X Close

Leon Trotsky’s disturbing afterlife Eighty years after he died, why does the murderous communist hero retain such allure?

Leon Trotsky ended up living in exile in Mexico City, where he was assassinated in 1940. Credit: Corbis /Getty

Leon Trotsky ended up living in exile in Mexico City, where he was assassinated in 1940. Credit: Corbis /Getty


August 21, 2020   5 mins

On the backwall in a garden in the borough of Mexico City is a plaque that reads ‘In Memory of Robert Sheldon Harte. 1915-1940. Murdered by Stalin’.

It is slightly hidden away from the house, not far from what was once the chicken coop. Or to be more precise, not far from Leon Trotsky’s chicken coop. For it is in Leon Trotsky’s garden that the plaque sits. And it is there that it caught my eye as I was moseying around the garden earlier this year.

The story of Robert Sheldon Harte is both deservedly forgotten and slightly suggestive. For Harte was not just a communist, he was an American communist — born in the US in 1915. A member of the Communist Party of the USA, he offered his services as a guard at the Trotsky household in Mexico at the age of 25. On 24 May, 1940, a GPU unit turned up at the house intending to kill Trotsky. The attempt failed, and so the unit settled with abducting Harte who was subsequently shot in the head and buried in quicklime in a shallow grave.

Since Harte’s death, there have been claims and counter-claims about exactly who he was working for. Was he merely an idealistic supporter of the exiled Trotsky or was he in fact — as some have claimed — a double agent, recruited by the NKVD and sent by Stalin’s agents to help in the assassination of the man he was purporting to protect? Whatever the answer, Trotsky himself believed that Harte had been loyal and had the plaque erected himself.

Though he wasn’t able to enjoy it for very long. For only a few months later – 80 years ago today, as it happens — Stalin’s agents were successful in their attempts to get Stalin’s greatest enemy. On August 21, 1940, agents of the NKVD managed to get into the Trotsky compound and one – Ramon Mercader – successfully killed Trotsky with an ice-pick while he was in his study.

There remains something not just gruesome but impressive about this act of political assassination. Impressive because of the message of strength it sent out. By the time of his assassination, Trotsky had been away from the Soviet Union for over a decade. He had eked out that time in a variety of comfortable and miserable surroundings, moving from Turkey to France, to Norway and eventually — not least thanks to the efforts of Frida Kahlo — to his final home of Mexico.

By the time he was there, his name — indeed any association with it — had become more dangerous than any other inside the Soviet Union. At the show trials of 1936, it was enough to be accused of having been in league with Trotsky, to be assured a death sentence. Though, of course, for Stalin it was not necessary for there to be any such connection. Trotskyist connections or tendencies were enough on their own: a routine, useful cipher when the regime needed to make up its quotas of people who needed to be killed.

And of course the impressive thing — the impressive, typically Stalinist message — is that Stalin was able to pursue this enemy to the other end of the earth and, after numerous attempts, actually get him. The assassination of Trotsky was more than an assertion of vengeance, it was an assertion of power. A demonstration that the writ of Stalin ran wherever he wanted it to run. For a dictator, this is a most useful fear to spread around.

But in many ways, what is most interesting about Trotsky is not his death, or life, but his afterlife. For, to a great extent he remained (and for some people amazingly remains still) the great ‘might have been’ of the Soviet era. Never mind the people who actually grew up while the horrors of the Soviet system were ongoing, I have heard people in my own adult life, born in my own lifetime, and sometimes younger than myself (people in their twenties or thirties), seriously describe themselves as being (or at some point having been) a Trotskyist.

How is this possible? Nobody alive, let alone any reasonably intelligent person under the age of 40, would describe themselves as having gone through a period of following Ernst Rohm, before moderating their political views somewhat.

The explanation lies in a corner of Sovietology which is still not settled, though goodness knows it should have been by now. This is the corner which continues to imagine that had Stalin not taken over (or even Lenin, in the views of some), then the catastrophe that all but the most deluded communists now admit to, might never have taken place. Of all the might-have-beens and roads tantalisingly-never-travelled, none has continued to have such appeal as that held out by Leon Trotsky.

In the Fifties and Sixties, Isaac Deutscher performed a work of personal hero-worship in his fluent and slanted three-volume biography (The Prophet Armed, The Prophet Unarmed and The Prophet Outcast). Although this work had significant critics – not least in the form of Isaiah Berlin – the works helped to cement among English-speakers a perception of Trotsky as the great what-if of Soviet history.

Of course, however long they have tried to sustain this belief, they could not have been more wrong. For all the what-ifs, history shows that had Trotsky been in power, the history of Russia in the 20th Century would hardly have been any different.

From the start of the revolution, till the day he died, Trotsky was the most fanatical and among the most persuasive of the communist leaders. He was as at ease and adept at the use of violence as any of those around him. His only aversion to the same began to emerge as he discovered that he, his associates, and his closest followers might have been on the receiving end of a thing he thought only worth dishing out. So why has the figure of Trotsky retained some allure even 80 years after his timely death?

Several reasons present themselves. One is the possibility that his undoubted intellectual ability, plus his assassination in a far-away land gave him a certain martyr-like glamour. He was working on his magnum opus about his enemy right up until the moment of his death; the combination of work ethic and premature demise can be a heady brew. Especially so for a certain type of Western intellectual who likes the idea of fanaticism for a cause precisely because they have themselves never had to suffer at the hands of such fanatics.

But the greater reason would appear to be that reason which remains perhaps the greatest bit of unfinished business of the 20th Century. The recognition that the Soviet, Communist, Marxist experiments were not trees which just happened to give off some poison fruits. Or beautiful ideas which were just mishandled and misappropriated by misguided hands. But rather that the whole dream was a nightmare from beginning to end. And always was going to be. That the Communist experiment had no more likelihood of delivering peace on earth than did the Fascist attempt to try to produce the same.

Yet it is strange, this. There are still no shrines around the world (as the house of Trotsky in Mexico effectively is) commemorating and glamorising any of the intellectual heroes — let alone physical progenitors — of fascism. Yet here still, on several continents, these memorials to the glamorous heroes of communism remain. And it is an intellectual, as well as moral, failing that this should still be the case.

There is a passage in Victor Serge’s The Case of Comrade Tulayev worth bearing in mind. One of the novel’s many characters, who is hauled away for a crime which he had nothing to do with, is a man who has been a member of the party since 1907. For more than 20 years he has seen his colleagues, superiors, underlings and many others taken away. And now — for a suspected association with something he has no more to do with than all those others did — it is his turn to be taken away. It is a trap, he realises. The whole thing.”That’s the trap,” he realises. “The beast in the trap is you, the trapped beast, you old revolutionist, it’s you
 And we’re all in it, all in the trap
 Didn’t we all go absolutely wrong somewhere?”

Certainly they did. Sometimes the beast in the trap was a whole population, sometimes it was a single individual. Sometimes it was an unintelligent young fanatic like Robert Sheldon Harte.  Sometimes it was a cultured and intelligent intellectual like the man he apparently wanted to protect. It didn’t matter. They all got caught in the trap. And it is quite hard to feel any admiration or sadness for those caught in a trap that they themselves set.


Douglas Murray is an author and journalist.

DouglasKMurray

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

108 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David George
David George
3 years ago

Thank you Douglas.
I am reminded of the powerful foreword Jordan Peterson wrote for the 50th anniversary edition of the Gulag Archipelago. He concludes:
“Perhaps we could come to remember and to learn from the intolerable trials endured by all those who passed through the fiery chambers of the Marxist collectivist ideology. Perhaps we could derive from that remembering and learning the wisdom necessary to take personal responsibility for the suffering and malevolence that still so terribly and unforgivably characterizes the world. We have been provided with the means to transform ourselves in due humility by the literary and moral genius of this great Russian author. We should all pray most devoutly to whatever deity guides us implicitly or explicitly for the desire and the will to learn from what we have been offered. May God Himself eternally fail to forgive us if in the painstakingly-revealed aftermath of such bloodshed, torture and anguish we remain stiff-necked, incautious, and unchanged.”

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

People like Solzhenitsyn are as rare as dragon teeth.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Although he was actually pretty rigid himself. Rigidity of thinking is a large part of the problem.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

Another world ( my PoV) for “rigid” is “principled”.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

Thank you very much for the link, which is excellent. However, Cathy Young should think about this statement of hers: “while Solzhenitsyn often asserted that his Russian patriotism was grounded in respect for the self-determination of other nations, he was vehemently hostile to Ukrainian and Belarussian independence.” I think the independence votes of Belarus and Ukraine should be respected, and the current civil war in Ukraine is tragic beyond belief. However, there is an argument that the three East Slavic peoples should be one entity. It’s like the 19th century dream of Serbian and Croatian intellectuals for a united Yugoslavia. We always seem to think that the current status quo is the natural state of things, and someone who doesn’t support it is a crank. But a hundred years from now, there may again be a union of the East Slavic peoples or of the South Slavic peoples for that matter. Every generation must determine its own future. Only a Fukuyama would ever believe there is an end to history.

Anthony Lewis
Anthony Lewis
3 years ago

Great article – always enjoy Douglass well researched and considered articles – a pleasure to read whilst being educated

perrywidhalm
perrywidhalm
3 years ago

Another good essay by Douglas Murray. Thank you! I suspect the reason collectivism lives on and on has to do with the structure of civilized society. All agricultural-industrial based societies – past and present – are social hierarchies of wealth, influence, privilege and power …. the pyramid of power. Indeed, our ancestors did not evolve in this way. For ~99.5% of human being tenure on Earth, we roamed about in small, kin-related groups of fewer than 30 people. Our long ago ancestors practiced a sharing economy and a simple hunting, gathering and scavenging subsistence. Generally, they were governed by a council of elders generally male but sometimes female. Over time and within civilization, the band became the extended family. Sharing collectively was the norm and remains the tap-root of socialism-communism. It’s a small step to wanting collectivism imposed on all of civilized society by whatever means necessary. This desire has been the fever dream of many, many malcontents of civilization for a very long time. The key facet collectivists never seem to grasp is that a sharing economy ONLY works amongst kin and kindred spirits. The vast majority of civilized people simply do not care what happens to strangers they will never meet or may even hate them for holding different ideas.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago
Reply to  perrywidhalm

Excellent post. One of the many problems with people is the proclivity to be prescriptive, to believe that what suits them must also suit everyone else and the urge to enforce conformity (sometimes violently) on others, whether this be in religion, politics, lifestyle or whatever else. The only collectivist enterprise which is truly successful must be entirely voluntary.
Live and let live.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  perrywidhalm

Very interesting comment and in effect a defence of tribalism and implied critique of the multicultural Globalist paradise the naive Left still dream of.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  perrywidhalm

I think you’ve summed up the difference between those who promote a collectivist economy and a those who promote a hierarchical economy very well. Those who deny the possibility of an economy not based on social hierarchies, and associated use of wealth, influence, privilege and power to maintain those hierarchies, believe the ‘vast majority of civilized people don’t care what happens to strangers they will never meet or may even hate them for holding different ideas’. A depressing view of humanity but one that conveniently excuses the people who benefit from maintaining existing power structures from any responsibility for them.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

Love Douglas Murray but piece this helps to illustrate one of the problems with putting things political (and often things more generally) in neat little, immutable boxes in order to apparently irrefutably prove a wider point.

Given where the world is right now might one consider a nominally Communist China, for example, a ringing endorsement of ‘communism’ and what it brings, a refutation of it or might one seek to redefine what China today actually is?

Totalitarianism, whatever point of the political spectrum it apparently plants its flag in, is and always will be the problem.

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Yes indeed. What about China.
IMO, China is a totalitarian/communist hybrid that the CCP seems to have developed from past regime failures.
They have total government control which is the basic requirement but they also seem to have hit upon a successful incentive system in return for allegiance to the regime.
So yes on “from each according to his ability” but the flip side is “and to each according to his ability to produce”
“Do what you’re told, keep your mouth shut, help make the state rich and you’ll get a cut of the goodies for yourself”.
The Soviets, aside from providing a sweet deal for selected elites, never properly took care of the proletariat.
Why work harder making crap that nobody wants to buy anyway? So maybe in 10 years you’ll get a bigger apartment or an appreciation badge?

Meanwhile the Chinese workers (Covid pause aside) are buying cars in record numbers, are France’s biggest wine customer, travel more than Americans while the Chinese government uses their billions to spread influence around the world.

Rafael Aguilo
Rafael Aguilo
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

The CCP dumped the Communist approach to its economy, and adopted instead a Capitalist approach. It has managed to make itself a totalitarian Communist (in its governance) State Capitalist (economy) system, keeping control of both sides of the coin.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Rafael Aguilo

Precisely why it will have to be destroyed, one way or the other.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago
Reply to  Rafael Aguilo

Once you move away from a ‘pure’ public economy (which never really existed in reality, even in the 20th century Sovet Union) the only way is to an equally ‘pure’ private economy (which never really existed either, even in the 19th century) the only option left is a messy blurring of public and private known as corporatism: Dengism, Nazism, Clintonism and Verhofstadtism all seem to align in this way. As humans in every country, it seems our disproportionate obsession with economic growth over sustainable living is not only undermining freedom and human dignity, but also destroying the family structures, mature and textured patriotism and sensible forms of faith that render freedom and dignity not only possible, but even imaginable. The ‘Free Market,’ like Fascism and Communism, is the God that Failed. The trade-off between market ideology and other values commonly considered ‘conservative’ is widening by the hour. Defending family values, responsible (non-racist) sense of place and history, and of course religion, is increasingly impossible under any system of materialism, be it of left or right or centre.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Increasingly I think people understand that the difference between Hitler and Stalin was that one embraced Nationalism as the driving leitmotiv of his ruthless, expansionist, Germanised “Socialism” and the other embraced Internationalism and the myth of imposing a universal Socialist Brotherhood as a cover for his naked expansionism .The outcome was of course much the same.

Hitler conquered to make Europe German, Stalin conquered to make the world Stalinist – both had their own mutated version of ‘socialism’ as their core appeal.

Attaching the word “socialist was of course the best way to appeal to the masses- many of Hitler’s SA recruits were former Communists, who often had “Road to Damascus” conversions on hearing him speak.

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

My understanding based on what I’ve read is that Stalin realized that the original plan for world Bolshevik domination – first Russia and then the other countries (Poland, Germany, France to start) would fall like dominoes – wasn’t going to happen, mainly due to the fact that the first domino Poland, didn’t fall.
Stalin revised the plan to focus on consolidating Bolshevik successes and creating Russia as the communist empire whereas Trotsky kept insisting the original plan was the way to go.
And so we ended up with Stalinist and Trotskyist (basically any non-Stalin supporter) forces waging a gun battle in the streets of Barcelona.

Daniel Hake
Daniel Hake
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

Exactly. Stalin’s politics was called ‘socialism in one country’, not far removed from ‘national socialism’. But in the end the names are less important than the actions.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

So was Mussolini.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

Both national and international socialism, were reactions to imperialism that had reached its nadir in the 14-18 war. I’m not talking colonialism here, just the faield dominant idea that empires would divide up the world between themselves.
I suspect we are in another round of struggle, as we respond to the failures of the latest cycle of globalisation. And I suspect that the current enthusiasm for internationalist expansionism (mostly socialist) and nationalist recidivism (mostly strongman nationalism this time around) are different interpretations of what direction ‘we’ should go in next.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

The end state of Marxism is fascism rather than communism.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Yes, and ‘Never Again’ will become meaningless if the ‘collabos’ and appeasers of the CCP succeed in trying to ‘positively influence’ people who are using Gestapo tactics to round up innocent people en masse to torture them, murder them in cold blood and harvest their organs.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  authorjf

Well said.

Harold Robinson
Harold Robinson
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Not sure where I came across it, might have been an interview with Stephen Kotkin, who described China’s current government as “Leninist” and that like Stalin and Mao before them they are the modern heirs of Lenin.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago

Read this excellent piece without realising who the author was – I had already decided it was both really well written and absolutely spot on – then saw the name ‘Douglas Murray’ and said: “Oh well …of course!”

Interesting reference to Victor Serge and ‘Comrade Tulayev’, which I read so many years ago and which remains an eye-witness seminal corrective to Soviet Communism .

It needs an urgent reprint and wide circulation.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Yes, I read a biography of Trotsky a few years ago – by Robert Service I think. He was as ruthless and bloodthirsty as any of them and had tens of thousands of combatants and peasants etc murdered during the war with the White Russians.

He did have the intellect to realise that the economic policies would not work. Perhaps had he and not Stalin succeeded Lenin the USSR might have combined a free market with authoritarianism – something like contemporary China.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“Perhaps had he and not Stalin succeeded Lenin the USSR might have combined a free market with authoritarianism – something like contemporary China.”

i.e. fascism.

williamritchie2001
williamritchie2001
3 years ago

Trotsky veneration attracts left wing intellectuals because it suggests that Stalin was too thuggish(and proletarian) to understand theory. Only middle class radicals can be trusted with revolution.

Steve Garrett
Steve Garrett
3 years ago

Is Putin aiming for an anniversary celebration with Alexei Navalny? I wouldn’t put it past him. Watch out for bogus doctors fiddling with his meds!

Jack Gergiev
Jack Gergiev
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Garrett

It’s all a Jewish plot, I tell you!

Paul Sorrenti
Paul Sorrenti
3 years ago

No shrines around the world commemorating fascists? Take a trip to Predappio, Mr Murray. I bought myself a Mussolini apron with oven gloves to match at one of their exclusively Mussolini gift shops. Ironically, of course. His mausoleum is there to visit too. I love unherd, but you guys do seem to be a tad bit gentler on the Benitos.

Jasper Fuller
Jasper Fuller
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Sorrenti

True. There is also the Yasukuni Shrine which while strictly not to fascists includes fascists

Stephen J
Stephen J
3 years ago

The left always eats itself, it is fundamentally inherent, since it thrives on there only being “one way”.

Odd, that in all the ways that socialism has been tried, from Trotskyism through to Hitlerism, none of them account for human frailty.

The more dead socialists, the better.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen J

Hitler was a hardly a socialist. He (economically speaking) was your run of a mill German/Austrian that believes in free market but expects the people in position of power to restrain themselves. Think of all those rich German families that are paper rich (billions) but are committed to the business and their workers. Or CEOs (and Board of Directors) that make sure to not overpay themselves.

Stephen J
Stephen J
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

So, er… What part of “national socialism” suggests that we are talking about something that does not resemble just another failed version of the oevre?

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen J

Antifa are not anti-fascist just because they call themselves that.
The Democratic Republic of North Korea is not democratic just because they call themselves that.
The Holy Roman Empire was not holy, Roman, or an empire just because they called themselves that.

It is not a defence of either Hitler or socialism to point out that his economic policy was corporatist, not socialist. The world is not a reductive binary, in which everything bad is the same thing. There can be”and are”multiple bad things in the world that are different from each other.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

I recently read an article – perhaps on Unherd – which seemed to conclusively demonstrate that Nazi Germany was essentially Socialist in economic terms. Pretty much all aspects of production and distribution etc were centrally determined even before the war.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Good and perceptive post. There are indeed many shades of bad. I would add isIamism to the list.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago

A good example, thank you Janice. While Islamism has some traits in common with fascism, and some with socialism, it is also its own unique, idiosyncratic ideology.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Really apt and economical response. Well done.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Well put.

Stephen J
Stephen J
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

So are you suggesting that national socialism is different from all the other strands of socialism and is the bad one… all the others being good?

All that needs to be said about socialism was said by Winston Churchill, when he was campaigning against the “nobody” that replaced him.

Socialism = Gestapo (of some kind).

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen J

So are you suggesting that national socialism is different from all the other strands of socialism and is the bad one… all the others being good?

Let me quote you what I wrote:

It is not a defence of either Hitler or socialism to point out that his economic policy was corporatist, not socialist. The world is not a reductive binary, in which everything bad is the same thing. There can be”and are”multiple bad things in the world that are different from each other.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen J

Yes, like Social Democracy…invented in Germany.
Don’t pay attention to the label.

perrywidhalm
perrywidhalm
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Fascism is the same thing as corporate socialism. The National SOCIALISTS had a State controlled economy. Read up on Nazi Germany or just watch Shindler’s List.

Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

The Nazis did ensure that private industry was bent to their will. For example the heads of the Junkers and Dornier aircraft companies wanted to produce commercial aircraft, and were removed from their positions and the companies placed under state control. They then concentrated on building military planes for the Luftwaffe.

This happened throughout German industry.

They also placed workers representatives onthe boards of companies, naturally members of or sympathetic to the National Socialist German Workers party.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

But simply booting out people who don’t agree with you isn’t socialism. Placing “workers” on the boards isn’t socialism, if thery are there, not to represent the workers, but to represent a fascist poitical party. By law there are workers on the boards of German companies today, but not to impose the government’s will upon the company.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

Yes, they were preparing for war.
They also created VW.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Hitler’s 25 point NSDAP plan was a mixture of overt racism and pure socialism. It was the essence of a “National Socialism ” as understood by the SA

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

Did he nationalize the “means of production”. Did he ban private property?

graham9
graham9
3 years ago

So Capitalism is working???

Stephen Giltrap
Stephen Giltrap
3 years ago
Reply to  graham9

Capitalism seems to be working better than any current or past version of collectivism that comes to mind.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago

It’s working very well for the 1%. Not for most people. That’s what is dangerous about the present time. It feeds revolutionary ideas.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

Not sure why you got all of the hate on this, since your comment wasn’t rude.

However, I’d say that capitalism as we see it now is working for closer to 80%, certainly in the capitalist coutries themselves.

Better versions of communism work for about 20% and the really awful ones for 1 to 5% (e.g. N. Korea).

I think the 1% is a neo-Marxist exagerration. I’m not sure what the 1% have that I (the 20%) don’t. For the 1000 to 10000 times more wealth than I have they probably (especially when you weight the all important healthcare) don’t get more than 2 or 3 times more out of life than I do.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  graham9

Capitalism – as an economic model within the constraints of democratic liberal nation states (and cooperating nation states) is broadly speaking the best system we have come up with so far.

Socialism – is an all encompassing political, economic and social model.

They are often compared as if they were alternative system versions. Wrongly so.

The capitalist system, if wrongly managed, will cause problems. But well-managed it has helped provide us with unseen (in historical terms) progress across any quantifiable measure.

Mark Anderson
Mark Anderson
3 years ago
Reply to  graham9

Look at worldwide health and wealth statistics over the last 50 years then decide.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Thank you Mr Murray for the most brilliant post-mortem assassination of the revolting Leon Trotsky, that I have read in many a year.

At Brest-Litovsk, on the 3rd March, 1918, Major General Max Hoffman, perhaps the ” most brilliant staff officer of his generation”, outwitted Trotsky, and inflicted the most humiliating, ‘Carthaginian Peace’ on the nascent Bolshevik state.

However had Hoffman had his way, he would have marched on Petrograd immediately and strangled the Bolshevik beast in its cradle, such was his perception of Trotsky and Bolshevism.

Sadly, the German General Staff and Eric Ludendorff thought otherwise, and launched the great Spring Offensive, or ‘Kaiserschlacht’
on the Western Front, on the 21st March.

Sean Maloney
Sean Maloney
3 years ago

In the early 1970s, I used to be a Trotskyite.
mea culpa, mea culpa,
mea mÃ¥xima culpa….
Great article Douglas

Jack Gergiev
Jack Gergiev
3 years ago
Reply to  Sean Maloney

No shame there as many have been, Peter Hitchens being one example that comes to mind. If nothing else, it shows an intellectual curiosity and a desire to understand the workings of the world.

Now, if you had stuck with it… 😉

aelf
aelf
3 years ago

In the greatest hoax of modern history, Russia’s ruling “socialist workers party,” the Communists, established themselves as the polar opposites of their two socialist clones, the National Socialist German Workers Party (quicknamed “the Nazis”) and Italy’s Marxist-inspired Fascisti, by branding both as “the fascists. — Tom Wolfe

Curiously, the hoax lives on.

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
3 years ago

Douglas’ articles are almost always shorter than anyone else’s, and yet his message is somehow usually more incisive and powerful than anyone else’s.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

Well written. In the Uk there were two types of socialists, those born in poverty, believed in liberty and who were tough patriotic practical, down to earth and wanted a better quality of life as a reward for honest hard work, for example Ernie Bevin. Keir Hardie would be an example. K Hardie described Samuel Smiles book ” Self Help ” as a manual for socialism. Most were Christian, often Methodists and included lay preachers and Sunday School Teachers, such as Lord Callaghan.

Anthony Sampson in his Anatomy of Britain 1982 states the change in the nature of labour Party membership. By the mid 1960s there had been a decline in membership of tough ruby playing boxing miner; steel, construction, farm and ship yard worker, trawlewmen,and forester and a massive increase in white collar workers. These tough men do not fantasise about revolutionary violence because they are capable of looking after themselves in a street fight. The white collar workers who worked in local government, were teachers, people with non technical degrees from poly’s and lesser universities who were emotionally attracted to Trotskyism. At university, The Trot is almost never the tough rugby or hockey boxing, rowing engineering, agricultural medical or vet student who have to solve problems in arduous conditions. Many middle class Trots had a bad time on the rugby or hockey pitches and could not cope with the rigours of boarding school. Consequently, the middle class Trot fantasises about being the revolutionary leader who can avenge their slights on those who bullied them on the way to school or tackled them hard on the pitches.

Corbyn is a perfect example of the middle class Trot. He could have played rugby and worked as farmer in his native Shropshire, perhaps joined the Shropshire Light Infantry and experienced tough practical working class life at first hand. Instead, full of ingratitude, resentment and bitterness and 2 E’ at A level he decides to read Trade Union studies at North London Poly. Corbyn has enjoyed the comfort and access to education beyond the reach of 80% of Britons and probably 99% of the World.
Many feminists are correct “The personal is the political. ”
Trotskyism is emotionally attractive to the under achieving feeble middle class who have a grossly inflated sense of their self-worth; who refuse to accept responsibility for their perceived lack of success and want to blame somebody. In the Just William books there was a character ( Violette Elizabeth Bott ) who would say , when she did not get her way ” I going to scream and scream until I am sick “. VEB just happens to be more emotionally mature and amusing than the Tots.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Corbyn did indeed enjoy an education most (maybe 80%) couldn’t have. And who extended education to even that 20%?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

There has been schools back to the time of Alfred. During the massive growth in towns in the 19th century there were massive arguments between the C of E and Non- Conformists about the role of religion in education which resulted in governments walking away from providiing schools. Only in 1870 did governments ignore the Churches and set up elementary schools.

Aaron Kyereh-Mireku
Aaron Kyereh-Mireku
3 years ago

I like Douglas, but this article is disappointing and rather lazy.

For, to a great extent he remained (and for some people amazingly remains still) the great ‘might have been’ of the Soviet era. Never mind the people who actually grew up while the horrors of the Soviet system were ongoing, I have heard people in my own adult life, born in my own lifetime, and sometimes younger than myself (people in their twenties or thirties), seriously describe themselves as being (or at some point having been) a Trotskyist.

How is this possible? Nobody alive, let alone any reasonably intelligent person under the age of 40, would describe themselves as having gone through a period of following Ernst Rohm, before moderating their political views somewhat.

We were all young once, and are all entitled to our mistakes. One would hope that Douglas would exercise that Christian charity of his and make allowance for youthful illusions and delusions. After all, he was friends with the late, great Christopher Hitchens, who was an ex-Trotskyist. I don’t think his late friend would have taken kindly to being told that in his Trotskyist days, he was the moral equivalent of a Nazi street thug. His scathing review of Martin Amis’ Koba the Dread does not leave his likely opinions on this matter in any real doubt. I’ve recently had the pleasure of Hitchens’ excellent memoir, Hitch-22, which gives some insight into his career as an activist and an internationalist fighter for the oppressed worldwide. He does not strike me as being in any way, shape or form equivalent to a man as depraved as Ernst Roehm, who spent his misbegotten life shilling for racial supremacy and totalitarianism. Is Douglas saying that his deceased friend was no better than a Nazi? Or wasn’t ‘reasonably intelligent’? (In fact, one of the most intelligent men to ever live.) I would hope not. No serious person would endorse such a ridiculous judgement on one of the finest men of letters the English-speaking world has ever seen, and a man who was humane and decent to the core.

Having (regrettably) spent about two and a half years of my life in a Trotskyist cult (from which I have only just managed to escape), I take offence to being told that either myself or the thousands of young, naive people (often university students) who are ensnared by these sects and drawn to Trotskyist ideology are the moral equivalent of people who promoted race hatred and ethnic chauvinism. But my offence is neither here nor there. What bothers me is the intellectual laziness of such a proposition, rather than my hurt feelings. I think it is important to be clear on this question so that people are not misled into such grotesque generalisations about people who are fundamentally decent but misguided and foolish at best, vulnerable and brainwashed at worst.

The explanation lies in a corner of Sovietology which is still not settled, though goodness knows it should have been by now. This is the corner which continues to imagine that had Stalin not taken over (or even Lenin, in the views of some), then the catastrophe that all but the most deluded communists now admit to, might never have taken place. Of all the might-have-beens and roads tantalisingly-never-travelled, none has continued to have such appeal as that held out by Leon Trotsky.

I think I should clarify something (since Douglas hasn’t made it clear). It is a misconception that Trotskyists think that Trotsky in power instead of Stalin could have prevented the totalitarian nightmare that the USSR became. It was Trotsky’s argument that due to the failure of the socialist revolution to spread to the more advanced capitalist countries of the West, Russia, isolated, backward and exhausted by war, was inevitably going to become Stalinist because of the ‘objective conditions’. Now, one might argue that this was nothing more than a cop-out by Trotsky to excuse his defeat at the hands of Stalin, who proved much cannier as a politician than the arrogant intellectual Trotsky. Indeed, Trotsky went out of his way to minimise Stalin as an individual and argued, using a traditionally Marxist analysis, that he was largely a product of impersonal, socio-economic forces which had found their expression in the rising Communist bureaucracy, with Stalin as the chief bureaucrat. As Stephen Kotkin and others have pointed out, Trotsky did not give Stalin enough credit. It is not a uniquely Trotskyist or even leftist position to suggest that if Trotsky, or Bukharin, or someone not Stalin, had been in charge, things might have been different. That Stalin fixed his personal stamp upon the development of the USSR is undeniable. In this sense, both Trotsky and the critics of communism on the political right who say that Stalin’s rise to power was a cast-iron certainty, either due to ‘objective conditions’ or flaws in Bolshevik ideology, are wrong. Both played their role, but individuals do count in history. And Trotsky just happens to be one of history’s more consequential. Therefore, it is an acceptable counter-factual to ponder. My own opinion is that Trotsky would not have altered the fundamentally authoritarian nature of the USSR, but the uniquely Stalinist aspects of the USSR, like the purges or the cult of personality, might well have been avoided. (One of Trotsky’s more endearing qualities is that he was not a paranoid lunatic, and was not insecure enough to demand endless praise and worship from his underlings.) Trotsky also had a more moderate position on collectivisation than the policy that Stalin ultimately carried out. One cannot say for sure that Trotsky would not have implemented forced collectivisation – this is the man who defended slave labour, remember – but it is still an interesting scenario to ponder.

But the greater reason would appear to be that reason which remains perhaps the greatest bit of unfinished business of the 20th Century. The recognition that the Soviet, Communist, Marxist experiments were not trees which just happened to give off some poison fruits. Or beautiful ideas which were just mishandled and misappropriated by misguided hands. But rather that the whole dream was a nightmare from beginning to end. And always was going to be. That the Communist experiment had no more likelihood of delivering peace on earth than did the Fascist attempt to try to produce the same.

We again have the lazy equating of communism and fascism – which even Leszek Kolakowski hesitated to endorse. Here is one of the main differences. Fascism hardly produced dissidents within the ideology – people like Trotsky, E.P. Thompson, Hal Draper – who criticised ‘actually-existing fascism’ on the basis that it was an aberration from the fascist ideal. When the Nazis killed six million Jews, that wasn’t an aberration from the ideal of Nazi doctrine, that was the doctrine being implemented as intended. Communism, by contrast, produced people who critiqued actually-existing communism utilising the implied moral ideal latent in Marx’s writings and in his advocacy for a society rid of exploitation and injustice (even if Marx himself balked at ‘abstract moralising’). Even within the Eastern Bloc, in the ‘belly of the beast’, there were Marxist intellectuals who sought to reform the system from within, and relied upon the moral and intellectual support of their fellow dissident Marxists in the West – people like Hitchens and his comrades in the International Socialists. Sure, we now scoff at the idea that a gentler, more humane Marxism was possible – and rightly so. The doctrine has proven not merely unworkable in practice, but fatally flawed in theory. But it is lazy thinking to equate the two. Communism provided its followers with the ammunition by which it could be discredited and ultimately dismantled, much as the Bible provided reformers within the Christian religion with the tools they needed to expose the hypocrisy and corruption of the established Church. Fascism provided no such thing, because fascism had next to no intellectual content. Marxism has produced learned and intelligent, if flawed, thinkers, from Marx and Engels themselves to E.P. Thompson to Norman Geras. The best and brightest of them rejected actually-existing Marxist socialism. I cannot think of any reputable Fascist philosophers or theorists beside Giovanni Gentile (and even he is obscure). Fascism was inherently anti-intellectual and glorified thuggery, regimentation and race war over the intellect and the free-thinking individual. Marxism has its own tendencies towards anti-intellectualism, but they were never as pronounced as with fascism.

The world is much more complex than it seems to people who are blinded by their political and intellectual prejudices. Douglas evinces only a superficial acquaintance with Trotskyism and indeed its relationship to Marxism and actually-existing Marxist socialism. There are many sophisticated critiques of Trotskyism which do not involve equating Trotsky or his followers with Adolf Hitler and his rotten gang.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
3 years ago

” likes the idea of fanaticism for a cause precisely because they have themselves never had to suffer at the hands of such fanatics.”

– Brilliant summary of a freighting reality. Thank you again Mr. Murray. What would we do without you. Truly.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

‘History rarely repeats itself, but it often rhymes’ as the old saying goes, and anyone with a cause loves (and ideally needs) a plausible martyr to help grease its wheels.

Leon Trotsky was essentially the Che Guevara of his day whose calculated untimely violent death at the murderous hands of ‘others’ immediately points to unrealised potential (apparently purely for good) for those that still choose to believe and, by turn, that history could somehow have been so very different had they lived.

All this, naturally, helps to feed, reinforce and perpetuate the myth and, let’s face it, nothing encourages history to judge its often less than savoury individuals less harshly quite like a premature demise.

All intellectual whatiffery and counterfactual nonsense, of course, and all but impossible (and essentially pointless) to argue definitively for or against, but an engaging exercise…..if you have time.

Hristomir Ivanov
Hristomir Ivanov
3 years ago

What Murray obviously missed is that by the February Revolution Russia was a retarded monarchy.

After February Revolution was not much better. So came the coup d’etat by the Bolshevik. No democracy was ruined – there was no democracy before Bolshevik, no was after they took the power. Thinking about Bolshevik seized democracy is literally stupid.

Trotsky was a Napoleon in Russian dress. Luckily Stalin overcame him and let Europe be more prosperous and peaceful for the later decades.

nigelcurrie29
nigelcurrie29
3 years ago

As Murray points out, despite his writings,Trotsky was no threat to Stalin by the time he was murdered (1940), any more than Sergei Skripal is/was to Putin.

Hristomir Ivanov
Hristomir Ivanov
3 years ago
Reply to  nigelcurrie29

Putin is an anticommunist. No need to link him as Stalin successor. Yes, he tries do forge a nation on the base of WWII grounds. But that is all. In this line, Skripal are some fake news from MI5,6 or whatever intelligence you have. Under false (fake) flag – that is what you have for the Skripals.

Throtsky was a threatening for the Russian regime, but also for the West democracies. Rebellions of the 68 had Trotsky for their (luckily) dead mentor.

nigelcurrie29
nigelcurrie29
3 years ago

‘The events of 1968 were not about ideology, but demographics’ says Daniel Finkelstein, and there’s a lot in that I think, particularly in the West.
Putin may be ‘anti-communist’, but he ain’t pro-democracy!

Hristomir Ivanov
Hristomir Ivanov
3 years ago
Reply to  nigelcurrie29

Funny, Russians came to democracy.

They have an enormous problem to solve. Less than 40 years after Stalin’s death their empire collapsed. How many years it will take to collapse after Putin withdrawal? So the new Constitution amendment searches a way out – some kind of American style for checks and balances.

Surely the great driver for ’68 was demographics. But they needed an ideology.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

Putin is an anticommunist. No need to link him as Stalin successor.

Surely if Putin were an anti-communist he would not try to be an apologist for so many of Stalin’s errors and crimes.

I think it would be more accurate to say that Putin is an unprincipled pragmatist. He will do anything that benefits himself and, in his understanding, benefits Russia. If that meant reinstating communism, Putin would do it.

Hristomir Ivanov
Hristomir Ivanov
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

Stalin was not only a communist. Stalin was a nationalist. So Putin takes that from Stalin.

Putin is a pragmatist, you are correct. But he does not need communism, he needs nationalism.

philip.davies31
philip.davies31
3 years ago

I watched the fascinating Russian tv series on Netflix. It seems to be trying to rehabilitate Trotsky.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago

Well it’s that old joke, isn’t it… ‘I used to be a Trot until some rotten icepick split me!’

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago

“The recognition that the Soviet, Communist, Marxist experiments were not trees which just happened to give off some poison fruits. Or beautiful ideas which were just mishandled and misappropriated by misguided hands. But rather that the whole dream was a nightmare from beginning to end. And always was going to be.”

The problem with this genre is the absurd moral blindness of its implicit ideological bias. Thus far during my short life, begun shortly after the glorious defeat of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Capitalist Imperialism to preserve itself has blithely slaughtered uncounted tens of millions in Korea, IndoChina, Malaysia, Central America, the Balkans, and the Middle East, and displaced and immiserated hundreds of millions. Comparison with the “dictator” and wannabe, whose whole reign was under relentless threat of annihilation by this same vastly more powerful West, whom you presume to judge so world historically monstrous, beggars the language of horror.

nicky.hamlyn
nicky.hamlyn
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

Don’t forget Kenya, India and countless other places, and all the millions of people, including children, who have died and continue to die in coal mines, Coltan mines, Diamond mines, sweat shops etc working for poverty wages to help petpetuate the Capitalist system (by the way Marx recognised Capitalism’s powe to generate wealth). There’s a lot of confusion on here between Socialism and Communism, ditto the understanding of what private property means in Marxist theory. How many people are happy that more and more so-called Public space is actually privately owned? Does anyone care about the Commons, or are you all happy for it to be privatised? Please read James Meek’s book Private Island for starters.

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago
Reply to  nicky.hamlyn

Lefties are always telling people to read this or that book, in order to ‘get educated’ as if they are the only ones who read books or who know the right books. It’s quite annoying.

Otto Christensen
Otto Christensen
3 years ago

This article while a interesting footnote on Trotsky lacks insight, is ripe with spurious correlation, preaching to the converted and self referential categorical simplification. If only everything was so simple just shout out a few trigger words and everyone falls into their readily identified box. “….for a certain type of Western intellectual who likes the idea of fanaticism for a cause precisely because they have themselves never had to suffer at the hands of such fanatics.” Mr. Murray is a certain type of intellectual that loves easy generalities and condemnation I suppose because he has never had to suffer at the hands of the same?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

Some generalities are easy to make. Many intellectuals from the time of the French Revolution have had a veneration for violence. Those who say fought in the trenches in WW1 and undertook hand to combat in WW2 did not have a veneration for violence and tried to forget what they had done. A friends Father always left the room if there was violence on the TV; he had seen enough in North Africa. A Grandfather who had served in the trenches in WW1 said he volunteered to fly in the RFC because he wanted a bath; he wanted to die having had a good breakfast and be clean.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

If you understood what Otto was on about, good for you. I couldn’t fit his criticisms to the piece I’d just read at all.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

In your criticism of the article you somehow failed to raise a single concrete objection, instead focusing on the personality of Mr Murray as you perceive it.

Perhaps you could be more specific in your criticism and focus on sentences or claims in the article.

John Vaughan
John Vaughan
3 years ago

It is indeed very well written and interesting but, ultimately, polemical, trying to prove that the so-called ‘right-wing’ view is the right one. Socialism means people working together for the benefit of everyone – its opposite, call it what you will, seeks to keep certain individuals groups and states in power so, whatever clever polemicists have to say through their clever words, your are either a decent person working with others or you are a silly-billy working to keep elites in power.

Patrick Robertson
Patrick Robertson
3 years ago
Reply to  John Vaughan

Socialism, at its heart, is inseparable from fear, coercion, lawlessness and violence. At its most benign, it legalises state theft – the unjustified seizure and redistribution of the property of others – in order to planify human behaviour and determine outcomes. At its most oppressive, it imprisons, tortures and murders “enemies of the state” who resist the coercion that is inherent to the ideology. There is not a single historical example of a socialist state that disproves this appalling truth. What is truly mind-bending, however, is that even today, just three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many young people in the West who should know better make themselves the willing accomplices – one might say “useful idiots” – of dangerous Marxists extremists. Whether they call themselves Antifa, BLM or Extinction Rebellion, the frightening black uniforms, the balaclavas and above all the focused, deliberate violence inflicted on people and property for the specific purpose of creating fear and chaos, bear the distinct badge of socialism in all its toxicity.

Jeffery Sayers
Jeffery Sayers
3 years ago

Spot on analysis. And perhaps this only becomes apparent with age, hence younger peoples gullibility. I’ve always associated socialism with ‘level playing fields’ & ‘dumbing down’ (e.g. modern Universities)

Mark Tomlinson
Mark Tomlinson
3 years ago

I think that all professed socialist understand this and indeed are prepared to support the use of oppression, coercion and violence against anyone deemed to be a heretic. You only have to witness what has been happening in the US over the past few years and more recently in this country

perrywidhalm
perrywidhalm
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tomlinson

All collectivists are malcontents of the civilized social order and will not hesitate to use violence to achieve their ends. This is the history of history.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tomlinson

Agreed. There is nowadays, for example, a lot of “no platforming” of speakers whose views are different from the majority, especially at universities. It is as if the ears of the students are too delicate to hear ideas which they consider to be heretical. I’m not surprised that they are often called “snowflakes”!

Jeffery Sayers
Jeffery Sayers
3 years ago

Yes, and the real problem (as we can now witness) is that these are the people being employed in ‘journalism’ & the media, hence the one sided view of the world being pumped into peoples living rooms.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tomlinson

Not the BBC again!

Jeffery Sayers
Jeffery Sayers
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

Always the BBC.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeffery Sayers

Yes, and Fox News, Sky, ITV, Daily Mail, Telegraph, Sun, etc. Leftwing puppets the lot of them.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago

Black uniforms, etc? Sounds like Hitlerite fascists to me. And BLM isn’t about persecution of black people? Pull the other one. As for Extinction Rebellion, these appear to be people who fear the environmental consequences of valuing short term profits over long term survival. That’s a genuine fear at the moment. Socialism may not be the answer to this, but it’s hard to see capitalism as the answer either, given that it’s capitalism that got us to where we are.

The 1% are still intent on amassing even more wealth at the expense of the rest of us, and still pursuing what is in effect a suicidal and homicidal psychotic agenda, poisoning the seas, the rivers, burning the Amazon forest, et. etc. How much more will they destroy before they realise they can’t eat money?

There has to be a better way. I don’t think that Elon Musk’s space program is going to provide an escape route for most of us, so if both socialism and capitalism can’t cut it, what do those scheduled to be left behind actually DO?

Genuine question.

Dave M
Dave M
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

“…that it’s capitalism that got us to where we are.”

A very good point but not the one that you intended.

We live in the best time in human history. We are wealthier, healthier, better fed, housed, longer-lived and happier than ever before.

So yes; a big thank you to capitalism

Clay Bertram
Clay Bertram
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

Fair question.

I think the beginnings of the answer would be an unqualified acknowledgment from the outset that other, non-capitalist ways of structuring and governing societies such as Communism/Socialism/Theocracy/Fascist Dictatorships (delete as appropriate) are and have been proven to be, worse than capitalism (however imperfect capitalism may be).

We may see in the ensuing decades, a new way of structuring and governing human societies that is an improvement on the current form of capitalism. I remain open minded and curious.

I am clear though that if the metaphorical patient is in distress, no cure can be found amongst the wreckage of the previously described non-capitalist systems.

perrywidhalm
perrywidhalm
3 years ago
Reply to  John Vaughan

Please read my comment above. Collectivism ALWAYS fails in a civilized society.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  John Vaughan

The problem being that people don’t work together for the benefit of everyone- they work better and more productively when they work for themselves – remember the Kulaks!

Communist intellectuals of course tend to avoid productive work altogether , while simultaneously telling others how they should be working and then confiscating the product of their labours!

John Vaughan
John Vaughan
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

Some strange comments here – I have run my own business for 6 decades. Don’t know what the ‘kulaks’ are but will look them up. Thanks for the introduction.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

I do agree, but it doesn’t follow that when those people go on to build up huge commercial empires they are STILL being productive. Witness the collapse of Carillion, amongst many others.

And then there are many companies who produce nothing at all, except profit. When Sir Phillip Green’s asset-stripping reduced 5 of the largest retailers to penury, that didn’t produce anything except money (£1.2 billion) for Sir Phillip. Or rather, for his wife, who lived in Monaco. He had it paid to her to avoid that pesky socialist invention called Income Tax. You and I can pay that.

The truth is that capitalism (as opposed to free enterprise) is a form of gambling. All gambling has a mathematical structure which favours the participants with the most money. That’s why the House and the bookie always win. But when participants amass a huge fortune they can only advance further by using (or misusing) their economic clout to gather in more money by subverting the system. Hence the corporations milking government contracts these days: only the government can afford to buy their services.

Socialism may not be the answer, but how can capitalism solve its own problems?

nicky.hamlyn
nicky.hamlyn
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

Can you gice us some examples of these idle communist intellectuals please?

Peter Samuel
Peter Samuel
3 years ago
Reply to  John Vaughan

Mr Vaughan: socialism advertizes itself as “people working together for the benefit of everyone” but as Adam Smith explained private property and free markets are necessary to actually achieve “people working together for the benefit of everyone.”

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Samuel

Ha-Joon Chang’s “23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism” is great on free markets, and other aspects of the economy. All the better because he is a firm believer in capitalism.

John Vaughan
John Vaughan
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Samuel

Why might you think I would not agree with that? What I hope you may understand is that ‘free markets’ and ‘capitalism’ are not the same thing. Markets exist, like Evolution, you don’t agree with them or disagree, you merely try to temper them more or less. Capitalism means you are happy with the owners of capital (the 1%) deciding how everyone else may live.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  John Vaughan

What is it with this 1%?. The only reason the socialists don’t say the 10% because then it includes them and all their mates.

Capitalism, at its best, is lending capital to the 1% who can think up better ways for other people to live.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

Capitalism is nothing more than the commonplace phenomenon of individuals investing their capital in the hope of making a return on their investment.

One thing capitalism most certainly is not is an ideology. It is merely a thing, viz. the attempted accumulation of capital, that some people do. It manifests itself without fear or favour alike in popular liberal/conservative democracy, Nietzschean aristocracy, resource-oligarchical dictatorship, and outright fascist dictatorship. In other words, capitalism flourishes where it is permitted.

One sophistical dialectical gambit undertaken by at any rate some anticapitalists, is to treat capitalism contrary to fact as though it were, in fact, an ideology – perhaps as the deeper demoniac ideology underlying Nietzschean aristocracy, resource-oligarchical dictatorship, outright fascist dictatorship, & etc. The short next step is to damn by implication all systems which are permissive of capitalism.

A very leftwing friend tries out this gambit on me frequently. Any reference to the far left’s propensity for mass murder is met with a stern lecture on the untold millions of casualties of capitalism. He has been dwelling a lot lately on the East Bengal famine. But the famine didn’t happen because of capitalism. It happened because the crops failed and the authorities didn’t do anything about it. That’s rather different from a famine happening because the secret police just shot all the farmers.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  John Vaughan

What are elites ? In WW1 approximately 20% of the aristocracy were killed yet in WW2 few of the middle class left wing intellectuals volunteered for danger and serve in combat units with high death rates. Hampstead was not famous for producing aircrew or commandos.

The left wing middle class show contempt blue collar workers; where is the decency ?

The basic success of Socialism has been the creation of public sector white collar jobs and related careers . If the Socialists had created technical education as good as Switzerland, there would be far more well paid blue collar jobs in the UK.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  John Vaughan

I suspect you are the elite. Pop into a housing estate and ask the first person you see if you are posh.