Saturday, June 12, 2010

How to Deal With Infantile Leftists (a lesson from history)

Lenin famously denounced ultra-radical pseudo-leftism as an "infantile disorder." Although he had something very specific in mind, namely a doctrinaire adherence to forms or slogans and an inability to see changing content or conditions, the general problem is in a certain political sense timeless. There have always been "radicals" and "activists" who lay great stress on symbolic gestures but either don't think them through or haven't the will to follow through.

Writing up the posts on the Heydrich assassination prompted me to go back to one of my favorite historical sources, the recollections of the former head of Czechoslovak military intelligence, František Moravec. (J. C. Masterman called it, "the best book on espionage and counterespionage which I have read since the war ended.") I was therefore amused to read again his account of how he dealt with this challenge. In the closing phase of the Second World War, the Soviets and their domestic allies were pressuring his government-in-exile to undertake largely symbolic resistance operations even though logistical conditions were unfavorable and the actions would have brought about vicious retaliation without corresponding military gain:
At the request of the President I made a public speech in London explaining this. The hall was full, but the audience consisted primarily of Communists who, when I was finished, screamed their disagreement. However, it was not difficult to quieten them. They were mainly youngish office workers whose comfortable jobs provided them deferment from military service. I made them a proposal: those who wished could be immediately enrolled for a special course, trained as parachutists and dropped into occupied territory. There they could put into practice what they were now so fiercely advocating in theory. The hall swiftly emptied.

Master of Spies: The Memoirs of General Frantisek Moravec (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975), 225
Problem solved.

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