George Faludy’s memoir of his life in his thirties and early forties is called My Happy Days in Hell. I first read it in September 1986 as a young man of 36. I finished re-reading it only hours ago. Faludy spent a good portion of early years of World War 2 escaping France and living in French colonial North Africa, before leaving for the United States, where he became a paratrooper. He was, by his own and by the estimationof his fellow countrymen, Hungary’s foremost poet. He returned to Hungary after WW2 with much foreboding, as it was under Soviet occupation. The second half of the book deals with his arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment in a Hungarian forced labour camp, where starvation and beatings were the norm. The day Stalin died in 1953 the reverberations swept the gulags: food was immediately increased, and across the Soviet Empire millions of political prisoners were released over the weeks and months that followed.
The description of the fear and terror that enveloped East European societies in the wake of communist takeover has many echoes today, as Western societies enter into a period of forced speech and political hysterias. Today we have communism without the bother of Marxist economics. Obviously the Deep State has no yet resorted to prison camps for conservatives and liberals (properly so-called) yet but it soon might, if the Democrats and the Deep State behind them decide that imprisonment is an effective tool. I suspect that in today’s society, conformity and obedience can be engineered by Google and Twitter mobs more efficiently than by arrests and obviously unconstitutional procedures, but I don’t bet on it.
There are many treasures in Faludy’s memoir. The most important was his resistance to the constant message that we are nothing but human machines, that we have no souls, that ultimately power will prevail.
The scene: Stalin has died and the prisoners are being released in dribs and drabs over the ensuing months. Faludy is among the last prisoners to be released.
“These men, or rather eighteeen of them, were now waiting to be shaved. These men were the public figures, parlkiamentary deputies and leading intellectuals of the camp; the very men who opposed teh regime more uncompromisingly than the average in their deeds as well as in their thoughts. The seletion was extraordinarily claver for the AVO (secret police), which usually showed little sense for fine distinctions. The experience of forty mnths and hundrds of reports from their informers had made them realize at last that their greatest enemies were not the men who spat on Rackosi’s picture but those who spoke about history and philosophy in their free time”.
George Faludy was released from prison in 1953 and left Hungary in 1956. He lived in Toronto from 1967 until the fall of Communism in Hungary. He died in Budapest in 2006 at the age of 96.
Social theorist Mark Fisher described from first-hand experience the manipulation of this scene as a Vampire Castle which “feeds on the energy and anxieties and vulnerabilities of young students, but most of all it lives by converting the suffering of particular groups — the more marginal, the better — into academic capital. The most lauded figures in the Vampire Castle are those who have spotted a new market in suffering — those who can find a group more oppressed and subjugated than any previously exploited will find themselves promoted through the ranks very quickly.” The Vampire Castle recruits on the promise of community and self-healing. The reality is an ouroboros of emotional manipulation, stripped of the political and of all that makes life interesting and worthwhile…..
We would have laughed at the idea we formed an elite and we certainly didn’t act like one. But we were the vanguard for a movement that has swept the English-speaking world in the subsequent decade. We still professed to be fighting the old powers — patriarchy, white supremacism, the nuclear family, colonialism, the university itself. But in truth we represented what Christopher Lasch called psychological man, “the final product of bourgeois individualism,” and were being trained in elite formation for the therapeutic age just as surely as our forerunners had been for the previous, paternal age….
The material genesis of the radical cultural politics that has shown its strength in the last few months lies in the overexpansion of higher education, which produced a new middle class that is materially discontented and uncomfortable in its own skin. The globalisation of American pathologies has given this new urban class, present across the Western world, a politics that is carving through our institutions….
Arthur Koestler was a Hungarian of German-speaking culture who joined the German Communist Party and left it, for all the right reasons, in the late 1930s. His most famous writing is Darkness at Noon, which tells the story of Victor Rubashev, a Communist official arrested by the secret police, who finally consents to his death in the service of the Communist cause, even though he is innocent of any crime, deviation, or disloyalty to the Cause.
Darkness at Noon is one of the classics of the literature of disillusionment with Communism. I cannot recommend it enough.
Quite by accident I came across his autobiography “The Invisible Writing“. It recounts his years in the Communist Party in Germany in the years 1931 to 1938. The opening sentence reads:
“I went into Communism as one goes to a spring of fresh water, and I left Communism as one clambers out of a poisoned river strewn with the wreckage of flooded cities and the corpses of the drowned”.
In the second chapter he recounts the fatal weakness of the Communist Party of Germany in the face of the National-Socialist takeover. He likens the Party to a castrated animal, and describes how rapidly the whole structure was rounded up by the police after the Nazis took over in 1933.
“We had marvelled at the conspiratorial ingenuity of our leaders; and, though all of us had read works on the techniques of insurrection and civil warfare, our critical faculties had become so numbed that none of us realized the catastrophic implications of the scheme. The preparations for a long underground existence in decentralized groups meant that our leaders accepted the victory of the Nazis as inevitable”.
Another salient feature of living as a Communist was the total subordination of personal emotions to Party discipline, which meant that close personal friendships were eviscerated.
“As in boarding schools and convents intense personal ties are suspected of having an erotic background, so friendships within the Party aroused political suspicion. This attitude was not unreasonable, for between people whose entire life was dedicated to and filled by the Party, non-political friendships were hardly possible. The slogans of the Party emphasized the diffuse and impersonal “solidarity of the working class” instead of individual friendship, and substituted ‘loyalty to the Party’ for loyalty to friends. Loyalty to the Party meant, of course, unconditional obedience, and meant furthermore, the friends who had deviated from the Party-line, or for some reason had fallen under suspicion. Almost unconsciously I learned to watch my steps, my words and my thoughts.”
The same lack of freedom is recounted by the former leftist David Horowitz, in his book Radical Son, written in the 1980s. That is to say, Horowitz maintains that only outside the Left, as he defines that term, does freedom of thought and discussion exist. (There might be equivalent constraints on thought inside a severe order of Catholic priests or intellectuals, or Muslim radicals). Thus when Horowitz broke with the Left, he found that there were liberals who favoured the Vietnam War and conservatives who were against it. I can still recall his shock at discovering that outside the iron grid of Leftism, people were actually free to disagree. Horowitz so defines the Left as to exclude from it most reasonable, non-totalitarian, left-wing politics, and I follow his example.
In the venomous atmosphere of the Party, every sort of personal betrayal was not merely possible, it was expected. Koestler again:
“Few among the intellectuals in the Party realized the time that their mentality was a caricature of the revolutionary spirit; that with in the short span of theree generations the Communist movement had travelled from the era of the Apostles to that of the Borgias. But the process of degeneration had been gradual and continuous, and the seeds of corruption had already been present in the work of Marx: in the vitriolic tone of his polemics, the abuse heaped upon his opponents, the denunciation of rivals and dissenters as traitors to the working class and agents of the bourgeoisie.”
“The Marxist doctrine is a drug, like arsenic or strychnine, which in small does have a stimulating, in larger doses paralyzing, effect on the creative system”.
I eagerly await the emergence of re-convertants from political correctness. I eagerly await the literature of disillusionment from the political doctrines of equality pushed to extremes. Unfortunately, I do not think there will be one. I propose two reasons. In the intervening years since the 1930s, the decline of educational standards has become so acute that I doubt they would have the discipline and writing capacity to express themselves on anything other than confessional television shows. More important, the political Left was always grounded in Marxism which, however demented, was actually a theory of history, and made some predictions about how the world was to turn out. That they were wrong only showed the extent to which Marxism at least pretended to be scientific.
Currently the political Left is driven by anti-whiteness, which is really the current manifestation of antinomianism. It does not even pretend to be scientific. By antinomianism I mean the hatred and rejection of all existing standards and structures in the liberal West because they represent the workings of bourgeois commercial “white” civilization. My essential point about contemporary Leftism is that, if you made all white people disappear in a puff of smoke and replaced them with Japanese, or any other technically and socially competent group, the Left’s hatred of reality would compel them to reject that outcome just as severely.
The Marxists at least had a clue that one structure would be replaced by another. I am not sure the current anti-whiteness brigade have even approached that degree of coherence.