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Marxists Obituarized Admiringly: Andrew Glyn

April 30th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

(April 30–revised, see below)
From National Review:

Andrew Glyn is not a household name, and until I read his obituary yesterday in The Times of London I had never heard of him. But what an illuminating document that obituary proves to be, a perfect little insight into the age. The opening sentence informs that Glyn “was one of Britain’s most prominent Marxist economists who produced searching critiques of capitalism,” going on to salute him as “one of the finest of Oxford dons.”… Think of the abuse of privilege. Think of the false pretences. Think of the damage he did spouting rubbish year after year to students who would be expected to parrot it back to him. To one student, he is supposed to have said, “the three greatest men who ever lived were Lenin, Trotsky and Charlie Parker,” – a sentence that the obituary writer hilariously links to “his depth of knowledge.” Some of the unfortunate students will have recovered freedom to think for themselves, but some will be permanently damaged. The obituary writer does in the end concede that Glyn “will to some extent be deemed to have backed the wrong ideological horse” — that “to some extent” is a qualification that goes so far beyond hilarious that it is almost majestic.

Dr. Stern writes in an AER article:

This is dedicated to my close friend,
distinctive and distinguished economist and fine man,
Andrew Glyn, who died on December 22, 2007, and whose
funeral took place in Oxford, UK, on the same day as the
Ely Lecture, January 4, 2008.

I decided to delete my strong comments on Dr. Glyn. I don’t believe in De mortuis nil nisi bonum,
but I don’t know why he was divorced. I am skeptical, though, of how good and kind a person is if I then discover that he is divorced. Lots of people are charming when being charming has low cost and aids their social position, but cheat on their wives, molest their children, and neglect their parents.

I also think it is important not to praise someone as a good teacher when he teaches pernicious rubbish, even if he teaches it persuasively. A person can be nice and still be a Leninist, just as he can be nice and still be a Nazi. The comparison is by no means too strong. In fact, there is much more excuse for someone who was a Nazi in the 1930s than a Leninist in the 1980s. In the 1930’s the Nazis were thuggish and autocratic, but the horrors of WW 2 and the Holocaust were still to come. By now the excesses of Communism– not just the political murders, but the millions killed by collectivization– are well known. In fact, even by 1922 the crimes of Lenin and Trotsky were well known. I can understand why Communists would praise Dr. Glyn, but those of us who fall into one of the categories of people his heroes liked to kill shouldn’t praise him.

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