A Light, Shining in Darkness
Alexandra Popoff, Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019, pp. ix-xi + pp. 1-326 + notes, photos, bibliography, index, ISBN 978-0-300-22278-4, reviewed by Frank Ellis
I begin with the Soviet century. In 1917, a gang of ideological fanatics seized power in Russia. They then proceeded to conduct an experiment affecting millions of people not just in Russia but throughout the world. The apparent aim of this experiment was to create something akin to paradise on earth. To this end, the owners of factories, banks and other private assets were dispossessed and their property now managed by the state in the name of the people and for the good of the people. All manifestations of inequality – racial, economic and political – were abolished (just like that), and henceforth, all forms of racial and ethnic prejudice, especially Great Russian chauvinism, were declared to be anti-Soviet and punishable. In the new classless society, one free of any racial and class antagonisms, wars would cease and a new age of unimaginable peace and prosperity would ensue. The very existence and success of this society would inspire the workers of the world to take up arms against their capitalist oppressors.
Inequalities in wealth, intellectual achievement and status are natural, arising when people are left to their own lawful devices. In order to eradicate these naturally occurring inequalities, the terror apparatus of the Soviet state had constantly to intervene in people’s lives. The results of this experiment were not class solidarity, liberty, prosperity and equality but terror, genocide and economic collapse. By 1939, Stalin, Lenin’s successor, had created the world’s first totalitarian state: liberty enslaved; equality in squalor; and loneliness in grief and suffering. In 2020, many academics and politicians in the West and in the Russian Federation, do not wish to be reminded that contrary to Hollywood and our universities, the period from 1917 to 1991, more accurately, the Communist Century, was a catastrophe for the planet (and since 1991, the ideological fallout has mutated into something worse). Continue reading