Totalitarian brotherhood in action…


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September 17, 1939: Every word in Vyacheslav Molotov’s infamous speech on that day was a shameless, blatant, egregious lie: “Events arising out of the Polish-German War have revealed the internal insolvency and obvious impotence of the Polish state. Polish ruling circles have suffered bankruptcy… Warsaw as the capital of the Polish state no longer exists. No one knows the whereabouts of the Polish Government. The population of Poland have been abandoned by their ill-starred leaders to their fate. The Polish State and its Government have virtually ceased to exist. In view of this state of affairs, treaties concluded between the Soviet Union and Poland have ceased to operate. A situation has arisen in Poland which demands of the Soviet Government special concern for the security of its State. Poland has become a fertile field for any accidental and unexpected contingency that may create a menace for the Soviet Union…Nor can it be demanded of the Soviet Government that it remain indifferent to the fate of its Blood Brothers, the Ukrainians and White Russians inhabiting Poland, who even formerly were nations without rights and who now have been utterly abandoned to their fate. The Soviet Government deems it its sacred duty to extend the hand of assistance to its brother Ukrainians and White Russians inhabiting Poland.” Extracts from Molotov’s broadcast speech on the Soviet invasion of Poland (17 September 1939) Mirovoe Khoziaistvo, 1939, 9, p. 13. In Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy. Volume I: 1917-1941. Jane Tabrisky Degras (ed.) 1953, Oxford University Press. Pages 374-5


Secolul lui Lenin…


The twentieth century was dominated by Lenin’s institutionalized inventions: vanguard party, agitation and propaganda (Agitprop), secret police (Cheka), censorship (Glavlit), central state planning (Gosplan), state controlled unions (Profsoyuz), Communist Youth Union (Komsomol), Communist International (Comintern), Political Bureau (Politburo), collective farms (kolkhoz), concentration camps (Gulag) etc The precondition for all these to operate was the moral blindness and the absolute commitment of the party cadres to the sacralized cause. Lenin’s officers were professional revolutionaries, they dedicated their lives to the Party 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…

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Soviet Grand Guignol


They were all burnt by the unsparingly cruel sun of the Revolution, the Piatnitskys, the Radeks, the Bukharins, the Yakirs, the Redenses and Svanidzes (Stalin’s in-laws), the Litvinovs, the Tukhachevskys, the Rakovskys, and countless others. Fully deserved congratulations to Berkeley historian Yury Slezkine for this formidable accomplishment! An apocryphal story claims that, during the Great Terror, the genialissimo generalissimo used to watch from his office in the Kremlin how the lights turned on and off in the House on the Embankment–the title of a semi-autobiographical novella by Yuri Trifonov. In a recent conversation, Stalin’s biographer Stephen Kotkin told me that this would have been physically impossible. But the vozhd definitely knew what was going on there, who was arrested, whatever happened to the families of those purged. In fact, not only was Koba in the know, but he was in full control, the utimate mastermind of the social cataclysm…

Many residents and their families were detained during Stalin’s terror in the late 1930s, such that the building was dryly referred to as “The House of Preliminary Detention.” (A play on the Russian initialism Допр, from the building’s original name: Дом прави́тельства.) Fully one third of residents disappeared during the terror. The building was in fact an immense mousetrap serving the vindictive appetite of the Black Cat…

Sheila Fitzpatrick in the London Review of Books: “Yuri Slezkine, a master stylist as well as a first-class historian, is the least predictable of scholars. Still, it comes as a surprise to find that the book he has now produced, after long gestation, is a Soviet War and Peace.”

Bulat Okudzhava: Song of the Black Cat (Песенка про чёрного кота)

He doesn’t demand, doesn’t ask,
only his yellow stare glows.
Every cat brings him his catches,
and thanks him besides.

He doesn’t utter a word,
he just eats and drinks.
His claws paw the dirty ground
like they would scratch your throat.

One does wonder why
it’s so gloomy in our block.
We should hang a lamp in the courtyard,
but no way to collect the money.

The ethics of memory


Born under this sign, I practice the ethics of memory. As Adam Michnik poignantly wrote: “Amnesty, yes; amnesia, no!”

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Image: Magnet from the Polin Museum, Warsaw

The Fate of Marxism in Russia


 Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov (1856-1918) was the patriarch of Russian Marxism. In 1917, he fiercely opposed the October Revolution. In 1922, his former disciple, Vladimir Lenin, wrote a paean to Plekhanov calling him the most influential Marxist of his lifetime. Yet, neither Lenin, nor Trotsky took seriously Plekhanov’s anguish regarding the birth of a totalitarian regime pretending to express the will of the proletariat. In 1924, Vagarshak Arutyunovich Ter-Vaganian (1893-1936) published a comprehensive biography, comprising almost 700 pages, specifically devoted to the development of Plekhanov’s socio-political views.

In 1920, Ter-Vaganian started to work at the Marx-Engels Institute , which was headed by one of the most authoritative scholars of the history of international social democracy and Marxism of his time—D. B. Ryazanov. Vaganian served as editor of the theoretical journal, “Under the Banner of Marxism.” Acknowledging the interest that Ter-Vaganian had shown for the works of Plekhanov, Ryazanov created a Plekhanov Department at the institute and employed Ter-Vaganian to prepare the 24-volume collected works of the founder of Russian Marxism. One intermediary result of the studies Ter-Vaganian undertook was his work “An Attempt at a Bibliography of G. V. Plekhanov,” which appeared in 1923. A new, expanded edition of this book was prepared in the early 1930s, but it was not published because, by that time, Stalin had adopted a hostile attitude toward Plekhanov. In 1936 Ter-Vaganian was among the defendants in the first Moscow Trial and was sentenced to death along with Zinoviev and Kamenev…

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Diavolul in Istorie: Lenin, Hitler si totalitarismul


Vladimir Ilici Ulianov, devenit Lenin, s-a născut la Simbirsk, in Imperiul Rus, pe 22 aprilie 1870. Adolf Schicklgruber, devenit Hitler, s-a născut la Braunau am Inn, in Imperiul Austro-Ungar, pe 20 aprilie 1889. Fără ei, milioane de oameni nu ar fi fost masacraţi. Tăcerea şi consimţământul, conformismul cel mai obedient şi răbdător, sunt însemnele inconfundabile ale zodiei totalitare. Timp în care diverşi inspectori ai sufletelor, servitorii dictaturilor concentraţionare, se pregătesc să mai adauge vreun cadavru etic pe lunga listă a oribilelor lor cuceriri. Dincolo de atâtea triste abdicări, rămâne însă certitudinea raţiunii ca substrat al speranţei, convingerea că solidaritatea, individuală şi socială, poate învinge noaptea totalitară.

Poate ca nimeni nu a afirmat mai limpede acest lucru decit Hannah Arendt in finalul “Originilor totalitarismului”: „But there remains also the truth that every end in history necessarily contains a new beginning; this beginning is the promise, the only ‚message’ which the end can ever produce. Beginning because it becomes a historical event, is the supreme capacity of man; politically, it is identical with man’s freedom. Initium ut esset homo creatus est—‚that a beginning be made man was created’ said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.” (Ramine totusi adevarul ca fiecare sfirsit in istorie contine in chip necesar un nou inceput; acest inceput este promisiunea, unicul ‚mesaj’ pe care il poate vreodata genera sfirsitul. Inceputul intrucit devine un eveniment istoric, este suprema capacitate a omului; se identifica cu libertatea umana. Initium ut esset homo creatus est­­–,pentru ca inceputul sa se produca a fost creat omul’ a spus-o Augustin. Acest inceput este garantat de fiecare noua nastere; el este de fapt fiecare om”.)


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Nevoia de adevăr

varRemember: “Ca șef al statului român, condamn explicit şi categoric sistemul comunist din România, de la înființarea sa, pe bază de dictat, în anii 1944-1947 şi până la prăbușire, în decembrie 1989. Luând act de realitățile prezentate în Raport, afirm cu deplină responsabilitate: Regimul comunist din România a fost ilegitim şi criminal. […] În numele statului român, îmi exprim regretul şi compasiunea pentru victimele dictaturii comuniste. În numele statului român, cer scuze celor care au suferit, familiilor lor, tuturor celor care, într-un fel sau altul, şi-au văzut destinele ruinate de abuzurile dictaturii”. (18 decembrie 2006)

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Imagine: Memorialul Victimelor Comunismului şi al Rezistenței, Sighet