жить не по лжи

Solzhenitsyn once dedicated his life to the fight against the regime in which the state security machine made everyone feel an accomplice in turning the country into a prison camp. He has now become part of a society where the mass media are reduced to self-censoring impotence, Soviet style; dissident artists and writers are regularly beaten up; journalists who expose corruption and the abuses of centralized political power are murdered. And yet Solzhenitsyn is silent; silent even when his most cherished idea of saving Russia by strengthening the independence of local government, Swiss-style, was first ridiculed in the press and then trampled over by a presidential decree that reinstalled the central authority of the Kremlin over the whole of Russia. On the whole, Solzhenitsyn avoids public appearances these days and refrains from public utterances. And yet, he found the time and energy to express his approval of the recent cutting off of gas supplies to Ukraine for a discount price “because that country tramples over Russian culture and the Russian language and allows NATO military manoeuvres on its territory”. Oh well. My country, right or wrong.
Zinovy Zinik, Blue-collar Solzhenitsyn, The Times Literary Supplement, March 07, 2007

43 thoughts on “жить не по лжи”

  1. After the fall of communism Robert Conquest was asked for a catchy title for the second edition of The Great Terror. He told his American publisher: “How about I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?” That publication ended up being somewhat misleadingly captioned as The Great Terror: A Reassessment. How do you value Conquest’s numbers and motives, against those of Solzhenitsyn and NKVD?

    1. Conquest and Solzhentsin were guessing. The internal documents of NKVD provide actual numbers of the prison population of GULAG. It turns out that it was not very much higher, than the population of the present-day US prisons.

      1. How can the documents generated by a repressive agency of a party admittedly dedicated to the proposition that objective truth is nothing but a bourgeois trick, be counted upon to provide the actual numbers of anything whatsoever?

        1. > admittedly dedicated to the proposition that objective truth is nothing but
          > a bourgeois trick,

          I don’t think that’s accurate. There indeed was the proposition that the moral values are relative and always determined by the class interests. But the denial of objective truth would have been quite out of character for the avowed materialists and scientists. You must be confusing Vladimir Lenin and Vaclav Havel, both, admittedly, detestable characters each in his own way.

          Note also that we are talking about the higly secret internal documents.
          By the way, “Memorial” seems to be taking them seriously enough to link them from their web site, by which route I found them.

          1. Marxist theory emphatically denies the very possibility of impartial science independent of class interests. Marx defines the end of Communism as formation of the proletariat into a class, its overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, and its conquest of political power. He construes truth as whatever leads to the success of this world-historical mission. He recognizes no criterion of truth outside of political practice motivated by class interests. Both Lenin and Stalin follow him in this regard. This point is thoroughly documented and well understood and merits no reasonable disagreement. For its definitively farcical adumbration, you need only look to Étienne Balibar.

            1. Well, I may be unclear on this aspect of Marxism. But I do feel quite sure that, had NKVD ever tried to give Stalin in place of accurate and up-to-date figures something or other about the relative character of truth, they would have been set straight promptly, Marx or no Marx.

              The kind of numbers that Solzhenitsin and Conquest give are not like a needle in a haystack. Those alleged tens of millions of prisoners would have left a paper trail.

              1. You are unclear on a number of things. The NKVD never tried to give Stalin anything but reports founded on the class-oriented character of truth. In other words, they couched all of their accounting in Marxist-Leninist language, as did every other Party agency. Furthermore, there is no reason to conflate accounting they did give to their higher-ups, with the documents they produced, let alone the documents they released to the general public. By your evidentiary standard, Hitler could never be implicated in any aspect of systematic extermination of racial enemies of the Herrenvolk, given that no order to that effect was ever attributed to him.

                1. > The NKVD never tried to give Stalin anything but reports founded on the
                  > class-oriented character of truth.

                  While I can’t claim being there, I have my great doubts about that.

                  Once again, we are not talking about documents they released to the general public. It is manifestly impossible to transport,feed and clothe the vast numbers claimed by Conquest, without leaving significant evidence behind.

                  By the way, as you are quite aware, Сonquest is bitterly partisan. It would have been extremely foolish to trust his guesstimates over the declassified archive materials.

                  1. to simplify:

                    You would rather trust sweetly partisan secret policemen than bitterly partisan conservative academics. It all makes perfect sense now.

                    1. Re: to simplify:

                      Conquest is no stranger to the world of secret police himself, having worked for the propaganda arm of the British intelligence.

                      Internal statistics of a secret police have to be non-partisan for practical reasons. I can’t really imagine that anyone can genuinely believe that Conquest’s work, based on hearsay and estimates, is more credible than the results of the actual archive research.

                    2. Re: to simplify:

                      You are confirming my synopsis. Practical reasons of secret police are a priori partisan, all the more so when it is a punitive branch of the Only Righteous Party. Your failure to extend your mistrust of British intelligence to their Soviet antagonists betokens the same bias.

                    3. Re: to simplify:

                      > Practical reasons of secret police are a priori partisan,

                      Not all of them. Having to feed, clothe and transport the prisoners is not partisan reason.

                      My mistrust extends equally to the propaganda departments of either service.

                    4. Re: to simplify:

                      Would you care to quantify your mistrust of British and Soviet law enforcement agencies? Start by comparing their protocol for feeding, clothing, and transporting their prisoners.

                    5. Re: to simplify:

                      That question could have been relevant, had the secret archives of NKVD, disclosed after the fall of the Soviet Union, been compared to the secret archives of the British intelligence, published after the collapse of the British state. But they hadn’t been, so it isn’t.

                    6. Re: to simplify:

                      The relevance of my question is to the degree of your commitment to state terror apologetics. Your refusal to answer it already establishes a baseline.

                    7. Re: to simplify:

                      I am sure that your persistent unwillinglness to acknowledge the difference beteween public propaganda and classified archives says something about your commitment to the truth, as opposed to politically expedient rhetoric.

                    8. Re: to simplify:

                      Doubtless there is a difference between lies dished out to the general public and lies served up to the nomenklatura. If that gap is deep enough to bury your conscience, so be it.

                    9. Re: to simplify:

                      If you had to choose between lying to others and lying to yourself, which would it be? Never mind, you already made your choice.

                    10. Re: to simplify:

                      Yes, the choice is “neither”.

                      Returning to the subject at hand, you seem to be unaware, that publicist Conquest is vigorously criticised by the scholars of history such as Wheatcroft, Davies and J.Arch Getty. His is the minority and rather extreme position. And here, you can enjoy the spectacle of Conquest vigorously backpedalling from the estimates he publicised in “The Great Terror” and elsewhere in the 60-70s. Contrast that to your “I told you so” anecdote.

                    11. Re: to simplify:

                      You really aren’t getting it. The choice of neither is ruled out by the hypothesis. You are not merely refusing to answer the question, but doing it in a particularly bitchy fashion.

                      If Conquest retracts his estimates, his response betokens honesty that you’ve yet to evince in these tortuous Stalinist apologetics. “NKVD tells the truth. More news at 11.”

                    12. Re: to simplify:

                      It is not apology of Stalin to maintain that the secret internal Gulag statistics was accurate, or that the trains of cattle cars run on time and the supply of barbed wire was adequate. That idea should not be so hard to grasp.

                      Conquest’s grudging retraction is incompatible with his claims that post-Soviet published archives vindicate his estimates (“I told you so”).

                      The answer to the question is still “neither”. Don’t burst a blood vessel, please, it would deprive the world of the proposed great scheme to get paid for ЖеЖе comments.

                    13. Re: to simplify:

                      Any set of Soviet penological statistics that fails to account for catastrophic losses of life in the purges and forced labor is Stalinist apologetics. Likewise any attempt to postulate judicial equivalence between Russia and the U.S.A. Your vexation by Conquest adds spice to the mix.

                      My original question was: “If you had to choose between lying to others and lying to yourself, which would it be?” A man would answer “the former” or “the latter”. Any other answer betokens a bitch.

                    14. Re: to simplify:

                      > Any set of Soviet penological statistics that fails to account for
                      > catastrophic losses of life in the purges and forced labor is Stalinist
                      > apologetics.

                      The Conquest’s numbers are still widely off after those losses are accounted for.

                      > Likewise any attempt to postulate judicial equivalence between
                      > Russia and the U.S.A. Your vexation by Conquest adds spice to the mix.

                      I smell the charge of moral equivalence here. That dreadful fallacy of applying the same standards to the US that it likes to apply elsewhere ! So it appears, that you are unhappy about “Stalinism”, because you follow the conservative political correctness of poignantly Leninist sort.

                      Всякую такую нравственность, взятую из внечеловеческого, внеклассового понятия, мы отрицаем. Мы говорим, что это обман, что это надувательство и забивание умов рабочих и крестьян в интересах помещиков и капиталистов.

                      Мы говорим, что наша нравственность подчинена вполне интересам классовой борьбы пролетариата. Наша нравственность выводится из интересов классовой борьбы пролетариата.

                      > My original question was: “If you had to choose between lying to others
                      > and lying to yourself, which would it be?” A man would answer “the
                      > former” or “the latter”. Any other answer betokens a bitch.

                      Have you stopped beating the members of your household and sexually assaulting your dogs ? Be a man, answer “yes” or “no”.

                    15. Re: to simplify:

                      You are failing to distinguish between applying the same standards and concocting indistinguishable outcomes. Likewise, you are ignoring the difference between posing a hypothetical dilemma and imputing a nonexistent transgression. As before, your knee jerks to the tune of bitchy logic.

                    16. Re: to simplify:

                      There is nothing “concocted” about comparing the prison populations. This measure is, to be sure, incomplete, yet it is still a measure. You are clearly unhappy about the fact the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave incarcerates roughly as many of its citizens as the Stalin’s Soviet Union.

                    17. Re: to simplify:

                      That would have been an accurate comparison, had I contrasted favorably Russian incarceration rate to the American one. In fact, I am dismayed by how close Russia is to the USA in that respect. This is a part of the unfortunate trend – the spread of dreary Americanism.

                    18. Re: to simplify:

                      You are far too modest. Russia is way ahead of the United States in key social indicators. For instance, whereas American men are closing the life expectancy gap that once approached eight years, lasting just five years less, on average, than their women, Russian studs beat all European competition by drinking themselves under ground at 58.8 years, over 13 years sooner than their womenfolk. Whereas American economic freedom is only trumped by Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia, Russia trails Ethiopia, Cameroon, Lesotho, and China, with a complementary disparity in relative perceptions of corruption. Most tellingly, whereas it takes money to succeed in American politics, Russian politicians take big money out of their system. In other words, your touching concern about the spread of dreary Americanism in the homeland of bublichki and balalaikas is a kvetching counterpart to niggers always wanting credit for some shit they’re supposed to do.

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