Encounters of the socialist kind

Since earning the right to, I used to vote if I voted at all, for the Labour Party. I was young and thoughtful, and Fabian ideas seemed correct to me for half of my life. What happened to change my ideology was not a St. Paul-like conversion, but a gradual realisation that Socialism was a very necessary ideal that evolved in the 19th century, became essential in the Europe of the first half of the 20th, and redundant in the second. In the 21st century, as has been proven, it is no more than an excuse to gain power. The reasons are many, but the most important is that Socialism, like the Church, is based on sensible required ideas, erroneously interpreted by human beings. The difference is that Socialism is the means by which men and women seek power without opposition or debate, whereas the Church is, or should be a means to an end – the end meaning a quiet and reflective death with one’s conscience at peace.

My first experience of inentional, therefore human misuse of the socialist creed took place in Poland. The London theatre company for which I worked undertook a tour of that country, with a base in Warsaw. Poland was part of the USSR. As ‘visiting artists’, we were invited by the Communist government to weekend parties held in the homes of powerful socialist leaders. These homes were established in castles and mansions formerly the property of the defunct Polish upper class. Whole families with ancient names had been killed during the War, or killed after the War for surviving it. I remember a dinner held in our honour in a moated castle not far outside Warsaw, where the commissar proudly told me he employed twenty-two living-in servants – who were not called servants, but comrades. The comrades wore uniform, while the wives of the labour leaders wore the best that the few remaining fashion houses in Poland could provide. Their wrists, necks and ears sparkled with jewels. One Worth-imitation-dressed lady sported a tiara with white diamonds in it. Our host asked our Artistic Director if he admired what Polish socialism had achieved. This was a mistake, because our Director was a well-known left-inclined thinker, embarrassed by what we were seeing of a modern socialist state. His reply was non-committal.

My second experience was when I became the London agent of an Italian film director, who happened to be a socialist prince as well. His name was Luchino Visconti. He was a charming, erudite, deeply cultured man with homes in Italy, Austria, and a lovely house in Belgravia. Here he would give a large dinner party once a year. We usually sat down twenty or more at one enormously long damasc-covered table. The crockery was Delft, and the cutlery gold and silver. Behind each black mahogany chair stood a uniformed footman, possibly chosen by Visconti for his looks, as Frederick the Great chose soldiers for their height. After one of these splendid affairs, when the guests had gone and I was thanking my host, I asked the great director how he managed to swallow this imperial splendour, remembering his genuinely Marxist views. “My views, which are socialist,” he said, “have nothing to do with my being a prince who is also director of filmis. As director of filmis I need money. I get money from bankers. To amuse them I invite them here to eat my salt; in order to distribute the salt (you like my Eenglish?) I need waiters. These footmen are all waiters. Their dresses I get from the studios. The bankers like being invited to this house. They give me the money. Et voilá!”
If pressed, not a wise thing with Visconti, he would add that he was providing extra employment for waiters. He and his theory were difficult to argue with.

Anthony Blair Esq, late of Fettes public school in Scotland, is another armchair, caviare and champagne socialist who was astute enough to chose the British Labour party as a launching pad for his ambition to become a very wealthy man. He was the least socialist Prime Minister Britain has ever endured. The Queen, rather expert in these matters, saw through him. The Duke of Edinburgh could hardly bear to share a room with him. His terrifying wife, a devout republican, never left his side, controlled Downing Street and even his ambitious Scottish staff. Cherie’s political views had been installed in her by her drunken actor father Booth, who, like almost everybody in that profession, proclaimed the socialist creed at every opportunity.

Harold Macmillan, a publisher, was infinitely more socialist than Blair, though he was a Conservative Prime Minister. In the same league was Douglas-Home, a natural aristocrat who cared profoundly about the appallingly misused British working classes, and would complain endlessly to his associates that he felt so helpless, even as PM, and that he feared neither he nor the political parties could not loosen the stranglehold the trade unions had over the working man. Britain had to wait for Thatcher to do that.

When I was working in Perú, there was a socialist military government. No importation of anything was permitted. The cars were all American and more than six years old. You queued for meat once a fortnight, unless you happened to hold a military card, in which case you did your shopping at a military supermarket where the shelves were stuffed to capacity with foodstuff from the United States of America, Socialism’s deadly enemy.

At that time, Salvador Allende was in the process of reducing neighbouring Chile from near-to-the-top position in Latin America’s best economies, to the bottom, with an annual inflation rate of nearly 2000%. When Allende and thousands of his supporters were eliminated by Pinochet and the USA, Chile was in a balance of payments crisis aggravated by unpayable debts. But Allende became a martyr and a legend for socialists across the world. Pinochet acted as all right-wing dictators do, that is, badly. He was found out and caught. This is what happens to right-wing dictators. But it does not happen to left-wing dictators, as events in Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea etc. prove. If you are left-wing, you are right. If you are right-wing, you are wrong. In this way socialism has mantained its grip over huge sections of the world since the real beginning of successful socialism – a massacre in a cellar in Ekaterinburg.

Let me provide one more unimportant example of what socialism is, and how it affects people’s judgment of how to behave. I bought a copy of a newspaper I had never actually read before, called La Gaceta, in a seaside town in Spain. I bought it in a newspaper shop. Holding it in my hand I searched the racks for another newspaper to read during what might turn out to be a boring morning in the rain. Another man in the shop saw that I was holding a copy of The Gaceta, a right-wing paper. As this man left he pushed against me, saying (in Spanish): “I suppose you’re now looking for the ABC!” These initials refer to another Spanish paper much reviled by socialists as being right-wing in its views. I had no idea who the man was, and he did not know me from Adam. The important thing was that I held a copy of La Gaceta. I was offending the man’s Marxist views. Though he did not know me, I had to be called up for correction.

In the same way, a Minister called Leire Pajín stops people smoking inside, and is now arranging for euthanasia to be practised openly in hospitals. She also decrees that a sixteen-year old girl can get an abortion without consulting her parents. In the same way, the Minister of the Interior arranged for terrorists to be tipped off by the police in order to escape possible arrest. If this had been done by a conservative Minister in power the noise would be heard on Mars. In the same way a Community President diverted European financial aid for the unemployed into the pockets of fellow socialists – seven million euros worth. All these questionable practices are acceptable because they are socialist. The list is endless, but we must stop there and I shall anyway be accused, as so often happens, of ‘getting into a rant’.

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