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About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.

Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

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19 August, 2007

Investing in an Ideology

Nick Cohen writes in his book, Far Left—How Liberals Lost Their Way:

Cult leaders know they must exhaust their followers as well as isolate them. The harder the party or the church forces them to work, the less time they have to think for themselves. As important, the harder they work, the greater their investment and the tougher it becomes to accept that the years of labour have been an expense of spirit in a waste of shame. Overly rational historians wonder why supporters of causes from Bolshevism through to Islamism don’t give up when they realize that the death and suffering will never bring the workers’  paradise or new Caliphate; why they fight on for decades, only to achieve more death and suffering? They forget the emotional outlay and the lost lives of dead comrades and martyrs. For immense and minute revolutionary movements alike, more suffering is easier to accept than the admission that all the previous suffering was in vain.

The point of needing to justify the investment one has already made in a cause is spot on, and explains the central problem of the Indian Left. Even if all evidence shows that Leftist philosophy is fatally flawed, that everything the Left does in the name of the poor actually harms the poor, that it does not make moral or utilitarian sense to assign different values to personal and economic freedoms, people of the Left, and Indian intellectuals who have built their worldviews and staked their reputations on Leftist dogma, will continue to be in denial. No matter how often they are mugged by reality, the likes of Prakash Karat and AB Bardhan will never have the courage to confront a lifetime of mistaken thinking, and to admit that it was all a waste. Given that, one can rationalise anything.

Cohen’s book is a wonderful read, by the way, and I can’t resist sharing this wonderful nugget about Gerry Healy, the leader of the Workers Revolutionary party, which imploded spectacularly in 1985 when 26 woman members accused Healy of sexual abuse:

The Sunday Mirror described how Healy’s seduction technique included chat-up lines Leon Trotsky would have recognized. ‘He would throw his arms around women and tell them to submit. If they protested—and some of them did—he would say, “You are doing this for the party and I AM THE PARTY”’.


Posted by Amit Varma in Arts and entertainment | Excerpts | Freedom | India | Politics

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