August 8, 2015


Labour centrists like me aren't cynics: we're the truly ethical wing of the left : Corbynites are kidding themselves if they think that 'pure' socialism is the path to hope and change (Jonathan Jones, 8 August 2015, The Guardian)

What some people are pleased to call "hope" ended for me in a Moscow taxi in the early 1990s. I was in the front and reached for my seatbelt, but the driver stopped me because seatbelts were just another bit of unmourned communist authoritarianism. Hurtling through Moscow in that rickety car I suddenly understood the incredible desire for freedom that had recently smashed the Berlin Wall.

I was witnessing the death of a monstrous lie in which I had somehow, through a mixture of idealism, anger, alienation and intellectual pride, managed to implicate myself. Not long before the Berlin Wall was overwhelmed, I was invited to join the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in the Cambridge branch of Sainsburys. I said yes. It was the culmination of my student years as a serious and committed Marxist.

Now here I was in Russia, eating soup swimming with sausage fat in the decaying hostel of the Komsomol - the international communist youth league founded in Moscow in 1918 - realising that I had subscribed to a world view whose actual existing, concrete and cardboard reality was one of the most inhuman and murderous follies ever dreamed up in the fevered minds of zealous thinkers.

Karl Marx was a gentle man, but his ideas would lead to human suffering almost unequalled in the history of the world. On the best current figures, about 6 million Russians were murdered in the era of Joseph Stalin - and that's before you factor in the sufferings of eastern Europe from 1945 onwards, or the other revolutions from China to Cuba.

Today, the terrifying reality of Marxism in power has been consigned mercifully to the history books, but it has strange echoes. Clearly, Jeremy Corbyn is no Stalin, or Lenin, or Mao Zedong, just a long-serving British MP, but Marxist ideas live again in some spectral form in Corbyn's runaway campaign and the enthusiasm of his supporters for a truly socialist Labour party. In one of the unspun answers that makes him appear authentic to supporters, Corbyn called Marx "a fascinating figure who observed a great deal and from whom we can learn a great deal".

Thus far--since Maggie brought the Third Way from Chile/the Chicago School--the two major parties throughout the Anglosphere have managed to avoid nominating party leaders of the pure First Way or Second Way.  But in Bernie Sanders and  Jeremy Corbyn we see the temptation.  One doubts their parties are that suicidal, when push comes to shove, but it would be interesting to see if they'd ever recover.

Posted by at August 8, 2015 7:03 AM

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