Solzhenitsyn on Socialism

I’m re-reading “The Oak and the Calf,”(1) the finest memoir I’ve ever read. It’s by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and chronicles his struggles with the Soviet government in the 1960’s and ’70’s.

Here’s a passage:

What, then, was the greatest damage done by the disbandment of Novy Mir? “It will now be much easier for our enemies to combat the ideological influence of the Communist movement throughout the world.” The most important thing of all, needless to say is socialism! Only socialism “is capable of being the progressive historical alternative to the world of capital.” (it might have been written specially for the censor); there “among the people an unimpaired will to fight for genuine socialism.” (Where? Scour the earth for it; you may find some lingering remnant, but not in our country.) Well, who is to blame for socialism’s failures? Who do you think! Russia, as always: “these perversions of socialism have their roots in the centuries-long heritage of “Russian feudalism” — for surely we cannot suppose, comrades, that socialism is inherently flawed, that it is altogether unrealizable in a pure form!

In the passage, Solzhenitsyn quotes a number of authors writing on the dismantling of Novy Mir, the intellectual journal once thought to be friendly to dissident voices (such as Solzhenitsyn’s) in the beginnings of the Brezhnev era.

Here’s an interesting snippet from that dense passage:

“among the people an unimpaired will to fight for genuine socialism.” (Where? Scour the earth for it; you may find some lingering remnant, but not in our country.)

Solzhenitsyn quotes a writer who is obviously trying to ingratiate himself with the Soviet authorities, by telling of the people’s “longing for socialism.” Solzhenitsyn then offers a withering rebuttal. “Where,” he asks scathingly, “will you find such people?” And he answers his own rhetorical question: “Not in Russia,” where socialism had by then held sway for decades.

Little did Solzhenitsyn know that the people you can find willing to fight for socialism are right here in the west. They are the ones untouched by the inevitable depredations of top-down, socialistic government. We said something similar in these pages when we remarked that bloody, iron-fisted Stalinism was no perversion of socialism, but rather an inevitable product of socialism. Stalin was the creation of Socialism, not the other way around.

Solzhenitsyn then pens a phrase pregnant with meaning: “Well, who is to blame for socialism’s failures?” Note the phrasing. The author assumes (1) that socialism has failed, and (2) that everyone else agrees with that premise and is offering responses as to why. Solzhenitsyn jeers at the politically correct, state-sponsored, government-accepted answer: It’s Russian feudalism’s legacy, you see! No, Solzhenitsyn sneers, and he summarizes the nature of socialism in one pithy phrase: “socialism is inherently flawed … it is altogether unrealizable in a pure form!”

So many political doctrines look so nice on paper; all equality this, and justice that, and fairness this and equality that. Then you try to implement them, and sometimes it all just breaks down. That’s why capitalism is the best system out there. It makes no pretense to being a political system, but stays in the realm of economics. For capitalism, the be-all and end-all is the free market. Capitalism is completely agnostic as to how you choose your leadership. If, however, you think of it, a free market would repel tyranny of any kind. There isn’t a tyranny in the world, or in history, that has ever allowed a free market, because a free market represents actual power in the hands of the people.

One important lesson — of many — from “The Oak and the Calf”: We should listen more to the actual people who have suffered so grievously under the people-eating machine that is socialism.

— xPraetorius


(1) You can buy a hardcover copy for a penny(!) at Amazon.

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