Some 20 years ago I found myself at a Salisbury Review party, talking to the prominent anti-communist writer Brian Crozier.
The conversation veered towards converts from communism to conservatism, and I casually mentioned that, if they remained communists as adults, I have misgivings about such people.
Brian, who was himself a communist well into his thirties, objected to such scepticism. People can change their mind at any age, he said.
“Brian,” I said, “I have a confession to make. Until my thirties I could only derive sexual satisfaction from killing boys. But then I changed my mind and realised it was wrong.”
“It’s a false analogy,” objected my interlocutor. “Quite,” I agreed. “A pervert like that can only claim a few victims. A communist, on the other hand, is ready to justify a massacre of millions in pursuit of a transparently wicked idea.”
Though facetiously made, the point was serious. Acceptance of ideological democide may or may not involve some rational process. But it always answers a deep emotional need, an innate defect of personality.
Yes, anyone can change his opinions. But I doubt that, barring a Damascene epiphany, anyone can change his personality any more than he can change the colour of his eyes. To put it in clichéd terms, you can take a boy out of communism, but you can’t take communism out of a boy.
This brings me to Tony Blair’s admission that he was a Trotskyist as a student – and Peter Hitchens’s reaction to it.
Blair’s reminiscences of his youthful past lacked any novelty appeal. Anyone who understands modern politics already knew the general picture, if not every sordid detail.
We already knew that throughout the eighties Blair was a member of the parliamentary section of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). That transparent Soviet front advocated Britain’s unilateral abandonment of nuclear weapons and elimination of all US bases.
Against that background, any sensible person would shrug indifferently at Blair’s recollection that, when he first read a biography of Trotsky, it was “like a light going on” and that for a while he was actually “a Trot”. What else is new? New Labour?
Blair is easily the most subversive character ever to disgrace 10 Downing Street. While there, to quote Hitchens, he “tried to abolish sterling, surrendered to the IRA, wrecked our economy, our constitution, our civil service, our defences and much of our education system, and wounded the monarchy, too.”
Blair is an energumen, animated by the same destructive force as that driving communists to murder tens of millions. That Blair wreaked his havoc by legal means and without much violence, at least internally, is an interesting but ultimately moot point.
Political evil can work in various ways, and we should all learn from the master, Lenin. That distillate of evil was a champion of ‘whatever works’ as a way of gaining and keeping power. Thus he advocated a judicious mix of legal, which is to say parliamentary, and illegal activities.
The dominant ingredient of the mix was to be determined by expediency only. If a civilised political order could be destroyed without bloodshed, fine. If that took democide, no problem either.
If Blair had felt that he could only gain power by Trotsky’s methods, and if the situation allowed their use, he would have happily done so. As it was, he didn’t have to. The horde of illiterate lemmings, otherwise known as the electorate, happily followed him towards the edge of a cliff.
Hitchens laudably detests “that Blair creature” with all the gusto of his passionate soul. It’s with the same passion that he responded to Blair’s non-admission.
“Now, years after it is too late to help us, we learn that Anthony Blair was a student Marxist, an admirer of the bloodthirsty advocate of Red Terror, Leon Trotsky. When did he stop thinking this? We don’t really know.”
The words teapot and kettle spring to mind. For, in his own non-admission, Hitchens writes: “I, too, was a Marxist at university and for some years afterwards, a fact I do not conceal and readily discuss…”
In the same spirit of honesty, Hitchens could have mentioned that he didn’t just harbour some vague communist sympathies. He was an active member of the International Socialists, a seditious Trotskyist gang that later became the Socialist Workers’ Party.
How is it any different from what Blair was in his youth? Hitchens seems to believe that his lack of duplicity about his subversive past somehow elevates him to a higher moral plateau.
But then he himself writes that Blair kept shtum about some colourful details of his past only because he didn’t want to hurt his political career: “Now that’s all over, so he can start to tell the truth.”
Using the same logic, one may suggest that Hitchens’s own commendable openness falls into the same category. He only sought political office once, half-heartedly and some 25 years ago. Hence he can afford to be honest about his own subversive past.
If you agree that susceptibility to communism is an incurable character flaw, then you’ll see Hitchens as an instructive case study. For the same fanaticism with which he used to beat Trotsky’s drum now animates his fervent affection for Putin’s Russia.
Following the First Law of Thermodynamics, the evil of Bolshevism hasn’t disappeared – it has merely transformed into the evil of Putinism. Yet Hitchens continues to shill for a regime under which one in four grown men in Russia have been behind bars at some point.
The man calling himself a conservative supports a regime with no concept of the rule of law. Only 0.34 per cent of trials in Russia result in acquittal, as compared to 17 per cent in Britain and, more appropriately, 10 per cent under Stalin.
Nowhere, North Korea apart, is political power concentrated so fully in the hands of a small clique fronted by one ‘strong leader’.
Secure property, that cornerstone of liberty, doesn’t exist under Putin. Any Russian citizen, including the most illustrious oligarchs, can be dispossessed at any moment – or imprisoned on any trumped-up charge, with the guilty verdict predetermined.
Any semblance of free press has been stamped into the dirt, with Russian media emanating practically nothing but the most revolting propaganda this side of Julius Streicher. Journalists who refuse to toe the line are either forced out of the country or imprisoned or ‘whacked’, in Putin’s jargon.
Hardly a day goes by that Hitchens’s panegyrics for that kleptofascist regime aren’t harmonised with the background roar of Russian guns in the Ukraine and Syria, accompanied by incessant threats of nuclear annihilation of the West.
There has to be something fundamentally wrong with a man who, knowing all that, continues to adore the muscular exhibitionist and his criminal junta. We know what that something is: Troskyist fanaticism seeking new forms. Mr Blair, meet Mr Hitchens.