
    MP  resign. Note: an MP  represents   every  person  in  his  district,  not
    just members and   supporters of his party. When the petition reaches
    fifty percent of those who voted in the prior election, the conservatives
    will be morally justified in demanding their MP"s resignation. Then the
    new party could run their  candidates  in  the  following by elections. 
    To select a candidate, a local  association should  advertise  for applicants
    or the position of candidate for  Parliament, then  select   the   best  app-
    licant  by using rigorous tests, including, most importantly,  psychological 
    evaluation. psychological evaluation is an absolute necessity as the psych-
    ological evaluation is the only way to tell who is honest and who is a con-
    artist; members of the public  cannot.  Testing  could  be  required  of the 
    association  officers,  committee  members and delegates, etc.

    The platform, selected by new party associations,  should be some what
     vague in order to facilitate integration  the platforms of the  new  assoc-
    iations into one platform. It is suggested that self forming cliques of those
    who are   honest  and   trust  worthy  be formed;  then form   self  forming
    cliques of those who have   political skills  and  capabilities,  within  the
    first described clique.

    The corruption in Ukip is a cause for concern. Information about the corr-
    uption may bee seen on the following websites:

    John Newell

    1. I cannot see how this can be said to be relevant to my posting or the discussion above. Please, do not do this again or I shall delete and, if needs be, block you from posting.