Another great anti-communist classic now available online...
The God that Failed
, edited by Rt. Hon. Richard Crossman MP.
It consists of six essays by disillusioned former communists (Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Richard Wright, André Gide, Louis Fischer, and Stephen Spender) recounting what first attracted them to communism and what later led them to abandon it. Probably the one of greatest continuing relevance is Koestler's account of his involvement with the German CP of the 1930’s.
Arthur Koestler wrote:We lost the fight [against the Nazi Party], because we were not fishermen, as we thought, but bait dangling from a hook. We did not realize this, because our brains had been reconditioned to accept any absurd line of action ordered from above as our innermost wish and conviction. We had refused to nominate a joint candidate with the Socialists for the Presidency, and when the Socialists backed Hindenburg as the lesser evil against Hitler, we nominated Thälmann though he had no chance whatsoever except, maybe, to split off enough proletarian votes to bring Hitler immediately into power. Our instructor gave us a lecture proving that there was no such thing as a “lesser evil,” that it was a philosophical, strategical and tactical fallacy; a Trotskyite, diversionist, liquidatorial and counter-revolutionary conception. Henceforth we had only pity and spite for those who as much as mentioned the ominous term; and, moreover, we were convinced that we had always been convinced that it was an invention of the devil. How could anybody fail to see that to have both legs amputated was better than trying to save one, and that the correct revolutionary policy was to kick the crippled Weimar Republic’s crutches away? Faith is a wondrous thing; it is not only capable of moving mountains, but also of making you believe that a herring is a race horse.
Not only our thinking, but also our vocabulary was reconditioned. Certain words were taboo —for instance “lesser evil” or “spontaneous”; the latter because “spontaneous manifestations of the revolutionary class-consciousness” was part of Trotsky’s theory of the Permanent Revolution. Other words and turns of phrase became favorite stock-in-trade. I mean not only the obvious words of Communist jargon like “the toiling masses”; but words like “concrete” or “sectarian.” (“You must put your question into a more concrete form, Comrade.” “You are adopting a Left-sectarian attitude, Comrade”); and even such abstruse words as “herostratic.” In one of his works Lenin had mentioned Herostratus, the Greek who burnt down a temple because he could think of no other way of achieving fame. Accordingly, one often heard and read phrases like “the criminally herostratic madness of the counter-revolutionary wreckers of the heroic efforts of the toiling masses in the Fatherland of the Proletariat to achieve the second Five Year Plan in four years.”
According to their vocabulary and favorite cliches, you could smell out at once people with Trotskyite, Reformist, Brandlerite, Blanquist and other deviations. And vice versa, Communists betrayed themselves by their vocabulary to the police, and later to the Gestapo. I know of one girl whom the Gestapo had picked up almost at random, without any evidence against her, and who was caught out on the word “concrete.” The Gestapo Commissar had listened to her with boredom, half-convinced that his underlings had blundered in arresting her — until she used the fatal word for the second time. The Commissar pricked his ears. “Where did you pick up that expression?” he asked. The girl, until that moment quite self-possessed, became rattled, and once rattled she was lost.
Repetitiveness of diction, the catechism technique of asking a rhetorical question and repeating the full question in the answer; the use of stereotyped adjectives and the dismissal of an attitude or fact by the simple expedient of putting words in inverted commas and giving them an ironic inflection (the “revolutionary” past of Trotsky, the “humanistic” bleatings of the “liberal” press, etc.); all these were essential parts of a style, of which Josef Djugashwili is the uncontested master, and which through its very tedium produced a dull, hypnotic effect. Two hours of this dialectical tom-tom and you didn’t know whether you were a boy or a girl, and were ready to believe either as soon as the rejected alternative appeared in inverted commas.
You were also ready to believe that the Socialists were: (a) your main enemies, (b) your natural allies; that socialist and capitalist countries: (a) could live peacefully side by side, and (b) could not live peacefully side by side; and that when Engels had written that Socialism in One Country was impossible, he had meant the exact opposite. You further learned to prove, by the method of chain-deduction, that anybody who disagreed with you was an agent of Fascism, because: (a) by his disagreeing with your line he endangered the unity of the Party; (b) by endangering the unity of the Party he improved the chances of a Fascist victory; hence (c) he acted objectively as an agent of Fascism even if subjectively he happened to have had his kidneys smashed to pulp by the Fascists in Dachau.
Generally speaking, words like “agent of...” “Democracy,” “Freedom,” etc. meant something quite different in Party usage from what they meant in general usage; and as, furthermore, even their Party meaning changed with each shift of the line, our polemical methods became rather like the croquet game of the Queen of Hearts, in which the hoops moved about the field and the balls were live hedgehogs. With this difference, that when a player missed his turn and the Queen shouted “Off with his head!” the order was executed in earnest. To survive, we all had to become virtuosos of Wonderland croquet.