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International Socialism, Winter 1960/61


M. Grainger

Indictment by inference


From International Socialism (1st series), No.3, Winter 1960/61, p.30.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Inquisitors
George Andrzeyevski
Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 13s. 6d.

This book, first published in Warsaw in 1957 is described in the cover-blurb as ‘the most significant novel to come from the Communist World since Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago’. If it is, so much the worse for ‘liberalisation’. Under the guise of an exposure of the Spanish Inquisition the author attempts a psychological interpretation of Stalinism. The book is an indictment by inference. With skill and subtlety it shows the disintegrating influence of discipline, of a discipline applied by the self appointed prophets of revealed and eternal truth. But the critique leaves one dissatisfied. It only goes mind-deep. Neither Stalinism nor the Inquisition were primarily erroneous systems of ideas. They were both ideological covers for very material interests Both ideologies were ruthlessly enforced, precisely when people began to see through them.

The book is doubtless a fruit of the Polish October. Some passages are brilliantly written. The irreverent will experience an ‘incandescent glow’ at the account of the last journey, in a covered cart, and by dead of night, of the delirious Torquemada, moaning ‘Put out the flames, Put out the flames’. The, author shows moments of great political insight when he makes the Devil declare: ‘Be careful to see that people are tired enough, but avoid conditions likely to lead to excessive tiredness. In either condition men are apt to be dangerous’. The general analysis goes no deeper – however – than safe platitudes about power corrupting.

The Polish thaw proved transient. The social revolution did not materialise. Polish reality remains basically unchanged. For a day it permitted a critique of its excesses. Its essential nature is still material too explosive for even allegorical allusion.

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