I had a couple of memories in the last day or so which helped explain this to me. One was of a Trot at political meetings back in 1968 saying something along the lines of 'What we want is a proper Student Union. You know, like the unions the workers had during the Bolshevik Revolution. The sort of union where, if someone scabs on his comrades, the union takes him and saws his legs off.'
I've often wondered what became of that man.
I was also reading about Malcolm Caldwell over the weekend in the Obs - the economist who believed in the Khmer Rouge's scheme to re-pastoralize Cambodia and deliberately blinded himself to the programme of mass murder and torture that was a part of that scheme right up to the moment when Pol Pot and his cronies decided he was a spy and had him shot.
Specifically I was remembering the stories that were coming out of Cambodia about the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields and how many people, including Noam Chomsky, who had righteously opposed the American bombing, simply refused to believe in them. I quarreled with friends over this back in the day, one of them a young woman with whom I next fell out over her membership of the Blair government and her complicity in the Afghan and Iraq wars.
Back in the 70s, she originally refused to believe the stories and then acknowledged as how it might be the case that the revolution was having to kill a few class enemies.
It's worth remembering that accepting mass murder as an acceptable part of discourse is something that stays with you when your views change. As the mad Ophelia says 'we know what we are; we know not what we may become'.
One of the reasons why I have not yet posted about Iris Robinson or the death of Mary Daley is that I am trying to find language that will not lead me into places where I would rather not be. The wind changes and your face gets stuck and it is bad for you; I get migraines when I lose my temper - I get migraines a lot.
Brecht wrote - my own loose version -
I keep a mask
An actor's mask
From far Japan
Upon my wall.
A demon mask
lacquered with gold
Eyes leer at me
dark empty eyes
Forehead veins throb
with swollen veins.
We feel, the pair of us,
How much an effort malice is.