Ouspensky anticipates Solzhenitsyn in identifying Bolshevism (Marxism) as a pernicious German invention seized on by Lenin and his followers to justify their orgy of violence against a world they hated because it had the temerity to exist apart from their desires and wishes. “As a general rule,” writes Ouspensky in the fourth letter, “Bolshevism based itself on the worst forces underlying Russian life.”(Brussels Journal)
Ouspensky repeats a refrain in all five letters that Bolshevism, being barbarism with a fancy vocabulary, constitutes a threat not only in Russia, but anywhere, hence also everywhere, because it is a destabilizing condition of ordered life, so arduously achieved, always to carry with it “barbarian forces existing inside [the] society, hostile to culture and civilization.” I could not help connecting a recent remark made by Sean Gabb in a Brussels Journal entry with the foregoing words by Ouspensky.
In a discussion of “hate speech” laws and their selective enforcement, Gabb notes that, “the soviet socialists and the national socialists kept control by the arbitrary arrest and torture or murder of suspected opponents,” but that these methods are currently “not… acceptable in England or in the English world.” Nevertheless, writes Gabb, censorious speech-legislation involving intimidating criminalization of certain words or verbal attitudes “has nothing really to do with politeness,” but is, rather, “about power.” So it is as well in the United States and Canada. Wherever governments and elites seek to control expression, whether or not as Gabb observes it has to do ostensibly with “diversity and inclusiveness,” the real agenda is to achieve “the unlimited power to plunder and enslave us, while scaring us into the appearance of gratitude for our dispossession.”
I would say that “hate crime” and “hate speech” laws represent a trial balloon of totalitarian methods. Such methods are barbarous. They betray the basic decency of the Western achievement. They take root in “the worst forces,” as Ouspensky says, “underlying our life.” Now “ought” is a counterfactual word. But it strikes me that if history taught only one lesson to the civilized it would be that as soon as any visibly power-hungry group succeeds in an agenda of intimidation, no matter how minor, sensible people dedicated to their own freedom ought to respond with all necessary resistance until the aggressors have themselves been intimidated into a retreat. Better indeed to quash such attempts before their first success, but that is a more difficult proposition. Ouspensky’s book explains what happens when timidity rather than vigor is the keynote of response to internal barbarism. So does a great library of other books, all of which came later, however, than Ouspensky’s.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
On which side of "hate speech" laws does the real barbarism lie?
Thomas Bertonneau's latest at The Brussels Journal discusses Peter Damian Ouspensky's Letters from Russia (1921), a refugee intellectual's account of the Bolshevik Revolution: