Stalin’s Moscow show trials a blind spot for western intellectuals

The eagerness of western intellectuals to justify the Moscow show trials of the late '30s was what was truly frightening about them

Stalin’s Moscow show trials a blind spot for western intellectualsThe infamous Moscow show trials ended 80 years ago this month. Based on fabricated charges of treason, Josef Stalin systematically eliminated virtually all of the remaining Old Bolsheviks, clearing away potential rivals and consolidating his power in the Soviet Union. The first trial began in August 1936, the second in January 1937 and the third…

America today: parallels to post-Gorbachev Russia uncanny

The parallels between Russia more than 20 years ago and the United States today are deeply disturbing

America today: parallels to post-Gorbachev Russia uncannyWhen the horrible first reports of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., began hitting my smartphone feed, I somehow involuntarily reconnected with feelings that I associate with the societal chaos I experienced working in Russia more than 20 years ago. It was the post-Mikhail Gorbachev era, when communism had…

Marxism rears its ugly head in the academic world

Brutal communist societies did advance economic equality, although what was shared equally was poverty rather than prosperity

Marxism rears its ugly head in the academic worldWestern civilization and liberal democracy are under siege. This isn’t new. We’ve been challenged just in the last century by fascism and communism, by Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Soviet Russia and Red China. One might have expected – and many did– that the ideology of these failed societies would remain in its grave. But,…

When an intellectual cozies up to dictators

Is it feasible to separate political views and private behaviour from artistic merit? George Bernard Shaw is a perfect case study

When an intellectual cozies up to dictatorsTo most Canadians, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) may be a quaint figure whose primary distinction is having a popular southern Ontario theatre festival named after him. However, he was a big wheel during the first half of the 20th century. A self-described “downstart,” Shaw was born into an impecunious Protestant Ascendancy family in Dublin, Ireland. Leaving…

The pope, the president and the resurrection of Poland

Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan shared a vision of an independent Poland. Together, they helped the country break free from the Soviet bloc

The pope, the president and the resurrection of PolandIn a recent column, I wrote about Poland’s 20th century tragedy, culminating in the “betrayal” to Josef Stalin at the February 1945 Yalta Conference. So it’s appropriate to finish the story by writing about Poland’s resurrection. While the Poles were the main players in this resurrection, they did have external help. Changing circumstances in the Soviet…

Justin Trudeau stands tall in China

You’d have thought conservatives would have rejoiced at a Liberal standing up for Canadians. But no, they slammed him

Justin Trudeau stands tall in ChinaIt's not very often that I'm really proud of being Canadian, but Justin Trudeau made me proud this week in China. What did the prime minister do? First of all, he defended western values against a determined communist bully. Secondly, he once again made the essential point that until there’s a common set of rules…

Communism’s pernicious influence persists despite the best evidence

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, some romantics still embrace the fallacies of communism and its sister socialism

Communism’s pernicious influence persists despite the best evidenceA number of Canadian newspapers recently noted the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The attention was misplaced and lacked perspective. In 1917, a small band of fierce, committed and violent extremists seized control of the Tsarist Russian Empire. They then created the much more oppressive and murderous Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. After the success…

How to avoid tyrants claiming the highest government offices

The NDP's 'confidence and supply agreement' with the Green Party in B.C. shows us how we can avoid a Trump triumph in Canada

How to avoid tyrants claiming the highest government officesThe election of Donald Trump and the political circus that has resulted has many scratching their heads. What real impact will the Trump government have on the United States? Could a Trump be elected in Canada? If so, what impact would that have? Due to the design of the American government, Trump will likely achieve…

The peculiar cult of Che Guevara

Guevara’s primary political instinct was totalitarian, with a propensity to violence

The peculiar cult of Che GuevaraIreland has just issued a postage stamp commemorating Che Guevara. Featuring the ubiquitous two-tone portrait created by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, the stamp marks the 50th anniversary of Guevara’s death on October 9, 1967. The postal service’s rationale is that Guevara had Irish ancestry and that Fitzpatrick’s artwork “appears on t-shirts, posters, badges and clothing…

Putting a muzzle on those you disagree with

Mark Kingwell is vexed by the failure of democracy to silence the speech of those he disagrees with

Putting a muzzle on those you disagree withMark Kingwell is what is commonly called an intellectual social critic. He has an impressive list of advanced degrees and has published books on difficult topics such as baseball, cocktails and democracy. He’s paid by the taxpayers of Ontario to teach philosophy to their university-going young people. But a recent article in the Globe and…