Barbarism with a Human Face, by Bernard-Henri Levy (Harper Colophon Books, 1980, 197 pp., $3.95 pb), is reviewed by Lloyd Billingsley, a writer living in Ponway, California.
“I believed in revolution, a faith that came from books, no doubt, but all the same I believed in it as a good, the only one that counted and was worth hoping for. Now, feeling the ground give way and the future disintegrate, I wonder not if it is possible but even if it is desirable.”
Bernard-Henri Levy, French leftist and participant in the 1968 student riots in Paris, thus charts his personal odyssey. Writing at a furious pace he challenges the reader with a rare, incisive attack on socialism. Levy feels that while capitalism and the West often censure themselves, socialism never does so. Barbarism with a Human Face attempts to even this imbalance.
Transcending mere political polemics, Levy detours into history, philosophy, and even theology. Indeed, one of the main thrusts of the book is that Marxism is “the religion of our time” and “the opium of the people”—charges that will surely burn all bridges to the European Left. Other quotable broadsides are: “Apply Marxism in any country you want and you will always find Gulag in the end,” and “Socialism is, in many respects, a sham and a deception. When it promises, it lies; when it interprets, it is wrong.” These conclusions were reached with help from Solzhenitsyn, from whom he has learned more “than from many erudite commentaries on totalitarian languages.”
Those who read this work looking for a simplistic defender of capitalism will be disappointed; Levy sees no salvation there at all. In fact, he sees capitalism as part of a soon-coming “strange political Siren with Capital for a body ...1
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