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Two events in the last month have brought us back with a jolt to the hard essence of what used to be called East-West relations. The Russian nerve agent attack in Britain and the return of lifelong leadership in China are throwbacks to earlier times. The implications for the West are great, not least for Britain, a country threatened more than anywhere else in Europe by extreme left-wing government.

Putin and Xi: The return of lifelong leadership (Illustration by Michael Daley)


Our era is one of over-abundant but unreliable information combined with galloping amnesia, and nowhere has amnesia been more pronounced than on Russia and China. The fact that the Cold War ended so abruptly means that few people under the age of 50 have much recollection of what totalitarianism in those two countries was about. Younger folk often have only a hazy idea of the suffering it entailed or the international conflicts it led to. Only a third, it seems, can identify Mao Zedong at all, and some remain sympathetic towards him. They can tell you all about Nazi atrocities not because they have read many books, but they have seen the films. Not too many films have been made about communism, dreary by definition, and few are aware that Stalin and Mao were together responsible for the deaths of some 100 million people — about twice the number of victims of Adolf Hitler’s war.

As I write, memories of something most people never knew or have forgotten are being disinterred, literally, in a Salisbury graveyard, where the remains of the wife and son of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal are dug up. Neither fashionable middle-class Corbynites nor Momentum types are likely to be aware that in the 1930s Stalin would routinely order the murder of the wives and children of (often innocent) “Trotskyite spies and saboteurs”, or others who had incurred his displeasure. So no one should be surprised when it is suggested that a Russian leader who is seeking to restore Stalin’s reputation might have had a hand in the attempted assassination not just of Skripal and his daughter but in the premature deaths of several members of the family of a double agent whose death Putin personally predicted.

This is an extraordinary event. Equally unprecedented was Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to condemn the Russian leader in Parliament for his country’s actions. For a Labour leader already accused of decades of gross naivety about Soviet communism, and who like Donald Trump, although for different reasons, steadfastly refuses all criticism of Putin today, the timing was unfortunate. The Salisbury atrocity also comes at a time when former communists are becoming increasingly prominent in the Labour leadership and Party apparatus. Weird as it seems, neither these grizzled veterans nor the leader himself have realised that they can stand down on loyalty to Moscow, now closer to a far-right than to a far-left regime.

As Corbyn’s maître à penser, the former Guardian journalist and Stalin apologist Seumas Milne, seeks to defend himself and his boss, let me advise him of one way not to do so. In the 1930s purges Stalin’s French communist backers took the line in L’Humanité that not only should traitors and saboteurs be liquidated but their wives and children too, because they might seek revenge on the regime. Responding to reports that the security services were murdering children as young as 12, L’Humanité explained that this was necessary because Russian children matured quickly.
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Julian Pardoe
May 1st, 2018
9:05 AM
This is really a question for GW. Is there a reference for the story about "Russian children maturing quickly"? I put it to an acquaintance who studies the history of the PCF and he was doubtful. It would be of interest to us both to have a date or some other way of verifying it.

Peter Kolding
April 1st, 2018
3:04 AM
The author warns against any nationalist tendencies in Western policy to counter the threat of Russia and China. Yet he ignores entirely that the strength of both these countries has always depended upon the unifying strength of nationalism. The Russians have always fought for Russia first, the Chinese have always been Chinese, the inheritors of the Middle Kingdom. The West, on the other hand, has dedicated itself to 'post-nationalism' and looks upon national loyalty in consumerist terms. (Look at Brexit, with all the rage centred not on the peace and tranquillity that democracy is supposed to promise, but economic advantage instead.) In short, the East is supported by a fundamental loyalty from its people. While the West, a mercenary contract. This is important because the East has retained its populations' loyalty even after suffering millions of deaths at its own governments' hands. The West, on the other hand, cannot even control its borders without being condemned and subverted by much of its own population, without the least concern for the interests of their countries. Worse, in response, their governments take the path of appeasement and slowly, but surely, lose territorial control. It is this loss of territorial control in the West, caused by the policies demanded by post-nationalist ambitions, that have provoked the imperialist designs of Russia and China into action. The argument of the author that it's the personalities of Putin and Xi that propels their actions, but it is the territorial weakness of the West that has allowed this. The West, and especially Europe, has built a society that for all intents and purposes is made up and designed for the exercise of power by an assortment of fifth-columnists-in-waiting. The signal for treachery is simply a refusal by the government to devolve territorial authority to them. Currently, these politically powerful identity groups are happy to allow a limited power of arbitration to the government. But with the example of Corbyn, we see them exercising a far more direct demand for mercenary power. It may be an archaic observation to the post-nationalist mind, but God is always on the side of the big battalions. And the West is determined to be ruled by small tribes and gangs.

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