August 11, 2008


Solzhenitsyn opened my eyes
(Phillip Adams, August 12, 2008, The Ausralian)

I was a teenage communist. Australian commos were reluctant to hear the truth about Joseph Stalin. We preferred to see him as the heroic figure who defeated Adolf Hitler, far more important in the war against fascism than Winston Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt. We romanticised Uncle Joe, as Australian soldiers called him, and grieved for the sufferings of the Russian people. Hitler's war machine had destroyed 10,000 villages and all but crushed Stalingrad and Leningrad. The sufferings of the Soviet people were epic. Millions dead. And we didn't want to know about the sufferings they endured because of Stalin.

But when Nikita Khrushchev denounced his former patron, the truth, the horror, could no longer be denied. That truth would destroy the communist parties in the West, though some comrades kept the foolish faith until after Moscow crushed the Hungarian revolution or sent the tanks to roll over the Prague Spring.

There were, therefore, mixed feelings about the sainted Solzhenitsyn when he published his first accounts of the gulag under the patronage of Khrushchev during a brief Moscow spring. But as the terrible stories were revealed in book after book, with Solzhenitsyn winning the Nobel Prize and the second prize of exile in the US, no one had any excuse to romanticise Stalinism. Yes, many of the very old in Russia and younger ultra-nationalists remain devoted to Stalin's memory. But thanks to the courage of writers such as Solzhenitsyn the world knows that he was as great a brute as Hitler.

...but you can always tell the unreconstructed old communists by their continuing reverence and excuse-making for Stalin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2008 2:56 PM
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