Jeff Jacoby, in the Boston Globe, quarrels with the establishment’s indulgence of intellectuals’ and artists’ communist affiliations.
If JosÃ© Saramago, the Portuguese writer who died on Friday at 87, had been an unrepentant Nazi for the last four decades, he would never have won international acclaim or received the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature. Leading publishers would never have brought out his books, his works would not have been translated into more than 20 languages, and the head of Portugalâ€™s government would never have said on his death â€” as Prime Minister JosÃ© SÃ³crates did say last week â€” that he was â€œone of our great cultural figures and his disappearance has left our culture poorer.â€™â€™
But Saramago wasnâ€™t a Nazi, he was a communist. And not just a nominal communist, as his obituaries pointed out, but an â€œunabashedâ€™â€™ (Washington Post), â€œunflinchingâ€™â€™ (AP), â€œunfalteringâ€™â€™ (New York Times) true believer. A member since 1969 of Portugalâ€™s hardline Communist Party, Saramago called himself a â€œhormonal communistâ€™â€™ who in all the years since had â€œfound nothing better.â€™â€™ Yet far from rendering him a pariah, Saramagoâ€™s communist loyalties have been treated as little more than a roguish idiosyncrasy. Without a hint of irony, APâ€™s obituary quoted a comment Saramago made in 1998: â€œPeople used to say about me, â€˜Heâ€™s good but heâ€™s a communist.â€™ Now they say, â€˜Heâ€™s a communist but heâ€™s good.â€™ â€™â€™
But the idea that good people can be devoted communists is grotesque. The two categories are mutually exclusive. There was a time, perhaps, when dedication to communism could be absolved as misplaced idealism or naivetÃ©, but that day is long past. After Auschwitz and Babi Yar, only a moral cripple could be a committed Nazi. By the same token, there are no good and decent communists â€” not after the Gulag Archipelago and the Cambodian killing fields and Maoâ€™s â€œGreat Leap Forward.â€™â€™ Not after the testimonies of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Armando Valladares and Dith Pran.
In the decades since 1917, communism has led to more slaughter and suffering than any other cause in human history. Communist regimes on four continents sent an estimated 100 million men, women, and children to their deaths â€” not out of misplaced zeal in pursuit of a fundamentally beautiful theory, but out of utopian fanaticism and an unquenchable lust for power. …
Saramago may have been a fine writer, but he was no exemplar of goodness. Good people do not embrace communism, and communists are not good.
Read the whole thing.
Saramago is a good communist now.