On Tuesday, August 8th, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a segment in their "Great Lives" series, in which prominent personalities are asked to offer a tribute to their heroes. Can you guess whom Christopher Hitchens, the prominent neocon and critic of Mel Gibson, chose? The BBC website promises
A fiery return for the biographical series in which Matthew Parris chooses the living, and the living choose the dead. Christopher Hitchens proposes Leon Trotsky, the hero of the Russian Revolution later assassinated with an ice pick in the skull. He sees him as the perfect combination of the man of ideas and man of action, and says Trotsky's writings still make the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Matthew Parris is joined by Professor Robert Service in resisting him all the way.
Last year, Tom Piatak wrote in "The Purest Neocon" in The American Conservative:
Hitchens—now honored throughout the neoconservative Right—remains what he has been throughout his public life, a disciple of Leon Trotsky and a talented writer and polemicist—perhaps the most talented polemicist the Bolshevik tradition has produced in the West. [More]
It's important to realize that just because Trotsky lost out to Stalin, that doesn't mean Trotsky wasn't a comparably bloodthirsty creature. Indeed, Stalin's Ukrainian Holocaust was in pursuit of Trotsky's policy of collectivization of the farms. During the 1920s, Stalin had posed as a "moderate" in his struggles with the blatantly extremist Trotsky. Once he'd driven out Trotsky, though, lacking his own ideas, he quickly adopted Trotsky's economic policy of forced collectivization, with all the genocidal horrors that entailed.
Stalin and Trotsky did, however, genuinely differ on foreign policy, with Trotsky advocating global revolution, while the relatively less fanatical Stalin backed "socialism in one country" with only opportunistic expansion of Soviet power, such as after WWII or when, in early 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson stupidly left South Korea out of the list of Asian countries America would fight to defend. This degree of prudence on Stalin's part is why the many well-meaning people who claim that Stalin was just as bad as, or worse than, Hitler, are wrong. Hitler tried to conquer the world, and thus he unleashed the biggest slaughter of all time. Stalin's paranoia -- with all the bloodshed it inflicted on his own subjects -- made him less dangerous to the rest of the world. If Trotsky had outmaneuvered Stalin, however, he might well have rivaled or even surpassed Hitler as a cause of carnage.
A reader who was an old drinking buddy of Christopher Hitchens points out that Hitch regularly had his own Mel Gibson Moments after a dozen scotches:
When I knew him, he claimed to be the "world's biggest anti-Semite" and a great friend of the Palestinians. Then he "discovered" a Jewish great-aunt and began a reassessment of his antecedents, or just decided to give the flip-side a spin or two.
I wrote on my blog in 2005, commenting on an extraordinary dialogue between the long-estranged brothers Christopher and Peter Hitchens over their infant rivalry:
I've pointed out that what might look like ideological clashes on the surface are often actually just rationalizations for ethnic clashes between extended families, but the Hitchens Brothers represent an interesting case of an ethnic clash between brothers within a nuclear family. [Tory] Peter was the favorite of their English father, [Trotskyite] Christopher of their [possibly] Jewish mother [who committed suicide]. Christopher is still an atheist, but as Paul Johnson pointed out in his "History of the Jews," it's been common down through the centuries for young atheist intellectuals to become more focused on Jewish ethnic interests as they age, without necessarily becoming theists. The conversion to the ideology of neoconism of Christopher, who, despite his hatred of religion, has taken to dropping in to synagogues as he travels to express his ethnic solidarity, is a good example of this venerable tendency toward gerontocratic ethnocentrism.
I suspect that Christopher Hitchens used to love Trotsky for being a Communist mass murderer, but now loves Trotsky more for being a Jewish mass murderer.