Page 8, 14th May 1937

14th May 1937
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Page 8, 14th May 1937 — Things New And Old
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Things New And Old

Bolshevism Psycho-analysed

From a Correspondent There was a time when I was fairly cornpletely under the spell of the kind of psychology that now pervades clinics, psychological fiction and smart conversation. It is the psychology that explains all human actions in terms of sub-human and subconscious impulses, explains away every consciously purposeful act as caused by some irrational libido or complex, and, in particular, is for ever accounting for actions by their contraries in the subconscious—a man struts like a turkey-cock because he has an inferiority complex, and so forth.

But I have for so long regarded the subconscious and most of its inhabitants as figures in a new mythology, that it came as rather a shock when I found myself the other day constructing an explanation of the Russian Revolution or, at any rate, one of its most conspicuous features, on lines distinctly reminiscent of the abhorred method.

I was drawing near the end of Under Moscow Skies, by Maurice Hindus, when it struck nte that the tremendous hold which some of the grimmest aspects of Marxism gained on a section of the Russian people could be explained by the entirely contrary dispositions of the Russian character.

Escape from Self-Consciousnesa The great pre-revolutionary Russian novelists made the world familiar with the self-conscious type of Russian, absorbed in his own emotions, apathetic towards external events, given to talking rather than acting, to morbid self-analysis and to indulgence in mental self-torture.

Now, the obvious escape from this kind of thing stands at the opposite extreme from the healthy norm, as ways of escape are apt to do. It lies in the ruthless suppression of individual emotions and the substitution of mass satisfaction. Analysis of one's own motives will give way to the interpretation of an historical process. Impotent apathy in the face of events will become a throwing of oneself unconditionally into the working out of the process. Cruel self-condemnation will be transformed into war without quarter against those who deny or fight against the process, and into cruel regardlessness of the human cost.

An opportunity for this is precisely what is provided by Marxism. Its materialistic philosophy of history denies the freedom of the individual and subordinates him to an historical process. The satisfactions it promises are not for the individual but for the class or the mass. It demands blind obedience from its adherents and limitless violence against class-enemies. Its technique from ffrst to last cultivates and counts uPoti mass feeling and mass thinking in the name of the practically deified socialist State. It is the ultimate denial of individualism worked out in the realm of economics in reply to individualism run lo seed.

The Disease Remains It certainly seems as if this aspect of Marxism has provided a psychological escape for considerable numbers of Russians. It has replaced their selfabsorption by enthusiasm for a social process, galvanised the fatalistically apathetic into the fatalistically energetic and given morbidity a new outlet. It has not ordinarily done this completely even in the case of the elect, as the conflicts and emotions portrayed by Hindus and other postrevolutionary novelists sufficiently demonstrate, but with the help of a large infusion of Jewish intellectualism it has given a hard core to the revolutionary State in dreamy go-as-you-please Russia.

At the same time it has not restored to those who lacked it the natural confidence of men in the human will and human freedom—the fatalists are fatalists still. Like wise the morbid are morbid still. And when undue preoccupation with the individual self is exchanged for utter disregard of it, the true dignity of the individual is not vindicated in the transaction; men lose their selves but do not find them again.

For the former state of mind is a consequence of a defect in human dignity and strength and the second is a reaction from it that errs in the opposite direction without the disease from which both distortions spring.

The British Counterpart I am not seriously suggesting that it was some eruption from the alleged subconscious self seeking a way of escape from the impotence of the conscious mind that produced Bolshevism in Russia. But I think it could be said that the Marxist exaltation of an impersonal dynamic process did provide, when introduced from abroad, a way of escape for many unduly self-conscious and impotent minds, and that this explains to some extent the fervour as of a new social purposiveness that seems to have existed for a time in certain favoured circles in Russia.

It may explain also the attraction which Marxism as a theory has for the more selfconscious and impotent types of intellectuals even in countries where the general standard of practicality and individual responsibility is higher than in Russia. But the trend towards mass-treatment in this country has come chiefly from another quarter. In Russia an atheist intelligentsia has, by the inspiration of Marxism, been converted with some difficulty into the nucleus of an all-embracing bureaucracy. In England a highly-trained civil service whose atheism is of the practical rather than the theoretical kind, had carried the herding of the population to a high degree of efficiency in practice 'before adopting Socialism as its intellectual hobby. The mass treatment that in Russia is a passion which has evolved a bureacracy, is in England a profession which has clothed itself with a theory.




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