SOVIET HISTORY LESSONS
VLADIMIR BUKOVSKY ON NVC RADIO,
Leon Weinstein of Chicago-based NVC radio talks to Vladimir Bukovsky.
Leon Weinstein: I have received the English language proofs of Vladimir Bukovsky's book Judgement in Moscow and immediately wanted to get in touch with Vladimir Konstantinovich because this book's destiny is completely amazing. And the amazing part is the American part, not the Russian part. The publishing house was supposed to publish this book in the USA. I understand that it has already been published in other languages and sold well. But the publisher refused to publish the book because you refused to agree to his edits. Tell us about what happened. What edits did they demand and why didn't you agree to them?
Vladimir Bukovsky: Part of my correspondence with the editor is included into the first chapter of the final version of the Judgement in Moscow. Those who are curious can look it up and see what happened. In essence, they demanded that I re-write the entire book from the point of view of a left-leaning liberal. For example, I write that such-and-such publications contracted with the Soviets to publish articles about the Soviet Union under the supervision of the Soviet side...
Leon Weinstein: Oh, is this how it went?
Vladimir Bukovsky: This is how it went. Everything is documented: all the agreements, all the archive data. All of this can be looked up. Or, for example, various firms that contracted with them on extremely ideological principles, etc. So the publisher demanded that I delete all of this. Yep. We corresponded by fax back and forth for a long time. In the end I replied to him that "Due to some particulars of my biography, I am allergic to political censorship, so I can't do what you are asking me to do." So he rescinded the contract. But the contract was substantial.
Leon Weinstein: I get it.
Vladimir Bukovsky: This slowed me down tremendously. I was forced to spend a long time looking for a new publisher. As you know, publishing is a small world, and if one publisher rescinds a contract, others grow circumspect. Finally I have found a small family publisher in the UK -- John Murray. They don't exist any more, but at the time they did. They were a very proud family publishing firm. They were proud of the fact that at one time they were Byron's publishers. So they bought the rights to my book. Then a group of lawyers paid them a visit -- the fact which they didn't hide, I later received all this information -- and told them, "If you publish this book, we will put you out of business. You will be sued endlessly. Endlessly. You are a family publishing firm, you don't have much money, and you will not hold out." And they did not hold out. They gave in. They rescinded the contract. For this reason I couldn't publish this book for a very long time in English. It was published in French, in Italian, and in German, and in Polish, and in Romanian, not even mentioning Russia where this book was published immediately. And nobody even dreamed of stopping its publication. Nobody sued me in any of these countries. It is clear that there were no grounds for suing. But the English-language publishing houses kept silence and didn't dare to take on this book.
Finally, a group of enthusiasts in America, who are not quite professionals of this field, decided to publish this book in English using their own resources, investing their own labor. All this is being done with a grassroots effort. And the translator who translated this book from Russian, and the people who worked on footnotes and searched for references, and the editors -- all these people worked for free. This is pure enthusiasm. They understand that this book must exist and that people have to read it, so they put in effort. So, kudos to them and let us praise them.
Leon Weinstein: Of course! Absolutely! However, your other books were published in English, is that right?
Vladimir Bukovsky: Yes, of course. My first book became a bestseller in several countries.
Leon Weinstein: So this specific work contained precise, clear, and indisputable facts and documents. The only thing which could be feigned would be to accuse you of lying, to say that you wrote all those documents yourself, then you scanned them, or obtained them from a very different place from the one that you allege. Right? But it's unlikely that anyone would pick this kind of fight with you.
Vladimir Bukovsky: That would have been futile. There indeed was a court case in the Constitutional Court in Moscow. I insisted for the majority of these documents to be included as exhibits in the case which was heard by the Constitutional Court. So these documents are official exhibits. You can go to the Constitutional Court, take the file, and read it.
Leon Weinstein: I understand. Great. This is very good because in case there are any law suits related to this matter in the future, this will bar any opportunities to sue.
Vladimir Bukovsky: Of course.
Leon Weinstein: But nevertheless, why? Were there any well-known figures who interacted with the KGB, or with the Political Bureau, or the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union? Were there any famous Americans who wouldn't want to have their names mentioned in such a condemnatory book?
Vladimir Bukovsky: Of course. The left-leaning establishment, including artistic circles, all fell for it willingly and became approachable to the Soviets. They thought this was their way of securing peace on earth. There was a certain Cyrus Vance, who later became a member of the Palme Commission in Sweden. And those were the people who engaged in justification of the Soviet foreign policy, which I have a lot of details on in my documents. At one point Cyrus Vance and a number of other leftwing public figures came up to Arbatov who was the Soviet member of this Commission and told him, "Look, do not use such blatant Soviet phrasing in the Commission's written decisions. It is very painful for us to have decisions written in Soviet verbiage. At least change the phrasing." This is the kind of document that I have.
Leon Weinstein: Cyrus Vance is quite well-known here. And what about contemporary Hollywood personalities?
Vladimir Bukovsky: Well, I have a document which shows how in 1979 Francis Ford Coppola -- having been asked by President Carter -- suggests to the Soviet Cinematography Committee to make a documentary about disarmament. And the Soviet side agrees, but only under the condition that they would have full control. In the end this film was never made. The invasion of Afghanistan happened and all relations went to hell. But they were ready to cooperate.
Leon Weinstein: This is amazing. I always thought that Carter held anti-Soviet views. And now you are dissipating this illusion. My god! To collaborate on a film about disarmament and to surrender control over the final product! My background is in cinema, so I know what this means.
Vladimir Bukovsky: Yes.
Leon Weinstein: I found out from your book that when there was a discussion about whether to open the KGB archives and whether to put the KGB and the communist party on trail for their crimes (a kind of Nuremberg process), Western leaders wrote to Yeltsin asking him not to do this. Which sounds utterly unbelievable. Because this is the only measure which could have prevented the return of the KGB and the return of the same establishment. Why didn't those leaders what to do the one thing which could have stopped this nightmare from returning? What were they afraid of?
Vladimir Bukovsky: I can only guess. I presume they were afraid that their role in these relationships -- and often these were secret relationships -- would become pubic knowledge. This would have left a big stain on their political careers and on their image, and so on. The French have recently made a documentary film on the topic of a Nuremberg-style process in Moscow. I provided them with all the contracts, and so forth, and they interviewed many people from Yeltsin's government. And here you can see the story of how we tried to force a Nuremberg-style process in Moscow, and how the idea got blocked by everyone, including the West. I assume the reasons were purely personal. Not to mention the fact that for the left none if it would have been beneficial. They did not want to see the crisis of communism in Moscow turn into a crisis of socialism in the West. Which they talk about bluntly. I have documents where they say directly that the crisis of socialism in Moscow can lead to the crisis of this idea in the West, which they saw as highly undesirable.
Leon Weinstein: So they were prepared to suffer the risk of Russia again becoming an aggressive fascist-type state in order to preserve the image of “socialism with a human face”, instead of admitting that socialism is bad in all of its manifestations and incarnations?
Vladimir Bukovsky: Without a doubt. I don't know to what extent they could foresee a possibility of the emergence of some kind of neo-bolshevism in Russia. This remains unclear. More likely, they were too stupid to come to such conclusion. But the fact that Russia as a country could perish as a result of its own refusal to move on and to purify itself -- that was understood by them. They didn't give a damn. They were prepared to let it perish, as long as the bright idea of socialism prevailed. Do you remember a famous 19th century poem?
Dear lords, if the world will not find
A path to truth in its holiest station
Let us honor the madman who will
Plunge humanity into golden slumber
Leon Weinstein: I did not know this poem, but it is great.
Vladimir Bukovsky: This is from Gorky's The Lower Depths.
Leon Weinstein: I know this play. I even once staged a part of it when I was a student.
Vladimir Bukovsky: Here you go.
Leon Weinstein: Tell me this. So the cold war finished, the Soviet Union collapsed. But was it really all over? Because today I have an impression that we have moved past the cold war phase and we are now entering something else. And who won from the collapse of the USSR?
Vladimir Bukovsky: These are exactly the questions I am asking in Judgement in Moscow which was written 25 years ago. Is the cold war over? And if so, who won? Show me. Explain it to me. Because I don't understand. I don't see it being over. I don't think it is over. It is not over for as long as we are failing to put communism on trial in Moscow. And this is the message of the book Judgement in Moscow.
Leon Weinstein: In the liberal “progressive" — as they like to call themselves — circles of the United States and Europe, there is an established opinion that Moscow supports the right wing. Or "fascists", as they call them, which means nationalists and the like. But I nevertheless have a feeling that they are leftwing-oriented. What do you think of this?
Vladimir Bukovsky: Well, yes. This is an old game invented by the Communist International (Comintern), a so-called dichotomy. They invented this game in the 1930s and it goes like this: If you are for Stalin, then you are against Hitler; and if you are for Hitler, then you are against Stalin. And they used this game to brainwash the world's population until very recently. And even now not everyone understands that this is a game, you see? And the game continues: Either you are for the "sodomites", or you are for Putin. And if you are against Putin, then you are for the "sodomites". [Laughs]. And so forth. This is a marvelous dichotomy where one can't lose. And as for anything beyond that, "tertium non datur" ("no third possibility is given"), as ancient Romans used to say. A third option does not fit into people’s brains.
Leon Weinstein: Those who live in Moscow and in Russia once used to call us, Americans, "yanks". Now they use a new word of abuse, which rhymes with "sodomites", and this word is "pindos".
Vladimir Bukovsky: Yes, yes. Yes.
Leon Weinstein: From my point of view, nazism (which is national socialism) and international socialism are two sides of the same coin. Or even the same side of one and the same coin. And unfortunately because of propaganda and because of ignorance...
Vladimir Bukovsky: The only person who -- as far as I can recall -- understood this was Margaret Thatcher who said that fascism was not a rightwing movement but a leftwing one, the same as bolshevism.
Leon Weinstein: Exactly. Another question. We are constantly told that Moscow doesn't like to see a united Europe. But you write that the entire idea was their invention. Why did they need to come up with this invention?
Vladimir Bukovsky: Well, you know, at that time they were hoping to save their system. Gorbachev — contrary to the opinion to the current Russian leadership — tried to save the Soviet system. And, by the way, went about it in a very sophisticated way. He spent a lot of effort and so forth on this. And one of the avenues for saving the Soviet Union was the invention of this sort of quasi-Soviet structure in Europe. This wasn't his invention, but when he was approached with this idea, he gave it his support. And at the end of 1980s it was vocalized as "our common European home". This was how they articulated it. He was hoping that it would stabilize him and would stabilize the Eastern bloc. Otherwise where would all these East European countries go to get away from the Soviet Union? They would go the European Union. Very well. And so they were hoping to come to an agreement with the EU leaders on this. And all this was designed to happen within the socialist framework. And this is how it was preconditioned in the European Union from the start. The other thing is that the need for all this began to disappear. Russia fell by the wayside, East European countries drifted each its own way. Some countries joined the European Union, some didn't. But in general the need for a bi-polar system that would keep the East European countries and Russia on a leash, disappeared.
Leon Weinstein: So initially the concept of a “European Home” presumed Russia's participation and they wanted to get a foothold there from the inside with the help of their socialist brothers and the to proceed to suck blood out of a big European entity?
Vladimir Bukovsky: Well, you know, they admit to it readily. For example, I have minutes of the negotiations between Mitterrand and Gorbachev where Mitterrand says plainly: "We need a strong Soviet Union in order to control everything located between Paris and Moscow." I simple idea. [Laughs].
Leon Weinstein: It's an astonishing idea.
Vladimir Bukovsky: I have it in black and white. I have this document.
Leon Weinstein: Yes. You know, during our short conversation I have heard amazing things from you. And I would like our listeners to find an opportunity to buy Judgement in Moscow, a book which astonished me and which I received as a PDF file from the publishing team which is in its final editing stage before publication. But in Russian this book came out in 1996 and one can look it up on the Internet. I highly recommend everyone to read Judgement in Moscow by Vladimir Bukovsky. It's an eye-opening book. After you read it, do pass it on to your friends.
Translated from Russian by Alissa Ordabai.