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This review is from: The God That Failed (Paperback)
These autobiographical notes give an in depth insight into the personal motives, the inner Party workings and the ultimate overall assessments of the CPs and the USSR in the first half of the 29th century.
Except for S. Spender (an intellectual engagement) and A. Gide (a journey in the USSR), the main motives to enter the CP were emotional and moral: `the similarity of the experiences of the disinherited' (R. Wright), `spontaneous intolerance of injustice' (I. Silone) or `repulsion by the social environment' (A. Koestler).
Becoming a Party member was like `a conversion. Life, death, love, good, evil, truth, all changed their meaning or lost it.' (I. Silone) Communist faith was `purist, radical, uncompromising. One lived in a mental world of a drug addict.' (A. Koestler).
Inside the CPs
I. Silone was amazed that the Russian communists (Lenin, Trotzky) were utterly incapable `to be fair in discussing opinions that conflicted with their own.' At the basis (cell work) criticism of Party decisions were not allowed (A. Koestler). Others were accused of `seraphim tendencies (considering oneself as infallible) (R. Wright).
After his Kronstadt (a rude awakening), A. Koestler decided to stay, because `the Party could only be changed from inside', while I. Silone left (`an extremely painful decision').
For L. Fischer, the first flaw in his convictions came with the collectivization (`a form of wholesale serfdom'); a further blow was the Spanish War (Soviet fighters who returned home, were summarily shot) and a complete watershed was the Soviet-Nazi Pact of 1939.
For S. Spender, the Spanish War with its internecine fighting on the left opened his eyes (the ends justified all the means).
Overall evaluation (CP, USSR)
For I. Silone, the defects of official Communism were `fanaticism, abstraction and centralization'.
For S. Spender, in the CP `too much power is concentrated in the hands of too few people.' The latter are protected from their `worst human qualities: savagery, vindictiveness, envy, greed and lust for power.'
Concerning the Soviet State, for L. Fischer it was `a mammoth political-economic monopoly', full of `ubiquitous fear, terror, cynical safety-first, dead conformity and bureaucratic formalism'.
For S. Spender, there was a complete lack of freedom, also in art: `art teaches us that man is not entirely imprisoned within his society. To destroy freedom of art is really a kind of madness.'
For A. Gide, the USSR was `a tragic failure, a country of moral cynicism.' There was no freedom (speech, news gathering, art). Workers could not elect their own representatives in order to defend their interests. They were bound, like serfs, to their territory and exploited by the Party (a new aristocracy of right-thinkers and conformists) working for starvation wages.
This bitter verdict, of which some aspects all still highly relevant today, is a must read for all true democrats.