Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Grammatical Fiction

You often hear of Communism that the ideals are great, it is only the execution that leaves much to be desired. It is the people who corrupt the system that are the flaw. However, in Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler makes the point that it is a fundamental flaw in the logic and philosophy of Communism that leads to its fall. In the novel, Rubashov plays the part of Trotsky (though not perfectly) and Number One can only be Stalin.

Rubashov is the idealist on whose back and through whose blood Communism is able to succeed. He believes in its ultimate good so wholeheartedly, that he believes the end justifies the mean. Here is where there is a problem. Rubashov is arrested. He is the last of the "old guard" still alive. Number One has had the rest killed. Sure, Number One is the dictator who is consolidating power and eliminating potential rivals. Yet Koestler shows that it isn't even Number One's greed for power that is the true downfall of Communism. It is that any logic with the notion that the means justifies the end will ultimately fail.

Rubashov is captured. "The Grammatical Fiction" of "I," that of rights and fair treatment, begins to speak to him that maybe the means do not always justify the ends. Has he known it all along? Was he really the idealist he made himself out to be? Ultimately, he is unable to break from his old habits and he gives in willingly to serve the state that he still believes in, regarless of the fact that it is killing him needlessly and he knows it. The forces he has helped to set in motion are too strong and he's too old to change his ways.

I'm inclined to say this is a better, deeper, and more intuitive indictment of communism than one will find in any other fiction of the era, especially the highly biased Animal Farm. Koestler was a long-time communist before finally realizing its flaws. It is truly a great book, though definately not for the mainstream.


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