David Thompson – a blogger who seems to find some superb photos for his site, by the way – has a nice roundup connected to the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, about which Perry de Havilland has already had some thoughts. As a reminder, here is a film I mentioned some time ago, based in former East Germany, that is a telling story about the dangers of the surveillance state.
It remains something of a mystery as to why Communism was able to appeal to some very smart people for so long. Oh sure, many supporters of totalitarian socialism were transparently evil or very, very thick but obviously that does not quite explain it all. The idea of Marxism-Leninism as a substitute for religion comes closest, in my mind, to explaining its hold on many well-meaning minds as well as less benign ones. Some of that religious-substitute drive has now been shifted to the Green movement.
But even so, I continue to this day to be surprised by how supposedly sharp people got swayed by communism. Take one random example: the 20th century spy novelist and film screenwriter, Eric Ambler. I have long been a fan of his fiction: the modern spy novel owes a lot to his style and method. He died in the late 90s at a ripe old age; reading an introduction to one of his books, I was a bit taken aback – although maybe I should not have been – to read that he was an enthusiast for the Soviet Union right up until the Hitler-Stalin pact at the start of WW2, which “depressed him deeply”. One wonders why this acute observer of human nature in its more sleazy respects had not cottoned on to the massive killings, the Man-made famines, that were already an established feature of 1930s Russia? By the mid-30s, this stuff was not a secret any more. British journalists like Malcolm Muggeridge had already exposed a lot of what was going on; even old Bertrand Russell, a man capable of considerable foolishness as well as brilliance in other ways, fingered the Soviet Union as a gangster state.