by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Darkness at Noon, published in December 1940, stands as one of the most penetrating denunciations of totalitarian ideology ever written. Eighty years later, the novel is still relevant: not only as an expose of Communist ideology but of the ideology that animates the woke progressivism of our age.
The author, Arthur Koestler, was a Hungarian-born journalist who joined the Communist Party in 1932, traveled in the USSR, and became a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War. He was imprisoned by the Spanish fascists, then later broke with the Communist Party. These experiences were blended together in Darkness at Noon, which became Koestler’s best-known work.
The inspiration for the novel is the infamous Moscow “show trials” instigated by Joseph Stalin in the 1930s for the purpose of purging various dissidents within the Communist Party. The novel’s central figure, Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov, is a formerly powerful figure in the Party, a veteran of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The Rubashov character is a composite of several victims of the Stalin purges and the novel is dedicated to their memory. …
… Alone in his cell, Rubashov is forced to make sense of his life and his dedication to the cause that now seeks to destroy him. He has a series of flashbacks in which he recalls how, when he was in authority, he dealt ruthlessly with those who ran afoul of the Party. …
… In these dialogues, Koestler exposes the ethics of Communism — and that of the Progressive Left. Objective truth and falsehood, guilt or innocence doesn’t matter. What matters is embracing the ideology that is “on the right side of history.” This is the essence of political correctness: objective truth must be discarded, as “politically incorrect,” if it does not advance the worldview of the social justice warrior.
Thus, as social critic Theodore Dalrymple puts it, “[p]olitical correctness is communist propaganda writ small.”