The Cold Monster
Confessions of an Individualist. By William Henry Chamberlin. (Duckworth. 15s.)
Mn. CHAMBERLIN was for many years a distinguished American correspondent in Russia, Germany and Japan. Few can speak from more intimate experience of Dictatorship and the "Collective State." He has lived under every form of "Govern- ment from Above," and he has learnt to detest them all. He stands in strong opposition to Fascism, Nazism Bolshevism and Socialism in general. There can be few who. so stubbornly disagree with the recent theory and practice of most writers and politicians. He takes as his text Ibsen's saying, "The strongest man on earth is he who stands most alone," and his measure of worth is "individual personality." What he has seen and known has taught him the truth of Nietzsche's saying, "The coldest of all cold monsters is the State." In British politics he would come nearer to old Liberalism than to any Socialist or Labour Party. For his distrust of the State and all its works one might call him an Anarchist, if that word were not so unfortunately connected with forms of violence.
A Quaker of Philadelphia by birth and education, and married to a Russian "political," he went to Russia full of the hopes that so many of us shared. It was shortly before the death of Lenin, whom he thinks the greatest practical revolutionary of all time, and he remained in Moscow for nearly twelve years.
The disillusionment was complete. He is quite aware of the enthusiasm still prevailing among many English people for everything Russian, the more extreme the better, but he counters the applause of the " In-tourists " and social investigators with the knowledge of those twelve years. He witnessed what was to myself the meanest and most cruel of all the Soviet crimes —the persecution and " liquidation " of the early leaders in the revolt which failed in 1905 and 1906—fine honourable men and women whom I had seen risking exile and death in revolt against the Tsarist despotism. He had known the savage suppression of free Georgia, the extinction of the Trotzkyists, and the extinction of Stalin's former supporters, only paralleled by Hitler's "blood baths."
"Hitler and Stalin," he writes, "have both been obliged to maintain their ascendency by wholesale killings of their old comrades." The methods of both, as well as of Japan, he describes as "Satanic systems." Unless these systems crash, he foresees the rapid decline and fall of European civilisation. He traces signs of the decline to the beginning of the Great War, which .we are already coming to remember as the Little War. If the United States should go in for total militarism,- liberal individualism will no longer be feasible as a way of life, and "it will not be the first time in history that a higher form of civilisation has gone down before a lower one."
His is not a hopeful outlook. In the midst of the earlier revolution in Russia, Tolstoy told me that, in spite of all, men were usually reasonable beings. I have a lingering hope that Tolstoy was right, but in any case Mr. Chamberlin has given us a very valuable picture of what the world has to fear unless we can maintain our political and civil liberties in face of the Satanic systems which are storming upon us. The Christian Science Monitor, for which Mr. Chamberlin chiefly worked as European correspondent, is to be congratulated on having possessed an observer so keen and independent.
H. W. NEVINSON.