Solzhenitsyn’s epic history of the Soviet Union’s war against its own people is a crippling experience for the reader. The first ninety pages are a seemingly endless list of purges that went on from 1917 to well into the 1950’s. The scope, the strategies and the tactics that were used to terrorize, imprison, torture and mostly murder these poor human beings is almost beyond comprehension. In Solzhenitsyn’s own words “If I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible what was the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men had forgotten God; that is why all this has happened.’”
To try and understand how a government of men would choose to decimate and more than decimate its own people is very difficult. But it is telling that in every society where radical socialism has taken hold it follows the same pattern and causes monstrous suffering. Because this same ideology is now loose in our own society, I thought it would be useful to select specific details from the Gulag Archipelago and elaborate on how they relate to our time and place.
I’ll start off the series with the concept of show trials. Among the many purges there was a period when a decision was made to go after engineers. They were selected because previously they had been given a certain immunity due to their usefulness. Because of the backwardness of pre-revolutionary Russia and because of the agricultural disruptions that occurred due to the collectivization of the farmlands, having men who could manufacture and repair and improve modern equipment like tractors and automobiles was quite important. Sending them to the gulag was quite counterproductive. But at a certain point logic ceased to be strong enough to prevent the next victim group from being fed into the maw of the meat grinder.
And it was quite easy to incriminate engineers. By definition they were intellectuals, a classic category of counter-revolutionaries. Also, most of them had studied at the universities during the czarist period so there were all kinds of associations and attachments to people and organizations that had already been condemned and consumed in the earlier purges.
But the technique that the authorities wanted to most use was to find someone innocent of any real crimes and tell him that if he would denounce himself and all his fellows of some absurdly improbable crime in a public exhibition then he would get a lighter sentence. And so, we got the show trial.
At the trial the accused had to go through the full histrionics of denouncing himself and confess to all his crimes and accuse all of his co-conspirators. In the best case all of the other equally innocent men would also confess to their inhuman crimes against the collective. And finally, they would finish off by demanding their own deaths as the only fitting punishment for their atrocious crimes. And ironically, despite the assurances that they had received of a lighter sentence, often death was awarded to them. But either way this theater of the perverse was conducted and make-believe crimes were punished and more fodder was fed into the killing machine.
Amusingly, these trials came to an end when during the show trial against the ceramic industry the defendants as a body decided at the last minute to deny all charges. And since the prosecution had no actual evidence to produce against them at this very public trial, they were exonerated. It just goes to show sometimes courage is rewarded.
Currently, examples of show trials in our country are only the thinnest of ghosts of what the Stalinist regime could perpetrate. A recent example is New York Times science writer Donald McNeil Jr. He was denounced for the use of the black ethnic slur that shall not be repeated unless you are black. He was on a trip with students in Peru, for some reason, and one of his students finked out another of the students for having used the black ethnic slur that shall not be repeated unless you are black (tbestsnbruyab). When McNeil said tbestsnbruyab in the context of condemning the use of tbestsnbruyab he was reported by those present of using tbestsnbruyab. He was condemned by his colleagues and the incident was forgotten. But two years later the retroactive punishment for this offense became capitol and his colleagues demanded his firing. And being the good progressive that he is, he made a statement applauding his professional lynching. Now admittedly this is poor stuff compared to shipping him off to a labor camp or putting a bullet in his brain. But it’s a rousing start when it occurs in the so-called land of free speech.
I expect there will be other examples of looney lefties denouncing themselves. And I think we’ll also see that after the fact they’ll be heard caterwauling at the gates of the Emerald City claiming that they weren’t given a chance afterward to be re-educated and rehabilitated. But it’s a funny thing. Once you’ve been cast out into that void it’s really hard to get the “good” people to take your calls. Contamination from bad thinking is much scarier than COVID. They’re going to have to get back to you sometime in the future. And that future sure isn’t tomorrow and chances are it’s never.
So, as you can see, we are only at the very beginning of the great revolution that the Russians perfected. But I will continue this series and I’m sure we’ll use our Yankee ingenuity to innovate and who knows even show the masters a thing or two. So, stay tuned comrades.