Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Eric Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century - A review by Dr. Frank Ellis

Eric Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century, Profile Books, London, 2010, pp. xxii + pp.269 + Notes & Index, ISBN 978 1 84668 144 8

The purpose of the whole evolution of a nation, in every people and at every period of its existence, is solely the pursuit of God, their God, their very own God, and faith in Him as in the only true one. God is the synthetic personality of the whole people, taken from its beginning to its end. It has never happened that all or many peoples should have one common God, but every people has always had its own special one […] If a great people does not believe that truth resides in it alone (in itself alone and in it exclusively), if it does not believe that it alone is able and has been chosen to raise up and save everything by its own truth, it is at once transformed into ethnographical material, and not into a great people.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Devils (1871-1872)

© Frank Ellis 2011

The main theme of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? consists in the empirical fact that the religious are having more children than the non-religious, the secular, and that, if this trend continues, the religious shall inherit the Earth. To quote Kaufmann: ‘Simply put, this book argues that religious fundamentalists are on course to take over the world through demography’.1 All the religious groups studied by him – Christians, Amish, Jews and Muslims – are having large families demonstrating an immunity to the temptations of secularism. In Israel, the rise of the ultra-Orthodox or Haredim is a remarkable and moving story in view of the fact that so many perished in the Holocaust. Kaufmann also reports that the Amish, a very impressive religious denomination, members of whom this reviewer has had the privilege to meet, are also thriving.

According to Kaufmann, ‘The most visible aspect of today’s demographic revolution is the changing ethnic composition of Western populations’.2 This is certainly a revolution: more accurately it is an invasion. Kaufmann’s use of ‘Western populations’ as in - ‘the changing ethnic composition of Western populations’ - is misleading since it implicitly accepts millions of Somalis, Arabs and Sub-Saharan Africans who have entered the states of Western Europe legally or in most cases illegally as belonging to Western populations. In any political, economic, cultural, racial, religious, intellectual and moral context Somalis and Arabs are not part of Western populations even if they live in Western states. Indeed, how can they be part of Western populations, when courtesy of Western taxpayers – the secular infidels whom they despise as the godless ones - they live in parallel worlds so as to isolate themselves from the white indigenous population?

At every opportunity in this book Kaufmann attempts to deny whites their natural and legal status as the rightful owners of their lands. For example, he goes out of his way to avoid using ‘indigenous’ when talking about Britain and uses ‘native’.3 Another evasion is ‘dominant majorities’4 or ‘dominant group’5 instead of indigenous. The use of ‘dominant’ obscures and denies the fact that whites are dominant not because they have suppressed blacks in Europe but because Europe is the land which in evolutionary and historical terms created whites. Europe is white not black. The use of ‘dominant majority’ also implicitly concedes that if whites are replaced as the ‘dominant majority’ a new non-white ‘dominant majority’ will emerge and whites will have to accept it. If in this scenario ‘dominant majority’ is replaced with ‘indigenous population’ the notion that the ‘indigenous population’ should just accept this fact is revealed for what it is: the racial, cultural and physical dispossession of the indigenous population. To allay the fears of the white indigenous population Kaufmann tells us that the Normans fitted in and adapted after 1066. Well yes, they did but the Normans were fellow North-West Europeans. Pat Buchanan made a similar point a few years ago when he asked who would adapt better to modern Virginia: a million Englishmen or a million Zulus. Whatever happened after 1066 and regardless of their genetic propinquity with our Anglo-Saxons ancestors, the Normans still invaded England. I prefer not to be invaded even by my close relatives. The generation of my father and mother felt the same way in the summer of 1940.

Kaufmann speculates on how the struggle between secularists and religious fundamentalists might end: ‘And while fundamentalists can be smashed by Soviet or Nazi-style repression, this contradicts liberalism’s very own principles’.6 I wonder where Kaufmann has been living for the last twenty years. Where exactly is this liberalism that does not act in a manner that contradicts its very own principles? Is it buried in the vaults of the BBC or written in code in secret protocols annexed to the charters of universities and accessible only to a select group? That, to which Kaufmann refers as liberalism, is, judged by its behaviour, a form of soft totalitarianism. So far liberalism has not used concentration camps and tanks to repress opponents yet it has exploited Soviet-style methods of repression in order to silence opponents. Speech codes in American universities, affirmative action, attacks on free speech in both the USA and UK under the heading of combating what liberals call ‘hate crime’, virulent and sustained attacks on white history, culture and achievements, censorship and political correctness (a Soviet term) all bear witness to the fact that behind the mask of ‘we-love-you-all liberalism’ lurks a readiness to use Nazi and Soviet-style methods of repression, above all in the fields of culture and language. And why do Kaufmann’s liberals remain silent about the ANC-sponsored murder, rape and torture of whites in South Africa? There is nothing at all liberal about contemporary liberalism: it is new variant totalitarianism.

Despite the well documented Soviet-style measures adopted by liberalism in pursuit of its goals, Kaufmann nevertheless argues that the great danger comes from religious fundamentalists: ‘from the gradual seepage of puritanical mores into society: restrictions on freedom of expression, science, recreation, the rights of women, minorities, heretics, gays and converts – even a return to barbaric punishments’.7 Bear in mind that all the restrictions on free speech that have emerged over the last twenty years have been based on the liberal agenda and introduced by liberals, measures which are intended to silence and to criminalise any criticism of liberal fundamentalism and its multicultural agenda. Kaufmann’s complaint about fundamentalist puritanism would be more convincing if, for example, he acknowledged the damage inflicted by feminism. Feminism is a creed based on hatred of men. It would not have been so bad if feminists had just seeped into the North Sea but they have unfortunately seeped - to borrow Kaufmann’s term - into every facet of our lives, corrupting and poisoning everything they touch: marriage; love; divorce; education; law and order and the military.

Throughout much of history populations have, Kaufmann notes, stayed stable (the better off had more children who survived). After 1900 increasingly generous welfare provision ensured that more children from the less well off survived. In 2011 this clearly relates to the demography of immigrants from the Third World in First World states. Desperate to avoid any association with eugenics, Kaufmann, in a nice example of attempted neutralisation by clear statement, instructs us that: ‘We do not have to accept the alarmist tropes of eugenicists to see that this has demographic implications both within the developed world and between the wealthy West and poor global South’.8 So, does Kaufmann find this reversal of man’s evolution alarming, and if not, why not? And if he is alarmed just whose tropes is he using? It was after all eugenicists such as Francis Galton and Charles Darwin who noted that the less responsible and the low-IQ were having more children than the more affluent. They sounded the alarm. Kaufmann’s use of ‘demographic implications’ is a just a politically correct way of saying that this is alarming without giving any credit or recognition to eugenicists who have got it right. When Kaufmann notes that if the rate of population growth in Africa ‘goes unchecked, there will come a time when death and starvation readjust the world’s population to its carrying capacity’9, it should be pointed out that eugenicists and others warned about this long ago: Thomas Malthus for example. The danger for the West is that it will continue to waste billions of dollars and euros (if the currency survives) and pounds sterling on top of billions already wasted trying to stop natural, 4-horsemen solutions to population growth in the Third World. As Kaufmann observes, ‘Demographically pressured populations are not free to move, but will fight to do so’.10 True, but the West has an army.

Throughout this book Kaufmann repeatedly plays down the nature of Islam and its complete incompatibility with the West. He recognises the totalitarian nature of Islamic societies, especially if you are not a Muslim, yet asserts:

Some argue that fundamentalism is merely another wonderful colour in the multicultural rainbow of liberal society. In the West, they are largely correct, but the argument only holds as long as fundamentalists do not become a plurality or a majority that can restrict the liberties of others.11

How is Islamic fundamentalism ‘another wonderful colour in the multicultural rainbow of liberal society’? Muslims in the West live in parallel societies funded by unbeliever taxpayers; Muslims are hostile to the West and its institutions and too many Muslims preach hatred and support terrorism. Moreover, as part of their contribution to the paintwork of liberal society they bring with them colourful forms of behaviour such as female circumcision, cruel forms of animal slaughter, crime, honour killings, arranged marriages (with all the medical problems) and terrorism. In Norway and Sweden Islamic immigrants are responsible for the huge increase in brutal and exceptionally violent rapes of indigenous girls. How do these forms of violent, culturally hostile and revolting behaviour possibly enrich Western societies? The question we have to ask here is that if the indigenous population is enduring all these problems now what will things be like when aggressive Islamic breeding, supported by the generous welfare and the superior health provision of Western states provides Islamic immigrants with a large electoral majority? Kaufmann is aware of the political implications of out-of-control Islamic population growth but lacks the intellectual honesty to admit that these problems, present and future, have been caused by a complete failure to police our borders. It is entirely possible that as the Muslim population grows, and forces what is currently the white indigenous majority population into minority status, that Muslims will have their Damascus moment and abandon all the nasty cultural baggage, preferring Burke, Locke and Mill to the ravings of clerics (just don’t bet on it).

Especially revealing in Kaufmann’s assessment of Islamic fundamentalism in the West as another wonderful colour and his reaction to its becoming a majority is a clear example of the totalitarian impulses that are part of modern liberalism. Kaufmann’s point is that as long as Islamic fundamentalists remain an electoral minority – liberals pretend not to see the baggage – they are a wonderful colour. However if their numbers grow and this translates into real power such that Islamic fundamentalists can impose their will on the unbelievers, they lose their wonderful-colour status. Islamic fundamentalists could argue – they will argue – that if they have the electoral mandate of the believers to impose Sharia and much else on the unbelievers they can: and they will do it. Kaufmann’s concerns about the demographic rise of Islam underlines the hypocrisy of modern liberalism: free speech is wonderful (provided it is not used to attack multiculturalism and to highlight low mean black IQ and black crime); and free and fair elections are wonderful (provided the electorate votes for policies approved by liberals. If they do not the result is null and void, illegitimate). Liberals, and this includes a great many so-called conservatives, for all the talk of rights and tolerance are just as intolerant and hostile to individual freedoms as Islamic fundamentalism. The key difference is that Islamic fundamentalism is honest about its goals and aspirations and undoubtedly will impose Islamic totalitarianism on the unbelievers if it can, whereas liberalism preaches tolerance for its chosen causes – multiculturalism, feminism, black-by-popular demand and mass immigration – yet uses censorship, legal and administrative terror, secondary violence and media and legal harassment to impose its totalitarian agenda. Home-grown liberal fundamentalism with its barely concealed hatred of its own indigenous population and its avowed anti-white racism and Islamic fundamentalism are both enemies of Britain. There are some striking parallels here with National Socialism and Soviet Communism, our two main enemies in the last century.

Kaufmann’s explanation for why Muslims in Britain stick to Islam is also far from convincing and betrays a clear refusal to face the empirical reality of Islam all over Europe:

Second-generation Muslims are detached from their ethnic roots but also feel spurned by the white majorities in their nation states. This condition of existential purgatory makes the option of Muslim identity more enticing.12

Second-generation Muslins do not have to remain detached from their ethnic (racial) roots. These Muslims may feel spurned but the nation states in which they are resident are not their nation states. They are free any time to leave Britain and recover their ethnic (racial) roots. Nor do Muslim immigrants have to endure ‘existential purgatory’ in Britain when they are only a five hour flight removed from Pakistan. Why do they exercise the option of remaining in a white, north-west European country if they feel detached from the land and culture of their origin? The answer is that given the choice of remaining detached and enjoying all the benefits of a First World economy or returning to the corrupt and backward Third World slums whence they came, they prefer to remain in a state of affluent, second-generation detachment. Again, why do these second-generation Muslims feel spurned by the white, indigenous majority population? It is surely related to the many bizarre and cruel customs which the Muslim immigrants have brought with them, quite apart from their active, terroristic hatred of unbelievers and striving to make Britain part of some slave state (Eurabia).

On the clear and present danger posed by Muslims in Britain and the rest of Europe Kaufmann is thoroughly evasive and unable to face the threat:

The principal reason that most Europeans worry about the growing Muslim population has less to with sharia and jihad than old-fashioned ethnic nationalism – the wish to see the dominant ethnic majority remain congruent with the nation state. We shouldn’t exhibit the presentist myopia that views Muslim immigration as a greater challenge because Islam is more exotic or conservative than Catholicism.13

First, what is wrong with ‘old-fashioned ethnic nationalism’? The wish of Europeans (ipso facto white) to see their countries remain European and the wish that the white indigenous majority populations remain totally dominant is perfectly rational and wholesome. Why should Europeans want it any other way? Kaufmann provides no answer. He just begs the question: it is bad because it is bad because it is bad because Kaufmann says so. Would the Japanese welcome their being culturally and racially dispossessed in the Land of the Rising Sun or the Chinese in the Ancient Kingdom? No chance. Even Kaufmann concedes that: ‘Global demographic change cannot affect states unless they open themselves up to it’.14 The Japanese and the Chinese want none of it. They are not interested in multicultural babble and the menace of diversity. So why should Europeans be expected to welcome their own racial, cultural and physical dispossession; their being targeted for displacement and elimination in their ancient homelands by aliens? Only a person with a cultural, racial death wish would welcome the Islamic invasion – for that is what it is – of white, Christian Europe or pretend that it is something beneficial for whites when it heralds their elimination. Second, given that sharia and jihad and all the other non-European baggage represent the behavioural, cultural, psychological and intellectual manifestations of distinct, non-white racial groups – Turks, Africans, Arabs and Pakistanis – the conflation of Europeans’ fears about the racial origins of the invader-immigrants and the fears that they, Europeans, will be displaced as the rightful majority are logical and fully justified. Europeans are the rightful majority precisely because whites are the indigenous population with effective possession of their lands sanctioned by millennia of occupation. Third, it is not ‘presentist myopia’ for Europeans to worry about the threat posed by Islam to Europe. On the contrary, it demonstrates a sense of the past – recall Charles Martel at Poitiers – and a sense of the future; an awareness that if this invasion succeeds, it is the end of Europe. Fourth, Kaufmann’s evasive assertion that we should not worry about Islam because it is ‘more exotic or conservative than Catholicism’ misses the point (or ignores the point). It is the nature of Islamic exoticism and conservatism that worries Europeans: suicide-homicide bombers, sharia, jihad, the obscene practice of female circumcision, honour killings, stoning women to death, polygamy, the sexual grooming of white girls, extreme censorship, hatred of free speech, hatred of white European host societies and the cruel murders of Christians in the Middle East (and Turkey). Catholicism, with all its faults and demonstrable historical sins, is, for better or for worse, part of Europe’s heritage: Islam’s incursions and invasions have always been unwelcome and rejected as something utterly alien. They remain alien and rejected.

The basic plot of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? is undoubtedly compelling. When Kaufmann confines himself to the rise of various religious groups in their relevant societies and how they might succeed in inheriting the Earth he adds a great deal to our understanding of major historical shifts and even cyclical changes. For this he is to be applauded. The fatal weakness of this book however is the author’s endless willingness to make concessions to non-Europeans and to refuse to acknowledge the indefeasible rights, history and culture of the white indigenous population. Why should Englishmen tolerate being dictated to by aliens, such as, Trevor Phillips, Bhikhu Parekh, Baroness Warsi, John Sentamu, Andrew Marr and Gisela Stuart who come with a hostile agenda and do not have England’s best interests in their hearts and souls? Parekh and other members of the cult never address the obvious question: why should the English permit England to be invaded and overrun by immigrants? Whenever Kaufmann attempts to integrate the alien Muslim narrative into the narrative of the white indigenous population, he sacrifices the legitimate interests of the white indigenous majority, above all the English, in order to appease Muslim immigrants, so imposing a liberal fundamentalist gloss over much which is very nasty. This means that the full truth, short and long term, remains hidden or only hinted at.

Kaufmann is historically naïve in his interpretation of religious groups making common cause against secularists on issues such as abortion, as if this heralds some kind of permanent rapprochement. This is a mere tactical solution, something analogous to the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. Once the seculars have been defeated or marginalised then the real business of determining which religion shall rule the Earth can begin in earnest. This question has exercised the minds of men since they invented or received religion and it will not be resolved in endless synods, commissions about the lack of ‘community cohesion’ (the reasons for which are obvious) and the publication of more anti-white tracts along the lines of the Macpherson Report (1999), The Parekh Report (2000) and Our Shared Future (2007). These publications are little more than government-sponsored propaganda assaults which are intended to destroy the morale and to weaken the legitimate status of the white indigenous population, primarily the English. No, war, as always, will be the final arbiter in determining who shall inherit and rule the Earth.

1 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.ix.

2 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.xix.

3 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.68.

4 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.68.

5 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.69.

6 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.xx.

7 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.xxi.

8 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.47.

9 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.47.

10 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.47.

11 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.118.

12 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.178.

13 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.183.

14 Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, p.62.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Russian Idea, Lenin and the Origins of the Totalitarian State in Vasilii Grossman’s Forever Flowing

The Russian Idea, Lenin and the Origins of the Totalitarian State

in Vasilii Grossman’s Forever Flowing

© Frank Ellis 20091

The real significance of the Lenin revolution is to be seen in the fact that it was the bursting forth of the principle of unrestricted violence and oppression. It was the negation of all the political ideals that had for three thousand years guided the evolution of Western civilization

Ludwig von Mises,

Die Gemeinwirtschaft: Untersuchungen über den Sozialismus (1922)


Even by the standards of Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost’, the publication of Forever Flowing in June 1989 was a remarkable event. It still seems that way. The long list of dreadful suffering and ghastly cruelty which unfold in the pages of Forever Flowing, overshadowed by the presence of Lenin and Stalin, and accompanied and illuminated by the lives and fates of countless other characters, make Forever Flowing, because of Grossman’s refusal to accept any ideological preconditions, one of the most morally and intellectually inspiring works of the twentieth century. Now Grossman may be wrong when he argues that Lenin was the primary source of Soviet totalitarianism and, indeed, of twentieth-century totalitarianism generally - I shall consider some of the counter arguments in due course – but his arguments are historically based and are consistent with what happened rather than with what ought to have happened or might have happened in some parallel, ideologically-pristine, socialist universe. Moreover, and remarkably for a writer who was initially seduced by Marxism-Leninism, they are based on a great insight which eluded Marx, Engels, Lenin and their Western admirers: individual freedom - that great ineffable and elusively definable - matters. Where individual freedoms have the chance to grow, they can, over time and with a fair wind, set limits to the power of the state - the collective, the party, the commune - to dispose of people as another raw material. Such a political evolutionary path shall most certainly not fashion paradise on earth but there is a good chance it might prevent something infernal and that the beast of arbitrary and tyrannical rule can be contained. In this world man can expect no more.

The Russian Idea

When a nation or an emerging nation attains a certain critical mass in population, wealth, success in war or finds or encounters some unexpected and compelling new expression of religious destiny the effect can transform the way that nation (or eventually empire) sees its place in the world. It acquires a sense of mission: it can believe that it has divine sanction to forge the world anew in its own image and, given this blessing, that it has the right, the obligation, to resort to the sword as well as exhortation in order to accomplish this goal. Rome, the rise of Islam, the Crusades, the Spanish and British empires, Napoleonic France, the Soviet experiment, the empire of the American Republic, and in the early twenty-first century China rising, underline the tenacious appeal and seductions of imperial prestige.

Russia’s history shows that she has not been immune to the follies and temptations of imperial preference and the sense of intellectual and moral exclusivity. When Philotheus of Pskov presented Russians with the doctrine of the Third Rome, he gave them a reason to believe that Russia – Muscovy – was God’s favourite. Rome and Byzantium had succumbed to apostasy. Philotheus interpreted this as a shift in political and religious power and influence. As he famously noted: ‘two Romes have fallen, the Third Rome stands and a fourth Rome there shall not be’. If Moscow fell into apostasy there would be no fourth Rome. Heresy now assumed a sin of barely imaginable proportions and was punished mercilessly. Russia was certainly not unique in the zeal with which heretics were executed and exiled but, and this may be crucial for Grossman’s thoughts on the evolution of nesvoboda, the zeal to punish religious dissenters, and in the twentieth century ideological ones, has never been seriously challenged or ameliorated by Western ideas that individual rights and freedoms matter.

Russia’s collision with the West in the nineteenth century provoked an acute identity crisis in Russian thought and letters, a cultural and intellectual schizophrenia that has been well documented in the writings of Pushkin, Turgenev, Goncharov, Gogol and Dostoevsky. Gogol and Dostoevsky are two famous exponents of the idea that Russian has a special mission to save the world by an example of spiritual excellence and purity. Whereas Gogol’s thoughts on Russia’s sacred mission strike this author as bitter-sweet flights of entertaining hyperbole and imagination running riot, Dostoevsky approaches his subject with deadly seriousness and conviction. In The Devils, Shatov sets out his vision of Russia’s special mission and the place of God therein:

The purpose of the whole evolution of nation, in every people and at every period of its existence, is solely the pursuit of God, their God, their very own God, and faith in Him as in the only true one. God is the synthetic personality of the whole people, taken from its beginning to its end.2 […] If a great people does not believe that truth resides in it alone (in itself alone and in it exclusively), if it does not believe that it alone is able and has been chosen to raise up and save everything by its own truth, it is at once transformed into ethnographical material, and not into a great people.3

Grossman proceeds to the question of the ‘myth of the national Russian character’4 and, arguably, to the most bitterly disputed part of Forever Flowing in chapter 22 appropriately placed between a merciless analysis of Lenin (chapter 21) and the rise of Stalin (chapter 23). Taken to task are the nineteenth-century prophets of Russia’s brave new world, among them, Chaadaev, Belinsky, Gogol and Dostoevsky, who, according to Grossman, failed to realise that ‘the peculiarities of the Russian soul had not been born in freedom; that the Russian soul – was a thousand-year-old slave’.5 This harsh judgement derives from Grossman’s belief that there exists a crucial difference between Western and Russian notions of freedom. Western notions of freedom enter the Russian body politic as something alien and artificial. They are, to use Grossman’s word, ‘imported6 (emphasis added). On the all-important question of freedom any similarities between Russia and the West are superficial and in typically relentless fashion Grossman explains why this is so: ‘This chasm consisted in the fact that the West’s development was impregnated by the growth of freedom, whereas Russia’s development was nurtured by the growth of slavery’.7 The only time in Russia’s history, Grossman suggests, when the evolution of Russian slavery appeared to have been weakened was the abolition of serfdom in 1861:

Russia’s revolutionary thinkers failed to evaluate the significance of the emancipation of the serfs carried out in the nineteenth century. This event, as the following hundred years showed, was more revolutionary than The Great October Revolution. The emancipation shook the thousand-year-old foundations of Russia, foundations which neither Peter nor Lenin touched: the dependence of Russia’s development on Russian slavery.8

In his discussion of the origins of the Russian soul and its origins in slavery, Grossman concedes that the physical and topographical conditions of Russia have contributed to the myth and, moreover, had the same conditions that obtained in Russian existed for the Germans, the French and the English, the political outcomes would have been the same. Grossman is right to make this point but ignores the not inconsiderable fact that conditions for the Germans, the French and the English were not the same. Here, I suggest, Grossman succumbs to the fallacious reasoning adopted by some of his critics, who have argued that he is wrong to see any link between Stalinism and Lenin – so blaming the latter for preparing the ground for Stalinism - because Leninism was not the same as Stalinism and had Lenin survived things would have turned out differently and the devastation of Stalinism would have been avoided. We have no way of knowing this at all. All we are left with is what did happen and on that basis an attempt can be made, as Grossman does, to offer an explanation.

Nevertheless, when seeking answers to Russian’s political evolution Grossman touches upon something very important, when he refers to Russia’s ‘tragic vastness’.9 Implicit in this observation is the possibility that Russia’s very vastness has contributed to the conditions which have led to the curse of nesvoboda. In Property and Freedom (1999), the American historian Richard Pipes explores the relationship between freedom and property over the centuries. What makes this study so eminently relevant for Russia and Grossman is that Pipes uses his analysis of Russia and England to argue that the institution of private property is the bedrock of other freedoms. When Pipes considers the size of a state and how this size determines its political and cultural institutions, especially the relationship between ruler and ruled, he offers some substantial support for Grossman’s view that Russia’s ‘tragic vastness’ has contributed to the state of nesvoboda.

In synopsis, when a state covers a vast area and the bulk of the land and its assets are owned by a tsar and a small group of retainers, there is no need to have extensive laws to protect property rights. Conflict and disputes can be avoided by moving somewhere else. Or the tsar adopts the simple expedient of seizing the property and exiling or executing the offending retainer. Clearly, English monarchs, Henry VIII prominent among them, rather liked seizing the property of offending noblemen and removing their heads as well, but they never enjoyed the unfettered powers of Russian tsars and were compelled to seek consensus where in similar circumstances a tsar would have placed his own interests first. The smaller the domain, the greater the need for peaceful ways of resolving property disputes. In a country such as England, in which, over the centuries from Magna Carta onwards a vast corpus of legal wisdom dealing with property has accumulated, the power of monarchs and their successors to behave arbitrarily towards the property of their subjects (citizens) is, unlike in Russia past and present, severely limited and subject to careful scrutiny by the courts. It can also be noted that property rights stimulate, and indeed require, a legal system that is independent of the monarch, so further weakening the options for monarchical privilege and intervention in the property rights of the citizenry. During a broadcast on British radio in March 1976 Solzhenitsyn referred with approval to the English saw, an Englishman’s home is his castle.10 The other great freedom that starts to emerge alongside private property is free speech. It is the exercise of free speech which leads to Ivan Grigorevich’s arrest and his long journey through the Soviet gulag system. A man who is secure in his property and his livelihood possesses the confidence to challenge authority. Independence in property predisposes towards an independence of mind or an indifference towards state ideology and propaganda. The state is not seen as the sole repository of political wisdom. All these developments are moves away from the collectivist, authoritarian and eventually the totalitarian ethos of Russian culture and history. They mark the first steps towards a genuine representative democracy with all its well documented strengths and weaknesses.11

The view of history enunciated by Engels is thus a move away from the role of freedom in human affairs. To quote Grossman:

Mankind’s history is the history of its freedom. The growth of man’s power is expressed first and foremost in the growth of freedom. Freedom is not, as Engels believed, perceived necessity. Freedom is directly opposite to necessity. Freedom is necessity surmounted. At its most fundamental progress is the progress of human freedom. Indeed, you see, life itself is freedom. The evolution of life is the evolution of freedom.12

The view that freedom, according to Engels, is ocoznannaia neobkhodimost’ implies that freedom is something that we deem to be necessary but that it is something that we can create through party political plans and blueprints. Grossman argues that freedom is opposed to this because freedom is not something that can be created by decree or revolution. Freedom exists of itself. When Grossman says that ‘freedom is necessity surmounted’ (svoboda est’ preodelennaia neobkhodimost’), I interpret him to mean that freedom goes beyond the necessity of political programmes and ideology because freedom comes, and must come, before ideology and not after. If that is granted, then the twin abominations of Kolyma and Auschwitz cannot be built. If I have interpreted this all-important passage in Grossman correctly, then there is much in common with the central thesis of Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1944): one cannot plan for freedom. And it is certainly impossible to build freedom on the basis of terror, censorship, genocide, famine, secret police, spies and concentration camps.


Consolidating the attacks on Stalin and Stalinism which were made in Life and Fate, Grossman then takes the logical but utterly heretical step of subjecting the Lenin cult to the same critical appraisal to which Stalin had earlier been subjected. In fact, this was always implicit in the open and public discussions of Stalin taking place from the mid-1980s onwards. Sooner or later, someone was going to go beyond Stalin and examine the role of Lenin in the October Revolution. In a series of chapters and digressions Grossman shows Lenin as the destroyer of freedom, the man who orchestrated the extermination of so many of Russia’s finest and best and who established the operational principle, never abandoned by the party throughout the Soviet period, that terror, mass terror to begin with, and selective thereafter, was perfectly acceptable when dealing with so-called enemies of the people. Grossman’s truly shocking and - for some - monstrous contribution is to attribute to Lenin the unchallenged status as the founder of twentieth-century totalitarianism. Moreover, if this was not bad enough, Grossman accommodates Lenin and then Stalin firmly within his articulated tradition of Russia’s serfdom and lack of freedom (nesvoboda), so alienating those who venerated Lenin and those who regarded Lenin and the Bolsheviks as an utter aberration from Russia’s spiritual, cultural and historical norms.

The revolutionary ethos of Lenin that leads him to 1917 and which emerges in Forever Flowing is remarkably consistent with the ideals of underground terrorist groups, such as Zemlia i volia (Land and Freedom) and then Narodnaia volia (The People’s Will). Forever Flowing abounds in references to revolutionary figures. Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), Nikolai Chernyshevskii (1828-1889), Nikolai Kibal’chich (1853-1881), Petr Lavrov (1823-1900), Timofei Mikhailov (1859-1881), Sergei Nechaev (1847-1882), Sof’ia Perovskaia (1853-1881) and Andrei Zheliabov (1850-1881) all add to the portrait of Lenin offered by Grossman. Impatient for change and scornful of the democratic process, these figures accepted the need for violence to further their goals. Revolutionaries were men and women apart. The call of History demanded the expedience of revolutionary violence which was immune to the demands of bourgeois morality. In keeping with the late nineteenth-century revolutionary tradition, Lenin combines this abstract love of the people with fanaticism, and contempt for the suffering of others and a willingness to bow down before abstract ideological principles. Grossman’s vignette of Lenin the revolutionary places the Bolshevik leader firmly in the insurrectionist and terrorist tradition of Nechaev and the members of Narodnaia volia:

Lenin’s impatience, the unshakeable striving for the goal, the contempt for freedom, the cruelty in relation to dissenters and the ability, without any hesitation, to wipe from the face of the earth not only fortresses but also administrative districts and provinces which contested his orthodox truth – all these features did not come to the fore in Lenin after the October Revolution. These features were innate to Volodia Ul’ianov. And these features have deep roots.13

Directed at class enemies, revolutionary violence is an essential weapon of class struggle. The willingness to use violence, the belief that it is justified by the revolution, is something that Lenin imbibed totally and acted on after the seizure of power in 1917. In the words of Grossman: ‘The surgeon’s knife is the great theoretician, the philosophical leader of the twentieth century’.14 Lenin, of course, was the ‘great theoretician’ of the Bolshevik cause, who in arguments with political opponents, as Grossman observes, ‘did not seek the truth but victory’.15

Lenin’s eristic method of argument and his mode of writing and explication had three profound consequences for political rivals and political discourse in the Soviet Union. First, they justified the creation of a truly unique censorship apparatus, already adumbrated in Lenin’s hatred and fear of the institution of free speech in Chto delat’? (What is to be Done?, 1902) and his deep suspicion of the pecuniary motive in writing, set out in Partiinaia organizatsiia i partiinaia literatura (Party Organisation and Party Literature, 1905). This censorship apparatus which eventually assumed gargantuan proportions and which disfigured all intellectual endeavour in the Soviet Union, lasted until it was formally abolished in 1990. Second, the method of disputation pioneered by Lenin meant that truth now becomes the exclusive property of the party and so the moral compass and wisdom of the centuries, imperfect to be sure, were rendered useless, null and void. Third, critically and murderously for what came after 1917, Lenin created an ideological climate in which all arguments could only be won or lost, often with fatal consequences for those deemed to have lost. Marxism-Leninism made no provision for the fact that there are not always clear cut answers to political problems and that compromise will be required. This win-or-lose approach to political and economic problems could possibly be seen as an advantage in the underground phase where it produced a sense of unity and cohesion under pressure from tsarist enemies. With power seized, a revolutionary ethos that saw the world through the distorted prism of class struggle and History’s mandate, and, indeed, where the fear of heresy and collectivism that had earlier left their marks on Russian history, and which now surfaced in the assertion of virulent party orthodoxies, such as demokraticheskii tsentralism (‘democratic centralism’, ‘partiinaia pravota’ (‘party truth’) and ‘revoliutsionnaia printsipial’nost’’ (‘revolutionary principles’), intra-party struggles were just as likely to follow the murderous precedents set in the French experience of 1789. In fact, they exceeded them by many orders of magnitude that would have left even the French regicides and sans culotterrie aghast.

The depth of Grossman’s perception regarding the power and insidious influence of class struggle and the way it mesmerised otherwise intelligent people stupefying their critical faculties is one of his most significant contributions to our understanding of the Lenin/Stalin state. Class struggle dehumanises the enemy. The danger lies not merely in the fact that the enemy is collectively referred to as a kulak, counter-revolutionary, fashist or any of the countless other names and slogans coined by the Soviet media but rather in the fact that the enemy, whoever he is deemed to be, in losing any obvious signs of recognizable humanity, becomes something abstract. Thus his extermination becomes all the easier to justify. The corrupting effect of conceptualising individuals in terms of class war, so as to justify their physical extermination, is demonstrably evident in Robert Conquest’s account of the genocide by starvation that took place in Ukraine and which claimed 6,000,000 lives. Conquest cites a character from Vtoroi den’ (The Second Day, 1934), a novel by Ilia Erenberg on the nature of so-called class guilt: ‘Not one of them was guilty of anything; but they belonged to a class that was guilty of everything’.16 Likewise, in his memoir, Sydney Hook recalls a discussion with Bertolt Brecht about the Stalin show trials. Talking of Zinoviev and Kamenev, Brecht commented: ‘As for them, the more innocent they are, the more they deserve to be shot’. Hook asked him to repeat what he had said and Brecht replied in German: ‘Je mehr unschuldig, desto mehr verdienen sie erschossen zu werden’.17 It may well be that when Marx and Engels talked of class struggle that they saw struggle in exclusively economic terms (though the draconian provisions of The Manifesto of the Communist Party suggest otherwise). Lenin – and Stalin – had no such doubts. If the class war were lost the proletarian revolution would be defeated. Enemies were massing to destroy the nascent workers’ state: mercy was a bourgeois prejudice, a form of treachery.

Grossman examines the consequences of real-existing ideological war through the party’s genocidal campaign to collectivise agriculture in the early 1930s. In harrowing details, Grossman uncovers the party’s policy of grain seizures and the mass starvation which followed through the eyes of Anna Sergeevna, the former party activist. She describes people as being ‘bewitched’ (okoldovannye18). The party speaks of the kulaks as if they were animals, beasts and bloodsuckers, as something degenerate and poisonous. For her part, Anna Sergeevna admits that she was bewitched by the party propaganda; that she is ready to believe anything bad about the kulaks:

And these words started to have an effect on me, still only a child really, and at meetings and in special instruction and radio broadcasts, at the cinema and writers wrote and Stalin himself, all said the same thing: the kulaks are parasites, they are burning grain and killing children. And it was declared directly: incite the fury of the masses against them, exterminate them as a class, these damned kulaks. I started to feel bewitched as well and it seemed that all misfortune was caused by the kulaks and that were they exterminated, a time of happiness would ensue for the peasantry.19

Where the party is the sole provider of information and physically prevents all attempts to break its monopoly of information dissemination by censorship and incarceration, superior intelligence or education will not automatically prevent people from believing what the party-controlled agitation and propaganda apparatus tell them. During the campaign to expose the so-called Doctors’ plot Grossman notes that people who should have known better were only too willing to believe the lies and slander. The disturbing realisation is that under the right conditions one’s critical faculties can be neutralised and hysteria induced. Then anything becomes possible. Rational explanations for what is happening fall away and vague, supernatural forces seem to be all too plausible an explanation. Anna Sergeevna’s recollections of the Terror Famine suggest the end of the world: ‘And people became somehow confused, and the animals became wild, frightened, bellowed, moaning and at night the dogs howled. And the earth started to crack […] ‘Mothers looked at their children and started to scream from fear. They screamed as if a snake had crawled into the house. And that snake was death, starvation’.20 ‘The countryside started to wail, it saw its death’.21 As portrayed in Platonov’s Kotlovan (The Foundation Pit, 1987), collectivization is not only a war waged by the party against so-called enemies of the people: it is a war against the land, the fields, the totality of rural life, against mother Earth herself. In his portrayal of the Ukrainian genocide Grossman makes an explicit comparison between the extermination of the peasants, dehumanised in conditions of a totalitarian media monopoly, and the fate of the Jews in the Vernichtungslager. Anticipating their national-socialist colleagues by a decade, Soviet communist party killers demonised, dehumanised, deceived, isolated and then exterminated their victims, the peasants.

Responses to Forever Flowing and Grossman

Forever Flowing launches a sustained assault on three vested interests. First, Grossman pays scant regard to the sensibilities of those who loathe Lenin and Stalin and see both as an aberration from Russia’s true path. Second, Grossman highlights the fact that large numbers of Soviet sympathizers in the West, Western politicians, historians and others who made a living from studying the former Soviet Union colluded in the suppression of the truth and so played their part in the denial of Stalin’s crimes. Third, by attacking Lenin he denies the possibility of holding Stalin solely to account for what occurred after the founder’s death as a consequence of which Lenin and the Leninist project are indicted ab ovo.

Generally sympathetic to much of what Grossman covers in Forever Flowing, especially the author’s depiction of the Terror Famine, Arkadii Stolypin is however not impressed by Grossman’s vision of Russia as a thousand-year slave. ‘If Russia’, he asks, ‘is an eternal slave and is fit for nothing other than the condition of a slave, then perhaps no other system other than a totalitarian one is possible in our country? Is there any point in struggling against the contemporary system?’22 The first and most depressing answer to Stolypin’s question is that some form of rule on a spectrum oscillating between authoritarian and totalitarian may indeed be Russia’s political lot. It is a Western conceit that every nation and state aspires to some form of liberal democracy, even if Russia can produce individuals of the calibre of Grossman, Vasil’ Bykov, Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. That Grossman, isolated from the West, and subjected to all the immense ideological and collectivist pressures of Soviet society can arrive at a conception of individual freedom in Forever Flowing which recognizably has so much in common with Western thought, and is so diametrically opposed to what was ideologically correct in the Soviet Union, is inspiring. It suggests to this author that Grossman’s ‘tragic loneliness’, to use Stolypin’s words, had a liberating effect on Grossman. It enabled him to see more clearly and fearlessly. Moreover, the freedoms that citizens in Western liberal democracies take for granted were not found ready made. They have evolved over many centuries, and Russia, assuming her people aspire to something similar, will also have to pass through its own unique time of trials.

Writing in the Soviet journal, Nash sovremennik, just after Life and Fate was published in 1988, and discussing the novel, A. Kazintsev was also far from impressed by the vision of Russia that has known nothing but slavery for over a thousand years.23 He points out that there was a strong free-trading tradition in Tver and Novogorod for a long time and one which stimulated and supported various freedoms. Unfortunately, it was also the case that Ivan IV destroyed forever the privileges and prerogatives of these cities, because they were independent and, among other things, served as conduit for Western ideas.

Martin Malia’s observations on the growth of totalitarianism are also an explicit rejection of the Grossman thesis. Malia notes:

The totalitarian nature of Communism is not to be explained as the prolongation of traditional Russian authoritarianism or Oriental despotism; nor is the collectivist nature of Soviet society to be construed as the continuation of traditional Russian communal and servile relations. It is difficult to find any such agencies of transmission from the old to the new Russia in the actual policies pursued by the Bolsheviks after 1917, but it is very easy to find the origins of these policies in the socialist purposes of the Leninist party.24

The agencies of transmission are not required to survive the transition from Tsarist to Soviet in order to create a totalitarian state. It is the historical, cultural, psychological and political norms (or the absence of the latter in any Western sense) and precedents that are crucial. They survived 1917 and Marxism-Leninism was grafted on to them. I suggest that Malia concedes this point when he argues that ‘What traditional Russia contributed to the Leninist project was a lack of social and cultural antibodies sufficiently strong to resist it’.25 And the lack of ‘social and cultural antibodies’ was a direct consequence of the long history of an authoritarian state which after 1917 no longer had the moderating influence of the Church.

In chapter 14 of Forever Flowing, Anna Sergeevna recalls, among the many horrors, the Potemkin villages set up for the French politician, who went away and declared that he had seen no starvation in the countryside. Robert Conquest suggests that this was the French radical, Edouard Herriot.26 This incident hints at something which even now, many years after the genocide, should be, but is almost certainly not, a cause for great shame among Western academics, politicians and writers. Genuine ignorance is not a crime, but a perverse willingness to ignore the truth, a refusal to ask hard-headed questions in the presence of strong circumstantial evidence, or knowingly suppressing the truth most certainly is. One of the worst of the many Terror-Famine deniers, possibly the worst, was Walter Duranty, the Sovietophile foreign correspondent of the New York Times, who knew that the death toll ran into millions yet lied about it in his dispatches. In 1932 Duranty was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. In spite of demands in 2002, the seventieth anniversary of the Terror-Famine, that the award be withdrawn, the Pulitzer board took no action against Duranty.

The scale of the Terror Famine is truly daunting. In Ukraine, six million people were quite deliberately starved to death, possibly another four-five million died en route to Siberia, in Siberia and in mass shootings and in the camps. Moreover, this happened ten years before Heydrich and Eichmann convened the Wannsee conference to plan Die Endlösung der Judenfrage. As the indefatigable Robert Conquest has pointed out, the famine was covered extensively in some of Europe’s most famous papers: Manchester Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Le Matin, Le Figaro, Neue Züricher Zeitung, La Stampa and Austria’s Reichpost. Even today, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the Ukrainian genocide seems curiously and deliberately ignored. With some 11,000,000 murdered, Stalin’s Terror Famine confirms the genocidal nature of socialism, be it national-socialism or the allegedly more internationalist versions of Stalin and Mao. The people who deny the Holocaust and the scale of Stalin’s Terror Famine belong to one another. They are Molotov and Ribbentrop celebrating the odious Non-Aggression Pact: they are joined together in lies and wickedness.

The publication of the first Russian-language edition of Forever Flowing in 1970, with the English translation in 1972 failed to make the impact that a work of this importance should have made. Again, the reasons may be in Grossman’s relentless exposure of Soviet crimes at a time when may Westerners in the academy were still willing to ignore Lenin’s and Stalin’s crimes and were even sympathetically disposed towards the Soviet state. Again, intellectual fashions, especially a growing acceptance among Western academics and intellectuals that the Soviet state did not merit being considered “totalitarian”, and that truth was relative or even that there is no such thing as truth, cannot have produced a climate in which Grossman, who was obsessed with the truth, as only people who have lived in the Land of the Lie can be, would be given a fair hearing. In such circumstances it is far better to ignore the troublesome messenger or misrepresent his warning. A striking example of the attempt to kill Forever Flowing by omissions and misrepresentations can be seen in a review published in of all places the Times Literary Supplement in 1973. The anonymous reviewer completely ignored Grossman’s analysis of Lenin and his role in the creation of the Soviet totalitarian state and Grossman’s thoughts on the nature of freedom.27 An attempt by the author of this article who wrote to the Times Literary Supplement in order to ascertain the identity of the reviewer met with no success.

That publication of Forever Flowing in 1989 was accompanied by an exceptionally long article28, written by G. Vodolazov, a senior Soviet academician, suggests that Grossman’s views on Lenin, Stalin and the course of Russian history inspired a mixture of fear and loathing among a certain segment of the soon-to-be-rendered redundant, Soviet literary and party establishment. It is a reasonable assumption that Vodolazov’s accompanying article was the necessary concession demanded of the Oktiabr’ editorial board were Forever Flowing to see the light of day in the Soviet Union. The main task of Vodolazov’s article was to explain the nature of Grossman’s ideologically incorrect thoughts for the benefit of the Soviet reader and so blunt the full force of Grossman’s analysis of Lenin and his role in the creation of the Soviet state.

Vodolazov begins by trying to justify the need for such a long article (implicit recognition of just how dangerous Grossman’s ideas were still regarded in 1989) and while he acknowledges that Forever Flowing is - ‘magnificent, veracious and merciless’29 – he objects to Grossman’s analysis of the causes, reasons and roots of Stalinism and rejects Grossman’s identification of Stalin with Lenin and Leninism with Stalinism. Above all, he, Vodolazov, intends to defend Lenin from Grossman. One contemporary consideration for this defence of Lenin in 1989 is to be found in the late perestroika slogan of ‘socialist pluralism’. The ideological inspiration for this is seen to be Lenin and so Lenin must be defended from Grossman’s uncompromising assault.

The problem is not pluralism per se, but socialist pluralism. By its very wording socialist pluralism is self-limiting, as in Lenin’s infamous example of “democratic centralism”. Vodolazov cites other nouns whose essential meaning and therefore the range of permitted responses to them is drastically changed by converting them into socialist categories: ‘socialist realism’; ‘socialist humanism’; ‘socialist internationalism’; ‘socialist democracy’.30 Vodolazov’s style remains loyal to the man he wishes to defend: socialism, asserts Vodolazov, is democracy taken to the end. Unfortunately, we are not instructed by Vodolazov on how any impasse between those who desire socialist democracy and those who do not want socialism (with or without any preceding adjectives) is to be resolved. Are the advocates of socialist pluralism/socialist democracy deemed to possess superior, decisive wisdom to which the ideologically ignorant masses must defer, or is the matter to be decided by a free and secret ballot?

By socialism Vodolazov means universal equality in all spheres of human behaviour:

To the end” – that is to the actual equality of people not only in the political-legal area (the foundation of this was laid by the great French Revolution of the 18th century), but also in the economic, cultural and scientific spheres – that is to equality in relation to the means of production of material goods and control, to cultural wealth, to the means of the production of scientific knowledge.31

In other words, at this stage in his defence of Lenin, Vodolazov implies, later he is quite explicit, that socialism envisaged by Lenin was the pure form of socialism that was corrupted by Stalin who created the world’s first totalitarian state.

The goals which Vodolazov sees as being crucial for socialism are to be achieved on the basis of the common ownership of the means of production. Equality throughout the areas noted by Vodolazov cannot be achieved when human beings, who are not all equally endowed with intellectual, physical and moral faculties, are left to pursue happiness in their own way and without trespassing on the rights of others, as envisaged by the Founding Fathers of the American Republic. This can only mean that the goals of socialism (without adjectives), as envisaged by Vodolazov, can only be achieved by coercion (compulsory socialism). It is at this point that the socialist enterprise takes its first steps to the Lenin/Stalin state described by Grossman. Sentimental appeals to the “common good” will, inevitably, fail to achieve the Brotherhood of Man. At some point, the socialist ideologues and planners will have no choice but to use the coercive powers of the state to impose their objectives; or they must abandon their attempt to create some socialist commonwealth. It is possible, the example of Britain in 1945 bears witness to this, that electorates will select a government which openly proclaims its intention to secure the common ownership of the means of production. But what happens when those who voted for socialism change their minds and want to remove a government committed to the foundation of a socialist state? Marx provides no mechanism for the proletariat to get rid of such a government and Lenin, like Hitler after him, had no intention of relinquishing the levers of power seized in a coup d’etat in 1917. Lenin, Vodolazov’s unsullied leader, simply crushed Russia’s incipient democracy. Those who had doubts about socialism after 1917, even if it was just confined to Lenin’s version, were declared “enemies of the people”. For example, in an article published in 1918, Lenin denounced Karl Kautskii (1854-1938), the German social democrat, as a renegade for criticising the Bolshevik Revolution.32

Vodolazov’s attempts to postulate ‘socialism as democracy taken to its conclusion’ and to differentiate it from “socialist” democracy, a Stalinist aberration, are far from convincing. Vodolazov describes the Stalinist aberration thus:

Socialist” democracy frequently signified not that democracy which is higher, broader and deeper than the non-socialist and pre-socialist (“bourgeois”, “feudal” and so on) but that, which is narrower, which is “not for all” and which led, as a result, to the creation of “man-as-cog-in-the-machine”, which easily accommodated itself with the destruction of the peasantry, the crushing of the intelligentsia and the deification of an omnipotent Leader.33

The question that is so clearly begged by Vodolazov (and many others) is that Stalinism must be an aberration because “true”, “genuine”, “real”, “proper” or “correct” socialism would never lead to the extermination of 11,000,000 peasants who resisted the party’s attempts to steal their land and property; it would never reduce the workers to cogs in the machine; it would never lead to a totalitarian state, control by an unaccountable party, sham elections, a ubiquitous secret police and labour and death camps for dissenters (real or mainly imagined). Only violation of socialism, it is claimed, could lead to these things. And because “real” socialism never leads to anything like Stalinism, Stalinism cannot have anything in common with socialism. What Vodolazov fails to consider, or possibly cannot bring himself to consider, is that the basic assumptions of Marx, Engels and Lenin, encapsulated in the common ownership of the means of production, may be, are, deeply flawed and that the attempt to build the socialist commonwealth based on them is the cause of all the genocide, penury and human misery that has always resulted whenever the socialist experiment has implemented. This point is dealt with by the heroine of Ayn Rand’s novel, We the Living, set in Russia immediately after Lenin’s seizure of power, who asserts her right to be intellectually and morally free. She tells a party activist why she hates his socialist ideals:

For one reason, mainly, chiefly and eternally, no matter how much your party promises to accomplish, no matter what paradise it plans to bring mankind. Whatever your other claims may be, there’s one you can’t avoid, one that will turn your paradise into the most unspeakable hell: your claim that man must live for the state.34

Again, the Vodolazov assertion that - ‘The Marxist slogan: the working class, in liberating itself, liberates everyone. The liberation of mankind – that is the highest imperative of Marxism’35 – simply ignores the countless examples of where states built on some form of socialism, above all in the absence of any liberal-democratic tradition, create some version of hell for everyone including the workers in whose name the middle-class revolutionaries have seized power.

Whenever Vodolazov uses the term “objective truth” you suspect that what he means that this “objective truth” must be congenial towards the “Leninist tradition” otherwise it cannot be considered to be the “objective truth”. What he cannot accept is the overwhelming evidence that “objective truth” is not necessarily – and frequently never – the same as the “Leninist tradition” or “socialist pluralism”. Despite all the attempts to argue for a free discussion, one can note Vodolazov’s attempt to site that discussion within a framework that will be implicitly friendly to socialist pluralism (Note that he completely ignores Lenin’s hatred of free speech and the fact that Lenin introduced a vicious censorship)

Only in such a free atmosphere - which is limited by nothing (apart from perhaps the requirements of democratic legislation) – of discussion can the true (that is those which are consistent with the objective logic of history and the interests of the overwhelming majority of people) judgments be formed (although not immediately and not without a struggle).36

If by the “objective logic of history” and “the overwhelming majority of people”, Vodolazov means, respectively, Marxism and the working class, then what happens to arguments which are inconsistent with the “objective logic of history”? And what, in any case, does Vodolazov mean by the “objective logic of history”?

Vodolazov tries to discredit Grossman by arguing that he gets details about Lenin wrong. For example, Lenin, according to Vodolazov, did not order a search of Plekhanov’s house at the time he was dying. According to Vodolazov this was done without Lenin’s permission and he was angered by the search. The other comments are too trifling to be taken seriously.37 Note, too, the following remarks by Vodolazov concerning Ivan which are wide of the mark:

Well, indeed the author of the diary, the same Ivan Grigor’evich, who returns after many years of Stalinist hard labour, does he really admire “God’s world”, which runs past the window of the train, is he really concerned by the small joys of God’s world (and in actual fact a world without God), by means of which his fellow travellers in the carriage live? How sullen he is, how one-sided he is thinking about one and the same thing, this Ivan Grigor’evich! And in the diary there is nothing about rivers, about birds, not a word: it’s all about Ul’ianov and Dzhugashvili. A proper monster and not a person!38

This is a wholly inadequate riposte from Vodolazov. It ignores the desperately moving fate of Masha, Anna Sergeevna and the genocide of the peasants. If a man has had his life blighted by Leninism and Stalinism, is he not entitled to ponder their origins? According to Vodolazov, ‘Grossman’s story and all its pages are not a scientific treatise, but an artistic work and must be perceived and evaluated in accordance with the canons of art’.39 If that is granted, then why does Vodolazov devote such a vast amount of space and effort in an attempt to detoxify Grossman’s ideas? In fact, his whole article is a desperate ideological package designed to rescue Lenin from Grossman’s truly devastating analysis and, therefore, explicit recognition, despite his attempt to relegate and to confine any discussion of Vse techet to its artistic merits, of the immense power of Vse techet and its historical, philosophical themes and, ultimately the deadly threat it poses to Leninist hagiography and the state he founded. In this regard, note the equally clumsy attack to weaken Ivan’s observations by arguing that Ivan has spent his life ‘a long way from the archives and the special stacks of libraries’.40 Ivan is a living archive, a repository of knowledge about the Leninist-Stalinist state. That Soviet libraries had a spetskhran (introduced in the 1920s and fully in accordance with Lenin’s banning of the free press) merely underlines the scale of the censorship.

Vodolazov informs us that the first attempts to come to terms with Stalin were killed by censorship. Indeed they were: but who founded Soviet censorship? By stating the obvious – neutralisation by clear statement - Vodolazov once again tries to give the impression that Grossman has failed to do what Vodolazov claims must be done:

It is misleading to see the main cause of our social deformations in some specific views, in Stalin’s specific theoretical constructs. For what purpose do we deceive ourselves by mythologizing Stalin and his cause? One needs to dig deeper. A critical analysis must address “our theoretical foundations”, “the initial drafts”, so as to explain “the doctrinal causes of deformation”. There, in “the foundations”, in “the doctrines” we will find the sources of the terrible illness.41.

But Grossman does not mythologize Stalin and his cause and he most definitely and demonstrably does examine the theoretical foundations of what led to Stalin, so finding the cause of the illness.

Vodolazov then moves to attack Grossman’s view that Stalin created a state based on Leninist foundations; that people were reduced to cogs; that the party promoted itself as an elite order of sword bearers; that the closer the state moved towards socialism, the more the class struggle would intensify. Vodolazov maintains that:

For the classics of Marxism [Marx, Engels and Lenin] the essence, the meaning, the main aims of socialism were repeatedly connected with putting an end to the idea that man is a silent, helpless cog of the economic and political machine and that he would be transformed into a sovereign, free, universally and many-sided developed being. Socialism, in their conceptions, is the result of creativity, the historical independent activity of the masses and each person.42

Again, we note the question-begging: because these were the conceptions of the classics the fact that real-existing socialism did not lead to these conceptions being implemented can only mean that Stalin and Stalinism were deviations, deformations and ultimately had nothing to do with socialism. Vodolazov fails to consider the possibility that socialism, conceived by Marx, Engels and Lenin, contains within itself the seeds that lead to genocide, penury et al; that the Marxist-Leninist view of history as class struggle is wrong and leads to hell on earth. It is the theory of socialism that is the problem. Grossman’s claim that the party was “an order of sword bearers” is essentially correct. The CPSU had a view of itself as an elite organisation dedicated to a special mission. In this regard one can make comparisons with the SS, Nazi Party and any number of twentieth-century terrorist groups. In fact, the special sense of purpose is a feature of the Russian terrorist groups Zemlia i volia and Narodnaia volia.

In offering us what he believes is Grossman’s rhetorical view of the party, in order to highlight Grossman’s false depiction of it as ‘a closed medieval order, a privileged caste which dominates the people and decides all questions concerning the fate of the people in secret’43, Vodolazov describes what is all too obvious: the party was indeed all those things and the rhetorical device merely confirms what Grossman has correctly described. Vodolazov then invites the reader to consider that the party was in actual fact ‘an open, democratic organisation, which voluntarily assumed the obligation to carry out the will of the people and to be accountable to, and controlled by, the people at every step’.44 Such an assessment of Communist Party behaviour underlines the immense and unbridgeable gulf which separates Grossman from party apologists. Given what, by 1989, was known about the CPSU, Vodolazov’s assessment is not merely wrong but mendacious and perverse.

When Vodolazov tries to discredit Grossman’s portrayal of the party-state under Stalin his rhetorical attacks paint an accurate picture of what existed. Grossman’s observations on socialism are confirmed not just by what existed in the former Soviet Union but also in other parts of the world which copied the Soviet model.45 Vodolazov has no understanding of the vital differences between socialism and the market economy. He ignores the fact that it was Lenin who introduced censorship and the censorship apparatus survived intact until it was dissolved by Gorbachev’s Press Law.46 He would have the reader believe that Lenin was well aware that the conditions for socialism did not exist in Russia. So can it be that the use of terror, censorship and executions were intended to prepare the ground for socialism? One of Grossman’s most important insights in Vse techet, namely the all-important link between economic freedom and other freedoms (free speech et al) remains completely disregarded by Vodolazov.

In a section headed ‘Concerning the Essence and Roots of Stalinism’ Vodolazov turns to the nature of Stalinism:

Mature, developed Stalinism, which had been formed by the middle of the 1930s, can be seen as the anti-humanistic, voluntarist ideology of a bureaucratic elite which glorified violence and took it to the highest degree in all its underlying structures. That was its ideological essence. And as for Stalinism as a system of social-political relations it was a bureaucratic dictatorship and, one, moreover, in its most barbaric and in its most terroristic forms.47

Stalinism did not just appear from nowhere. Grossman sees it as being part of Russia’s long history, the lack of any rights accorded to the individual: the state is everything. Vodolazov’s attempt to brush Stalin and Stalinism off as some kind of deformation is unconvincing. He asserts: ‘The most difficult - and of course the most important – thing is to understand the sources of this shift from the norm to a deformation’.48 Again, we have returned to the begged question that since socialism is noble et al the problem lies not with socialism itself. Could it be that socialism itself is the deformation from which all else follows? Terror against so-called “enemies of the people” was sanctioned by Lenin. Stalin merely continued the tradition.49

The most striking thing about Vodolazov’s long article is the lack of any detailed discussion based on Forever Flowing. Not only does Vodolazov fail convincingly to account for the rise of Stalin – in the absence of any explanation based on what Marx and Lenin contributed - the rise of Stalin becomes removed from Soviet and Russian history, acquiring the status of some supernatural event, but he also ignores the demonstrable parallels with other totalitarian socialist states in Eastern Europe and China. If, ‘Stalinism is, in its essence, against the people’50, what is Leninism? The growth of a massive, all-pervasive state bureaucracy is unavoidable when all non-state institutions are destroyed. He then tries to excuse the growth of the state bureaucracy by arguing that the peasants lacked education. They may well have done at the start of Soviet power but the brutal truth is that the no matter how educated the peasants were they would never have been welcomed as equals in the running of the country. Vodolazov concedes that the bureaucracy was inevitable but that Stalinism was a terroristic bureaucracy. This ignores the fact that organisations such as the VChK and the OGPU, both based on the use of police terror, had emerged and were preparing the way for the NKVD and its successors while Lenin was still alive. Vodolazov’s case against Grossman fails, in my opinion, to withstand scrutiny, whereas Grossman’s case against Lenin is upheld: Lenin is guilty as charged.


Forever Flowing and the earlier Life and Fate belong to a select group of books which are indispensable reading for any student of Soviet and Russian history and letters seeking some of the answers to Russia’s apocalyptic twentieth century. The most striking feature of Forever Flowing is Grossman’s relentless honesty and his willingness to confront the nature of the Soviet state and its origins: the deification of Lenin and his role in preparing the totalitarian state; the failure to grasp the nature of human freedom; the rise of Stalin; and the consummation of the Soviet project initiated in 1917. Had Grossman confined himself and his wide-ranging analysis in Forever Flowing to Russia’s twentieth-century woes, instead of describing a historical trajectory which explained the course of Russian history in terms of the evolution of slavery (nesvoboda) and which explicitly rejected the view of so many nineteenth-century Russian thinkers that Russia was destined to carry out a special mission (easily co-opted by Lenin), Grossman, today, in the opinion of this author, would be more deeply embedded in the Russian national consciousness.

If Forever Flowing is uncomfortable, at times, even shocking reading for Russians, it should also be seen as a warning to the West. If, according to Grossman, the difference between the political evolution of the West and Russia, lies in the way freedom has evolved in the former and been ruthlessly sacrificed first to the prerogatives of the Tsars and then to the ideological programme of Marxism-Leninism in the latter, then it is a proper question to ask whether freedoms, once won, can be lost. Can the historical and intellectual evolution of the centuries towards what we take for granted as inviolable and inalienable freedoms be reversed? In the presence of evil and those who would deny truth any special status individual freedom can never be secure. Nor can any society survive that accepts the notion that good and evil are outdated religious prejudices. Good and evil are eternal, at the very heart of man’s nature. Each age must confront them anew.51 I suggest that this is implicit in the very last word of the novel which, evoking the title, Grossman uses to describe Ivan Grigorevich, his soldier in truth: neizmennyi (unchanged). Everything flows but the constant, the irreducible in all ages and in all times is freedom: its duties, its burdens - its sacrifices.


1 This article is based on a paper that I presented at the second conference in Turin which was dedicated to the life and work of Vasilii Grossman. The conference – Vita e Destino: Vasilij Grossman: tra ideologie e domande eterne – was organised by the Centro Culturale Pier Giorgio Frassati. I would like to thank the conference organisers for having invited me, the superb organisation and the generous and warm hospitality that was extended to all the participants.

2 Fedor Dostoevsky, The Devils, trans., David Magarshack, Penguin, Harmondsworth, England, 1982, p.256.

3 The Devils, p.258.

4 Vasilii Grossman, Vse techet, Possev-Verlag, 2nd edition, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, 1974, p.173.

5 Vse techet, p.175.

6 Vse techet, p.175.

7 Vse techet, p. 178.

8 Vse techet, p.179.

9 Vse techet, p.182.

10 The broadcast was made on 24th March 1976 and was published in Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Warning to the Western World, The Bodley Head and BBC London, 1976, p.43.

11 In chapter 10, Ivan realises that economic freedom and free speech go together: ‘Earlier, I used to think that freedom was freedom of speech, the press and conscience. But freedom, well, it is the entire life of all people. It is the freedom to sow what you want, to make shoes, coats, bake grain which you have sown, sell it or don’t sell it; and the metal worker, the steel worker and artist work, live as you please and don’t be ordered about. And there’s no freedom either for those who write books or among those who sow corn and make boots’, Vse techet, p.85.

12 Vse techet, p.178.

13 Vse techet, p.169.

14 Vse techet, p.167

15 Vse techet, p.169.

16 Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, Hutchinson, London, 1986, p.143.

17 Sydney Hook, Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century, Harper & Row, New York, 1987, p.493.

18 Vse techet, p.117.

19 Vse techet, pp.117-118.

20 Vse techet, p.124.

21 Vse techet, p.128.

22 Arkadii Stolypin, ‘Oshibochnaia istoricheskaia kontseptsiia Vasiliia Grossmana’, Grani, № 80, 1971, p.217.

23 See A. Kazintsev, ‘Istoriia – ob’’ediniashchaia ili razobshchaiiushchaia’, Nash Sovremennik, 11, 1988, pp.163-184. Kazintsev is responding to the remarks made by Chernetsov (see chapter 70, part 1 of Life and Fate, Sovetskii pisatel’, Moscow, 1990, p.228) and Mad’iarov (see chapter 66, Part 1, Life and Fate, p.214). At the end of his article Kazintsev notes that the editorial board of Oktiabr’ intends to publish Vse techet the following year (1989) and various extracts from Vse techet on the theme of the Russian soul and freedom are cited (chapter 22). Kazintsev’s response to the impending publication of Vse techet is worth noting: ‘It goes without saying that the journal Oktiabr’ is free to print everything it considers to be topical. I would merely question how the extracts cited can be reconciled with the principles of international brotherhood?’ Kazintsev, p.184. In response to Grossman’s assertion that the growth of the West has been impregnated with the ideas of freedom and that Russia’s growth has been characterised by the growth of slavery, Kazintsev asks whether this means that Russia is excluded from the history of mankind (p.184).

24 Martin Malia, The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991, The Free Press, New York, 1994, p.134.

25 Martin Malia, The Soviet Tragedy, p.134.

26 Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, Hutchinson, London, 1986, p. 315.

27 ‘Synthesis with Slaves’, Times Literary Supplement 23rd February 1973, 197.

28 G. Vodolazov, ‘Lenin i Stalin: filosofsko-sotsiologicheskii kommentarii k povesti V. Grossmana Vse techet’, Oktiabr’, 6, 1989, pp.3-29.

29 Vodolazov, p.3.

30 Vodolazov, p.4.

31 Vodolazov, p.5.

32 V.I.Lenin, ‘Proletarskaia revoliutsiia i renegat Kautskii’, (1918), Sochineniia, vol 28, 4th edition, OGIZ, Moscow., 1950, pp.207-302.

33 Vodolazov, p.4.

34 Ayn Rand, We the Living (1936) Signet, New York, 1983, p.80.

35 Vodolazov, pp.4-5.

36 Vodolazov, p.6.

37 Vodolazov, p.7.

38 Vodolazov, p.7.

39 Vodolazov, p.9.

40 Vodolazov, p.9.

41 Vodolazov, p.11.

42 Vodolazov, p.11.

43 Vodolazov, p.12.

44 Vodolazov, p.12.

45 See, apart from anything else, Viktor Kravchenko, I Chose Freedom: The Personal and Political Life of a Soviet Official (1946), Czesław Miłosz, The Captive Mind (1953) and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago (1973-1975-1978) and subsequent to the publication of Vodolazov’s article, Harry Wu, Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China’s Gulag (1994) and The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (1999). Nor is there any reference to Life and Fate where the beginnings of Grossman’s unravelling of the Lenin cult can be sen.

46 The law - Zakon o pechati i drugikh sredstvakh massovoi informatsii - was signed by Gorbachev on 12th June 1990 and took effect on 1st August 1990.

47 Vodolazov, p.16.

48 Vodolazov, p.17

49 Vodolazov, p.19.

50 Vodolazov, p.22.

51 Solzhenitsyn identifies another failing on the part of the West: ‘How is it that people who have been crushed by the sheer weight of slavery and cast to the bottom of the pit can nevertheless find strength in themselves to rise up and free themselves – first in spirit and then in body – while those soar unhampered over the peaks of freedom suddenly lose the taste of freedom, lose the will to defend it, and, hopelessly confused and lost, almost begin to crave slavery? Warning to the Western World, pp.28-29.


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