Monday, April 09, 2007

Totalitarian aunts

Oliver Kamm plays a neat trick on an affectionate piece by Jeremy Paxman about his partner's 94-year old aunt. By substituting fascism for communism as the aunt's lifelong commitment, she appears in a totally different light. Kamm has a good point to make about how Communists clung to their beliefs, despite historical experience, and of how our perceptions of totalitarianism differ. However, when reading his blog I am sometimes made uncomfortable by his lack of generosity towards those he opposes. There are some that thoroughly deserve his scorn but there are others that seem mistaken rather than malicious and this strikes me as a good example. Kamm continues, "Doubtless some of my readers will see a substantial moral difference between the reality and the thought experiment; I don't". Indeed, and I am one of those readers.

If there is one thing about Fascism, it does at least have a sort of honesty about it. It celebrates a world of struggle, sacrifice and war. It openly worships power, heaps scorn on private pleasure and demands unquestioning loyalty to a totalitarian state. It is full of contemptuous hatred for others and solicits their mass murder. It is an unconcealed picture of violence and misery that would remake the world as a prison.

Communism, on the other hand, offers a world of social equality, peace, harmony and unity. It presented the prospect of an end to racism, class distinction and war. The writer Milan Kundera described the dream as an "idyll for all" and that is why he claimed that it attracted the best of his generation. It was an illusion. The dishonesty of Communism is that it still hid behind that mask of justice even as it perpetrated the crimes of the gulags. Perhaps this is why many still cling to the dream that a new world can be remade through the actions of a Leninist vanguard party and state collectivism (two concepts that I utterly reject) despite the crushing weight of historical evidence to the contrary.

It is hard to lose our dreams when confronted with reality. So, rather than being as Kamm suggests, "a woman of scant imagination at best", the aged aunt is the opposite. She is an example of those whose imagination can overcome all invasions of reality in their desire for a better world.

No comments: