Quotations from three contemporary writers

Quotations from three contemporary writers – all of them dedicatees of the book – which are applicable to L.

David Horowitz on Saul Alinsky:
“Alinsky begins his text by telling readers exactly what a radical is. He is not a reformer of the system but its would-be destroyer. In his own mind the radical is building his own kingdom, which to him is a kingdom of heaven on earth. Since a kingdom of heaven built by human beings is a fantasy – an impossible dream – the radical’s only real world efforts are those which are aimed at subverting the society he lives in. He is a nihilist. This is something that conservatives generally have a hard time understanding. As a former radical, I am constantly asked how radicals could hate America and why they would want to destroy a society that compared to others is tolerant, inclusive and open, and treats all people with a dignity and respect that is the envy of the world. The answer to this question is that radicals are not comparing America to other real world societies. They are comparing America to the heaven on earth – the kingdom of social justice and freedom – they think they are building. And compared to this heaven even America is hell.”

Thomas Sowell on the self-exaltation of the intellectuals and the inaccessibility of modern art:
“Intellectuals’ downplaying of objective reality and objective criteria extends beyond social, scientific, or economic phenomena into art, music, and philosophy. The one over-riding consistency across all these disparate venues is the self-exaltation of the intellectuals. Unlike great cultural achievements of the past … which were intended to inspire kings and peasants alike, the hallmark of self-consciously ‘modern’ art and music is its inaccessibility to the masses and often even deliberate offensiveness to, or mockery of, the masses. … A society can survive a certain amount of forces of disintegration within it. But that is very different from saying that there is no limit to the amount, audacity and ferocity of those disintegrative forces which a society can survive, without at least the will to resist.”

Daniel Greenfield on the cult of Obama:
“Cults shift the burden of failure from the guru and the progam to the participants. It isn’t the man or the idea that failed, but the people. In the end it’s not the enemies who bear the final burden of Obama’s fall, but the people who weren’t good enough. Cults demand more and more from their followers to impose upon tnem an unreasonable and unshakeable burden of guilt. …[Obama provided] a sense of imminence, the perception of a transformative figure who could change the country and the world. That magnetic tug wasn’t Obama, it was the confused mess of desires, fears, dreams and wishes that the people were encouraged to project onto him.”

L: A Novel History

My book is not a utopia but the opposite: a dystopia. It is set in England in the 1980s – and is highly relevant, I believe, to America now.

In the middle of the 1980s Britain came very close to violent revolution. There were crippling strikes and race riots. Blood was spilt in the streets. The country was lucky to have a strong leader in Margaret Thatcher, who firmly restored order. And she did it without making government more authoritarian. In fact she actually increased the freedom of individuals by helping millions of them to become wealthier as stock and property owners.

In my book I explore what might have happened if she had not been strong. In my fiction, she falls from power. Those who want to end personal freedom take over, and a national catastrophe begins.

The voters elect a government with a collectivist ideology.  It believes in redistributing wealth. Its ideal is to make everyone economically equal. I recognize the enormous temptation many people might feel to put themselves in the hands of government. How nice it would be, we may think, if the government took over the whole responsibility of feeding us, housing us, educating us, looking after our health, and even making our important decisions for us. But if once we fall for that temptation and deliver ourselves over to the state, give up self-reliance and self-determination – in a word give up our freedom – we will suffer all the horrors of serfdom. What government provides, government can take away, leaving you helpless. That’s what the people of Russia and Eastern Europe learnt in actual experience. My book describes those horrors graphically.  Nothing happens in my story that didn’t happen somewhere in the world in the 20th century, the age of dictators.

But the story isn’t entirely dark. To keep the very dramatic events from being too emotionally harrowing I have written it in the form of a history. The fictitious historian relates the events with an academic’s cool objectivity, setting distance between the reader and the events. The book is also quietly satirical. It contains political jokes for those who have endured the opaque writings of Marxist ideologists. The dictator Louis Zander, known simply as L – a playwright, aesthete and political philosopher (modeled to a large extent on the Hungarian Communist oligarch Georg Lukaçs) writes nonsense that passes as profundity. The more a reader has struggled to make sense out of Marxist screeds – those obscure works that poured and still pour out of the universities on political science, philosophy, literary criticism, economics, history, liberation theology, law, and so on –  and have found themselves helplessly losing the battle to understand them, the more they may enjoy my lampooning of them. Most of L’s theory is put in an Appendix, so those who don’t have a taste for it can skip it without missing anything of the story.

There’s a part of the narrative that is painfully funny though perfectly dreadful. The dictator L, in a very short time, reduces millions of people to a condition of visible shame. They creep about with their heads hanging, their hands clasped over their mouths, unwilling to meet each others’ eyes, mumbling rather than talking; a whole population abased. How does he do it? I hope you’ll read the book and find out.

As a playwright and theater producer, L choreographs rather than rules. He makes all England his stage, and everyone in it the performer of a tragic farce.

As to why I say that my book is relevant in America now, I have to give a highly partisan answer. The book is a warning.  It was written to frighten the citizens of every free country. It demonstrates how dangerous certain political ideas are; how once implemented they bring a country to ruin and misery. Ideally it should be read by every voter in America, because it is about the big divide between the collectivist, redistributive ideals of a Barack Obama and the idea of individual liberty on which, and for which, the USA was founded by the great men who wrote the Constitution.

Revolution

On the 3rd June, 1979, at about 6 o’clock in the evening, members of the Theatre of Life, arriving for an audition, pushed open the doors of the dark auditorium and saw a hooded figure standing in a spotlight on the otherwise bare stage. He stood as still as a dummy. They thought at first it must be L, “because he was dressed in the sort of overalls that L usually wore in the theatre, a kind of tailored boilersuit made of blue suede.”* The hood was of black cloth, like a hangman’s, with a pair of eyeholes. The would-be performers, some thirty of them, took their seats silently, and when they were all settled, the man spoke. It was not L’s voice.
In a loud, harsh, unvaried tone, he repeated what L had often said about life and art being indistinguishable. He said that violence was “the goal, the climax, of all action”, and that it was “right at this time for the compelling violence of the most significant action to spill over
from the stage into the world.”
The light then spread over the whole stage. Another man was standing near the back, dressed in a policeman’s uniform. All round them, on the boards, armaments were laid out, in neat order: rifles, pistols, machine-guns, grenades, “looking very like the real things”.*
There was also a heap of wooden staves, iron bars, rocks, broken railings, pickaxes and spades. The hooded man took up an iron bar, lifted it with both hands above his head, whirled about and rushed towards the other man, swinging the bar down and forwards with the utmost speed and strength into his face. The watchers gasped, some screamed, some rose from their seats, as the man fell. But he fell straight backwards, with a soft plop, like a bundle of laundry being dropped. He was a dummy. The hooded man took up a large cardboard box, came down from the stage and handed out knitted balaclava helmets. The lights came up over the auditorium and there was L, sitting on an aisle seat towards the back, “dressed in a dark suit, looking very Savile Row elegant, and
watching without saying a word.”
“Put them on!” the hooded man commanded.
The knitted helmets were old, grubby and stained, and smelt of unwashed human bodies, underarms, feet and worse.*
“Breathe in deeply,” they were ordered when they were all hooded, sitting in their rows (“like so many gagging turtles,” as one of them said*).
“Again! Again!”
They breathed in the stink of the dirty wool.
“That,” the hooded man said, loudly and harshly, “is the smell of the armed proletarian struggle. It is the smell of the future. It is the smell of your dedication to that future. You will learn to love it.”