A Light, Shining in Darkness

Lenin and Stalin

A Light, Shining in Darkness

Alexandra Popoff, Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019, pp. ix-xi + pp. 1-326 + notes, photos, bibliography, index, ISBN 978-0-300-22278-4, reviewed by Frank Ellis

I begin with the Soviet century. In 1917, a gang of ideological fanatics seized power in Russia. They then proceeded to conduct an experiment affecting millions of people not just in Russia but throughout the world. The apparent aim of this experiment was to create something akin to paradise on earth. To this end, the owners of factories, banks and other private assets were dispossessed and their property now managed by the state in the name of the people and for the good of the people. All manifestations of inequality – racial, economic and political – were abolished (just like that), and henceforth, all forms of racial and ethnic prejudice, especially Great Russian chauvinism, were declared to be anti-Soviet and punishable. In the new classless society, one free of any racial and class antagonisms, wars would cease and a new age of unimaginable peace and prosperity would ensue. The very existence and success of this society would inspire the workers of the world to take up arms against their capitalist oppressors.

Inequalities in wealth, intellectual achievement and status are natural, arising when people are left to their own lawful devices. In order to eradicate these naturally occurring inequalities, the terror apparatus of the Soviet state had constantly to intervene in people’s lives. The results of this experiment were not class solidarity, liberty, prosperity and equality but terror, genocide and economic collapse. By 1939, Stalin, Lenin’s successor, had created the world’s first totalitarian state: liberty enslaved; equality in squalor; and loneliness in grief and suffering. In 2020, many academics and politicians in the West and in the Russian Federation, do not wish to be reminded that contrary to Hollywood and our universities, the period from 1917 to 1991, more accurately, the Communist Century, was a catastrophe for the planet (and since 1991, the ideological fallout has mutated into something worse). Continue reading

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Assignation with Greta

Greta Bridge

Assignation with Greta

by Bill Hartley

Some rivers are well known with their name denoting a whole region. Others can be quite obscure and it doesn’t help when more than one river carries the same name. There are two called Greta, the best known being in the Lake District. The other rises close to the northern boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and runs for only about 20 miles until it joins the Tees. Here the country rock is soft limestone and during its short journey the river has created a narrow valley and at intervals deep wooded gorges, meaning it can be a risky business to stray off the footpath. Packed into this short and little visited river is some wonderful scenery. The surrounding country was once well fortified, physical symbols of the area’s turbulent past. Castles are to be found in unlikely locations. In a nearby farmyard is Scargill (no relation), one of the smallest. However it’s not just the scenery which makes the river Greta worth a visit. The final three miles of this river has a significant artistic and literary heritage.

The easiest approach is via the hamlet of Greta Bridge, just off the A66.  A mile or so upstream is the ruins of St Mary’s church and the site of a deserted medieval village. This was once a thriving settlement and no-one is sure why the inhabitants left. A better question would be why people settled there in the first place. Egglestone Abbey lies nearby and perhaps the monks saw it as a good location for lime or charcoal burning, since there is ample timber here. The dissolution of the Abbey and sale of its lands may have led to less centralised rural activities. Continue reading

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Closely Observed Construction Sites

Magnum handgun

Closely Observed Construction Sites 

Ilana Mercer digs deep 

“Nothing unusual; its [sic] my jogging routine,” writes a Twitter user. His sarcastic words are appended to a doctored image of joggers running through a construction site, while Ahmaud Arbery loiters in the background. The Twitter lampoon is of the young black man, shot to death by Travis McMichael and father Gregory McMichael, in Satilla Shores, a community near Brunswick, Georgia. The incident occurred on Feb. 23, 2020.

Prior to the shooting, as surveillance footage suggests, the deceased had wandered onto an open construction site, looked it over, but removed nothing from it. The image is “funny”—only if you were not killed on your jog (real or not), ostensibly because you took a suspicious detour. Trespass, innocent or suspicious, does not warrant a death sentence.

“He’s been caught on camera a bunch at night. It’s kind of an ongoing thing,” said an anonymous caller to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, minutes before the fatal shooting. The caller, it now transpires, was referring to surveillance footage dating back to Feb. 11, on which a younger, more slender black male can be seen strolling on the same property. Fast forward to the 23rd, and the dispatcher is quizzing the caller as to whether a break-in was underway. “I just need to know what he was doing wrong. Was he just on the premises and not supposed to be?” That indeed seemed to be the case. Continue reading

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The Sick Man of Europe

Charge of the Light Brigade

The Sick Man of Europe

By Stuart Millson, moonlighting again

Engulfed by 220,000 Covid-19 infections and with a death toll to date of 32,000 souls, the United Kingdom has, in the current pandemic, truly become the “sick man of Europe” – the evocative phrase used in the 19th-century to describe the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Second only to the United States in its rate of infection and overtaking the former viral epicentres of Italy and Spain, Britain’s ability to deal with the virulent virus now sweeping the world has been, at best, ineffective. Despite the magnificent efforts of the National Health Service – not to mention the work of the British Army in building a temporary hospital in just nine days – our country’s response has been found wanting.

Despite the examples before us of countries such as New Zealand and Taiwan, which had the foresight to immediately close their airports, thereby preventing the circulation of the disease and its possible circulation back to countries not yet infected, the United Kingdom – with the agreement of its scientists and public health officials – allowed its runways to remain open. Only now, a month after the disease was given time to embed itself, has the Government finally decided to apply quarantine rules to airport travellers – a classic example of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. [Editorial note; travellers quarantined accordingly will be trusted to isolate themselves!] Continue reading

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Cannibal Lecture

Cannibal Lecture

Ilana Mercer on reparations

Apartheid and the Atlantic slave trade have generated an endless, media-generated pretense of remorse, especially in America and Great Britain. Spectacle aside, the real motive is to define, and therefore control, the past by reading it as an aspect of present political aims. “[R]itual apologies,” argues Jeremy Black, author of “The Slave Trade,” “are moves in a political game that relies on “fatuous arguments about ‘closure’ [and] ‘resolution,’” but fails to reach closure, since the purpose of such policies is to keep the imagined wounds suppurating.

Plainly put, racial-grievance politics are levelled, in general, by Africans who were never enslaved or who were not born into apartheid, against Europeans who did not enslave or segregate them. Only in the West could such a vicarious cult of self-flagellation thrive. As I wrote in my book, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa, “White South Africans are told to give up ancestral lands they are alleged to have stolen. Should not the relatives of cannibals who gobbled up their black brethren be held to the same standards?”

Part of the problem is our ignorance of Southern African history. There was bitter blood on Bantu lands well before white settlers arrived. The Bantu were not indigenous to South Africa. They migrated there out of central Africa and, like the European settlers, used their military might to displace Hottentots, Bushmen and one another through internecine warfare. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, May 2020

Endnotes, May 2020

In this edition: Bruckner’s Second Symphony, by Stuart Millson

Anton Bruckner (1824-96), organist, Wagnerphile and symphonist, has come to represent the pure, almost naive spirit of late-romanticism. From his earliest days in the Catholic church, to the splendid heights of his last two great achievements – the mighty Eighth and (unfinished) Ninth Symphonies – the composer was always outside the metropolitan tides and ways of music. Uncomfortable in fashionable Vienna and other Austro-German capitals, he was prone to bring a plate of cakes to the conductor’s door – to thank him for a great performance.

Commonly described as “cathedrals in music”, his symphonies bring together great moments – episodes where light streams through a stained-glass window, or breathless phrases which echo fragments of church music, or (at a particular point in the Fifth Symphony, for example) a passing phrase reminiscent of an idea in Mozart’s Requiem. In the Eighth Symphony’s scherzo, we have a headlong rush into Alpine meadows and byways, as Bruckner embraces the almost pagan, life-loving spirit of “Deutsche Michel” – the legendary, Teutonic equivalent of an English yeoman. And in the Seventh Symphony, generally considered his most radiant, there is (again in the scherzo movement) a definite undercurrent of tension, almost a sinister pace that seems to give the music a thrilling, dangerous edge. Continue reading

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Walmart, with Missiles

Abandoned Packard automobile factory, Detroit

Walmart, with Missiles

Ilana Mercer, in hollowed out America

On March 31, the number of Americans dead from Coronavirus stood at 3,900! A mere month on, at the time of writing, 63,801 Americans have perished. American deaths by Covid account for a fourth of the world’s, including those in the undeveloped world. To ignore this Third-World-like specter is to dismiss the dead and the dying. It’s tantamount to Cancel Culture!

China sucks. But if the United States must rely on the Chinese government to keep its citizens safe, then what kind of a micky-mouse country is it? If the American people can be convinced by their government to saddle a foreign power with the responsibility for their existential welfare—what kind of people are we?

China didn’t force the traitors of the American economy to shift crucial production lines to its country and strand Americans without surgical and N-95 masks and medication; homegrown turncoats made that decision, all by their lonesome. Decades ago, the political, corporate and industrial leaders of the West chose to enmesh the fate of their pliable people with that of the vigorous, voracious Chinese. Continue reading

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Kiel Bill

German battleship Hessen transiting the Kiel Canal

Kiel Bill

William Hartley, alone on a wide wide sea

The Kiel Canal isn’t popular with ship’s crews, even though it cuts out a long haul around the Jutland Peninsula when entering the Baltic. A German pilot and helmsman come on board to take charge of the ship and during transit no routine maintenance work such as painting or welding is allowed, due to the proximity of houses. This means the crew are on duty but largely idle during the twelve hour passage. Ships proceed at a stately pace, sometimes being overtaken by cyclists on the adjacent path and occasionally it becomes necessary to heave to and let a larger vessel pass. The MV Kristin Schepers is less than 10,000 tonnes which may seem substantial but she is a minnow compared to the huge bulk carriers which get right of way. Up on the bridge with the Germans doing the work, we use our elevated position to look in the windows of canal side towns.

The ship is German owned but Cyprus flagged and most of the officers are Russian. Down in the mess, mealtime entertainment is non stop Russian TV which seems to consist largely of Mr Putin’s activities and occasionally his hapless looking Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. It can be as many as five very steep flights of stairs to descend to the mess deck for meals. Function shapes form on the modern freighter and all non-cargo related space is squeezed into a tall narrow structure, where the crew eat and sleep. At the top, overlooking our load of containers, is the bridge. Continue reading

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Lockdown: a Libertarian Perspective

The Sick Child, Edvard Munch

Lockdown: a Libertarian Perspective

by Ilana Mercer

The other day I was running up a mountain. Two people were walking down it. I quickly crossed over, so as not to expirate over them. To my surprise, they thanked me profusely. I’m healthy; they looked fit. Distancing may not have been necessary in this case. Yet, in this simple act of conscious distancing, in the epochal age of a terrifying, communicable disease—my neighbors and I had come closer than ever before. Fear gave way to fellow feeling.

Having lived in both the developed and underdeveloped world, I have always associated social distancing with civility and civilization. Cultures that honor personal boundaries always seemed better than cultures which didn’t. Ditto people who kept a respectful distance: they have more merit than those who get in your face.

Which is why the wish expressed by so many freedom-loving protesters to violate the personal space of others is vexing and why comments such as the following are anathema: “Your ‘health’ does not supersede my right.” “Give me liberty or give me COVID-19.” “I am not required to descend into poverty for you.” Continue reading

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Philosopher on Fire


Philosopher on Fire 

Darrell Sutton considers Heraclitus 

Diogenes Laertius is a popular and reliable source for Heraclitus’ life: cf. Lives and Opinions, Book ix 1. Heraclitus, a native of Ephesus, lived around 500 BC. Too little is known of his life to conjecture with any specificity, but he was supposedly of good birth. However, Aristotle and Cicero both refer to philosophical statements of his as “obscure”. It was believed by some that he never completed a number of literary works because he allegedly suffered from melancholy. So he is mentioned as “the weeping philosopher”. The few remains that we possess of Heraclitus’ original compositions are succinct fragments. Since New Testament documents are tapestries of ancient ideas and proverbial wisdom, in this short note we defer to one snippet left by this pre-Socratic scholar. Patristic theologians sought to refute many of Heraclitus’ linguistic innovations, particularly the “logos” concept. Therefore a lively interpretation of his views may be helpful in situating one specific Greek image contained in the Greek New Testament. The following notes consider the logic of the sentence comprising fragment 55 and its transmutation in the first letter of the Apostle John.

ὅσων ὄψις ἀκοὴ μάθησις, ταῦτα ἐγὼ προτιμέω
“such things like sight, hearing, experiential learning, these I esteem highly.”

Some prefatory remarks are necessary before proceeding to a discussion of the above text. Ancient inscriptions, when legible, are useful for overcoming impediments which hinder the understanding of antiquity. The distant past throws up enough problems on its own. Trying to comprehend what a writer meant when only a fragmentary sentence is available might encourage debate but it tends to breed controversy. Still, even if what the writer intended to say is forever lost to posterity, the usage of a phrase or system of words may turn up afterward. Continue reading

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