Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Men of Action, Men of Ideas

In the following videos, Christopher Hitchens sits down for the National Review program Uncommon Knowledge and talks about the legacy of Leon Trotsky.

The host, Peter Robinson, notes that Hitchens' admiration of Trotsky matches his admiration of Orwell - a man of the Left who was also willing to criticize the authoritarian elements in it, while simultaneously ravishing the nativist, nationalist, racist and imperialist elements of the Right.

While Hitchens, ever the contrarian, denies this, I must say that I see it. In 1939, Trotsky said this:

The struggle is for the colonial possessions, for the domination of the world. The attempt to represent this brawl of interests and appetites as a struggle between “democracy” and “fascism” can only dupe the working class. Chamberlain will give all the democracies in the world (there are not many left) for a tenth part of India.

The reading of the British Empire's intentions is brilliant. Churchill certainly didn't hide his intention to maintain a grip on India. and the imperialist rhetoric was rampant in his speeches. No matter how much he may have done against Hitler, I have always felt uncomfortable celebrating Churchill, as he was one of the last true believers that white Europeans were destined to rule over largely brown, less developed people. Trotsky and Orwell, as brave speakers against what communism turned into, have an added credibility.

The evil inherent in colonialism is evident in the film George Orwell - A Life in Pictures, in the clips pertaining to Orwell's military stay in Burma. The film is available free on YouTube, but can't be embedded. Here are links to the relevant portions: Part (b) and Part (c).

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