WeeklyWorker

05.09.2013
Isaiah Berlin; Isaac Deutscher

Review: Parallel lives and irrational jealousy

Paul Flewers reviews: David Caute, "Isaac and Isaiah: the covert punishment of a cold war heretic", Yale University Press, 2013, pp335, £19.99

Before I became a student I naively laboured under the impression that the academic world was a place of disinterested study and civilised behaviour. A short while at college soon disabused me of that illusion. Academe was full of blatant careerism and back-stabbing; the conduct of the political world with which I was long familiar seemed by contrast almost gentlemanly.

This book deals with a particularly unpleasant example of academic skulduggery: the story of how the liberal philosopher, Isaiah Berlin, prevented Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher from obtaining a key academic post at Sussex University in 1963. Although the story was known, having been revealed in the radical paper, The Black Dwarf, back in 1969, this is the first full-length account of the episode.

David Caute is the ideal author to relate this story. He has written extensively on the intellectual intersections between the left and the right and between east and west in several of his books. And, as he points out here, it was none other than he whom Berlin consulted on this very issue of Deutscher’s suitability as an academic - although the account which opens this book of their meeting in an Oxford common room shows that their conversation was more of a monologue on Berlin’s part, with the latter’s mind on the matter already firmly made up.

Opposites

Isaac and Isaiah starts with biographical sketches of the two protagonists. Berlin and Deutscher shared to some degree parallel lives. Both were Jews from eastern Europe: Berlin was born in 1909 in the Latvian city of Riga, then part of the Russian empire, and later lived in St Petersburg; Deutscher was born in 1907 in the Polish town of Chrzanów, then in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Berlin left for Britain as a boy with his family in late 1920; Deutscher arrived in 1939. They were precocious youngsters; neither had much, if any, formal education, but both quickly showed a remarkable degree of intellectual ability. They both rejected Judaism, but held strongly to a secular Jewish identity, albeit with very different attitudes towards Zionism: Berlin in favour, Deutscher against. Both quickly learnt the English language upon their arrival in Britain, and displayed an enviable mastery of their adopted tongue as both writers and speakers.

But there the similarities ended. Berlin was a lifelong liberal, although he never participated in party political affairs. He held important British diplomatic posts in Washington and Moscow during World War II and afterwards held prestigious positions in the academic world, hobnobbed with the rich and famous, met and advised on an international scale the great if not necessarily the good, was knighted in 1957, and overall enjoyed a high public image until his death in 1997, by which time “he was covered in official honours and worldwide academic accolades, honorary degrees and prizes” (p18).

Deutscher was a lifelong Marxist. He joined the Polish Communist Party in 1927, was expelled in 1932 for ‘exaggerating the danger’ posed by Hitler, worked in a Trotskyist group, but opposed the formation of the Fourth International, and after World War II largely devoted himself to a hefty biography of Stalin,1 the three-volume account of Trotsky’s life,2 and extensive commentary on Soviet affairs. Although he came under constant attack from cold war critics, he was nonetheless sought after by the BBC and serious newspapers and magazines for his views and analyses. By the mid-1960s, when leftwing radicalism had started to revive, he was addressing large gatherings in Europe and the US. He had just started writing a biography of Lenin when, in 1967, he was struck by a fatal heart attack at the age of 60.

Berlin and Deutscher stood on opposite sides of the cold war ideological divide. Deutscher openly championed the October revolution and regretted its degeneration into Stalinism, and he was a fervent advocate of socialist transformation in the west. Berlin had long harboured a strong dislike for the Soviet Union, from his earliest memories as a boy during the civil war, and events both personal (particularly the gratuitous persecution of his Russian literary friends, Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak) and political were to keep his anti-communist sentiments simmering over the decades. Berlin was a forthright supporter of the west, and was associated with the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a pro-western popular front campaign neatly summed up by Caute as “the cultural Marshall Plan” (p211), and whose ethos was most clearly, although by no means exclusively, projected in Britain through the CIA-bankrolled journal Encounter.

In his well known essays with their imprecations against Marx and Marxism,3 Berlin was the intellectual personification of the liberal anti-communist consensus that informed a broad swathe of British political life after 1945; one might say he was the philosophical reflection of Butskellism. Caute states that his writings had at their core “a passionate defence of the status quo” (p15), and that, although he liked to be seen as standing on the left or at least ‘left of centre’ and considered himself to be assailed from both left and right, “his rightwing detractors are difficult to locate” (p39).

Piecing together some of Caute’s remarks about Berlin on the topic of Bolshevism and the Soviet experience reveals a fascinating paradox, although I feel that the book does not sufficiently bring out the incongruity. Caute recognises that “the shadow of Soviet communism, of its intellectual origins as well as its Gulag, fell across almost every page of Isaiah Berlin’s oeuvre” (p42), yet “in Berlin’s work we find no definition, or structural analysis, of … communist totalitarianism”, and that he left the task of producing such detailed definitions to colleagues (p184). Berlin’s writings on Bolshevism demonstrate that he had nothing new to add to their assumptions. He was content to resort to stock anti-communist homilies, such as how the populist, Tkachev, and the frightful adventurer, Nechayev, “anticipated Lenin in their contempt for democratic methods”; how Lenin had no faith in the “untutored masses”, and that they needed to become “an obedient force held together by a military discipline and a set of perpetually ingeminated formulae … to shut out independent thought”; how the dictatorship of the proletariat as envisaged by Lenin and Trotsky would be “dictatorial power” wielded by “a small body of convinced and ruthless individuals”; and how the October revolution was “a seizure of strictly political power on the part of a determined and trained group of professional revolutionaries”.4 That he enjoyed a “reputation in America as an expert on Russian affairs” (p202) surely goes some way to show the poverty of cold war ‘scholarship’.

Credentials undermined

The cold war ideological confrontation saw the unedifying spectacle of both east and west accusing each other of heinous crimes, whilst denying that it itself could possibly be guilty of any wrongdoing. Anyone nailing their flag to the mast of either side had to engage in some pretty nifty footwork, were they not to be exposed as inconsistent or a hypocrite. Both Berlin and Deutscher were vulnerable to such charges, and Caute describes the episodes when their action or indeed lack of action undermined their respective liberal and anti-Stalinist credentials.

For someone who was very much a public figure, Berlin kept a great deal of his opinions to himself or to his voluminous private correspondence. He made, Caute tells us, very little public comment in respect of “capital punishment, homosexual law reform, the rules governing divorce, immigration to the UK or rising racial tension”. He maintained his silence about race relations in the US and apartheid in South Africa, and only once “very briefly and clearly reluctantly” expressed an opinion on the war in Vietnam (p39). He kept quiet about the revelations that Encounter had been subsidised by the CIA. These were topics that should have engaged the attention of any liberal figure of his day, and indeed many liberals did openly and repeatedly comment upon them. Earlier on, he was dismayed at McCarthyism in the US and he privately expressed his distaste at the hounding of intellectuals, but he said nothing publicly about the general witch-hunt of the time. He did speak out on the subject of Israel, but a pro-Zionist voice back then did not raise the passionate responses that it does today; and in 1956 he “signed a violent document about Hungary” (Berlin’s words, p165), which nobody seems to have managed to track down.5

When we turn to Deutscher, it is necessary to refer to his analysis of Stalinism, as it was here where his inconsistencies were rooted. It was an idiosyncratic development of Trotsky’s ideas, and Caute points out where it differed in respect of some crucial aspects. Deutscher simultaneously tied and cut a Gordian knot when discussing the October revolution and the ensuing course of the Soviet Union. He considered that the Bolsheviks’ premise that the European working class was about to seize power was woefully exaggerated. So, having abandoned one of the two central features of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, what then for the second? Assuming that one does not subscribe to the Stalinist dogma of ‘socialism in one country’, if it were the case that Europe was not ready for a socialist revolution, then the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power in Russia was premature, and the end result was bound to be problematic.

Deutscher solved the dilemma by taking in a different direction Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union as transformed by the Stalinist five-year plans of the 1930s (that it was a workers’ state on account of its statified economy, but degenerated because of the rule of the bureaucracy) and considering that the development of a modern economy would as a matter of course inevitably result in a process of self-reform within the elite, which would then be accelerated and deepened by pressure from within society. The course of Soviet history as it occurred was historically justified, as the regime would eventually be democratised and a splendid socialist future would eventually be reached for one and all. Despite the horrors of Stalin’s time and continuing serious blemishes afterwards, the Soviet bloc as it stood nonetheless represented socialism, and Deutscher considered that the class struggle had been at least partially relocated on an inter-statal basis, east versus west.6

And so, despite making certain pertinent criticisms of Stalinism, in the meantime Deutscher tended to pull his punches. Whilst defending Deutscher against Berlin’s charges of “falsification”, Caute points to some examples of this. Deutscher was slow to recognise the extent of anti-Semitism during Stalin’s later years, and had little to say about the show trials in eastern Europe during the late 1940s, which too had distinct anti-Jewish overtones. He said nothing openly about the sensational Kravchenko affair of the late 1940s, where the Soviet defector’s allegations of the existence of Stalin’s labour camps caused a rumpus in many western countries. He made no public comment on the Berlin blockade of 1948. Most seriously, when the Stalinist regimes were faced with militant working class opposition in Berlin in 1953 and Hungary in 1956, Deutscher refused to back the workers in their struggle. By taking a militant stand against the state, he felt that they were, despite their justified grievances, standing on the wrong side of the global class divide.

However, there are places where I think that Caute is being a little unfair towards Deutscher. Whilst it is true that Deutscher’s predictions of Soviet bloc liberalisation were “relentlessly wrong” (p181), in mitigation one can point to his retort, cited here, that the cold war ideologues stubbornly refused to contemplate the possibility of any liberalisation in the Soviet Union (pp183, 191). However, Caute does not follow this up, and it is an important matter because, whilst Deutscher was woefully over-optimistic in respect of liberalisation, Sovietologists were equally adrift and were taken by surprise by this and many other major events in the Soviet bloc right up to its collapse in 1989-91. And although Deutscher also made some spectacularly duff predictions in respect of China (p189), in 1964, soon after the Sino-Soviet split, he did ask that if a western power tried to play China off against the Soviet Union, “might Peking not succumb to temptation”?7 This became a pertinent question not long after Deutscher’s death.

Caute demurs from Deutscher’s contention that Stalin adhered to the “gentlemen’s agreement” concluded with Churchill at Yalta and only tightened his grip over eastern Europe in response to western pressure, citing as evidence Robert Conquest’s conclusion that, pace Deutscher, the Communist Party ministers were ejected from the French and Italian governments only after non-Stalinists were forced out of coalition governments in the east. Conquest was correct, but this surely is not the key question. Caute touches on the main point that Deutscher made, that Stalin was not interested in revolution in western Europe (p160), yet concentrates upon what is a secondary issue. This too is important, as Deutscher’s contention that Stalin, through his control over the communist parties, permitted the survival of the bourgeois order in western Europe when it was at its most insecure, contradicted the cold war orthodoxy that the Soviet Union was a constant military and political threat to western European capitalism.8

Caute pokes fun at Deutscher’s insistence that a Leninist revival was underway in the Soviet Union, declaring that he was oblivious of the influence of western ideas: “Reading Deutscher, you may have concluded that the Soviet population, eager for the coming of ‘a Marxism cleansed of barbarous accretions’, was tuning in to a clandestine radio transmitter called ‘The Voice of Lenin’” (p194). Caute’s sarcasm is a little misplaced because during Khrushchev’s ‘thaw’ dissenting politics, be they genuine communist, social democratic, liberal or rightwing, tended to be expressed in Leninist terms, or, to put it more accurately, Lenin was continually evoked, because this was the only way by which people could promote their ideas within the confines set by the elite, which also evoked Lenin in its partial debunking of Stalin. Deutscher was mistaking the form that debate was taking for its actual political content,9 but it was only later, especially when dissidents came to the west, that the anti-communists found their own, more suitable language.

Caute feels that Deutscher’s ‘Open letter to Wladislaw Gomulka’ in 1966, had a “tragic” dimension, in that it showed an attempt by Deutscher to be part of events in Poland. However, it was not so much that “he still yearned to be recognised as an influential voice” and as “a good comrade” by Gomulka (pp159, 166), but he was trying to push forward the pace of reform in Poland by campaigning for the release of prominent leftwing critics of the regime. The letter was no humble petition, but an indictment of Gomulka, condemning his persecution of the critics and defending their honour, and accusing him of hypocrisy and demanding that he put his anti-Stalinist words into practice. Demanding “an immediate and public revision of the trial”, it concluded with this warning to Gomulka and his colleagues, not cited by Caute: “If you refuse these demands, you will stand condemned as epigones of Stalinism, guilty of stifling your own party and compromising the future of socialism.”10 Deutscher’s protest was in the long tradition of such ‘open letters’, with the aim of stirring up political debate and public opinion and thus hopefully forcing a public figure into changing his policies.

When discussing Deutscher’s biographical works, Caute states that in Marxist historical writings the masses who are supposed to make history tend to very much take second place to the leading figures, as do the historically determined conditions, which are deemed to be beyond individual influence, and he concludes that it is “the actions of outstanding individuals, of great men, of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, that make the difference or are decisive … Marxist biography may be a contradiction in terms” (pp41-42). Deutscher, Caute points out, found Trotsky’s conclusion that Lenin’s presence in Russia in 1917 was pivotal for the course of Russian history to be problematic, and that he wanted to present the October revolution “as historically determined beyond individual influence” (p 85).

The problem, I feel, lies less with Marxism (after all, Marx insisted that “men make their own history”, albeit “under the given and inherited circumstances with which they are directly confronted”11), but with Deutscher’s resorting to Plekhanov’s essay, ‘The role of the individual in history’.12 This hopelessly pedestrian interpretation of Marx’s ideas downplays the importance of the individual, averring that if Robespierre or Napoleon had keeled over, another one would have soon emerged, and events would have proceeded along much the same course. As it is, despite the appeal to Plekhanov, Deutscher referred several times in his trilogy to the impact of Trotsky’s character on his political career, the personalisation of politics in the Soviet Union after Lenin’s death and the significance of Stalin’s malignant personality. Trotsky was forced into considering how individuals, and especially individuals in a position of authority or power, make history within the circumstances with which they are confronted, and Deutscher, whilst upbraiding Trotsky for this, was obliged to do the same. Marxist biography need not be a contradiction in terms, but to be successful it needs to break free from Plekhanov’s mechanistic brand of Marxism.

Irrational

Isaac and Isaiah shows the astonishing intensity with which Berlin hated Deutscher. His private correspondence bristles with invective, although, as the former never mentioned the latter in print, Deutscher may well have been unaware of the degree of Berlin’s hatred. Caute states that Deutscher viewed Berlin “as an ideological opponent … not as a figure to be despised and loathed” (p36). The list of insults is long. He was “specious, dishonest”, a “wicked man”, a “falsifier”, a “full-sized charlatan”, a “mangy Jew”, who was guilty of “peddling pernicious myths”, “falsifying evidence”, “deliberate falsification”, “unscrupulous distortions” and “icy fanaticism” (pp3, 4, 51, 70, 71, 79, 88, 152, 182). When asked about Deutscher’s suitability at Sussex, Berlin wrote that he was “the only man whose presence in the same academic community as myself I should find morally intolerable” (p279).

What was the basis for this? Things had started well; in 1949 Berlin even recommended Deutscher to the editor of the New York Reporter as an expert on Soviet affairs. However, in 1954 Deutscher publicly criticised Berlin’s comments on Marx, and then “the killer event” (p64): in 1955 he gave Berlin’s Historical inevitability a sharp review in The Observer. From then on, everything that Deutscher wrote, said or did intensified Berlin’s burning hatred of him, a passionate detestation that nothing could assuage. Deutscher’s review of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago in 1959 especially enraged him. Deutscher regarded both the author and his novel as curious relics of pre-revolutionary Russia; Berlin saw Deutscher’s comments as a “considerably more violent” attack than the persecution the author received at the hands of the Soviet regime when the novel was published in the west (p154). This was ridiculous; and Deutscher condemned the treatment of Pasternak. One gets the feeling that Berlin’s hatred of Deutscher was going beyond the bounds of rationality.

It is reasonable to conclude that, his amour propre having been offended by Deutscher’s cutting review, Berlin became obsessed with him, attacking him at every possible turn, bandying insults at him for offences that, if committed by others, would not have provoked a fraction of his ire.13

Deutscher’s stance on the Jewish question also angered Berlin, as it ran counter to his longstanding support for Zionism. According to Berlin, Deutscher claimed that, whilst it was a “pity” that six million Jews had died, “history” could not be cheated and, with the Jews being “on the wrong side” of it, they “deserved (‘objectively’) to be exterminated” - something which Caute justifiably states is “hard to credit” (p257).14 There is something obsessive, almost irrational, about Berlin’s antagonism to Deutscher here,15 not least, as Caute points out, because Deutscher made considerable concessions to Zionism.

Berlin considered Deutscher particularly obnoxious because he was not a crude apologist for the Soviet regime; indeed, he was all the more dangerous because he combined his pro-Bolshevism with substantial criticisms of Stalinism. Berlin bristled at the sophistication of Deutscher’s writings on the Soviet experience. Sneering at the account in the Trotsky trilogy of the process that led to the Bolsheviks substituting themselves for the working class during the civil war and eventually to the rise of Stalinism,16 he told Caute: “He confesses how, most regrettably, uncontrollable circumstances had by 1920 or 1921 forced Lenin and Trotsky to become Lenin and Trotsky” (p3). Deutscher’s explanation was far more difficult for Berlin to handle than the tales of a happy land far, far away promoted by the Stalinists, which were so often the mirror-image of the cold war mythology to which he subscribed. For all his erudition, Berlin was unable to counter Deutscher’s analysis.

This leads on to the question of jealousy on Berlin’s part, although he never would have deigned to admit it. Despite the inferior material that he churned out to earn a living, with its often risible predictions, and despite the weaknesses of his political analyses that led to regrettable concessions to Stalinism, Deutscher was an impressive figure. The literary qualities of his Trotsky trilogy were recognised by many reviewers who rejected his world view.17 Did Berlin realise, deep down, that there was little possibility of his ever producing anything like it? Most of Berlin’s oeuvre consists of essays. His most famous work, The fox and the hedgehog, is a slim book of under 100 pages. His Karl Marx of 1939, Caute declares, would nowadays “be of only minor intellectual interest” (p16; that is, forgotten), were it not for his later fame. Like it or not, in academe more than anywhere in the literary world, the magnum opus is what establishes one’s reputation for the ages, and Berlin did not have one to his name. Caute notes this (p16), but does not develop the point.

Berlin’s biographer, Michael Ignatieff, points out that Berlin quite often drafted material, yet either left it incomplete or, if finished, filed it away to be forgotten.18 Berlin was clearly hitting a psychic barrier, and one can ask: was this related to an ever-deepening feeling of inferiority when faced with the achievements of his bête noire? If Deutscher could produce such masterpieces as his Trotsky volumes whilst having to knock out hack-work to get by, just think what he could do in all those sabbaticals available to those in academe …

Altogether, I suspect that it was a combination of all these factors that, once the hatred was triggered in Berlin’s mind back in 1954, swirled around until it became an irrational, all-consuming, uncontrollable fury of indignation against his adversary. And now, asked about Deutscher’s suitability for a senior academic post, here came the opportunity to knife him firmly in the back. In a flagrant transgression of his own definition of “liberal morality”, of “not to treat others as I should not wish them to treat me”,19 off went the confidential letter, and that was that.

However, although Caute forthrightly condemns Berlin for this, right at the end of the book, almost as an afterthought, he ponders over whether Deutscher was the suitable man for the job:

It is hard to imagine that his late-in-life emergence as a public celebrity, a tribune, would not have been more attractive to him than compiling reading lists, marking essays, setting exams, sitting on committees .… can one easily imagine Deutscher handing out Soviet studies reading lists extending to the ‘cold war’ scholars, to Wolfe, Schlesinger, Kennan, Fainsod, Laqueur, Schapiro, Ulam, Katkov, Seton-Watson, Keep, Zeman, Utechin, Hayward? To Berlin and Popper? One can doubt it (p290).

This seems unfair. Plenty of academics have combined their day-to-day college business with an extensive involvement in extra-mural matters. Berlin certainly had a very busy time outwith Oxford University. And is there any reason to suspect that Deutscher any more than any other politically committed academic would fail to advise his students of the works of writers with whom he disagreed? Deutscher was hardly the only academic to hold strongly held, unconventional views.

Left hanging

Caute is usually a lucid writer, but unfortunately Isaac and Isaiah is less satisfying to read than his other historical works. In part, this cannot be avoided: to cover the lives of Berlin and Deutscher and the interconnections between them inevitably requires repeatedly switching from one to the other and back again. But why drop Deutscher’s handling of some intimate correspondence between Trotsky and Natalia Sedova into the middle of a discussion of his reluctance to probe the matter of whether Trotsky became intoxicated with power (pp94-98)?20 There are places where the focus of the book becomes blurred, such as when Caute strays into investigating Deutscher’s attitude towards renegades from the left in general and George Orwell in particular (Berlin was never any kind of socialist to begin with, and had little to say about Orwell), or devotes a chapter to Berlin’s attitude towards Hannah Arendt. As we have seen, several questions are left hanging, and when Caute points out that both Berlin and Deutscher stood firmly in the western political/cultural tradition and that theirs was a “family dispute”, unlike today’s “clash of civilisations” vis-à-vis Islam (p38), it is not clear what he wants to conclude from this.

The final chapter, dealing with the actual evidence showing Berlin’s sabotage of Deutscher’s potential academic career, is laid out in such a way that it is difficult to follow the course of the affair. Instead of being provided with a clear presentation of the episode, with the actual correspondence carefully set out from the narrative, one has to pick painstakingly through a morass of text. The setting of the narrative in italics and the correspondence in plain type does not make the presentation clearer; quite the opposite, the parts in italics look like emphases rather than quotations. The messy form obscures the revealing content: the sheer nastiness of Berlin’s actions gets lost in the telling of the tale.

Readers of this review, however, should not let these shortcomings deter them from obtaining this book. The story that it relates - the very illiberal actions of a self-proclaimed and self-righteous keeper of the liberal faith with an irrational hatred seething away beneath a facade of sophisticated urbanity - is one that is definitely worth reading.

 

Notes

1. I Deutscher Stalin: a political biography London 1949 (revised edition: London 1966).

2. I Deutscher The prophet armed: Trotsky 1879-1921 London 1954; The prophet unarmed: Trotsky 1921-1929 London 1959; The prophet outcast: Trotsky 1929-1940 London 1963.

3. Most notably ‘Political ideas in the 20th century’, ‘Historical inevitability’ and ‘Two concepts of liberty’, collected in I Berlin Liberty Oxford 2002.

4. Quotes here are from I Berlin Karl Marx: his life and environment London 1963, p187; ‘Russian populism’ Russian thinkers London 1978, pp216, 236; ‘The father of Russian Marxism’ The power of ideas London 2000, p131; ‘Political ideas in the 20th century’ Liberty p72.

5. The editors of his correspondence think that it might have been a petition organised by undergraduates at Lincoln College (I Berlin Enlightening: letters 1946-1960 London 2009, p559.

6. Caute cites to good effect Tony Cliff’s sardonic rejoinder to Deutscher, ‘The end of the road’ International Socialism winter 1963. This aspect of Deutscher’s politics is also criticised in M Shachtman, ‘The end of socialism’ (New International March-April, May-June and July-August 1954); and J Jacobson, ‘Isaac Deutscher: the anatomy of an apologist’ New Politics fall 1964 and spring 1966.

7. I Deutscher, ‘Maoism: its origins and outlook’ Ironies of history London 1966, p119.

8. Caute states that “Deutscher turned a blind eye to western fears that if Stalin could order the French and Italian parties to collaborate, he could enlist the same absolute obedience in the contrary direction” (p160). The communist parties did shift to the left in 1947, but what is equally true is that their post-war activities in the advanced capitalist countries were broadly of a left-reformist and not revolutionary nature.

9. The politics of the ‘thaw’, as Hillel Ticktin informed me, were largely social democratic.

10. I Deutscher, ‘Open letter to Wladislaw Gomulka and the central committee of the Polish Workers Party’ Marxism in our time Berkeley 1971, p165.

11. K Marx, ‘The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’ Surveys from exile Harmondsworth 1977, p146.

12. Deutscher The prophet outcast pp242-45; GV Plekhanov, ‘On the question of the individual’s role in history’ Selected philosophical works Vol 2, Moscow 1976, pp283-315.

13. EH Carr was equally dismissive of Berlin’s theories of history; his multi-volume history of the Soviet Union saw the Soviet regime as historically valid and he did not subscribe to cold war orthodoxy, yet Berlin always treated him politely.

14. Somewhat strangely, Caute goes some way to justify Berlin’s outburst by citing some lines from Deutscher’s essay, ‘The Arab-Israeli war, June 1967’. If, however, one consults the full text, such a deduction is unwarranted; see Deutscher’s The non-Jewish Jew London 1981, pp150-51.

15. It is also an amazing prefiguration of the nastier end of today’s ‘decent left’; indeed it is the Harry’s Place website avant la lettre.

16. See the last chapter of The prophet armed and the first chapter of The prophet unarmed.

17. See, to take just a few examples, the reviews by Kenneth Dailey in Russian Review, Vol 13, No2, April 1954; J Degras Soviet Studies Vol 6, No1, July 1954; SH Baron The Journal of Politics Vol 22, No2, May 1960; F Barghoorn American Slavic and East European Review Vol 19, No1, February 1960; M Eastman Russian Review Vol 23, No2, April 1964; M Futtrell History Vol 49, No165, February 1964.

18. M Ignatieff Isaiah Berlin: a life London 1998, pp281-82.

19. Berlin, ‘Two concepts of liberty’ Liberty p172.

20. The reader’s disorientation here is compounded by the author erroneously ‘correcting’ Deutscher’s reference to Bernard Wolfe, changing it to Bertram Wolfe (p96). There were two different Wolfes, Bernard and Bertram, and Deutscher was referring to the correct one; see The prophet outcast pp368, 437.