It should come as a surprise to no one by now to learn that one of the greatest storms of barbarism the world has ever seen, in which much of the cultural heritage of China was destroyed, was met with enthusiasm in the West by young radicals whose own barbarism, one might suspect, was too often frustrated by the slow progress of their own great works of self-expression.
.....One of those youngsters was Peter Tatchell, who today reminisces about the good old days of nineteen sixty-eight:
In response to the Australian media’s deranged and often racist anti-Chinese propaganda, a few of us organised a ‘Be Kind to Mao Month’, where we promoted the ‘good’ aspects of the red guards’ rebellion against what we saw as the privileged, arrogant and authoritarian communist elite in Beijing. 
Having rejected Soviet-style communism as “an inhuman betrayal of the communist ideal of a compassionate, classless society”,  and having taken care to note the compassion of Chairman Mao during the Great Leap Forward, the young Mr Tatchell proselytised in favour of the more fashionable Maoist-style, which by then had already surpassed the Soviet-style in the production of emaciated corpses. So attuned were Mr Tatchell’s “libertarian communist” instincts, and so profound was his compassion for the people of China — peasants, recalcitrant workers, liberal bourgeois, and sundry political undesirables not included — that Mr Tatchell chose to favour the “good” aspects  of the most fanatical force in the history of Chinese communism: the red guards of the Cultural Revolution, steered by the Great Helmsman himself.
.....Now, I have little interest in what Mr Tatchell’s youthful sympathies were, or in what they are now, still less in what claims he might make for the purity of his intentions.  Another political fantasist to add to the pile makes little difference. What interests me is how the ideal of communism has enjoyed so charmed a life in the West, eking out a fanciful existence in the heads of such men, wherein it has remained unsullied by the reality of its application or even of its theoretical expression.
Before communism got its name in the 1840s, it was already linked to the ideal — sorry, the unfortunate “necessity” — of revolutionary terrorism, most notably in Babouvism
; that is to say, even before Marx and Engels added to its legacy, and long before Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot perfected its theory and practice, it already had its terrible cast. Even if one traces communism back to the puritan Diggers, or to Thomas More, or to millennialist
Christianity, or even further back, one can hardly observe in earnest the character of communism as it has come to exist in various regimes without noticing that it bears the unmistakably grim features of Babouvism
and Marxism. Gracchus Babeuf
, the forefather of much misery, is mostly forgotten, as is most of the output of Marx and Engels, and today there are those who profess to see communistic regimes as if they were the wayward scions of a noble lineage — as betrayals rather than consequences of the ideal. But how is it that anyone can be so brazen as to claim compassion as the very basis of his politics, and yet not bother to find out whether those politics might actually be good for others? To advocate a scheme for the whole of society, and to have made little effort to find out what effects it might have, other than that it makes one feel warm inside, is not to show compassion for others, but rather to show passion for oneself. Here, ignorance may be a defence, though not of any claim to compassion......
It would have been much more interesting today if some old lady had written in another newspaper a favourable reminiscence of how in nineteen thirty-three she ran a charity tombola- and lemonade-stall in support of the Deutsche Studentenschaft
as it set about its task of clearing university libraries of politically undesirable books and of burning them. It would have been interesting for a comparison of reactions, for indicating biases, and in particular for showing what little part conscionable morality, as opposed to political moralism
, has to play in decrying Nazi barbarism; for the destructiveness of that student body, instigated at a time when Nazism had hardly got started, was tiny as compared to that of the red guards, instigated at a time when the victims of communism were already in the tens of millions, and yet can anyone seriously doubt that the reminiscences of our old Nazi would provoke far more outrage than the reminiscences of our old commie? Now, of course, old Nazis don’t get to write for the newspapers, except perhaps by apologising at length, whereas old commies do, no apologies required — not that I think tomorrow’s newspapers should be full of old commies apologising; expedient liberal contrition is rarely interesting. No, it is more interesting to observe that, with regard to barbarism, it matters more about which tribe you are in than about the degree of it. And, as I say, communism enjoys a charmed life......
 Peter Tatchell
, “The Black Panthers and me
”, Comment is Free
’s weblog), 14th
 Even he cannot use the word “good” in this regard without enclosing it in quotation marks, which leads me to wonder.
 The degree of wishful thinking or downright dishonesty is incalculable, though we can perhaps count at least three sops to conscience: the defence from ignorance (“we didn’t really know either its present form or its pedigree”); the defence from good intentions (“it meant well”); and the defence from imposture (“it wasn’t really communism or socialism”). The latter two are often aspects of the first.