Tag Archives: Arthur Koestler

For in this century, within the next decades, will be decided for generations whether all mankind is to become Communist, whether the whole world is to become free, or whether, in the struggle, civilization as we know it is to be completely destroyed or completely changed… Whittaker Chambers

The anti-communist manifestos: four books that shaped the Cold War New York: W.W. Norton & Co., c 2009 John V. Fleming Anti-communist movements Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 362 p. : ill.; 25 cm. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The cell door slammed behind Rubashov. He remained leaning against the door for a few seconds, and lit a cigarette. On the bed to his right lay two fairly clean blankets, and the straw mattress looked newly filled. The wash-basin to his left had no plug, but the tap functioned. The can next to it had been freshly disinfected, it did not smell. The walls on both sides were of solid brick, which would stifle the sound of tapping, but where the heating and drain pipe penetrated it, it had been plastered and resounded quite well; besides, the heating pipe itself seemed to be noise-conducting. The window started at eye level; one could see down into the courtyard without having to pull oneself up by the bars. So far everything was in order. He yawned, took off his coat, rolled it up and put it on the mattress as a pillow. He looked out into the yard. The snow shimmered yellow in the double light of the moon and the electric lanterns. All round the yard, along the walls, a narrow track had been cleared for the daily exercise. Dawn had not yet appeared; the stars still shone clear and frostily, in spite of the lanterns. On the rampart of the outside wall, which lay opposite Rubashov’s cell, a soldier with slanted rifle was marching the hundred steps up and down; he stamped at every step as if on parade. From time to time the yellow light of the lanterns flashed on his bayonet. Rubashov took his shoes off, still standing at the window. He put out his cigarette, laid the stump on the floor at the end of his bedstead, and remained sitting on the mattress for a few minutes. He went back to the window once more. The courtyard was still; the sentry was just turning; above the machine-gun tower he saw a streak of the Milky Way. Rubashov stretched himself on the bunk and wrapped himself in the top blanket. It was five o’clock and it was unlikely that one had to get up here before seven in the winter. He was very sleepy and, thinking it over, decided that he would hardly be brought up for examination for another three or four days. He took his pince-nez off, laid it on the stone-paved floor next to the cigarette stump, smiled and shut his eyes. He was warmly wrapped up in the blanket, and felt protected; for the first time in months he was not afraid of his dreams. When a few minutes later the warder tuned the light off from outside, and looked through the spy-hole into his cell, Rubashov, ex-Commissar of the People, slept, his back turned to the wall, with his head on his outstretched left arm, which stuck stiffly out of the bed; only the hand on the end of it hung loosely and twitched in his sleep... the opening of chapter one of Darkness at noon by Arthur Koestler

The books altered the course of history and the lives behind them have the brand of alienation that comes only when the will of the individual is surrendered to the collective and then attempts a rebirth from that alienation of the spirit.

Jan Valtin’s autobiographical narrative, Out of the Night, belongs to the writings of a lost generation of European revolutionists. The leading characters that pass through the pages of his book are semi-fictionalized, semi-factual thumb-nail sketches of men and women who – in the interval between World War I and World War II – began as revolutionists. When their struggle was led by the parties of the Second and Third Internationals to catastrophic defeats, Valtin and his friends failed to carry on. Originally, they had gravitated toward communism (Bolshevism) but instead of Bolsheviks they became demoralized agents and dupes of the GPU (Stalinism). Neither Valtin nor any of the chief characters in this book proved capable of rising to the level of action and theirs is the tragedy of the activist who never bothers his head about theory - at least according to the Trotskyites - in reality it is the bankruptcy of their theory.

Jan Valtin’s autobiographical narrative, Out of the Night, belongs to the writings of a lost generation of European revolutionists. The leading characters that pass through the pages of his book are semi-fictionalized, semi-factual thumb-nail sketches of men and women who – in the interval between World War I and World War II – began as revolutionists. When their struggle was led by the parties of the Second and Third Internationals to catastrophic defeats, Valtin and his friends failed to carry on. Originally, they had gravitated toward communism (Bolshevism) but instead of Bolsheviks they became demoralized agents and dupes of the GPU (Stalinism). Neither Valtin nor any of the chief characters in this book proved capable of rising to the level of action and theirs is the tragedy of the activist who never bothers his head about theory – at least according to the Trotskyites – in reality it is the bankruptcy of their theory.

The subject of The Anti-Communist Manifestos is four influential books that informed the great political struggle known as the Cold War: Darkness at Noon (1940), by Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian journalist and polymath intellectual; Out of the Night (1941), by Jan Valtin, a German sailor and labor agitator; I Chose Freedom (1946), by Victor Kravchenko, a Soviet engineer; and Witness (1952), by Whittaker Chambers, an American journalist. The authors were ex–Communist Party members whose bitter disillusionment led them to turn on their former allegiance in literary fury.

Well dressed and well groomed, the charismatic Kravchenko makes a typically vigorous intervention in the Paris courtroom in which his civil action against Les Lettres française was being heard. The protracted trial regularly drew standing-room-only crowds of spectators. Though Kravchenko won only the symbolic judgment of a single franc, the propaganda damage he inflicted on the French Communist Party was enormous.

Well dressed and well groomed, the charismatic Kravchenko makes a typically vigorous intervention in the Paris courtroom in which his civil action against Les Lettres française was being heard. The protracted trial regularly drew standing-room-only crowds of spectators. Though Kravchenko won only the symbolic judgment of a single franc, the propaganda damage he inflicted on the French Communist Party was enormous.

Koestler was a convicted criminal, Valtin a thug. Kravchenko, though not a spy, was forced to live like one in America. Chambers was a prophet without honor in his own land – forever ostracized for proving that Alger Hiss was a communist spy. Three of the four had been underground espionage agents of the Comintern. All contemplated suicide, and two of them achieved it. John V. Fleming’s humane narrative of these grim lives reveals that words were the true driving force behind the Cold War, that collectivism – like heroin – can become overcome but the damage remains and finally that anytime the state becomes the master of the man both will lose their humanity.

The simple fact is that when I took up my little sling and aimed at Communism, I also hit something else. What I hit was the forces of that great socialist revolution, which, in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, always in the same direction, has been inching its ice cap over the nation for two decades. ...[T]hough I knew it existed, I still had no adequate idea of its extent, the depth of its penetration or the fierce vindictiveness of its revolutionary temper, which is a reflex of it struggle to keep and advance its political power...  Whittaker Chambers

The simple fact is that when I took up my little sling and aimed at Communism, I also hit something else. What I hit was the forces of that great socialist revolution, which, in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, always in the same direction, has been inching its ice cap over the nation for two decades. …[T]hough I knew it existed, I still had no adequate idea of its extent, the depth of its penetration or the fierce vindictiveness of its revolutionary temper, which is a reflex of it struggle to keep and advance its political power…
Whittaker Chambers

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Comments Off on For in this century, within the next decades, will be decided for generations whether all mankind is to become Communist, whether the whole world is to become free, or whether, in the struggle, civilization as we know it is to be completely destroyed or completely changed… Whittaker Chambers

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It is hard, I submit, to loathe bloodshed, including war, more than I do, but it is still harder to exceed my loathing of the very nature of totalitarian states in which massacre is only an administrative detail…Vladimir Nabokov

The playwright Tom Stoppard writes, I was interested by the idea that artists working in a totalitarian dictatorship or tsarist autocracy are secretly and slightly shamefully envied by artists who work in freedom. They have the gratification of intense interest: the authorities want to put them in jail, while there are younger readers for whom what they write is pure oxygen.

While not quite such a dilettante Timothy Garton Ash’s book is certainly written at a safe remove from the Stasi and while it may give us a Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc view that is the common fallacy of most political reporting it has nothing of the authenticity of an Orwell or a Koestler. It is still a worthwhile read but the idea of the demise of totalitarianism with the failure of a bankrupt economic model of a social system is grossly exaggerated.

The file : a personal history New York, Random House, 1997 Timothy Garton Ash Germany (East). Ministerium fur Staatssicherheit Hardcover. 1st. U. S. ed., later printing. 256 p. ; 23 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In 1978 a young Englishman took up residence in Berlin to see what that divided city could teach him about tyranny and freedom. Fifteen years later Timothy Garton Ash – who was by then famous for his reportage of the downfall of communism in Central Europe – returned. This time he had come to look at a file that bore the code-name “Romeo.” The file had been compiled by the Stasi, the East German secret police, with the assistance of dozens of informers. And it contained a meticulous record of Garton Ash’s earlier life in Berlin.

In this memoir, Garton Ash describes what it was like to rediscover his younger self through the eyes of the Stasi, and then to go on to confront those who actually informed against him to the secret police. Moving from document to remembrance, from the offices of British intelligence to the living rooms of retired Stasi officers, The File is a personal narrative as gripping, as disquieting, and as morally provocative as any work of George Orwell or Arthur Koestler. And it is all true.

Comments Off on It is hard, I submit, to loathe bloodshed, including war, more than I do, but it is still harder to exceed my loathing of the very nature of totalitarian states in which massacre is only an administrative detail…Vladimir Nabokov

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