“A civilization reveals itself as fruitful by its ability to incite others to imitate it: when it no longer dazzles them it is reduced to a mere collection of odds and ends and vestiges of former worldly greatness. The successive attempts of Napoleon and Hitler to create a world empire failed, as the United States of North America has failed in our time because any initial attraction they might have exerted on the conquered transformed into resistance and hate as a result of their genocidal policies or military occupation and/or exploitation of the resources of the conquered lands instead of gradual absorption and acceptance of different peoples and the furthering of local cultures.” (Paraphrased from Cioran’s Histoire et Utopie)
In addition to all of the propaganda pieces that anti-communists use to legitimize their position, they often utilize a more general rhetorical tool, which is the denunciations of communism that have come from two of the last century’s most prominent intellectuals: George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens. These figures maintain large cult followings and are widely seen as moral authorities for their crusades against civilization’s evil and hypocritical aspects, which for Orwell was a crusade against totalitarianism and for Hitchens was a crusade against organized religion. Yet the cultural and ideological makeup of both of these men caused them to infuse their works with the anti-communist agenda, and to give this agenda’s followers the sense that they’re righteous upholders of honesty and virtue.
by Shaun Harkin
September 2, 2010
Leon Trotsky’s life spanned the inspiring highs and tragic lows of the international socialist movement in the 20th century–a leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution that gave us our first and best glimpse of a workers’ state, and the victim of the Stalinist counter-revolution, assassinated 70 years ago in August. Shaun Harkin pays tribute to Trotsky and his immense contributions to the revolutionary tradition.
For 43 years of my conscious life, I have remained a revolutionist; for 42 of them, I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again, I would, of course, try to avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged. I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent; indeed, it is firmer today than it was in the days of my youth.
Relatively new (2008) book by Jonathan Brent, professor at Yale, and leader of the Yale University project to publish declassified materials from the Soviet era archives.
Book is well worth a read. Brent started the Yale project in 1992, and managed to make it work despite many obstacles in both Moscow and New Haven. Brent started off as Yale’s emissary to Russia and Russian scholars and scholarship and as time went on he equally or better became their emissary to Yale, as his involvement with the project, and involvement with Russia deepened. Autobiographical account of his life in Russia from ’92 to 2007, and a valuable firsthand account of the changes in daily life in Russia during this period of great upheaval. Brent’s own interest is Stalin, and his attempts to understand him are a most worthwhile part of the book. Probably comes closer to explaining Stalin than anyone, certainly any non-Russian, ever did.
August 21, 2008
“I regard class differences as contrary to Justice.” (Albert Einstein in a personal statement of his credo.)
“The Russians have proved that their only aim is really the improvement of the lot of the Russian people.” (Albert Einstein in his 1934 refusal to sign a petition condemning Stalin’s murder of political prisoners.)
“Any government is evil if it carries within it the tendency to deteriorate into tyranny. The danger … is more acute in a country in which the government has authority not only over the armed forces but also over every channel of education and information as well as over the existence of every single citizen.” (Albert Einstein in a speech to Russian scientists in support of democratic socialist ideals and criticism of untrammeled capitalism.)