We’ve seen it all before, Your Holiness

By striking a deal with Communist China, Pope Francis betrayed the country’s Catholics, those belonging to the real, underground, Church.

Cathedral ruins, the Soviet Union, 1933. Or it could be in today’s China

We ought to be able to expect better from the Pope, if not from China. As far as the latter is concerned, this ought to remind those who still need such reminders that communism can have no human face.

It may wish to camouflage its red tooth and claw for tactical purposes, but underneath the mask it remains diabolic.

The reason China has so many fans in the West is that her economy allows a great deal of free enterprise. In fact, it’s more corporatist than free, but let’s not quibble about such nuances.

The West has succumbed to the Marxist folly of what I call totalitarian economism, which sets the terms of debate even in countries that don’t practise totalitarian politics.

We are conditioned to judge every country by its economy, on the basis of public or private “ownership of the means of production”. That criterion was already false at the time of its creation. Sticking to it now, in the face of overwhelming evidence, is downright inane.

Many people neglect far more defining aspects, those that have no monetary equivalent: civil liberties and the rule of just law. That makes them forget that the evil of socialism, either national or international, can happily co-exist with elements of market economy.

Thus in 1920 Lenin introduced his New Economic Policy, allowing some free enterprise. That didn’t prevent him from continuing to commit crimes that were to be only marginally outdone by other communists and Nazis. The latter didn’t nationalise the whole economy either, preferring instead to control it from a distance.

Even under Stalin, the Soviet public sector amounted to only about 85 per cent of the economy, something that some Western countries are approaching, and Britain would probably exceed should the calamity of Corbyn befall it.

Criteria based on the old-fashioned dichotomy of good and evil are more secure, and China is the latter, even if it’s less carnivorous than it was under Mao. For all those mass-produced trinkets with which China inundates the world, it remains staunchly communist.

Realising this, one can begin to understand the country, for, mutatis mutandis, all communist regimes follow a similar trajectory in their development, specifically in relation to religion.

Marx described religion as “opium for the people”, but for communist dictatorships, it’s a much deadlier poison. People worshipping God who is love can’t be easily indoctrinated to hate whole classes and races, which is the essence of Marxism.

It was Benito Mussolini who encapsulated the essence of communism or any other totalitarianism: “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”. Not much room there for any religion, especially one whose founder said: “My kingdom is not of this world”.

That’s why, strategically, all totalitarian regimes this side of Islamic theocracies hate religion in general, and Christianity in particular. That never changes. The tactics, however, do.

They fall into two main categories: violent suppression and subjugation, typically in that order. Hence Lenin proclaimed militant atheism as a necessary qualification, in effect a precondition for survival, of any Soviet citizen.

‘Militant’ wasn’t a figure of speech. Somewhere between 12 and 20 million Christians were martyred for their faith by the Soviets, some 40,000 of them priests (many of them not just shot, but crucified, burned, disembowelled or flayed alive).

Churches were looted and destroyed, or else desecrated. For example, the Petersburg Cathedral on the Blood, erected on the spot where Alexander II was blown up by a terrorist bomb, became a potato silo.

At some point, however, the Soviets began to realise that violence could be profitably supplemented by some taming. The penny finally dropped during the war, when Stalin effectively bifurcated the Russian church.

The real, underground, church was persecuted as relentlessly as before. But operating in parallel was the pliant and compliant official church with its paraphernalia preserved, but its soul ripped out.

In short order, that church became an extension of the secret police, with its hierarchs acting as conduits of worldwide KGB disinformation and espionage. That’s how it remains. During the latest patriarchal elections in 2009, all three candidates, including the eventual winner, were career KGB agents.

The unofficial church isn’t being persecuted as a matter of government policy, but it’s marginalised. Those of its priests who attract a large following are sometimes “whacked”. Thus Fr Alexander Men, who had baptised much of Moscow intelligentsia, was hacked to death in 1990.

The Chinese show every evidence that they’ve learned a lesson from their Bolshevik role models. They too have effectively created two Catholic churches, one of them, the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), house-trained, the other underground.

The objective is exactly the same as it was in Russia: to create a poodle walking on its hind legs to serve the communists, while marginalising – and eventually eradicating – the church that serves God.

This is the outrage that Pope Francis has blessed by legitimising CPA and its role as a pseudo-religious extension of totalitarianism. That means that the Chinese dictators can quietly proceed to wipe out the Underground Church, together with its clergy and parishioners.

The Pope has acquiesced to the communist government’s prerogative to nominate bishops the same way they are nominated in Russia, with loyalty to the regime compulsory and Christian faith optional. 

As part of this sell-out, no one under age 18 will be allowed to receive Christian instruction, anyone participating in unauthorised Christian worship will incur exorbitant fines, buildings where such activities take place will be expropriated, all clergy will have to register with the state and commit to its policies.

The Pope has chosen to sup with the devil without the benefit of a long spoon. The consequences of that repast were immediate and predictable.

According to Asia News, they include “churches closed or destroyed; crosses torn down from bell towers or ripped from the walls of the churches; domes razed to the ground; ancient statues of shrines seized; religious signs removed from inside and outside homes; priests driven out of their ministry…”

I don’t know how Pope Francis justifies this betrayal of Catholicism in China. I suspect the reasons he’d put forth would be similar to those proffered by Patriarch Kirill, aka KGB ‘Agent Mikhailov’.

The choice, he’d probably say, was between compromise and extermination. In other words, between prostitution and martyrdom.

However, His Holiness could do worse than to remember that the Church has shown its strength to survive the latter, but not the former. If “the blood of martyrs” was “the seed of the Church” to Tertullian, prostitution of the Church has always spelled its undoing.

His Holiness could do worse than juxtapose Jesus’s rebuke to Satan bearing deals (Matt 4: 1-11) with Thomas à Kempis’s Imitatio Christi. He’d then know he was wrong – not that it’s likely to have any effect.

P.S. In his otherwise entertaining parliamentary sketch, Quentin Letts twice attributed the story of Gulliver and the Lilliputians to Daniel Defoe. Neither he nor his Times editors are too swift.

Old people don’t change

One thing one learns going through life is that time flies even when you’re not having fun.

“Listen Volodymyr, I wanna be your friend if you want me to be. And if you don’t, I know where you live.”

Another is that, when seven decades of time have flown by, people won’t change their ways. This brings us to Donald Trump – most things do these days, now that yet another Damocles sword of impeachment is hanging over his head.

Here I’d venture a guess that many people, both his strident fans and equally strident detractors, misunderstand Trump. The former extol his virtues, the latter lambast his vices, and both ignore the spots he couldn’t change even if he tried.

A misconception exists among Trump’s core supporters that a business background provides an ideal training ground for holding a high public office. This betokens misunderstanding of both business and politics.

Commercial activity knows no abstractions, even though, hoping to keep the taxman at bay, some businessmen like to talk about business ethics. In reality they live by a simple moral philosophy: if you can get away with it, it’s legal; and if it’s legal, it’s moral. Business may or may not be immoral, but it’s amoral by definition.

It deals with nothing but concrete, material realities expressible in concrete, material units of currency. Since morality or high principles don’t fall into that category, they are dismissed.

Politics is, or rather ought to be, fundamentally different. Like a businessman, a statesman has to solve practical problems every day. Unlike a businessman, he solves those problems not for the sake of palpable commercial gain, but to serve some ends that may have no fiscal, or any other material, equivalent.

Since metaphysical concepts are more involved than anything material, they are harder to grasp. Therefore, a politician’s remit isn’t just different from that of a businessman, but diametrically opposite to it.

The demands imposed on the practitioners of the two fields are also different. A statesman doesn’t have to be a moral philosopher, historian or political scholar, but neither can he be ignorant of such disciplines.

Words like freedom, liberty, human rights, justice have to convey hard realities for a politician. For a businessman, they are lexical parasites.

Statesmen, even great ones, have been known to do rotten things in both private and public capacities. They can be immoral, but they can’t be amoral – like Christians, they may commit sins, but they can never regard sin as irrelevant.

Hence career businessmen and politicians develop diametrically opposite behavioural patterns. These can change from one to the other when the person is still young. But for someone who, like Trump, switches to a new field after having operated in another for half a century, such a metamorphosis is well-nigh impossible.

It’s placing unrealistic expectations on human nature to expect that, in his new job, Trump can act as anything other than the variably shady property developer he has been his whole life.

In the modus operandi implanted into his viscera, things are done on the basis of reciprocal personal relationships. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours; one hand washes the other – that sort of thing.

Hence it would be silly to expect Trump to see the seminal difference between negotiating a contract for building a Mafioso casino in Atlantic City and negotiating, say, a treaty with Iran.

Sitting down with Mario the Finger or with President Zelensky would push exactly the same buttons in Trump’s psyche. “Listen, Mario, you meet me halfway on this and I’ll meet you halfway on that” is in principle no different to him than “Listen, Volodymyr, you give me some dirt on Biden, I’ll give you Javelin anti-tank missiles”.

That’s why I’m sure Trump is sincere when he says he doesn’t understand what the noise is all about. He does something for Volodymyr, Volodymyr does something for him, so what’s the problem? Isn’t that how things are done?

Well, not quite. A man who rules a business empire can reduce all strategic moves to a personal relationship with other businessmen. If they help his cause, he’ll help theirs. If they don’t, he’ll look for ways to punish them.

Western politicians, good, bad or indifferent, can’t function that way. They have to operate within an intricate interlacing of power sharing, accountability, international relations and defence alliances.

That’s why Trump can barely conceal his impatience when dealing with his Western counterparts. And that’s why, one suspects, he admires Putin as much as he clearly does.

That Putin has some kompromat on Trump is beyond question. A man who brings a travelling brothel to Moscow and tries to strike deals with gangsters, especially if that man is as ready as Trump is to “grab a woman by the pussy”, is bound to leave behind reams of photographic evidence for KGB snoops – and every significant Westerner was at that time under close surveillance in Moscow.

It’s possible that Trump’s consistently pro-Putin pronouncements and, when he can get away with it, actions are rooted in old-fashioned blackmail. Yet, in the absence of any prima facie evidence of Trump being the Manchurian candidate, one has to discount that possibility.

In any case, it’s more likely that Trump genuinely admires the way Putin does things: like Trump, Putin turns a buck every which way he can; like Trump, he uses offshore havens and every conceivable loophole to keep his dealings away from prying eyes; like Trump, he projects an alpha image of a pussy-grabbing male (if with less justification, if rumours are to be believed).

To understand why Putin’s regime is evil, one has to invoke abstract concepts to which no price tag can be attached, and that’s not what Trump’s experience has taught him to do.

His friend Vlad wants to help himself to a chunk of Ukrainian real estate, so more power to him. When the Russians stole the Crimea in 2014, Trump’s reaction was to say they were entitled to it because everyone in the Crimea spoke Russian.

Had he given that matter a moment’s thought, he would have realised he was talking rubbish: using the same logic, Spain could reclaim possession of most of South America, or Germany occupy the biggest Swiss canton.

But he isn’t conditioned to give such matters serious thought: his relationship with his friend Vlad matters more to him than such nebulous things as Ukrainian sovereignty or independence.

If anything, he’s more likely to see Russia’s threat to the Ukraine as leverage in his dealings with Zelensky, along the lines of “you take care of Biden for me, I’ll look after you – and I’ll even tell Vlad to take it easy on you…”

Using the same mentality, Trump was doubtless grateful to Vlad for his help with the presidential election – even if he neither asked for it nor promised a quid pro quo. But rest assured that, even if words like “I owe you one, Vlad” were never uttered, they crossed Trump’s mind.

I hope you don’t take this as an attack on Trump. Yes, he’s manifestly unfit to be the leader of the free world, or indeed to get his mind around the concept. Neither is he capable of understanding that, in today’s world, if “America first” gets to mean “America, and devil take everybody else”, then it’s not only everybody else, but also America that’ll suffer.

However, looking at both his predecessor and his possible successors, one has to see Trump as the best of an awful lot. Surely anyone free of ideological bias has to prefer him to the obvious nincompoop Biden or the practically communist Warren and Sanders?

The evil of two lessers is the pun I like to repeat in such circumstances. It may be silly, but it’s accurate.

P.S. This morning I saw a van saying POLISH REMOVAL on its side. It took me a few seconds to realise that this was removal by, rather then of, Poles. And there I was, thinking Brexit has come.

Nazi Pact as a source of pride

Historian Edward Augustus Freeman (d. 1892) denied any possibility of scholarly objectivity in the study of history.

Sergei Ivanov: “The Nazi-Soviet Pact saved lives.”

“History,” he once wrote, “is past politics, and politics is present history”. Was he right? Perhaps. History of the past is supposed to teach a lesson about the present, and the present interprets the past to suit its current needs.

Yet Paul Valéry denied the didactic value of history. “History,” he wrote, “teaches precisely nothing”. Judging by the obstinacy with which each generation repeats and exacerbates past mistakes, Valéry had a point.

Now Russia has elevated Freeman-like historical relativism to a fine art. That neither started nor ended with the Bosheviks. For pre-revolutionary historians were no slouches at turning history into politics either.

Thus Catherine II raised Peter I to secular sainthood, while downplaying the role played by all other tsars, especially her murdered husband Peter III, thenceforth portrayed as an impotent fool (he was neither).

Her son, Paul I, afforded a similar treatment to Catherine, for example reassessing the role of the radical journalists imprisoned under his mother.

And his son, Alexander I, acquiesced in Paul’s murder, which everyone knew for exactly what it was. However, it was communicated to the populace in no uncertain terms that anyone questioning the official diagnosis (apoplexy) would join Paul in heaven.

That, of course, was child’s play compared to Bolshevik historiography. Already under Lenin history was completely re-written as a record of class war, with brigands, murderers and thieves portrayed as heroes, and every nobleman as a villain.

When Stalin took over, he suddenly had Ivan the Terrible, whom even the tsarist historians had portrayed as a psychotic murderer, praised as a strict but fair ruler, out to make Russia great – John the Baptist to Stalin’s Christ.

And Lenin came across as a kindly man of genius who loved children. That might or might not have been the case, but he certainly hated adults – as proved by the millions of them he had either massacred or starved to death.

Under Stalin all great Russian military leaders of the past, such as Suvorov and Kutuzov, hardly merited a mention in encyclopaedias, except in a few scathing lines.

Then, when Stalin found out that the Soviet people wouldn’t fight for communism, the role of those figures was reassessed overnight. Not only were Suvorov and Kutuzov given their due as patriotic heroes, but they were portrayed as courageous fighters against autocracy.

Stalin himself went through a few posthumous reassessments. Up until his death in 1953, he had been the genius uniting – and excelling – in his persona the best in Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Lenin and perhaps also God, even though the latter didn’t exist.

That reputation continued until 1956, when his successor Khrushchev found himself under threat and had to make a grand gesture. That came at the 20th Party Congress, when Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s crimes, if only those committed against party members.

He credited Stalin with 20 million deaths, which was probably about right, given Khrushchev’s chosen small sample. Another 40 million or so murdered by Lenin and Stalin still weren’t making the history books.

Using Stalin as a cudgel, Khrushchev crushed the opposition by the older members of the Stalin Politburo. As a culmination of that process, Stalin’s mummy was in 1961 taken out of the Mausoleum, leaving Lenin by his lonesome.

Yet even under Khrushchev, history books stuck to the Stalinist version of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. It was described as an unfortunate but dire necessity, thanks to which the Soviet Union delayed its entry into the war by two years and was thus better prepared for the Nazi aggression – and, by inference, for delivering 4.5 million of its soldiers into Nazi captivity within the first five months.

After Khrushchev was ousted in 1964, his successors again began to re-write history anew. Stalin made a slow but accelerated comeback, only interrupted for a few years during  perestroika.

It was in 1990, on Gorbachev’s watch, that the Soviets finally owned up to the murder of 22,000 Polish officers at Katyn and elsewhere. Until then every history book, and every Soviet leader, had blamed the Nazis for that crime, while all suggestions to the contrary had been put down to capitalist propaganda.

A year earlier, the Soviet Union admitted to the existence of the secret protocols to the Nazi-Soviet Pact. A few historians, including some well-disposed towards communism, even began to talk about Stalin being Hitler’s accomplice in starting the war, although the official version never went that far.

Come Putin, and Russian historians got busy again. Not only has Stalin made another comeback, but he has almost reached his past grandeur. Churchill’s (probably apocryphal) words “Stalin inherited his country with a wooden plough and left it with the atom bomb” have become a new proverb.

Yes, admit historians and other Putin stooges, Stalin made a few mistakes (never crimes). But he made Russia great, meaning capable of wiping out the whole world several times over if still unable to feed her own people.

Pari passu, the Pact gradually became a clever move, a triumph of Soviet diplomacy in pursuit of peace. Then, following the 80th anniversary of the Pact, came another turnaround, possibly designed to keep Russian history writers in business.

The tour de force was delivered a week ago by Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s former boss in the KGB, where Ivanov held the rank of Colonel-General, effectively outranking all ministers.

Ever since the KGB assumed power in Russia, I’ve been wondering why the actual wielders of power, including Putin himself, were lowly colonels. What happened to the Colonel-Generals, I kept asking.

Well, I don’t know what the others are doing, but this Colonel-General is sitting pretty under Putin. Ivanov has held a number of high government posts, but has never relinquished the most important one: that of Putin’s éminence grise and mouthpiece.

It was in that capacity that Ivanov explained that, rather than being ashamed of that tawdry Pact, the Russians ought to be proud of it, especially of its humanitarian essence. The words Gen. Ivanov used were verbatim those bandied around under Stalin:

“The signing on 23 August, 1939, of the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany was a forced step that let the Soviet Union delay war by almost two years and strengthen the country’s defences against the aggressor.”

Thanks to that, “the war started in the areas strategically more beneficial for the USSR, thus deferring by two years the suffering of the populations of those areas under the Nazi terror. That saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

The mendacious cynicism of this statement fully matches anything ever uttered by Putin’s idol Stalin. First, strategically speaking, when the Pact was signed, the Soviet Union didn’t have a common border with Germany.

However, when Hitler attacked on 22 June, 1941, the common border existed and it extended for thousands of miles, making the offensive much easier.

That common border existed because the Soviet Union didn’t enter the war “almost two years later”. The USSR entered it three weeks later, when, in accordance with that criminal Pact, it attacked Poland from the east as Germany was attacking her from the West.

Rather than being saved, thousands of Polish and hundreds of Soviet soldiers were killed in the process. But that was only the beginning.

In the winter of 1939-1940, the Soviets pounced on Finland, identified as falling within their sphere of interest in the Pact. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost gaining the Karelian Isthmus – lost, not saved.

The occupation of the three Baltic republics, Eastern Poland, and parts of Romania followed. Since none of those countries resisted, no lives were lost on the battlefield. But hundreds of thousands of lives were lost nonetheless.

For NKVD units followed in the wake of the Red Army, bringing mass executions and deportations in their wake. The Baltics lost about a third of their population, while the Soviets were, according to Ivanov, busily saving lives.

Yet even that wasn’t all. For after the Germans attacked and the Red Army hastily retreated, the Soviets left behind a little memento for the people. They hastily shot tens of thousands of prisoners in their jails – many not yet tried and held on remand.

That, in addition to at least a million Soviet people shot, and many more millions “turned into camp dust”, to use Stalin’s expression, in the two years on either side of the Pact.

Perhaps Freeman was right. Some rulers indeed rewrite history to fit their rule. Let’s thank them for that: we can use their tricks to understand what their rule is all about.

Unless Valéry was right too: history teaches nothing, especially to those unwilling to learn.

Deranged or devil’s spawn?

Whether Greta Thunberg is possessed by a mania or some evil energumen is a subject that’s finally being discussed in the mainstream press.

Well spotted, Mr D’Souza

The choice of either option is generally determined by the pundits’ preference for a medical or metaphysical explanation, with the former being more popular in our medicalised age.

However, even those hacks who feel that Greta’s hysterical harangues have finally gone too far have to qualify their mild criticism with phrases like “much as I respect Greta and her cause…” or “even though I admire Greta…”.

The consensus seems to be that, though this poor child is promoting an unequivocally good cause, isn’t it a shame she goes ever so slightly over the top. And perhaps she should soften her prophesies of gloom not to upset other, more balanced, children.

And of course Greta’s incoherent, lachrymose shrieks at large audiences of grown-ups, along the lines of “you took my childhood away”, make some hacks fear for her neurological health.

My concerns are different. It’s crystal-clear to me that Greta needs to be committed to a good clinic before she kills herself or bites someone else, necessitating a course of antidotes against rabies.

However, much as I dislike seeing a child, even one as odious as Greta, disintegrate so spectacularly, this is really her parents’ problem, not mine. My problems are much more serious.

One is that this disturbed, possibly evil and definitely illiterate child does draw large audiences of grown-ups, including those in governments.

Anyone retaining any vestiges of humanity would just call for the men in white coats. If he happened to be brave, he could dismiss the danger of being bitten and hug the poor girl, muttering: “There, there, dear, calm yourself, you’ll be all right, I promise…”

However, dismissing Greta with either kindness or scorn would be tantamount to casting aspersion on her cause, and that’s simply not possible for anyone hoping for an extended career in the public media.

Questioning anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the 21st century is like questioning God in the 11th. Our ancient religion has been ousted by a newfangled superstition, and heresy is punished severely.

Yet the medieval theologians conducted the debate with more rigour, integrity and honour than today’s admirers of that awful child and her half-baked cause.

Thus a couple of years ago, Dr Tim Ball wrote that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stifled honest research by channelling almost all its funding to scientists willing to spread the myth of the impending catastrophe.

One of those culprits, Prof. Andrew Weaver, sued Dr Ball for defamation, but the case was thrown out of court in February, 2018. Yet the same hacks who profess qualified admiration for Greta and unequivocal support for her cause didn’t deem that event worth mentioning.

They’ve also hushed up a similar case against Dr Ball brought by Dr Michael Mann that too was dismissed. It wasn’t just Dr Ball who emerged victorious – it was his data that were found scientifically sound, while the data presented by his accusers weren’t.  

It’s not only journalists who display a deficit of integrity. In the run-up to the 1995 Madrid Conference, at which the UN announced that AGW was an ironclad scientific fact, a number of documents presented by the opponents of that hypothesis had vanished without a trace. And none of those opponents was allowed to speak.

No wonder. Because that ideologically inspired fiction doesn’t stand up to evidence.

First, AGW fans confuse cause and effect: it’s not СO2 that causes warming, but vice versa. That stands to reason – and also to the extensive evidence obtained by meteorological drilling in Greenland and the Antarctic.

The physics are simple enough: the human input into the amount of СO2 is only a few per cent, while 90 per cent of it is dissolved in the global ocean. Any warming, even by half a degree, forces the ocean to emit a vast amount of СO2.

Throughout history, warming and cooling periods have been cyclical. Thus in the 17th century, both the Thames and Amsterdam canals froze solid, while during the Roman period Britain was much warmer than it is now, and grapes grew in Scotland.

It’s true that there has been some warming over the past 100 years. But in the past 30 years, we’ve had not warming but a slight cooling – this though the amount of СO2 has grown by 80 per cent during the same period. This datum alone should debunk any theory about AGW caused by a growing amount of СO2.

Rather than being catastrophic, this growth has actually been beneficial because СO2 increases the coefficient of photosynthesis, making plants grow better and faster. The net effect of that development has always helped people survive: all major famines coincided with the mini Ice Ages, while the warming periods produced an abundance of food.

I’m not suggesting that any of this puts paid to the debate. Some serious scientists, for example, insist that different measurement techniques yield different results. There exist sets of data showing some warming in the past 30 years. However, it’s so small that it can be safely discounted as a factor of danger, much less catastrophe.

That’s why such scientists constantly downgrade their predictions of temperature rises. If 20 years ago they forecast increases of around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, now they are talking about only a couple of degrees at most.

So yes, there are grounds for discussion, which ought to be left to climatologists. But there are no grounds for hysterical shrieks communicating secular piety.

No scientific grounds, that is. Ideologically, however, AGW is a godsend for people like Greta, or rather those who are happy to use her as their figurehead.

I’m talking not about a narrow cabal, but about a broad cross-section of pathological discontents on the Left, most of them young, who abhor what they call ‘capitalism’, but what is in fact everything the West stands for.

They want AGW to fulfil the ontological human need for a cause that’s bigger than them, one worth sacrificing lives for, ideally other people’s. Since God who not only postulates love, but actually is love offers little opportunity to vent one’s bile, those discontents look for secular causes.

These can be political, social or environmental – it really doesn’t matter. The same, or at least typologically the same, people will embrace communism or Nazism, fascist marches or anti-nuclear campaigns, vegetarianism or environmentalism.

Whatever the cause, they’ll pursue it with the same mindless, manic devotion. That’s why the American writer Dinesh D’Souza was absolutely right when he had a bit of fun putting Greta’s picture side by side with that of a girl in the Bund Deutscher Mädel, the female wing of the Hitlerjugend.

The two girls look like twins, but not just because of their plaits and Nordic appearance. It’s not only facial features but also facial expressions that make people look alike.

And all fanatics exude the same demonic energy, the same fiendish light – whatever the cause of their fanaticism. Alas, many people fly towards that light like moths, forgetting the fate of such insects.

Judicial review? No, judicial vandalism

The Supreme Court denied the legitimacy of Johnson’s prorogation of parliament. I wish someone denied the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

The lady has become a tramp

This upstart body, barely 10 years old, has managed to poison the spirit of a constitution that has existed for centuries.

Whatever the official charter of this retarded child, it was conceived by Blair and delivered by Brown for one overarching purpose: to act as the British gauleiter of the European Court of Human Rights.

Its shrill birth cry muffled the quiet voice of the world’s oldest and most successful polity. And now the decibel level has grown so high that people turn deaf to the overtones creating a destructive resonance.

By contrast, the post of the Lord Chancellor predates the Norman conquest, while that of the Lord Chief Justice has existed since 1268. Thus their legitimacy is organic, a product of the entire history of the realm, rather than recent political shenanigans.

Those two offices have been remarkably, uniquely successful in preserving our constitution through historical vicissitudes and tribulations. That’s why they had to be supplemented – and in this case superseded – by another institution, concocted by a government that did more than any other to undermine that constitution.

A fortnight ago, the holder of one of those ancient offices, Lord Chief Justice Burnett, ruled that the prorogation was a political, not legal, matter. Enter the Supreme Court, the illegitimate child of politicking.

But of course it’s a legal matter, ruled the 11 judges, all passionate Remainers. (One of them was my neighbour and – until my article attacked him for another pro-EU ruling – a friend.) Everything political is legal and everything legal is political, provided we can dismiss the overwhelming public mandate.

That’s why The Mail’s comment on this outrage is so risible. While generally disapproving of the Supreme Court’s decision, its editorial issues an asinine disclaimer: “Whether the Supreme Court’s judgment was constitutionally appropriate, only history will decide… And no one suggests for a second that the Supreme Court acted out of political animus.”

Not ostensibly, it didn’t. But surely the judges knew that their ruling sabotaged Brexit, and surely they were happy about it – and surely they were aware of their natal raison d’être?

We don’t need history to decide “whether the Supreme Court’s judgment was constitutionally appropriate”. That exercise of judiciary activism was constitutionally vandalistic, which is instantly obvious.

No doubt constitutional lawyers will be arguing for years about every comma, hyphen and colon of the law, and I’m in no position to join that argument. Neither is The Mail, by its own admission.

But it’s clear that Boris Johnson, while perhaps negligent about those punctuation marks, acted to prevent one of the most egregious power-grabbing coups ever attempted in Britain.

I’m not suggesting that the letter of the law should be ignored – only that we’re going through desperate times that, if Guy Fawkes is to be believed, call for desperate measures. Legalistic casuistry shouldn’t be allowed to become a constitutional suicide pact.

The on-going coup is trying to upset the traditional balance of power and sovereignty that adds up to the constitution of the realm. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it’s trying to upset the balance more than it was already upset by previous outbreaks of constitutional vandalism.

Over the past few decades, the House of Lords has been neutered and turned into something it was manifestly designed not to be: a body of mostly appointees beholden to party-political pressures.

The sovereignty of parliament effectively became the sovereignty of one of its two Houses, the Commons. Long before that the monarchy had been divested of executive power, which had been transferred to the prime minister and his cabinet.

Underlying and enabling the sovereignty of parliament was the sovereignty of the people in whose name parliament acted. As a result, Britain’s constitutional balance became more convoluted and, to my mind, less organically legitimate than in the past. But at least a semblance of balance existed.

No longer. The on-going coup has rendered the executive impotent and the people effectively disfranchised. In reality, power has been usurped by the political apparat, manned exclusively by cross-party EU quislings.

I can’t think of many definitions of high treason that wouldn’t cover this bout of constitutional sabotage. And this is what Johnson tried to stop – perhaps clumsily, heavy-handedly and not entirely disinterestedly.

But stop it he tried to – and failed. The quislings in parliament and the Supreme Court are doubtless high-fiving one another. Their hatchet job has been done, and it has been done expertly.

One should praise them for their deftness while rebuking them for their mendacity. Their battle cry is ‘stop no-deal Brexit’, which is a lie. It’s not no-deal Brexit they want to stop, but Brexit tout court.

Otherwise the wish to take the no-deal option off the table is too inane even for them. That’s tantamount to a negotiator telling his opposite number: “These are my terms. But if you don’t like them, I’ll accept any other.”

Under such circumstances, all the EU can offer is what I call European leave: saying good-bye without leaving. Yet the quisling parliament has already rejected that travesty three times.

I’m wracking my brain to see what options stay on the table. No-deal is off, no deal is acceptable – what remains? Exactly. Remain.

That now seems to be the likeliest outcome, but, disgusting as it is, not the worst one. What’s even worse is the irreparable constitutional damage that may well leave the country defenceless in the face of a hostile takeover by its avowed enemies.

So by all means, do argue about the small print in all those dusty volumes piled up in law libraries. Sorry I can’t join the fun.

Leave the EU, catch the clap

One day someone will catalogue all the plagues of Egypt confidently forecast to punish Britain for having the temerity to leave the EU.

“Venereal disease ends with an ‘e’ and England starts with an ‘e’. What better proof do you need?”

Some sort of rating system would come in handy, assigning points for the forecasters’ creativity in coming up with imaginary dystopic scenarios.

In anticipation of that development, I’d like to nominate for top prize The Evening Standard and its editor George Osborne. This, even though George had a head start on the competition.

At the time of the referendum, George was Chancellor – and one of the most fanatical campaigners for staying in the EU. In that capacity he was already coming up with ingenious scares at a time when others couldn’t yet think of anything more interesting than the promise that we’ll all freeze hungry in the dark.

Having lost the referendum and his job, George had a soft landing at The Standard, owned by the career KGB officer turned ‘businessman’ Alexander Lebedev or, to be needlessly technical about it, by his son.

There George quickly built on his early lead in the scaremongering stakes, eventually leaving everyone else in his wake last year, when he published an article prophesying that, without the EU, we’d have no defence against a pandemic of gonorrhoea.

The article escaped my attention then but, now I’ve unearthed it, I’m in its thrall. For the subject is extremely close to my heart – and do wipe that lascivious smirk off your face.

I no longer revolve in the circles where VD is common currency, and in fact never did. What interests me no end isn’t the putative pandemic of venereal disease, but the real pandemic of mass idiocy, manifest in particular among our politicos, hacks and those who take them seriously.

The article in question quotes Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, who describes the post-Brexit threat of gonorrhoea as “significant” and “disastrous”, what with the imminent collapse of any cooperation with continental health bodies.

Yet in the next paragraph he effectively self-refutes by correctly, if clumsily, stating that such cooperation is unlikely to cease because both parties have a vested interest in it: “The only positive is that we can say this is not only about UK patients, it is about European patients who would be affected as well.”

Score one for idiocy, and I mean not the argument itself, though God knows it’s bad enough, but the way it’s made – in one of our oldest newspapers. And the paper, using Mr Dickson as its mouthpiece, quickly runs up the score.

“Diseases do not recognise borders,” continues the quote, and one has to agree: indeed they don’t. But the carriers of diseases do, and – I don’t know how to put this without offending anyone – such carriers are more likely to come from the Third World and the low-rent parts of Europe (which, due to free movement, often amounts to the same thing).

This observation is so blatantly racist, xenophobic and probably also homophobic, misogynist and global-warming-denying that one would understand it if the paper had refused to entertain that affront, or else only used it as an illustration of the Leavers’ beastliness.

That would have been logical, whereas the article’s next sentence is again self-refuting and therefore inane: “Meanwhile outbreaks of measles in England and Wales have repeatedly been linked to those in countries in eastern Europe…”

Right. So outbreaks of contagious diseases, such as measles and by inference also gonorrhoea, are directly attributable to migration from the countries I so unkindly describe as the low-rent part of Europe.

Since, as we’ve agreed, diseases don’t recognise borders but their carriers do, logic would suggest that limiting such migration would lower the incidence of nasty infections.

Coincidentally, limiting immigration is exactly what Brexit is designed to do, at least in theory. (In practice, this falls into the category of things I have to see to believe.)

It’s then not immediately clear why the post-Brexit risk of VD will increase, rather than diminish, especially since Eastern European girls are disproportionately represented among Britain’s practitioners of the world’s oldest profession.

(I assume, and John Bercow may wish to correct me, that a man is more likely to catch gonorrhoea from a prostitute than from his wife.)

Once again, my point here isn’t political but purely logical. It’s true that I have yet to hear a single cogent argument in favour of the EU in general and especially our membership in it.

However, a certain deficit of cogency isn’t identical to rank idiocy, as displayed by making mutually exclusive statements in almost every sentence. This is yet another reminder that, though the words ideas and ideology are cognates, they are opposite in meaning.

P.S. As I finished writing this, news came in that the Supreme Court had found Johnson’s proroguing of parliament unlawful. I wish someone could do the same to our newfangled Supreme Court. Can we retrieve Col. Pride’s DNA?

The fatal illness of our conservatives

Some call it pragmatism or empiricism, others may call it realism or common sense. I call it an intellectual disorder.

It’s not our past. But could it be our future?

To be fair, the illness in question doesn’t just target English conservatives. It’s endemic throughout the West. But only in England (and her cultural offshoots) does it afflict conservatives in large numbers.

I wish I had ten pounds for each time I’ve heard one of my English friends say: “We must know the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.”

In other words, knowledge to them boils down to a compendium of empirically verifiable facts, not the destination of a teleological intellectual journey towards truth.

Yet facts are akin to bricks. They may be necessary to build a house, but without an a priori picture of the house in the architect’s mind, piles of bricks will just remain an eyesore on the landscape.

A collection of facts isn’t synonymous with knowledge. It’s strictly posterior or secondary. Facts may help to verify knowledge, but they aren’t knowledge.

Overreliance on facts will hold knowledge back, not advance it. For facts to assist knowledge, they must be evaluated in the light of a transcendental ideal, that anathema to so many of our conservatives.

They rebel against transcendental ideals because they associate them with socialism. However, if they gave this matter some thought, they’d realise that the problem only lies with wrong, rather than all, universal metaphysical premises.

It took a few centuries for Occam’s nominalism to become English empiricism, but in essence they are as close to each other as both are close to vulgar materialism (no other kind exists). They all believe in knowing reality by sensory, rather than intellectual, perception.

That makes the intellect superfluous as the pathfinder to knowledge. At best, it can function as a tool for solving the little puzzles of life, equivalents of all those Sudokus one finds in Sunday supplements.

Demoted to such a lowly status, the intellect dies out, as all superfluous things will. Seeking simple solutions to mysteries, our conservative empiricists cut their intellectual throats with Occam’s razor.

The development of thought from 14th century nominalism to modern empiricism and positivism is merely a progression, not progress. Intellectually, and therefore ultimately morally, it’s deadly.

The nominalists defined reality as a sum total of objects, insisting that metaphysical ideas were mere words with no link to anything real. That this fallacy makes mass atheism inevitable goes without saying. But it also promotes mass idiocy.

For neither objects nor facts about them mean anything by themselves. Before they begin to acquire any meaning, they have to be assessed, interpreted and slotted into some intellectual and moral structure. Otherwise, facts lose all intellectual or moral significance and in that sense paradoxically become arbitrary, which is the opposite of factual.

Reliance on observable facts as the source of knowledge is a sure recipe for obscurantism, for it obviates the need to draw intellectual and moral distinctions. Yet during the flowering of Western thought, knowledge was understood to come from the intellect activated by intuition, not from a search for facts activated by inquisitiveness.

It took intuition to realise that a transcendental reality existed, and it took intellect to understand what it was and how it related to the morality and philosophy guiding quotidian life.

That created a sturdy structure, a trellis for the plants of knowledge to climb up from the grass sewn with facts. Without such a trellis, the plants would have remained on the ground, eventually to be trampled underfoot.

Such neglect of transcendental, universal reality leaves man to fend for himself in the ever-growing thicket of facts thrown up by a compulsively inquisitive modernity. His frame of intellectual and moral reference removed, he is in danger of becoming first an intellectual and then a moral idiot.

He may, for example, look at the fact that the atom can be split and ponder the implications. There are plenty, he may conclude, for fission releases energy.

If his spirit moves him one way, he may decide to use that energy to heat a city during a cold winter. If it moves him another way, he may decide to use the energy to reduce the city to smouldering radioactive ash.

There’s no way of predicting which way he’ll go for his mind is at sea, cast adrift by morally neutral and intellectually feeble reliance on fact as the quintessence of knowledge. And, since the fallen nature of man was laid bare by the ultimate transcendental doctrine of the West, he’d be more likely to opt for destruction.

Nominalism cum empiricism usually comes packaged with the Whig view of history, wherein each historical moment is seen as an advance on its predecessor.

Since we undeniably possess more facts than even the medieval scholasticists, never mind Aristotle, the common inference is that we possess greater knowledge, which in turn deepens intellect and heightens morality.

Yet this is demonstrably not the case, unless someone thinks that today’s professors of philosophy are superior to, say, Abelard or Aquinas, today’s poets are superior to Dante or Shakespeare, or today’s pop stars are superior to Byrd or Bach.

Or, for that matter, that we, the people of a century that gave the world two world wars, genocide, Auschwitz and Kolyma, a century that murdered more people than all the previous centuries of recorded history combined, are morally superior to the contemporaries of Abelard and Aquinas.

In fact, praying at the altar of the empirically verifiable fact is the principal culprit in producing our decadent, intellectually shabby world. And the step from the decadent to the degenerate is even shorter than the one from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Disengaging thought from the supreme metaphysical reality doesn’t just produce ignorance of metaphysics. It leads to a worldwide pandemic of inanity, with people no longer able to judge what they do or say by holding it to rigorous intelligence tests.

One example, from yesterday’s Sunday Times. The review of Orlando Figes’s book Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture (I shan’t give the reviewer’s name for fear of upsetting the RSPCA) opens with this paragraph:

“It is ironic that this passionately exuberant book should be published just as we are about to leave Europe. For Orlando Figes’s subject is how writers and musicians in the 19th century created a richly diverse European culture that surmounted narrow-minded nationalism.”

My problem with this passage isn’t the author’s implied affection for the EU, but his manifest inability to think.

First, we are leaving (one hopes) not Europe as a cultural entity, but the political project aiming to create a unified European superstate.

Second, the author believes that such a superstate is a prerequisite for creating “a richly diverse European culture”, for he clearly sees Brexit as antithetical to that aspiration.

Hence, if such a culture was created in the 19th century, one has to infer that Europe was at the time blessed by the existence of such a state. Since even this author must know that wasn’t so, what he wrote is mindless drivel.

Yet clearly neither he nor his editors were capable of realising this – mainly because their minds have been rendered vacuous by the engulfing philosophical vacuum of modernity.

This is but a small example of a worrying situation: modern people, including those who affect our lives by forming opinions and formulating policies, aren’t up to the intellectual (and consequently moral) demands of the task.

Yet the self-professed conservatives among them never tire of repeating the empiricist mantra about looking at the world as it observably is. They are facing a stark choice.

They have to decide whether they want to be conservatives or empiricists. They can’t be both because, if they opt for the latter, there won’t be much left for them to conserve.

Thank your local robber

And not just him. Thanks are also due to the burglars, muggers and fraudsters operating in your area.

Michael Gove, John McDonnell’s dizygotic twin

After all, they greatly augment your income – by not depriving you of it. Isn’t a penny saved a penny earned? Well then, think of all those countless pennies you’ve saved and therefore earned due to those gentlemen’s magnanimous decision not to steal from you, for the time being.

Do you agree with this logic? No? Good. But then you must also dismiss similarly justified claims made by the state, especially its outer left reaches. Actually, this qualification is unnecessary: our whole state now resides in its outer left reaches, with but a tiny space separating parties and factions.

The on-going brouhaha about Brexit conceals this fact by serving up binary possibilities, in or out. That’s what it ultimately boils down to, with all the talk about various deals either just background noise or else subterfuge designed to skew the debate one way or the other.

Since Brexit is so polarising, one may get the impression that the two poles reflect the traditional right-left divide. They don’t. All our three major parties proceed from roughly similar presuppositions, with any differences being those of degree, not principle.

Hence the Marxist John McDonnell complains about fee-paying schools costing the Exchequer huge sums. In a sane world, which ours no longer is, this assertion would fly in the face of simple arithmetic.

For our independent schools are financed not by the Exchequer, but by the fees they charge and also by private endowments and investments.

That’s why they save the taxpayers an annual £3.5 billion that would otherwise have to be spent on state schools. Also, in spite of their charitable status and other tax breaks, independent schools contribute £4.1 billion in tax revenues – which number is further augmented by the 300,000 jobs they create.

Not even John McDonnell can be so bad at sums as to be unable to add up large numbers. If he is, I’d be happy to buy him an abacus or, to be upbeat and modern, a calculator.

Alas, neither device would do any good. For not only McDonnell but just about all our politicians, be they Tory, LibDem, New Labour, Old Labour or Trotskyist Labour operate according to the logic I outlined above.

Some 10 years ago, Gordon Brown, then Chancellor, unwittingly explained the logic in a few simple words. Extolling his next year’s budget, he uttered the words that should adorn the façade of every government building.

“The government,” said Brown, “will let you keep more of your money”. Now, a government can let someone keep only something that belongs to the government by right. In other words, your money isn’t yours. It belongs to the government that can decide how much to take out and how much to let you keep.

Just like those burglars, robbers and muggers, they claim to make you richer by not making you poorer. Unlike those gentlemen, the state operates within the law, but the logic is exactly the same.

Applying it to independent schools, you begin to understand what McDonnell means.

Yes, those schools contribute billions to the Exchequer. But they could contribute even more if the state ended their charitable status and  exemption from business rates. And slapping a 20 per cent VAT on school fees (a policy already adopted by Labour) would work wonders too.

In other words, independent schools are costing the taxpayers in exactly the same sense as you are impoverishing thieves by selfishly holding on to your wallet, computer and jewellery.

Lest you might think this logic finds its champions only among the hard left, allow me to reassure you on that score. Here’s what the true blue Tory, former Education Secretary Michael Gove, wrote in 2017.

Poor Sarah Vine’s hubby-wubby argued that tax breaks for independent schools “provided egregious state support to the already wealthy so that they might buy advantage for their own children”. Egregious, dear me, the chap doesn’t pull his adjectives.

If anyone can discern a difference between Gove’s underlying philosophy and McDonnell’s – and not just in matters educational – I’d like to hear about it. They are soul brothers, which kinship starts with their definition of wealth.

The impression they like to convey is that only billionaires send their children to public schools, and those vipers must be soaked to the bone – that much goes without saying for the Tory and Trotskyist alike.

However, I know many people on middle-class incomes (some in my own family) who struggle to scrape pennies together to keep their children out of the dumbing-down laboratories of social engineering that go by the name of comprehensive schools.

And yes, they thereby “buy advantage for their own children”, although McDonnell’s grammar acquired at a fee-paying school, suggests that the advantage may remain elusive. That’s what parents do for their children; such is their duty.

Good parents go beyond school fees in that undertaking, and they still do their best for their children even if they can’t afford the exorbitant fees.

For example, they fill their houses with books, rather than crushed beer cans. They take their children to museums and galleries, rather than pop excretions. They tell them stories that encourage children to read, rather than play computer games. They teach their children discipline and work ethic, rather than how to get by without them.

Does Gove regard all those endeavours as egregious? Probably. They compromise equality at the starting blocks and also at the finish tape, and nothing is more egregious than that for our rulers. They think they can correct God’s oversight in making us all different.

As to the word ‘support’ used by Gove, it’s indeed egregious. The implication is that the state subsidises public schools. But the support Gove means is negative – it’s provided by not extorting, not by subsidising (see the opening paragraphs above).

If this lot are so upset with public schools, I can offer a free piece of advice on how to get rid of them – and to do so without resorting to criminal fiat or equally criminal extortion.

Go back to the system of grammar schools and secondary moderns, which used to make British education the envy of the world, rather than the laughingstock it is today.

Provide a good free alternative to make sure intelligent and capable children don’t have to impoverish their parents with astronomic school fees. Then also make sure that those less academically able would still learn how to fend for themselves in a modern economy without going on welfare.

That way you won’t have to bother about banning public schools or taxing them out of existence. Most of them, with the possible exception of such venerable institutions as Eton, Rugby or Harrow, will fade away of their own accord – who in his right mind will pay £30,000 a year in school fees if he could get the same education for free?

This advice will fall on deaf ears. For these chaps aren’t about getting good education for all. They aren’t even about equality, except as a slogan that plays well with a dumbed-down public. They are after naked power, which means increasing state control over every aspect of life – emphatically including education.

You know we are all in trouble when the state comfortably fits into the same sentence with robbers, muggers and burglars. Actually, those chaps are better: they do what they do just for the money.

Ignore evil men at your peril

One good thing about evil politicians is that they talk openly about their plans. One bad thing about decent people is that they don’t listen.

Old McDonnell had a dream, otherwise known as a nightmare

Lenin, for example, never concealed his intention to turn his party into a secret cabal, grab power and then exterminate and rob whole classes. He even expressed this idea numerically, by stating that he didn’t care if 90 per cent of Russia’s population perished, provided the remaining 10 per cent lived to see communism vanquish.

No one listened. Surely not in Russia, the land of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky – such was the prevailing sentiment among the intelligentsia. Surely that was just a figure of speech. It wasn’t, which the intelligentsia discovered the hard way in execution cellars and death camps.

Likewise, Hitler in his 1925 bestseller Mein Kampf was honest about his plan to exterminate all Jews. You know, the same group that didn’t exist according to the Kaiser (“We have no Jews in Germany, just Germans of the Judaic persuasion.”).

That wasn’t taken literally either, not even by most of the German Jews. The land of Bach, Beethoven and Goethe would never allow such a massacre, they shrugged. Well, it did.

One detects a similar complacency in today’s Britain about the Labour leaders’ pronouncements on their plans in office, should they get there. Even some dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, much as they hate the possibility of a Marxist government, deny that it could do irreversible harm.

Didn’t we have the same sort of thing in the 70s? Omnipotent unions, economy paralysed by strikes, Britain as the sick man of Europe, wholesale nationalisation, three-day weeks, runaway inflation, blackouts and whatnot? But we got over socialism then, and we’d do so now.

Such optimists ignore two fundamental differences between then and now.

One was that Wilson and Callaghan were socialists, but – to the extent that it’s possible for socialists – they weren’t evil. They weren’t Trotskyist energumens committed to annihilating Britain qua Britain.

The other difference was Margaret Thatcher, who became Tory leader in 1975 and PM in 1979. She managed to rally the country, roll back the unions, encourage private enterprise and somehow pull the country out of the putrid swamp into which it was rapidly sinking.

The Labour Party today isn’t just misguided but downright evil. And nor does one detect anywhere on the horizon a Tory leader of Margaret Thatcher’s calibre.

That’s why we must all join forces to make sure this evil cabal doesn’t grab power. Because if it does, it’ll be too late.

Luckily, its chieftains make such resolve easy by emulating Stalin and Hitler and unabashedly laying down plans that, if realised, will put paid to Britain as we know and love her.

For example, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will use this weekend’s party conference to kick off the ‘Abolish Eton’ campaign to eliminate private schools.

As part of this campaign, he wants to have the endowments, investments and properties held by private schools “redistributed democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions”.

Allow me to translate for those whose Marxist is a bit rusty: he’s talking about seizing private property in exactly the same way the Bolsheviks did so in 1917. In both cases, the ostensible justification is an unquenchable thirst for equality.

Thus McDonnell: “We know that our society is grotesquely unequal and part of the reason for that is because of the inequalities in education, particularly in private schools, where large amounts of money are spent on a privileged few.

“That’s why I support the campaign now for us to talk about how we ensure an integrated education system, where private schools don’t need to exist and should not exist where we have equality of education.”

Judging by McDonnell’s grammar, private schools, one of which he attended, don’t guarantee a decent education. Had he come and said “Look at the way I talk – do you really think fee-paying schools are any good?”, I’d be sympathetic.

As it is, he must know that, because God in whom he no longer believes made us unequally educatable, education (or anything else for that matter) can be equalised only at the lowest common denominator.

If the battle of Waterloo was indeed won on the playing fields of Eton, the only battle that can be won in a Marxist-style educational system dedicated to social engineering is one against the country’s future.

As to the “large amounts spent on a privileged few” at public schools, McDonnell must be aware that the money comes from school fees and private endowments – unlike in comprehensive schools funded by the taxpayer.

Even the foolish but not manifestly evil drive for comprehensive education in the 1960s has succeeded only in creating three generations of ignoramuses unable to operate a modern economy.

(Among other things, this forces Britain to import better-educated people from elsewhere, but that’s no problem for Corbyn and McDonnell. One of their aspirations is to increase immigration from all over the world, and not just of educated people.)

At that time, Education Secretary Tony Crosland saw in his sights not just public schools but also state ones for more capable pupils. Crosland expressed his aims with the kind of forthrightness one expects from socialists: “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland.”

But at least Crosland, unlike today’s lot, wasn’t a Trotskyist. Though bad enough, he wasn’t possessed by the demon of destruction and, had he not died early, he might have realised the error of his ways (though I doubt it).

It’s not just education. The wicked cabal of today’s hard-left Labour is aiming a whole swarm of bullets at everything that makes Britain British.

They plan to rebuild the unions to their past glory, nationalise everything that can be nationalised this side of concentration camps (for the time being), tax the wealth-producing classes into penury, rob publicly held companies of 10 per cent of their shares – and of course decriminalise drugs and prostitution. Private medicine is also bound to go the way of private education, and eventually private enterprise will follow too.

Everywhere such measures have been tried, they’ve never failed to create an economic, social and cultural catastrophe. But the McDonnells of this world don’t care about that.

They are driven by hatred, envy and resentment – by the urge to destroy, not create. That’s why they are evil, and that’s why we’ll be criminally negligent if we don’t stop them.

Ban and burn all dictionaries

Have you heard the silly one about Donald Trump?

Dr Johnson, ring your office

Seems he was doing a general knowledge crossword aboard Air Force One. At one point he turned to his secretary and asked: “What’s the word for ‘woman’, four letters, blank-u-n-t?”

“Why, Mr President,” said the secretary, “it’s ‘aunt’ of course”. And Trump said: “Got an eraser?”

Well, I told you it was silly, didn’t? The point is that Americans use the implied word metonymically, to describe a woman, whereas the chivalrous Britons only ever use it metaphorically, to describe a man.

But the British aren’t so chivalrous that they can’t rival Americans in the number of synonyms, some of them pejorative, of ‘woman’. If you don’t believe me, look them up in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – it has loads of them.

Actually, according to a petition currently boasting 30,000 signatories, too many. Our noble fighters for women’s rights insist that “sexist definitions” of the word woman be expurgated from that august publication.

Specifically, their list of offensive “synonyms for woman” includes “bitch, besom, piece, bit, mare, baggage, wench, petticoat, frail, bird, bint, biddy and filly”. Those victims of lexicographic assault must have been going alphabetically, which is why they didn’t get to ‘gorgon’ and ‘harridan’, not to mention ‘slag’, ‘slattern’ and ‘slut’.

This reminds me of the story (this one real) involving our first lexicographer Dr Johnson. At the 1755 launch of his Dictionary of the English Language, a woman of a certain age asked him why there were no dirty words in that publication.

“I can see, madam,” replied the great wit, “that you have been looking for them.”

I understand the petitioners’ problem, but then they should also understand mine. As  a professionally trained linguist, I’m hurt to see so much ignorance of my discipline.

Dictionaries have two principal functions: descriptive, always, and prescriptive, sometimes. For example, the American Heritage Dictionary combines both, by listing words and also recommending their correct usage.

The Oxford dictionary, like most others, is mainly descriptive: it lists and defines as many English words as humanly possible. Since English has by far the greatest vocabulary of all European languages, that humanly possible number is large.

The Oxford Corpus, for example, contains almost 2.1 billion words used in the Anglophone world. The more concise big OED still includes a respectable 58 million entries, and I’m man enough to admit that my vocabulary falls short of that number.

By including a word, the OED passes neither moral nor aesthetic judgement on the concept the word designates. It simply states that the word exists.

Almost every word sits at the core of what linguists call its paradigm: the sum total of its cognates and synonyms, close, remote or tangential. No two words in any language can be full synonyms, that is identical in meaning and stylistic nuance, both denotation and connotation.

If two words denoted and connoted identical things, one of them would eventually die out. There would be no need for it.

Now, if we examine the paradigm of most words, we’ll find many offshoots we wouldn’t use, some we’d use in some circumstances and not in others, even a few that might conceivably offend us if someone used them in our presence.

That may matter a lot to some people, less to others and nothing at all to still others. People exercise their own judgement in usage, and that can be variable. For example, I may use the word implied in the silly joke above when talking to my friends, but not when trying to talk a policeman out of giving me a ticket.

But lexicographers don’t judge words, although they may hint at their usage by adding parenthetic descriptors, such as ‘slang’, ‘offensive’, ‘vulgar’ or ‘archaic’.

Those scholars merely record words, which is why they are called ‘lexicographers’, from the Greek for ‘words’ and ‘writers’, and not ‘ithicographers’, from the Greek for ‘morals’ and ‘writers’.

Now that we’re talking lexical nuances, what’s worse than an ignorant moron? The answer is, a politicised ignorant moron.

That, I’m afraid, accurately describes those capable of writing or signing a petition demanding that the compilers of Oxford dictionaries “eliminate all phrases and definitions that discriminate against and patronise women and/or connote men’s ownership of women”, while including “examples representative of minorities, for example, a transgender woman, a lesbian woman, etc.”

Why not simply eliminate the intermediate stages and first ban all dictionaries and then burn them in a present-day answer to the practice popular in Germany, c. 1933? Are the authors and signatories of the petition aware of how accurate this analogy is?

A society that allows such people to dictate their terms and enforce compliance is a totalitarian society. If that’s the ideal to strive for, we’re getting closer by the day.

P.S. Speaking of totalitarianism, I have a good friend who works for one of the French ministries. She reads my pieces and used to do so during her lunch break. But not any longer: her office has put a block on my blog. The official reason is its content of sex and violence.

When I complained to an English friend that my pieces contain neither sex nor violence, he said: “Perhaps that’s why they are blocked.”

But, seriously speaking, I understand those bureaucrats perfectly. What were they supposed to say, that they disagree with the opinions expressed? ‘Sex and violence’ is so much safer and less controversial.