A requiem for a good book

The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution, Yuri Slezkine, Princeton, 1096 pp, £29.95, ISBN 978 0 691 17694 9

The eponymous house was built in 1931 across the river from the Kremlin. It provided home for 2,665 tenants, of whom 700 were high officials who fell just short of rating apartments in the Kremlin itself.

The rest were members of their families extended in every possible direction, including previous wives with their new husbands, several generations of in-laws, and children sired by all of them on either side of the blanket.

Those trusted comrades didn’t remain trusted for long. When Stalin decided to do a little Government House cleaning, 800 of them were imprisoned or shot. The subsequent war put paid to another 300 or so.

Slezkine set out to produce a chronicle of most of those families. That part of the intent is commendable, but alas it isn’t the only part.

The book has two other thrusts, analytical and literary. The analytical part explains Slezkine’s explanation of Bolshevism; the literary part provides illustrative quotations from the Soviet literature of the time.

One thing that amazes me about this book is the universally laudatory reviews it has received. Some reviewers compare it to War and Peace and Slezkine to its author, some others claim that the book opened their eyes on this and that.

Well, it certainly opened my eyes: on the plight of bricklayers. For The House is the size and weight of an average brick, thereby placing inordinate demands on the reader’s muscles, especially in the upper arms and wrists. Just to think that some poor people have to handle hundreds of bricks every… But I digress.

Anyway, on the book’s subject matter, my eyes are open already and, when they aren’t, they are better off staying shut. However, as a wise friend of mine suggested, the book wasn’t written for me.

After all, I grew up a mile from the eponymous House and I know a fair amount about most of its residents. A few of them I even knew personally. I’ve also read most of the Soviet books Slezkine cites, or at least other books by the same authors.

Both the protagonists and the books formed part of my life for the first quarter-century of it, and since then I’ve read just about everything about the world that begat them. However, even though I’m attracted to the subject personally, emotionally and intellectually, I had to skip many pages of The House that added nothing to my knowledge and little to the narrative.

So fine, the book wasn’t written for me. But I’d be curious to know what reader Slezkine saw in his mind’s eye. An academic like him? But the book is aimed at a general audience. (If it weren’t, it would cost much more. For example, my slim volume on Tolstoy, inexplicably published as an academic tome, goes for £80 or more.)

Now I can’t for the life of me imagine a general reader, no matter how keenly he’s interested in Russian history, wading his way through the 1,096-page deluge of names, biographies and events most of which mean nothing to him. At my most jaundiced, I’d bet that even most of the reviewers didn’t read the book cover to cover.

Yet within those 1,096 pages, there’s a good 400-page book, buried alive. It suffocates, trying to scratch its way out of the rubble piled up on top, but never quite succeeds.

If exhumed, it would be interesting and enjoyable to read. For Slezkine is a lucid and elegant writer. Comparing him to Tolstoy in this regard is ludicrous, but he writes better than most historians this side of Gibbon.

Much as I appreciate his style, I admire his industry even more. Under no circumstances could I match the amount of painstaking research that fills The House to the brim. In fact, one often feels that Slezkine would be better off if he were a bit lazier.

It’s hard for any writer to activate the check valve controlling the flow of information, but Slezkine doesn’t even try. The same stories about the same people could have been told in half the space, and they would have been the better for it.

In the literary part of the book, Slezkine doesn’t seem to believe in quoting a paragraph or two when a full page can do as well. Show me a man who says he read every quotation in its entirety, and I’ll show you a liar – or else a critic.

However, excessive length is a minor quibble, especially if the reader’s biceps are strong enough to handle the book’s weight. It’s the analytical part that I find objectionable, and there parallels with Tolstoy are amply justified.

For Tolstoy almost succeeded in ruining the sublime prose of War and Peace with inane philosophical asides, mostly dealing with the determinist theory of history. The great writer thus taught subsequent generations a valuable lesson, which Slezkine didn’t heed.

Tolstoy’s sublime narrative survived the silly asides because it didn’t depend on them. But Slezkine’s philosophy is a peg on which his whole story hangs, and it’s too weak to support it.

To Slezkine, Bolshevism is another millenarian religion, just like Christianity was until believers realised that Jesus had misled them about the end of the world being nigh.

Hence Lenin is, mutatis mutandis, a modern answer to Jesus; the Bolshevik concept of sin is identical to Christ’s, as interpreted by Augustine; the Tenth Congress of the Party (which banned all opposition) is akin to the first Council of Nicaea; the CheKa isn’t unlike the Inquisition. Most important, the ghoulish residents of the House are like early Christians, fervent in their faith and prepared to do all it takes to spread it.

Slezkine doesn’t quite say that the sincerity of their faith justifies what they did on its behalf: murdering tens of millions and enslaving hundreds of millions. But, judging by his sympathetic treatment of some of the personages, this is an impression one could get.

Slezkine is an obvious atheist, as are some of my best friends. But, unlike him, they have enough self-awareness not to tread the terrain where they’re guaranteed to get lost. They also have the taste not to indulge in the waffle popular among the flower children of the ‘60s, along the lines of Jesus being a sort of Che Guevara of Galilee.

That’s exactly what Slezkine does, except that he pads the waffle with much intellectualising. However, in essence he’s no different on this score from those pimply vulgarians.

As a hard-working historian and good writer, Slezkine accurately describes the evil deeds perpetrated by the House’s residents. But as an atheist, he doesn’t understand the nature of evil.

Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, understood the true animus of Russian revolutionaries: they were demons, possessed by the devil. Had he lived to see their triumph, he would have observed that the only real purpose of mass murder is to murder masses.

Everything else is a self-vindicating cocoon. Few evil people realise they are evil ontologically, even though they’ll readily acknowledge the wicked nature of what they do. But they’ll try to deceive others and often themselves by claiming that what they do is necessary to achieve a higher, redemptive purpose.

Thus Lenin, Christ’s typological equivalent according to Slezkine, said that he didn’t care if 90 per cent of all Russians perished, as long as the remaining 10 per cent lived to see communism. Not quite Matthew 5-10, is it?

Slezkine should ponder the difference between religion and ideology. Religion, especially Christianity, teaches good. Ideology, especially Bolshevism, justifies evil. If he understood that, he wouldn’t sound like, to quote Chesterton, “the village atheist talking to the village idiot”.

I grieve for the good book buried under prolixity and inanity. Slezkine’s erudition and cultured pen deserve better.

From the loo to the toilet

“Language is only a means of communication” is a phrase that instantly identifies its utterer as an ignoramus, especially if used to justify sloppy grammar, puny vocabulary and nonexistent style.

He doesn’t know enough about language, doesn’t understand enough about communication and doesn’t have enough taste not to mouth truisms. What such a chap usually means is that language is like money: it has no intrinsic value and can only act as a means of exchange, in this case of bits of information.

This doesn’t quite explain, say, John Donne or William Shakespeare, who obviously treated language as an art form in itself. Yet in a broader sense than truism-obsessed dolts can imagine, language is indeed a means of communication.

It’s variably successful at communicating whatever it is the speaker wishes his audience to know, but it’s invariably unerring in communicating all there is to know about the speaker.

By way of illustration, let’s look at various words describing the room designated for discharging bodily waste. Most such words have one thing in common: they are euphemisms.

But that’s where the similarity ends. (All my subsequent remarks relate mainly to British, which is to say proper, English, although some of them may apply to any Anglophone sphere.)

‘Toilet’, for example, is a euphemism that identifies the speaker as a lower-class person with aspirations to gentility. The word originally comes from the French toilette, which means ‘dressing room’. When used to describe a room where, rather than dressing, people urinate and defecate, it’s a euphemism.

Squeamish to identify the area by its principal function, the speaker has to resort to a euphemism that, due to its French provenance, sounds sophisticated, which is what he tries to be. Hence he identifies his social class as rather low: truly sophisticated people don’t care whether or not they sound as such.

Moreover, one may add, sophisticated people tend to eschew euphemisms wherever possible.

However, thumbing one’s nose at euphemisms, one may have to resort to the reverse snobbery of words like ‘shithouse’ (which is curiously almost a homophone of the French chiotte). If the user of this Anglo-Saxon word isn’t a reverse snob, he’s a lout who’s proud of his loutishness. On balance, I prefer the reverse snob, but neither is appealing.

The problem is that all socially acceptable words for this facility are euphemisms. Take the more socially advanced terms ‘lavatory’ and ‘loo’.

The former means ‘washroom’, and in fact some colonials do pretend that washing or bathing is what that area is for. Hence Americans routinely refer to it as ‘bathroom’, which makes any Englishman worth his bath salt cringe.

Curiously, the British don’t use the word ‘crapper’, which has some currency in the lower reaches of the US.

The British mistakenly associate it with the crude term for faeces, whereas in fact this a case of what linguists call back formation. The crude word comes from the name of a perfectly respectable English gentleman, Thomas Crapper, who in the nineteenth century invented the flushing… whatever you call it.

A shortened version of ‘lavatory’, ‘lav’, betokens one of the better public schools or else the pretence of having attended one. Yet the euphemistic quality remains. And ‘loo’, which occupies a highish rung on the social ladder, reflects the English affection for silly word games.

The facility under discussion was originally called ‘water closet’ (WC for short). The English immediately realised that tagging ‘-loo’ to ‘water-’ gives them delicious memories of rubbing Frenchmen’s nose in the dirt. In due course, ‘loo’ left ‘water’ behind and began a life on its own.

While ‘WC’ is still sometimes used, mostly in pubs, as an inscription above an arrow, ‘closet’ left English and entered Russian as the euphemistic klozet.

What else? I’m always confused by doors identified as ‘Ladies’ and ‘Gentlemen’. Being manifestly neither a lady nor, less manifestly but just as surely, a gentleman, where am I supposed to go? Mercifully, I’m blessed with a robust bladder and a high tolerance for discomfort.

‘Men’ and ‘Women’ (or M and W for short) is unambiguous linguistically but anachronistic in every other sense. The polarity presupposes the belief that these are the only options in His Creation, which presupposition is being successfully and widely challenged.

A man pretending to be a woman is now entitled to relieve himself in the W facility, whereas a woman pretending to be a man is welcome at the M. So far I’ve been spared, as far as I know, the experience of using a urinal adjacent to one being irrigated by a recently reconstructed woman, but I doubt I’d like it.

We’re rapidly running out of options, without yet finding one that’s unobjectionable or indeed generic. What’s left?

Englishmen of the middle class and higher may at times use the word ‘bog’, which too is a euphemism, with a tinge of reverse snobbery – these days. In the days predating Thomas Crapper’s invention, people used open-air cesspits for this purpose, which must have ended up resembling a putrid swamp.

The word is therefore less euphemistic than the others, but it’s certainly no more mellifluous. One doesn’t expect words for this facility to caress one’s ear, but neither does one wish to have one’s ear grated.

My point is that any of these terms will convey cold information as well as any other. But they all convey so much more – and don’t let me get started on words denoting rooms in the house, different meals and whatnot.

Anyway, I have no time to go there: it’s my turn to cook tea today.

“We’re on to you, Vlad”

Well spoken, Prime Minister, shame about the dress

Opportunities to praise Mrs May are as rare as whale droppings, but yesterday she kindly provided one. In the process, she showed Trump how a residually free nation should talk to criminal regimes.

Then again, Mrs May has more reason to be cross with Putin’s junta: it was in London, not New York that it committed the world’s first and so far only act of nuclear terrorism.

“Russia’s actions…,” she thundered, “threaten the international order on which we all depend.”

She then provided a brief list of said actions, including “Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea [which] was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe.

“Since then, Russia has fomented conflict in the Donbas, repeatedly violated the national airspace of several European countries, and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption.

“This has included meddling in elections, and hacking the Danish ministry of defence and the Bundestag, among many others…

“So I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed.”

Mrs May probably has little experience dealing with neighbourhood Russian thugs, of whom Putin self-admittedly is one. So perhaps I can offer some unsolicited advice:

An appeal to their good side won’t work, even if accompanied by a litany of transgressions the thugs have committed. This will only elicit a scowl and a contemptuous question “So what are you gonna do about it?”.

The only thing to do about it is to deliver a hard punch on the nose – and then hold your own in the ensuing fight. Win, lose or draw, there’s every chance you’ll be left alone after that: thugs want to bully, not to fight.

But it takes two things to answer that question in such a decisive manner: muscular strength and, much more important, guts. Extrapolating to current geopolitics, the US may have the strength, but not the guts. The UK has neither.

So the preemptive punch option isn’t on the table. But something has to be, for otherwise Mrs May’s tough talk would be just that, talk.

But then she uttered a sentence that, perhaps inadvertently, constituted a veiled deadly threat to Putin’s junta, deadlier than any other any Western politician could possibly make.

We are, she said, “strengthening our cybersecurity and looking at how we tighten our financial regimes to ensure the profits of corruption cannot flow from Russia into the UK.”

Putin and his clique are, not to cut too fine a point, thieves. To their credit, that’s not all they are: their other pursuits include murder, blackmail, racketeering – and that’s before we talk about the activities that upset Mrs May so.

Further to their credit, they mostly steal not from us, but from their own country, robbing it blind. Some of the money stays in Russia, taking the shape of tasteless palaces, private jets and other trinkets too numerous to mention.

But the surplus far exceeds such expense items. What are they supposed to do with it? Put it into a Russian bank? Mention this possibility to any Russian, and he’ll smile sardonically.

Out of one corner of his mouth, he’ll be smiling at the very idea that a fortune, ill-gotten or otherwise, can possibly be kept in a country where property protection not only doesn’t exist now but has never existed – and where most criminal sentences have been accompanied by confiscation since, well, for ever.

The other corner will be used to smile at a naïve outlander who doesn’t realise that these people’s fortunes don’t belong to them. At best, they are leaseholders, with the freehold staying in the hands of the ruling junta.

They are the junta at the moment, but fortune is fickle in general, and in a gangster economy especially. At any second, they may be charged with a real or imaginary crime and dispossessed. What protects them is proximity to the leader, but he himself is a hostage to circumstance: a coup can oust him tomorrow, and he won’t be able to protect anybody’s fortune, including his own.

The conclusion is obvious: the money must be exported to the West, laundered and kept relatively safe from political upheavals. ‘Relatively’ is the operative word here: Putin’s typological predecessors showed that absolute security doesn’t exist.

In 1917 many prescient Russian moneybags transferred much of their wealth abroad in anticipation of the Bolshevik putsch. But, as Comrade Stalin said, “there are no fortresses Bolsheviks can’t take”.

The prescient ones were arrested and tortured until they coughed up the Western account numbers and passwords. If they managed to flee Russia, that fate befell their families. If the families fled too, well, to quote Joe Lewis, they could run, but they couldn’t hide. (Ask Mrs Litvinenko; she’ll tell you.)

Still, relative security is better than none, and Russian ‘oligarchs’, including the national leader, have managed to transfer to the West a neat sum estimated at a trillion dollars. The estimates of Putin’s cut vary from a derisory $40 billion to a healthy $200 billion, and even the lower amount would be a shame to lose.

Hence the deadly nature of Mrs May’s implied threat. For Western governments have the power to arrest those accounts or even, in an extreme scenario, confiscate them.

Whether or not Mrs May meant that, Vlad and his jolly friends could only interpret her words one way: “Boys, behave – or you can kiss your money good-bye”.

Such a development would represent a catastrophe worse than a nuclear strike on Moscow. The boys have prepared shelters deep enough and hard enough to protect them. The people they’ve robbed would perish, but you don’t seriously think this lot would care?

Their money on the other hand is the raison d’être of Putinism. Well, perhaps not the whole raison, but the way of keeping score in the diabolical game they’re playing. Losing it would mean losing the game.

Incidentally, it’s easy to determine which Russian money sitting in Western banks represents proceeds of criminal activity. All accounts in excess of a few hundred thousand are. All of them are an unmissable target.

So Mrs May is on to something. Whether she realises it or not.

“Women at Human Rights Chambers Complain of Sexual Harassment”

I usually try to come up with my own headlines, but my modest talents have proved inadequate to matching either the poignancy or the comic effect of this contribution in today’s Times.

Few headlines these days make me rejoice, fewer still call for jumping up, punching the air and screaming “Yes!!!”. Yet this one did the trick.

It’s hard to think offhand of any other line that could have a similar effect. Perhaps “RSPCA Staff Guilty of Cruelty to Animals”. Or “Blacks Excluded from Commission for Racial Equality”.

Or “Church of England: Let the Boys Wear Tiaras”… oops, sorry. This last one is another real headline, and it had no air-punching effect – quite the opposite. In fact, that was one of those rare instances when I was speechless.

Surely encouraging transvestism, transsexuality and other gender-bender perversions is the job for the government, not the Church? It’s downright presumptuous of the Archbishop of Canterbury to think that HMG needs God’s help in either reducing or increasing the number of sexes stipulated in Genesis.

So back to the story at hand. Matrix Chambers is the brain child of Cherie Booth, QC, better known as Mrs Tony Blair. If half the stories one hears about her are true, Mrs Blair represents an organic blend of Messalina, Lucrezia Borgia and Rosa Luxemburg, which makes her marriage to Tony one of those made in heaven.

She and a few other lawyers set up Matrix in 2000 to champion diversity and dedicate itself to the “promotion and advancement of women”. Yet a secret internal report proves that laws of nature (not to be confused with natural law) haven’t yet been repealed.

Actually, they have been repealed, but the news hasn’t quite reached the male lawyers of Matrix, who apparently are guilty of the worst, or at least the most fashionable, crimes. The moment those legal gentlemen doff their wigs, they’re out to subject their female colleagues to sexual harassment and salacious innuendo.

Moreover, such felonious outrages are “endemic in our profession”, according to a group of barristers called Behind the Gown. Actually, Under the Gown seems more appropriate.

No wonder the Matrix management ordered its 80 members to hush up the report because spilling the beans would be “highly corrosive”. They obviously know little about justice, at least that of the poetic variety. Nor do they possess sufficient sense of humour to enjoy the delicious irony as much as I do.

A number of female barristers working for Matrix clearly doubt not only the sexual probity of their organisation but also its professional competence. “We need to know,” they wrote, “that if something happened that required us to make a complaint, Matrix is equipped to handle it.”

I dare say that if an outfit employing 80 lawyers isn’t equipped to handle such a situation, criminally monstrous as it is, I don’t know who would be. Perhaps the Church of England – unless it’s too busy promoting degene…, sorry, I mean the equality of sexes, all 10 of them.

It’s also instructive that our female barristers think far ahead. Judging by their wording, and barristers do know how to express themselves precisely, nothing that would require them to make a complaint has happened yet. But, judging by the behaviour of their frisky colleagues, it might.

In the same vein, I’d like to know that, if something happened that required me to make a complaint that my car has been stolen, the police would be able to handle it. No, forget that. I know they wouldn’t be: their time is taken up investigating such crimes as people being called fat bastards, ginger tossers or black anything.

Now that I’ve vented some bile out of my system, two serious comments are in order.

First, the very existence of a legal speciality devoted to human rights is as offensive as the Church of England promoting degene…, sorry, I mean the equality of sexes. For, hard as I try, I can’t recall any great human rights lawyers of the past.

Solon? Cicero? Anyone closer to our own time? Earl of Mansfield perhaps? You’ll find that human rights law is a modern concoction, and a very recent one at that.

In the past, it was assumed that the English Common Law provided adequate protection for the ‘rights of Englishmen’, without any need for narrow specialisation. Simply upholding just laws was enough.

Then, at some point in Mrs Tony Blair’s and Mrs George Clooney’s lifetime, a need arose to defend human rights. Though deemed sufficiently protected before the advent of democracy and equality, they were now in jeopardy.

The idea appeals to me: my human rights are egregiously violated by the very existence of Mrs Tony Blair and Mrs George Clooney as public figures. But the inventors of this revolutionary idea must have had something else in mind.

The second serious observation is that every evil revolution does a Saturn by devouring its children. Many French demons went to the guillotine they loved so much. Many Russian demons perished in the terror they glorified.

The revolution under way now is, so far, less sanguinary, but it’s just as destructive – possibly more so. And it too is beginning to hit out at its perpetrators.

“None of it can be prevented,” wrote Seneca, “but it can all be despised.” And mocked. All we have left.

I envy Trump his innocence

Friendly waiters at my favourite Asian restaurant Ho Lee-Fook

In 1807, Napoleon and Alexander I met at Tilsit, where they signed the eponymous treaty. Exactly 210 years later, Trump and Putin met in Vietnam – and I wouldn’t dare push the parallel any further than that.

For five years after the Tilsit meeting the two countries were at war. Mercifully, judging by the cordiality between Donald I and Vlad II, no such conflict is on the cards.

In deference to their hosts, both leaders donned local garb, which made them look either like waiters at the fashionable Asian eatery Ho Lee-Fook or else superannuated Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.

Having served the paparazzi the perennial special Photoop Suey, the two waiters cum leaders had a friendly unofficial talk, making sure that nothing like the post-Tilsit hostilities will ever break out.

The meeting put paid to the greatest obstacle in the way of peace: the seemingly well-established fact that Putin meddled in the US elections. Never mind that all the hackers and trolls did their business from Russia – Vlad had nothing to do with that.

How can Donald be sure? Simple. Vlad told him so, and Donald has no reason not to take him at his word:

“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times … He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election… Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that. And I believe. I really believe when he tells me that he means it.”

Given such touching credulity, I’m amazed Donald had to ask so many times. Surely he knows by now that Vlad’s word is his bond.

As a good Presbyterian, Donald follows Christ’s entreaty to be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents. He’s at least halfway there: serpent-like wisdom still needs a bit of work, but dove-like innocence is there for all to see.

As an old cynic myself, I envy this ability to trust other human beings. Donald must have benefited hugely from his professional life spent in the rarefied moral atmosphere of property development in places like Atlantic City.

It’s clear that Donald can’t even imagine other people lying to him because he himself has never told a lie. And he learned to spare the other man’s feelings too – who in his line of work has ever offended anyone?

Thus Donald understandably rues that Vlad “is very insulted” by such vile allegations. As well he should be: George Washington with his cherry tree has nothing on Vlad’s unimpeachable honesty… sorry, I shouldn’t use any cognate of ‘impeach’ within a few words of mentioning Donald.

Had Donald already achieved serpent-like wisdom to complement his dove-like innocence, he would have stopped to consider Vlad’s form before accepting his words as gospel.

He would have asked himself a question that naturally comes to old cynics like me. Supposing that Vlad did meddle in the elections, how would he have replied to Donald’s point-blank enquiry?

“But of course, Donald, I did. You know it, I know it, the whole bloody world knows it. Are you complaining? Remember I did it for you. You and I, mate. We’re like two jaws of the same vice – we’ll squeeze the living bejeesus out of the world…”?

Donald is no lawyer, but counsel at criminal trials tend to ask a series of questions aimed at establishing the witness’s record of ‘truth and veracity’. If he’s shown to be a serial liar, his testimony is either thrown out or at least treated with caution.

Still, even without the benefit of legal background, Trump ought to have reminded himself of Vlad’s professional life, spent in a considerably less rarefied atmosphere than Donald’s own.

It started in the KGB Second Chief Directorate, responsible for combatting dissent. Fair enough, Vlad had no need to tell any lies there. He could tell any dissident that he’d send him to a camp, where murderers would queue up for his favours – and keep his word.

But then Vlad was transferred to the First Chief Directorate, whose remit was spying on the West and spreading disinformation, which is to say lies, about the Soviet Union.

Hence lying can’t possibly be as alien to him as it seems to be to Donald. In fact, the ability to lie believably was an ironclad requirement in Vlad’s pre-government job.

His first government job was that of deputy mayor of Petersburg, where in 1992 the Council commission headed by Marina Salye investigated Vlad’s record of truth and veracity.

Among other choice bits, the resulting dossier shows that Putin signed deals to export $100 million worth of raw materials in exchange for food. The raw materials dutifully left Russia. No food came back in return – this at a time of rationing in Petersburg.

The dossier also states that Putin’s “quest for personal enrichment and absence of any moral barriers became obvious at the very onset of his career.” But people do change, and it’s possible Vlad had his Damascene experience when becoming the national leader.

Alas, he didn’t. He has lied about every major event occurring in Russia on his watch, and quite a few minor ones.

He lied about those blown-up apartment blocks, staged by the FSB to kick off the second Chechen war and tighten Putin’s grip on power.

He lied about having nothing to do with any murders of dissidents, from Politkovskaya and Starovoitova to Litvinenko and Nemtsov – and hundreds of others, including dozens of journalists.

He lied that the Crimean invasion was executed by the ‘little green men’ who had nothing to do with the Russian army.

He lied that pogroms had been committed against Russians in the Ukraine.

He lied that the Russian army played no role in the subsequent aggression against the Ukraine.

He lied that the airliner Flight MH17 wasn’t shot down by a Russian missile.

He lied about his state sponsoring industrial-scale doping of Olympic athletes.

He lied about having nothing to do with money laundering, through Panama and other offshore havens.

We could be here all day: a tissue of lies is being spun every hour of every day by every Russian spokesman, every print and broadcast medium, and Putin personally.

Then again, we could echo Bertie Russell and argue that the sun doesn’t have to rise tomorrow just because it rose yesterday. Yes, that was a clear-cut fallacy, but still: just because Vlad has never uttered a word of truth in his life, it doesn’t mean he’s lying in this case.

I am trying to develop Donald’s innocence (and Bertie’s philosophical depth) to believe that. I’ll let you know how I get on.

JFK was killed by a KGB agent

Now that, courtesy of President Trump, some archival data on the Kennedy assassination have been declassified, interesting documents are coming to light.

Some of them were published in The New York Times on 26 October, and I have the Russian journalist Piontkovsky to thank for bringing the article to my attention.

Those who are constantly on alert for conspiracy theories needn’t worry. Yes, the uncovered documents confirm what any Russian (or anyone who really understands Russia, which in practice means, well, a Russian) knows anyway, that Oswald was a KGB agent. But no, they don’t prove that killing Kennedy was his assignment.

The documents prove the existence of only one conspiracy: that of staggering ignorance on the part of Western intelligence services and their academic consultants when it comes to Russia – in her Soviet or post-Soviet incarnations.

They may know the facts, but they typically don’t have a clue how to interpret them, including those in the public domain. For any Russian, the whole Oswald story smells fishier than Billingsgate first thing in the morning.

In 1959 Oswald, a young American left-winger, emigrated to the Soviet Union in search of millenarian happiness. So far so good – quite a few Western ‘idealists’ were tropistically attracted to the land of concentration camps.

However, and here Oswald’s story again follows a familiar pattern, by 1962 he realised that millenarian happiness was too elusive. So much so that even Oswald, a man of limited intellect, realised it might not exist.

Unlike Adam, he wanted to leave the paradise of his own accord, of which desire he informed the KGB. Nothing earth shattering there: the KGB supervised Oswald’s stay.

At this point the official story becomes less credible. For the KGB magnanimously allowed Oswald to leave, even at the risk of the Americans squeezing a lot of propaganda value out of the incident.

Such generosity wasn’t completely out of the question, but it was unlikely. At that time, thousands of Americans, some former ‘idealists’ like Oswald, some POWs stuck in Eastern Europe at the end of the war, some kidnap victims, were languishing in Soviet concentration camps or in exile.

They were desperately trying to return home, but to no avail – partly because the State Department wasn’t really interested. The peace process had to survive at any cost, didn’t it?

But fine, Oswald got lucky. The doors of the paradise were flung open, and he was ready to leave. What follows crosses the fine line separating unlikely from impossible.

For this Adam had his Eve, a model Soviet citizen called Marina Prusakova. Lee and Marina fell in love, got married and wanted to leave together. And the KGB let them.

Now anybody who lived in the USSR at that time will tell you that this is neither unlikely nor improbable – it’s utterly impossible. As a rule, Westerners married to Russian women could never get them out. In those few instances when they could, it took the man many years of banging on every door and finally getting the support of his government to see his beloved again.

Yet here we have, for all intents and purposes, an American traitor to the Soviet paradise, who’s not only allowed to leave but gets the divine dispensation to take his wife with him. This could only be possible if the happy couple – or at least Oswald – had been recruited as KGB agents.

On 26 September, 1963 (Kennedy was shot on 22 November), Oswald travelled to Mexico City, where he met officials of the Soviet embassy – this much is known.

However, the newly declassified documents identify his contact there: Valery Kostikov, of the KGB Thirteenth Chief Directorate, responsible for assassinations and sabotage. At first, Kostikov, the Directorate’s principal officer in the Western hemisphere, talked to Oswald in the presence of two other Russians, then for the next 20 minutes on his own.

What did they talk about? Mexican food? We don’t know. So far there’s no proof that the KGB told Oswald to shoot Kennedy, and we should deal with facts, not conjecture.

One such fact is that less than two months later Oswald did shoot Kennedy, and the Russians quaked in their knee-high boots, thinking that a friendly visit from SAC (US Strategic Air Command) was imminent.

The last thing they wanted was to be in any way implicated in the assassination. And here we’re treated to another declassified document that puts to shame the Brothers Grimm, Hans-Christian Andersen and all other spinners of fairy tales.

On 4 December, 1963, a CIA agent in Moscow submitted a report based on “reliable information” from “a highly placed source”. US intelligence services accepted this information as authentic – which would have been risible to any Russian child at the time:

A source who has furnished reliable information in the past advised on Dec. 4, 1963 that the news of the assassination was greeted in Moscow by great shock and consternation and church bells were toiled in the memory of President Kennedy. According to our source, officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believed there was some well-organized conspiracy on the part of the ‘ultralight’ in the US to effect a ‘coup’.

He meant ‘tolled’, not ‘toiled’, and ‘ultra-right’, not ‘ultralight’, but never mind the language. Feel the lies.

The Soviet Union was a militantly atheist country. Churches there were razed or converted to warehouses. One anti-religion campaign followed another, and in fact one such was at its peak in 1963.

Only 38 churches were still open in Moscow, a city of seven million people – and their bells never tolled (take it from me, I was 16 at the time). That church bells would toll for Kennedy would have been as likely as Khrushchev ending one of his interminable speeches by crossing himself and saying “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”.

Any CIA analyst, in fact any halfway educated person, should have instantly identified the source of the “reliable information”: the KGB First Chief Directorate, responsible for disinformation.

That art involves telling the enemy what he wants to hear and therefore is likely to believe. Westerners, Americans in particular, have always wanted to believe that at heart the Russians are just like them. At the time, many Americans were religious, and hence even their Russian experts were ready to swallow the canard of those bells ‘toiling’ all over Moscow.

Just as now they’re eagerly swallowing the canard of the veteran of the same First Chief Directorate leading Russia on a path to Christian virtue. It’s the same bells, ‘toiling’ just as deafeningly.

Good job we didn’t have a balanced cabinet then

Germany’s previous attempt to unite Europe

First, let me offer you some in-depth political insight, based on my intimate familiarity with Westminster ins and outs, extensive life experience, understanding of human nature and acute aesthetic sense:

There’s no doubt that our new International Development Secretary Penelope ‘Penny’ Mordaunt is tastier than Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom and even David Davis. Her thighs in particular are most noteworthy.

If you wish to contest this conclusion, I suggest you Google numerous photographs of Penny wearing swimsuits. The pictures show her to be slightly on the heavy side, but generally falling into the ‘I would’ category.

Considering that our field of political talent currently lies fallow, with little chance it’ll ever be sown again, this ought to be a sufficient qualification for a cabinet position. Add to this Miss Mordaunt’s impeccable Brexit credentials and the fact that she has the same Christian name as my wife, and I dare you to find a better candidate.

However, reading the newspaper accounts of Miss Mordaunt’s elevation, one gets the impression that she wasn’t promoted on the basis of her thighs, cleavage or Christian name. Her Brexit credentials did have something to do with it, but in a convoluted way.

Apparently, “Theresa May bowed to Eurosceptic demands to maintain the delicate Cabinet balance on Brexit,” and “Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said it would be wrong to tip the balance in the cabinet further [my emphasis] in favour of Remainers.”

Verily I say unto you, our political system is getting more nervous by the minute. So our cabinet shouldn’t be balanced in favour of Remainers more than it already is.

Suddenly it dawns on me that my grasp of politics isn’t as firm as I hubristically thought. In fact, I realise I understand nothing, even though I’m still clinging on to my aesthetic appreciation of Miss Mordaunt’s thighs.

My whole world has gone topsy-turvy, with every certitude stamped into the dirt. However, out of sheer nostalgia, let me tell you what those certitudes were.

Brexit is one of the most critical constitutional issues in British history and by far the most critical one in the past 25 years. At stake here is the sovereignty of the realm, which is exactly the situation Britain faced in 1940.

The parallel shouldn’t be pushed too far. Mrs Merkel is no Hitler, and her country today isn’t exactly the Third Reich. While Germany is again the principal agent of European unification, she so far achieves her goal without relying on Stukas and Tigers. And, though we’re constantly bombarded with pro-EU propaganda, we aren’t being bombarded with anything more explosive.

But that doesn’t mean that no parallel exists. If Brexit doesn’t go through (and there’s every possibility it won’t), Britain will be no more sovereign than she would have been had the events of 1940 gone the other way.

Britain then stuck to the principle best expressed by the great Jesuit Matteo Ricci (d. 1610): “Simus, ut sumus, aut non simus” (We shall remain as we are or we shall not remain at all). And the War Cabinet was formed to put this principle into practice.

Though led by the Conservatives, the cabinet was an ad hoc coalition including such arch-Labourites as Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin. Hence different parties were represented in the cabinet – but not different approaches to the problem at hand.

Churchill didn’t strive to balance the hawks and doves in his cabinet. All its members were united in their unwavering commitment to preserve Britain’s sovereignty founded on her ancient constitution.

In fact, Churchill delivered a most unbalanced speech, explaining his philosophy of cabinet appointments: “If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.”

And he practised what he preached: Churchill didn’t appoint Neville Chamberlain, Ramsey MacDonald and Oswald Mosley to maintain a ‘delicate Cabinet balance’ between defence and appeasement. He welcomed the diversity of party affiliation, but not the diversity of patriotism.

This brings us to the present day, when Britain’s sovereignty is imperilled as much as it was then, albeit with no Luftwaffe bombs levelling London’s East End.

However, the need for a balanced cabinet seems to be taken for granted even by the conservative press, such as it is. I don’t get this.

There’s no more important function in any government than defence of the realm, meaning the safeguarding of the realm’s sovereignty. Following the plebiscite of 23 June, 2016, HMG undertook to do just that and, in due course, activated Article 50, thus pushing the button for exit.

We’re out, which is the opposite of in. The two opposites are mutually exclusive. What’s there to balance? The commitment to sovereignty and absence thereof? As I say, I just don’t get this.

A message to Honourable and other members of the cabinet: Brexit is no longer an issue to argue about. It’s an official policy to carry out. Those who disagree with this policy or refuse to carry it out don’t belong in government – it’s as simple as that.

I’d argue they don’t belong in Parliament either, but, to use the wishy-washy jargon of our politics (and so many editors I’ve met), such a view is too ‘controversial’ and ‘not at all helpful’.

So I won’t say it. Instead, I’d like to redirect your attention to Miss Mordaunt’s thighs, which, as far as I can tell, are in perfect balance.

Her Majesty is taught modern morality

Jeremy Corbyn’s best wishes to Her Majesty

Fire-eating republicans must be blessed with a heightened moral sense, reaching cosmic altitudes inaccessible to most people.

This conclusion is hard to escape looking at the people who are most vociferous in castigating the Queen’s investment strategy. Apparently, Her Majesty “minimised her tax exposure”, to use City jargon, by putting some of her money into offshore shelters.

In some quarters, this practice is called tax avoidance, which is legal, as opposed to tax evasion, which isn’t.

Now not even the Queen’s fiercest critics think that Her Majesty personally makes her financial decisions, or issues to her advisers instructions along the lines of “One wishes to screw one’s government out of every penny one can.”

Nor do they suggest that tax avoidance is illegal. However, they insist that there exists a higher morality than that codified in statutes.

As a Christian, I welcome this sentiment on general principle. In case of conflict, heavenly morality laid down in Exodus and Matthew does trump human laws any day of the week and twice on Sundays. (Yes, I know it’s a tired cliché, but it seems appropriate in this context.)

The trouble is that Her Majesty’s detractors are guided by a higher morality of a different sort from that laid down in Exodus and Matthew and widely reaffirmed on Sundays. Their God isn’t that of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They worship at the altar of another deity: the state.

Their main, one is tempted to say only, article of faith was tersely formulated by that great socialist Benito Mussolini: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

Comrade Corbyn, who’s particularly aghast at the Queen’s sharp practices, hasn’t to my knowledge professed admiration for Mussolini. His sympathies gravitate more towards Lenin and Trotsky, which is understandable.

Mussolini is seen in Corbyn’s circles as a heretic who betrayed true socialism. As proof of his treachery, he only managed 1,624 political convictions in the 20 years he was in power.

What kind of socialism is that? Where’s the red on tooth and claw? Comrade Corbyn’s idols murdered tens of millions – now that’s really keeping with Marx’s prescriptions.

Yet, acknowledged or not, Mussolini’s adage is the leitmotif of all types of socialism, be it communist, democratic, fascist or Nazi. Whatever their differences (and these shouldn’t be downplayed even in the heat of debate), they all converge on state worship. Guided by this creed, they logically regard as either illegal or at least immoral anything that diminishes the power of the state over the individual.

Obviously, the more money the state extorts from an individual, the less independent from the state will the individual become. Hence socialists are doctrinally compelled to define taxation not so much in fiscal as in moral terms.

Taxation for them has above all a punitive purpose: it punishes individual pursuit of financial independence, just as socialised medicine and education punish individual pursuit of health and learning.

If socialists are pressed on the issue of, say, the NHS, they’ll spin a fine yarn about equality, fairness and whatnot. But at the heart of their animadversions lies fanatical adoration of state power.

The type of state doesn’t really matter. Charles Lindbergh, for example, used to add 10 per cent to his tax bill because he was “proud to be an American”. He must have been equally proud of being an ardent fan of that great statist Adolf Hitler.

Logically, socialists see no difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Legality be damned – it’s their perverse notion of morality that they use as the yardstick. They may even agree that a chap can spend his money better than the state can spend it for him. That point doesn’t become any more relevant for being true.

One has to emphasise here that, unlike Lindbergh, our socialists feel that way about other people’s money, not their own. When it comes to their personal finance, wealthy socialists look for tax shelters as intently as do Her Majesty’s advisers. Hypocritical?

Not really. That’s like saying a priest who lusts after women (or even men) has no right to celebrate Mass. When he’s at the altar, he’s no longer an individual but a conduit of higher truth. Except that, unlike socialism, his higher truth is indeed both high and true.

Intelligent socialists, which may be an oxymoron, have to be republicans. They correctly see monarchy, blessed by the Church even if it may not be ordained by God, as a denial of the modern political state – or at least a natural check on its excesses.

Because they hate our monarchy, socialists jump at any chance to besmirch our monarch. That Corbyn, whose hatred of traditional institutions is nothing short of maniacal, should lead the charge stands to reason.

He isn’t even smart enough to conceal his animus. For example, the other day Comrade Corbyn took some time from the celebration of the Bolshevik centenary to express his admiration for Mary Wollstonecraft (d. 1797).

Miss Wollstonecraft rated Corbyn’s love for two reasons: she was a precursor of feminism and “was excited by the radical opportunities the French Revolution could bring.”

The Revolution actually realised one of the radical opportunities so exciting to Wollstonecraft and Corbyn: the beheading of the king and queen. Corbyn doubtless casts a wistful retrospective eye at that event and sees our own sovereign laying her head on the block.

The republican, monarchy hater and state worshipper come together within Corbyn’s breast, and it’s this convergence that animates his harangues about Her Majesty’s investments.

I’d suggest a different take on the morality of taxation. It’s the moral duty of any intelligent conservative, which may be a tautology, to shield every possible penny from the state’s grubby fingers.

The same logic followed by Corbyn here applies in reverse. By exhausting every legal means of avoiding taxes, we assert the power of the individual over the state. When it comes to politics, I know of no higher morality.

Let children vote?!?

Our next electorate, as foreseen by William Golding

Rather than being lowered to 16, the voting age should be raised to at least 25. This seems like an unassailable idea, based on empirical evidence and common sense.

Grown-up decisions must be made by grownups. However, those same people who’d laugh at the idea of letting 16-year-olds dispose of their family budget believe that the youngsters are amply qualified to make potentially vital decisions for the whole country.

Rather than being told to do number one and go to bed, children will soon be told they can stay up until they decide who should govern us. Voting is their inalienable right, and somehow our franchise is woefully incomplete without them.

Shadow (meaning next) Home Secretary Diane Abbott, whose claim to fame is mainly based on her past cohabiting with Jeremy Corbyn and posing nude for his friends, certainly thinks so.

“I believe in votes at 16,” she declared recently. “If you’re old enough to fight for your country, you’re old enough to vote.”

Diane was widely mocked for not knowing that soldiers can’t be selected for combat until they’re 18, and this indeed is a lamentable lacuna in our next Home Secretary’s education. Yet few argued against the essence of her argument, or its logic.

Few noticed that the erstwhile beauty’s statement is an out-and-out non sequitur. My usual counterargument is that 16-year-olds can play professional football, but they can’t manage a professional football team. And if, by some mad oversight, one were allowed to do so, the team would be playing pub football next season.

Then again, I consider the source and crack an indulgent, avuncular smile. I suspect that posing nude for Jeremy’s friends just may be the most intelligent thing Diane has ever done or said.

Yet apparently the Tory MP Dominic Raab agrees with her: he believes puberty is a sufficient qualification, and I thought he was a reasonable, Brexit-voting young man.

I suggest Dominic and other paedocrats read Golding’s Lord of the Flies or, if they prefer a shorter statistical account to a longer fictional one, the recent poll published in The Washington Times. They’ll know exactly what to expect when children get the vote, which is to say power.

The survey asked 2,300 ‘millennials’ (those aged 16 and 17), whether they’d prefer to live in a socialist, communist or fascist nation rather than a capitalist one.

The poll was flawed because the right end of the political spectrum was identified by a Marxist term, as if liberal movement of capital were fully synonymous with political goodness. It isn’t, as anyone who knows anything about today’s China can confirm.

But ‘capitalism’ is widely used shorthand, and of course many Americans do see it – rather than, say, the rule of law, limited power of the state, Christian virtue or keeping the US equivalents of Diane Abbott from government – as the most inclusive single-word term.

Be that as it may, a landslide majority of 58 per cent opted for one of the three awful systems, with socialism leading the other two by a wide margin. Do you understand now why the Left are so passionate about expanding the franchise?

Their thinking is the same as it was when Tony Blair cynically enlarged the voting population by inviting a million Muslims into the country. He and his jolly friends knew they’d benefit from any expansion of the franchise beyond the small core of Her Majesty’s subjects who may vote responsibly.

Why the nice Mr Raab supports this frankly subversive idea is less immediately obvious, but then one must consider the generally low grade of human material out of which our governments are constructed. This observation is genuinely cross-party, and it applies just about everywhere.

Granted, a similar poll in Britain might yield different results, but somehow one doubts it. Hearing grown-ups almost invariably talk infantile, inane, illiterate rubbish whenever politics comes up makes one shudder at the thought of their children choosing our governments.

Incidentally, the same poll showed a wide admiration for communist icons. Thus 31 per cent had a favourable view of Che Guevara, 32 per cent of Karl Marx, 23 per cent of Lenin and 19 per cent of Mao.

Incomprehensibly, Stalin polled a mere six per cent, and my friend Vlad Putin is going to hear about this. His propaganda machine must have stalled at some point. I told you to put me in charge of RT, Vlad: American youngsters would now think Stalin was the best friend the West ever had.

Raising the voting age wouldn’t prevent a catastrophe (such as Diane Abbott as Home Secretary and her ex-paramour as PM), but it might delay its advent. Lowering it, however, is guaranteed to hasten a catastrophe so much that even wrinklies like me may see it in their lifetime.

Perish the thought.

100 years of history’s purest evil

Perhaps I should have written “prior history’s” for the evil of Bolshevik Russia went on to be matched by others: Nazi Germany, Mao’s China, Khmer Rouge and so forth.

But they were all inspired by the event whose centenary is still celebrated today by many Russians, including those who run the country. And the mummy of the syphilitic ghoul Lenin, the principal energumen of the satanic event, still adorns Red Square, holy relics to be worshipped.

The putsch of 7 November, 1917, introduced not just a new regime, but a new concept of a regime: one declaring war on its own people and the rest of the world, and waging that war with inhuman savagery on a scale never even approached before.

Historians are still arguing whether Bolshevism was a denial of Russian history or its natural continuation, which generally follows the line of debate between ‘Slavophiles’ and ‘Westernisers’ in the nineteenth century.

Over the past 30-odd years, the late Solzhenitsyn and his like-minded followers have been preaching the ideas of the first group, according to which Russia was destined to carry out a messianic mission. Granted, she wasn’t perfect in every respect: serfdom, for instance, had few supporters. But on balance Russia was better than the West, more godly, more spiritual, less mercantile.

Had Judaeo-Masonic-Western Marxism not been transplanted onto Russia’s sacred body, the country would have eventually become something like Norway, larger and marginally less prosperous, but with an extra spiritual dimension.

This school sees pre-Revolutionary Russian history as a steady march towards a mystically tinged bright future – suddenly interrupted by alien revolutionaries (many of them Jews, an important factor for the Slavophiles), in no way linked with Russia’s people or history.

The other group, best represented in the West by the Harvard professor Richard Pipes, insists on a steady, organic evolution of the Russian state from its inception to the present day. Most of the Soviet institutions are therefore traced back to their embryos as conceived in old Russia.

The Cheka thus goes back to the nineteenth-century Privy Chancellery or possibly even to Preobrazhensky prikaz (Peter I’s secret police), Soviet internal troops to Ivan IV’s oprichnina, the GULAG to the Tsar’s penal colonies (katorga), collective farms to the peasant communes, and so forth. Underpinning them all is the Russian national character that, though slightly corrupted by some 70 years of bolshevism, has remained virtually unchanged through the centuries.

Both groups are partly right, meaning they’re both partly wrong.

The Russian state has been variably wicked from its inception. The great poet Lermontov’s reference to “unwashed Russia, a land of masters, land of slaves” has pertained throughout history. Thus Russia’s body always carried within itself the cancerous cells of the worst tyranny the world has ever known.

However, pre-Revolutionary Russia wasn’t the worst tyranny the world has ever known, and only a rank determinist would argue that those cells absolutely had to metastasise. It’s a fallacy to think that, because things happen, they were bound to happen.

Russia would never have developed a Western-type state because it isn’t a Western-type country. Its political ethos was formed by a volatile mix of Byzantium and the Mongol Horde, not by Western polity. The resulting millennium of enslavement has left an indelible mark on the national character, corrupting both masters and slaves.

But there’s no reason Russia couldn’t have become a more or less benign autocracy and a decent place for people to live. In fact, it began to show signs of becoming just that towards the end of the nineteenth century.

Then several tectonic plates slammed together, and the volcano of evil tyranny bubbling at Russia’s core erupted. There were indeed several plates: humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, the tsar’s incredible stupidity in dragging Russia into the meat grinder of the First World War – and of course the demonic energy of a small group of cannibalistic ghouls led by Lenin.

Because a similarly evil group had never taken over a major country before then, neither the Russians nor anybody else quite knew what to make of it. Evil is the operative word here, not Marxism.

To be sure, Marxism is an evil ideology, and Lenin’s gang used it almost to its full potential. But for them, Lenin and Stalin in particular, Marxism was a weapon, not the target.

The target was to spread the same brand of evil over the whole world and, when Marxist slogans served that purpose, they were used. When they got in the way, they were abandoned, as, for example, when Lenin introduced the NEP (New Economic Policy), mitigating to some extent state control over the economy.

Once they took over, the ghouls proceeded to do what ghouls do: eat human flesh. They did so figuratively; millions of peasants had to do it literally – murderous famines broke out immediately after the putsch, claiming millions of victims.

Parents were eating their children, scavenging was rife: corpses were routinely used for nourishment. You can find on the net many harrowing photographs to that effect.

The ghouls did their bit by more direct action too: some two million were executed judicially on Lenin’s watch (he died in 1924, but was effectively out of power at least a year earlier), but that doesn’t begin to tell the story.

Untold and uncounted millions were simply shot out of hand or tortured to death without even a travesty of justice; millions more perished of starvation and disease; 10 million died in the war Lenin started against his own people (this is known as the Civil War). And Stalin was still to come.

Slated for total annihilation were the educated classes: aristocracy, intelligentsia, professionals, officers, clergy. Of the latter, 40,000 priests were murdered during the same period.

The official version is that they were shot, but few were so lucky. Priests were crucified, flayed alive, cut to ribbons, eviscerated, turned to ice by having cold water poured over them in minus 20 weather – and I’ll spare you the really graphic details.

The Soviet Union was formed in 1923, and its national emblem provided a pictorial statement of intent: hammer and sickle superimposed on the whole globe. Under Stalin, the ghouls tried to make it a reality, and only Hitler’s preemptive strike stopped them in their tracks. In the end they had to content themselves with only half of Europe, not all of it.

Altogether, during the 70-odd years they were in business, the ghouls murdered some 60 million of their own subjects (the most credible estimate) and, under Stalin, turned the whole country into a blend of concentration and military camps. At least five, but more likely 10, million perished in the famines the Soviets created deliberately in the Ukraine and elsewhere – and don’t think for a second the Ukrainians have forgotten this.

Democide was accompanied by genocide: whole peoples were deported to uninhabitable parts of Siberia and Kazakhstan. Some 25 per cent of the Balts were killed, imprisoned or deported, along with practically all the Chechens and Crimean Tartars – and don’t think for a second any of them have forgotten this.

The untold misery produced by the Soviets is well-documented, but less understood is the moral damage that pure evil has done not only to Russia but to the whole world. For the birthday boy of a state expanded the boundaries of the possible ad infinitum.

The Soviets lit the path for evil to triumph on a scale never before imagined. Murdering people in their millions by category set a fine example to follow, and many did follow it.

The Nazis, for example, were eager and able pupils. Soviet maestros happily shared with them their experience of setting up and running concentration camps, for example. The NKVD and Gestapo even formed a Friendship Society, with Stalin’s and Hitler’s blessing. Amazingly, it remained active, if on a limited scale, throughout the war.

Such an eruption of evil doesn’t just kill bodies; it corrupts souls – and not only at its epicentre. All those fellow-travellers in the West, Lenin’s ‘useful idiots’, proved one didn’t have to be Russian to be morally infected by Soviet wickedness. Churchill correctly identified Lenin as a ‘plague bacillus’, but the spread of the contagion was global, even if it created the worst pandemic in Russia proper.

Such was the regime whose collapse Putin described as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”. It wasn’t. There were two real geopolitical catastrophes on the same site: the birth of Lenin’s satanic regime and its continuous survival in a new incarnation.

Any sin can be forgiven if sincerely repented. Yet no such repentance has occurred in Russia, as it did in Germany. And no wonder: vindicating the First Law of Thermodynamics, the Soviet regime hasn’t disappeared – it has merely changed its form.

And the new form is reverting to the old, for Putin’s propagandists in the media, academy and education are slowly restoring Lenin’s and Stalin’s reputations. Yes, they say, there might have been a downside to the Soviet regime, but think of its pluses.

Woe to anyone who can believe that a satanic regime devouring millions has any pluses at all. Such a person hasn’t just set his moral scales wrongly – he has thrown them out of the window. Vindicators of evildoers become their accomplices.

Stalin’s self-panegyric is repeated ad nauseam: he took the country with a wooden plough and left it with an atom bomb. Personally, I prefer the plough, especially if the atom bomb is used for the evil purpose of blackmailing the world – and if, for it and its equivalents to be created, tens of millions were murdered and hundreds of millions enslaved.

Bolshevik ghouls are officially portrayed in Russia as honest idealists, dedicated if at times misguided nation builders. Admittedly, they might have committed some crimes (this is whispered, not said). But do let’s keep things in balance.

Putin’s mouthpiece-in-chief Kisilev put it in a nutshell on Russia’s main TV channel: “We can’t, nor should, condemn everything Soviet… Our Lenin. And our USSR. Lenin moved Russia to make a megadream come true. He staged a great social experiment… In that sense, Lenin is a hero.”

Now imagine the worldwide outcry if Merkel’s mouthpiece said something similar about Hitler, who also ‘staged a great social experiment’. Yet Kisilev’s harangue went unnoticed and unreported in our press.

Part of the reason is that Putin has his own herd of Western ‘useful idiots’, except that his lot come from the Right. These people, driven to despair by their own governments, are eager to swallow, feathers and all, the canard of a new Russia run by a new KGB (85 per cent of Russia’s leadership including its church hierarchs are career KGB officers or agents).

Because the current evil government advances its cause by using nationalist, rather than internationalist, slogans, it appears to some as a useful alternative to our own globalist spivs. For similar reasons many Westerners saw Hitler as the only viable alternative to Stalin.

Overlooked is the frankly criminal nature of Putin’s regime, different as its criminality may be from the Soviets’ in some details. Unlike Lenin and Stalin, Putin only murders his opponents in their thousands, not millions. Unlike them, he allows Russians to leave – and millions have taken advantage of that laxity, many of them to spread the tale of the present good tsar over the West.

But in every moral sense, Putin and his gang are worthy heirs to the blood-sucking Bolsheviks. They don’t even bother to conceal it: Lenin statues are standing where they’ve always stood; Stalin statues are coming out of warehouses and going up all over Russia; Russian schoolchildren are taught that Stalin was above all an administrator of genius, a fair if stern father of the country.

Putin’s sponsoring organisation, now under a new name if the same management, is involved in global subversion as actively as the Soviets ever were. Just like Stalinists, Putinists viciously pounce on their weaker neighbours. And just like Stalinists, they find themselves on the opposite side to the West in every conflict.

Though seen as a useful laundromat for ill-gotten gains and a source of yachts, good medical care and education, the West is still demonised in Russia, still portrayed as its implacable enemy.

Not only Putinism but even unvarnished Bolshevism still has its fans in the West, the latter at the Left end of the political range. I’m sure, for example, that today’s anniversary is wildly celebrated at our Labour headquarters, with Comrade Corbyn presiding over the festivities. The very thought that his Trotskyist gang may well take over my country gives me the creeps, an allergic reaction that millions of Corbyn voters are spared.

In my childhood, Moscow was adorned with posters saying “Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live”. Replace ‘Lenin’ with ‘evil’, and the statement still rings true. It’s the centenary of that satanic evil that so many demons celebrate today, dancing around fires.