Having read The Madhouse where Stalin and Lenin come in for some re-examination and are revealed to be the brutal architects of a systems that is capable of destroying people it seemed apt to stay in that mode. A quick tour of the charity shops in Blackheath on Sunday threw up the £3 gem of Koba the Dread by Martin Amis.
When this book came out it caused quite a fuss with Amis being seen as swiping at a liberal generation that supported Russia and communism when it was running into trouble. The question is whether or not those supporters of Stalin’s regime, among them Kinglsey Amis, Martin’s father for a while, knew the truth about the monsters they cheered on from the safety of the UK. The case against ignorance starts from the very first line.
Bullet points between pages 1 – 42
* Amis starts this historical memoir by quoting from a Robert Conquest book about the great famine that claimed 20 million lives and was deliberately allowed to continue by Stalin pointing out that this was not the actions of a society that was led by a benevolent leader
* Then it enters memoir territory with Amis recalling the conversations between his father and Conquest and the flirtation his father had with communism despite all the things that were happening ranging from the show trials to the gulags
* But the duping of an intellectual class was not isolated to just a few and there were other from the Bloomsbury set that went over and met Stalin and were convinced that communism was fantastic
* Conquest stood largely alone, along with émigré writers who knew what life was really like, and stood against the pro-soviet tide but then things started to change and the reality hit home and most turned against Stalin
* But even before Stalin there was a case to be made that Lenin was an inhumane obsessive who was happy for plenty of blood to be split along with Trotsky who also liked executions
* Those writers that painted fuzzy warm heroic pictures of Lenin came in for criticism by their contemporaries and in blunt fashion from Amis here in the text reminding you there are both sides to the story and the opinions still continue to divide