Tuesday, February 18, 2014

North Korean Regime Compared to Nazis

The crimes against humanity perpetrated by the North Korea communist regime are 'strikingly similar' to those of the Nazis according to Michael Kirby, the Australian judge who headed the United Nations inquiry set up to investigate the abuses. Kirby said the commissioners had written to Kim Jong-un, the young despot who inherited the North Korea leadership upon the death of his father, to say they would recommend the matter to the International Criminal Court. Although this may be cold comfort to those who continue to suffer in North Korea and their relatives in the South, it is encouraging that someone in the usually ineffectual UN has had the backbone to state the facts as evidenced by the accounts of more than 300 witnesses. The video in this Sky News article shows the stories of a mother and son who escaped from the hideous North Korean political prisons and even these brief accounts are tear-inducing.

The comments by Michael Kirby are interesting in view of my last post reviewing Jonah Goldberg's book about the fascist origins of the modern political left-wing. Many of today's so-called 'liberals' claim sympathy with Marxist doctrine and some even go so far as to defend the genocidal regimes of Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. Few challenge them on these sympathies. And yet, as Michael Kirby points out, Marxism as it exists in North Korea is indistinguishable from Nazism. The evidence about North Korea has been available for many years but there have been many in the West, including in my own country, who have defended this most indefensible regime. I do not accept ignorance as an excuse any more than we now accept that as an excuse for the collaboration of many in Occupied Europe with the Nazis. People who excuse the North Korean regime, and who defend Marxism, are complicit in these crimes.

The common factor in all dictatorships is the subjugation of individual to the interests of the state. It is the belief that individuals should be forced to live their lives for the benefit of the collective - whether that is defined as the nation, the race, or the proletariat - and this is the moral slippery slope that ultimately leads to North Korea. Once you have decided that individuals should be forced to live their lives for the benefit of the collective, there is ultimately no sacrifice of the individual that you can't or won't justify. You start with supposedly noble, altruistic aims and end up with concentration camps. It is the moral dilemma defined by the joke about the millionaire and the pretty woman - once you've established the principle, all that's left to argue about is the price.

In respect of the immediate problem (if you can call a problem that has existed for 60 years 'immediate') presented by North Korea, the world must now back up the courage shown by Michael Kirby and his team and force the North Korea leadership from power and release its subjects from slavery. Just as we judged our forefathers by their response to Nazism, so we will be judged by our response to North Korea's awful Marxist regime.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Liberal Fascist

I am currently reading Jonah Goldberg's book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, and I recently read Victor Klemperer's I Shall Bear Witness, his personal testimony to life as a Jew in Nazi Germany. These books have in common the subject of fascism, its origins and its language.

Goldberg's book is a revelation. I had not read anything else by this American writer and I was not expecting much of his book, despite it being a New York Times bestseller (I am sure much to the New York Times literary editor's chagrin), but I discovered his book is very well researched and his theories backed by much evidence. The gist of the book, as you might guess from the title, is that modern liberalism (i.e. left-wing) politics has its origins in fascist ideology. 

This is not entirely surprising to me and I have blogged on the topic of socialists being kin with National Socialists before, but Goldberg shows the provenance of modern liberalism following a direct line from philosophers like Rousseau, through the Jacobins of the French Revolution to Mussolini (both in his initial allegiance to the Italian Socialist Party and subsequently his establishment of his Fasci di Combattimento), and thence to Adolf Hitler's National Socialist German Worker's Party. Along the way he traces the origins of American Progressivism as adopted by Woodrow Wilson (undoubtedly the most dictatorial US President ever), Franklin Roosevelt (the second most dictatorial), and on to modern liberalism through Lyndon Johnson and ultimately Barack Obama.  

The interesting thing about the provenance that Goldberg outlines is how successful modern liberals have been in covering the trail. These days it is accepted wisdom that Hitler and Mussolini were right-wing reactionaries just like modern conservatives such as US Republicans. But anyone the least bit familiar with Hitler and Mussolini's political beliefs and writings knows that they were first and foremost socialists (and certainly both proclaimed their socialist credentials right to the end) with a large dollop of popular pragmatism, just like modern liberals. Hitler, in particular, held to many of the same beliefs as the modern Green parties - that the patrician state should regulate every aspect of our social and economic life for our own good health and that of the environment. 

Hitler (but not Mussolini) was also a racist and eugenicist. Surprisingly, so was Woodrow Wilson and, to some extent, FDR. As recently as 1972, the Democratic Party was fielding as a candidate for president a prominent racial segregationist, George Wallace (and he probably would have won the nomination if it hadn't been for the assassination attempt that left him paralysed). Today, people forget it was a Republican president who abolished slavery and Southern Democrats who led the rebellion to retain it.

The parallels between Goldberg's book and Klemperer's first hand account of fascism in practice is interesting. Like Goldberg, Klemperer focuses to a large extent on the language of fascism (and in fact he later wrote the authoritative treatise on the subject, The Language of the Third Reich). He concludes that the Nazis, like Big Brother in George Orwell's 1984, were able to achieve so much of their hideous agenda because they controlled the language. Many Germans came to believe the Jews were greedy, dirty, degenerate, sub-human beings because Hitler was so successful in inculcating these beliefs into the language. If you repeat something often enough, people come to accept it as truth, just as today it is accepted wisdom that US Republicans are racists.

It is tiring, as well as ironic, to be branded a racist when you believe all races should be treated equally before the law, to be branded a fascist when you believe in a small, non-authoritarian state, or to be branded a 'denier' when you point out that the scientific method has been abandoned in the extreme predictions of some climate scientists. It is interesting that it is the so-called liberal side of the debate that is always most ready to engage in such propagandist name-calling when anyone challenges their policies on these matters. Goldberg may be engaging in the some of the same techniques that he abhors in modern liberal discourse, but if he is giving liberals some of their own medicine, then that is apposite. And he certainly weaves a credible story about the origins of their techniques.

Finally, I am saddened to see the very brilliant British blogger James Delingpole (whose blog is listed on the sidebar) is giving up his pen. I have corresponded with James on one occasion and found he was as engaging individually as he is in his blogs. James has been one of the greatest fighters for classical liberal views in the world over the few years and we can ill afford to lose him. I hope that he is not giving up the fight for good, although if he is, I can certainly understand why (for the reasons outlined in the previous paragraph).  I hope he will pop up in a new role in which he will be just as great a thorn in the side of cowardly, liberal fascists as he has been in his blogging career. Thank you, James. It's been a laugh.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What Has Happened to Great Britain?

I have a soft spot for Britain. I lived there for several years in the 1980s and as a New Zealander of predominantly British extraction I look to it for symbols and trends that inform me about life in my own country that shares so many institutions and traditions with the Mother Country. Unfortunately, these days I do not like what I see.

Great Britain gave us the Magna Carta, the Common Law and the rule of law, the (original) Bill of Rights, John Locke, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, the abolition of the slave trade and the bulldog spirit that stood alone against fascism for the first two years of World War II.  These great traditions made Britain by the 19th Century not only the wealthiest and  most powerful country in the world but probably the best to live in for the vast majority of its population. And it wasn't just the homeland that enjoyed this great, liberal tradition - it was the template for successful nation states all over the world. But today Britain is choosing to abandon all that has made it great and, in a sad irony, is adopting the characteristics of the despotic regimes its people have fought against down through the years.

Britain has more surveillance cameras per person than any other country on earth with an estimated 20% of all the world's public CCTV cameras - 5 million in total or 1 for every 11 people. It has revoked the right to silence in criminal cases (an important historical protection against the use of torture for obtaining evidence). More recently British judges have started jailing people for abusive comments on Twitter and following the Leveson Inquiry into hacking of cellphone records by News of the World journalists, the three major British political parties have agreed to introduce the regulation of all content of newspapers and other media. And in the latest assault on a free press and on free speech, a proposed 'deregulation bill' enables judges to authorise the seizure of journalists' notebooks and digital files in secret hearings.

That great British writer, George Orwell, would recognise all of this from his prescient novel, 1984. Orwell modelled his fictitious society on the Soviet Union when he penned his novel in 1948 but he was sounding a warning for his own country. It is a shame that the model for liberal, democratic society all over the world is now looking like the model for Airstrip One.