The Marxist Left has nowhere to go. Wherever it has gained power it has failed, and it has no new ideas. Like a demented parrot it screeches words at the world outside its intellectual cage: “Racist!”, “Sexist!”, “Xenophobe!”, “White male privilege!”, “Global warming denier!” – as if they were statements complete in themselves and nothing needed to be added. They are subjects without predicates.
For a hundred years, 1917-2017, the enemy of liberty, reason, humanity, justice, civilization itself was the Marxist Left.
From the beginning of its era of implementation – the seizing of power in Russia by Vladimir Lenin and his Bolsheviks – to its fading with a cacophony of screeches when its American president, Barack Obama, stepped down from power, the Atrocious Ideology was fomented and imposed on nations by intellectuals who knew how to argue at a dinner table or a Stammtisch, in a classroom or a newspaper column, but had no understanding whatsoever of how most people lived or to what they aspired.
From the 1920s onwards, a majority of the intellectuals in the free Western world embraced the collectivist ideology of Marx and Lenin and called for the ruin of their own house. In the Anglosphere (e.g.), the writers who enthralled the reading classes – though they esteemed themselves artists and above politics – were almost all dedicated to the destruction of their warm, comfortable, beautifully appointed, endlessly entertaining, safe nursery. And they convinced untold millions that to smash it and everything in it was the nobly ideal thing to do.
To take just one of the noble destroyers who thought they would enjoy Communism, one who attracted, and continues to attract, devoted admirers, let us consider Virginia Woolf (1882-1941). She was not merely a typical member of that class, she was the leading light of it.
A revelatory portrait of her is to be found in an essay by the great British essayist, Theodore Dalrymple.
“Virginia Woolf,” he writes, “belonged by birth not merely to the upper middle classes but to the the elite of the intellectual elite”.
He concentrates his surgical analysis on one of her books in particular, Three Guineas.
It was about how women could prevent war.
Virginia Woolf’s name is not normally associated with great affairs of state, of course. Quite the reverse. She regarded them with a fastidious disgust, as a vulgar distraction from the true business of life: attendance to the finer nuances of one’s own emotional state. Along with the other members of the Bloomsbury group – that influential and endlessly chronicled little band of British aesthetes of which she was the moving spirit – she was dedicated to the proposition that beings as sensitive as they to the music of life ought not to be bound by gross social conventions , and that it was their duty (as well as their pleasure) to act solely upon the promptings of the sympathetic vibrations of their own souls. …
Despite its concern with war, the book is not a work of political philosophy or contemporary history:
No: it is a locus classicus of self-pity and victimhood as a genre in itself. In this it was certainly ahead of its time, and it deserves to be on the syllabus of every department of women’s studies at every third-rate establishment of higher education. …
The book is important because it is a naked statement of the worldview that is unstated and implicit in all of Virginia Woolf’s novels, most of which have achieved an iconic status in the republic of letters and in the humanities departments of the English speaking world, where they have influenced countless young people. The book, therefore, is a truly seminal text. In Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf lets us know without disguise what she really thinks: and what she thinks is by turns grandiose and trivial, resentful and fatuous. The book might be better titled: How to Be Privileged and Yet Feel Extremely Aggrieved. …
Her point about war is that it is waged by men, and men suppress women; and if instead they treated women as equals, there would be no more wars.
One might think that to descend from the aesthetic to the ideological plane would be distasteful for a woman of such languorous, highly strung, thoroughbred equine beauty as she; but under the influence of a general idea, Mrs. Woolf revealed herself to be a thoroughgoing philistine of the most revolutionary and destructive type, quite prepared to bring the temple crashing down about her ears, that her grudges might be paid back. Let my ego be satisfied, though civilization fall.
The temple of learning, that is. She had in mind one of the repositories of the riches of Western civilization – a Cambridge university college. A woman’s college. (A great achievement in itself as women’s colleges were only established at Oxford and Cambridge in the 1880s – in Virginia Woolf’s lifetime). She advises that it should be burnt down with all that it contains; all the books in its library consigned to the flames. The worthlessness, in her estimation, of all that accumulation of knowledge and wisdom in print on paper, suggests that she would be happiest if the whole venerable university were to be reduced to ashes.
Dalrymple quotes her:
And let the daughters of educated men dance round the fire and heap armful upon armful of dead leaves upon the flames. And let their mothers lean from the upper windows [before, presumably, being burnt to death] and cry “Let it blaze! Let it blaze! For we have done with this education!”
Virginia Woolf was consumed with bitter, contemptuous, snobbish distaste for everything that did not appeal to her exquisitely refined aesthetic sensibility. Form, appearance, was all to her. She expressed a low shallow anti-Semitism in passages describing, with revulsion and disgust, the appearance of Jewish men. Yet she married a Jew! (They had no children. Did she, like her character Mrs. Dalloway in the novel of that name, lie alone in a narrow bed?)
Food disgusted her too. She was revolted (again) by seeing through the window of a London tea room, well-dressed women eating cakes. They were fat. They obviously had rich husbands who paid for their cakes. Nauseating! Despicable! Thin-ness and sterility were aesthetic and moral ideals to her. Instinctively, her philosophy of life was based on anorexia.
Life was too messy, the world too unbeautiful for her. It was Jewish. It was fat. It was sexual, fertile, dirty. She sought water, drowned herself in the River Ouse near her country house in East Sussex. (The reason she gave in her suicide note was that she couldn’t face another attack of recurring insanity.)
Theodore Dalrymple describes the sort of academy that Virginia Woolf would have approved of. It is one with which we are all too familiar:
Mrs. Woolf’s ideal college … would be entirely nonjudgmental, even as to intellect. … Henceforth there is to be no testing of oneself against the best, with the possibility, even the likelihood, of failure: instead one is perpetually to immerse oneself in the tepid bath of self-esteem, mutual congratulation, and benevolence toward all.
And he concludes:
Had Mrs. Woolf survived to our own time … she would at least have had the satisfaction of observing that her cast of mind – shallow, dishonest, resentful, envious, snobbish, self-absorbed, trivial, philistine, and ultimately brutal – had triumphed among the elites of the Western world.
It triumphs chiefly now in the universities, where the diehards of the Marxist Left linger on beyond their time with that Atrocious Ideology of theirs, stale, dull, tragic, disproven.
1.This essay displays Virginia Woolf’s distaste for capitalism, and asserts that [her being above politics] what she desired was “a communism of the soul”. And the author quotes this from Woolf’s novel A Room of One’s Own: “Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that experience of the mass is behind the single voice.” It is a notion that Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren would heartily endorse.
2. The Rage of Virginia Woolf in Our Culture, What’s Left Of It by Theodore Dalrymple, Ivan R. Dee, Chicago 2005
3. Mr. Virginia Woolf by John Gross, Commentary Dec.1. 2006: “It also seems clear that the marriage worked. Many things about it are mysterious. Did, for instance, the fact that it was sexless leave Leonard constantly frustrated, or did it in some way suit him? We are unlikely ever to learn the answer to such a question, and perhaps it is none of our business.”
4. Yet Mrs. Woolf was not wholly consistent in her distaste for food, pleasure, or even sex. She also wrote this: “I want to dance, laugh, eat pink cakes, yellow cakes, drink thin, sharp wine. Or an indecent story, now – I could relish that. The older one grows the more one likes indecency.” (From Monday and Tuesday by Virginia Woolf.) Perhaps that was an aberrant thought that occurred to her in one of her periods of madness (see Note 5).
5. Virginia Woolf wrote to her husband:
Dearest, I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.
Virginia Woolf and her coterie were erudite, cultured, brilliant – but nevertheless a silly lot.
Here’s one of them recording his significant thoughts: