Re: (OPE-L) dreams and nightmares

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@T-ONLINE.DE)
Date: Sat May 17 2003 - 11:13:18 EDT

Cologne 17-May-2003

Thanks for that, Nicky.

While recommending books, another good one in the same vein is Fernando Claudin
_The Communist Movement -- From COMINTERN to COMINFORM_ 1970/eng 1975 Peregrine.

As I say,
Watching television never made anybody far-sighted.
Reading a book never made anybody short-sighted.

Our dreams are often revealing; the dreams we set up as ideals obscure.

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

Nicola Taylor schrieb Sat, 17 May 2003 14:33:27 +1000:

> Hi Jerry, I agree with Michael's response to you (below).  Especially, I
> appreciate his reference to Naipaul (who is on my best-loved author's list).
> Another great book on the debate of means and ends (vis a vis human being)
> is Arthur Koestler's 'Darkness at Noon' (1940; Penguin 1947) which came out
> of Koestler's own bitter experiences as a communist operative in Spain
> during the civil war (probably you will have read this).  The book
> centers on the interrogation of an old Bolshevik awaiting execution in a
> G.P.U. prison:
> "For forty years he had fought against economic fatality.  It was the
> central ill of humanity, the cancer which was eating into its entrails.  It
> was there that one must operate; the rest of the healing process would
> follow.  All else was dilettantism, romanticism, charlatanism.  One cannot
> heal a person mortally ill by pious exhortations.  The only solution was the
> surgeon's knife and his cool calculation. But wherever the knife had been
> applied, a new sore had appeared in place of the old.  And again the
> equation did not work out" (p.204).
> In contemplating why 'the equation did not work out' Rubashov arrives
> (albeit in different words) at Michael's question which was:
> > The question is rather why
> > these kinds of society have never been (and never will be) in a position
> > to allow dissenters, never strong enough to bear the freedom of
> > individual civil rights.
> To which Rubashov answers:
> "It was a mistake in the system; perhaps it lay in the precept which until
> now he had held to be uncontestable, in whose name he had sacrificed others
> and was himself being sacrificed: in the precept that the end justifies the
> means [the end being precisely the survival of the revolution against
> imperialist aggressors, such that 'opposition is a crime and the leaders of
> the opposition are criminals' p. 190].  It was this sentence shich had
> killed the great fraternity of the Revolution and made them all run amuck.
> What had he once written in his diary?  'We have thrown overboard all
> conventions, our sole guiding principle is that of consequent logica; we are
> sailing without ethical balast'.
>     Perhaps the heart of the evil lay there.  Perhaps it did not suit
> mankind to sail without balast.  And perhaps reason alone was a defective
> compass, which led one on such a winding, twisted course that the goal
> finally disappeared in the mist" (p.206).
> Rubashov, in defeat, does of course cling to a new dream: a different
> society where 'only purity of means can justify the ends' and where 'the
> tenet is wrong which says that a man is the product of one million divided
> by one million...'
> If the choice were between dreams, I guess I would opt for Rubashov's
> final version.  But, since dreams are inherently unattainable (with a
> tendency to take a turn towards nightmare) one surely does better to think
> through what it means to conceive of a better world.  Here one can do
> something: one can practically and theoretically argue AGAINST capital
> punishment and
> torture and, more than that, one can ask openly what possible ends these
> means are supposed to serve.  Whatever Castro's own justifications, I
> suspect that his attempts to *suppress* opposition and drive debate
> underground have had the (unintended) consequence of *fuelling* it, both
> internally and without.  That this opposition includes the voices of
> socialists and communists (not only liberals and imperialists) should surely
> raise alarm bells for anyone who wants to support the *people of Cuba*
> against state aggression (be this internal or external).
> Nicky
> > ME: Jerry,
> >
> > I don't think that helps (excusing the regime because of threat from
> > US). It smacks of the hedging of an ideology. The question is rather why
> > these kinds of society have never been (and never will be) in a position
> > to allow dissenters, never strong enough to bear the freedom of
> > individual civil rights. It is not a question of historical
> > circumstances. It is a question of the essence of socialism, i.e. what
> > it _is_.
> >
> > You say, "we have to ask *who* these "dissenters" are".
> >
> > I find that this comment has the flavour of bitter irony. I've been
> > reading V.S. Naipaul's "Among the Believers -- An Islamic Journey"
> > (1981). He starts off in the Iran of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and
> > is being guided around by a young communist who claims:
> >
> > "True freedom had existed only once in the world, in Russia, between
> > 1917 and 1953. I [Naipaul] said, 'But there was a lot of suffering. A
> > lot of people were jailed and killed.' He pounced on that. 'What _sort_
> > of people?' " (p.59)
> >
> > There's something to be said for abstract-universal individual human
> > rights. Why is socialism always caught in apologetics, always in a
> > process of deferment?

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