Tuesday, 13 September 2005

Pax Exanima

It is hard to estimate just how much perfidy, cowardice and moral decrepitude is hidden in pacifism. If we were to take into consideration only principled pacifism, we should find sufficient source for condemnation: not only in that it is a luxurious sentiment dearly paid for by others, which yet deplores those same for the force by which the security of its own existence is won, but also in that it is a doctrine of indifference that implores all to a spiritless acceptance of whichever circumstances should obtain. On the latter point, consider the callous fatuity of this statement by Mahatma Gandhi:

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction [of war] is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?

To the dead it makes none; for if there is one thing at which the dead excel, it is at indifference. But to the living, including those homeless orphans who are of such use in providing us with emotive spuriosities, the form of life under which we live should make all the difference. If we were indifferent to good and evil, freedom and slavery, worth and worthlessness, then we might as well be dead; for life would not be worth living.
.....Surely it could not have been a matter of indifference to Mr Gandhi whether the country from which he would seek independence was Britain and not Germany; for if the former had been indifferent to the latter, and the latter had assumed control of India, then Mr Gandhi’s pacifism would have been as futile as a hunger-strike in Sachsenhausen. As George Orwell pointed out: “Despotic governments can stand ‘moral force’ till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force” (“Pacifism and the War”, Partisan Review, August/September 1942). It must not have escaped Mr Gandhi’s notice, however, that the land from which he won independence was not Germany but Britain, against whose sons pacifism as a moral principle was such an effective weapon. I do not think it excessively cynical to wonder whether behind this vaunted and sacred principle of peace lies a grubby and worldly exigence; and that had the circumstances been different, Mr Gandhi would now be known for his conversion to the principle of the slaughter of tyrants.
.....If the case of Gandhi is unclear, and is due the benefit of the doubt as a guard against excessive cynicism and defamation, we should be in no doubt that the utility of pacifism has not gone unnoticed by scoundrels, to whom it is a tactical device in the disarming of enemies. And thus, on the question of genuine principle or exigent utility, I’ll go so far as to wager that for every principled pacifist who wouldn’t hurt a fly, even if it were chewing his leg off, there are a thousand pretenders who would have the whole of fly-kind swatted out of existence come the revolution.
.....This is ably illustrated by the words of Leon Trotsky, founder of the Red Army and a blood-thirsty tyrant if ever there was:
In such [adverse] conditions [before the the communist seizure of power], we had only one way out: to take our stand on the platform of peace, as the inevitable conclusion from the military powerlessness of the revolution, and to transform that watchword into the weapon of revolutionary influence on all the peoples of Europe.
(Leon Trotsky, Dictatorship versus Democracy (Terrorism and Communism): A Reply to Karl Krautsky, 1922. Chapter 7. (English Translation by the Workers Party of America.) Published online at the Leon Trotsky Internet Archives.)
And this is what we must contend with today: that behind every avowed moral principle lurks a host of scoundrels who would make armchairs out of one another’s grandmothers given half the chance and a bagful of stuffing.

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