Sunday, February 03, 2008

Mr. Shaw's Indictment of Bolshevism

by Fr. Vincent McNabb



“Bolshevism is in itself a good thing…No one is prevented from going to Church in Russia. People there are too busy working to think of going to Church.”

Mr. Shaw is reported to have said these words after his recent hurried visit to Soviet Russia.

(1) To pit it in Shavian language. Mr. Shaw has let the Russian cat out of the bag, or perhaps it would be more economically exact to say that he has let the Russian bear out of the bag.

It takes us all our time to be sufficiently grateful to Mr. Shaw’s splendid truth-telling, because his indictment of Bolshevism puts an end to any lingering approval we had for the romantic though somewhat bloody attempt to set up the New Jerusalem in Russia’s pleasant land. Mr. Shaw would hardly believe that we were stirred almost to delight when we fist had news that a group of men and women were attempting to give the vast millions of Russia a chance of true freedom. The doom of a dynasty seemed to be a necessary gateway to the emancipation of a people; though we winced at the brutal ending of the Romanoffs. But if Mr. Shaw’s indictment is true, it is not only a dynasty that is dead; but freedom, too, is dead or doomed to die.

(2) Ours eyes were painfully opened to the possibility of Mr. Shaw’s indictment by a careful study of the primary documents. Travellers’ tales are often to be given the same credence as our law-courts give to “What somebody said that somebody said.” And enemy travelers, such as have written endless books on what they saw in Russia, can hardly be valued as more than pleasant, sometimes piquant fiction.

But the Soviet Constitution, like the American Constitution, is neither a travelers tale nor fiction. It is truth.

And this truth of the Soviet Constitution, as now amended, was to the present writer such a shock that he could hardly believe his eyes; even as he had hitherto hardly believed his ears. The Soviet Constitution contains no declaration of Human Liberty!

(3) This is all the more remarkable, and seemingly deliberate, because the past two classical Revolutions, the American and the French, had made explicit and almost overstated protests of their belief in liberty. The American Seccessionists told the world that “Man had an unalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The French tricolour signaled to beleagured humanity the mystic trinity: Liberté, Eqalité, Fraternité.

But the new Revolution has such contempt for what it thinks Bourgeois revolutions that it sweeps aside this antiquated bourgeois liberty, as it has swept aside Czardom and the peasant.

(4) Another experience we lately had with Fabian Socialists had left us not unprepared for the full force of Mr. Shaw’s indictment of Bolshevism. We were engaged in a friendly public discussion with a little group of eager, convinced Fabian Socialists. After some rounds of discussion we tried, and we thought we had successfully tried, to register the point by showing that our adversaries policy would be a denial of human freedom.

Two courses, we thought, were open to our adversary. He could deny that his Fabian policy would be a denial of human freedom; or he could admit our argument and confess the wrongness of the Fabian policy.

He did neither. He denied human freedom!

(5) Yet, even then, acquaintance with the elaborate paradoxes, or make-beliefs so delighted in by the modern undergraduate mind, made us hesitate to think that age and a regard for truth and justice would Mr. Shaw from this child’s play. But what are we to think of Mr. Shaw when he professes to believe it is “a good thing” that scores of millions of his fellow-beings are so bound to work - and not at work of their own choice – that they cannot even think of giving two hours a week to an occupation which from the dawn of history has been mainly responsible for man’s highest intellectual and artistic culture.

Unwilling labour for another is forced labour. As such labour is slavery, such a labourer is a slave. And, on Mr. Shaw’s showing, of such slaves is the new Russia. It is a terrible indictment.

(6) Mr. Shaw’s paternal sentimentality for a state of things largely begooten of his books has led him into a strange lapse of reason. He would have had an argument, or the aura of an argument if he had said: “People find Bolshevism, as I found Bolshevism, such a good thing that they do not want to go to Church.” Even thus his argument would not have been convincing.

Or he could have given the argument a more satisfactory form thus :- “People find Bolshevism, such a good thing that they have given up belief in a good God.” Both these arguments are thoroughly bad. But they neither look nor are so bad as Mr. Shaw’s actual argument: “People have to work so hard under Bolshevism that they don’t even think of going to Church.”

Let Mr. Shaw put it to himself and to his fellow Fabians this way: “In Russia the state of things is good because Bolshevism makes Russians work so hard that they don’t even think of attending the Fabian Society!”

Poor Russia! What a terrible indictment! Yet Mr. Shaw’s indictment must be accepted, because it is the witness not of a foe, but of a friend.

(7) The damning situation created by Mr. Shaw’s faint praise of Bolshevism is Shavian to the point of burlesque.

Here in England the Fabian intelligentsia are telling the hewers of wood and drawers of water who work many hours a day for 5 ½ days a week that when Fabian organizers have re-arranged the State, no workman will work more than two days in seven. His remaining five days will be days of leisure. They will be his to spend as he thinks fit. Such a Utopia is manifestly the only one that would appeal to the average British workman. But I fancy the Fabian candidates at the next election will hardly hang up a banner with the cry “Elect us; and you shall all have to work so hard at mass-production that you won’t think of going to a Fabian meeting or the public house or a chapel.”

My own acquaintance with the average Englishman, which is probably as wide as Mr. Shaw’s, would lend me to disagree with Mr. Shaw’s opinion on the effect of such a banner. My own opinion is that the new Parliament would seat no Fabians;- so deep-seated and dogged is the average Russian –man and woman- is given a vote and a secret ballot in all the affairs of Soviet Russia,

But for the moment Mr. Shaw’s indictment stands. Russians are now slaves by force of law. It is a terrible indictment; by England’s enfant terrible. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Shaw will again visit Russia; and whether he will be fêted as Russia’s friend.

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