Tyranny

What Maisky Knew

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In the November 21 issue of The Weekly Standard, I have reviewed The Maisky Diaries, edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky. This fine volume covers the personal writings of Ivan Maisky, Soviet ambassador to the United Kingdom during the critical period of 1932 to 1943. Here’s a bit of my judgment of the man:

In the 1930s, British foreign policy was still a matter of balancing the continental powers, particularly France and Germany; and if we avoid the arrogance that hindsight can bring, we should also remember that Neville Chamberlain genuinely thought he was securing a course for peace in Europe. Britain knew how weak its armed forces were—its army, especially—and this knowledge, as Lloyd George told Maisky, was doubtless a factor in Chamberlain’s “deal” with Hitler at Munich.

Maisky, however, had nothing but contempt for such calculations, coming across at certain times here as a kind of thirties neoconservative. Indeed, it’s hard at times to discern that Maisky was a Communist at all, or that he represented a brutal, totalitarian government. His comportment in these pages is measured; his language free of cant. Even his looks—the well-fed, portly body, the kindly eyes, the authentic smile—will strike the reader as very different from the dour, self-defensive faces of that era’s most prominent Soviets.

Read the whole thing here.

Voter Anger Can Be Useful, But Not When The Target Of The Anger Is Broken Beyond Repair

At Quadrant, I think about Donald Trump and voter anger in the United States and how the profoundly broken American political system makes this anger different from that of the past:

The American public senses that the country’s political system no longer has any working parts left. I’m sure you could have found citizens during the John Adams administration who thought that Washington, D.C. was ‘broken’. But the U.S. federal government has never been as large and intrusive, and thus as capable of wrecking our lives, as it is now. Consider its priorities. The government regulates our lightbulbs, but allows entire cities to ignore federal immigration law. It can efficiently target partially hydrogenated oils, but not terrorist enclaves. Never before has there been so wide a gap between what families complain about to one another and what the permanent bureaucracy in the capital chooses to exercise its power over. These topsy-turvy conditions, in which the government is ruthlessly effective at all the wrong things and utterly hopeless at all the important ones, mean the citizenry has no healthy political means of discharging its anger.

Brief Thoughts on Guns and the Holocaust

One of this week’s outbreaks of mass psychosis concerned Ben Carson’s claim that Jews could have “greatly diminished” the Holocaust if they had been armed en masse. At National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke has written the perfect response to the controversy, fairly critiquing Carson’s position while also going after his preening critics. Here’s a snippet:

Before getting into the details of this claim, I must confess to being unsure as to why the mere mention of this era offends people as keenly as it does. In his comments, Carson was presenting a counterfactual hypothesis. Maybe it’s a bad one and he’s wrong. Maybe it’s a good one and he’s right. But why the anger? If you don’t like his case — or you think it’s stupid — then explain why he’s incorrect. Don’t freak out just because he said the word “Nazi.” Godwin’s law exists to mock those who refer to the Third Reich when it doesn’t apply. It’s not a general prohibition on the discussion of Nazism.

My own brief thoughts are as follows. Carson likely has no idea what he’s talking about with regard to the history of the Third Reich. But it seems to me he was aiming for a general point, namely that if you are a member of an ethnic group targeted for extermination you are better off with guns than without. The unhinged response to his comments shows that his critics wish to repudiate not just his historical judgment but the broader moral point he was making.

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The Labour Party Lost Because It’s Divisive (Literally)

The Labour Party should ditch identity politics, a left-leaning blogger has written. I think about Labour’s problems, and those of left-wing parties in general, at PJ Media:

Everyone has a preferred way of explaining or dealing with the results. If you’re Russell Brand, Britain’s Che Guevara in leather pants, you run away like a dejected teenager once you discover how many of “the people” disagree with you. If you’re former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, you mutter haughtily about “self-deluded” voters.

And that’s part of the problem, if not the entire thing. Left-wing parties slice up the population, appoint themselves surrogates of certain segments of it, and, without consulting anybody, convince themselves they know what’s best for every member of the coalition. Then, when people don’t vote the way they want, or say the things they’re supposed to say, the party denigrates the population as dupes and bigots and turncoats.