We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The tour guide

This BBC story by by Steve Rosenberg starts in quite an arresting manner…

Berlin Wall anniversary: The ‘worst night of my life’

It’s one of the most bizarre guided tours I’ve ever been on. I’m driving around Berlin with Egon Krenz – the last communist leader of East Germany.

Thirty years ago today the Berlin Wall came down.

It must be sad for him, no longer being able to rule over Germans as a dictator. Still, at least he still gets to be der Reiseführer.

34 comments to The tour guide

  • Alsadius

    Aww, muffin.

  • Behind Enemy Lines

    You will find few people who loathe every variety of communist as much as I do. Yet I remember Krenz much as I do Jaruzelski: at critical stages in the revolutions of 1989 they could have tried to hang on to power by ordering their troops to shoot the opposition, but chose not to do so. For this, they should be thanked and remembered well.

    I was there for it all, and knew very well that events could have gone so much differently.

    For a long time I thought of 1989 as a victory. I believed we would all learn a permanent lesson about the left, and go on to better things. Silly me! As the years pass I feel less and less pleasure in seeing how far (and how quickly) the Soviet Bloc leaders fell, and feel more and more anger and contempt at how much our own political class behaves like them.

    I hope that during my lifetime we might see a ‘1989’ in the West.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Behind Enemy Lines,

    Ferdinand Marcos, ousted from the Philippines three years before the Wall fell, was a non-Communist example of the same phenomenon: a scummy dictator, when his time came he at least had the decency to flee into exile rather than soak his country in blood.

    But “being a less murderous dictator than the usual run of murderous dictators” is not a high bar.

  • Penseivat

    Slightly off topic, an ex Army colleague was stationed in (West) Berlin when the Wall came down. He told me that for about 4 or 5 days, it was like a continual street party, before things started changing. He told me the Berliners became less friendly to British troops and their families, being refused service or ignored in shops; being insulted in the streets and having their cars damaged. The usual insults were “The Russians are going and we don’t need you any more, so why don’t you go too?” or similar.
    As the son of someone who died taking part in the Berlin Airlift, he was particularly upset at this show of Berlin gratitude and couldn’t wait to get away from the place.

  • Behind Enemy Lines

    Natalie, you’re right – in principle being a ‘less murderous dictator’ is a pretty low bar. But if the GRD administration had shot their protesters in late ’89 then I believe NATO would’ve inevitably been drawn into it. So in context, I’m especially happy they got over that admittedly low bar.

    At risk of hijacking the topic, this is why I think we should be prepared to hold our collective noses and forgive dictators who walk away peacefully. If Krenz and Jaruselski had reason to think they’d end up like Khaddafi or Pinochet, 1989 would’ve gone much harder than it did.

  • Behind Enemy Lines

    Penseivat, Berlin was a magnet for all of German’s worst scum. That sort of behaviour was par for the course in the ’80s. Not from every Berliner — far from it — but the Kreuzberg set were always like that. Certainly didn’t see that sort of change back in south / western Germany, although of course the usual misery guts ‘antis’ carried on as before.

  • Behind Enemy Lines, Gorbachov called the shots, not the stooges in Russia’s soviet socialist empire. At critical stages in the revolutions of 1989, people like Krenz knew they needed soviet sign-off, which they were not getting. Be grateful to Gorby if you wish. He too was at that point very boxed in but decisions he made earlier were influential, though he was very much blindsided by their side-effects.

    I’d want evidence to think that a viceroy like Krenz was truly deciding or not. Only in Romania was the regime effectively outside Kremlin control.

    The question of whether dictators should be allowed to go peacefully or should, maybe at the cost of more lives, be made to die in a bunker like Adolf raises a number of issues, one of which is that what might encourage a faster exit at one moment can encourage more resistance at another. If a ruthless dictator has a get-out-of-jail free card they know they can play at any time then they have a motive to hang on till the very last moment where another might want to flee while they still controlled e.g. an airport and a plane, and maybe a good deal more than that for risk-free flight.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Good comments.

  • Snorri Godhi


    Behind Enemy Lines, Gorbachov called the shots, not the stooges in Russia’s soviet socialist empire.

    True (afaik) but you also have to keep in mind that Gorbachov had his hands tied by economic constraints: unless he was willing and able, like Stalin, to let millions of Soviet people die of starvation, he had to get loans; and to get loans, he had to respect human rights.
    See Gaidar’s essay, to which i linked previously on Samizdata, to rave reviews.

  • Paul Marks

    Behind Enemy Lines and Penseivat – Berlin (West Berlin) was in the old days a magnet for draft dodgers – it was the only place in the Federal Republic of Germany not subject to conscription. And remember that the West German army was not about invading places – it was about defending against the Marxists. Guess what sort of people did not want to serve in it?

    These days Berlin is still a left wing high government spending city – think New York or Chicago. New York City has a Mayor who (whatever he says now publicly) regrets the fall of East Germany and would like to make the United States like East Germany (as would many other powerful forces – from Hollywood to Harvard).

    Will we see a “1989” in the West? The left have an answer to such a possibility – import in vast numbers of people who have never lived in an even semi free society, and so will not miss liberty when it is gone.

    Even in East Germany people could look back to a time (say 1914 – in spite of all the faults of Imperial Germany) when there had been secure private property rights, honest courts, and a large measure of voluntary order and freedom of contract.

    Can people from North Africa or the Middle East look back to such a time? I did NOT exist under the Ottoman Empire.

    What about people from Mexico and the rest of Latin America – when was the period of civilised society and a wide measure of security of property rights and freedom of civil interaction, there?

    Americans are told, by the education system and the “mainstream” media, that their society was evil – but their grandparents can tell them (at least in whispers in private) that America was a good society, where most things were done by voluntary interaction (people working and helping each other) and where most things actually worked.

    Someone from, for example, Mexico can not have that experience – Mexico was not a good society in the time of their grandparents.

    Nothing to do with “race” – everything to do with historical experience (with culture – with passed down memories over generations).

    That is why the left hates traditional families – because (at least in private) parents and grandparents can contradict what the education system and the mainstream media teach.

    It is much the same in Britain – many people still know that Britain in say 1960 (for example the town I am sitting in – Kettering, Northamptonshire) was a good place – contrary to what the education system and the mainstream media teach.

    But someone who comes to Britain from outside has no parents or grandparents telling them that Britain was a good society in the past – no one contradicting the agitprop (agitation propaganda) of the education system and mainstream media.

    People will not want to restore liberty if they have been taught that the past was evil – and thus the left hopes to avoid a 1989 in the West. As the left proceed to destroy what is left of liberty in such countries as the United Kingdom and the United States.

  • Behind Enemy Lines

    Niall, yes . . . but not so black and white.

    By November 1989 the Soviet Bloc leaders would have been happy to get some clear direction out of Gorbachov, who had what we might call the reserve powers. It wasn’t forthcoming, so they had to make their own decisions. IMHO the most critical decision they made, especially in Germany, was not to shoot their protestors.

    From what I’ve read, I believe Honecker would have repeated 1953 on a massive scale if he could have gained internal support from the rest of the GDR leadership. Instead, and partly because of that, they replaced him with Krenz. This worked out pretty well for the Germans, over time. For that I’m happy to thank Gorby, too, but credit to Krenz et al as well. [I’m mindful that none of this was happening in a vacuum, and that Hungarian and Czech government decisions also put a lot of pressure on East Berlin.]

    Jaruzelski actively and successfully resisted Russian pressure to deal extremely harshly with Solidarność, certainly in the mid-80s. I understand that the Soviets were on the edge of sending a military intervention at one point, but the Polish government saw it off. And Jaruzelski’s administration ultimately departed through elections and negotiations. My Polish friends in ‘exile’ would doubtlessly twist my tail for saying so, but credit to Jaruzelski as well.

    And here we are, thirty years on, able to casually stroll through the Brandenburg Gate any time we please.

    As for dictators, one can certainly argue both sides of the issue. These days, however, I have a lot less enthusiasm for sending our armies abroad to chase dictators into bunkers, and much more enthusiasm for velvet revolutions. Not because I would happily abandon people to live in slave states — I didn’t do that in the 80s, either — but because we no longer seem to have the will or the ability to stage another Berlin 1945.

  • Paul Marks

    “Make America Great Again” is based on the historical memory that America was good – should the left (from Hollywood to Harvard) manage to convince most people that America was evil, then the cause of liberty is crushed at the very start of political discussion.

    People will not wish to restore liberty if they have been taught that it was evil – not in the United States, and not anywhere else either.

  • Behind Enemy Lines

    Paul Marks, I agree with you.

    We should have dealt very harshly with our communist fifth columnists back in 1990.

    Instead, the various Western uniparties decided to let (temporarily) sleeping dogs lie. And now look who’s in charge.

    It seems most days we get weaker while they get stronger. Even then, I do think we still have the ability to shake off the left. If we manage it, then this time around we have to remember the great lesson from 1989-2019: this is not a polite argument over political differences between people with common interests. It’s a slow-motion coup by clever, determined people who want power at any price, and who are openly laying the groundwork for a new set of smiley-face slave states.

    As I’ve written before, 1989 is very much a victory betrayed. Whether we can un-betray it remains to be seen, but if it’s to happen then we have to get cracking.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Boy. Paul, you outdo your usual standards (a difficult thing to do!) in these comments. Very well said indeed.

    B.H.L., yours also excellent.

    The $ 64-question (it really was $ 64, to start out with — I, or at least the Philco, was there) is, how to shake off the left. One Trump (or even Tx2) does not a free, anti-left country make. How do we change the mindsets of enough teachers at all levels, of Hollywood, of various Moneybags, etc.? Or is there another strategy that could work better?

    I don’t know whether you are in the U.K. or the U.S. or where, but between the acceptance as legitimate the candidacies of Obama and Cruz, not to mention Rubio, it’s easy to see that there’s one more stricture of the Constitution that’s been flushed.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think the question as to whether there can be a 1989 for the west can probably be answered. One need only look at Trump, hardly a libertarian, but he has tried to scratch the surface of the problem and the overwelming immune system reaction from the permanent bureaucracy, the press and all establishment structures tells us a few important things:

    1. Were such a revolution to take place it would be extremely bloody.
    2. The likelihood of such a revolution is tiny for the simple fact that most people don’t want one.

    I am not sure how much of this vehement opposition is due to a tiny attempt to reduce the power of the state or the fact that Trump is so extremely abrasive in his approach, but it is surely a bit of both.

    The future does not look good, from what I can see. Surely the biggest issue in American is the completely out of control debt, far more than can ever be paid off. And the response to this? Trump has run up the first ever trillion dollar deficit, and Warren wants to add a new 50 trillion dollar debt on top of the existing one.

    And if the democrats do get power, I think they will try some form of enforced gun buy back or confiscation. (BTW, there are about 150 million AR-15s in America. They cost about $1000 each, so a buy back would cost $150 billion. How come nobody mentioned that?) Were that to happen I do not doubt there are the makings of a civil war, and a guarantee of a lot of bloodshed. I am not advocating for that AT ALL, I am just saying that if they do that, that is what will happen.

    If someone things there is a way out of this mess, I sure would like to see it. The UK is in massively better shape in this regards. Their debt is about $2trillion, and their PSBR (the equivalent of the deficit) is effectively zero. Much though we don’t know it, America is the poorest country in the world, we just hide it really well. After Warren is done, every family in America will have a debt of approximately $1 million each, backed by a lien on their children and grandchildren’s future.

    I am struck by the dishonesty of the so called Kenysians. JMK’s basic idea was that when the economy was bad the government should borrow money to stimulate it, and then when it is good, pay it back. Funny how they always forget the second part. The US economy is probably the best it has been since the second world war, and yet we just ran up the largest deficit in our history.

  • Itellyounothing

    I suppose the question is demographic.

    Are old authoritarians dying out faster or slower than old libertarians and are young authoritarians being moulded faster or slow than young libertarians.

    My vision seems curiously double, sometimes I think with a few shakes of her skirts liberty can be upright and unencumbered all across the West with just a few clever Pepe Memes and a pic of the God Emperor thrown in.

    Other times it looks like we win an independence vote, give 5G access to the Chinese security services and our PM succeeds where his predecessor failed and gifted our democratic rights straight back to the EU……

  • Fraser Orr

    @Itellyounothing I don’t think there are too many examples of incrementally increasing liberty. On the contrary, incrementalism always seems to be toward tyranny. From what I see in history there are exactly two ways liberty increases in a country: either by a dramatic technological innovation (the printing press and the Internet being two examples) and by violent revolution. The problem with violent revolutions is that history has a lot more French Revolutions than American ones.

    I don’t think there are too many examples of gradual increases in liberty or people voting themselves more free. But I could be wrong. The collapse of the USSR is perhaps one example of a revolution that was surprisingly unbloody.(Hey would you look at that, I’m back on topic….)

  • Behind Enemy Lines

    Julie near Chicago
    November 9, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    The $64 question . . . is, how to shake off the left.


    We’ll never entirely shake off the left, because the fight against the left is a fight against human nature. In any large population there will always be people who will do anything for power, and there will always be even more people who want government to steal for them under colour of law. They naturally find each other and work together politically. So leftism will always be with us.

    While I don’t have an answer to your questions about strategy, I do have a hunch: putting the left back into their box for a while will require organisation and mobilisation on our part, coupled with structured confrontation(s) over Clown World’s undeniable loss of legitimacy. Those are both within our power. Beyond that, it’ll require a spark of some kind, probably some unpredictable thing that surprises us all. The main trick is to be prepared when it happens.

    At a tactical level, I believe that active community-building is our best way forward.

    As an aside, I tend to think that the left’s strategic centre of gravity is public money. Rivers of public money are their greatest strength, and their greatest weakness. To the extent we can stop funding a given left-wing organisation, we win a tactical victory. To the extent we can cut overall government tax-and-spend, we win a strategic victory.

    Fraser Orr
    November 9, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    The future does not look good, from what I can see.

    You raise a number of good points. May be right, too. I’m guessing we’ll find out in our own lifetimes.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Afraid I agree with all that, B.E.L. Human nature is not going to change, unless we find a way to change our biochemistry; and Man has done some wonderful technology, but I do not think that a Man-designed Man is going to turn out to be an improvement on the original.

    No. Lefties and militarists and dictators and murderers and psycho/sociopaths and those who think life is pointless without mammon or status or power (for themselves of course) will always be with us.

    I agree that your program could work, but it will take the kind obsessive drive that the Communists had. The Long March has been by now a solid century long, and at times it was bogged down and going nowhere…but they persevered. But we are hamstrung to a degree because we would rather be doing what we like doing (to a degree, anyway) than be out there making big hairy things of ourselves.

    And because most of us really don’t like being mean. (Kavanaugh, Thomas, Bork, back & back & back ….)

  • Julie near Chicago

    As for dictatorship, interesting piece on education in Malawi, May 21st, 2019 :

    Female chief comes to power, annuls 850 child marriages and sends girls back to school

    She’s the “Chief” of some area of Malawi, thinks it better for 7-8-year-old girls to be in school rather than undergo training to be good at sex so they can be married off and thus not starve to death. So the lady, Theresa Kachindamoto, a mother of five, has outlawed child marriage and is ordering that all children be sent to proper schools.

    It says that per WHO, half of Malawian girls are married before age 18. (But my own grandmother was married at 16, and was 16 or 17 I think when she had her first baby. It was common then. But, they had extended families, functioning economy, and many of the colonists (British Honduras, around 1886) were educated and self-supporting.

    (16 wasn’t too young for many girls to be married in the U.S. either, at the time.)

    So the whole scene was different.

    From the article, FWIW, it sounds as if there are no Ifs Ands or Buts; and there are people who sound to me like neighborhood snoops to make sure parents are in compliance.

    That much sounds dictatorial as the dickens. But in that situation, it might actually be a proper step in the right direction. (Could easily go afoul, of course. And we hardly know how “dictatorial” it really is. And is the rest of the government equally so?)

    The piece says she has a way to pay for it. I’d like to know how, because it matters.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Glad this site has marked the anniversary. I get the impression that some Western leaders haven’t all exerted themselves much to do so.

    The end of the Soviet empire was a marvellous event. And it discredited the mad utopian vision of State socialism; it’s worth pointing out that the current leader of the Labour Party and his entourage mourn the end of the Wall and think the wrong side won the Cold War.

    I’m looking forward to Boris Johnson making a speech lauding all the struggles that led to the end of Communism. I’m doubtful that Trump will but I hope he does. The fact his current wife comes from the former Communist nations is something he should reflect on.

    I find this amnesia from some quarters very regrettable because a whole generation of adults, gabbling about “neoliberalism” and the supposed evils of trade don’t understand that what came before was truly evil.

  • Fraser Orr (November 9, 2019 at 11:30 pm and November 10, 2019 at 2:07 am)

    I am not sure how much of this vehement opposition is due to a tiny attempt to reduce the power of the state or the fact that Trump is so extremely abrasive in his approach, but it is surely a bit of both. (Fraser Orr, November 9, 2019 at 11:30 pm)

    Brexit, with its leaders Boris Johnston, whose clowning style is unlike Trump’s, and Nigel Farage, whose style is populist but not Trumpish, offers a useful control experiment demonstrating (I think) that Trump’s style contributes little to causing the elite’s hatred of commoners’ votes actually reversing things they have decided, though much to their hatred of Trump because his style is one way to cut through their media control.

    I don’t think there are too many examples of incrementally increasing liberty. (Fraser Orr, November 10, 2019 at 2:07 am)

    I offer the example of British history in the 1700s and 1800s.

  • Mr Black

    Fighting the ever-present 5th column of communists in the west requires moral fortitude and belief in your own righteousness. You draw a line in law and morality, this far and no further. When someone crosses it, they die. No exceptions. The penalty for advocating for “insert choices here” is death. Whether it be one power hungry politician or a 100,000 strong demonstration, if they advocate communist goals, they are to be eliminated.

    If you can’t do that, then anything else you do is useless, because they will win in the end. And then only total revolution after decades of tyranny will reverse it.

  • Penseivat (November 9, 2019 at 9:55 am), I was in Berlin a few years before the wall fell and found it the nearest I’d ever been in to a typical science-fiction city. Not only had the rebuilding after the bombing inflicted buildings that were (understandably) nicknamed ‘the spaceship’ and ‘Jimmy Carter’s smile’ and etc., not only did the unrepaired area between the walls still show all the pockmarks of the battle for Berlin, not only did the confining wall and wire remind me of many an SF scenario, but all five social groups in the city got on badly with each other.

    The draft-dodging much-into-drugs students hated the locals and their semi-militarised police (surreptitiously trained as our backup) and had a riot every week (one week it was to demand a sixth nudist beach on the Havel – just having five was appalling oppression 🙂 ).

    The local Berliners hated the students. Although they knew the military were necessary, they greatly disliked many things. They disliked the way their parks were the military training grounds – and not just the parks. They disliked our soldiers being totally exempt from their police control. They disliked having just to tune it out if, for example, they were driving along a road and suddenly found military units on either side of them firing a ton of blanks at each other. Etc.

    The three military establishments did not get on that well either. The French scammed the Berliners: they sent raw recruits who spent their time in Berlin being trained, paid for by the Berliners who didn’t think much of this, but the British and US were also unimpressed at how useless their not-yet-trained allies would be at need. I guess the UK and US got on best of any of these groups but in those days before the Reagan renaissance really took hold, wiping away the post-Vietnam spirit, and when we had not fought a war together for a while, the military aspect of the special relationship was weaker than it was before and has become again since.

    So I find your army friend’s account of how the Berliners very swiftly decided that the soldiers could go wholly convincing. (There’s a old German saying: “The moor has done his duty; the moor may go”. 🙂 ) I also note, in the interests of accuracy, that some of the gripes the Berliners had with the soldiers were understandable.

  • bobby b

    Johnathan Pearce
    November 10, 2019 at 11:03 am

    “I’m looking forward to Boris Johnson making a speech lauding all the struggles that led to the end of Communism. I’m doubtful that Trump will but I hope he does.”

    – – – – –

    US President Donald Trump on Saturday hailed Germany as a “treasured” ally as commemorations were held marking 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    “The Cold War has long since passed, but tyrannical regimes around the world continue to employ the oppressive tactics of Soviet-style totalitarianism,” Trump said in a message from Washington.

    “I congratulate the German people on the tremendous strides that have been made in reuniting their country and in rebuilding the former East Germany.

    “We will continue working with Germany, one of our most treasured allies, to ensure that the flames of freedom burn as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the entire world to see.”


  • Julie near Chicago

    You can read that as mere political palaver, if you think so. But my immediate reaction was that Trump’s got class, when it suits him.


    OTOH … on what grounds does he say Germany is “a treasured ally”? True, I’m still on my first coffee, but I’m coming up blank. Unless he means that Germany has given up her dreams of imperial destiny … and, I gather, is no longer running a police dictatorship in which lives are de facto conducted or ended at the whim of Mr. Hitler and his bully-boys. Which is certainly much more civilized than the goings-on in the ’30s and ’40s.

    But Para. 3 rings the bell, especially with the Para. 2 lead-in. [NOTE: “The German people,” not “Germany,” which phrase might or might not include a whiff of “under German leadership,”so that the people (individuals) get the credit, not the Gestapo, nor the Stasi, nor some such — https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/11/nato-summit-donald-trump-says-germany-is-captive-of-russians .] Plus plenty more Merkelian anti-Trumpness to go.

    Not sure how that merits the status of Germany as a “treasured ally,” though.

    And what about the back-and-forthness of Germany in re the matter of Muslim refugees? Seems to me it’s a degree or two removed from the state of being an “ally.”

    Then there is the Gazprom matter, which Merkel wanted and Trump hated. Lots on the Internet, including the column

    “Germany and Russia gas links: Trump is not only one to ask questions” from July, 2018, at The Guardian:

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/11/germany-and-russia-gas-links-trump-questions-europe-nord-stream2 .

    Yet you could read the last para as an encouragement to “keep your socks pulled up, boys.”

    Here endeth the questions and the pronouncements of the greatest all-time geopolitical analyst EV-ah.

  • Fraser Orr

    Niall Kilmartin
    I offer the example of British history in the 1700s and 1800s.

    Thanks Niall, I have been thinking about your comment all day. I can certainly think of some things that you might be thinking of, such as the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, the simplification and reduction of the criminal statutes (used to be they could hang you for anything), the Great Reform act (though that is more about democracy than freedom), and the changes to corporate law to allow raising shares more easily and introducing the idea of limited liability. Are there other things you were thinking of?

    Of course a lot of the improvement in people’s lives was due to the industrial revolution, and I doubt the people of India considered the British Empire a force for liberty.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on why this all happened. It seem that when you are really rich (as the empire was post Waterloo) you develop this propensity for dealing with egalitarian causes, perhaps out of guilt for your own wealth, and given that the prevailing morals of the time were Christian (for sure, Wilberforce was driven by his religious convictions) that perhaps a better outcome was had than rich Americas moral code of PC correctness mixed with anything goes.

  • Trofim

    I went over the wall several times – in a train. I remember the soldiers and guards with dogs looking under the train at the exit from East Berlin and on re-entering the DDR. Soviet trains used internationally had racks full of propaganda pamphlets in the corridors. They were useful, because knowing that no-one ever looked at any of them, I smuggled in a few books into the USSR by just leaving them mixed up with the pamphlets and collecting them when embarking from the train.

  • Fraser Orr (November 11, 2019 at 12:53 am), the danger of asking my opinion on anything is that I am only too ready to give it 🙂 – despite having a day job, work to pursue, even Samizdata posts of my own to complete, etc. – but I thank you for your request.

    I think you reverse cause and effect when you refer to Britain being rich. English-speaking culture became rich because it earlier became free, not vice versa.

    Like writing good software, practicing good politics depends on having error detecting and correcting mechanisms – or, to say the very same thing in just slightly other words, an error detecting and correcting culture. Montesquiou noted that

    abuse of power is greatest where the laws do not anticipate it

    Politics is not a true science – is not, as Dominic Cummings observed, a field in which true expertise is possible. Therefore a culture that anticipates the making of errors and the need to correct them provides the best practicable politics, since avoiding all errors by a-priori planning is impossible to achieve and dangerous to believe in. Burke said he never knew any plan that was not much improved by the comments of people far less able than those who took the lead in the business (and, one may add, the comments of people far more prejudiced, far less free from bigotry, than the wise leader, when the wise leader was Burke).

    Revolutions and riots are gross error correcting mechanisms. If they are actually error-correcting instead of error-perpetrating then they testify that the law, or the rulers’ obedience to it, did not allow error correction within the realm of legality. They ensure that correction will be accompanied by destruction, death and injustice. It is said: never vote for a law if you are not prepared to see someone die in its enforcement. Very much more can it be said: never start a riot, let alone a revolution, if you are not prepared to see it cause death.

    The England of 1900 had seen a long increase in the degree of error detection and correction that its law and culture could endure.

    – When Emperor Theodosius did penance for what his angry command had inflicted on the people of Thessalonika, he showed how the newly-adopted Christianity provided a mechanism for the state to repent wrongdoing – one that outperformed the prior culture in which the ruler’s need to save face had not this exit clause of – as one might put it – gaining face with the almighty and so preserving face with your subjects despite confessing that your government had messed up big-time. (The model of course was King David being rebuked by Nathan.)

    – Just before the English civil way started, an MP was arrested by the house of commons for referring to the two factions that existed within it. We, living centuries later, know that these two factions were to become the Tories and Whigs, then Tories and Labour of the later UK, and the Tories and Liberals of Canada, the Democrats and Whigs then Democrats and Republicans of the US, the Liberal and Labour parties of Australia, and so on. But you cannot understand the events of 1640-42 if you do not understand how shocking, how outrageous it seemed to the men of that time that there should be two factions in the commons. Everyone could see – blatantly! – that there were two factions in the house. Everyone could see that Pym, Hampden and Cromwell were, as we would later say ‘whipping’ sternly to secure their increasingly narrow majorities, while King Charles wrote to the remaining (almost all royalist) MPs who had not yet reached London to hurry up. But to the people of that time, the commons represented the nation and the nation should be of one mind: one of the factions had to be, as the insult of the time had it, ‘factious’ (the modern PC would say ‘divisive’), had to be wrong, not entitled to exist, guilty of dividing the seamless robe of the nation’s parliament. They disagreed on which side was guilty of all these crimes, but they agreed absolutely that there should be no factions in the house of commons.

    After a civil war, and the experience of having an army enforce Cromwell’s will even when “Not one in twenty Englishman will give you thanks for it”, the experience of the restoration spread the idea that having two factions wasn’t so bad, and this was an important adjunct to its more obvious lessons – that having civil peace and avoiding revolutions was good, but that having a large army was bad. By forgiving everyone who had opposed and even fought his father, but had refused to be involved in putting him to death and had accepted the restoration, Charles II took the first step towards explicitly legalising “his majesty’s loyal opposition”. The ‘glorious revolution’ set the seal on things: thereafter, England (perhaps being lucky in some further history) was already at the point where error correcting mechanisms could not only correct errors, they could also correct imperfections in themselves.

    Obviously, vast amounts of history occurred before, between and after these two incidents I have chosen to mention. I see them as useful pointers in answering the questions, “why was the west different”, and “why was England different”.

    A really good error correction system would never need riots let alone revolutions – but it may be an error to believe in so perfect a system, at least as a current feasible goal. I think the history of the English-speaking peoples teaches us that a system good enough to need violent correction only very rarely is feasible – which will not prevent the PC from destroying it and returning us to the level of the bulk of the world, past and present, if they can.

  • Paul Marks

    Julie and Behind Enemy Lines.

    The key factor is that the Frankfurt School of Marxism crowd (the “P.C.” people or the “Woke” or “Social Justice” people, as they now call themselves) rarely call themselves “Frankfurt School of Marxism” people – they call themselves “Progressives” or even “Liberals” – and they push the ideas of the Frankfurt School of Marxism under such titles as the “Equality and Diversity” agenda, which is written into the LAW governing local and central government in Britain.

    Most of Marxists do not openly declare what they are – most of the low level ones may not even know what evil they serve.

    And the resistance to them was (and is) pathetic.

    People talked of “Political Correctness gone mad” NOT “Political Correctness is Marxism”.

    There was no understanding (and still is no understanding) of the evil that the West faced and faces – inside all its basic institutions – from the schools and universities, to the Civil Service, to the churches, and now even the various Big Business enterprises.

    Karl Marx taught that the “economic base” produced the “ideological superstructure” – but the Italian Marxist Gramsci taught that with a lot of work, it could be the other way round. If the Marxists gained control of the “ideological superstructure” (the ideas in the heads of human beings) they could, in the end, “fundamentally transform” (in the words of Barack Obama) everything else.

    Already most institutions (including most of Big Business) support the banning of speech (and writing) that the left disapprove of – the process of creating “ideological hegemony” for the collectivists, is almost complete.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Paul, you write,

    ‘Most of Marxists do not openly declare what they are – most of the low level ones may not even know what evil they serve.

    ‘And the resistance to them was (and is) pathetic.

    ‘People talked of “Political Correctness gone mad” NOT “Political Correctness is Marxism”.

    ‘There was no understanding (and still is no understanding) of the evil that the West faced and faces – inside all its basic institutions – from the schools and universities, to the Civil Service, to the churches, and now even the various Big Business enterprises.’

    All very true, especially if you’ve been to college or found a gang like Antifa to join. (Not a snotty remark: Experience. Though in fairness, there are exceptions. E.g., college kids do turn out to hear people like J. Peterson, B. Shapiro, or more importantly, David Horowitz.)

    But as for “Political Correctness is Marxism,” it doesn’t seem to me that many people (percentagewise) are frightened anymore of the Big Bad Marx. They’re not well-enough educated, either in formal school or by experience.

    We read a bit of Marx in college, and I’m sorry and ashamed to say that I couldn’t quite see what was wrong with the Labor Theory of Value. (Despite having read a bit of Miss R. I was sure she was right, but I couldn’t see why Marx was wrong.) And I don’t know how many people under, say, 55, ever heard of the LTV and wouldn’t see anything wrong with it if they did.

    In the last analysis, many of Cleon Skousen’s 45 points (The Naked Communist — search, e.g.,

    “Naked Communist” site:freerepublic.com

    — weren’t so far off, as far as I can see. That’s why, if I’m correct, people are only afraid of Marxism as a reflex reaction. You have to look at the USSR (even before China!) to see the link between Marxism and Skousen’s presentation of the Communist program.

    And the way things are now, many of Skousen’s points have come true, or are in work and getting along, it seems, very well.

    Still, Marxism-Leninism is, so I understand, Lenin woven into Marx’s theoretical fabric. And the strength of Marxism’s appeal comes in the end out of really splendid manipulations of crowd psychology.

    But that, of course, gets us right back to the Frankfurt School, just as you say.

    If I were teaching Jr. High (“Middle School” nowadays for some unfathomable reason) or High School history or civics, I would show the students every video of Communist democides I could find. (And Hitlerian too, and others, but especially Communist, and show how much these dictatorial mass murderers had in common in their actual methods and goals. The idea is always to cut down the tall poppies, even when they’re only 1″ high, before they get higher still and begin to wave in the Dictator’s face.

    But the other thing is to keep reminding people why freedom is so great. People like freedom, want freedom, as long as they feel safe. When freedom isn’t safe, people are likely to want Mommie or Daddy around with the shotgun ready in order to enforce the rules keep them safe.

    Anyway, you’re right. The issue is to figure out what the infantry should be doing in order to gain a toehold from which to conduct our own Long March.


    PS. No doubt you’ve noticed that Charles Koch has thrown in with Soros on global politics. See The Independent, July 1, 2019, from the UK:


    Earlier, from Israel:
    May. 28, 2018:


    Apr. 22, 2018, from the U.S. pro-Israel Tablet:


    Walt and Mearsheimer advising on policy toward Israel! My gawd! From the Tablet article:

    Officials at the Charles Koch Institute, a policy arm of the eponymous industrialist and deep-pocketed libertarian political donor, had read [Barry] Posen’s recently released Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy. As the title suggests, the book charts a less aggressive and more “strategic” U.S. stance abroad.


    In May of 2016, the Koch Institute held a national security-focused conference in Washington featuring Freeman, Walt, and Walt’s The Israel Lobby co-author John Mearsheimer. The event may have been what led the hawkishly pro-Israel Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to drop out of the Koch’s donor network. It also put pro-Israel Republicans on notice about a long-term threat to their position within the party. “Inside mainstream Republican circles, there is a lot of concern about what Koch is doing,” said one senior Republican strategist. “It’s being noticed.”

    And Cheryl Chumley, of the Washington Times, on the same day (7/1/19) published a piece entitled, “George Soros, Charles Koch Bringing Another U.N. in America’s Gates.” The column that asks the question,

    If George Soros is the billionaire guy all the ideologically right types love to hate — with good reason, really — and Charles Koch is the billionaire of Big Business adoration — meaning, the guy the ideological left love to hate — then what’s up with their partnering for an “anti-war” think tank called the Quincy Foundation?

    Not a long piece.

  • Y. Knott

    Natalie, please bear in-mind: “he at least had the decency to flee into exile rather than soak his country in blood”

    Dictators very rarely do this out of compassion for their dictated; somebody among their top leadership usually has his ear to the ground and tips-off El Supremo that he’s about to lose the support of his army and secret police, hoping to be invited-along on El Presidente’s private jet when he flees. And the police and the army, who are out there among the people, stop supporting Mr. Big because they can feel that the People’s rage is mounting to explosion point and the front lines are going to be awfully bloody, from which Mr. Big is insulated but they’re not. Or the regime has crumbled to such an extent that the police-and-army’s paycheques are bouncing, and they’re just as starving as the populace. Or some combination of the two.

    Dictators as a class, generally have no qualms about soaking their streets in blood to maintain the people’s order and their power; what they fear is ending-up like Benito Mussolini or Nicolai Ceaucescu. Which explains those 90,000 bottles of contraband vodka in that shipment bound for North Korea; it was for the army commanders and not Kim, you understand – he drinks Hennessey.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Niall, I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. My concern with your argument though is that to have a viable error correcting system you need to define what is considered an error. I think in the anglosphere, we cannot dismiss the idea of the “rights of the Englishman” which comes from the geographically confined anarchy that reigned before the establishment of Norman rule. Something that was inculcated into common law in a way that the top down legal systems of other parts of the world didn’t have.

    However, I think much of the freedom found in England and later Britain was more an accident of history rather than a groundswell for freedom.

    For example, Magna Carta was not the English Declaration of Independence, rather it was the powerful barons trying to ensure they remained powerful in face of a weakened king. Or the English Bill of Rights, rather than our first ten amendments, was rather a document to protect the protestants from a resurgent Catholic power structure.

    Wilberforce does stand out in history as a unique man who effected freedom mostly through the force of his own will. I think there are a few people like that through history, people who, if they are willing to put their lives on the line, can advance the cause of freedom. But they are rare birds indeed… or perhaps better to say there might be a lot of them but they have a very high failure rate. And I think that the complexity of real people verses the haigographical picture history paints of the winners, means that their motives are often obscured. (Though, as I say, Wilberforce seems to have been a man acting purely from selfless, motives generated by an honest concern for, if not liberty, at least for morality.)

    In truth I think a lot of the liberty in the 1800s came from a weak monarchy, and parliament too busy messing around with matters of little consequence to liberty, an outlet for the natural tendencies of governments to oppress in India and Africa, and a technological transformation that empowered people through increased wealth, mobility and information.

    The various company acts of the 1800s are actually a pretty interesting study in politics, and are certainly very important in this regards. But that is perhaps a story for another day.

  • My concern with your argument though is that to have a viable error correcting system you need to define what is considered an error. (Fraser Orr, November 13, 2019 at 8:51 pm)

    No, that would only be necessary in a system that did the opposite of what I describe – that sought to avoid errors instead of correcting them. Discovering post-hoc whether a course of action is unwise or undesired, and being able to respond, is what the system I called ‘error-correcting’ is about. Burke described ends-justified politics as doubly uncertain. First, that the chosen methods might not achieve the desired goals – e.g. socialism’s goal of greater abundance for all is defeated, not helped, by a socialist economy. But second, the methods may reach the goals – and reveal the goals were not desirable after all. Even if socialism could establish an egalitarian society, its members might not just be unhappy because of unforeseen side-effects – they might find the experience of such equality unpleasant in itself.

    The point is that what is an error – what is undesired – may itself be discovered by experience. Ability to respond is the key. As Burke put it,

    A state without the means of some change is without the means of its own conservation

    So maybe ‘responsive’ or ‘agile’ would have been a better term for me to use than ‘error-correcting’. Re your other points:

    Our inheritance from the anglo-saxons is indeed important.

    Wilberforce impresses me but it is the decision to abolishing slavery, not Wilberforce’s personality, that was really rare in history. Wilberforce was the leader of a movement that was already growing and would have found some leader – perhaps a lesser one – had he not been. His death was, in one sense, the beginning, not the end, of the abolition of slavery in all parts of the world Britain’s power could reach.

    There have been weak monarchies at many times in history without much growth in liberty – and, as Burke points out, the British monarchy in his day was not at all weak but the strongest in the world when acting constitutionally.

    As freedom brings wealth so that wealth assists maintaining and extending freedom, but you already know my answer to the ‘chicken and egg’ question of what came first – or rather, what is the driver and what the servant – in that duo.

    History combines intention and accident. The American War of Independence was full of accident. Some US admiration of Burke is qualified by awareness that if accidents had not delayed his having the influence his talents deserved, he might have averted – i.e. prevented – their revolution and its constitutional aftermath.