SOVIET HISTORY LESSONS
on love, death and cigarettes.
A collection of forewords to books
by friends and colleagues.
Foreword to Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
by Vladimir Bukovsky
Those terrible years are recalled by eye-witnesses with a shudder of horror. Their children look upon the time with indignation and perplexity, wondering how such things could have happened in their country. The grandchildren see it all as a kind of nightmarish fairy-tale which has no real connection with their own lives. The Rubashovs and Ivanovs have long been posthumously rehabilitated. The Gletkins have grown old and have long been picking up their “merited pensions”, they grow strawberries at their dachas outside Moscow and sigh about the past. Their successors in the offices of the Lubianka are cynical young careerists dressed in expensive foreign suits; these young men are so colourless that no matter how much they might wish to do so they could never achieve Ivanov’s level of discourse. Anyway, Ivanov’s arguments would no longer make any impression on today’s prisoners. You will not nowadays find a convinced Marxist in a cell at the Lefortovo Prison, indeed you will not find one among the sixteen million members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The dictatorship and terror of the Party bureaucracy, requiring nothing but submissiveness and obedience, has replaced ideological dictatorship and terror. But to understand how this happened and to trace the logical inevitability of this change we must gain and again return to the thirties, to the events described in this book.
Arthur Koestler’s book is strikingly up-to-date and topical. Is it hard to believe that it was written almost forty years ago, and it is quite clear that this book will always remain forbidden reading in communist countries.
The behaviour of the victims at the Moscow show trials of the thirties is an enigma which will continue to excite the curiosity of historians for a long time to come. Indeed, how was it that “steadfast revolutionaries”, who had experienced hard labour and torture, suddenly acknowledged in public outlandishly absurd accusations and repented, humbly asking for mercy without any apparent constraint? Acclaimed leaders of revolution, who had devoted their whole life to the cause, suddenly turned out to be “conspirators who had sold themselves to the enemy”. Why did they not at least die in silence? Anyway nobody would have been able to keep them quiet during the actual trials. Only two or three cases are known of victims trying to exculpate their guilt, and even then not very forcibly.
Of course it would be naive to endorse the opinion of Gletkin and the majority of Marxists in the West that all this can be attributed to “physical constitution”. Torture affects people who want to live, not those who are ready to die at any given moment for their cause. This is an extremely important problem, and not only for psychologists. The dark years of the thirties are a kind of watershed in the thinking of contemporary Marxists, for up to that period everything would appear to have been proceeding in accordance with theory, and only afterwards did things contradictory to theory happen. Marxists hold that Stalin was to blame for all this because he supposedly enforced a volte face in the state and in the Party. How was it that wicked Stalin all on his own swayed a good Party? Why was it that the entire Party, including those leaders who were arrested, actively assisted him in this task? When exactly was it that things started to go wrong?
Koestler demonstrates the indissoluble link between Marxist theory and practice in the thirties with implacable logic. Anyone who considers social benefit and the collective aim to be higher than the individual, who considers that the individual must be sacrificed to this aim and who, moreover, has sacrificed many individuals to the aim must recognise the fact that he too has to be treated accordingly. Anyone who has sacrificed his I for the good of a WE must be constant and courageous in his struggle with the enemy, but if he suddenly finds himself in a position where he is an enemy of the WE he at once loses strength and becomes an unwonted I. All he wants is to once again become part of the WE; and if this means that he must publicly renounce his own beliefs and acknowledge absurd accusations then he must do so. If honour has been replaced by expediency, what further obstacles remain?
The supreme idea of general happiness and of an ideal society justifies any means leading towards this idea. The harder it is to achieve an end, the greater the number of sacrifices which have to be made and the more terrible are the means justified. It is difficult to grasp this simple truth in its abstract form, for everyone thinks, “Well, I’d never begin to justify bad means for a good aim.” But just imagine yourself in a situation where you have to decide whether one hundred or one thousand people will die. Imagine even that you are driving a car and are going to have to run over either one person, or two. The decision seems to be obvious. And here you are already applying “laws of arithmetical operations to human lives.”
But Marxists tell us that we all continually find ourselves in similar kinds of situations. For hundreds of years exploitation has been reducing the proletariat to an animal state. Who counts how many animals perish? And what about wars which, it is well known, are the products of capitalism, and which waste millions of lives? Our entire history is nothing but a chain of suffering. Can we not then justify the annihilation of exploiters and imperialists in order to rid humanity once and for all of all this suffering?
However, the successful accomplishment of this unbelievably difficult task demands the the individual I be subordinated to the general WE of the like-minded. The vileness and cruelty of class enemies can be overcome by people who are themselves even more vile and more cruel. Their victory will justify them.
It is hardly surprising that the accused in the Moscow show trials were no longer naive victims, they were arch-criminals and inveterate liars. If in that atmosphere all views which did not express the right class attitude were considered as counter-revolutionary activity, and all non-communist views were considered not to express the right class attitude, then it had to be acknowledged the deviation from the Party line was a crime. The butchers of yesterday became the victims of tomorrow; and the whole country was forced into complicity with the crime by publicly approving it.
Indeed, the approach towards the thirties was steady and designed. These years followed from the ideology itself with implacable logic. Thus Rubashov’s guilt was proven by his own theoretical formulae. This infernal merry-go-round grew out of the theories originated by “the bearded philosophers in the group photograph”.
Nowhere is this clearer than in Lenin. The state, he says, is always a force. It represents the coercion of one class by another. Thus the use of force in the case in question, that is in the name of the proletariat, is justified and necessary. Here is the justification of terror for you.
Literature and art are always class based, he says, they are always the weapon of the ruling class and ruling culture, and therefore we shall directly continue cultural traditions if we authorize only proletarian art in our workers’ state. Here is censorship for you.
Private property is that which has been stolen from the workers, so take what has been stolen! Consequently, according to Leninist reasoning, why not justify murder? After all man is mortal, why not kill him now? He has got to die sometime.
We need only recall Lenin’s reaction to the revolt in Shuya on 10 February 1922, when he issued the following instructions in a note to the Politburo. Are they not a scenario of the later trials?
“Whatever this involves it is now imperative for us to conduct the withdrawal of church valuables by the most decisive and speedy means possible; by doing this we can secure for ourselves an archive of several hundreds of millions of gold rubles. (We must bear in mind the enormous wealth of some of the monasteries and lavras). Without this archive no government work in general and, in particular, no building up of the economy is conceivable.
“Now and only now when people are being eaten in places where there is famine and hundreds, if not thousands, of corpses are lying on the roads we can (and therefore we must) conduct the withdrawal of church valuables with the greatest and most relentless energy, undaunted by any form of opposition in our path.
“We must send to Shuya one of the most energetic, intelligent and efficient members of the VTsIK, or other representatives of the central power (one person is better than several), and we must give him verbal instructions through one of the members of the Politburo. Essentially these instructions must indicate that the more members of the local clergy, local petty-bourgeoisie an bourgeoisie he arrests in Shuya on suspicion of direct or indirect participation in violent opposition to the decree of the VTsIK about the withdrawal of church valuables the better. As soon as he has completed this work he must come to Moscow and personally give a report at a full meeting of the Politburo for this purpose. On the basis of the report the Politburo gives a detailed directive, again a verbal one, to the judicial powers saying that the proceedings against the people in Shuya who are revolting and opposing aid to the starving should be carried out with the maximum speed and completed only with the shooting of a large number of the most influential and dangerous members of the Black Hundreds in Shuya; and wherever possible similar situations in Moscow and other spiritual centers should be treated accordingly.
“The larger the number of members of the reactionary bourgeoisie and reactionary clergy we are able to shoot under the auspices the better.
“We must be sure to appoint the best and responsible workers to carry out this measure in the richest lavras, monasteries and churches.
It is curious that after many years of association these philosophers had no illusions about the morality of their comrades-in-arms. When Kamenev and Zinoviev were accused of murdering Kirov, Bukharin said, “Well? They are what they are. Maybe there was something…”
Just as the “bearded philosophers” brought up Stalin, the Chekist Ivanov brought up the Chekist Gletkin who shot him; every time the new generations was more cruel and more unprincipled. “Neanderthal men of the new era.” And the “old guardsmen” could only wonder, “Where on earth have these people come from?” On the posters youth is always radiant.
One theorist in the French Communist Party told me that class enemies were far more to blame for the cruelty of the Bolsheviks than the Bolsheviks were themselves. The Red terror would never have emerged if it had not been for the opposition of the Whites. This man seriously appears to believe that nobody in France is going to oppose the building of communism, thus “communism with a human face” is feasible there. The more sincere and constant is a man in his belief, the more vileness and cruelty is he capable of exercising. When he is eventually brought to the “Revolutionary tribunal”, where the remnants of his sincerity must bring him, there is no human face any more. The young smiling neanderthals, brought up on a new morality will easily find him guilty.
It is hardly surprising that people failed to understand all this at the beginning of the century when the system was first being worked out. What is surprising is that since then the very same thing has been happening in scores of countries all over the world, in places which have the most varied history, culture and religion. But this fact still does not seem to be sufficiently instructive. Marxism remains a fashionable pastime for rich idlers and university professors in all developed countries. For their pupils in Vietnam and Cambodia it has turned into a blood-stained tragedy.
Man’s ability to remain unconcerned is limitless. Even cigarette packets have to display printed warnings about health hazards. Why then has it not become obligatory for the covers of Marxist literature to have the following statement printed on them, “The theories set out here have in practice over the last sixty years brought tens of millions of people to death?” Should not professors be obliged to tell the truth about this practice? Not likely! But you have only to mention this to discover that the right to contaminate the mind of the student is thought to be the inalienable right to the teacher.
The rights of man, about which everyone who is not idle has begun to do a great deal of talking (and this includes Marxists), are inextricably involved with human duty and individual responsibility for everything that happens in the world around us. In a prison camp I once met an old man who had been convicted for his participation in the mass murder of Jews during World War Two. He thought that his sentence was extremely unfair. “I didn’t kill anyone. All I had to do was open the door into the gas chamber. I didn’t even have to close the door. Someone else had to do that.” If during the course of sixty-two years we have become wise enough to condemn the Khmer Rouge and terrorists, then is it not time that we also condemned those who only “opened the door” to these crimes in our world?
I believe the Koestler’s book will remain topical not only for as long as there exists at least one communist party in the world, but also for as long as man strives towards the revolutionary transformation of society; after all, communist ideology is only the most consistent and the most extreme form of this striving.
As if wanting to emphasise this thought without going into the details, Koestler takes the epigraphs for this chapters from very different authors who lived in very different ages, from Dostoyevsky, Saint-Just, Machiavelli and the fifteenth-century Bishop Dietrich von Nieheim.
One could ask what the anarchical ideas of Dostoyevsky’s heroes, the idea of the unification of Italy, the striving of Jacobins towards equality and brotherhood, or the idea of the Kingdom of God on earth have in common? A familiar motif still rings in all these ideas. Efforts towards the violent reconstruction of life recur in history with striking persistency. This striving towards justice is to all appearances one of man’s strongest emotions, which is why reason has the greatest difficulty in controlling it. Surely then the blowing up of the dictators in the Kremlin could be justified? Fortunately this idea is not widespread and I hope it never will be. The results of the last upsurge of justice are evidently still too fresh in peoples’ minds. The results are still too graphic. Perhaps it is for this reason that in the Soviet Union people have begun with exactly that point on which Rubashov ended, a conversation with the “silent interlocutor”. They have realised that totalitarianism cannot exist in a vacuum, but is supported by blood-stained complicity and so, since the early sixties, more and more of them have been refusing to be a party to the Soviet system.
Man’s simple desire to be innocent of guilt, direct or indirect, in the eye of both his descendants and his contemporaries has given birth to what is now well-known as the human rights movement in the USSR. It proved to be invincible in front of the most oppressive system in the world. It proved to be more powerful than any plots or political intrigues. But is it necessary to go through so much blood and torture to understand this?
I read this remarkable book in the Russian edition intended for illegal import into the Soviet Union, where it will be read by hundreds of thousands of people. I read it in Italy in a small town while some noisy communist fiesta was taking place, everyone in the town was enjoying the occasion. “Where,” I asked myself, “will the crash come first, here or there?”
Folio Society, London, 1980.
Foreword to Russia’s Political Hospitals: the Abuse of Psychiatry in the Soviet Union
by Sidney Bloch and Peter Reddaway
by Vladimir Bukovsky
The problems which the authors analyse in this book are exceptionally complex.
The peculiar features of the Soviet political system, the Communist ideology, the uncertainties and difficulties of the science of psychiatry, the labyrinths of the human conscience — all these have weirdly woven themselves together to create a monstrous phenomenon, the use of medicine against man.
Paradoxical though this phenomenon seems, it is, apparently, symptomatic of our times, times in which the highest achievements of human thought, science, and technology have suddenly boomeranged against man, putting his very existence in doubt. The rapid development of technology threatens to break down our ecology, and the discovery and exploration of atomic energy have made possible the complete destruction of life.
When Pinel first removed the chains from the mentally ill and thereby freed them from punishment as criminals, who would have guessed that two centuries later prisoners would look with fear at Pinel’s successors, preferring chains to their “care”?
These pernicious phenomena have unexpectedly brought to the fore such apparently old-fashioned concepts as human conscience and man’s moral and ethical principles. Evidently a profound and lengthy reconsideration of habitual values will be needed, a re-thinking of accepted ideas, if we are to find a way out of the situation which has come about. Serious, fundamental research is essential, which will make it possible to examine every facet of these complex and dangerous phenomena.
One such piece of research is this book. For many years I studied the question of psychiatric abuse in the Soviet Union, and can therefore judge accurately the enormous amount of work performed by the authors. Without doubt, Bloch’s and Reddaway’s book will be a kind of encyclopaedia, an indispensable source for all those interested in the problem of psychiatric abuse. Among its merits are the impeccable documentation, the detachment of the analysis, and the combination of a scientific method and a fluent, readable style. I believe that all this will ensure for the book a wide readership will also assist, ultimately, in the cleansing and resurrection of Soviet psychiatry.
For most Western people it is psychologically difficult to grasp the atmosphere of a country in which phenomena described in this book have become routine. I often see looks of incomprehension when I describe life in the Soviet Union. Sometimes I deduce from the questions put to me that no understanding exists at all. Occasionally I am overwhelmed by despair and lose faith in the power of the human word. It is virtually impossible to explain the degree to which life in the USSR is unreal. It is not, there, theories and conclusions which develop out of the raw material of life, but, on the contrary, the raw material of everyday life is created to fit in with the ruling theory. Life does not develop normally and naturally in accordance with its inner laws, but is created artificially in ways calculated not to undermine the basic principles of the ideology.
The ruling doctrine asserts that being determines consciousness. As Socialism has been built in the USSR, and Communism is being built, the consciousness of people must be exclusively Communist. Where, then, can belief in God appear, if for 60 years atheism has been propagated and the preaching of religion outlawed ? And from where does an opponent of Communism come—in a Communist society?
Within the confines of Communist doctrine there are only two possible explanations: the cause must lie either in subversive activity directed from abroad—i.e. every dissenter has been bought or recruited by the imperialists; or in mental illness: dissent is just a manifestation of pathological processes of the psyche.
As life in the USSR does not develop freely, but is “interpreted” by the party, these two principles mean that every dissenter whom it is difficult or inconvenient to pursue under the first heading is automatically assigned to the second.
The Soviet psychiatrist is a part of the Soviet system. He cannot say, “I find no symptoms of illness in this person”. He cannot reach his conclusions inductively, he must follow the prescribed deductive method. He cannot regard dissent as a normal phenomenon generated by the realities of Soviet existence: if he did, he would become a dissenter himself. And not everyone is capable of that: family, children, professional career and the quiet life are automatically put at risk. Ahead lies nothing but harassment, persecution, condemnation, quarrels and lack of understanding in his family — relatives accusing him of selfishness, and of indifference to his children. Also the incomprehension of those around him, his colleagues — what’s the point of it all? Do you really think you can change anything like that? You can’t shift a mountain with a shovel! And in truth, one has to be decidedly “different” to become a dissenter in the USSR.
Now, when I hear from all sides so many high-sounding words and assurances of sympathy and support, when I hear condemnation of dishonest Soviet psychiatrists, when I see amazement in people’s eyes—“How could doctors be so venal?” — I involuntarily find myself wondering: who among if you, if you suddenly lived in the Soviet Union, would choose the freedom to be different? Would many of you be so eccentric as want to be persecuted for the sake of an abstract honesty before your conscience?
I fear that not many would prove capable of acting out in such conditions the righteous incomprehension which they voice now. Evidence for this view is the outcome of the world psychiatric congress in Mexico in 1971, when the question of Soviet abuse was simply swept under the carpet. A sad episode, which, I trust, will not be repeated this year in Honolulu.
Bonn, 22 January 1977
Got A Light?
Vladimir Bukovsky on Richard Klein's Cigarettes Are Sublime
by Vladimir Bukovsky
“This book does not aim to praise cigarettes chiefly for their utility,” writes Richard Klein,
but rather for what Theodore de Banville calls their “futility.” It is their uselessness that ensures the aesthetic appeal of cigarettes—the sublimely, darkly beautiful pleasure that cigarettes bring to the lives of smokers. It is a pleasure that is democratic, popular, and universal; it is a form of beauty that the world of high as well as popular culture has for more than a century recognized and explicitly celebrated, in prose, poetry, in images both still and moving. So widespread is this understanding of the beauty of cigarettes that this book can seem to argue in favor of making them seriously, as among the interesting and significant cultural artifacts produced by modernity.
One has to have considerable courage to write such a book today, in our time of crusading crackpots and universal conformism. No sooner had the big, all-embracing utopia of Communism died in front of us, than myriads of tiny utoplets sprang up in its place, as if to fill the void left in the ives of the Utopians. Humanity is overwhelmed; accustomed as we may be to placating our crusaders, we still cannot reconcile all their demands. Lest we be branded an “enemy of the people,” we must attempt to be green, blue, and color-blind, all at once. We expected to deny that there is any difference between the sexes, and yet are obliged to believe that God Almighty is a woman. Animals’ rights have become superior to ours, except AIDS research. And smoking… smoking is the worst crime of all, unless you smoke marijuana.
Indeed, the current anti-smoking campaign is so universal, so vicious that one wonders: What kind of secret Politburo is behind it? Clearly, it is well coordinated and well funded, and must have a hidden agenda as well. After all, despite the smoke-screen concern for our health, we are “consenting adults” and entitled to decide for ourselves.
Yet the utopians righteously push us out of one refuge after another. So we smokers are, a new oppressed and exploited minority. While homosexuals can serve in the army and women can become priests, we cannot have even a tiny smoking compartment on the publicly subsidized trains we pay for through (among other means) growing “sin” taxes on cigarettes. I sometimes wonder who won the Cold War.
But I am convinced the worst is yet to come. Nor shall we have to wait very long: last year in Britain a man died of a heart attack because his doctor refused to treat him, on the grounds that he was an inveterate smoker who had promised to give up smoking but failed. Did this “doctor” go to jail? Far from it; he was not even reprimanded. Looking boldly into the television camera, he said: “Why should I waste my resources on someone who does not follow my prescription? Smoking as much as he was, he would have died anyway.”
What a neat idea. Come to think of it, why should doctors treat homosexuals? They will die of AIDS anyway. Just let anyone who does not observe the latest fashion in diet and exercise die. Medical costs can be cut without any need to install Bill Clinton’s health reform.
So, first and foremost, we should commend Richard Klein’s bravery, far above and beyond his call of duty as a professor of French at Cornell: some healthiest ayatollah might yet issue a fatwa against him. For let’s make no mistake: it is Cold War II we are living through today, with a new breed of coercive utopians striving to alter our culture, to control our behavior and, ultimately, our thoughts. As Mr. Klein correctly says: “The increase of attacks directed against smoking in the last decades could be seen as the harbinger of the wave of censorship that threatens to engulf America. … Since smoking is wordless, it is a form of expression especially vulnerable to being suppressed by censors who hesitate before banning speech.”
Apart from being a bad habit—this fact no one denies, least of all smokers themselves—smoking is also a statement of one’s philosophy of life, a philosophy upon which our modern culture was based. This was a philosophy of flirting with death, on the one land—which, by the way, moved us to conquer the skies (what an irony that smoking is now forbidden on airplanes) and, on the other hand, philosophy of fatalism, of a soldier “killing time while waiting for death.” A cigarette is like a poem, a love affair, or even life itself—all burning desire and smoke of illusion, leaving us at the end only ashes and a bitter taste in the mouth. But should this predictable end stop us from living, loving, aspiring? What a lie to pretend that anyone ever did not know in advance all the harm smoking can cause. Even in my childhood, some forty years ago, when I tasted my first cigarette, there was a huge billboard across the street: “Smoking is a slow death!”
Sure thing. But someone’s intrepid hand had written underneath in chalk: “And we are not in a hurry.” Professor Klein is quite right: cigarettes are sublime: they seduce you like a femme fatale, all the signs of danger notwithstanding. They are bad for you; that is why they are so good. And the more they are demonized by propaganda, the more seductive they will become. What a stupidity those “warnings” of the surgeon general are! One could not invent better advertising—it makes one’s statement even stronger when puffing into the face of our boring society. “Life itself a progressive disease from which we only recover posthumously; for if health is freedom from disease, then it is only available by dying,” writes Mr. Klein. “Living means choosing your poisons.” And who is the surgeon general to force his choice upon us? A surgeon’s business is to amputate our limbs, to cut out our tumors, to stitch us up again. This is what he should be concerned with, not being a prime judge in a century-long philosophical dispute.
Let alone a supreme censor. If he tries to be, he will, as Mr. Klein’s book shows, find himself against a whole host of poets, philosophers, and cultural figures, from Baudelaire and Byron, Merimee and George Sand, to Sartre and Hemingway.
Like so many writers struggling with censorship before him, Mr. Klein employs subtle irony and taunt rather than a direct attack on his opponents’ position. Contrary to what one might think after reading this review, his is not a book of polemics fueled by indignation; rather, it is an ode to the cigarette, as seen through the eyes of the great poets and thinkers, a paean to a culture that is about to be discarded by the modern barbarians. In a sense, Mr. Klein is like a Roman patrician singing hymns to the old temples and sacred groves even as hordes of Huns are destroying them. In vain does he implore them to think about future backlash:
… repression … often ensures that when the repressed returns, it does so violently, hyperbolically. Whenever what is unhealthy is demonized, it become resistible, with all the seduction and the fiery allure of what ought not come to light. Censorship inevitably incites the very practice it wishes to inhibit and usually makes it more dangerously compulsive, because illicit, in the bargain. Think of masturbation.
Alas! Huns don’t read poetry, and names of old gods mean nothing to them. Mr. Klein’s irony a lints are lost on our own illiterate latter-day barbarians, who know only the ironclad language of political correctness.
Editor's note: "Bukovsky is a professional smoker whose best-known book, To Build a Castle, is a testimony to the fact that even the KGB failed to force him to give up cigarettes despite 12 years of consistent effort."
National Review, August 15, 1994.
Against the Odds: A True American-Soviet Love Story
by Andrei and Lois Frolov
by Vladimir Bukovsky
Why should a superpower take such enormous interest in harassing two people just for being in love with each other? Indeed, after one reads about the twenty-four hour surveillance by specially trained KGB teams, in shifts, with their specially equipped cars and their walkie-talkies, about the twenty-four hour telephone bugging, and the numerous stukachi (informers) in the communal apartment, one is left with a feeling of something unreal, almost nightmarish. And all this trouble, this spectacular police operation, is just to prevent two people from getting married? The sheer cost of such an “operation” must be astronomical, to say nothing of the politically damaging international scandal. Why bother?
This question will undoubtedly come to a reader’s mind after closing this book. And it is a very good question indeed, particularly for those “sophisticated” people who still call “simplistic” any straightforward condemnation of the communist system. Or, better still, for those who are so sure of the peaceful intentions of the Soviets and who advocate a “dialogue” between our nations. If we are to accept their beliefs, why then are the Soviet people forced by their peace-loving government to treat any foreigner from a non-communist country as an enemy? Why is a marriage between an American and a Russian looked upon as high treason? What kind of a dialogue can we have, if only specially trusted informers are allowed to approach a foreigner?
Simplistic or not, the truth of the matter is that in a totalitarian state a man is a property of the state. And a cheap property to boot. He is just a pawn in a dangerous game played by the rulers. A walking function. It is only naive people of the West who believe that they live in a time of peace. From the day of its creation the Soviet Union has been at war with the West, and the people are forced to be soldiers of this war. In this context, a manifestation of simple human feeling is perceived by the state as a mutiny.
The authors of this book know these answers as well as anybody who once has felt the whole weight of the Soviet machine on his or her shoulders. However, instead of generalizations, they give a detailed account of their ordeal, patiently leading us through the jungles of Soviet life with its Kafka-esque absurdity to an unexpectedly happy ending. They describe only the facts they have witnessed. Yet, their book is a real dialogue, the only one possible between an American and a Russian in our time, a dialogue of partners fighting together again the communist slavery.
For an American it is a painful process of losing naivety, of learning to be a responsible and reliable partner in a situation where, unlike back home, life is a very serious business and any careless word may prove to be fatal. For a Russian it is a no less painful process of “squeezing the slave out of oneself drop by drop,” as Chekhov once put it. What seems to be a purely personal affair at the beginning, at the end becomes
a fight for human dignity between two people on one side and the most oppressive regime of modem times on the other. As it happens so often the Soviet Union, an individual’s victory becomes a victory for all serfs of the state. Indeed, the same people who are obliged to condemn the rebel publicly, would secretly congratulate him and express their gratitude. Thus an ordinary Soviet man suddenly becomes a new creature, known in the West under the strange name of “dissident.”
Nobody knows what this word really means. Created by the Western press, it was never used by the “dissidents” themselves, who prefer a more modest name: “pravozashchitniki,” that is, “defenders of law.” In practical terms it simply means that these people appeal to the law as is written in the Soviet constitution or in an international agreement — hardly a revolutionary idea in any country but the communist one. Because the day when the people learn to demand their rights will be last day of the communist regime.
Meanwhile, the original meaning of the word “dissident” was somehow lost.
“Oh, no, I was not a dissident,” says a ballet dancer to the press after defecting to the West. “I simply could not accept the lack of freedom to create according to my tastes.”
“No, we are not dissidents,” says a group of workers at a press inference in Moscow. “We simply decided to organize an independent trade union to protect the rights of workers.”
“We, the Jews in the Soviet Union, were not dissidents,” writes a recent emigrant to Israel in his book. “We were defending the national rights of our people.”
Perhaps that is why the Western press has announced the end of the “dissident movement” in the Soviet Union every year during the last decade, while the number of the “non-dissidents” continues to grow quite steadily.
The authors of this book also are quite sure that they are not dissidents. They simply loved each other, and this human feeling appeared to be stronger that the Soviet regime. In the eternal fight of living against dying, of freedom against slavery, they have scored a small victory for everybody. Well, it is a good enough reason for me to call them "pravozashchitniki”
June 16, 1983
UNTOUCHABLE: Who protected Bormann and
Gestapo Muller after 1945.
Preface by Vladimir Bukovsky
The two leading Nazi figures most responsible for the Holocaust and other atrocities (Martin Bormann and Gestapo Muller), were Stalin’s agents; and, for 60 years no one wants to talk about it -- until now.
No government, no international body, no Tribunal of any sort, has ever investigated this fact and none is likely to do so now. Can we believe it? Well, frankly, I am not even surprised.
It was noticed long ago that the truth is usually the first casualty in any war, and that the history of it is subsequently written by the winning party. This is particularly true with regards to the Cold War simply because it was the war of ideas -- a war over what the Truth is. Therefore, truth was not just a casualty resulting from some “collateral damage”, but the prime target of the whole war - the main reason for waging it.
Not surprisingly, the Truth was practically destroyed, in the process, and to such an extend, that I doubt whether historians will ever manage to piece it together.
Furthermore, the resulting vacuum was rapidly filled with Big Lies which today have become established as indisputable common wisdom, and which one cannot even question without being dismissed as lunatic. Thus, as many sources nevertheless indicate, over antagonism between the Nazis and the Soviets was invented by the Comintern, in early 1930s, and then carefully cultivated until 1939, and again after 1941.
The purpose was dual: first, it served as a cover for close, secret, Soviet-Nazi collaboration in building their perspective military machines; second, it forced all others to support one side or the other, leaving no space for the third position.
Being thus placed “between a rock and a hard place,” even the staunchest democrats had to make this devilish choice. Besides, Soviet-Nazi ideological differences were so insignificant - compared with their common goal of destroying the “old order” - that they were not an obstacle in practical politics. Meanwhile, the two dictators played a game of apparent antagonism to help them achieve this goal, and, even today, some 75 years after the Comintern invented this “Left-Right” game, it is still being played, and, consequently, public perception is still being configured by Stalin’s propaganda!
The Nazis are still perceived to be on the “right” (bad guys), while the Communists are said to be on the “left” (good guys). Just try to explain that “national socialism” is as much on the “left” as the “international” brother without being called a dangerous extremist.
Although we all know that Stalin snd Hitler jointly started World War 2, as partners in crime, and were, therefore, equally responsible for the destruction it caused, the one became a “liberator of Europe” while the other became the ultimate villain. For decades nobody in the West dared to condemn Stalin, because, by implication, it would have made Hitler seem less sinister. Although, owing to some recently discovered documents, and thanks to the few researches who have published them, we now know that Stalin planned to attack Germany on July 6, and was simply late by two weeks - which allowed Hitler to strike first (on June 22nd) — we are not much nearer to recognizing the reality of Soviet-Nazi collusion, up to that point, or that betraying Hitler was part of the Soviet plan. We are still floundering between the poles of this Nazi-Communist dichotomy.
Although we know that Stalin practically invented Hitler, brought him to power, and armed and supplied him, thus enabling Stalin to see the fulfillment of their common dream — destruction of the “old order” in Europe - the Soviet Union has remained “the Liberator,” and “a beacon for all progressive mankind,” and Hitler has borne to blame for both of them.
But let us take a more recent example: as the Berlin Wall crumbled, the Western leaders hastily proclaimed the next two, biggest lies of the century: firstly, that “the Cold War is over,” and secondly, that “the West won it.”
However generously we try to interpret the first statement, we are obliged to conclude that it was a monumental fraud. Clearly, the Western leaders must have re-defined the whole purpose of the war, without so much as informing the public! For one thing, the Cold War was in progress long before 1961, when the Wall was constructed, and therefore, could not terminate simply with its removal.
The Wall was merely a manifestation of the illness, not its cause, as a moment’s reflection will confirm. Yet, from that moment onwards, the real cause of the trouble - the Soviet Union with its totalitarian communist system - became almost sacrosanct for the West; and so much so that, as the Soviet crisis deepened further, every Western leader rushed to pop up that regime, from Francoiis Mitterand (who actually supported the 1991 coup in Moscow) to George Bush (who went to Kiev in 1991 and tried to dissuade the Ukrainians from leaving the Soviet Union).
Of course, if we interpret the Cold War, in narrow military terms, merely as confrontation between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, we can say we won it, simply because one of the blocks has disappeared; but the Cold War was always much more than that. It was an ideological confrontation, a war of ideas, between liberal democracies and communist totalitarianism. Eventually, the Soviet Union and its allies collapsed of exhaustion, under the burden of their own stupidity, despite the efforts of the West to prop them up with credits, loans, technology and diplomatic support. Suffice it to say, that, in only in last seven years of its existence, the most crucial seven years, when it was desperately struggling for survival, the Soviet Union was given $45 billion in different loans and credits; and when ultimately it collapsed anyway, jubilation and claims of victory, in the Western world, were surprisingly muted: most importantly, however there were no demands for the just punishment of the most odious perpetrators of crime against humanity, who had suddenly become available for prosecution. Western leaders looked almost embarrassed and saddened by the most significant event of the whole century. Does this sound like a victory?
The truth is that, except for a few years after World War 2, and during the first few years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the West was engaged in a typical process of appeasement towards the communist countries - and appeasers don’t win wars. We might have won an important battle under Ronald Reagan, but the job was never finished. Let us imagine, for example, that the victorious Allies in 1945 had accepted some sort of “perestroika” of the Nazi regime, instead of unconditional surrender. I doubt we would have seen democracy in Europe for the next 30 years. The Nazi Party and its collaborators, albeit under a different name, would have continued to govern a somewhat milder version of their former political system.
This, I am afraid, is exactly what happened in most of the former Communist countries, where former Communist apparatchiks remain in power to this very day. Not only in Russia, Bulgaria or Moldova; but even in Poland and Hungary, the latest elections brought “former” Communists to power. Even in Berlin, the “former” Communists have scored a staggering victory: the same is to be said about the communist power not only in North Korea, but still in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. And no one in the West seems to be alarmed or surprised. Do they really believe they have won the Cold War?
And what about the former Soviet collaborators, sympathizers, and apologists in the West? Are they condemned and ridiculed? Are they retired and pensioned off? On the contrary, in many West European countries they actually came to power, just as the Soviet Union collapsed, and have become even more influential part of the Western establishment. They are still opinion-makers, and now they are decision-makers too. They don’t like to discuss the past, in public, lest it remind people of less than glorious facts from their own biographies, but they are the loudest among those who claim that the Cold War is over; and, of course, they are the ones who write history today, in a hurry to establish their own interpretation of its accepted wisdom. As Orwell notes, “those who control the past, control the future.”
Regrettably, they are quite successful in their effort. We live today as though we did not have a past at all -- as though we have just started from the year 0. As a result, our public life seems to be afflicted by some sort of moral schizophrenia.
Thus, in the wake of “the collapse of Communism,” any attempt to prosecute (or even to name) secret police tortures, murderers and terrorists in the service of the former Soviet empire (as well as their accomplices abroad), was greeted with indignation and branded as a “witch-hunt”; yet, at the same time, all sorts of “truth commissions” sprang up, from South Africa to Latin America, investigating human rights violations and punishing perpetrators in their respective regions. Needless to say, no one dared to call these “witch hunts.”
Remarkably, the power to punish crimes against humanity has remained dormant since 1946. It was invoked for the first time since then, only against some small-time thugs in Bosnia. Neither the crimes committed by Stalin in Eastern Europe, no those by the Soviet army in Afghanistan, no even the “social cleansing” conducted by Pol Pot in Cambodia, were deemed worthy of international judgement. Chinese genocide in Tibet, and Russian genocide in Chechnya, provoked, at best, an expression of “regret” on the part of Western governments.
Actually, in many cases, it would not even have been necessary to convene a special tribunal: for example, the murder of captive Polish officers in Katun was already acknowledged as a crime against humanity at the Nuremberg Trails. Yet, the man who was in charge of the execution - former head of one of the Directorates of NKVD, Pyotr Soprunenko - was still alive and well in Moscow on a good pension several years after the USSR collapsed. Everyone knew this, Muscovites willingly pointed out the windows of his apartment in a house on the Sadovaya Ring. MGB investigator Daniil Kopelyansky, who interrogated Raoul Wallenberg, was also thriving, as was the organizer of Trotsky’s assassination, General Pavel Sudoplatov; but neither Poland, nor Sweden nor Mexico was seeking the extradition of these criminals.
When did we let ourselves become bound by this flawed morality, this schizophrenia of the conscience? Occasionally, we continue to hunt down senile 80-year-olds, in the jungles of Latin America, for the evils they perpetrated 60 years ago. They are murderers. Proudly, we declare: “never again!” And noble tears moisten our eyes; but when it comes to putting Erich Honecker in the dock - a man, of whose orders people were killed as little as 15 years ago - why, every feeling is outraged! It would be inhuman, he’s old and sick; and we release him into the jungles of Latin America.
Today, sixty years after the end of WW2, and 15 years after the end of the Soviet Union, any attempt to equate those two totalitarian monsters is still met with indignation. While Nazi symbols are outlawed in the European Union, a suggestion to do the same with Communist symbols was categorically rejected. In just the couple of months, we shall be witnessing the ultimate travesty - a gigantic propaganda show, in Russia, to mark the 60th anniversary of VE-Day invited to which every Western leader is cordially invited, and which they will all be happy to attend, even though they know that, as part of the celebration, their Russian hosts are planning to unveil a statue of Stalin (albeit, together with Roosevelt and Churchill). Thus the lies of “post-Communism will meet the lies of World Was 2, in front of numerous TV cameras. How do we going to restore the Truth after that?
As I write these lines, Western leaders are outbidding each other in praise of a certain KGB Colonel, who used to persecute people like me. The US President even claims that he could look into this man’s soul. I wonder how he managed to do that! In all my many, involuntary encounters with KGB officers, soul is one thing I have failed to spot.
As the effort to create an “anti-terrorist coalition” was launched, British Prime -Minister Tony Blair, undoubtedly in consultation with Washington, went to Russia and welcomed aboard this new ally. He expressed his delight that, in this war, Russia will finally stand alongside the West - particularly he said (and I quote) “because Russia has such a vast experience in fighting terrorism.”
I never thought I would live long enough to hear such words from a leading Western politician. It is almost as callous and ridiculous as to sat that Germany has vast experience in dealing with Jews. Russia, in its former incarnation as the Soviet Union, has practically invented modern political terrorism, elevating it to the level of state policy -- firstly, in order to control its own population, and secondly, in order to spread the influence across the world, but does onyone care to recognize this today?
This book is written for those who do care, or who will care one day. I can safely predict that their number will grow steadily with every passing year; for, in my view, Communism will not really lie on the ash heap of history until we throw it there. Until sone Nurnberg-style tribunal passes judgement on all the crimes committed by Communism, it will not be dead, and the war will not be over. Moreover, having failed to finish it off conclusively, we are now in danger of integrating the resulting monster into our world. It may not be called Communism any more, but it has retained many of its dangerous characteristics. Knowing you past will help to save your future.
Cambridge, March 24, 2005
Source: Untouchable: Who protected Bormann and Gestapo Mueller after 1945 by Pierre Faillant de Villemarest, Aquilion Ltd., 2005.
On the Outskirts of the Empire
The Politics of Psychiatry in Revolutionary Cuba
By Charles J. Brown and Armando M. Lago
Foreword by Vladimir Bukovsky
After reading the documents collected in this book, one can feel disgusted and outraged, but not surprised. We have learned long ago that Communist regimes, be they in Vietnam or Cuba Ethiopia or China, are very much alike: just the sparks, the embers of the huge fire set in the world seventy-four years before. Actually, we would be surprised not to find familia features in each of them because, to borrow Solzhenitsyn’s metaphor, they are like metastasis of the same cancer striving to reproduce itself in every part of the globe. Cuba in this regard is unique only by the hasty pace of the disease: it covered in thirty-two years what the Soviet Union achieved in seventy-three. Within a single generation Cuba advanced from “revolutionary justice” to “socialist legality,” from liquidation of “class enemies” to “political re-education” and psychiatric treatment of those “apathetic to socialism”.
There are of course, some differences, too. Strictly speaking, the Cuban regime, where the supreme leader combines in himself Lenin and Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, does not need to employ psychiatric repression. Invented at the time of “peaceful coexistence,”perfected in the era of detente, Soviet political psychiatry was intended as a camouflage, allowing the regime to present a more “liberal” image while continuing political repression. In the Cuban context, however, it became just another form of torture. There is no political need for sophisticated diagnoses, no sudden epidemic of “sluggish schizophrenia” among dissidents, no Cuban equivalents of Dr. Lunts and Professor Morozov. Quite a few dissidents were actually diagnosed as sane, or not diagnosed at all, before being sent to the psychiatric gulag and subjected to electric shocks. I imagine even Dr. Lunts would have been outraged seeing such a barbaric application of his elaborate theories.
In short, this is not yet a political abuse of psychiatry as we know it, but rather e bad imitation of it by a not too bright apprentice. One wonders why did the Cuban comrades bother at all to borrow this latest achievement of socialism, if they are not using it properly? Could it be a result of a general Soviet pressure to “liberalize” the Cuban regime and make it more presentable? Oh, was it just an instruction from Moscow, routinely dispatched to the outskirts of the empire and wrongly interpreted by a lazy official? Perhaps we will never know.
This fact remains, however, that the first steps toward the political abuse of psychiatry have been made, and further developments are quite likely.Once the political need for a more civilized image of the Cuban regime is accepted in Havana, new, Better dressed, and cleanly shaven leaders of the Cuban Revolution will appreciate the full potential of the Soviet invention. Then we will hear more and more stories about mental disorders afflicting Cuban society, and it will become much more difficult to cure than now.
Those who torture
must be trampled with shame
Vladimir Bukovsky’s review of
The Breaking of Bodies and Minds
by Eric Stover and Elena O. Nightingale.
A book produced under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “The Breaking of Bodies and Minds,” is about torture as an instrument of political control in many countries of the world.
Quite symbolically, it is dedicated to the memory of two people: Joelita Filartiga, a 17-year-old boy tortured to death in Paraguay, and Alexei Nikitin, a Soviet coal miner who died after spending many years in a psychiatric prison for his trade-unionist activity.
While an ultimate purpose of torture — breaking of human will — remains the same in the countries with different oppressive regimes, its immediate goals may differ. Thus, more primitive dictatorial regimes prefer “breaking of bodies” in a pursuit of information about their opponents. More sophisticated totalitarian systems must change the way of thinking of their population and therefore, “breaking of minds” becomes their rules.
Torture is, unquestionably, one of the oldest crafts on earth and, as such, has greatly benefited from scientific progress.
From biblical Samson, chained and blinded to serve as an example of a tamed hero, and early Christian martyrs and heretics to present-day prisoners of war and human rights activists, the techniques of torture simply followed development of human knowledge. In due time, electric shocks replaced the medieval rack, while the stake was substituted by a syringe.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this evolution is an increased employment of medical knowledge and personnel by the modern torturers. The subject of this book is not a sporadic misuse of profession by an individual corrupt physician that might occur anywhere. It is rather a systematic involvement of health professionals in torture as a governmental policy and political control.
The involvement can be anything from falsifying medical certificates and autopsy reports of persons tortured ands killed while in official custody to designing new methods of abuse of to acting as torturers themselves.
The most notorious example of this practice, analyzed in the book at great length, is a systemic abuse of psychiatry for political purposes in the Soviet Union.
The only positive result of this dangerous trend is that it has generated a growing opposition among the medical profession throughout the world.
Several international health associations have recently adopted codes of ethics and condemned abuse of their profession. International medial teams are studying the effects of torture and developing treatment and rehabilitation programs for victims and their families. The book is a result of such international effort to coordinate the campaign against torture.
This effort, however, will bring a decisive success only if it encourages an opposition to torture within the countries systematically practicing it and, first of all, opposition from the health professionals themselves.
Quite appropriately, the real hero of this book is Dr. Anatoly Koryagin, a Soviet psychiatrist serving a seven-year sentence for protesting against political abuse of his profession. After numerous beatings and hunger strikes, his life is in real danger. Nobody has seen him since 1983, and his last letter was received in 1984. One can say without exaggeration that his life depends on a persistent support of his colleagues in the world psychiatric community.
Unfortunately, there is no agreement among Western psychiatrists on the question of best strategy for such a campaign.
Some, like Dr. Walter Reich, senior research associate with the Woodrow Wilson Institute, believe that the Soviet system of repressive psychiatry is a result of a tragic misunderstanding between the dissidents and psychiatrists. Others go even further and suggest that the contacts with the official Soviet psychiatry should be re-established, apparently for the sake of “dialogue.”
No matter how nice these theories may look on paper, they have very little to do with Soviet reality. Unlike Dr. Reich, dissidents were at least brought up in the same psychological atmosphere that the Soviet psychiatrists were and have less chance of misunderstanding them than Dr. Reich.
A “dialogue” with the psychiatrists of Alexei Nikitin will be as futile as a philosophical discourse with the interrogators of Joelita Filartiga. It will only help the torturers to gain respectability and international recognition.
“We must brand, brand and shame, those who out of self-interest or anti-humanitarian motives trample on the ideals of justice and on the doctor’s sacred oath,” wrote Dr. Koryagin. This is the only strategy to be adopted with the torturers of all types and nations.
Source: The Fresno Bee (Fresno, California), February 9, 1986.
Preface by Vladimir Bukovsky to "We, dissidents".
In а preface to the special issue of "Recherches" composed entirely of texts, testimonies, and memories written by those who are called "dissidents", Vladimir Bukovsky explains what a "dissident" is.
I am writing these few lines of introduction to the collection prepared by my Parisian friends immediately after my return from Paris where I took part in a public function which had its aim to defend Alexander Ginzburg, organized at the Orsay theater. Throughout that function, it seemed to me that this was the first time when a different kind of relationship, a normal relationship has been established between us and the countless French people who support our movement. If, at the start of the evening, the stage still presented a sort of barrier between us, very quickly we began to have a discussion "as equals." It often happens that the French and Westerners in general, who come to listen to us, see us as prophets obliged at all times to proclaim truths and, of course, they quickly become disillusioned, reproaching us moreover for holding ourselves out as prophets. Others view us as something exotic, something from another planet, the way one looks at learned monkeys in a zoo and gets surprised by their human attitudes. In both cases, curiosity replaces the real desire to understand us and hear what we have to say.
We are people just like you. Different from one another in the same way that you are. Perhaps even more different still, because we are rid of the chains of dogma and have learned — with determination — to be ourselves. In this issue of "Recherches" which you are about to read, these dissimilarities will appear clearly to you.
The cover of this issue, which forms a sort of screen between the author and the reader, is a purely formal thing, like the stage which stood between us at the start of the meeting. Behind this cover, you will not find sentences or political programs, but a few attempts to go beyond the print and speak: to say, to tell, to express oneself, to hear a response. You will also find some portraits there; some are painted from the outside, others are self-portraits and appear spontaneously. Almost all of the authors of this collection still live in their respective countries: you can't invite them to a meeting, or invite them to have a drink at the local cafe where you can chat until late at night. The "Recherches" initiative gave them a voice, and enthusiastic translators enabled them to express themselves in French. But it depends only on the reader and on him alone whether this multi-voiced monologue becomes a dialogue.
The foundations for this dialogue have been laid. This issue, even if there are articles devoted to a specific problem or to personal stories, answers many more general questions, dissolves misunderstandings that we, the expelled and the emigrants, have to face here. What is "dissent"? AND, WHAT DO THEY WANT?
I would say that those you call "dissidents" are just simple people who have learned to think for themselves and do not need any pre-established model for reference, which does not prevent them from being in agreement on many points and always united. But thinking, even if it is not easy, is only the first step. Thinking what you want is no more dangerous in the East than in the West. What makes a dissident is the harmony between his words and his life, on the one hand, and his convictions, on the other. That's already more dangerous, it means taking the risk of going to prison, and that is what annoys the little annuitant: "Do you want more than the others? You will see how this little game will end!" In fact, this little game ends with prison, the camp or the psychiatric asylum. Because there is one thing stronger than fear: the awareness of bearing a personal responsibility toward oneself and all that is happening around oneself. This awareness is so strong that even behind the barbed wire the resistance continues.
Besides, I prefer the term "resistance" to the imprecise term "dissidence"; but it is said in France that this word is too much linked to armed actions. Well, since you got used to this word, you may call us "dissidents," if you insist. As a Russian saying goes: "You can call me pot if you like, but don't put me in the oven." In our case that means: don't make us fit into any patterns, don't view us through God knows what ideological zoo barriers; we have won a right to be ourselves — please respect that right, — this right we have obtained after having gone through many risks and dangers, in this regime that puts everyone in the same boat, whereas here, in the West, people, it seems to me, are trying to find someone or something that would relieve them of their own brain, and replace it with a dogmatic automaton. Besides, I may be wrong. I would like to be wrong.
In this collection there are stories about the harshest repressions and life behind the barbed wire. We talk about it, of course, because it's too organic a part of our lives to ignore. And I refuse the argument that we have "already talked about it too much," that in the West "everyone already knows." I think we still don't know enough. But the aim of the editors was not to talk about the executioners and the victims, but to let people express themselves in their approach as resistance fighters, in their choice of resistance fighters. Perhaps this discovery of a new aspect of "dissidence" will make you want not only to "read another book," "to hear another testimony," but to engage in a real dialogue that s as essential to us as it is to you.
Here, I would like to come back to the meeting at the Orsay theater and the boycott problem which we have discussed at length. In the future I hope that these words will lead to actions. What does it mean "to boycott the Soviet Union"? This means setting aside the interlocutors that the Soviet regime imposes on the West and in the space thus cleared, to have a meeting, even through the barbed wire, if only through these samizdat leaflets coming from so far away, with those who really deserve the name of a person and a citizen. "No support for this regime": this means supporting those who, over there, have already dared to be free or will dare to be free tomorrow, — who will dare, thanks to your support.
by Pavel and Anatoly Sudoplatov
Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1994.
Pavel Sudoplatov, a well-known figure in the Soviet secret services who organized the assassination of Trotsky, published a memoir in 1994 in collaboration with his son and an American married couple, Jerrold and Leona Schecter. (He — a journalist, she — a translator). In this book, Sudoplatov, among other things, claims that Robert Oppenheimer, Niels Bohr, and several other leading Western physicists (many of whom took part in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II) knowingly passed key information to Soviet spies.
The American scientific community reacted to Sudoplatov's memoirs with distrust. Historians and journalists took them more seriously. Eric Breindel, a historian and journalist, reminded readers in a series of articles in the National Review that Sudoplatov first put his statements about Oppenheimer on paper in a letter to Andropov in 1982 when he asked for an increase in his pension.
Vladimir Bukovsky, in the August 1994 issue of the National Review magazine, praised Brendel's work and commented as follows:
I was extremely pleased to read Eric Breindel's comments on Pavel Sudoplatov's memoirs Special Tasks. So far, public response to the book has been quite bewildering, with the intellectual Left and Right united in outrage. While one can understand the motives of the former, the willingness of the latter to jump on the bandwagon is puzzling.
True, we have every reason to detest figures such as General Sudoplatov, and we would prefer to read their testimonies in an international tribunal rather than in a well-paid memoir. But, let's face it: we did not win the Cold War, and therefore we did not win an opportunity to see them in the dock.
True again, being an old man, Pavel Sudoplatov does confuse some details. That, however, does not make the other statements in the book any more suspect than the statements made by any other elderly person. As always with such publications, we must verify them.
I have no doubt that the Soviets had sources among the top figures of the Manhattan Project besides exposed agents like Klaus Fuchs. The evidence for this is circumstantial, yet compelling. When working in the now closed archives of the Central Committee in 1992, I tried to find out why the late Andrei Sakharov was so persistently denied the right to travel abroad. Was his alleged possession of state secrets just a pretext? After all, Sakharov had no access to secrets after 1968, and whatever he knew prior to that date could not possibly have remained a secret by the mid Eighties.
What I came across was much more enigmatic. Discussing the request by his wife, Elena Bonner, to be allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment in 1986, the entire Politburo (chaired by Gorbachev) concurred that Sakharov himself could not join her because, as the then KGB Chief Chebrikov put it, "Sakharov knows in detail the entire path of our nuclear weapons' development."
Now, can anyone telll me what was so secret in the history of the Soviet nuclear project that it still remained a secret forty years later? So secret, moreover, that even Gorbachev's Politburo colleagues, eager as they were to impress the West with their liberal intentions, were prepared to tarnish their image by an inexplicable ban on foreign travel for one of their most famous citizens? This affable, not to say meek, man, who never bothered to resist the attempts of the Western Left to adopt him for their various causes, would strongly object to — and even become angry — any suggested similarity between himself and Mr. Oppenheimer. "I am much more like Edward Teller," he insisted.
Needless, to say, I do not expect this to change the Left's attitude; on the contrary, I am sure that no amount of evidence could sway them, even if we were to resurrect Stalin himself and make him testify. For them any document is a forgery if it contradicts their legend. Frankly, I have more respect for people like Oppenheimer and Fermi (who at least believed in what they were doing and were prepared to risk their lives for their beliefs) that for those who "defend" them today out of fear for their own position of prestige and power. The difference between the two is, in my view, as significant as that between the revolutionaries of the Czarist time, and the nomenklatura of the Brezhnev era; while the former committed crimes passionnels, the latter were just cold-blooded profiteers.
Dictatorship Over the Proletariat
Vladimir Bukovsky reviews The Soviet Worker (edited by Leonard Schapiro and J. Godson)
The Times, July 9, 1981.
After the frustration of 1956 and 1968, there recent dramatic events in Poland have given us a new and elegant model of ultimate crisis in the East: it seems so tempting to predict the fall of the Communist Empire, this indomitable Red Rider, caused by the bucking of its hobby-horse, the proletariat. “Is this Polish disease going to be catching?” — millions of people in the West ask themselves, as well as the men in Warsaw and Moscow, in the White House and the Kremlin. There is nobody who can answer the question with certainty.
Indeed, the chronic shortage of food and consumer goods, the lack of rights, the phoney, state-controlled trade-unions, incredible corruption and miserable standards of living are as typical of life in Poland as in any other Communist country. It is much worse in the Soviet Union, where for example there is only 57kg of meat per caput a year. The Poles enjoy the luxury of 85kg. Furthermore, the Soviet population has had to endure this paradise nearly twice as long as the Poles: it is sufficient to compare the list of demands by Gdansk shipyard workers with that of Kronstadt “mutineers” in 1921 to discover the striking similarity. And yet, the sporadic industrial unrest in the USSR, or the latest attempts to create independent trade-unions (like that by a coalminer Klebanov in 1977), could hardly be compared with the spectacular emergence of Solidarity last years.
In view of this baffling problem, perhaps the only people to give us some clue to the future are the scholars, the experts on Soviet society. The book offered to us is a collection of essays on different aspects of socio-economic life in the USSR including such special topics as wages and incomes policies, planning in relation to the worker, the role of the trade unions in Soviet society, welfare and social security, carefully scrutinized by the best experts in their respective fields. Most of them present the problem in the historical perspective and show quite clearly the dominance of ideological dogma over economic considerations. The authors supply us with brilliant theoretical analysis of the process which led inevitably from the “dictatorship of the proletariat” to the dictatorship over proletariat. It may come as a surprise to many readers that the most “modern” fashionable ideas which many people in the west believe and try to introduce as a panacea, were in fact tried and rejected as disastrous some 40 to 50 years ago. Unfortunately, those who introduce these ever-green illusions do not usually survive to witness the realities.
The general picture of Soviet society today emerging from the book is that of amazing inequality, putrefacation, and cynicism, with the only dynamic part of the economy being understood, that is, “capitalist”, thanks to which the system still survives. The most vidid account of its importance in the Soviet economy is given in the book by Fyodor Turovsky, former Chairman of the legal committee of the Moscow Construction Workers’ Union and complemented by Max Ralis in the social survey of more than 5,000 Soviet citizens traveling abroad. Sufficient to mention, that the collective-farm workers (kolkhozniks) produce on their private patches of land (which in total constitute about 3 per cent of arable land in the country) more than 35 per cent (officially), perhaps even 50 per cent of the agricultural goods. Apparently, it is impossible to separate the “black” economy from the socialist one, let alone to destroy it. It comes as no surprise that the party apparatus and such prominent leaders as a member of the ruling Politburo Grishin (possible heir to Brezhnev) are deeply involved in illegal dealings. The only difference between him and a worker stealing from his factory is that the former will not be imprisoned for it.
The mixture of legal and illegal, official and unofficial in the Soviet economy renders official statistics unreliable and makes theoretical interpretation difficult. An example of it is a concept of “backward slope” introduced by Professor Wiles into his otherwise brilliant analysis of the Soviet wage and income policies. The increase of earning per hour cannot in Soviet conditions reduce the number of working hours, since the working day as well as the daily norm of production (together with the payment) are fixed from above. On the other hand, the illegally achieved “inequality” always was a powerful incentive to fulfill the plan. For instance, the usual practice is to slow down production in order at the end of a year to extort an overtime payment from the management responsible for the plan. In any case the growth rate of productivity is fixed by Gosplan as well.
Alas, so far nobody has managed to put into plausible theory the jungle of the Soviet economy, including even its creators. The most important feature of the book is the factual information it provides us with.
A Revolution Without a Leader
Vladimir Bukovsky reviews Michael Ledeen’s book Freedom Betrayed
The Wall Street Journal
March 17, 1997
Despite the triumphalist rhetoric we now hear in the wake of the Cold War, the story of American foreign policy in the past 35 years can be seen as a catalog of inconsistencies, illusions and wishful thinking passed off as doctrines. In "Freedom Betrayed", Michael Ledeen plots the course of U.S. foreign policy, especially the blunders of recent years. But "Freedom Betrayed" is not a book of lamentations. It is a book of analysis and vision: the sober analysis of a scholar and the vision of an incorrigible optimist, a true believer in traditional American values.
To be sure, an astute analyst cannot fail to notice a certain schizophrenia in the American attitude toward the world. "The boiling blood of Paine and Jefferson is as much a part of our national body and soul as the isolationist warnings of Washington," writes Mr. Ledeen. "We do not wish to be part of the outside world, but we do wish to change it, to democratize it, to make it more like us.”
Hence recent disasters: from the unfinished business of Desert Storm to the Somalia fiasco to timidity in Bosnia and the betrayal of human rights in China. The effect of such policy failures--and there are many more--is to damage U.S. interests abroad by presenting Americans, to friend and foe alike, as unreliable allies, quitters and pushovers, unable to stand up to petty tyrants and hostile regimes.
As a friend explained to me long ago, Americans are more than willing to contribute to a good cause abroad, but they cannot commit themselves to it. The difference, he said, can be seen in a simple breakfast of bacon and eggs: The chicken "contributed"; the pig was "committed." Bearing in mind the U.S. noncommittals of recent years, one would think there is not much ground for optimism. Yet, argues Mr. Ledeen, the U.S. has no choice but to lead the global forces of democracy, because it represents "the most successful experiment in human freedom.”
At first, the central concept of Mr. Ledeen's book — that a Second Democratic Revolution is raging in the world, inspired by the American example--seems debatable. It is true that, starting with Portugal and Spain, spreading to Latin America and South Africa, and culminating in the collapse of the Soviet Empire, there was a chain of events turning more nations to democracy in 20 years than in the whole history of mankind. But is it a single process or a mere chronological coincidence? Was it really inspired by America?
After all, as Mr. Ledeen himself admits, the U.S. has often supported the wrong side in the struggle over the fate of nations, in a misguided belief that it was supporting "stability"--which, given the dynamics of transition, often landed it on the side of the status quo. The most striking example of this was the Bush administration's pathetic effort to preserve the Soviet Union by favoring Mikhail Gorbachev over his democratic opponents.
While I am still hard-pressed to find much in common between the end of apartheid in South Africa and the sweeping conservative victory in the 1994 U.S. congressional elections, I have to admit that the case for a global democratic revolution as a single process is well-argued by Mr. Ledeen. "The single message that runs from Moscow to Mexico and from Warsaw to Washington is that the people believe in themselves," he writes. "The people . . . do not believe that the politicians or the intellectuals are better decision-makers than they are, and so they see no reason to give more and more money to government." These are not mere populist whims, he notes, but principled positions forming "an integral part of the revolutionary movement for greater individual freedom and political democracy, and its slogans go back to the origins of the American Republic.”
Alas, the message has not been accepted by the Western political classes. Despite the brave efforts by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, which inspired million across the world, succeeding Western leaders have tried their best to dam up this revolutionary tidal wave--partly because they lack "the vision thing" (e.g., George Bush and John Major), partly because they are ideologically hostile to an activist pro-democratic foreign policy (e.g., Bill Clinton). And of course ruling elites everywhere feel threatened by the anti-elite implications of the democratic revolution. Whatever the reason, freedom has been betrayed.
"It remains to be seen," Mr. Ledeen writes, "if Americans can recapture their faith in their revolutionary values and rally to the side of struggling democracies world-wide." Assuming they can, he offers a 10-point "Contract With the World" that includes constructing a missile defense system, keeping advanced technology from rogue nations and challenging "friendly tyrants" in the name of freedom. If anyone really wants to build a bridge to the 21st century, Mr. Ledeen's "Contract" is a good place to start.
Vladimir Bukovsky reviews Anne Applebaum’s GULAG: A History of the Soviet Camps
The Times, May 11, 2003.
Anyone who writes a history of the Gulag after Solzhenitsyn must have a special reason — beyond a simple interest in historical detail — before taking on such a monumental task. It is true, of course, that at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, when Solzhenitsyn was writing his famous book, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956, he had no access to the documents that are now available, and political repression was still continuing, albeit on a much smaller scale than it had under Stalin. The saga of the Gulag was far from over, and nobody could predict how it would end. Solzhenitsyn’s task, therefore, was that of a memoirist rather than that of a historian, while his approach was that of an eyewitness to crimes against humanity.
In contrast, Anne Applebaum’s book is a fully documented study of this monstrosity, including its post mortem. It is the first such undertaking by a Western writer with no personal experience as an inmate of the camps. It is a truly impressive achievement, bearing in mind the sheer amount of work it required and the number of trips the author had to make to Russia. We all should be grateful to her, including Solzhenitsyn himself.
Applebaum makes us follow, step by step, the evolutionary path of this system of mass extermination as it emerged from the Marxist utopia on the one hand, and the brutality of civil war between 1918 and 1921 on the other. She demonstrates how the general failure of the socialist experiment in Russia by the end of the 1930s slowly altered the goals of the Gulag from its rather idealistic intention of “re-educating” political opponents and hardcore criminals, to a cynical exploitation of slave labour leading to its ultimate dehumanisation when human life became cheaper than a piece of bread. Finally, we are able to see the last stages of this drama when the ossified, stagnating regime under Brezhnev was already unable to cope with growing public resistance. In short, this is a history of the Gulag from its beginning to the end. Or, rather, the history of the Soviet system, because they are inseparable.
The last thing one can say after reading Applebaum’s Gulag, however, is that it has been written by a dispassionate academic treating the subject as something quite remote from his or her personal life. On the contrary, her book is full of emotion and reads easily. But, if in Solzhenitsyn’s voice we hear anger, even fury, the predominant emotion here is sadness. And shame. Indeed, after all the crimes, trials and revelations of the past century, perhaps the bloodiest in the history of mankind, the Gulag remains in our collective conscience as an unhealed wound. We still don’t know precisely how many people fell victim to political repression under communism in the former Soviet Union (let alone in the world). Some estimate it as 40m, others as 60m (perhaps 100m globally as guesstimated by the French scholars in The Black Book of Communism). Unlike Nazism, communism has never been put on trial, never been condemned unequivocally by any international body.
As a result, we live in a time of double standards, which we have become so used to that we don’t even notice the most ridiculous manifestations of this moral schizophrenia. When in some British town a BNP member wins a seat on the council, it is an international scandal. But at the same time, communists have quietly returned to power in the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland (and even Berlin) without anyone in the West being particularly alarmed.
And when, going down the street in Cambridge, I see young people sporting the hammer and sickle on their t-shirts, I, like Applebaum, feel sad.
Meanwhile, hordes of former Soviet apologists and fellow-travellers, without the slightest regret for their past, are back in the streets teaching us how to conduct foreign policy. Many of them have become quite respectable, have been elected to parliaments and become ministers. And not one of them has ever admitted their past mistakes. On the contrary, some still shamelessly defend their behaviour, while others rewrite history claiming that the cold war was “one of the most unnecessary conflicts of all time”.
And we don’t even dare to point them out publicly, lest we are accused of “witch hunting”. As Applebaum writes: “Already, we are forgetting what it was that mobilised us, what inspired us, what held the civilisation of ‘the West’ together for so long: we are forgetting what it was that we were fighting against. If we do not try harder to remember the history of the other half of the European continent, the history of the other 20th-century totalitarian regime, in the end it is we in the West who will not understand our past, we who will not know how our world came to be the way it is.
“The more we are able to understand how different societies have transformed their neighbours and fellow citizens from people into objects, the more we know of the specific circumstances which led to each episode of mass torture and mass murder, the better we will understand the darker side of our own human nature. This book was not written ‘so that it will not happen again’, as the cliché would have it. This book was written because it almost certainly will happen again. Totalitarian philosophies have had, and will continue to have, a profound appeal to many millions of people. Destruction of the ‘objective enemy’, as Hannah Arendt once put it, remains a fundamental object of many dictatorships. We need to know why — and each story, each memoir, each document in the history of the Gulag is a piece of the puzzle, a part of the explanation.
Without them, we will wake up one day and realise that we do not know who we are”.
I can only agree with this conclusion, and confirm that the “darker side” of our human nature is remarkably similar in all nations. The craving for utopia, the need to create one’s enemies and then to destroy them is as common in the West as it is in the East.
And what particular form the new gulags might take, what new “crimes” our utopians will crusade against, be they political incorrectness, or a new European crime of “xenophobia”, is not so important. The ghost of the Gulag is still wandering among us, and Applebaum’s book is a first attempt to exorcise it.