The Blue Notebook
Today I am to report on two books I have read, for John Butte. It will be a fight. Jack employed me, as a weapon in the battle he carries on with the spirit of the Party — the spirit which he is only too ready to describe as dead and dry. Jack is supposed to run this publishing house. In fact he is a kind of administrator; over him, set over him by ‘the Party’ is John Butte; and the final decisions about what will and will not be published are taken in the Party HQ. Jack is a ‘good communist’. That is, he has genuinely and honestly driven out of himself the false pride that might make him resent his lack of independence. He does not resent, in principle, the fact that it is a sub-committee, under John Butte, in HQ, that takes decisions he must carry out. On the contrary, he is all for this sort of centralism. But he thinks the policy of HQ is wrong; and, more than that, it’s not a question of a person, or a group that he disapproves of; he quite simply states that the Party ‘in this epoch’ is in an intellectual dead-water and there is nothing for it but to wait for things to change. Meanwhile he is prepared to have his name associated with intellectual attitudes he despises. The difference between him and me is that he sees the Party in terms of decades, and even centuries (I pull his leg saying: Like the Catholic Church); whereas I think the intellectual collapse is probably final. We discuss this interminably, over lunches, in gaps of work at the office. Sometimes John Butte is there, listens, even joins in. And this fascinates and angers me: because the kind of talk we use in this type of argument is a thousand miles away from the public ‘line’ of the Party. More, this kind of talk would be treason in a communist country. Yet when I leave the Party, this is what I am going to miss — the company of people who have spent their lives in a certain kind of atmosphere, where it is taken for granted that their lives must be related to a central philosophy. This is why so many people who would like to leave, or think they should leave, the Party, do not. There is no group of people or type of intellectual I have met outside the Party which isn’t ill-informed, frivolous, parochial, compared with certain types of intellectual inside the Party. And the tragedy is that this intellectual responsibility, this high seriousness, is in a vacuum: it relates, not to Britain; not to communist countries as they are now; but to a spirit which existed in international communism years ago, before it was killed by the desperate, crazed spirit of struggle for survival to which we now give the name Stalinism.