American Thinker, 11/16/2020
Looking to Solzhenitsyn for clues about the present
Russian writer, historian, and political prisoner Alexander Solzhenitsyn was one of the most consequential men of the 20th century. He not only singlehandedly destroyed communism as an idea, but also had many things to say about the West which were greeted then about the way they’d be greeted by the Squad and progressives today. Yet they are worth revisiting in this turbulent era today.
Like many of us, Solzhenitsyn had been de facto silenced by the Western media and denounced as a nut for recounting the true history of the Bolshevik Revolution and its bloody aftermath as well as making warnings to the West.
Tom Wolfe, in his book “Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine” gave a good taste of the flavor of that time here:
Intellectuals in Europe and America were willing to forgive Solzhenitsyn a great deal. After all, he had been born and raised in the Soviet Union as a Marxist, he had fought in combat for his country, he was a great novelist, he had been in the camps for eight years, he had suffered. But for his insistence that the isms themselves led to the death camps — for this he was not likely to be forgiven soon. And in fact the campaign of antisepsis began soon after he was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974. (“He suffered too much — he’s crazy.” “He’s a Christian zealot with a Christ complex.” “He’s an agrarian reactionary.” “He’s an egotist and a publicity junkie.”)
Solzhenitsyn’s tour of the United States in 1975 was like an enormous funeral procession that no one wanted to see. The White House wanted no part of him. The New York Times sought to bury his two major’ speeches, and only the moral pressure of a lone Times writer, Hilton Kramer, brought them any appreciable coverage at all. The major television networks declined to run the Solzhenitsyn interview that created such a stir in England earlier this year (it ran on some of the educational channels).
And the literary world in general ignored him completely. In the huge unseen coffin that Solzhenitsyn towed behind him were not only the souls of the zeks who died in the Archipelago. No, the heartless bastard had also chucked in one of the last great visions: the intellectual as the Stainless Steel Socialist glistening against the bone heap of capitalism in its final, brutal, fascist phase. There was a bone heap, all right, and it was grisly beyond belief, but socialism had created it.
Ed Driscoll has much more on this here. Those were the times, weren’t they?
Except that they seem to be here again now.
I found two quotes from Solzhenitsyn himself that are worth reflecting on considering that America is steadily sliding away from its ancient system of self-governance.
Over half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia. “Men have forgotten God, that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spent well-nigh so years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were as possible the main course of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
–-Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”
― Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
For more commentaries on the words, wisdom, and warnings of Solzhenitsyn, read
- here (a survival manual for life in a gulag–or any slave camp–from Solzhenitsyn’s book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, based on Solzhenitsyn’s experience in one of the Soviet camps), and
- here (citing the author’s famous treatise Warning to the West)
Don’t be fooled, fellow Americans.