Saturday, August 09, 2008

Summer Reading

Way back when... Thirty-four years ago, A. Solzhenitsyn was allowed to leave the then Soviet Union and reap the usufructs of advanced capitalism. Around that same time, Solzhenitsyn's Letter to the Soviet Leaders appeared in print and those who actually read, rather than promote, his work learned just how right the Soviet leaders were to send this master of literary banality packing.

Way back when, when the predecessor of The Wolf Report, Nightwatch, appeared in print on actual paper, I wrote an appreciation of sorts of the man, and the circumstances that brought the man to his new home.

Way back when, Nightwatch prided itself on featuring regularly, in its every most irregularly scheduled publication, obituaries, marriages, births-- "transitions" that in their absurdity, venality, false propriety most clearly illuminated the darkness at the heart of modern capitalism. What a Difference a Day Makes, and made, way back when.

The Solzhenitsyn report was written in that vein, with that intent, but its length, which is to say, and singularly concentrated attack, required that it appear as a separate piece.

I never thought much more about Solzhenitsyn, not to mention my most unliterary criticism of the man, but my former collaborator on Nightwatch, noting the death and the outpouring of appreciations offered in tribute to the now stuffed literary lion suggested I reproduce it here, where it may be preserved, like Solzhenitsyn himself, and ignored, like Solzhenitsyn himself, eternally.

So...edited [in brackets] and abridged, here comes, there goes:

A Five and Ten Cent Baby in a Million Dollar Store, Fall 1974

While capitalism exports credits, grain, technology, and complete industrial plants to the USSR, the Stalinist bureaucracy returns the favor by exporting minerals, some natural gas, and some unnatural gas in the person of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, to the capitalist countries. Somebody's getting a raw deal along with the raw materials. It sure isn't Solzhenitsyn. He stands to make a cool million off his exile. It isn't the bourgeoisie. They will get their percentage of the gate. It isn't the Soviet bureaucracy. [Solzhenitsyn's exile goes right to their bottom line as a plus]. But Solzhenitsyn is a total liability for human emancipation. Once again, Stalinism has forced the working class to carry the burden and the debts of Stalinism's own deformity.

....A "dissident" in the USSR, Solzhenitsyn became a "champion of freedom," a "defender of artistic truth." Now that Solzhenitsyn is out, so is the truth. The champion of freedom is an organic reactionary....His struggle is nothing but the slavish praise for the historical poverty of Russia. The real crime of the Russian Revolution, according to Solzhenitsyn, was disturbing the sanctity of that poverty.

Hard on the heels of Solzhenitsyn's arrival in the West came the publication of his Letter to the Soviet Leaders in which he fuses his literary and political purposes into one-- the slavation [intentional reversal of letters] of Russia from the "horrors" of modernism and for the spiritual regeneration through a return to the past. Holy Russia is Solzhenitsyn's cause, but how little he knows of earthly Russia and how much less he understands. Of the Russian Revolution, its advance and decline, of this single most important event in all of modern history, he knows nothing and detests everything. In this, Solzhenitsyn is a perfect example of petty Russian cretinism. Solzhenitsyn claims Marxism broke the tranquility and strength of Holy Russia, [catapulting] it into the clutches of a profane world. ... nothing so evil could have grown up in the natural soil of Holy Russia, the revolution was imported from the West.

Solzhenitsyn employs Spiro Agnew's criteria of social development, Malthus' principles of political economy, and Teilhard de Chardin's philosophy as he argues that Russia is doomed to destruction of the bureaucracy maintains its ideology of "economic growth" and "international revolution." A moron always stands on the shoulders of other morons but that does not mean he will be able to see past his own noses, especially when the eyes are crossed and the brain is addled.

The "ideology" of Marxism can only bring calamity after calamity for Holy Russia argues our Calamity Jane. The calamity will be war with China... and then Russia, like the West will collapse in the calamity of economic "over-development." Solzhenitsyn's solution to these calamities is "zero-economic growth." Modern technology, large scale industry and agriculture, world trade, cities, and even babies must be renounced. The underdeveloped countries, who don't have all that much to renounce, must employ "small-scale technology, simple machinery, and increased manual labor to insure their purity. Well, it just so happens that much of the underdeveloped areas have existed on just that diet and those rations for 200 years and see how good life is there? ...1974 is making the idea of zero economic growth a reality. In the first half of 1974, the US GNP actually declined 4.1% and the rest of the world isn't far behind. So let's hear it now. Is everybody happy? Is the world any "cleaner," any less strapped for wealth?....If Solzhenitsyn really hates economic expansion, he should love the Stalinists whose desperate need for technology already obsolete in the West reveals just how backward they are.

It is economic growth that Solzhenitsyn views as the greatest calamity of all, for it disrupts everything dear to his backward little heart. How he longs for the good old times of the good old time villages with their good old time Orthodox churches, their good old time Black Hundreds, their good old time smallpox and typhus, their good old time wife-beatings and illiteracy. And all this nostalgia from a man born in 1918. What a true novelist's memory to remember the joys never experienced. How poetic he waxes as he dreams of the resurrection of the small towns made for "people, horses, dogs" (not necessarily in that order). Solzhenitsyn's five year plan calls for the construction of these charming little outhouses all Russia with transportation provided only by horses and battery-powered electric motors......

Intellectual poverty always extols the virtues of physical poverty. The real positive outcome of Solzhenitsyn's un-development of the USSR will be the Christian salvation of the Russian people who suffering will once again produce that chorus of moans and groans that are music to the ears of every priest. Solzhenitsyn performs a service here in articulating religion's inherent need for absolute immiseration of human life. Poverty may be murder on the body, but it's gangbusters for the spirit.

Marxism opposes and uproots poverty and religion, and both at once. For this reason, Solzhenitsyn finds Marxism more intolerable than Stalin's labor camps where both poverty and religion flourished. Solzhenitsyn never read Marx, but that's no drawback. Stalin never read Marx, Mao Tsetung never read Marx, most Marxists haven't read Marx....Solzhenitsyn calls Marxism a "primitive, superficial economic theory, it declared that only the worker creates value and failed to take into account the contribution of organizers, engineers, transportation, or marketing systems." Like capitalism, Marx never ignored the role of engineers or advertising agents, but like capitalism, Marx knew that only the proletariat created surplus value. In 1972, US Steel's executives were bemoaning the fact that only one-third of their employees was involved in actual production. The company's top heaviness, they complained, devoured profits before they were realized.

...Economic development drags in its wake the possibility of concrete human freedom. Solzhenitsyn despises that freedom above everything else. He craves "authoritarianism with love." Solzhenitsyn wants a Czar, nothing more and there is nothing less. It is no accident that Solzhenitsyn's books as well as this letter reek with a secret admiration for Stalin, who after all, provided his own brand of "authoritarianism with love." How Solzhenitsyn must have embraced and even fondled his imprisonment in the labor camps. Those were the days that come closest to the good old days he desires for the future. "Authoritarianism with love," cries Solzhenitsyn. "Long live the chains!" cried the Spanish guerrillas... when they threw Napoleon's troops out of Spain and restored the conditions of their own slavery. "Long live the chains!" echoes Solzhenitsyn

So what could the Soviet bureaucracy do with dear Aleksandr? Trial and imprisonment. But Solzhenitsyn obviously was mentally incompetent and unfit to stand trial. A mental ward? But Solzhenitsyn was already insane and an idiot to boot. Shoot him? but to do that the Stalinists would have had to reverse fifty years of policy and actually fire a shot in defense of the proletarian revolution. Solzhenitsyn had to be exported, and the bourgeoisie eagerly accepted him, COD.

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