Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Forgetting Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasionaria) (9 December 1895 - 12 November 1989)


Dolores Ibárruri died 25 years ago today. She was a pro-Soviet communist, Republican leader, and feminist in Spain who agitated to impose communism in her country and who later worked with Stalin's régime in Moscow. Upon her return to Spain, following the death of Franco, democratic politicians loaded her with honours. She is known for the slogan '¡No pasarán!' during the Battle of Madrid in the Spanish Civil War.

Isadora Dolores Ibárruri Gómez was born in a Gallarta, in the Basque Country. Her father was a miner. He was also—and this says much about what he had to contend with—a supporter of Carlism, a traditionalist, legitimist, monarchist, counter-revolutionary movement, which arose in the reaction against the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and which was akin to Joseph de Maistre and the French Reactionaries. Her mother was Castillian. And she was also exasperated by young Dolores, whom, aged ten, she finally took to the Church of San Felicísimo to have her exorcised.

Ibárruri was a wilful and argumentative child, certainly with demonic energy, but also with remarkable qualities. Unfortunately, she was born in a time and place that offered few opportunities to channel them constructively: women of her era and station were housewives or servants or both, who lived in sacrifice and abnegation. Schooling was harsh and religious, with an obtuse and minimal curriculum and lots of Catholicism. Her headmistress recognised she had possibilities, and encouraged Ibárruri to begin training to become a teacher. However, when, due to the family's exiguous means, she was forced to discontinue her education, her prospects reverted to the usual ones: to become a maid, a waitress, or a housewife, provided she could find a husband.

This she did. And she did early. Yet of all the men in the region, the one who got her attention was Julián Ruiz Gabiña (1890 - 1977), a communist miner and ex-convict who had been in and out of prison since the age of 20.[1] She was still in her teens when they met, and it was this rascal who filled her head with Marxist poison. He also got her pregnant, and thus they had a child out of wedlock. At last, he married her, but not without getting her into trouble: in 1917, the young couple, now living in Somorrostro and with a toddler, participated in a general strike, which led to Ruiz's being returned to his proper place: prison. Ibárruri was left to fend by herself, reading Karl Marx and other such literature at the Socialist Worker's library in Somorrostro.

She learnt nothing from the experience. On the contrary, she became more active, and by 1918 was penning her first article of communist propaganda. The latter, an invective against religious hypocrisy, was published in El Minero Vizcaíno. Since the article was to appear during Holy Week, she signed her screed, La Pasionaria (The Passionflower).

Worse was to come. In 1920 she went full communist and joined the Spanish Communist Party (Partido Comunista Español, or PCE), which had just been created. They named her member of the Provincial Committee of the Basque Communist Party. The PCE had been formed out of the youth wing of the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE), which still exists, unfortunately, and which had been founded at a bar in Madrid by Pablo Iglesias, whose mother had been reduced to begging. The PCE then merged with the Spanish Communist Workers Party (PCOE) to become the Communist Party of Spain (also PCE). This rabble joined the Third International, and, of course, its Left wing engaged in political violence, though thankfully against other Leftists.

At this time communist parties were flaring up like a rash throughout the world, so the appearance of one in Spain was not in itself remarkable. In fact, it was to be expected, because the democratic politicians had a record of failure that was truly astonishing. Inept, talentless, impotent, and corrupt, their policies, or lack thereof, had left their country economically backward and politically adrift. The railways were antiquated, cars a rare sight, and electricity had yet to reach some rural areas. This in the 1920s; in other countries there were towns that had had electricity since the early 1880s. It was, therefore, a matter of time before someone got tired of the endless parliamentary shenanigans and decided to do something about them. And it was thus that in 1923, the military, headed by Captain General Miguel Primo de Rivera in Barcelona, swept the entire political establishment out of power and established himself as a dictator. The King too had grown fed up with the politicians, and so supported this genuine nationalist by naming him Prime Minister.

Now, while Primo de Rivera thought this clearing-out was needed, he also only intended the dictatorship to be brief—long enough to re-establish order and introduce much-needed reforms. Some of these he did successfully: for example, by the time he stepped down, Spain possessed Europe's best automobile road network, dams and hydroelectrical power plants had been built, remote rural communities had been supplied with electricity, and the railways had been upgraded and modernised. On the other hand, he found himself with quite a task on his hands, and the originally intended 90 days became seven years, by which time the world had entered into a huge economic depression. Moreover, he lacked the political ability to legitimise his régime. As time passed, this weakened his position until, finally, finding that both the King and the army had withdrawn their support, he tendered his resignation. Spain was then thrown once again into political chaos—the ineffectual Second Republic. Unsurprisingly, his son, Jose Antonio, would found the Falagist movement a few years later.

Throughout this entire period, from 1920 to 1930, Ibárruri threw herself onto grassroots militancy. She had six children, but four died quickly. Her marriage broke down and she took a lover—a toyboy 17 years her junior, Fernando Antón, a railway worker who was also a militant communist. Never mind, because by the end of it, she was appointed to the PCE's Central Committee. Power at last! She used her influence to have her lover promoted within the party.

With the installation of the Second Republic in 1931, Ibárruri moved to Madrid, where she became editor of Mundo Obrero, an agitprop rag funded by the PCE. Within months she was arrested, needless to say, and jailed with common criminals (weren't communists criminals anyway?), but this proved no deterrent. During her first spell in prison, this arrogant woman organised a hunger strike in order to get her chums freed. During her second spell, not long after, she had the inmates signing 'The Internationale' in the visiting room and even convinced them that they were above menial work in the prison yard. (Note that these were all convicted criminals, who were there to be punished.) Not content with that, she wrote two articles for PCE rags.

At this stage, the government should have thrown away the key, but instead released her so she could do even more harm.

In 1933, and in conjunction with the PCE, she founded Mujeres Antifascistas (Anti-Fascist Women), a feminist group with a heavy political slant. That same year she made her pilgrimage to the USSR. One would have thought that, upon witnessing the workers' paradise, particularly under Joseph Stalin, any intelligent person would have then been given pause. Even after Stalin it was sufficiently repulsive to jolt committed communists. Such was the case with Leszek Kołakowski. Not so with Ibárruri. Indeed, she was thrilled with Stalinism. About her sighting of Moscow, she would later write in her autobiography:
To me, who saw it through the eyes of the soul it was the most wonderful city on earth. The construction of socialism was being managed from it. In it were taking shape the earthly dreams of freedom of generations of slaves, outcasts, serfs, proletarians. From it one could take in and perceive the march of humanity toward communism.[2]
By this time, Soviet Russia had already been through the Red Terror and the Cheka, and the Terror-Famine in Ukraine was just ending, leaving up to 7.5 million dead. So much for the march of humanity. Yet she liked it so much there that she stayed until the following year.

Next she went to Paris to attend an anti-war and anti-fascist women's meeting. And then, towards the end of 1934, she did what many Leftists do: she put her politics ahead of her own children's welfare. Following a recent election, in which the Confederación Española de la Derecha Autónoma (CEDA), a coalition of conservative and Right-wing parties, had won, resulting in the appointment of three CEDA ministers, a mob of communist thugs went on a rampage in the northern city of Oviedo: they killed officials, murdered clergymen, arsoned theatres, and burnt down the university. General Franco crushed the uprising with brutal force, and rightly so. The thugs were switfly convicted, leaving their wives and children to survive as best they could. Within months they were starving—what a surprise—and Ibárruri went up north in a risky rescue mission, in hopes of bringing 100 of her comrades' children to Madrid. Though she accomplished her goal, alas, once again she was jailed. Her young boy and girl, having endured enough anguish already, needed a more conscientious mother, so in 1935 Ibárruri had the bright idea of sending them to the Soviet Union—home of Stalin, the NKVD, and the Gulags!

Now a truly liberated woman, Ibárruri returned to Russia in the Summer of 1935 to attend the 7th World Congress of the Communist International, held in Moscow. There it was resolved to tone down the Marxist dogma in favour of expediency: fascism had to be fought at all costs, they thought. Ibárruri loved it, returning to Spain starry-eyed and full of hope, this having long been a PCE policy. What she didn't expect is that this would lead soon after to a Non-Intervention Agreement (signed by France, Britain, Russia, and numerous others), which would later leave the Republicans in the lurch during the Spanish Civil War, since Stalin's policy prioritised collective security against German National Socialism, and the idea of the agreement was to prevent a proxy war that could escalate into a pan-European war.

While in Moscow, Ibárruri was elected deputy member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI). This made her the second top communist in Spain after the secretary-general of the PCE.

Ibárruri was arrested yet again in 1936, but was, stupidly, freed in time to campaign in Asturias during the general election campaign then unfolding. It was only because voters were allowed to choose up to 13 candidates simultaneously at the ballot box—'one man, anything up to thirteen votes' was the rule—that the PCE managed to get a seat in the Cortes (the Spanish parliament). So, besides a top communist, democracy had now made Ibárruri an elected official as well. As if Spain didn't have enough problems already.
Her first act was to release her criminal cronies from the prison in Oviedo. In her own words:
As soon as the victory of the Popular Front in the elections became known I, already an elect member of Parliament, showed up at the prison of Oviedo the next morning, went to the office of the Director, who had fled in a mad panic because he had behaved like a genuine criminal toward the Asturian prisoners interned after the revolution of October 1934, and there I found the Administrator to whom I said, 'Give me the keys because the prisoners must be released this very day'. He replied, 'I have not received any orders', and I answered, "I am a member of the Republic's Parliament, and I demand that you hand over the keys immediately to set the prisoners free.' He handed them over and I assure you that it was the most thrilling day of my activist life, opening the cells and shouting, 'Comrades, everyone get out!' Truly thrilling. I did not wait for Parliament to sit or for the release order to be given. I reasoned, 'We have run on the promise of freedom for the prisoners of the revolution of 1934—we won—today the prisoners go free.'[3]
Well played, Dolores, well played.

What motivated this odious virago? Federico García Lorca, the poet, seems to have seen right through the caparace: while chatting over coffee at a Madrid coffee house, he said, 'Dolores, you are a woman of grief, of sorrows . . . I'm going to write you a poem'.[4] He never did.

When the Civil War erupted, as was inevitable given the never-ending political chaos, Ibárruri took to speechifying on the radio. Her supporters describe her as a good orator, and she could certainly extemporate and her declamatory delivery may have roused her comrades, but in large part her orations were of the 'up with the comrades, down with the fascists!' type. Heroic posturing, mixed with conspiracy theory, mixed with unrelenting negativity about enemies and traitors. Nothing truly inspiring, except to a communist. And clearly no Jonathan Bowden either, in terms of intellectual content.



Thanks to Stalin's deft and secret manoeuvrings, the Trotskyists and the anarchists fell out of favour, and the unwitting Ibárruri turned against them. Little did she know that Stalin simply wanted to deprive the fleeing Trotsky, his political enemy, of a Spanish haven, desiring to make him run and keep him running. Stalin had Ibárruri convinced that Trotsky and the anarchists were the 'fascist enemy within', all in a plot with Hitler and Franco to smash the Republicans.

And, without question, the Left was divided, because the Trotskyists saw the PCE as authoritarian. Which they were—after all, they were aligned with Stalin and the NKVD.

Accordingly, the Trotskyists and the anarchists were eradicated, with Ibárruri pushing for the most extreme and violent measures. She took the view that
[i]f there is an adage which says that in normal times it is preferable to acquit a hundred guilty ones than to punish a single innocent one, when the life of a people is in danger it is better to convict a hundred innocent ones than to acquit a single guilty one.
In other words: don't even hint of getting in her way!

By 1938, Stalin had formally forsaken the Spanish Republic, having entered into an alliance with France and Britain. By May the following year, the Nationalists had wiped the floor with the Republicans, and Franco was firmly in power. Ibárruri had seen the writing on the wall, however, and must have realised that Franco would be no amiable soft dictator (like Primo de Rivera) for she had already flown from Spain two months earlier. For once she was right: Franco was icy and methodical, had proven ruthless against communism, and soon demonstrated his political ability by reconfiguring the entire power structure so that it would be completely dependent on him. It remained so for nearly forty years.

Ibárruri went first to Algeria, then French territory, and subsequently to France, where she was reunited with her children. From there, at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, they, along with other Spanish communists, emigrated to the Soviet Union.

She left her lover Antón behind. He would eventually be captured by the Germans and sent to a concentration camp. Ibárruri, who was chummy with Stalin, had the latter mediate in his release. Antón went to Moscow, but finally got tired of Ibárruri and broke up the relationship. He replaced his matronly girlfriend, by then approaching 50, with a younger girl, with whom he had a daughter, who was born with Down Syndrome. But if he thought he'd heard the last of Ibárruri, he had another thing coming, because hell hath no fury, and she was not one to be scorned. After the defeat of the communist guerrillas and the failure of Operación Reconquista de España (which was crushed by Franco in 1944), he found himself targeted by La Pasionaria, who blamed him for defeat and, dubbing him a traitor to communism, had embarked on a radical purge of the PCE in France. Antón's few supporters, afraid of seeing their own heads roll, eventually deserted him, and he was forced to go Warsaw, along with his new lover and disabled daughter, and take up a low-paid factory job with long hours and Dickensian conditions. It would be many years and penuries before the PCE rehabilitated him. When it finally did, he came face to face with Ibárruri; their encounters were frosty and ruled by protocol. She never forgave him.

Franco was happy to see her go, but Stalin was delighted to have her join the ranks. Ibárruti was installed near the Kremlin, where she worked in the Secretariat of the ECCI at the Comintern headquarters. Her work involved constant monitoring and discussion of the spread of communism beyond the Soviet Union, and discussions in the PCE central committee. The PCE and the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) were in complete agreement on everything, and would remain thus until 1968. Stalin's policies—the famines, the Great Terror, the Gulags—enjoyed Ibárruti's dithyramb approval. In January 1940 she wrote:
To speak about the triumph of socialism over one-sixth of the earth, to write about the lush development of agriculture in the Soviet Union, a development unequalled by any other country, to admire the astonishing growth of socialist industry and the impetuous gains of the workers, to marvel at the unprecedented accomplishments of the mighty Soviet air force, at the mighty beefing up of the Soviet navy, to describe the glorious exploits of the Red Army liberator of peoples, to study the wonderful framework of the huge socialist state with its multiple nationalities united by unbreakable bonds of fraternal friendship, to observe the progress of science, art and of the culture of all Soviet peoples, the joyous life of their children, women, workers, peasants and intellectuals, the abiding security of everyone and their faith in the future, to know the daily life of socialism and the heroic actions of the Soviet people means to see Stalin, to cite Stalin, to encounter Stalin.
An example of the disconnect between perception and reality in the communist mind, if yet another was needed. One wonders what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would have made of that.

A year later she was asked to set up a radio station to broadcast communist propaganda into Spain. Around the same time, her fellow Spanish refugees, clearly not tired of blood or death, volunteered to fight in the war. Ibárruti was only too happy to see her compatriots die for the Kremlin. However, the Germans were closing in, and the ECCI was forced to up sticks and hunker down in Bashkortostan, between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains.

A few months later, the PCE's secretary-general committed suicide— probably the only good thing he ever did. Ibárruri inherited his post.

In the period beginning in 1939 and until her retirement from active politics in 1960, Ibárruri finally did some good, for she pursued the persecution inside the party with vigour. Assassination became a routine management tool, besides arrests and ratting out comrades fleeing into Spain to the fascist authorities. Under her leadership, there was nothing to which the PCE wouldn't stoop, but the up side is that this meant a weaker party and fewer communists.

Upon her retirement, she turned to writing her memoirs. The first of two volumes was published in 1962, with the somewhat sadistic title El Único Camino (The Only Way). Meanwhile, Moscow State University awarded her an honorary doctorate, deeming she had contributed to the advancement of Marxist theory. This was obviously political back-slapping, because Ibárruri, who had only a secondary school education. was no Lenin and wrote no theoretical texts.

Dolores Ibárruri - with Ceausescu

In fact, she achieved almost nothing of note thereafter, spending her time wining and dining at conferences and visits with communists leaders across Europe, including Josip Broz Tito (whom she had formerly traduced) and Nicolae Ceausescu. She did, however, chair the editorial committee that oversaw the production of Guerra y Revolución en España, 1936 - 1939, pure communist propaganda in four volumes, purporting to be a history of the Spanish Civil War. This waste of paper was published between 1966 and 1971.

Franco died in 1975. Initially hobbled by the devastation of the Civil War and by ideologically motivated sanctions and boycotts from Western democracies, it took until the 1950s before Spain was able to regain its pre-war production highs. During this time, Franco's régime built the modern motorway system, modernised and expanded the Port of Barcelona, and opened the a mass car manufacturer, SEAT, which proved hugely successful. (Indeed, when I visited Spain in the 1970s, the iconic SEAT 600—a slightly larger version of the Fiat 500—was everywhere, and from there the country became one of the largest car markets in Europe.) In the late 1950s, Franco had replaced the old Falangist guard with technocrats. This had led to heavy development of infrastructure, the growth of a healthy middle class, and the opening up of Spain as a popular tourist destination. By the mid 1970s, the economy had grown six times larger, electricity production nearly 30 times larger, and construction had begun for a network of nuclear power plants. This came to be known as the 'Spanish miracle'.

And it was to this stabilised and prosperous Spain, now with a restored democracy, that Ibárruri returned in 1977, having had no hand in its development. Except by staying away, that is, but then Franco hadn't given her a choice. Adolfo Suárez, then liberal Prime Minister, had legalised the CPE a few months earlier, so when Ibárruri landed at Barajas Airport, in Madrid, a handful of her fans—among whom was not her estranged husband—were able to greet her openly. She would have been turned away by the police at the border had she landed two days earlier, because even the liberal government didn't want to grant her a visa; indeed, her initial application was denied. In the end, however, they relented and allowed her in. She was 82 years of age, after all.

Still, elderly as she was, and still having learnt nothing in her excessively long life, despite having had the examples of not only the USSR, but also China, Cambodia, Vietnam, North Korea, and Cuba, this woman returned to active political activity. She attended small rallies, where both recalcitrant geriatric communists and naïve young ones, neither of whom knew anything about true communism, adulated in one big happy party. There were enough of these dunces to install her back in the Cortes—but only just, because she alone represented a quarter of the PCE's seats in the chamber. And it seems the democratic politicians were as clueless as the handful who voted for her, because the embarrassing spectacle of their treating her to a standing ovation—for a whole minute—followed her entrance. This would be the first item in a catalogue of political idiocies, because since then Spaniards have had to endure the transformation, by their politicians and academics, of old communists into heroes. Such is their state of ignorance that this has been allowed to pass with only the meekest of protests, if any at all, and certainly without controversy. Today, Izquierda Unida, of which the PCE is now a part, grants awards with her name, with complete impunity, and of the ten different urban features in Europe named after her, half are in Spain.

By this time, Ibárruri's health was in decline, but this did not stop her from travelling to Moscow, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution, presided over by Leonid Brezhnev—a man who expanded the Soviet military while stagnating the Soviet economy, collecting 100 medals in the process. The remainder of her days were a concatenation of feminist and political rallies and PCE and PCSU congresses. Her Summer holidays she spent in the Soviet Union, thus effectively using Spanish tax-payers' money to fund Soviet oppression.

By 1987, Ibárruri was begging the government for money. Having never contributed to Spain's social security, the hag had no pension. This posed no obstacle for the PSOE, which had finally managed to get themselves elected into office five years earlier: Felipe González's government, which would sink years later amid endless corruption scandals, granted her a generous monthly perquisite. She lasted another two years, before pneumonia finally removed her from the Earth.

It is fortunate that Ibárruri was contained by events before she could inflict worse. Had her criminal gang been successful during the Spanish Civil War, there would have been authoritarianism, without a doubt, but sans the economic growth and with more death, persecution, and police state. Spain would have shared the same fate as the now former Soviet republics, only it would have fared even worse, then and afterwards, because in relation to the rest of Europe the country had fallen well behind economically and infrastructurally during its post-imperial decline. Even Germany, Europe's most robust and productive economy, a country with Europe's top human capital, has yet fully to recover from the fourty-four years its Eastern part spent behind the Iron Curtain. Certainly, Franco's dictatorship had its minuses, not to mention its own negative consequences, no one would dispute it, but between him or José Díaz in power, the choice is clear.

More importantly, though some—Judge Baltasar Garzón comes to mind—have tried (and not without political motivations) to advance their careers by dredging up Franco's harsh methods against subversive communists (despite a 1977 amnesty), one must point out that there is a reason why his Falagist movement was described as 'reactionary'; yes, the fascists were harsh, but theirs were proportional reactions to those employed by their enemies—and probably not even proportional, because where communists came to power, their crimes were even worse and on a vastly grander scale, to the point that the numbers become so large as to be rendered meaningless.

It could have all been avoided if the democratic politicians had done what they were supposed to do—what they really needed to do—at the beginning of the century, or even during the previous century. They didn't, so a mild dictatorship followed. And when they were given a second chance, they squandered that as well. So a war and a more vigorous dictatorship was the result.

But Ibárruri's story didn't end well anyway. The Spanish media portray this murderous harridan as a heroine and a grandmotherly figure. The younger generations, who have grown up in peace and prosperity, miseducated by Marxist academics, are adrift, living exclusively, it seems, for the botellón, without a suitable point of reference or inspiring ideals. The revised historical narrative now paints the fascists as devils and the communists as saints. The socialists and the liberals who have ping-ponged political office since the restoration of democracy have flooded Spain with immigrants, mostly from Latin America and North Africa (visible across the Gibraltar strait from the Southern coast), justifying this the same way their counterparts have done throughout the Western world. No doubt, the economically illiterate Ibárruri would still complain about capitalism, convinced, as she was, that people 'live[d] very well' without it in communist countries, but—if somewhat indirectly— in the end the witch has had the final cackle.

Notes:

[1] Juan Cruz, 'Ha Fallecido en Baracaldo Julián Ruiz, Marido de 'Pasionaria', El Pais, 5 August 1977.

[2] Dolores Ibárruri, María Carmen García-Nieto París, María José Capellín Corrada. El único camino. Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 1992.

[3] Dolores Ibárruri quoted by Mariano Muniesa in: "Emocionado Recuerdo a una Mujer del Pueblo: La Camarada, Compañera y Hermana Dolores Ibárruri." La Comuna. 13 November 2009.

[4] Dolores Ibárruri, Me faltaba España, 1939-1977. (Barcelona: Editorial Planeta, 1984).

Monday, 3 November 2014

Forgetting Wilhelm Reich (24 March 1897 - 3 November 1957)

 
Wilhelm Reich died 57 years ago today. He was a Freudo-Marxian psychoanalist, sexual pervert, conspiracy theorist, ufologist, and quack. To his 1933 book, Mass Psychology of Fascism, we owe the fatuous idea that fascism is a symptom of sexual repression. This idea is still taken seriously today, notably by post-modern intellectuals. He died in prison after being convicted for contempt of court in a fraud case.

Reich was born in Dobzau, now in the Ukraine, but then in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, a part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Soon after birth, the family relocated to Bukovina. His parents, Leon and Cäcilia, well-to-do farmers, were vehemently apostate Jews: they raised him and his brother as non-Jews, taught them only German, punished their use of Yiddish expressions, and forbade them from playing with local Yiddish-speaking children—all in vain, however, for as an adult Reich operated in an overwhelmingly Jewish milieu.

His childhood may explain his—shall we say, 'colourful'—career: his younger sister died an agonising death while still an infant, and Reich, according to his second daughter, was abused by a paedophile, which triggered an early and unhealthy obsession with sex. He recorded in his diaries that at the age of four he attempted to have sex with the family maid, with whom he shared a bed, he sexually abused horses with a whip handle while masturbating, had almost daily sexual intercourse with the servants from age 11, visited brothels regularly from the age of 15, daily from the age of 17 (even though women disgusted him), and even had sexual fantasies about his mother, whom he kept in his thoughts while pleasuring himself. What is more, his father was cold and jealous, while his mother cuckolded her husband with Reich's live-in tutor. Reich, then 12, knew about his: he secretly followed his mother on her nocturnal visits to the tutor's bedroom, feeling jealous to the point that he considered forcing her to have sex with him too by threatening to inform his father. This he did eventually, leading to beatings and, finally, to her suicide in 1910. The tutor was, of course, ordered out of the house, and Reich, who had hitherto been taught at home, was sent to a gymnasium in Czernowitz, where he developed life-long psoriasis. And there was yet more to come, for his father died of tuberculosis in 1914, inflation wiped out his inheritance, and the Russians invaded Bukovia, causing him and his brother to flee, losing everything. The brother, Robert, would also die of tuberculosis in 1926.

At this point, with the Great War in full swing, there was nothing to do but enroll in the Austro-Hungarian Army. He served from 1915 to 1918, and rose to lieutenant. Afterwards, he went to Vienna, where he enrolled at the University of Vienna to study law. The subject bored him to tears, however, so he switched to medicine. This he loved, but he was sulky about the mechanistic view of life in vogue at the time. As a student, he was impecunious, surviving on soup, oats, and dried fruit from the university canteen, and living in a shared room that might as well have been a meat refrigerator. Indeed, he had to keep his coat and gloves on at all times. He also fell in love with a fellow student while dissecting a corpse—why not?—but she snubbed him.

More bad luck intervened: in 1919 he met Sigmund Freud, then on his final year before retiring as university lecturer. Reich asked him for a reading list for a seminar on sexology. Inevitably, given their base fixations, they took an instant liking for each other, and Freud permitted Reich to see psychoanalytic patients that same year (despite Reich being a callow undergraduate of 22), and even to join his Vienna Psychoanalytic Association, which operated from at flat and consisted of sycophantic followers. Reich, now with a modest income, began his own psychoanalysis, and then moved to a few houses away from Freud's base, on the same street.

The unseriousness and semi-criminal nature of Freudian psychoanalysis soon became manifest. Reich took on a 19-year-old female patient, Lore Kahn, with whom he quickly had an affair. As Reich's landlady and the girl's parents forbade their meetings, she rented a freezing room for purposes of sex. Bloodied knickers subsequently found by her mother in a cupboard suggest Reich got her pregnant, attempted an illegal abortion, using who knows what equipment (a coat hanger, perhaps?), and caused the girl to develop and infection that led to her death by sepsis. When Lore's mother made the allegation, the conceited butcher claimed she had made it up because she had been sexually attracted to him and, in the spirit of hell hath no fury, she wanted spitefully to damage him. Lore's mother then committed suicide and Reich was never investigated or prosecuted for his crime.

Worse still, this set a pattern, because poor Lore would be the first of four partners who would end up having abortions at this Reich's insistence.

But the monster was only getting started. His fourth psychoanalytic patient, 18-year-old Annie Pink, was also seduced by him. This time he was forced to take responsibility, for her father demanded he married her. The wedding took place in 1922 and was witnessed by two of his movement chums.

All the same, Reich was given useful breaks. Because he was a war veteran, he was allowed to complete his six-year medical degree in four, and thereafter he enjoyed the opportunity to study neuropsychiatry under the soon-to-be Nobel Prize winner Julius Wagner von Jauregg. If only he'd put this to good use!

Instead, Reich chose to work for Freud at his Vienna Ambulatorium, a psychoanalytic outpatients clinic. Like the one that opened two years earlier in Berlin , this was clearly designed by Freud to gain followers for his movement and build his market share: it offered low-cost psychoanalysis to naïve and vulnerable people who could not otherwise pay for it (labourers, farmers, and students), many of whom were victims of shell-shock. While at the Ambulatorium, Reich sought out psychopaths, and it is perhaps telling that, later on, when Freud brought him into the executive committee of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, Paul Federn objected to the appointment on the basis that, having psychoanalysed Reich, he had concluded that the man was a psychopath too.

Within a short time, Reich rose to become the Ambulatorium's assistant director. But he was a man on a mission, not to mention a political agenda, so he also opened no less than six free sex clinics, pompously called German Society of Proletarian Sexual Politics, where he pumped his clients' heads full of not only psychoanalytical pseudoscience, but also Marxist babble, to a degree that even fellow members of the Freudian cult found alarming. Not content with this, Reich added advocacy of sexual permissiveness and a constant supply of contraceptives for the working class. And he still went a step further, discarding any form of professional dignity and taking his Freudo-Marxism to the streets in the form of mobile clinics. Thereby psychiatry was reduced to wares at a market stall. There were enough gullible people around to overcrowd his practice.

Of course, the Psychoanalytic Institute in Vienna thought highly of him: in 1924 Reich was added to the faculty and made director of training. His first book, Der triebhafte Charakter: Eine psychoanalytische Studie zur Pathologie des Ich, was published a year later, and brought him professional recognition. If it was not entirely without merit, in that it argued for a systematic theory of character, it was certainly by the wrong author, for reasons that should be obvious by now, and which will become even more obvious as we progress in this narrative.

Concurrent with his work on character, Reich became obsessed with the idea of a good orgasm being the cure for every neurosis. In fact, Reich subordinated character analysis to this hobby horse of his, arguing that the aim of the latter was 'orgastic potency'. Even the pseudo-scientific cultists of the Freudian movement looked askance at Reich's idea. In time, however, they became amused, and took ridiculing him as 'the prophet of the better orgasm' and the 'founder of the genital utopia'. And when, in 1927, Reich handed over to Freud the manuscript of his a new book on the function of the orgasm, his elderly mentor raised an eyebrow and said, 'That thick?' Freud procrastinated writing a reply, and opted to be kind, penning a brief note of commendation. But Freud thought his impetuous disciple had much to learn.[1]

In 1927 Reich contracted tuberculosis, which led him to spend some time at a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland. Instead of profiting from the natural beauty and fresh air, Reich experienced an existential crisis, and returned to Vienna filled with anger, doubt, and paranoia. Not long after, he took part in the July Revolt of 1927, where he encountered full-on human irrationality. His response? To join the Communist Party, of course.

Now a fully fledged communist, all that was left was to save up for a pilgrimage to the Soviet Union, then under Stalin. This he did in 1929. All he learnt from the trip, however, was that Marx had to be integrated with Freud.

Throughout this period and until 1933, Reich worked on his 'masterpiece', Charakteranalyse: Technik und Grundlagen für studierende und praktizierende Analytiker. Ostensibly, this was about character analysis, but in reality it was an effort to open pathways for social engineering by reconfiguring a person's character structure. This was pure Freudian pseudo-science: character structure was, according to Reich, the result of castration and Oedipal anxieties within the nuclear family. Reich thought that a person developed a muscular or body armour, based on character, emotional blocks, and corporal tension. Thinking that blockages resulted from childhood repression, Reich proposed dissolving the body armour to bring back the memory of that repression and thus clear the blockage.

Accordingly, Reich deemed Freud's mandibular cancer was due to his character armouring, not in his compulsive smoking, and—somewhat anti-Semitically—he also decided that Freud's Judaism was the result of repressing his impulses.

In 1930—that is, in the midst of this—Reich moved to Berlin, where he reprised the strategy he'd deployed in Vienna: he opened sex clinics in working-class districts, taught sex 'education', and littered the community with sexo-political pamphlets. He also joined the Communist Party of Germany, but he was no team-player and, upon becoming impatient with a delay publishing one of his pamphlets (Der sexuelle Kampf der Jugend), in 1932 he set up his own publishing house to push his propaganda.

Despite this minor irritant, thus far Reich was doing pretty well for himself. Soon, however, those around him decided they'd had enough. After Reich got involved in a conference promoting adolescent sexuality, the Communist Party informed him that they would no longer publish his material. In turn, Freud informed him that his publishing contract for Charakteranalyse with the International Psychoanalytic Publishers was cancelled. And, finally, after repeatedly cheating on his wife, their marriage was ended.

Reich had by this time been in a relationship with a dancer, Elsa Lindenberg. Hitler had come to power, and the Völkischer Beobachter published an attack on his Der sexuelle Kampf der Jugend. Reich deemed it best to make a move; he and Elsa packed their bags and went to Vienna. From there they moved to Denmark, but Reich found the Communist Party there wanted nothing to do with him, excluding him before he even joined, due to his promotion of teenage sex and his preposterous tome, then recently published, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, which even they thought rubbish. You know you've hit rock bottom when even communists won't have you.

The only thing that made sense, then, was to try and find support among the British, who are tolerant of eccentrics. Fortunately, British psychoanalysts concluded, after a number of interviews, that he Reich was going to prove troublesome, so they sent him on his merry way.

Next, Reich tried Sweden, but the Swedes were no fools and quickly placed him under surveillance. Not without good reason, given his antecedents and aggressive hands-on style of psychoanalysis, they thought Reich was running a brothel from his hotel room, using Lindenberg as a prostitute. Consequently, the Swedish government refused to extend his visa, and Reich was forced to go back to Denmark, this time under a fake name.

Concerning Reich's hands-on style of psychoanalysis, this is meant literally. From 1930 he had adopted a confrontational posture as a psychoanalyst: he sat facing his patients and began lecturing them and answering his own questions. He also asked them to strip naked or almost naked, depending on his mood, and forcefully to apply pressure on parts of their bodies, to the point of eliciting pain. Essentially, this was not psychological analysis but physical assault. Reich sometimes noticed waves of pleasure rippling through his clients' bodies, and he interpreted this as an orgasmic reflex. As a result of this, he considered calling his sessions 'orgasmotherapy', but he seems to have had a modicum of sense left, and opted instead for the meaningless—and innocuous-sounding—term 'vegetotherapy'.

Now, Freud was not one to tolerate deviation. As a cult leader, he demanded absolute conformity and obedience from his followers. Independent thought was not allowed. Those who followed this simple rule, staffed his movement; those who didn't were expelled. And Reich was clearly a loose cannon. Therefore, he was asked to resign from the Psychoanalytic Association. He didn't and in 1934 went to Lucerne to attend a conference organised by this group. He was informed he had been expelled the previous year. Reich and his girlfriend camped in a tent outside the conference, and Reich chose also to carry a large knife in his belt, confirming his reputation as a madman.[2][3] Federn was singularly unimpressed, declaring, 'Either Reich goes or I go!'[3]

Yet even then there were some still willing to give Reich a helping hand. Harald K. Schjelderup, professor of psychology at the University of Oslo, invited Reich to lecture on character analysis and vegetotherapy. Offered a hand, he took an arm, and Reich and his girlfriend stayed on for five years.

While in the future Mecca of Black Metal, Reich attempted to find a biological basis for his theories. Drawing from the work of Friedrich Kraus (the father of electrocardiography), who postulated a bio-electrical system was present in the body that acted like a relay system of charge and discharge, Reich grafted onto this his orgasmic theories. His simple orgasmic formula is, perhaps serendipitously, not wholly without merit: tumescence led to charge, which led to discharge, which led to detumescence. It was a start, at any rate. However, less meritorious were his methods of quantitative testing: he lured students into volunteering to masturbate, suck each other's nipples, scratch, lick, and kiss with an oscillograph attached. Among the duped were the future German Chancellor Willi Brandt, who was then dating Reich's secretary. In 1970 Brandt would achieve immortality as the living emblem of Germany on its knees.

Things only became more bizarre from here. From 1934 until the outbreak of the war, Reich conducted 'bion experiments'. This consiting of making a witch's brew, cooling it down, and observing the bacteria, which—by now approaching delusions of godhood—he deemed to have created himself, when they were simply airborne straphylococci that had ended up there because of his methodological failures. He concluded that cancer was the result of a decline in 'orgone' energy. Orgone was what he deemed to be the joy-filled life force expressed in the orgasm.

Not surprisingly, the idea of this charlatan being taken seriously irked the scientific community. His work on 'bions' was derided as nonsense, and in the space of a year than 100 articles appeared in the Norwegian press denouncing him. And rightfully so, because Reich was misusing finite university resources. Upon examining Reich work, Leiv Kreyberg concluded that he knew less about bacteria and anatomy than a first-year student. And when Reich protested and asked for a detailed control study, Kreyberg replied his work did not merit it.

When Reich's visa finally expired, Norwegian scientists were keen to get rid of him. They argued against an extension. But they were also decent folk, and preferred a humane solution to handing Reich over to the Gestapo. With the country proud of its intellectual tolerance, and with the government having already got rid of Leon Trotsky less than two years earlier, a compromise was reached: Reich's visa was extended, but from then on, and by Royal decree, all psychoanalysts wanting to practice would need a licence, and it was made absolutely clear to Reich that he would not qualify for one. Completely humiliated, Reich was left boiling with impotent rage. He became a recluse and from then on kept everyone at arm's length.

In tandem with this turmoil, Reich got his girlfriend pregnant. Initially, they were happy. But then Reich had second thoughts and insisted on an illegal abortion. Lindenberg was greatly distressed, but Reich browbeat her into submission, and the couple snuck back into Germany. In Berlin, Edith Jacobson, a fellow psychoanalyst, helped to arrange the operation. By 1937 Reich was already having simultaneous affairs. The first was with one of his patients, who was married to a colleague. The psychoanalysis would end because of the affair, then the affair would end and the psychoanalysis resume. And so on. Eventually, Reich's scandalous lack of ethics became intolerable, and his illicit paramour threatened to go to the press. Reich got away with it by persuading her that the revelations would damage her was much as him. The second affair was with a Gerd Bergensen, a 25-year-old Norwegian. The hypocrite conducted these infidelities while keeping Lindenberg under his thumb, jealously prohibiting her from having any kind of separate life. When he assaulted a composer she was working with, she thought of calling the police, but she took pity and decided against it, thinking the wretch could not afford yet another scandal. All the same, it was over: when Reich asked her to move with him to the United States in 1939, she told him to get lost.

How Reich ended up in America shows that there is always enough gullible or naive people out there for a rascal to survive, so long as he thinks himself a great man.[4] Theodore P. Wolfe, a professor of psychiatry at Columbus University, had travelled to Norway to study under Reich, and when the so-called 'Reich Affair' unfolded he offered the master help resettling in the United States. Wolfe convinced The New York School for Social Research—a New York university that would be strongly influenced by the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School—to invite Reich to teach 'Biological Aspects of Character Formation'. Together with Walter Biehl, a former student of Reich, Wolfe put up $5000 to guarantee Reich's visa. Wolfe also pulled strings with his contact in the State Department. The visa came through, and Reich ended up renting a flat in Queens, New York.

Once installed and with a secretary, it was back to his old tricks. He began experimenting with animals. He got himself a new lover, Ilse Ollendorf. And he got her pregnant and then asked to abort, illegally. This time, however, the managed to keep the girl. Reich had no friends—only colleagues, none of whom dared call him by his first name.

It was in New York that Reich finally transitioned from quack to full kook. While injecting mice with his 'bions', he claimed to see traces of 'orgone' in the sky. He therefore began building orgone boxes, with which he hoped to accumulate this cosmic life force. Initially, he made animal versions. But soon enough he made a man-sized one. The latter was basically a chair inside a closet lined with various materials. He expected his patients to sit naked. And he began testing on humans without a medical licence. This, however, didn't go on for long: although he somehow managed to attract patients, some of them eventually realised they were in the presence of a nutter—a nutter without a medical licence. Rumours began to circulate that he was insane (not far from the truth) and that he'd been an inmate at a madhouse (Utica State Mental Hospital). Reich begged his supporters to ignore the criticism and stick with him, believing he had discovered a cure for cancer and a grand unified theory of mental health.

Convinced of his own greatness, in December 1940 he wrote to Albert Einstein, desiring to discuss his discoveries. Einstein was open minded, and agreed to meet him the following month. They talked for five hours. During the conversation, Reich claimed that his orgone could be used as a bomb against fascism. Reich came away abuzz with excitement. Einstein was interested in the war against fascism, so they met again, and this time Reich left Einstein with a small orgone box. When Einstein tested it, he recorded different temperatures inside and above the box. Reich told him this was due to orgone. But one of Einstein's assistants pointed out the temperature gradient in the room: hot air rose, so the air near the floor was cooler than the air near the ceiling. For Einstein, this settled the matter completely. For Reich this was only the beginning, and he conducted elaborate tests in the open air, about which he wrote to Einstein in a 25-page letter. When Einstein ignored him, Reich persisted. In fact, Reich persisted for three years, regularly, getting no clues from Einsteins monolithic silence. Finally, Reich lost his rag and threatened Einstein with publishing their initial exchange of letters. Einstein finally replied, saying he had no time for him and demanding he refrain from using his name for self-promotion. Infuriated, Reich interpreted this as evidence of a conspiracy, hatched by communists or by instigated by his rumoured insanity, and in 1953 published the correspondence in a volume ominously titled The Einstein Affair.

Reich did not last two years at the New York School for Social Research. Its director, Alvin Johnson, was aware of Reich's claims to have found a cure for cancer with the orgone boxes, and when Reich finally wrote to tell him that he'd saved several lives with his secret experiments, Johnson fired him.

Neither did Reich last at his flat in Queens. His neighbours complained about his animal experiments and his landlord threw him out. But Reich was a cat of nine lives, and his gullible supporters raised $14,000 ($221,000 today!) for him to buy himself a house. He bought one on 69th Avenue.

A few months later the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, leading the American authorities to hunt down suspected subversives. On 12 December 1941, in the dead of night, the FBI knocked on his door, frowned at a few of the tomes on his bookshelf (Hitler's Mein Kampf and Trotsky's My Life, and a biography of Lenin, among others), and arrested him. It seems they thought he was the Wilhelm Reich from New Jersey, a bookseller who distributed communist literature. He was taken Ellis Island, where he was kept in a hall with members of the German American Bund. His psoriasis broke out, however, and he was transferred to the hospital ward. After repeated interrogations, he was released upon threatening to go on hunger strike. All the same, he remained under surveillance. Two years later, the FBI finally realised their mistake and closed his file.

The orgone racket was profitable, and in 1942 Reich was able to buy an old farm in Maine. He called it Orgonon and used it as a summer retreat. He built a cabin, then a laboratory, then a larger cabin, and an observatory, until he finally decided, in 1950, to live there permanently. Others—including physicians, assistants, a publisher, and the artist William Moise, who later married Reich's daughter, moved in with him, and Orgonon developed into a sort of cult compound.

It was during this period that Reich's surviving reputation was shredded at last. In 1947, freelance journalist Mildred Edie Brady, decided to look into Reich's claims. She had correctly identified psychoanalysis as a pseudoscience, no better than astrology, and suspected Reich was involved in a confidence trick. Her resulting article, 'The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich', appeared in Harper's and The New Republic. This prompted the director of the Federal Trade Commission's Medical Advisory Division, J. J. Durrett, to contact the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them to investigate Reich's claims. The FDA concluded that Reich was involved in 'fraud of the first magniture', and suspected some sort of sexual racket.

However, the investigation was a protracted one, and meanwhile Reich was allowed to set up an Orgonomic Infant Research Centre. His aim was, again, social engineering: the prevention of body armouring from birth. The 'research' was conducted in the basement of Reich's house in Forest Hills. What this 'research' amounted to was child sexual abuse and assault. The abusers were not Reich, but his 'therapists'. Several of the children later came forth to report sexual abuse. And when there was no sexual abuse involved, there still was straightforward abuse: the 'vegetotherapy' sessions inflicted pain. Children as young as five were taught how to masturbate. A therapist was arrested, but Reich, once again, escaped punishment: in exchange for his agreeing to close the centre, the charges were dropped.

Reich had married Ollendorf some years earlier, and the two had a child. This presented no difficulty for the knave, who thought nothing of conducting an affair with his employee, Louis Wyvell. The two-faced liar, however, was insanely jealous towards Ollendorf, and in 1951 demanded a divorce when he suspected her of an affair. Adding insult to injury, he even forced her to sign confessions admitting fear and hatred towards him.

This same year Reich decided he'd discovered another type of energy: 'Deadly Orgone Radiation'. He blamed it for desertification and built a 'cloudbuster', consisting of aluminium pipes mounted on a mobile platform and connected to cables dipped in water. He pointed this device at the sky in the hopes of bringing rain. This provided another potential revenue stream. During the drought of 1953, desperate farmers, willing to try anything to save their crop, came to him offering money in exchange for rain. Reich pointed his cloudbuster at the sky. By sheer coincidence, it rained that evening, enabling the smiling Reich to pocket his fee.

By 1952, the FDA's investigation had caught up with Reich. Three FDA inspectors arrived at Reich's farm, unannounced. The reclusive Reich, who was known to chase people away at gun point, including people looking at the adjacent property, was irate, and told them to take a hike, arrogantly stating that they'd need to read his work first before interacting with him. This attention made him belligerent. At the same time, he developed the delusion that he had friends in powerful places, that President Eisenhower was flying US Airforce jets over Orgonon to protect him. In reality, the bureaucracy continued to plod along relentlessly, and by 1954 had the Attorney for the District of Maine file an injunction prohibiting Reich from shipping orgone boxes between states and banning promotional literature. Reich refused to appear in court, superciliously dismissing the authority of any court. As a result, the injunction was granted by default; the judge ordered the destruction of the orgone boxes and the withholding of any literature mentioning orgone.

This only contributed to make Reich even more erratic. From early 1954 he became convinced that the Earth was under attack by UFOs, which flew over leaving black contrails of Deadly Orgone Radiation in an effort to destroy the planet. Hence, Reich rolled out his cloudbuster and began pointing it at the alleged UFOs, thinking he could suck the radiation out of them. Together with his son, Peter, Reich spent his nights playing a non-computerised version of Space Invaders, engaged in a 'full-scale interplanetary battle'. By 1956 he had published a book, Contact with Space, in which he claimed his father may have been an alien from outer space.

Throughout this period, Reich had two more affairs—the first with the wife of a colleague who'd recently given birth to a child.

The FDA clearly had no confidence that Reich would abide by the injunction, and, while he was in Arizona, had one of its agents place an order for an orgone box part posing as a customer. The part was duly shipped, and both Reich and an associate found themselves charged with contempt of court. Reich refused to appear in court, so he was arrested and forced to appear. He chose to represent himself, but before he had even finished the judge suggested to Reich's ex-wife that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation. None was conducted, however, and Reich was found guilty. The sentence was two years in prison and a $10,000 fine against the Wilhelh Reich Foundation.

The FDA then saw to it that the orgone boxes were axed to pieces and the related literature burnt. The latter amounted to six tonnes. The American Civil Rights Union was incensed at this act, which has since come to be cited as one of the biggest instances of censorship in America, and sought to help, but Reich, annoyed that they had not objected to the destruction of his orgone boxes, told them not to bother.

Having exhausted—unsuccessfully—the appeals process, Reich and his collaborator entered the Danbury Federal Prison on 12 March 1957. His IQ was measured at 118, hardly brilliant. A psychiatrist who admired him and had him examined upon admission concluded that he exhibited paranoia, manifested by delusions of grandiosity, persecution, and ideas of reference. A week later he was examined again after being transferred to Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary; he was deemed to be sane, but liable to become psychotic under stress. Yet as far back as the 1920s, the various psychoanalysts who examined Reich's psyche had detected 'incipient schizophrenia' (Federn), psychopathy (Federn), full-on schizophrenia (Sado), and bipolar disorder (Lore, his own daughter).

The jailbird applied for a presidential pardon, only to find he had no friend in the White House. Fellow inmates knew him as 'the flying saucer guy' and the 'sex box man'. He lasted only eight months: while in his cell, death—or could it have been an alien?—paid him a visit and the scoundrel was found dead after not showing up for the morning roll call.

To be fair, the birth of scientific disciplies involves intuition and speculation. Crackpot theories may, in time, lead to something. Therefore, Reich's work on character, at a time with psychology was in its infancy, must be given a modicum of leniency. Neither must one be overly prudish when it comes to human sexology: researching sex empirically involves sex. The problem with Reich is that he was the wrong man to do this. Indeed, the wrong man at the wrong time, for the state of the science in his day gave him leeway that otherwise he would have been denied; today, with his methods, he would have been imprisoned fairly quickly. In fact, he almost certainly would have ended up in the Sex Offenders Register.

His only defence would have been insanity. And there is some evidence to suggest that he suffered from one or more mental disorders, which may have been subclininal, or not properly diagnosed. I say not properly diagnosed because, though two of Reich's colleages identified him as schizophrenic, Freudian psychoanalysis is not a science; besides, schizophrenia is an umbrella term for what may be several different disorders, as yet not understood. Whatever Reich may have been suffering from, we cannot ignore that he was a tormented man, whose unhealthy obsessions may have sprung from childhood abuse.

In the light of all this, what seems extraordinary is the degree to which Reich was taken seriously by Left-wing intellectuals. We can forgive novelists for taking an interest in his work; a novelist or poet has creative licence to draw from all kinds of arcana for inspiration. However, those who did were all, not coincidentally, figureheads of the Beat Generation (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs) and / or of the 1960s counter-culture (Norman Mailer, Dwight MacDonald, and Paul Goodman). At the same time, we must look askance when we find Wilhelm Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism as a serious theoretical text in university reading lists. Or when Macmillan, via one of its imprints, decides to bring his works back into print, when a small, fringe publisher along the lines of Adventures Unlimited would be more appropriate. Or when a purportedly serious newspaper, like The Guardian, describes Reich as 'the most brilliant of the second generation of psychoanalysts', treating him in a lenghty article as if he were a visionnary ahead of his time. In reality, his own son described him as 19th century scientist in collision with the 20th century.[5]

It seems there is a Journal of Orgonomy, published by The American College of Orgonomy (yes, there is an entire college dedicated to study Reich's theories), but academic contributors dare not publish under their real names to avoid ridicule and thus protect their careers.[6]

If Reich had been just another deluded quack, his enthronement as some sort of seer and guru would be just a question of rolling one's eyes and moving on. But he was not just a deluded quack whom we can dismiss as just one of many. He was influential, inter alia, in the pornographicisation of contemporary Western culture. And for this, on top of all of the above, he deserves no honour.

Notes:

[1] "Letter from Freud to Lou Andreas-Salomé, May 9, 1928". That Freud's believed there was no single cause of neurosis, see Myron Sharaf Fury on Earth: A Biography of Wilhelm Reich (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1994) 154.

[2] Richard F. Sterba, Reminiscences of a Viennese Psychoanalyst (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1982) 89

[3] Christopher Turner, Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2011) 166-167.

[4] From Reich's diary: 'Essentially, I am a great man, a rarity, as it were. I can't quite believe it myself, however, and that is why I struggle against playing the role of a great man.' Quoted in Robert S. Corrington, Wilhelm Reich: Psychoanalyst and Radical Naturalist (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) 187.

[5] Turner 376

[6] Sharaf 482.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Forgetting Che Guevara (14 June 1928 - 9 October 1967)


Ernesto 'Che' Guevara finally died 47 years ago today. Guevara was a Marxist revolutionary, mass murderer, and guerrillaman, whose stylised visage has become synonymous with youth rebellion in the West, at once the symbol of the triumph and defeat of Marxist ideology. To date, Western Leftists and even UNESCO continue to venerate this man as a sort of secular saint.

Guevara was born in Argentina, the eldest of five children. His parents, Ernesto Guevara Lynch and Celia de la Serna y Llosa were of Basque and Irish descent. Sadly, this upper-middle-class family was also enamoured with the political Left (a bourgois way to purchase virtue), and his father, a firm supporter of the Communists during the Spanish Civil War, even opened the family home to veterans of that conflict, so young Ernestito, who could have become a respectable physician and successful travel writer when grown up, never had a chance.

If only he had been stupid and a weakling! But no. Guevara was bright and physically courageous. He learnt chess early and began participating in tournaments from the age of 12. He was also a voracious and erudite reader, managing to amass, during the course of his short life, thousands books, many of them commendable, but quite a few others by communists, and even some by Freud. He also excelled as an athlete, despite asthma attacks, practising a variety of sports and earning himself a reputation as brutal rugby union player. Indeed, his fury on the field caused him to be nicknamed Fuser (el furibundo + Serna). On top of this, he also enjoyed shooting—a skill he would abundantly use later on.

In 1948, Guevara enrolled at the University of Buenos Aires. He dreamt of becoming a physician. However, he also dreamt of exploring the world, and embarked on a series of journeys throughout South America. His brain already poisoned by Marxist ideology and bourgeois guilt, what could have been an enriching experience fuelled a life-time of hatred instead. On his first journey, in 195o, he attached an engine to a bicycle and travelled to the rural reaches of northern Argentina. He next took a year off university to spend nine months on a 5000-mile motorcycle trek with his friend Alberto Granado, six years his senior. The initial goal was to spend a few weeks volunteering at a leper colony in Peru, on the banks of the Amazon river, but from there they continued through Ecuador, Colombia, Venzuela, and Panama, ending in Miami, in the United States, before returning home. It was this latter trek that convinced Guevara to leave medicine. At the Chuquicamata mine in northern Chile, he was angered by the miners' working conditions. In the Atacama Desert, he was angered by the destituteness of a Communist couple. And in the Andes, he was angered by the poverty of the peasant farmers. All of this he blamed on capitalism. He came to conceive of Hispanic America as a borderless land in need of liberation through armed revolution. By contrast, his older and more constructive friend, though in agreement with his inflexible views, went on to enjoy a meritorious career as a doctor, scientist, and biochemist, holding a number of prestigious posts from which he did some good, equipping Cuba with an army of well trained doctors, and co-founding the Cuban Genetics Society, of which he served as its first president. In short, he used his intelligence and expertise to improve the lives of multitudes.

But Guevara was not to follow this good example. No sooner had he obtained his degree in 1953 that he set out for a third time, this time to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. By December he was in Costa Rica, traversing the 'dominions' of the United Fruit Company. There, he was angered once again by the practices of this American corporate giant, and, adopting a head-hunting tone, swore on Stalin's portrait that he would not rest until the imperialist capitalist octupuses had been crushed.

Now, the United Fruit Company, which had operations in the region and specialised on tropical fruit (and bananas in particular), had a chequered history. On the one hand, it built railways and founded numerous schools. On the other hand, it held on to vast swathes of uncultivated land and and prevented local governments from building motorways in order to maintain its trade monopoly. The company was frequently castigated by Left wing activists and intellectuals.

Around this time, Jacobo Árbenz was president of Guatemala, having been elected on promises of 'land reform'. His interpreation of land reform, however, meant expropriating uncultivated portions of large holdings and giving it to landless peasants. The minimum area threshhold was not huge: 2.7 km², or a square one mile per side. Compensation was to not to be as per market value, but as per the 1952 tax declaration, which was a clever way of ensuring minimum payment without arguments, and not in the form of a cash payment, but in the form of a 25-year-bond with 3% interest, which meant a net loss. Guevara certainly liked the idea, and thus went to Guatemala, to 'perfect' himself and become a full revolutionary.

While in Guatemala City, he met Hilda Gadea Acosta, a Peruvian economist and communist leader with contacts he thought useful. She introduced him to various high-level officials in the Árbenz government and to exiled Cubans linked to Fidel Castro. It was they who nicknamed him 'Che', in reference to his frequent use of the term (the Argentinian equivalent for 'dude' or 'bro'). To make ends meet, Guevara sought a medical internship, but to no avail; no one wanted him and he lived in penury. Not long after, the Árbenz government took delivery of a shipment of weapons from Communist Czechoslovakia, which was noted by the CIA. The Eisenhower government took a dim view of having a Communist beachhead in Guatemala, so Árbenz was forcibly removed and a US-friendly liberal installed in his place. After Árbenz holed up in the Mexican Embassy, Guevara called to resist. This got him noticed. However, no sooner was comrade Gadea arrested that he himself holed up in the Argentine Consulate, where he remained until given a safe-conduct so he could flee to Mexico. Once there, he married comrade Gadea.

These events confirmed Guevara's view of the United States as an imperialist power. No big news there. Yet, they added fuel to his hate, and by the time he left Guatemala, he was absoltely sure that violent armed Marxism was the way forward. Somehow, Guevara, champion of the poor, chose not to notice that Communism had already impoverished and sown death by the millions across Eurasia, and, though a bookworm, he later also chose not to take notice of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which was available from 1963 in three different translations, and could have taught him a thing or two about the workers' paradise. Lenin and Freudian psychoanalysis made far more sense to him.
While in Mexico, he held various jobs. He worked at the General Hospital, lectured at the Autonomous University of Mexico, and was employed as a news photographer for the Latina News Agency. So troubled was he by the poverty around him that, in a paroxysmic search for virtue, this cultured upper-middle-class white-collar professional thought of going to Africa to help the poor there. Unfortunately, though he would have done far more good as malarial carrion in the equatorial jungles, or as beneficiary of poison dart fr0m the mbuti pygmies, Guevara elected, instead, to renew his friendship with the exiled Cuban communists. In 1955 he met Raúl Castro, who introduced him to his brother Fidel. The two struck an instant friendship, and by the end of the evening Guevara was a signed-up member to Castro's 26th July Movement, determined to help overthrow the liberal, US-backed Batista government in Cuba. Guevara submitted to guerrilla training with such raging zeal that by the end of the course he'd out-guerrillaed everyone, leaving Alberto Bayo, his instructor, stupefied with admiration.

Initially, Guevara was to be a field doctor, but, once the shooting had begun, he laid down his medical supplies and picked up a box of ammunition dropped by a fleeing comrade. The communist guerrillaman had been born.

During the revolution, Guevara displayed immense energy and daring. The latter verged on foolhardiness, but both his comrades and, at least on one occasion also his opponents, were in awe of his testicular superiority. Unfortunately, he seems to have had the ability to bend space around him, because the bullets stubbornly evaded his anatomy. Guevara also fashioned himself a teacher, and would spend the idle hours reading classics and lyric poetry to his comrades. Pearls to the swine, obviously, for anyone who's taken even one look at Latin-American Marxist guerrillamen—or just communist thugs in general, anywhere. Likewise, he organised schools to raise literacy among the peasant farmers in the mountains, if only so he could more easily indoctrinate them with Das Capital.

One area in which Guevara truly distinguished himself was in dealing with those whom, either because they found more reliable ways to fill their bellies, or because they realised the evil of Marxist ideology, were deemed traitors. There was little that Guevara enjoyed more than hunting them down and having them shot on the spot, sometimes venturing forth to pull the trigger himself. One only needs to read his clinical account of the first such incident to grasp how meaningless life was to this man. Recording the scene in which a peasant army guide, Eutimio Guerra, having admitted his betrayal, begged for his life to be ended quickly, Guevara wrote
I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal [lobe].
A sociopathic movement demands a sociopathic leader, so, unsurprisingly, Guevara's methodoly proved effective.

And that was not all: Guevara even had time to take a lover, while his wife waited in Mexico. Naturally, this ended in divorce. Thus we find here again the usual pattern with fanatics of the radical Left: a boundless love for abstract humanity, dysfunctional relationships at home.

In the end, not through military prowess, but through Batista's cowardice, Guevara made it to Havana. The corrupt Batista had by then already landed safely in the Dominican Republic, his pockets heavier by 300 million dollars, and the revolution gorged on 2000 lives. Six days later Castro rolled into the city.

Recognising Guevara's talents, Castro named him commander of La Cabaña Fortress prison. But not before instituting the death penalty: it was time for summary executions—or rather, mass murder, because there was no due process and the scope was open-ended. Guevara, of course, excelled in his new post. And to his movement's delight, the populace was baying for blood, whole-heartedly approving of former officials of Batista's dictatorship being lined up before Guevara's shooting squads. Among those thus murdered was Rigoberto Hernandez, a 17-year-old former janitor with learning disabilities, who was shot on the basis that he was 'a CIA agent planting bombs'. Clearly, Guevara thought himself a Latin American Robespierre. Over time, the number of murdered, there and elsewhere, would run well into five digits.

Guevara was then sent off to the Bandung Pact countries. While in Japan, the murderous hypocrite dared to write, 'In order to fight better for peace, one must look at Hiroshima'. When he got back, he found Castro with vastly increased political power, thus the real reason for his diplomatic mission in far-away Asia became apparent.

Besides his reign in blood, Guevara also implemented 'land reform'. He trained a 100,000-man army in order to accomplish this at gun point. Large holdings were seized with minimal compensation, broken up, and distributed to subsistance farmers. More or less as Robert Mugabe has since done in his part of the world.
But we do have to give Guevara some credit, because during this early period of Castro's military dictatorship he, along with the expropriation militias, organised literacy brigades, managing to raise the literacy rate on the island from between 60%-76% to 96%. At the same time, we have to ask ourselves—what for? Because he, the enemy of the middle class, also instituted racist admission policies for universities, prioritising skin colour over qualifications, and made higher education universal so that every young person would have Marxist ideology, radical egalitarianism, and dialectical materialism pile-driven into his brain.

Though totally without qualifications or experience in banking or business, and utterly 'ignorant of the most elemental economic principles', Guevara was put in charge of the Cuban economy, named by Castro Minister of Industries, Finance Minister, and President of the National Bank. (To show his disdain for money, he signed the banknotes 'Che'.) Result? He ran the economy into the ground. Productivity plummeted. Absenteeism soared. Western investors ran for the hills. And the island became dependent on basket case economies of the communist Eastern Bloc.

Guevara not only destroyed the Cuban economy, he also nearly destroyed the planet. He was the architect of the Soviet-Cuban relationship. This eventually triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviets brought to the island ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. The crisis brought the world to the brink of a thermonuclear confrontation. In the end, the Soviet Union withdrew the missiles, and a nuclear hotline was created between Washington and Moscow. Guevara, however, was enraged, and told, in an interview for a British communist rag, that had the missiles been under Cuban control, Castro would have launched all of them. For him, the socialist utopia was well worth 'millions of atomic war victims'. This is the pietist who only three years earlier had said to look to Hiroshima for peace.

In the years that followed, Guevara fancied himself a 'revolutionary statesman of world stature'. At the United Nations, and clad in military fatigues, he launched into a rhapsodic diatribe, enthroning equality and canonising the weak. He was no Jonathan Bowden, yet he received a raptuous ovation. In New York he met Malcolm X, why not. And from Paris he set out on a tour that included communist China, North Korea, and parts of equatorial Africa. He stopped in Ireland, but, perhaps revealingly, feared his ancestors may have been thieves.

It took until 1965 before Guevara at last ended his public appearances, although, sadly, not by choice. He delivered a speech in Algiers, Algeria, where he complained that the Soviet Union wasn't Marxist enough. Cuba was dependent on the Soviet Union's financial backing, so Castro wasn't amused. Embarrassingly, Guevara's views approached Mao Zedong's. Indeed, he was an enthusiastic moral supporter of Mao's Great Leap Forward (1956 - 1961), a policy founded on coercion, terror, and systematic violence, which, according to historian Frank Dikötter,
motivated one of the most deadly mass killings of human history.
Despite catastrophic results and 18 to 45 million dead in China by that time, Guevara desired a Great Leap Forward for Latin America.

But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and Guevara prediction that the Soviet republics would return to capitalism was eventually fulfilled, though because communism doesn't work rather than because the Soviet Union wasn't communist enough.

At any rate, it seems that Castro may have tightened the tourniquette, because after Algiers Guevara disappeared from public view. This fuelled idle speculation from Left-wing intellectuals and litterati. Eventually, Guevara for once did the right thing and resigned all his government posts, his membership of the communist party, and even his Cuban citizenship.

Nevertheless, still no good came out of this: Guevara's bloodthirst remained unquenched, and thus he used his regained freedom to go and play Tarzan in the Congo. He left his wife and children behind. For a while he and a motley crew of Afro-Cubans collaborated with the guerrillas of Laurent-Desiré Kabila, hoping that the violence would spread across international borders, but became disillusioned with their lack of discipine, intransigence, incompetence, and corrupt leadership. (What a surprise.) What is more, though he hoped to remain hidden, the Americans knew exactly where he was and everything he was up to, for they were intercepting all his communications from a floating base. After seven months, he was thoroughly demoralised, so he asked his surviving cohorts to sail back to Cuba, intending to remain in the jungle and fight to the death alone. This would have been the best thing he could have done, if holding a job and being father to his five children was so distasteful. However, and as he admitted, weakness prevailed. He left in November 1965.

He knew he could not get back his old life in Cuba. Castro had cannily read out Guevara's 'farewell letter', which had been drafted in the event of his death. Therefore, Guevara went first to Tanzania and then to Prague, before travelling throughout Western Europe to test his forged passport. He also travelled back to Cuba, albeit briefly and only to abandon his family for good.

By late 1966, his location still unknown, Guevara was in Mozambique. He offered his services to the Mozambique Liberation Front, but Mondlane's movement scorned his offer, forcing the violence-starved guerrillero to quest for death elsewhere.

Thus it was that he ended in Bolivia, in whose mountains he organised a guerrilla, aiming to overthrow René Barrientos' government. However, the local farmers gave them short shrift and informed the government authorities. Guevara had thought he would have it easy, on the assumption that the Bolivian army was sloppy and poorly trained. Instead, he found them disciplined and well equipped: unbeknownst to him, the Americans were again one step ahead, and had been training and supplying the Bolivian armed forces. They even had a battalion of Rangers trained in jungle warfare. While Guevara gained the upper hand in a few minor skirmishes, he was wounded and captured before long. In an effort to save his skin, he scoundrel pleaded them not to shoot him, arguing he was worth more alive than dead. But Barrientos thought otherwise and quickly made his mind known. Sargeant Mario Terán eagerly volunteered to pull the trigger.

What happened next makes one wonder what might have been, if only Guevara had known tradition and escaped the poison of Marxian dogma, because in the end one has to recognise that, once cornered, at least the rascal met his destiny like man. Terán entered the hut where Guevara was being kept, and ordered the other soldiers out. Guevara stood up and said, 'I know you've come to kill me. Shoot. Do it'. Terán pointed his rifle at him, but his hesitation angered Guevara, who shouted 'Shoot me, you coward! You're only going to kill a man!'. Terán sprayed him with bullets, ridding the Earth of the wretch at last.

It bears noting the kind of people who praised Guevara as a hero: Nelson Mandela, Susan Sontag, Frantz Fanon, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ariel Dorfman, and Stokely Carmichael. That alone says it all.

Since the 1960s, Guevara has become an odious sign of Leftist idiocy and fashion consciousness. The irony is that many of those who don a Che t-shirt of hung a Che poster on their bedroom walls probably know hardly anything about their idol other than the fact that he was a Marxist guerrillaman—and maybe that his conservative parents don't like him. Even more ironic, their glorification of Guevara in the form of merchandise is, in fact, being done with symbols of his defeat, for the commoditisation of his image represents, if anything, the triumph of American capitalism.

Hence, Guevara represents an object lesson of what happens when a man, born with good qualities, becomes, through chance and bad parenting, an avatar of the Lord of Darkness. The liberator was thus himself both a slave and an enslaver, for all communism did was trade one form of servitude for another of a worse kind. Ultimately, Guevara's materialist worldview was also symptomatic of his enslavement by dead matter, and thereby of his serving in the armies of the dead.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Forgetting Eric Hobsbawm (9 June 1917 - 1 October 2012)


Eric Hobsbawm finally died two years ago today. He was a Marxist writer, apologist for Stalin, Communist propagandist, and professional liar, who plied his trade as an academic historian. Profusely eulogised by Britain's Left-leaning intellectuals, media, and political class, and obscenely rewarded for his labours, he was described in the British media as 'our greatest historian'.

Eric Hobsbawm was born in Alexandria, Egypt. His father, Leopold Percy Obstbaum, was an East London merchant of Polish Jewish descent. His mother, Nelly Grün, came from an middle class Austrian Jewish background. Leopold had already altered his surname to Hobsbaum when Eric was born, but a clerical error resulted in a futher alteration to Hobsbawm.

In 1919, the family, who were poor, moved to Vienna, Austria, and later they moved to Berlin, Germany. Throughout this time his parents spoke to him in English.

His father died in 1929, and his mother in 1931, at which point he and his younger sister, Nancy, were adopted by their maternal aunt, Gretl. It was during this period, while living in Berlin, that he became a communist, mainly out of having a 'sense of living in some sort of final crisis'.

When Hitler became chancellor in 1933, they found asylum in Britain, where Eric was enrolled in St Marylebone Grammar School. Britain's generosity even extended to his being awared a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge. Rather than grateful, however, the gormless young Eric felt superior, and wished to mix only with intellectuals. ‘I refused all contact with the suburban petit bourgeoisie which I naturally regarded with contempt.’ [1] Of course.

In fact, his contempt extended his own family. David Pryce-Jones, reviewing Hobsbawm's long autobiography, remarks on the latter's 'remoteness from normal emotions'.
His parents and their sad lives leave him unmoved. His aunts and uncles are described here with a chilling one-dimensional detachment free from any gratitude for what they did. He also had one sister, younger than he, of whom he says baldly, "She did not share my interests or my life, increasingly dominated by politics." Elsewhere in the book, this sister is written off as "a demonstratively conventional Anglican country matron and Conservative Party activist".[2]
From the University of Cambridge he obtained a PhD in history. Unfortunately, but predictably, he also kept bad company: as a member of the Cambridge Apostles, an intellectual secret society within the university that was, at the time, dominated by Marxists. Just ahead of him members had included communists Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, who were also homosexual lovers, as well as Leonard Long and John Peter Astbury, all traitors to their country who spied for the Soviet Union. Other members of the Cambridge spy ring in the 1930s, and friends with the above, were Kim Philby and Donald McLean.[3] When the traitors were unmasked many years later, Hobsbawm's pals exonerated him, except that he subsequently cast their denials into doubt when, in his old age, he used the Data Protection Act to read the MI5 files on him, wanting to know who had 'snitched on him'. A telling phrase, if there was any.

During World War II, he fought Hitler, risking life and limb at the Royal Engineers and the Royal Army Educational Corps. Or rather—he helped train young British men destined for the front, while he remained safely on the island. Not that it would have been much different if he'd really wanted it: as a declared and active Communist, the army had limited use for him.

In 1946, along with E. P. Thompson, Christopher Hill, Rodney Hilton, Dona Torr, George Rudé, and others, he formed the Communist Party's Historians Group. Thompson I've already written about. Hill had spent ten months in Stalin's Soviet Union in 1935, and his application to be the Chair of History at Keele University had been turned down due to his Communist Party affiliations. Hilton forced the Mediæval peasant through the grinder of Marxian theory. Dona Torr, a founding member of the CPGB, had been involved the latter's propaganda mill. Rudé came from a conservative background, but had fallen in love with Stalin's USSR and returned an ardent Communist, which would soon ensure he was excluded from British universities. With Thompson, Hobsbawm helped launched a journal, Past and Present, which engaged in revisionist history, Marxian style.
Eric Hobsbawm - Entrevista con el Siglo XXI 
In 1947 he was allowed to lecture history at Birkbeck College, 'a fortress of the [L]eft'.[4] And from 1949 until 1955 he was awarded a Fellowship at King's College, Cambridge; to get this all he had to do was ring his chum at the university.[5] At Birkbeck, he then became reader in 1959, professor in 1970, emeritus professor in 1982, and finally president in 2002. In the intervening time he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1971), and secured a Fellowship at the British Academy (1978). On top of all this, the United States granted him a visa without any problems, and from the 1960s this avowed Communist was permitted to teach regularly at Stanford University in California. Even after he retired, between 1984 until 1997 he stayed put, acting as visiting professor at the New School for Social Research, a New York university strongly influenced by the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School. In 1998, Tony Blair awarded him the Companion of Honour, 'one of the highest accolades it is possible to bestow upon a British intellectual' [9] (this says a lot about Blair). In 2003 he was even awared the Balzan prize for European literature, worth half a million pounds Sterling at the time. And third Fellowship was granted to him by the Royal Society of Literature in 2006. By the end of his life, he had accumulated no less than twenty honorary degrees. But, it goes without saying, this arrogant man was not satisfied, and insisted that he had been denied promotions rightfully due to him, spinning a conspiracy theory according to which sinister forces of bourgeois conservatism had plotted to thwart his career because of his politics.

Amazingly, though not exactly an oil painting, Hobsbawn convinced Muriel Seaman to marry him in 1943. Less amazingly, they divorced after only eight years. He subsequently remarried, and his second wife, Marlene Schwartz, bore him two children: Julia, who became Tony Blair's spin doctor; and Andy, who became a capitalist and columnist for the Financial Times.

In 1956, when most of his friends left the Communist Party—and, by the way, all of his friends were Communists—in protest at the Soviet invasion of Hungary, he stayed on proudly, and wrote approvingly of Soviet repression in a letter dated 9 November 1956 and published in the Communist Daily Worker. This letter, written when he was a fully grown adult of 39 years of age, he subsequently suppressed, pretending it never existed.

In his long and yet obscure career—because, until the dithyrambic obituaries printed in British newspapers following his death, practically no one, except 'Lefty academics and silly chatterers at London dinners',[7] had ever heard of him—Hobsbawm produced a slew of books, which he passed off as Marxist 'history'. The fact is that these badly written tomes are but a catalogue of lies, intended to exculpate Stalin and the Soviet Communist régime.
In his book The Age Of Extreme, published in 1994, he quite deliberately underplayed the Soviet Union’s attack on Finland in 1939-40, saying it was merely an attempt to push the Russian border a little further away from Leningrad. He also omits any mention of the massacre of 20,000 Polish soldiers by Russian Secret Police at Katyn.[8]
And in his 1997 book, On History, he wrote:
Fragile as the communist systems turned out to be, only a limited, even minimal, use of force was necessary to maintain them from 1957 until 1989.[9]
One imagines that the inhabitants of Prague, where Soviet tanks rolled into the streets in 1968, would hold a different opinion concerning this 'minimal' use of force. So would, presumably, the millions of artists, writers, poets, intellectuals, and suffering ordinary folk who were snatched from their homes and sent to the Gulags in Siberia, where they lost their youth and their health or disappeared altogether.
In his autobiography,
he has a passage attacking as "literally senseless" the familiar western Cold War slogan "Better dead than red" Needless to say, this is an inversion of the words, a pure fabrication. Pacifists and Soviet apologists coined the slogan "Better red than dead" in order to persuade the West not to defend itself with nuclear weapons.[10]
In that same tome, he
multiplie[d] euphemistic observations such as that the odious dictatorship of East Germany was a "firmly structured community" and deserving credit because it held show trials which did not end in executions.[11]
And not only was Hobsbawm an apologist for Stalin, but he was one in full knowledge of Stalin's criminality.
Speaking in 1994 to the author Michael Ignatieff about the fall of the Berlin Wall five years earlier, the historian was asked how he felt about his earlier support for the Soviet Union.[12]
His interviewer asked,
"What that comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?" Without hesitation Hobsbawm replied, "Yes."[13]
Of course, it is easy to be a hardline Communist when you live in a prosperous, wealthy, tolerant nation, like the United Kingdom, surounded by
Communist intellectuals like himself, a good many of them privileged people with private incomes. For many years he had a cottage in Wales on the estate of Clough Williams-Ellis, a rich landowner and baroque architect whose wife Amabel, born into the Strachey family of Bloomsbury fame, was a salon Communist.[14]
He even gave himself the luxury of sneering at other authors, describing George Orwell, for example, as 'an upper-class Englishman called Eric Blair'.

It goes without saying that, in spite of all the accolades, raptuous eulogy, and sycophantic obituaries, Hobsbawm will sink into the plughole of history, never to be read. For his tomes are not history, but propaganda in service of a murderous ideology; therefore, he was merely a writer— and a corrupt one at that—not a historian.

In his old age, his visage was like the picture of Dorian Gray: ever more disfigured by his nasty character and dishonesty as the years wore on. Thanks to capitalist medicine, by the end it was clear that his frame had sustained him for far too long. His evil ideology accompanied him beyond the grave: at his funeral they played 'The Internationale'. His remains were then incinerated and buried in Highgate Cemetery, where Marx's tomb also stands.

Eric Hobsbawm will spend eternity in the ninth circle of hell.

Notes:

2. David Pryce-Jones. "Eric Hobsbawm: lying to the credulous". The New Criterion 21.5 (2003).
3. See Jonathan Bowden's commentary on the Cambridge spy ring here.
4. Pryce-Jones, op cit .
5. Ibid.
6. Wilson, op cit .
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Pryce-Jones, op cit .
11. Ibid.
12. Wilson, op cit.
13. Pryce-Jones, op cit.
14. Ibid.