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Well, here I am–yesterday, the computer worked perfectly, without a hitch, all day.

Today, it’s been a constant struggle.

I’ve begun to wonder if the issue might be heat and humidy, since we still don’t have an air conditioner down here yet.  And the night before last it was REALLY cold, but last night it was hot and muggy.  And it’s hot and muggy now.

Greg was wondering if it could be that the monitor is freezing up and not the CPU, that the monitor failing to turn on may be the monitor’s fault and not the CPUs, if that makes sense.

I don’t understand any of this, so I’m not the right person to ask.

I’m still reading Witness, of course, and I do have a couple of notes on my progress.

1) Upper middle class twits may be drawn to Communism because they expect to end up in charge of things when the revolution comes, but that does not seem to have been Chambers’s motivation, and it doesn’t seem to have been the motivation of many of the people Chambers describes working with in the Party.

2) Chambers explains his own attraction and commitment to Communism as coming from the need to find “something to live for and something to die for,” with the second half of that sentence being as important as the first.  And since he was not a religious believer, what he found instead was Communism.

3) A good part of his attraction to Communism and the Communist Party came from a direct experience of actual working conditions on the ground.  He ran away from home around the time he should have gone to college and spent about a year working rough on construction sites and at other hard manual labor.  And he met a fair number of men who, having done that work all their lives and been broken down in health because of it, were left pretty much destitute.

4) Robert says he thinks people attracted to socialism are never attracted to it because they’re upset about the conditons people have to live and work under, but it seems to me that a fair number of them were so concerned, at least in the Thirties.  We’re talking now about people like Chambers rather than people like Hiss.

5) The extent to which actual espionage was going on in the Thirties is truly staggering, but what’s more staggering is how much infiltration and manipulation was going on on everything from newspapers and magazines to elementary schools.

6) Chambers pinpoints the period when American intellectuals became largely and almost monolithically left as the Twenties–that may be the result of the ebbing of religious belief.  See number one above.

7) No matter what Chambers says, it seems obvious to me that the choice isn’t between religion and Communism, because I’m neither. 

Well, more tomorrow, maybe.

Written by janeh

September 8th, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses to 'Believers'

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  1. I think both the “something to live and die for” and a desire to improve the condition of the poor were often inspirations to people who became communists or socialists. Those are very heady emotions for the idealistic types, and if they can’t or won’t find them in religion, they’ll find them in politics.

    Not everyone seems to need that kind of motivation in life. Lots of people seem to find other motivations more, err, moving – quiet satisfaction raising a family, passionate enquiry into the sex life of fruit flies or the longing to create a business or to oversea the growth of a city or country. But for the ones who want..no, need.. to help others, to rescue them…a certain subset of those people will go for a political solution, and of all the recent political movements, the various left-wing ones have made the most direct claims to have a solution to poverty and hunger. The fact that some of them also are totally committed to a view of the place of violence in the political process that has never yet produced a largely stable, safe and comfortable society for most citizens…well, some people overlook that, or think the end justifies the means, and believe in the face of all evidence that the end (that is, sufficient food, shelter and medical care for every human being) is actually achievable.

    I’ve just finished a massive biography of Mao which is a useful corrective to this sort of thing.


    8 Sep 10 at 2:09 pm

  2. I can understand the attraction of commumism as an alternative to capitalism during the Great Depression. But you say Chambers puts the swing to the left as beginning in the 1920s. Does he give any explanation?

    And how could they ignore the Ukarainian famine and the Purge trials?


    8 Sep 10 at 4:34 pm

  3. “Robert says he thinks people attracted to socialism are never attracted to it because they’re upset about the conditons people have to live and work under…”

    OK, I really don’t remember saying that as such. I am (rightly) cynical about socialist and communist motivation, but I would usually choke on “never.”

    But a reminder:
    1. No one needs political power to give of his own to the needy. All he needs is a checkbook. One seeks political power to give someone else’s stuff to the needy–or for another motive altogether.
    2. If there was ever any doubt, we know now that you can’t arrive at absolute equality by political means. You have to have an immensely powerful state to get close, and the holders of state power soon cease to be equal.
    3. If increasing state power past a point does not produce equality, it’s fair to ask why people pursue power in the name of equality. If I asked for a firearm or a good sharp knife because I needed to hammer a nail, my request would be viewed with some scepticism. Someone who wants secret police, censors, control of the economy and an immense bureaucracy in order to promote human brotherhood is equally suspect.
    4. It’s always important to distinguish between reformers and revolutionaries, and “socialist” tends to blur that. The promoter of a minimum wage, child labor laws or rent control is attempting to make a situation better. You can argue whether the policy might be counterproductive, but it’s hard to dispute what the reformer is trying to do. A revolutionary may prefer that conditions grow worse, to bring about The Revolution. They generally explain that The Revolution will then improve thngs–but they would, wouldn’t they?
    5. The remaining political racists have seen the death camps. They know where the logic of their program leads, and are rightly despised. Those pursuing absolute state power have seen more famines and massacres brought about by such power–and more poverty–than I can well count. Whatever might have been the case in 1890, today’s leftists also know exactly where the program leads.


    8 Sep 10 at 4:44 pm

  4. “I’ve just finished a massive biography of Mao which is a useful corrective to this sort of thing.”

    Chang’s and Halliday’s? That’s the one I’m reading (off and on) at the moment. I’m also reading “The Black Book of Communism”. Neither seem to have any answer as to why those likely to be intelligent/powerful/charismatic enough to rise to leadership roles in communist organisations are attracted to communism except for insane quasi-religious zealotry or, I suspect more usually, sheer hunger for power. The rest are either “useful idiots” or terrorised.


    8 Sep 10 at 7:05 pm

  5. Philip Short’s, actually. He appears to stick to ‘just the facts’ rather than ranting, but leaves no doubt that Mao believed that periodic revolutions were good things, and the loss of life unimportant in the progress towards a true Marxist paradise.


    8 Sep 10 at 7:59 pm

  6. Oh, Robert, today’s leftists would say that we don’t know where it will lead *if done correctly*!




    9 Sep 10 at 9:52 pm

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