Political and personal betrayals filled her life. But as Colin Shindler shows in his Israel and the European Left (Continuum, £17.99), her embrace of anti-Semitism would have struck her fellow Communists as no betrayal at all.
Before I go further, I should say that Shindler's book is superb: a well-written and meticulously researched history of the horrors and ironies of the last 100 years. He shows how screaming stereotypes and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories developed by Marxists — not by fascists or Islamists or Catholic and Orthodox nationalists, but by the Left — have survived while all around has changed.
Given the cramped nature of British debate, I doubt if it will be widely reviewed. The right-wing press won't like it because it is not a conventional denunciation of the Left. Shindler is a properly impartial historian, but when his beliefs show through he reveals himself to be a social democrat rather than an Israel-firster or man of the Right. The left-wing press won't like it for the same reason Caliban did not like the sight of his face in the mirror. Beyond the ideological divide lies the almost taboo nature of Shindler's subject. Conventional wisdom does not regard Communism with the same abhorrence as fascism, even though if you want to be an accountant about it and add up the skulls of the dead, you will find that the Communists murdered many more people than the fascists did, began murdering before fascists came to power and carried on murdering after the fascists had gone. Yet few can bring themselves to see fascism and Communism as moral equivalents. Even Robert Conquest, who mapped the crimes of Stalin, and had been mocked by the know-nothing Left of his day as a Cold War fantasist, said he thought the Nazis were worse than the Communists. He couldn't explain why, they just felt worse.
A part of the explanation for the double standard is that the allies overthrew the Nazis in 1945 and opened their archives. The democratic world could read what they had done. China's archives on Mao, the greatest criminal of the 20th century, remain closed. Perhaps historians will never read them in full. More important than the scarcity of source material is the woozy feeling that Communism's aims — equality, universal fraternity — were noble, whereas not even Germans and Italians can now find reasons to applaud racist theories of German or Italian domination.
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