Friday, March 24, 2006

The Fever of Revolution

Commentary by Martin Kelly
March 24, 2005

The fever of revolution makes men do and say some very strange things.

Right now, the neoconservatives and their mouthpieces are full of talk of ‘democratic revolution’, a state of affairs they believe comes to exist through nothing more than the holding of elections, as if the existence of a middle class and traditions of dissent, free speech and free enquiry have no role to play in the making of genuinely free and democratic societies.

The worst affected of all the democratic revolutionaries is the President of the United States. As commentators like Walter Williams and Patrick J. Buchanan have recently pointed out, George W. Bush leads a country of which many of whose founders saw the danger of democracy degenerating into mob rule, and thus decided that their great project should instead be a republic.

As recently as 2000, the principles that guided the formation of the Great Republic were reinforced when the Presidency was decided in the Electoral College. That a President who owes his first term to the principles of the Republic should so publicly make the spread of democracy his foremost policy aim is at best unsettling, at worst bizarre.

Does the guy understand his own job?

But the armchair revolutionaries of the First Corps of Washington Think Tanks don’t really have the stomach to go out into the field and do the really dirty work of starting the revolution for themselves. They should perhaps follow the example of a real revolutionary, one of the great unsung heroes of World War Two, Leopold Trepper.

Born in 1904 in Novy-Targ, Poland, Trepper became a Communist in his youth and never wavered from his Communism to the end of his days. After working underground as a militant in Poland, Palestine, where he was imprisoned, and France, he went to Moscow in the early ’30’s and saw first hand the butchery of Stalin’s purges. In 1938, he was selected for a special mission by Jan Berzin, the head of Soviet Intelligence, and was sent to the West.

With no more training than his experience of underground work, Trepper organised the anti-Nazi spy ring that the Germans called the ‘Rote Kapelle’ or ‘Red Orchestra’, so-called because of the sound of their wireless broadcasts, that over two years sent 1,500 broadcasts to Moscow and delivered intelligence that had a major impact on the conduct of the war, giving information on everything from troop movements to the new design of Messerschmitts.

Those members of the Red Orchestra who were captured suffered dreadfully at the hands of the Gestapo Sonderkommando in the dungeons of Breendonk and Plotzensee; many were beheaded.

When Trepper himself was captured, he played the Germans into thinking that he could negotiate a separate peace between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, even managing to write and arrange for the smuggling of a report on his activities back to Moscow while in captivity, before he escaped.

This old militant’s reward after the war was 10 years in Stalin’s jails; as an associate of Berzin’s, he had been ‘ideologically suspect’ since 1938. After his release, he returned to Poland and became an active defender of its remaining Jewish community, before the rise of anti-Semitism in that country in the ‘60’s led to his persecution all over again, eventually leading to de facto house arrest. After winning a libel case against a former head of the French Intelligence Service who had accused him of being a double agent, he was permitted to leave Poland in 1973, and died in Israel in 1982.

But Trepper was such a fervent believer in his revolution he was prepared to cling to it even after everything he had suffered and had seen done in its name. His struggle against Nazism was titanic; but he was almost mad with revolution.

Compare Leopold Trepper with Michael Ledeen. Ledeen is as fervent a revolutionary as Trepper, although his exposure to real physical risk has been far less. Reported to have the ear of Karl Rove, he is the most vocal member of the orchestra that shouts for democracy, not realising that while it is good, it must have roots in which to flourish. Just as Trepper’s Communist revolution could never succeed because of the ideology’s blind refusal to recognise that not all men can be moulded into militants, so too will Ledeen’s neoconservative revolution on the basis that not all the societies he seeks to overthrow may wish to be democracies.

But that does not mean that neoconservatives like Ledeen are no less militants than Communists like Leopold Trepper. What will Ledeen and the other neoconservative militants do for their revolution?

It’s clear what they’ve already done; they’ve turned the head of the President of the United States.

By so systematically calling for democratic revolution, and putting the words of revolution into a president’s mouth, they show their true nature, and it’s one that the old militant Trepper would recognise very well indeed.
They are subversives.