Vlad Putin once denied being ex-KGB. “There’s no such thing,” he said. “This is for life.” Truer words have never been spoken, at least not by Vlad.
He and I are the same generation, and I remember my university classmates who chose a KGB career. They were, not to cut too fine a point, scum to a man – amoral careerists who would have happily denounced their parents to get ahead in life and who were already snitching on their classmates, such as me.
Let’s get the causality right: they didn’t get to be that way because they worked for the KGB; they worked for the KGB because they were that way. Later many such precocious youngsters (Putin and most of his government, to name a few) changed their jobs, but they didn’t – couldn’t – change their personalities. Barring a religious epiphany, one’s character is immutable.
In the same vein, many prominent Westerners describe themselves as ex-communists. They then get upset when I quote Vlad and say there’s no such thing.
I’m specifically talking about Westerners because people who grew up in Eastern Europe and Russia can be forgiven for having succumbed to an unceasing onslaught of propaganda not counterbalanced with opposing views. After all, not everyone is capable of critical thought, especially when possessing this faculty may be life-threatening.
Even there perhaps ‘forgiven’ is a wrong word. ‘Understood’ would be closer to the mark.
However, as far as I’m concerned, Western ‘ex-communists’ merit neither understanding nor forgiveness (in any other than the Christian sense of the word). And I refuse to accept their explanations, such as “I was young and stupid until my 20s [sometimes 30’s or even older], but then I grew up and changed my views”.
Views are indeed changeable – why, even I have changed quite a few of mine, and I’m not known for excessive flexibility. What’s not changeable is a person’s nature, and my contention is that communist beliefs are a function of emotional, intuitive predisposition, not intellect.
They reflect not what a man thinks, but what he is.
I’m not talking here about idiots and ignoramuses who simply have no way of knowing better. The human type I have in my crosshairs is the Western intellectual who went from being a communist in his younger days to becoming a chap who pontificates on conservative values in his dotage. (Names available on request.)
Since these days people seldom take the trouble of delving beneath the surface of a statement, such turncoats are taken at their word. Few listeners stop to ponder what those exes are actually saying. Well, allow me to translate.
This is what they really mean: “Until I was 20 [30, 40 or older] I believed in creating the kind of state that murders millions of its own citizens, tortures and imprisons many more, creates artificial famines killing millions, eliminates every known liberty, reduces the population to a brain-dead herd, surrounds itself with an impregnable fence, uses lies and shrieks in lieu of normal speech, militarises the whole society, pursues an incessant aggressive policy designed to spread its own evil to the whole world, ignores all legal and moral norms of civilised behaviour.”
Books on the true nature of communism have been available in their thousands since the early 1920s. Hence a sentient, which is to say adult and educated, human being who believes such things isn’t misguided or mistaken. He’s evil. And that aspect of one’s character can only ever be concealed, not suppressed.
When my son was a teenager, he read Whittaker Chambers’s book Witness and was extremely impressed. The author was an American communist who spied for the Soviet Union and later acted as a witness in the trial of Alger Hiss, another communist spy.
Chambers later saw the light and became a senior editor of National Review, a conservative journal. (When still a communist spy, he had the same job at Time magazine, a more remunerative position, and one more consonant with his nature.)
My son was upset when I doused his enthusiasm by saying something along the lines of once a communist, always a communist. I tried to explain to him what I meant, but failed miserably. I wonder if I’ve done any better now. Perhaps not.