by Malcolm Muggeridge
"...We [Western journalists] were required to end anything we wrote on a hopeful note, because liberalism is a hopeful creed. And so, however appalling and black the situation that we described, we would always conclude with some sentence like: "It is greatly to be hoped that moderate men of all shades of opinion will draw together, and that wiser councils may yet prevail."
How many times I gave expression to such jejune hopes! Well, I soon grew weary of this, because it seemed to me that immoderate men were rather strongly in evidence, and I couldn't see that wiser councils were prevailing anywhere. The depression was on by that time, I'm talking now of 1932--33. It was on especially in Lancashire, and it seemed as though our whole way of life was cracking up, and, of course, I looked across at the USSR with a sort of longing, thinking that there was an alternative [to the Great Depression and Capitalism], some other way in which people could live, and I managed to maneuver matters so that I was sent to Moscow as the Guardian correspondent, arriving there fully prepared to see in the Soviet regime the answer to all our troubles, only to discover in a very short time that though it might be an answer, it was a very unattractive one.
It's difficult to convey to you what a shock this was, realizing that what I had supposed to be the new brotherly way but found instead an appalling tyranny, in which the only thing that mattered, the only reality, was power. So … in the USSR I was confronted with power as the absolute and ultimate arbiter. However, that was a thing that one could take in one's stride. How I first came to conceive the notion of the great liberal death wish was not at all in consequence of what was happening in the USSR ... [But of a cycle in history in which] people achieve power, exercise power, abuse power, are booted out of power, and then it all begins again.
The thing that impressed me, and the thing that touched off my awareness of the great liberal death wish, my sense that Western man was, as it were, sleep-walking into his own ruin, was the extraordinary performance of the liberal intelligentsia, who, in those days, flocked to Moscow like pilgrims to Mecca. And they were one and all utterly delighted and excited by what they saw there. Clergymen walked serenely and happily through the anti-god museums, politicians claimed that no system of society could possibly be more equitable and just, lawyers admired Soviet justice, and economists praised the Soviet economy. They all wrote articles in this sense which we resident journalists knew were completely nonsensical.
It's impossible to exaggerate to you the impression that this made on me. Mrs. [Beatrice] Webb had said to Kitty and me: "You'll find that in the USSR Sydney and I are icons." As a matter of fact they were, Marxist icons. How could this be? How could this extraordinary credulity exist in the minds of people who were adulated by one and all as maestros of discernment and judgment? It was from that moment that I began to get the feeling that a liberal view of life was not what I'd supposed it to be - a creative movement which would shape the future - but rather a sort of death wish. How otherwise could you explain how people, in their own country ardent for equality, bitter opponents of capital punishment and all for more humane treatment of people in prison, supporters, in fact, of every good cause, should in the USSR prostrate themselves before a regime ruled over brutally and oppressively and arbitrarily by a privileged party oligarchy? I still ponder over the mystery of how men displaying critical intelligence in other fields could be so astonishingly deluded.
I tell you, if ever you are looking for a good subject for a thesis, you could get a very fine one out of a study of the books that were written by people like the Dean of Canterbury, Julian Huxley [first Director-General of UN UNESCO], Harold Laski, Bernard Shaw, or the Webbs about the Soviet regime. In the process you would come upon a compendium of fatuity such as has seldom, if ever, existed on earth. And I would really recommend it; after all, the people who wrote these books were, and continue to be regarded as, pundits, whose words must be very, very seriously heeded and considered. I recall in their yellow jackets a famous collection in England called the Left Book Club. You would be amazed at the gullibility that's expressed.
We foreign journalists in Moscow used to amuse ourselves, as a matter of fact, by competing with one another as to who could wish upon one of these intelligentsia visitors to the USSR the most outrageous fantasy. We would tell them, for instance, that the shortage of milk in Moscow was entirely due to the fact that all milk was given nursing mothers - things like that. If they put it in the articles they subsequently wrote, then you'd score a point. One story I floated myself, for which I received considerable acclaim, was that the huge queues outside food shops came about because the Soviet workers were so ardent in building Socialism that they just wouldn't rest, and the only way the government could get them to rest for even two or three hours was organizing a queue for them to stand in. I laugh at it all now, but at the time you can imagine what a shock it was to someone like myself, who had been brought up to regard liberal intellectuals as the samurai, the absolute elite, of the human race, to find that they could be taken in by deceptions which a half-witted boy would see through in an instant. I never got over that; it always remained in my mind as something that could never be erased. I could never henceforth regard the intelligentsia as other than credulous fools who nonetheless became the media's prophetic voices, their heirs and successors remaining so still. That's when I began to think seriously about the great liberal death wish...Read more"---from The Great Liberal Death Wish, Malcolm Muggeridge (emphasis mine)
Note: Go into any YouTube or regular chat forum on the bliss of Socialism and you will see howls if you bring all this up. There are still very many, alas, who prefer to believe in a "pure" Marx of their dreams, than the actual incarnation of his economic theories in time and space. The great liberal death wish lives, we can be sure. But we should be warned that the grotesque sins of Capitalistic greed often serve to provoke such Marxist's into being. This is why Catholics and many others reject both ideologies and seek the reforms of true justice for all, beyond all 'pure' ideologies. It is why I am a Distributist. Distributism seeks the widest possible spread of real (not faux) private property against all forms of monopoly or collectivism. Muggeridge knew it was time to throw cold water into the faces of the sleepwalkers.
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