6 NOVEMBER 1936, Page 19

. [To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] .

Sin,—Dr. Inge, having been taken to task by Mr..Strachey for calling Communists ." gangsters," improves the amenities of debate by referring to the " blood-thirsty criminals who surrounded Lenin." Half a dozen pages further on in the same. number of The- Spectator Mr. Herbert Read, reviewing Professor Perry's two volumes on the philosophy of William James, refers to " Lenin's very emphatic rejection of pragma- tism,", Your eminent critic, mere man of •letters though he be,. would. appear to be very much better acquainted with Lenin and Leninism than the distinguished ecclesiastic. If Dr. Inge were to turn to any of Lenin's exceedingly dry philosophical works, such as Materialism and. Empiro- Criticism he would certainly have cause to wonder how any gang of blood-thirsty criminals came to surround such a leader who, even in his political writings, is constantly engaged in .doctrinal controversies more suggestive of theological disputations .than blood-thirsty crime. Perhaps Dr. Inge chooses to,be a pragmatist himself and to judge by results, thinking of innocent blood shed at Lenin's bidding-or in his name ; but by that standard he must also condemn every

Czar, every General and many statesmen and judges as blood-thirsty criminals. Yet Dr. Inge was never a pacifist.

It is very puzzling for one would not expect so fine a swords- man as Dr. Inge to descend to the level of the learned Judge who in sentencing some workmen to penal servitude for attempting Communist propaganda among soldiers said " You may call yourselves politicians, but I regard you as common criminals "—while ruling out as. irrelevant any. reference by the Defence to the incitement of the troops to mutiny by three Unionist politicians, all of whom became members of the Cabinet and of the House of Lords—one as Home Secretary and another as Lord Chancellor. Of course, on the hustings we all think of . our opponents as certainly common and probably criminal : Capitalists and Communists call one another thieves and robbers with equal sincerity on both :

sides, while mere Whigs like myself regret that the Conserva-. tives are not quite gentlemen and the Communists are not

quite all there. But the expression of these feelings ought

really to be restrained on the Bench, in the pulpit and in The Spectator.. Dr. Inge's hatred of Bolshevism leads him to name four " gangsters " in particular—Stalin, Trotsky,

Djerzhinsky and Zinovieff. What really does he know of the personal characters of any of these four men ?

Lenin, who was the soul of candour, made some very frank criticisms of the failings of both Stalin and Zinovieff

which Dr. Inge can look up in his file of Pravda for the years

1917 to 1923, or if he has mislaid his original Russian docu- ments I can furnish him with references to authenticated English or French translations. Lenin made Zinovieff Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet and of the Comintern (equivalent, say, to being Mayor of Liverpool and President of the League of Nations Union) and Stalin Secretary of the Party—why ? It was to keep both off the Sovnarkom (Coun- cil of Peoples' Commissars) because he despised Zinovieff as gun-shy and disliked Stalin's peremptory and bureaucratic way with peasant and working-class people, to whom Lenin, like Dr. Inge's Master, dedicated his life. But neither were ever blood-thirsty criminals or gangsters in the eyes of Lenin whose judgement was not rendered the less acute by the saint- liness of his own life. Grossly ignorant prejudice apart, there is no difference of opinion as to the nobility of Lenin's own character among people—Communist or non-Communist —who knew him personally whether it was as dictator of Russia or as reader in the British Museum. I am taking it for granted that a man of Dr. Inge's intellectual integrity does not express an opinion about Bolshevism unless he is acquainted at the very least with (a) books in which leading

Bolsheviks themselves (and . not through the medium of Bloomsbury apologists) expound their faith ; (b) firit-hand.

biographies of Lenin and his " gang " (ample available in English) ; and (c) the revised view of the Soviet achievement expressed by such inveterate but honest foes as Sir Bernard, Pares.

It is quite possible, however, that Dr. Inge, in the course of his researches—I assume researches, for he would not

rely on the Riga correspondent of his daily paper—has been

genuinely misled about his two remaining " gangsters " or " blood-thirsty criminals," Trotsky and Djerzhinsky, for the deeds of the former have been obscured or misrepresented by Comintern propagandists since he went into opposition and exile, while Djerzhinsky was so self-effacing a man that

his detractors have had their own way. Dr. Inge should• know that he has missed a great intellectual treat if he has never read any of the books of Trotsky, whose wide if not very profound range and Voltairian journalistic wit have much in common- with Dr. Inge's own polemical style. Excellent English translations of his principal -works are to he obtained not from the Communist Tarty but from old- fashioned London firms of publishers. If he had not proved himself in the Russian Civil War the-greatest soldier since Napoleon, Trotsky's writings would still entitle him to be -- admired as the most readable living historian- after Winston -

Churchill. - , •

Djerzhinsky loathed his work. When it became apparent to the proletarian dictatorship. that victory- depended not only on defeating the White Armies without but the counter- revolution within, no- Communist could be found. willing to • organise the necessary terror. For Lenin and his --`-` gang-" of " blood-thirsty criminals!' were in truth idealists -whohad• graduated - in the Czarist prisons, in- the British: Museum-

reading-room, in the cafes of Geneva, ready to fight on the barricades when the time came as it did, but the organisation of the Tcheka, necessary though it was, was so abhorrent to all of them that they had to turn to the ultra-sensitive Djerzhinsky, the beloved altruist, the best, most self- sacrificing Communist of them all, who had never been known to shirk obeying an order of the Party. And so, by one of the: supreme ironies of history, it befell that one of the gentlest men who ever lived was persuaded that duty compelled him to undertake that terrible task which he performed with an efficiency as horrible as his own revulsion at it. This is indeed a theme for a great novelist, for a- tragedian rather, for a Sophocles, but not for an Inge. Dr. Inge's language, however, served a useful purpose in that it makes it clear to a bourgeois like myself why workmen and peasants in revolt always begin by killing the priests.--,