Beijing made Leni's effort look tame
[Tyler's own apology: because rain has stymied the authorities' programme of garden chores, this post has now got ridiculously long]
On BBC R4 Today this morning a breathless Ken Livingstone reported on his attendance at the spectacular opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics (listen again here - 7.50am). He was overwhelmed:
"The single biggest spectacle in the history of the human race... stunning."
But, asked Evan, did he not feel ambivalent about being impressed by a show put on by such a repressive regime?
"No, I don't... China is not a police state... this is not an oppressive regime as far as the vast majority of the population is concerned... China has moved on so much... direction of travel... China will be a democracy by mid-century..."
Holy Shmoly... what's he been quaffing now?
China is a police state: its totalitarian rulers operate a massive apparatus of state control and terror; they imprison political opponents in their thousands; they are quite prepared to massacre peaceful protesters on the streets; the press is not free. Can Livingstone really believe that because he hasn't been shown, it doesn't exist?
True, the vast majority aren't locked up or shot - but that's only because under such regimes the majority quite sensibly keep their heads down and try to get on with their lives. Step out of line and you're soon reminded about the underlying realities (eg see the Newsnight reports where their reporter tries to interview Chinese punters off-piste).
And as for the direction of travel, and Chinese democracy by mid-century, the vague promise of "freedom tomorrow" has always been the cop-out of the left, ever since Uncle Karl came up with the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
No, Red Ken is a classic Western lefty. Just like all those 1930s Cambridge commies, and fellow travellers ever since, he wants to believe. He wants to believe that socialism offers a better alternative to the disorder, unpredictability, and unfairness of freedom. He wants an ordered world in which benign omniscient beings - such as his good self - organise life so that it is productive, decent, and fair. In short, he wants an ideology that says his beliefs will make the world a better place, and he must therefore take charge in order to push through the necessary change.
Which brings us back to Miliband's Dad (see this blog).
As you know, Ralph M was a lifelong Marxist, a fact we mentioned in the previous post. And according to Ken's account, back in the good old days, he and Ralph used to debate the finer points of Marxism over Miliband's kitchen table, the young Milies sitting there all ears.
But what were those finer points?
We confess we have always found the idea of studying Marxist ideology somewhat less than compelling. So we've remained ignorant of the precise intellectual and moral contortions Marxists concoct to maintain the faith in the face of all known facts about the real world. But luckily for us, long-time BOM correspondent A Reader is made of stronger stuff. He's been reading David Horowitz's The Politics of Bad Faith, and emailed an extremely interesting excerpt (link here).
It is a lengthy and highly personal letter written by Horowitz to his erstwhile friend and mentor Ralph Miliband, on the fall of East European communism in 1990.
The backgound is that during his twenties, Horowitz had been a member of Ralph Miliband's Marxist posse in 1960s London. But then he grew up. He discovered his head, switching sides to become the famous US conservative writer and activist we know today. Miliband, and Ken of course, never made that journey. They both remained firmly stuck in their twenties. And Horowitz went from friend to mortal enemy.
If you have time, the letter is well worth reading. It begins:
It has been over a decade since this silence as durable as an iron curtain descended between us. In these circumstances, I have had to depend on others to learn how you regard me these days: How, at a recent social gathering, you referred to me as “one of the two tragedies of the New Left” (the other being a former Brecht scholar who now publishes guides to the nude beaches of America); how my apostasy has inflicted an emotional wound, as though in changing my political views and leaving the Left I had personally betrayed you."
Apostasy and personal betrayal - already it sounds like something out of a Stalinist show trail.
And Stalinism looms large throughout. Horowitz rips into the left's obscene and unwavering support for some of the most brutal regimes in the history of the human race, such as Uncle Joe's own. And he blasts even more their point blank refusal to learn from experience.
Take the 1950s. Khrushchev had blown the gaff on Stalin's crimes, the Hungarian uprising had been suppressed with the utmost brutality. Marxists everywhere should have recognised the ghastly truth about where their ideology leads:
"For thirty years, with only a minority in dissent, the best, most vital and compassionate minds of the Left had hailed the flowering of the progressive state in Soviet Russia. They had made the defense of Soviet “achievements” the sine qua non of what it was to be socially conscious and morally correct. Now the Kremlin itself had acknowledged the monstrous “mistakes” of the progressive experiment, confirming the most damning accusations of its political adversaries."
Yet far from admitting their errors, Britain's Marxists - with Miliband well to the fore - immediately set about rebranding themselves as the New Left (yes, it does rhyme with NuLabour): Stalin had nothing to do with us, squire... How were we meant to know he was A Very Bad Man? When we went on that People's Exchange Trip to Moscow everything seemed cool... they never offered a halfday visit to a gulag... etc etc.
"Even as the unmarked graves of Stalin’s victims were re-opened and their wounds bled afresh, the New Left raised its collective voice to proclaim the continuing truth of its humanitarian dream. Stalinism had died, not socialism...
In the face of such epic criminality and collusion, what was the urgency of our renewed dedication to the goals that had proved so destructive in the first place? Why were the voices of our enemies not more worthy of a hearing in the hour that seemed to vindicate them so completely? Why were we so eager to hurry past the lessons they urged on us, in order to resume our combat again?"
35 years later, after the fall of communism, Horowitz could see exactly the same process taking place again. He wrote to Miliband:
"For you and the prophets of the next Left, the socialist idea is still capable of an immaculate birth from the bloody conception of the socialist state. You seek to evade these lessons of the revolutionary present by writing the phrase “actually existing socialism” across its pages, thus distinguishing the socialism of your faith from the socialism that has failed.
The historic bankruptcy of the planned societies created by Marxist dictators, a human catastrophe extending across nearly three quarters of a century and encompassing hundreds of millions of ruined lives, will not be entered in the balance sheet of the Left. This would require of you and your comrades an accounting and an agonizing self-appraisal. You prefer, instead, to regard the bankruptcy as someone else’s.
There is nothing new in this shell game. It is the same operation we ourselves performed after 1956, when our slogan was: Stalinism is dead, long live socialism."
Look, rather than reproducing the whole thing here, you need to read it - I found it gripping, and would dearly like to know how it was received chez Mili.
Meanwhile, the Marxist legacy lives on down the years. The junior Milibands may wear Chinos and talk the language of "choice"(see previous blog), but actually they're playing the same old game. Big Government socialism has failed once again, and once again, the left are trying to rebrand it as something else. But whatever the rebranding, underneath the Milis are just as cocksure they know what's best for you as old Uncle Karl himself ever was.
And as for Ken's breathless report from Beijing, it simply reminds us that lefties will always find excuses for a totalitarian socialist dictatorship. After all, given half a chance, they'd introduce one here.
Update (10/8): Tyler is honoured to have received an email from David Horowitz. He points out there are more details of his relationship with Miliband Snr and their debates, in his autobiography Radical Son. So that's another book on Tyler's mountainous reading list.