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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
3 months ago

Reading this made me very tired. I simply do not have the energy to point out all the errors and historical misrepresentations in it, so I’ll limit myself to this:
By contrast, Woodrow Wilson, re-elected president in November 1917 on a promise to keep the US out of the conflict, led his country into the war less than six months later.
1916, Mr. Cunliffe. 1916.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago

So out of all those options you go for the typo? Try something of substance.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago

It is interesting to note that Wilson’s election coincided with the arrival in New York of the supplicant/beggar Lord Balfour on his crucial mission to persuade Mr Paul Warburg, Mr JP Morgan and others to keep funding the profligate Allies, who were teetering on the cusp of bankruptcy.

It is also of note that whilst shaking the ‘begging bowl’ Balfour had time to issue the infamous‘Balfour Declaration’. Victory in 1918 was to come at an astonishing price, particularly when one considers that in 1913 we (UK) were the greatest ‘creditor’ nation on earth with three centuries of Imperial plunder behind us.

T Bone
T Bone
3 months ago

Lenin wasn’t Anti-War because he was Anti-violence. He was Anti-War because his Theology called for him to inspire an international peasant revolt.  He cared little about the Nation State. Leftists always think the grass is greener on the other side. That their revolts will always produce “historical progress.” 

I see no evidence that violent peasant revolution ideologies do anything more than create War through social collapse.  For Leftists to claim some mantle of humanitarianism is highest order gaslighting.  Its an ideology of grievance and despair. Everywhere it spreads it creates chaos and misery followed by unaccountable and incompetent bureacracy.

American reactions like Trump/MAGA to Statist and Corporatist rule is different than it would be in Europe because most people on the American Right want the government to do less not more.  American Conservatives are not demanding “Robust government” to fix citizen problems. They’re asking to be left alone. Politics is stupid. If you want a less militaristic society and more functional society you depoliticize. Everything can’t be a political crisis.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Who was going to build the wall? Who’s going to defend the border? Who’s going to stand up to China? Who’s going to bring back American jobs? Who’s going to impose those tariffs? Who’s going to crush Iran?
American Conservatives are asking for more than Robust Government. They want strongman revolutionary government. Everything Trump represents is a pushback against “being left alone” because they have discovered (though not actually admitted) that when they are left alone they are exploited by Corporatist rule.
It was laissez-faire (i.e. “being left alone”) that brought immigrants in, that sent all jobs to China, that lowered tariffs and made America uncompetitive, that empowered other nations with money and markets, that made homosexuality/trans/non-whites/abortion more prominent.
American Conservatives are indeed asking to be left alone. But they want the state to act heavily against others. They are small-state freedom-fighters as amongst themselves and big-state authoritarians as against others.
This paradox has created Trump – a very American Lenin.

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The primary duty of a nation-state government is to defend the borders and the people – this is government’s minimal responsibility. The ‘left alone’ desire of the citizens did not lead to mass illegal immigration. Globalisation is a phenomenon most associated with multinationals and top elites. The rise of Trump has been enabled because the masses of the people who lost their jobs from globalisation and see wages suppressed by mass immigration did not have a political voice or representation in the major parties. Just the opposite they were insulted as deplorable white supremacists and bigots. Trump was smart enough to voice those citizens’ concerns (although it is debatable if he can fix what they want fixing. I do not think Trump can be equated with Lennin either.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago

I don’t dispute ant of that except perhaps the second and last sentences (notably undeveloped). But what you’ve said doesn’t address what I’ve said.
You’re trying to argue against what I said by agreeing with it “globalisation is a phenomenon most associated with multinationals and top elites” and saying that people have responded to that by voting for Trump to voice their grievances via politics, the major parties and ultimately government?
Yeah. That’s what I said. They don’t just want to be left alone. They want big daddy Trump government to help them out against the rough forces of the free market.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The problem is that the market is not free. The US has tax rules that crush small businesses, but don’t tax big corporations enough. In effect, we have crony corporatism. No-one expects Trump to protect them from anything, it’s just that he presents himself as an antidote to the current malaise. I doubt he can be, but that’s a whole other matter.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Who was going to build the wall? Who’s going to defend the border? Who’s going to stand up to China? Who’s going to bring back American jobs? Who’s going to impose those tariffs? Who’s going to crush Iran?
Number two is a govt responsibility and it may tie in to number one, but enforcing a border is standard-issue govt stuff. The rest are up for debate. No serious person wants war with Iran and it was govt action that made it convenient to outsource ‘American jobs.’ Some of us would say that govt has done quite enough and limiting itself to blustery talk is sufficient, plus it means less time for passing bills no one in Congress reads or is affected by.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I would say, joining this discussion (which has precious little relevance to Lenin!) that the free market and globalisation overall have produced greater wealth, but that there are losers in the process. Obviously the “free market” – specifically businesses and corporations – have a tendency to want to ‘export jobs’ to other countries, if the price of labour in those countries is less than in western countries. This is obvious. The US and Europe has very high wages by world standards. It takes government action to weigh against this tendency, which is what businesses would and do do if they can. And this isn’t a nefarious conspiracy – western consumers have benefitted enormously from cheap goods from China and other developing countries.

T Bone
T Bone
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I didn’t say No Government, I said less Government.  I know what you’re claiming about the “Free Market” is conventional wisdom in Left circles but its a Mystification. For one, its impossible to have a laissez-faire economy and a minimum wage.  It’s an oxymoron. Now, you can make a case that once corporations become government contractors that the State has a vested interest in making sure the workers are sufficiently compensated.  That’s rational but ignores that Corporate interests and State interests become intertwined. 

Since the Progressive Era of American politics, the government has steadily imposed regulation upon regulation on top of regulation.   I’m arguing (as Javier Milei has done) that there needs to be a decoupling between Corporation and State to increase competition and reduce government dependence. 

Do you ever notice that every highly regulated locale has an extraordinary high cost of living? That’s because government regulation is inherently inflationary.  You can’t increase the minimum wage for example without inflating consumer prices.  Why? Because you’ve increased business costs without upping production. So you have more people in a market vying for the same amount of stuff.  It’s too many people chasing too few goods.  You need MORE GOODS to reduce prices.

A better solution would be allowing businesses to produce more by allowing more businesses access to the market.  But you can’t have lots of small businesses when compliance costs are excessive. The more you regulate, the more you create Monopolies. America might as well now call itself the United States of Regulations. It should be no wonder that Corporate Lobbyists are so active in Washington. Corporations will always play the hand they’re dealt.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Yeah and my point was that they tried all of that decades ago and it led to Trump because the American people found competition too hard.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You seem to find comfort in simplistic explanations that confirm your biases.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

That makes two of us.

T Bone
T Bone
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

It seems you’re just repeating Socialist catechisms about markets and not digging beneath the surface. Pharma is a great example.

There’s very little “Capitalism” involved in an industry when research is primarily funded by the State, then the State selects what products it will allow to market. Then the State negotiates prices with it’s selected partners.

And again, you can argue this is completely necessary because the State is also administering large swaths of the health care and health insurance markets anyway.

The State is controlling the entire process. So whatever Capitalism exists; exists at the State’s pleasure. This is not Free Market but State Capitalism…which is actually just Socialism.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I suppose all the Sackler stuff is socialism’s fault too? Or in a truly free market would it even be an issue because we’d all just be freely indulging in delicious opiates all day.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Your arguments are a huge exaggeration, plus the usual redefinition of terminology in a very partisan way. You cherry pick examples. We could discuss the way the health industry and “Big Pharma” operate in detail. The state doesn’t run Big Tech. Supermarkets aren’t run by the state in modem western countries, though they perform the rather important function of food distribution.

The state is inevitably a major player in the modern economy – care to name anywhere where it is not? The US may be a partial exception (though decreasingly so) but most western people do want the state to intervene – a lot. Of course they tend to want to have their cake and eat it (high level public services, low taxes) but that is human beings for you

We certainly don’t live in a “socialist” system in the West and least of all the US, as the enormous degree of income and wealth inequality should indicate.

Libertarianism – which you seem to be advocating – is a complete fantasy, which is why it doesn’t exist anywhere.

Nardo Flopsey
Nardo Flopsey
2 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Much frustration in the popular mind, and easily exploited by politicians, is the lack of awareness of inherent compromises.

George Stigler made a speech in the ’80s about the necessary entanglements twixt regulatory agencies and incumbent titans of regulated industries. They are entwined by symbiosis, as are police and criminal informants. The resulting corruption is a natural consequence, difficult to avoid.

When COVID policy flailing caused supply chain disruptions, there arose a populist outcry to reshore critical industries. But at today’s domestic labor costs? That part of the equation was conveniently elided. We can’t have high wages and low prices for all categories of citizens, unfortunately. We have been spoiled for too long.

It’s easy to condemn globalization and the relentless automation of labor when we feel our own skills lacking in the market, but we easily forget the modern miracles that we take for granted as a result. I have seen homeless people with better phones than I have, and it’s not because the govt has decided that everyone must have one.

No poor person today, even unemployed, would trade places with JP Morgan or any oligarch from the Gilded Age. Considering medical and dental procedures, the reality of long distance communication, expense and limitations of travel, quickly outweigh the opulent accoutrements of a wealthy life without technology. We fail to factor these vital upgrades into our emotional assessment of a quality life.

I too agree with Milei’s sentiments, and I hope he can maintain popular support in his quixotic quest. But he’s taken on the entrenched octopus of bureaucracy, which cloaks itself in the politics of envy and the mirage of equality enforced by a leviathan state. That is the common death spiral of prosperous nations, a siren song to those who feel sidelined by the chaotic process of creative destruction.

We should be grateful they are going over the waterfall before we do, and that such a bold character is piloting the raft. We’ll be going over the falls soon enough. We may be able to learn something from him.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Yes, but many types of industry are never going to be run by hundreds of small players, Adam Smith style. Do you prohibit businesses growing by purchase, for example?

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I guess the significant reduction in regulations was part of the ‘push-back’. I think your analysis leaves a lot to be desired. I suspect you will not be asked to contribute a paper to Unherd.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

My analysis leaves a lot to be desired? You say nothing of substance. I’m surprised they let you comment let alone “contributing a paper”.

Sensible Citizen
Sensible Citizen
3 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

The orange man revolt is fueled by a desire for decent people to form into good families with skilled children so they can lead a life of purpose. They’d also enjoy other radical concepts like freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and they demand that their security come from self-reliance — not the state.
They also unapologetically respect the unique role of men in society. If men disappeared from the earth tomorrow, the lights would go out permanently forever. That’s not because women have been excluded from the halls of power. It’s because women exclude themselves from jobs that are too hot, too cold, too rainy, too filthy, too physical and too dangerous. Good for them. No animosity there, in fact conservatives prefer the “girls who sing soprano.” But don’t choose your path then vilify the simpleton others who are doing the difficult jobs women have elected not to.
The MAGA voter is parodied in the press. But in my experience, they are the millions of hardworking people who keep the lights on.

T Bone
T Bone
3 months ago

Good post. Thomas Sowell’s new book covers “The Wage Gap.” Apparently, the fact that Women can have babies has some impact on the difference in median earnings. He thinks its plausible that some women would prefer to raise the kids as opposed to working a 60-70 hour grind. Really shocking stuff! He also found that people living near water tended to be better at fishing. I don’t know, more research is needed.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
3 months ago

At the end of this essay, the author appears to be suggesting a political “solution” to the mixed bag of issues he’s set out. He’s suggesting the masses should be re-engaged.

There’s an election on the horizon. He has an opportunity therefore (and has had all his academic career) to put his ideas into action by engaging himself – standing for parliament via the usual channels. It’s easier to put turgid essays together for a living, i guess. Poor students.

j watson
j watson
3 months ago

‘The disastrous legacy of the 20th Century’? Certainly the early part of the 20th Century had two of the most violent conflicts ever, and of course mass murder and oppression in between those in Lenin’s Russia.
Subsequent to 45 the Author has had the unique historical and remarkable good fortune to live in the longest European peace ever. Yes that’s EVER. That is quite a legacy which he seems to be blind to. Now he, residing in the corridors of academia, should better appreciate that than most.
Of course the war in Ukraine is therefore a more startingly shock, although even now the fact it is at the eastern extreme of Europe means what has happened still does not resonant as much as it should. But it’s a consequence of Russian imperial history seeping into the pores of it’s leaders. Lenin may have signed Brest-Litovsk but he knew it a short term tactical retreat and eventual re-domination always on his agenda.
The lesson for western liberals, perhaps most famously first raised by Orwell, was the far left was as authoritarian and murderous as the far right.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Lenin had NO option but to sign at Brest-Litovsk and had the Oberkommando-Ostfront, (Ober Ost) General Max Hoffman had his way the embryonic Soviet Union would have ceased to exist.

Lenin and the wretched Bolsheviks owed their very survival solely to to defeat of the German Army by the Allies on the Western Front in November 1918.

No doubt due to the fact our academia has been riddled with Marxist apologists for decades the scale of the German victory* at Brest-Litovsk is always overlooked.

(*Primarily due to the skill of Max Hoffmann.)

j watson
j watson
3 months ago

More than their ‘survival’ CH – the fact the Feb and Oct revolutions happened due to the conflict.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
3 months ago

“Lenin…sought to draw the masses deeper into political life to extend the gains of the 19th century…”. Good grief. In 1918 Lenin began the destruction of the Soviets and established the principle that in a Socialist country power only even flows in one direction, from the centre downwards. By 1921 the sailors of Kronstadt were demanding the return of “free Soviets, elected by secret ballot”. Trotsky had them massacred for that.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
3 months ago

Give me a break. Lenin was a mass muderer. Have you heard of the Red Terror? Who cares what his sophisticated musings might have been.

Adriana L
Adriana L
3 months ago
Reply to  James Jenkin

Thank you for this reminder. It seems all too easily forgotten the millions dead left in the wake of these people. The West is truly eating itself…

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
3 months ago

A fascinating essay. The headline made me expect an exploration of the new authoritarianism of the Left and the Progressive State. To what extent is our State – away from weak showpony Westminster politicos- governed and controlled by a class/cadre of groupthinking progressives? They may lack the Card – formal membership of the Communist Party – but in all other respects are the same; one zealous ideology (DEI, Net Zero, Welfarism, Anti Capitalism, Anti Nation State internationalism). Rule by top down diktat. A captured law and media. And permanent employment in the Quangocracy, Blob and public sector. More on this – our cross – please Unherd.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

The fratricidal and corrupt nature of Late Roman Republic was solved by the actions of one Julius Caesar and his great-nephew and adopted son and heir Octavian. Two centuries of peace, the splendid Pax Romana were to follow.

Let us hope History is about to repeat itself.

Peter Samson
Peter Samson
3 months ago

Two centuries of peace in the sense of an end to internal strife, but hardly peace from the point of view of all the people Rome conquered through bloody battles. And I hope Charles Stanhope does not see Donald Trump as a modern Octavian.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter Samson

Octavian ‘got going’ at the ripe old age of 18.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
3 months ago

“Lenin’s era was also defined by modern progress — of the Cinématographe and airship, of avant-garde artistic experimentation and scientific breakthroughs”
Yep I love Malevich and Mayakovsky but to be frank if it takes killing millions of people to get them I’d be happier without them

Jeff Dudgeon
Jeff Dudgeon
3 months ago

You know you are dealing with an author steeped in nostalgia when you read this “Likewise, we have no organised working-class politics…”

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Dudgeon

“I don’t belong to a political organization, I belong to Labour!”

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 months ago

“To wish away Lenin’s communists is to wish away those who exerted themselves the most — and were in the short-term the most successful — in their efforts to rescue European civilisation from the self-immolation of the Great War.”
Mr Cunliffe really is a fan boy
I do not think Lenin gave any thought whatsoever to rescue European and as far as I am aware he was a great fan of the war and waned to see the defeat of Russia believing that this would bring about the collapse of the existing order creating an environment ripe for revolution

Josef O
Josef O
3 months ago

First of all, thank you so much for this excellent article, extremely interesting and profound. My compliments to Mr Cunliffe.
In my modest opinion Lenin used his anti war politics in order to topple Kerensky. Had the latter withdrawn Russia from the war in February ’17, we would be talking about a different history.
Or let us make a further step back, if Stolypin would not have been assissinated, Russia would have not entered the war in the first place, no Rasputin etc ie a completely different scenario. But history is not made with ifs and buts.

Doug Israel
Doug Israel
3 months ago

Oh Lenin, that gentle murderer of tens of thousands. Oy gevalt.

andrew harman
andrew harman
3 months ago

This is a muddled and historically illierate article, studded with faux intellectualism.
It seeks to establish a clunky parallel between the Edwardian era and our own and in so doing tries to present a lenin wholly divorced from the historical.
Lenin had no use for “liberalism” in any form. Or democracy which he regarded as a bourgeois delusion. He closed down the elected Constiuent Assmebly, when elections to it rejected his party, at gunpoint.
He then proceeded to ban all other parties. He instigated the Red Terror via setting up the Cheka, the prototype KGB and brought about the deaths of hubdreds of thousands. He established the apparatus and mechanisms of terro so definitively exploited by Stalin.
Lenin was a prisoner of his own dogma, albeit he adjusted it to justify an extended period of dictatorship of the Bolsheviks as a means of ultimately bringing about the dictaotrship of the proletariat. Anything he did (like the NEP) that seemed to not be Marxist was merely a temporary measure.
The author, in it seems seeking to present Lenin as some kind of romantic enlightened “liberal progressive” has only produced a mishmash of Leninist apologia
Lenin may have opposed WW1 but only because he thought it was the wrong struggle.

Steve Chapman
Steve Chapman
3 months ago

I don’t really know what your point is. You acknowledge that Putin has expansionist aims. So does China, so does Iran. So what do you suggest we do? just opt out, let them carve out their spheres of influence and hope they stop short of us?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago

Lenin a very well educated man.
Unable to imagine the possibility of being mistaken
Hated the idea of alternatives to his plans
Hence his famous remark ” Democracy is dangerous toy “

J.P Malaszek
J.P Malaszek
3 months ago

Yes I certainly felt drawn back into politics during the period 2016 -19
(here in the UK). I even remember having amicable political discussions with stranger’s on trains and in cafe’s when trying to decide how to vote in the referendum. People wanted to talk about the future of our country. Its all over now, back to the status quo. Will I ever be engaged in the same way again? Maybe only if something else emerges that is’nt the two main parties, that are actually one party.

Charlie Two
Charlie Two
3 months ago

Great write up of a mass butcher. a slaughterer. a starver. a psychopath. someone described by a top commie who served under him and stalin as “harsher” than stalin. i guess some apologists are just cretins.

Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa
Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa
3 months ago

I’d rather there were no left-wing at all. Undo Louis XVI’s, Martyr’s, mistake, first of summoning the Estates-General, and then of not shutting the whole thing down, with force if necessary, once the rogue Estates-General erected itself into a “National Assembly”. Mistakes which, as that king’s sobriquet indicates, cost him his kingdom, and his and his illustrious family’s lives, as well as unleashing the hydra of revolution on an unsuspecting world.

Alice Devitt
Alice Devitt
2 months ago

Mass murder..nice try at a revamp. Bestial.

Andrew Henrick
Andrew Henrick
2 months ago

The Lenin hagiography was almost two thick for me to penetrate. Though I am sympathetic to his desire for active civic participation in governance, it is ruined by his ideology. Vlad, the mass murderer opportunitst, opposed war in favor of revolution, i.e., permanent civil war with no limit for violence. Are we really to believe Lenin was anti-war? In 1920, he sent the Red Army into Poland to ignite his “revolution” by means of war; it was another soviet disaster.

Another, even more important lesson Lenin drew from the Polish debacle was that the best chance for spreading revolution abroad was to instigate another world war. In this war, Soviet Russia would remain neutral and step in only once the belligerents had exhausted themselves. To this end, in 1921 Moscow initiated secret military cooperation with Germany. Pipes, Richard. Communism: A History

Similarly, Vlad never represented the public’s actual interest in his nationalization efforts. He murdered everyone in his way. He put forward the NEP to keep power, nothing more.
Today’s Administriva fear Trump because they understand that he has always represented a “no-confidence” vote against massive, self-interested federal bureaucracy. In the 2024 contest, it is decisive that the Left continues its ubiquitous, crushing gaslighting campaign, representing itself as the champion of democracy/science.

Except for retaining their grip on power, the Bolsheviks experienced setbacks in nearly all their endeavors. Life turned out to be very different from theory. But they would not admit they were wrong: whenever things did not turn out as desired, they did not compromise but instead intensified the violence. To admit to being wrong would threaten to unravel the whole theoretical foundation of their regime, since it claimed to be scientifically correct in all its parts. ibid

Indeed this violence finds its zenith when the state invades every part of private life and echo’s Pilot’s Roman cynicism. I cannot recommend enough the HBO miniseries Chernobyl to visualize what immense terror we should have for such propaganda when it becomes obvious and enforced. The Chernobyl plant was originally named after Vlad. It was well named.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 months ago

This is a simply grotesque hagiography of Lenin, one of the world’s most monstrous political leaders – frankly as the author of an inhuman system of Communism which was both immensely brutal and utterly incompetent, THE worst of all. Communism was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions and the torture and imprisonment of many, many more. That this was not because of a war – but due to the slaughter of vast numbers of people who could not resist is not a mark of morally superiority!

And these people would certainly not have died certainly would not have had the Tsarist system continued, or indeed its brief “Liberal” successor in the Provisional government. Probably no Hitler either.

The October “Revolution” was in fact a putsch. And far from seeking to end war, all Lenin wished for was the space to build up the strength of his evil system of government, destroy all opposition. And then invade his neighbours to export this odious system, exactly as he did when invading Poland in 1920.