Trade has no redemptive power

However, the post-war Western history of dealing with evil regimes betokens faith in the opposite theory.

Following Henry Kissinger’s lead, our politicians believe, or at least often say, that, by drawing evil regimes into an intricate system of trade relations, we could help them see the light. They’ll abandon their wicked ways and become less evil. In due course, they’ll be just like us, mutatis mutandis.

That belief, which can only charitably be called naïve, has been thoroughly debunked every time it has been put into practice. When we trade with totalitarian regimes, they don’t become less evil. They just become richer – and stronger.

Russia and China are prime examples of this. A massive transfer of Western investment and technology has built up those enfeebled, possibly moribund, regimes into the monsters they’ve become, capable of threatening Western interests all over the globe.

Without the West, neither Russia nor China would be able to present a credible threat to world peace, indeed to the survival of the world. Russia in particular totally depends on Western high-tech equipment and information technology to keep her economy in general, and war machine in particular, rolling along.

The most basic fact: Russia doesn’t make her own computers (nor anything else worth having, other than weapons). Wherever she gets them from, the technology is Western.

Even the Russian oil and gas industry wouldn’t have become the weaponised giant it is today without Western, especially American, equipment: drilling, exploration and production systems, pumps and compressors, pipe-layers, monitoring gear – just about everything.

Trade is supposed to be bilateral, and so it is. The West has been procuring cheap energy from Russia and cheap labour from China. The feeling was that we were getting a good deal.

We weren’t. On the one hand, we have built up the military muscle of the only two powers capable of blowing up the world or, more likely, using that ability as a blackmail weapon. On the other hand, we have made ourselves largely dependent on evil regimes for our supply of strategic goods and commodities, putting those regimes in a strong bargaining, or rather blackmailing, position.

Even the financial ledger doesn’t show a good balance. Yes, we’ve made and saved billions. But it will now take trillions to counteract the evil powers we’ve nourished to healthy maturity. And that’s even if no nuclear mushrooms get to adorn our skies.

None of this is to suggest that we should only trade with countries we like. However, our trade policy should be guided not only by this quarter’s profits but also by long-term geopolitical considerations.

Russia in particular can’t survive without Western technology – she never could. Hence a transfer of such technology should have been made contingent on Russia’s good behaviour.

Each new tranche should have come packaged with a demand for verifiable concessions, be that a reduction in armaments, withdrawal from occupied territories or a better record on basic liberties. That way trade would have had an outside chance of making Russia (and China) less dangerous.

As it is, no such conditions were ever imposed. No bestial act on the part of wicked regimes has ever been punished beyond a gentle rap on the wrist. The rape of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Georgia and the Ukraine by Russia – or for that matter Tibet and the Uighurs by China – never slowed down Western trade with those regimes.

Even now, when the West is making a show of some kind of unity in the face of Russia’s bandit raid on the Ukraine, a billion euros flows into Putin’s war chest every day. Europe’s thirst for Russian energy makes his war self-financing.

At least this time around nobody even pretends that trading with that regime will make it less evil. It’s nothing but unadulterated greed, with a political dimension. After all, no current government will stay in power after the electorate spends a winter in unheated houses.

Yet the problem goes deeper than that. The West has lost the ability to think about anything in terms of evil. We are suffering from the typical intellectual malaise of philistines: certainty that everybody is, or desperately wants to be, like us. And when they demonstrably don’t act like us, there must be some hitch keeping them from the holy grail.

A man burns his wife alive not because he is evil, but because he suffers from ‘mental issues’. It’s his tough childhood, not evil nature, that makes another man drive a car through a crowd. And it’s not evil but a sense of historical injustice that makes Russia pounce on her neighbours like a rabid dog.

We have lost this basic concept because we have abandoned the only system of thought within which it makes sense, having replaced it with another within which nothing makes sense. That’s why we regularly fail exams on human nature and the nature of foreign regimes.

The price of failure is high, and it can climb much higher. The sky is the limit, with those mushrooms turning it into an inferno.

Marx would be proud of Welby

Speaking at the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury reinforced his credentials – Marxist ones, that is.

“Well done, Justin”

His Grace views the world as a battleground for two implacable enemies. Given his occupation, you probably think the clash he sees in his mind’s eye is one between good and evil, or God and Satan if you’d rather.

You have another think coming. For the good archbishop doesn’t think in theological terms. The conceptual framework of his worldview is solidly Marxist.

Yes, good and evil are still the warring parties, but they are embodied in the poor and the rich. Every war the Archbishop declares, be it on climate change, mistreatment of refugees or oppression, is class war at base.

Perhaps ‘think’ is too generous a word, based as it is on the assumption that thought precedes speech. Yet His Grace treats this assumption with the contempt it doesn’t deserve:

“To be silent on the climate emergency and its implications for the economy, to be silent on the unethical treatment of migrants or on war and oppression, on the abuse of human rights, on persecution is to be one of the oppressors.”

This little statement goes beyond category error. It’s more like category demolition.

Leaving aside his acceptance of the subversive climate hoax on faith, lumping it together with “war”, “oppression” and “the abuse of human rights” shows that His Grace’s mouth is disengaged from his brain.

Following his logic, it’s “climate change, better called the climate crisis or better still the climate emergency” that’s directly responsible for, say, Putin’s bandit raid on the Ukraine, with war, oppression and abuse of human rights aplenty.

And when the climate was warmer than it is now, in the first century BC, was it hot weather that fuelled Caesar’s conquests? I don’t think he showed a lot of respect for the Gauls’ human rights. Must have been too hot for that sort of thing.

Not only does His Grace diagnose the world’s malignant disease, but he also has no doubts whatsoever about its aetiology. It is “the result of the wealthier countries having declared war on God’s creation, unknowingly, unthinkingly starting from the 19th century.”

Is the Archbishop nostalgic about windmills, hoes and horse-driven ploughs? If so, he must also miss high infant and natal mortality, life expectancy half of today’s, intolerable pain caused by dental and surgical procedures, regular murderous famines and whatnot.

The Industrial Revolution, which he sees as “war on God’s creation” made life infinitely better for the apex of that creation, man. Scientific and technological progress isn’t without its downsides, but describing it in such crude binary terms wouldn’t be out of place at a meeting of a clandestine Marxist cell.

“The symptoms of that war now are that the wealthy dump refuse in the oceans,” continued His Grace. And the poor don’t? It’s the underdeveloped nations that are by far the worst ecological abusers.

Asia, for example, is responsible for emitting 81 per cent of ocean plastics, compared to Europe’s 0.6 per cent and North America’s 4.5. Never mind. When a Marxist talks, facts run for cover.

Nor do poor countries take close to heart the Archbishop’s entreaty to cut carbon emissions. But hold on for a moment: climate emergency or no, the poor shouldn’t be told to cut down on their hydrocarbons. That’s assuming I can follow the rattling runaway train of His Grace’s thought:

“They [the rich] tell the poor not to use carbon-generating fuels and they say to the world, too often, not by their word but by their actions ‘we will keep our wealth and you, the poor, must discover new paths’.”

That’s not even apples and oranges. It’s apples and bicycles. For ‘the rich’, a group implicitly anathematised by the Archbishop, are cutting their economic throats by buying into the climate hoax, today’s surrogate religion.

Just yesterday Biden’s administration undertook to cut carbon emissions 40 per cent by 2050. Britain’s targets are even more ambitious, which is to say suicidal.

Does that qualify as actions or words? The former, I daresay. What’s definitely just words, empty ones at that, is vague, almost apologetic suggestions that perhaps third-world countries should also cut their emissions, if only by a smidgen.

And shouldn’t we be allowed to hold on to our wealth, what little is left of it? Jesus, after all, only said that man shouldn’t live by bread alone, not that he should live by no bread at all.

Having declared war on the rich who oppress, pollute and abuse, His Grace lamented that many churches, including his own, are cheek by jowl with state power. That reduces their crusading potential: “The history of the churches is too often tragically not one of challenging unjust structures.”

How can the Church of England, for example, fight the good fight when it’s “embedded in establishment”? Eh… well, yes. That’s why it’s called ‘established’, which is to say state, Church. And that’s why both the Church and the state have the same head, the Queen.

If His Grace is campaigning for disestablishment, he’ll find some sympathy in these quarters. But, he hastened to reassure the Conference, he isn’t. He isn’t really campaigning for anything much.

Archbishop Welby is simply making Marxist noises with woke overtones that have more to do with semiotics than semantics. That’s what passes for thought these days, and that problem is much worse than anything His Grace finds so vexing.

Graham Phillips and his friends

The journalist Graham Phillips, writes Putin’s useful idiot (or agent of influence, take your pick) at The Mail, is “the first UK citizen to be sanctioned by his own government, without any hearing or trial, and on the vaguest of charges.”

Graham Phillips with his FSB medal

The subsequent 200 words made me wish that the chap himself be subjected to the same punishment, along with the newspaper that lends its pages to enemy propaganda.

For that scurrilous piece, one of many such contributions by the same author, lowers our journalistic standards to the rung previously occupied by such worthy publications as Der Stürmer, Pravda and Putin’s own RT.

It’s indeed propaganda, rather than an argument, for nowhere does the article mention what it was that Phillips was sanctioned for, nor what “the vaguest of charges” were.

That is a glaring omission that I’ll be happy to correct. For Phillips is a tireless propagandist of Putin’s fascism, complementing the Mail chap’s print efforts with even more malodorous effluvia in the broadcast media.

He began to report on Russia and the Ukraine in 2009, and in 2013 became a stringer for RT and Zvezda, a paper later incorporated into Pravda. When the two countries found themselves in conflict, you get no prizes for guessing which side Phillips took.

He has been covering Russia’s bandit raid on the Ukraine since 2014 and, unlike other RT propagandists, he wasn’t at first denied entry into the country. In due course, however, he was captured by the Ukrainian army and released only on the condition that he would leave the country immediately and not return for three years.

However, Phillips kept coming back like a bad penny, blowing the trumpet for the so-called ‘People’s Republics’ of Donetsk and Lugansk. In that capacity he routinely overstepped the boundaries of not only common decency, but also of international law.

In 2016 he published a video in which he taunted a Ukrainian POW who had lost his sight and both his arms. With the Russians’ blessing, Phillips also interviewed, or rather interrogated, a captured British soldier fighting in the Ukrainian army. The soldier, Aidin Aslin, wasn’t a willing participant – in fact, he was handcuffed throughout the interview.

That violated the terms of the Geneva Convention that bans coercive interrogation of POWs for propaganda purposes. Already at that time, plans were under way to charge Phillips with war crimes, which is a rare accolade for British journalists.

Lest he may be accused of being a one-track pony, Phillips also does Putin’s bidding outside the Ukraine, both geographically and thematically. Thus in 2018 he was arrested by the British police for disrupting an exhibition at the Georgian Embassy in London, dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the Russian attack on Georgia.

Phillips was dragged away kicking and screaming that the event was “propaganda”, and everyone attending it was a “Nato zombie”. There was a man ready to take his lumps for a cause.

His masters rewarded Phillips’s loyal service as best they could. In 2015, the Russian Border Service, a branch of FSB, gave him its aptly named ‘Border Brotherhood’ Medal. And he has also received several medals from the ‘People’s Republics’ of Donbas and Lugansk, essentially bandit lands run by Putin’s paramilitaries.

However, I don’t think mere sanctions are a sufficient reward from Phillips’s own government. His colleague and a fellow enemy propagandist William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, was hanged for similar work in 1946.

The charge was high treason, but unfortunately the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 removed the death penalty as the maximum punishment, replacing it with life in prison. Since Britain isn’t officially at war with Russia, even that would, alas, be too harsh for Phillips.

The just punishment for him would be somewhere between the mere sanctions already imposed by HMG and life imprisonment. But his colleague from The Mail sees any punishment as a gross violation of liberty.

“I have not been overwhelmed,” he writes, “in the rush of liberty-loving public figures to defend the blogger Graham Phillips against government oppression.” I wonder how many “liberty-loving public figures” rushed to the defence of William Joyce in 1946. Not many, would be my guess.

It’s true that neither Britain nor any other residually civilised country is at war with Putin. Yet it’s equally true that he is at war with us.

I find it tedious to cite another list of declarations to that effect coming from Putin himself, the highest officials in his government (such as former PM and President Medvedev) and his propaganda channels, including those that have employed Phillips.

I can only ask that everybody willing to listen should take that fascist regime at its word. Unlike democratic politicians, totalitarians say what they mean and mean what they say.

The Ukraine is bearing the brunt of Putin’s expansionist ambitions, and calling for peace at a time when Russia occupies a quarter of the country’s territory is tantamount to touting capitulation – not only of the Ukraine herself but also of the West.

Yet this is exactly what Phillips’s friend at the Mail does: “It is time to end the Ukraine War before it sets the whole world on fire and wrecks what is left of our civilisation.” (Note the term ‘Ukraine War’. That sounds as if it was the Ukraine that started it. ‘Putin’s War’, anyone?)

His concern for our civilisation is touching – and it would be even more so had he not been extolling Putin and his fascist regime for 20 years. Putin’s Russia, according to him, is “the most Christian and conservative country in Europe”. This brings into question his understanding of both Christianity and conservatism – along with his professional integrity.

We are indeed at war, whether or not we acknowledge it. At such times, the standards of liberty have to tighten somewhat. I’d suggest that, to begin with, sanctioning an enemy propagandist like Phillips is par for the course.

You decide whether Putin’s shill at The Mail, along with the paper itself, should be subjected to a similar treatment. Don’t let me affect your judgement – but you know what I think.

The Church of England is on notice

That stern warning was issued by Matthew Parris, the guiding light of The Times.

Apparently, during the recent Lambeth Conference the Archbishop of Canterbury failed to issue a carte blanche to “the celebration of same-sex unions”, limiting himself instead to protestations of “sympathy, ‘compassion’, ‘listening’, ‘understanding’, emphasising how God loves you despite everything. Jesus did not stare at his shoes and tell people how he empathised.”

Though a self-acknowledged atheist, Mr Parris then shows familiarity with Scripture by reminding us that, rather than limiting himself to wishy-washy pronouncements, Jesus drove money-changers out of the Temple.

True. But I don’t think his problem with the usurers was that they didn’t let homosexuals marry.

One has to infer that, should the Second Coming happen today, Jesus would act in the same decisive spirit and force the recalcitrant archbishop to start pronouncing newlyweds man and man. I must admit the logic escapes me.

Jesus acted in such an aggressive fashion to enforce scriptural rectitude that he felt was being debauched by the brisk trade going on in the Temple. Yet the same scripture unequivocally refers to homosexuality as “abomination”.

St Paul then repeated the term in his Epistle to the Romans. And, though he had never met Jesus in the flesh, none of the men who had, including the four Evangelists, took exception to Paul’s intransigence.

That means that, for once, Archbishop Welby was doctrinally sound. He refused to countenance the ritual blessing of a practice explicitly and emphatically proscribed in both Testaments.

That, warns Mr Parris, “is an insult to the whole of England”. He then tugs at our heart strings by telling an anecdote for us to understand the egregious depth of that insult.

A young vicar at a church in west London, whom Mr Parris euphemistically calls a friend, concluded his homily with “a short prayer for those who had fought bravely for acceptance in the face of persecution”.

“To my friend’s surprise, some people among the congregation started crying. His prayer had broken open wounds. The church they loved had inflicted this hurt.”

I know quite a few homosexuals and used to sit on the same Anglican pews with them. Yet I’ve never seen one burst into tears because the Church doesn’t bless homomarriage.

I wonder where Mr Parris got his mandate to speak for large groups of people, be that “the whole of England”, all homosexuals or even residents of west London. That’s where I happen to live, and I’ve never seen crowds of weeping and self-flagellating people agonising about having no access to the altar.

To his credit, Mr Parris makes no pretence of disinterested objectivity. “We gays are done with all that ‘feeling your pain’ business. We feel no pain about being gay. We do feel pain about Welby’s evasion… There is nothing more to explain, nothing to discuss, nothing to ‘understand’ and no need for sympathy. Simple respect is what’s missing from the Church.”

There is respect aplenty, but that’s not what Mr Parris is demanding. He wants the Church to prostitute Christian doctrine for the noble purpose of indulging a small vociferous minority of politicised homosexuals like him.

And it must do it on pain of extinction. “The C of E is our established church, a national institution, and if it wants to remain so it must allow the rest of us an interest in how it engages with our wider society.”

I wonder if Archbishop Welby gets the message. I certainly do: unless he starts “celebrating same-sex unions”, Mr Parris will personally disestablish the Church of England. Seldom does one read, even in our neo-barbaric time, such ignorant, arrogant, unadulterated bilge.

The C of E is indeed a national institution, one of several. But it’s different from, say, the monarchy, parliament, the Old Bailey, the National Trust and David Beckham.

Unlike them, it engages with “our wider society” on a different, transcendent level. The Church serves a kingdom that is not of this world and, whenever it attempts to serve any other, it compromises its mission. For, in the eternal hierarchy of pecking orders, the kingdom it serves is higher than this world – and infinitely higher than “our wider society”.

Mr Parris self-admittedly has no use for Jesus’s love. Yet if he did, he’d want Jesus to love him not despite his sexual aberration, but because of it. That notion is so preposterous that even he must be aware of it.

Anyway, that’s not what he is after. Homosexual activists want to bend the Church to their will not because they need to be married at the altar but because they need to grab more power, to impose their views not just on “our wider society” (they’ve already done that), but on the bride of Christ.

Like other radicalised minorities, they crave total, which is to say totalitarian, power. And, unable to get all they want by frontal assault (no pun intended), they resort to guerrilla action. The more institutions they undermine, the less will “our wider society” be able to resist their powerlust.

It’s only against this backdrop that one can grasp the meaning of Mr Parris’s article. Otherwise one would have to conclude that The Times’s star columnist is off his rocker.  

We need statesmen, not managers

In 1941, James Burnham wrote his prophetic book The Managerial Revolution, in which he predicted the rise of a new ruling class, that of managers.

The Rt Hon Suella Braverman, delivery person

Whether they ply their trade in government or the corporate world is immaterial. Neither their mentality nor their modus operandi changes when they float from cabinet rooms to boardrooms – and back again.

The Soviet term nomenklatura describes this class accurately, and whenever Soviet concepts apply in the West, I have sleepless nights preceded by a bout of nausea.   

The spirit of James Burnham wafted through the Sky TV studio the other day, when Attorney General Suella Braverman had to explain why she had put an end to diversity training in her department.

She took that audacious measure not for any moral, intellectual or aesthetic reasons, God forbid, but as a result of a cost-benefit analysis. Apparently, last year her employees spent 2,000 hours listening to expensive consultants pontificate on diversity – with nary a financial benefit to show for it.

Sternly queried on her feelings about diversity, Mrs Braverman restated her, and her party’s, unwavering commitment to that transcendent virtue. She was especially proud, she said, that it was a Tory PM who had legalised homomarriage. And in general, she’d happily vote for any diversity law – trans, racial, gender, interspecies, you name it.

No, it was just a matter of the bottom line. Her employees could spend their time more profitably than learning about pronouns, unconscious biases and cultural appropriation, vital though such education is.

The conversation then veered into other areas, such as the economy, healthcare, education and so on. Here Mrs Braverman instantly underwent a metamorphosis that has become the hallmark of her profession: she turned into a human jukebox.

Push a button, and a pre-recorded tune comes out. In this case, every sentence she uttered included the buzz word ‘deliver’. It’s a function of government, maintained Mrs Braverman robotically, to deliver [person-to-person GP appointments, best economic outcomes, affordable energy, multi-orgasmic sex… I made that last one up, but you get the picture.]

Someone has misled the poor dear desperately. It’s post offices, obstetricians and Chinese takeaways that deliver. Governments, on the other hand, are supposed to, well, govern.

Our ‘leaders’ increasingly express themselves in the language of corporate managers, or rather managerial consultants. They don’t govern. They ‘deliver’ markers and outcomes; they hit targets; they facilitate optimisation; they optimise facilitation; they meet goals.

That’s not how statesmen talk because it’s not how statesmen think – or act. This is the jargon of the new class whose ascendance Burnham predicted so presciently.

He identified a developing problem in the corporate world: those who control capital no longer own it. A member of the nomenklatura has worlds to gain if his company does well, but next to nothing to lose when it doesn’t. A golden parachute will pop open, and the chap will softly descend into another job at another corporation or perhaps a government quango.

This is the spirit in which the nomenklatura acts when it runs the country as well, or rather as badly. Any corporation with the record of HMG would be bankrupt by now, with its officers possibly facing charges of fiduciary malfeasance.

Our governmental managers, otherwise known as ‘leaders’, are even further removed from the capital they control, and I don’t just mean money. Hence they use the language of management consultants not to elucidate but to obfuscate.

They all, with but a handful of exceptions all over the West, lack the basic skills to function in their chosen field. That’s why they hope that the jargon borrowed from another field will help them hide their incompetence behind a verbal smokescreen.

They should be informed by the tenets of political philosophy, not those of crooked double-entry accounting with several sets of books. I don’t mean they should be philosopher-kings of Plato’s fancy. But they should check their words and deeds against the first principles of politics, economics, justice and morality.

That doesn’t mean turning into dogmatic doctrinaires, for the art of government presupposes a certain amount of compromise. Statesmen guided by the noblest of principles are sometimes forced to deviate from them. Yet tactical flexibility shouldn’t mean strategic ignorance. It’s one thing to have to compromise on one’s principles occasionally, quite another not to have them in the first place.   

By their words shall you know them, for if our politicians were indeed guided by immutable values, they wouldn’t be expressing themselves in the lingo of a pizza takeaway. They’d know it’s not the function of government to run a delivery service.

It’s to protect the people from foreign enemies and domestic criminals. It’s to make sure that the country is run by just laws, not pernicious fads. It’s not to ‘level up’, to use another buzz non-word, but to create conditions in which people can fulfil their potential to its limit by their own efforts. It’s to set an example of prudence, sagacity and thrift. It’s to protect freedom of expression, including the kind of expression some may not like. It’s to encourage proper family life, not abortion, divorce, various perversions and casual cohabitation.

It’s to govern, not to ‘deliver’. Then again, our ‘leaders’ have to think of their post-leadership careers. So perhaps it’s a good idea to bone up on managerial cant, in the hope of someday using it full time to a lucrative effect.   

After all, there’s only one first principle our politicians recognise: look out for number one.

To err is human, to forgive is ageist

The age of criminal culpability varies from one country to another.

Liz Truss, juvenile delinquent

For example, in 35 American states it’s as young as seven. That, however, is deemed too old for South Carolina, where it is six.

In Germany and Austria, no one under the age of 14 can be held criminally responsible. In the UK, where on this evidence children mature earlier, the cut-off point is 10.

I am sure legislators in all those places can argue in favour of their laws cogently and persuasively. So much so that I shan’t even attempt to take them on.

But let’s shift the argument from criminal to intellectual culpability. At what age do people become fully responsible for their views?

The question isn’t purely academic. For we’ve been trained to go over politicians’ biographies with a fine-toothed comb, looking for objectionable things they said or did in their young age.

Fine. But how young is too young to be held accountable for one’s past indiscretions? I suggest we approach this problem in the spirit distilled, in equal measure, from forgiveness and realism.

For example, I’ve read in the paper today that Liz Truss, soon likely to be our new PM, campaigned to abolish the royal family in1994. She made a fiery speech to that effect at the conference of the LibDem Party to which she then belonged.

The article didn’t mention her preferred method of abolition. Since I am too lazy to look up the actual speech, I’m prepared to give Miss Truss the benefit of the doubt and allow that she didn’t advocate regicide.

Still, even less violent manifestations of republicanism ought to disqualify her from holding any office in the Tory Party, and certainly that of its leader. Unless, of course, she was under the age of intellectual culpability.

To Wikipedia I go, where I find that Miss Truss was a 19-year-old Oxford student at the time. She went on to join the Conservative Party upon graduation in 1996 and has remained within its ranks ever since.

Now, think of yourself at 19. Did you hold a few unsound ideas at that age? How many of them do you still hold? My own self-respect is too brittle to indulge in this kind of retrospective self-analysis.

Those few ideas I do remember advocating at that age are making me blush even as we speak. Everything I then understood about the world could have fit into one book – of matches.

This gets Liz Truss off that particular hook, as far as I’m concerned. When I was the age she is now, 47, I had long since got rid of most of my stupid ideas. Hence I’m prepared to forgive her subversive republicanism, a crime committed before she reached the age of intellectual culpability.

Our brains don’t even get wired properly until a couple of years on either side of 25. This biological fact should dispose us to charitable leniency – but also to merciless denunciation of silly or wicked ideas surviving into a later stage in life.

Thus Miss Truss, already an accomplished politician, was 40 when she campaigned for Remain. I argued against it at such length then that I’d be too bored to repeat myself now. Suffice it to say that, whatever you may think of the intrinsic merits or demerits of the Remain position, it’s certainly not conservative – nor even Conservative.

In fact, it’s an implicit paraphrase of the same republican cause that Liz advocated with such vigour as a hormone-laden lass. For, should Britain belong to a single European state (which is what the EU will become or die in the attempt), there would be no legal distinction between Liz Truss and Liz Windsor.

Both would be socially and politically equal citizens of the EU, endowed with the same nebulous rights and charged with the same onerous duties. Again, whatever you may think of such a development, it definitely represents the kind of constitutional sabotage that no real Tory can possibly countenance.

Once Brexit prevailed, Miss Truss jumped on that bandwagon, but is she entitled to a free ride on having changed her views so radically? I’m not so sure. Feeling uncharacteristically charitable, I’m prepared to sit on the fence on this one.

But I jump off instantly when it comes to views I regard as not just misguided, but as evil. Hence, when a man remains a communist well into his 30s, not to say 40s, only then to undergo a change of heart and claim a conservative allegiance, I don’t accept him as an ally.

Required for such a metamorphosis isn’t a change of opinion, nor even a change of heart, but a drastic change of one’s personality. That means ditching every intuitive and temperamental presupposition of which our ideas are woven – a sheer impossibility, in other words.

One exception exists: a religious epiphany, a sort of Damascene experience. Crudely put, this is like picking up a lottery ticket off the pavement and then winning a zillion pounds.

The gift of riches would then come not from within, but from without. It would be a gift in its strictest sense, something presented instantly by an outside donor, in this case chance. No personal effort would be involved, no hard work, no painful philosophical ruminations.

However, barring that, I refuse to accept into the fold (my own, that is) any communist or other evil radical who added the ‘ex-’ preface in his mature age. That’s like saying that at age 38 he thought mass murder was perfectly acceptable, only to decide it wasn’t after all at 39.

As for Miss Truss, the jury is still out. Let’s see what verdict it will return. However, if I were her defending counsel, I’d be worrying.

P.S. On a related subject, I’ve just thought of the definition of old age. It’s when you stop worrying about undressing women and begin worrying about dressing yourself.

Why do Russians murder POWs?

In 1961 Hannah Arendt looked at the trial of Adolph Eichmann and was surprised. She expected to see a sadist, a perverted monster revelling in mass murder.

Hannah Arendt, who gave us ‘totalitarian’ and ‘banality of evil’

Instead, sitting in the dock was a hard-working bureaucrat who had taken the necessary steps towards career advancement. Eichmann had certain administrative skills and put them to the service of evil. In a different situation, he would have been transporting schoolchildren to summer camps, not prisoners to death camps. All in a day’s work.

Arendt then spoke of the “banality of evil”, as if she expected evil to be extraordinary. It isn’t, as anyone who has heard of original sin will tell you. Evil lurks in human nature, just waiting for propitious circumstances to come out and defeat equally innate virtue.

Yet all children of the Enlightenment are brought up on the presumption of human goodness. We are believed to be born in conditions of primordial virtue, and any reasonable person will put two and two together and realise it makes sense to be good.

Hence evil has to be purely visceral. The presumption of goodness doesn’t let us accept a situation where evil is done for rational reasons, especially on a mass scale.

This brings us to the question in the title.

That the horde of invading Russians includes many pathological, thoroughly brutalised sadists is evident to anyone who has followed the bandit raid on the Ukraine. Yet it would have been easy enough for the Russian officers to order that the bodies of horrendously mutilated Ukrainian POWs be hidden or otherwise disposed of.

Instead, they encourage turning that monstrosity into a global show, if not one for the whole family. That seems to make no sense.

After all, the laws of human nature haven’t yet been repealed. The response of Ukrainian soldiers to the sight of their comrades with various body parts missing and abdomens opened like a tin of sardines is entirely predictable. They are going to retaliate, aren’t they?

Of course they are. As it is, they are reluctant to take prisoners and only do so on explicit orders. Now they are going to shoot first and… I’d rather not even ponder what they might do second.

Since a certain number of combatants on both sides are always taken prisoner, the Russian command is depriving its soldiers of any chance to save their lives by surrendering in a hopeless situation. That has to drive up the KIA statistics, which seems like an unnecessarily stupid, or at least irrational, thing to do.

It isn’t though – and history explains why.

For the Russians did exactly the same thing in the Second World War. When the Wehrmacht advanced at a march speed between 22 June, 1941, and mid-1942, some five million Red Army soldiers found themselves in captivity.

Their lives were at the Nazis’ mercy, which wasn’t in good supply. In any case, no army in the world would have been able to look after five million POWs in compliance with the terms of the Geneva Convention (which the Soviets hadn’t signed anyway). Half of those men died of hunger, disease and neglect – which, alas, was inevitable.

Yet many others didn’t even make it to captivity. They were shot on the spot, and those were the lucky ones. For the advancing Nazi troops found in their path the bodies of their comrades taken prisoner by the Soviets and mutilated just like today’s heirs to the USSR are mutilating Ukrainian POWs.

That made the Nazis even more brutal than they were in the first place, and hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers bore the brunt of their savagery. But don’t accuse the Soviet command of stupidity. They got exactly the reaction they wanted.

They desperately wanted to discourage their soldiers from surrendering. Every one of them, from private to general, had to realise that his choice wasn’t between life and death. It was between dying as a hero fighting to the last breath and being tortured to death by the Germans.

The tactic worked: during the remaining three years of the war only 175,000 Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner – compared to five million in the first year. Much of that drop was due to the changing fortunes of war: the Russians went on the offensive, and, while the attacking side always tends to suffer heavier casualties, the number of its POWs goes down.

But it doesn’t normally go down by a factor of 25, as it did then, or rather 75 if we consider the time element. Much of the reduction was caused by the tactic I mentioned, augmented by other inhuman practices.

Stalin declared that the soldiers’ families were hostages to their valour. If any Red soldier was taken prisoner, his family automatically lost its ration cards, which often meant starving to death. And the Red Air Force routinely strafed columns and camps of Soviet POWs – this at the beginning of the war when one would have thought there were more vital targets on offer.

But turning the advancing army into raging beasts was an important part of the whole ploy. To the same end, NKVD units were left behind enemy lines to commit acts of senseless terrorism whose sole purpose was to force Germans to respond with violence against civilians (not that the Nazis took much forcing).

Thus, for example, when German troops entered Kiev, the NKVD blew up Kreshchiatik, the city’s main thoroughfare. Only a few Germans were killed, along with several hundred locals. The Germans predictably responded by taking and shooting hostages, thereby turning against them the very people who until then had been welcoming them as deliverers.

It’s drawing on such heritage that makes Russian officers encourage, and widely publicise, acts of inhuman savagery against Ukrainian POWs (and of course civilians).

At present, the number of Russian POWs is small for the Ukrainian army is fighting strictly defensive action. But all signs point to an impending counteroffensive, with the Russian army group in the Kherson area at risk of being cut off and surrounded.

That could produce thousands of POWs, but Putin’s thugs are trying to do their worst to make sure it won’t. They want to brutalise Ukrainian soldiers enough for them to commit such atrocities that Russian soldiers would prefer death to surrender.

So yes, evil is banal, Arendt was right about that. But it can also be perfectly rational, provided that reason is wielded by evil men.