27 Jan 2016

The Ark, and Goings On

Hail readers!

I have, as of late, been quiet. This is largely owing to my workload for the week (school, alas; a harsh mistress) but also because I’ve been occupied with work on the Ark. I am partway through completing chapter seventeen; it is proving a long, difficult, but satisfying piece of prose.

I have also promised you that I’d be releasing more chapters in the Ark out into the Magical Realm. This promise I shall uphold; stay with me. I am not certain which chapter I shall release right now—perhaps one of the earlier, or maybe even one of the later.

Aside from this, I also have plans to create some more poetry. I shan’t say much of my latest inchoate concoction, but to say that it will involve romance (again!) due in part to popular demand; but mostly because it is that which my muse commands me to write.

Anyway! Aside from this little update, I shall also share one or two political musings. These shall be brief (for I’ve written enough on the matter as of late!) but shall hopefully keep you interested. So: onto politics.

The Soviet Union

Adducing the Soviet Union as a way to discredit left-wing thinking is a common meme among the disingenuous thinkers of the right. But the Soviet Union has gained new popularity as of late; because of, funnily enough, our dear Jeremy Corbyn. Here are some extracts from such a piece over at the Guardian:

The question at the heart of Aaronovitch’s book, just as it must be at the heart of any study of British communism, is a much wider one, wider even than politics. With some notable exceptions, many of the communists I knew seemed to be essentially decent and intelligent people. But how was it that decent people like Sam and Lavender Aaronovitch – or my parents – could stick with the Party when they all knew, at some level, about the inhumanities for which the communist movement was responsible? And how was it that they stuck with it when it was becoming ever more obvious that the whole determined communist experiment was failing?

Communism didn’t work. And most people who lived under it hated it. These are not passing objections. They will need to be relearned as the centenary of the Russian revolution approaches. Yet our parents were like the deluded old Bolshevik in the gulag in Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, who cannot see the connection between his youthful political commitment and the horror of life and death in the labour camp. They were like – in Sam and Lavender’s case they actually were – people who remained in a failed marriage. They couldn’t in the end face the reality that something that had given their lives such meaning had turned out so badly. They put loyalty before sense and reason in their politics and in their lives. They lived with their lies as best they could. And they certainly weren’t the only ones, then or since.

But Aaronovitch’s song of love and pain for the lost family of British communism has made me think again. True, we don’t have a communist movement any more. But we do without doubt have a revived left in Britain, which has dusted off some of the same ambitions, some of the same political ideas, some of the same historic dreams and some of the same deep flaws, foolishness and even intellectual turpitude that made British communism unsustainable.

In the piece, Kettle makes two claims: 1. Communism failed in Russia because its intellectual underpinnings were fundamentally flawed and 2. Corbyn’s party, while not communist, is making the same sorts of mistakes.

The first claim is only a half-truth. The second claim is a lie. Here’s why.

Why Did Communism Fail?

While such a topic would involve some very complex historical, political and economic analysis; the basic reasons are simple.

Firstly, the Communists in charge—Stalin most of all—were power-hungry, corrupt, inhuman, megalomaniac, delusional, paranoid lunatics. No economic plan or political ideology could be successfully implemented by such lunatics.

Remember: Stalin murdered his own generals out of paranoia; and his decision single-handedly ruined (and ended) millions of lives at the hands of the Nazis. Stalin was a man who sent people to the gulags at even a hint of rebellion. And some he sent without any blame at all; such were the depths of his delusions.

But these are the crimes of Stalin—not Marx. Equating Stalin’s actions to Marx’s writings (if indeed one considers Marxism an ideology, as opposed to just a critique of capitalism) is like equating Margaret Thatcher’s ideology with Pinochet’s torture chambers.

Of course, the two are incomparable. Thatcher was an elected prime-minister; Pinochet was a paranoid dictator put into power by the CIA. Being a mass murderer isn’t part of being a free market ideologist anymore than sending people to the gulags is part of being a Marxist. These actions were committed by evil people hungry for power.

It is true that Communism isn’t perfect. Although it has brought significant improvements to Cuba (despite the colourful leadership of said island, and the US blockade) there are undeniably issues with Communism—like the sheer impossibility of having a complex macro-economy run by the commands of a bureau; or the substantial loss of freedom involved in being Communist citizens.

But claiming Communists to be Stalinists is to be disingenuous.

Communism in Practice

It’s also worth mentioning that there exist numerous sub-types and interpretations of Communism; you can have authoritarian Communism a la Russia, or you can have democratic Communism. (Indeed, the ideology is well-suited to democracy.)

What’s more, any attack on the living standards of formerly Communist nations like Russia or Vietnam must also consider that a) Russia and Vietnam were poor to begin with—under Capitalism—due to colonialism, despotic Tsars, war, serfdom and much more; and b) the hysterical US invaded one such nation, and with disastrous consequences.

Corbyn is not a Commie

While Kettle does admit that Corbyn isn’t actually a Communist, he does imply that Corbyn has tenets of the Communist movement; that he holds the same hopelessly idealistic and intellectually foolish beliefs.

But does he? Kettle’s insinuations are vague. Why? Because if you look at what Corbyn is proposing, very little is at all foolish or hopeless.

  1. Corbyn wants to renationalise the railways; this policy is popular among voters and has a strong economic rationale.
  2. Corbyn wants to keep benefits, like Housing Benefit. This is economically sound (the cost of the benefits is far outweighed by the tax revenues, police time etc. as I’ve covered) and has some support among the public. Certainly I don’t see why more can’t be convinced.
  3. Corbyn wants rent controls and council housing; both have public support and sound economics.
  4. Corbyn doesn’t want to bomb Syria. This is the majority public position, although I think it naive and cowardly.

As with Rafael Behr, Kettle is a commentator who doesn’t let history or fact get in the way of a good narrative.

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