Anyone who saw News Ltd CEO John Hartigan’s shaky, nervous address to the National Press Club yesterday (topic: Rupert is right! Boldly praise Rupert thought!) would have had a niggling deja vu at the back of their heads — nervous delivery, dead affect, pissing razorblades — of course! It’s a show trial confession! But if Rupe’s outfit really is the USSR de nos jours, who are the main players?
Murdoch would obviously be Stalin — surrounded by people both terrified of him and in awe of his capacity to make things happen, of his single-minded ruthlessness and his desperate loneliness, his inability to live life through any medium other than the accumulation of power.
Of his inner circle?
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Robert Thompson, former Times editor and now WSJ supremo is clearly Molotov, the hammer, foreign minister, negotiator with Nazis, Churchill, Roosevelt and Mao, improbably surviving Stalin himself. Keep an eye on your husband, Mrs Thompson!
John Hartigan is, I think, Kaganovich, more Stalinist than Stalin, the dour and nearly invisible organisation man, who has simply dedicated his life to the vision, and will follow it through come what may.
Campbell Reid? Hmmm, Mikoyan, the other horse in the troika who moulded his personality and life so close to Stalin that he virtually disappeared into him — and repeated the trick with Khruschev and Breshnev.
David Penberthy, I think is Khruschev, unafraid to show occasional flashes of liberalism so long as he redoubles his Stalinist efforts from time to time — the former tendencies however guaranteeing exile to show-pony make-work, Khruschev to building the Moscow metro, Penbo to the Punch. Khruschev says he spent most of the 30s sitting at his desk trying not to shit himself in fear. I’d wear the brown trousers today Penbo. And tomorrow.
Dennis Shanahan and Glenn Milne. Oh, snap: Kamenev and Zinoviev. Two key Old Bolsheviks who dodged back and forth between opposition and support of Stalin even when Stalin’s epigones readily denounced them from the stand – I forget the actual words but it was something like “we would like to see a greater turnover in the press gallery to fulfil the second five year plan and snmash the rotten elements”.
Chris Mitchell. Got to be Bukharin, the one old Bolshevik who could talk back to Stalin right up to the end, the model for Rubashov in Darkness at Noon, who, ultimately, could see no meaning to his life but to offer a final service to the party by agreeing to its lies about him, and to take a bullet in the neck in a cellar.
Andrew Bolt, Beria no doubt about it — a man harbouring possible liberal intentions for the future, but so twisted that even the rest of the Stalinists hated him. Killed in the USSR version of a cabinet reshuffle, when Khruschev and others personally ambushed him and put 30 bullets in his chest.
Caroline Overington: Alexandra Kollontai, the revolution’s brilliant writer and good-time gal, about as reliable as a four dollar watch. Kollontai and her toyboy lover Dybenko were early opponents of Bolshevik compromise, wanting to push for full communism immediately. When discussion was held as to how they should be punished for openly defying the central committee, Lenin suggested that they be forced to live together for five years. Dybenko eventually vanished into the Gulag, with nary a peep from Kollontai. Watch out, strapping interns!
Janet Albrechtsen: sorry, Planet, you get left out (again). Krupskaya (Mrs Lenin) would be the obvious choice, but I don’t propose to dishonour her so. We can offer you Eleni Ceaucescu. She fancied herself a thinker too.
Christian Kerr: Guy Burgess. Life of the party, needy, surplus to requirements.
Richard Searby: former longtime Murdoch No.2, sacked after decades of service is Kirov, Leningrad party boss, whose assassination (probably arranged by Stalin) was the pretext for the start of the great terror.
Christopher Pearson: Bela Kun, opportunist Hungarian journalist, leader of month-long 1919 Hungarian Communist republic, whose ruthlessness shocked even the Bolsheviks. Minister of Culture was Georg Lukacs, a Hungarian who spent two decades toeing the political line to advance his career in literary theory, and did you think I wouldn’t find a place for you Imre Salushinzsky?
Lachlan, James, Elizabeth: … I hate to break it to you, but it didn’t turn out well for Stalin’s kids neither.
Tim Blair: Dear comrade, in Volume 2 of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia please remove existing pages 224-226 between ‘Black Sea’ and ‘Byelorussia’ and replace them with this new and exciting article on delicious treat ‘Blinis’, which will be available in the next five year plan.
Peter Coleman: Parvus aka Alexandr Helfhand aka Helphand aka Gelfant aka Gelfand, shadowy figure, co-organiser of 1905 Leningrad uprising, inventor of concept of “permanent revolution”, arms dealer in Istanbul, persuaded Ottoman empire to enter WW1 (in order to destroy Ottoman empire) invented the thinktank as front (the Copenhagen Institute for the Study of the Social Consequences of War, through which money was funneled to strike funds in Russia throwing the country into turmoil), arranged the “sealed train” to take Bolsheviks back to Russia following February 1917 Revolution, fond of orgies, champagne for breakfast, died of gout, had a useless son-in-law.
Cut and Paste editors: dress warm and cancel your mobile phone plans. You may be some time.
Greg Sheridan: Greg Sheridan.
Eric Beecher: currently living in Mexico with Frida Kahlo. Buy your ice cubed, Eric!
Coming soon: Bolshevik/News Ltd football cards. Get the set!