A Morality Tale

You probably don’t know the name Malcolm Caldwell. I’d like to take a moment of your time to introduce his life story to you for some of the lessons he can teach us.

This is a photo of him.
Born in Scotland in 1931, Malcolm Caldwell was a British academic and a prolific Marxist writer. As well as being an academic, he was a leading figure in protest movements across the West during the 60s and 70s and campaigned for developing third world countries.
Caldwell began his career as a school teacher but entered the world of academia when he became a professor at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Upon entering SOAS, Caldwell quickly gained a reputation amidst the faculty for his radical left-wing views.
He is described as a scruffy Marxist prof by those who knew him: a common type in 60s Britain

“A skinny, somewhat emaciated, rather scruffy character who, bizarrely, always used to wear a suit – though it was clearly a suit that had been bought in the 1950s equivalent of Oxfam.”
Caldwell had a reputation of being a gentle man in social circles, but a fierce and angry Communist in his writing. He is described by his peers as well-travelled, extremely well-read and highly intelligent... but also extremely naive.
Like many other professors, Caldwell preferred ideology over facts. He would often disregard research or refuse to acknowledge findings that contradicted his Marxist vision of the world. His colleague Ian Brown describes him with these words:
"Everyone else in the history department went off every summer to the archives in Rangoon, Baghdad, etc, and got deep inside the data. Malcolm didn't. He was a man with very clear theoretical and ideological views and the empirical basis didn't seem to worry him hugely."
When Caldwell did visit the Communist countries he idolised he was all too willing to accept state propaganda as verified fact. He praised the "magnitude of the economic achievements” of Kim Il-Sung's impoverished North Korea after a sponsored visit.
These views were not seen as strange; in fact within academic and left-wing circles these would have been well within the mainstream progressive liberal thinking at the time, including within the Labour Party with whom he once stood as a candidate.
Caldwell was a particular cheerleader of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime. At a time when western Marxists were divided in their support of Russia/China and Vietnam/Cambodia, Caldwell was firmly in the Sino-Cambodian camp and supported Cambodia over Vietnam.
He wrote articles in The Guardian rubbishing claims of genocide in the killing fields. Any deaths were undoubtedly due to American interference and those that were purged were only “arch-Quislings who well knew what their fate would be were they to linger in Cambodia".
In December 1978, Caldwell received some great news. He was granted a two-week visit to Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge and would even have an opportunity to meet with Pol Pot himself. He would be the first Briton to be invited to the new reclusive regime.
He travelled to “Democratic Kampuchea” (as Cambodia was then known) with two American journalists. The journalists have described how Caldwell was almost wilfully blind to the negatives about Cambodia and refused to believe them.
"He didn't want to know about problems with the Khmer Rouge," one of the companions says. "And that carried over to not wanting to know about problems between Cambodia and Vietnam. He was stuck in '68 or something."
Caldwell also refused to read anything that might contradict his worldview of the Khmer Rouge being a pure Communist utopia.

The same journalist says that there was a well known book at the time called “Year Zero” that detailed the Cambodian genocide...
... Caldwell simply refused to even read it.

"The fact that Malcolm, a professor, had not read it before he went, that I couldn't believe. I think it was almost ideological that he didn't read it."
As the group were driven around Cambodia to see the staged photo opportunities and Potemkin villages, the journalists saw through the clumsy propaganda attempts. Not Caldwell though. “He preferred to stay in the car and laugh.”
Three days before Christmas, Caldwell’s big moment came. He was driven in a Mercedes limousine to meet Pol Pot at the former Governor's Palace on the Phnom Penh waterfront. The two men sat down and discussed revolutionary economic theory for hours.
Caldwell left the meeting a happy man. He returned to the hotel full of praise for Pol Pot and his political outlook.

“He thought he had had a good conversation. He had avoided at all costs any discussion of Vietnam. And he was looking forward to going home."
That night, as Caldwell and the journalists slept, a group of heavily armed men arrived at the hotel and knocked on Caldwell’s door.

Caldwell was taken outside and shot dead.
It’s unclear why Caldwell was shot. The men who killed him were later tortured and executed and gave the confession that the US government had paid them to do it in order to tarnish the Khmer Rouge’s reputation. This is almost certainly false.
The order came from the top. Of course it makes no sense, but none of the killings under the Khmer Rouge made sense. It was an irrational murder machine subject to the whims of one man.

Malcolm Caldwell's death was caused by the madness of the regime he openly admired.
Useful idiots would do well to keep in mind Caldwell’s fate. Those that deliberately blind themselves to reality in the name of ideology may find themselves in similar situations. Holiness spirals have uncanny ways of consuming their own.
As the French philosopher Jean-François Revel has remarked: "Utopia is not under the slightest obligation to produce results: its sole function is to allow its devotees to condemn what exists in the name of what does not."
Caldwell’s Guardian obituary eulogised him as “an irreplaceable teacher and comrade whose work will undoubtedly suffer the customary fate of being better appreciated after his death."

Those words are true. The greatest lesson Caldwell ever taught was in his death, not life.
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