April 21st, 2014

Cultural Amnesia: on the Nazis vs. the Soviets

From the Nadezhda Mandelstam chapter of Clive James’ excellent Cultural Amnesia [in the following excerpts I have Americanized the British spelling):

The main difference [between the Gulag and Hitler's Reich] was that in Nazi Europe the victims knew…who they were, and eventually came to know they were doomed. In the Soviet Union, the bourgeois elements could not even be certain that they were marked down for death. Like Kafka’s victims in the Strafkolonie, they were in a perpetual state of trying to imagine what their crime might be. Was it to have read books? Was it to have red hair? Was it (the cruelest form of fear) to have submitted too eagerly? Other versions of the same story came out of China, North Korea, Romania, Albania, Cambodia. The same story came out of the Rome of Tiberius, but the twentieth century gave something new to history when societies nominally dedicated to human betterment created a climate of universal fear. In that respect, the Communist despotisms left even Hitler’s Germany looking like a throwback. Hitler was hell on earth, but at least he never promised heaven: not to his victims, at any rate. It’s the disappointment of what happened in the new Russia that Nadezhda [Mandelstam] captures and distils into an elixir.

A little later in the essay he writes:

Quite early in the regime’s career of permanent house cleaning—certainly no later than Lunacharsky’s crackdown on the avant garde in 1929—anyone stemming from the pre-revolutionary intelligentsia was automatically enrolled along with remnants of the bourgeoisie in the classification of “class enemy.”…Civilized articulacy was as deadly a giveaway as soft hands…Eventually any kind of knowledge that had been acquired under the old order was enough to mark down its possessor. Just as Pol Pot’s teenage myrmidons assailed anyone who wore spectacles, so the Soviet “organs” discovered that even a knowledge of engineering was a threat to state security…Any field of study with its own objective criteria was thought to be inherently subversive. Given time, Stalin probably would have applied the Lysenko principle to every scientific field. To this day, scholars puzzle over the reasons for Stalin’s purging the Red Army of its best generals in the crucial years leading up to June 1941, but the answer might lie close at hand. The fact that military knowledge—strategy, tactics, and logistics—was a field of data and principles verifiable independently of ideology might have been more than enough to invite his hatred. In attacking his own army, of course, Stalin came close to demolishing the whole Soviet enterprise. But at the center of the totalitarian mentality is the fear that the internal enemy might be unapprehended…

[Nadezhda Mandelstam] does believe that there is such a thing as independent moral judgement, a quality in perfect polarity with the regime, which can’t tolerate the existence of independent moral judgement, and indeed has come into being specifically so as to eliminate all such values.

You can see for yourself the relevance to our own times. Moral relativism, the destruction of traditional values, the hegemony of PC thought over facts and knowledge—it’s all there. All but the camps. But are camps even needed, when the control of so many of the institutions is good?

Which doesn’t mean that camps—the natural progression of leftist thought—won’t come some day. But I have long thought we’re headed the Chavez rather than the Soviet way. Or in other words, somewhat more Brave New World than Nineteen Eighty-Four.

[NOTE: For an example of the sort of thinking that's become rife in academia and that dovetails quite nicely with this post, see this:

Harvard student Sandra Y.L. Korn recently proposed in The Harvard Crimson that academics should be stopped if their research is deemed oppressive. Arguing that “academic justice” should replace “academic freedom,” she writes: “If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?”

In other words, Korn would have the university cease to be a forum for open debate and free inquiry in the name of justice, as defined by mainstream liberal academia.

Unfortunately, this is already a reality in most universities across America, where academics and university administrators alike are trying, often successfully, to discredit and prohibit certain ideas and ways of thinking. Particularly in the humanities, many ideas are no longer considered legitimate, and debate over them is de facto non-existent. In order to delegitimize researchers who are out of line, academics brand them with one of several terms that have emerged from social science theory.

I wonder whether the self-righteous Ms. Korn is even aware of whose footsteps she's following in.]

26 Responses to “Cultural Amnesia: on the Nazis vs. the Soviets”

  1. Gringo Says:

    I wonder whether the self-righteous Ms. Korn is even aware of whose footsteps she’s following in.]

    I doubt it. An encouraging sign is that there were a LOT of negative comments to her article.

  2. Ann Says:

    The author info at the end of Korn’s article says she’s a “joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator”, so I’m thinking she’s not well versed in actual history.

  3. Don Carlos Says:

    Venezuela is a work-in-progress, so as a case study it is necessarly incomplete. I don’t believe there is any value to debating which piece of fiction- FICTION-BNW or 1984- the future holds for Venezuelans or for us. The fact is that all serious Leftist governments including the National Socialists of Germany have featured ‘detention’ camps (I exclude little namby-pamby places like Costa Rica, oh so Green, with nationalized health care) and I am therefore sure there are such camps in the extrapolated American future.

  4. Wm. Lawrence Says:

    All forms of socialism in the end boil down to three questions:

    Who gets to live?
    Who has to die?
    Who gets to decide?

  5. Tonawanda Says:


  6. Eric Says:

    I thought the Harvard student petition responding to the Jason Richwine controversy was more troubling because it came from Harvardians who, presumably, aren’t boilerplate campus-radical leftists like Korn.

    Even if such claims had merit, the Kennedy School cannot ethically stand by this dissertation whose end result can only be furthering discrimination under the guise of academic discourse.”

  7. Sgt. Mom Says:

    My mother had a friend – or maybe even just an acquaintance – through some Lutheran conference in about the 1970s. The friend was from one of the Baltic states (Latvia-Lithuania-Estonia) which had the interesting experience of being occupied by the Nazis and the Soviets. An interesting compare-contrast experience, I would say. The friend told my mother that the Nazis only came down on you if you were Jewish, or got involved in the anti-Nazi underground in some way. Otherwise -left to live your life pretty much unmolested.

    The Soviets, OTO – if you were a land-owner, a land-lord, small business-owner, among the intelligentsia (and not slavishly pro-Commie), employed by a bank, a corporation at the upper levels, a farmer above the level of a tiny plot, a civil servant in the pre-Soviet administration, an officer in the military — basically you were screwed. You were on their death-list.

    Something to keep in mind, I think.

  8. parker Says:

    Labeling your ideological opponents as subhuman removes any need to engage in debate in the marketplace of ideas. When subhumans provide irrefutable evidence of the truth of their ideas it is not necessary to disprove their opinion and go through the hassle of proving your opinion; just label them subhuman. Its a well tested method that worked with great success in 1930s Germany.

  9. Steve57 Says:

    If you want to learn about the left, there’s lot to be said for studying Islam. Because as Ayaan Hirsi Ali has distilled it, Islam isn’t so much a religion as a totalitarian political theory of conquest. We can leave aside the conquest part for the moment and just look at how it works domestically. Because it is totalitarian in the same sense that fascism and communism are totalitarian. But Islam has the far longer history.

    I think two aspects of Islam are particularly apt to the discussion. First, the principle of abrogation and second the concept of jahiliyyah.

    For instance, people who don’t read the Koran are under the impression that Islam recognizes Judaism and Christianity as religions. And indeed you can find parts of the Koran that imply that it does. For instance the Koran says that “I shall have my religion, and you shall have yours,” and “there can be no compulsion in religion,” and that Jews and Christians are “people of the book.” But those are the earlier verses (and not in order). Per the principle abrogation, though, they are replaced by the later verses. Essentially the early Muslims (and their Christian, Jewish, and Pagan neighbors, as long as they lasted) had to be led along incrementally. So the entire “truth” couldn’t be revealed all at once. Muhammad would reveal a little of the “truth” at a time, and what came later was “better” and replaced what came before.

    So if you study the Koran you’ll find that in the end they don’t think of any other belief system than Islam to be a religion. All others are mere cults. So when our idiot political sign onto OIC initiatives to ban speech that denigrates religion, as Hillary Clinton did during her tenure particularly after Benghazi, she either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that when the OIC talks about denigration of religion, they mean only denigration of Islam.

    This is why, BTW, that one of the rules of dhimmitude is that Dhimmis can’t study the Koran. Because as Ms. Hirsi Ali points out, it is a theory of conquest. And is you were a conquerer or a would be conquerer would you want your targets and victims to study your play book (it’s also why they try and claim you can’t really understand it unless you read it in Arabic, as if I couldn’t understand Soviet military manuals unless I read them in Russian).

    But then the leftist program has been sold the same way. Revealed incrementally and then per the principle of abrogation what came later replaces what came before. But just as the Koran was whole and complete in the mind of Allah before creation (which is wierd because Allah apparently worried a lot about Muhammad getting lots of nookie and that his dinner guests might be rude and stay later than they should per some of the convenient revelations Muhammad came up with when he needed them) so is the leftist agenda. It actually is written down because it’s authors weren’t as smart as Allah and didn’t keep it hiddent. But they’ll denounce you as a nutcase if you actually try to tell people where to find it, and where the left is going with this.

    For instance, just like you couldn’t keep your doctor, or your plan, and you won’t see the cost of your premiums drop, and you won’t have better access to helath care but worse, Obamacare is not even about health care. Best not to have too much divine revelation all at once. Of course it’s not just that. For instance Kevin D. Williams wrote an excellent article that uses as an example gay marriage. We were lied to on that, every step of the way, Each step was an “All I want is the Sudentland” moment. For instance, when the first same-sex civil unions were proposed in California the same year as SCOTUS delivered it’s awfully reasoned Lawrence decision opponents pointed out that it was obviously a step toward SSM. The proponents angrily denounced that as red herring and said stuff like “no one is talking about gay marriage” except the right wing crazies.

    Sure, they weren’t talking about it. It’s called lying by omission. But here we are.

    Does anybody really believe the left doesn’t want to use gun registration to implement gun confiscation? Ask them. It depends on if they think you’re one of them whether or not you get an honest answer.

    Jahilliyah is the term for what existed before Muhammad revealed the divine word. It actually transliterates into something like “the period before divine guidance.” It was a state of ignorance, which is why Muslims went on destruction sprees as they conquered Arabia, then the Middle East and Egypt and beyond. They are still going on destruction sprees, if you remember the Buddhas of Bamiyan or the more recent destruction of Sufi shrines and libraries in Africa. But this is what the Soviets did, as well, as they targeted anyone stemming from the old bourgeois class.

    It’s particularly interesting how you note that Stalin purged anyone trained in a profession that had objective, testable standards that were beyond the reach of ideology. Because such people are likely not to accept “divine guidance” and think they can arrive at their own conclusions. This is precisely why in Islam, “boko haram.” Western learning is forbidden. There have been precisely two Muslim Nobel Laureates in science, and neither one did their research in an Islamic country. Because really is totalitarian. You have to believe, for instance, that the Sun sets in a puddle of muddy water on Earth because it’s in the Koran and the Hadith. The Koran and the Hadiths tell you everything you need to know about everything from personal hygeine to biology to politics. Everying else is heresy.

    But of course you yourself aren’t allowed to study the Koran and Hadiths to form your own independent judgements about that. Muslims as well as dhimmis. You can not even do what you think the holy texts tell you to do. “Divine guidance” of course means doing what your religious leaders tell you to do. It worked the same way in Stalin’s Russia, since of course communism is as much a religion as Islam is. And now, apparently it works the same way on college campuses. You can some up Ms. Korn’s piece in the Harvard Crimson in two words. Boko Haram.

    The left in this country has their own version of Jahiliyya. Which is why they’re going on their destruction spree. Everything that represents western civilization and passes along “bourgeois” values must be destroyed. Marriage, Christianity, the Constitution, now the University, and even the Boy Scouts. And it must be replaced by “divine guidance.” It was once acceptable to think marriage is between a man and a woman. Barack Obama evolved. It no longer is (principle of abrogation again). Your religious leaders will tell you what your opinions must be. And if tomorrow your beliefs must be different from today, you must conform.

  10. G Joubert Says:

    “I wonder whether the self-righteous Ms. Korn is even aware of whose footsteps she’s following in.”

    She could probably recite that, strictly on an intellectual level. But she wouldn’t take ownership of it, mainly because she likely sees herself and her cohorts as being enlightened with a greater clarity of purpose, not understanding that those in her shoes always believe that.

    It’s interesting that “academic freedom” isn’t enough for progressives. They want absolute academic monopoly, backed by force.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    Mohammed the child rapist got his Ars kicked out of his home town, I remember recalling. He later came back and conquered it.

    So he had to massage the truth based on who he was talking to. Until he got his jihadist army ready, he couldn’t enforce what he wanted to enforce.

    People on the net are also beginning to talk about the forbidden subject of mind control by Leftists.

    As for why I consider the Left’s true power to be mind control, not unionization, political power, or wealth transfer, here’s a good intro.


    The rebels are connecting the dots, the Left had better hurry up and finish the training of their death squads, the civilian security force Hussein liked to brag about.

    The Left is allied with Islamic Jihad mostly because they share the same enemies, but also because ideologically they are very similar.

  12. betsybounds Says:

    Brave New World for the compliant. 1984 for the resistant.

  13. parker Says:

    “the Left had better hurry up and finish the training of their death squads, the civilian security force Hussein liked to brag about.”

    If all we are facing is the messiah’s civilian security force, I’m not worried. Your mileage may vary depending upon where you live. The military used against us I do fear.

  14. Don Carlos Says:

    Hey parker, most of us don’t have ballistic armor.
    Probably the best we can do is each one take one out if it comes to that.

  15. Steve57 Says:

    Ymarsakar said:

    “The Left is allied with Islamic Jihad mostly because they share the same enemies, but also because ideologically they are very similar.”

    Definitely. They are almost identical in methodology, too. All good reasons why studying Islam is a good way to get to know the left.

  16. Eric Says:

    Steve57: “Definitely. They are almost identical in methodology, too.”

    Well yeah. The activist game is the only social-political game there is, and obviously, the Left and the Islamists are both playing the game to win.

    They’re merely doing what competitors are supposed to do.

    The question is, who’s not playing the activist game and therefore willfully forfeiting the activist game, despite that it is the only social-political game there is? Who’s willfully giving away their world to the competition?

  17. parker Says:

    “Probably the best we can do is each one take one out if it comes to that.”

    As I noted, depending upon where you live, your mileage may vary. At the county gun range we old and young coots alike practice at 400 yards; 95% of us can put a bullet 1 MOA at 400 4 out of 5. We may be flyover yokels and bitter clingers, but we can shoot. The youngsters, with better eyesight, are capable of 1 MOA at 600 yards but are limited by the parameters of the range. with open sights. When looking through a scope, with a range finder, 1 MOA goes out to 1,000 yards depending upon caliber. BHO thugs better be wearing 3 inches of ballistic body armor to avoid a fatal headache. Bring it on.

  18. parker Says:

    “Who’s willfully giving away their world to the competition?”

    One day it will/may come down to dust. I’m siding with those who, inarticulate they may be, are people who adhere to the idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit (slippery as it may be) of happiness. Let the line be drawn, let the great game begin. i am aging and I have grandchildern to defend.

  19. Jim Kearney Says:

    This is so dangerous because the students who have been indoctrinated to this way of thought find it familiar and comfortable. It’s “Normal” for them to crush “offensive” thoughts and ideas. Just as the 60s Radicals became the intelligensia and Professors, these graduates will be our next Congressmen and women, Judges, and rulers of our future. The Constitution will become an alien document to them. A document to mutate and “Transform” as Obama would put it.

  20. Ymarsakar Says:

    In Ancient days, there used to be rival sources of authority that competed with the authority of the church, the state, and various other high power groups.

    They called it love. Loyalty. Giri or repayment of debt owed for favors called.

    The local church may refuse to sanction a marriage, so people elope or defect to a different church, based on the premise that love bonds two people together to the point where they will refuse the authority of society to take on the world. If a person’s love of God exceeds their loyalty to the Regime, one can often find villages like in France that refused to obey the Nazi orders to round up Jews or report on locations of Jews, merely because God commanded otherwise.

    Loyalty can be seen in the tale of the 47 Ronin. Even though the authority of the feudal aristocracy dictated that their Lord had broken a rule and should kill himself, and even though their Lord obeyed this option, the 47 Ronin still felt that their internal loyalty demanded that revenge be taken to rebalance the injustice that led to their Lord’s destruction. Even if that will lead to ultimately death and being set against the entire feudal system of Japan.

    Totalitarian systems really dislike the whole rival authority issue. They want to wipe out competitors. You will love no one, but Hussein your God. You will obey no one, but Hussein your God. You will not be in debt to anyone, except Hussein your God. You will not provide favors to anyone and thus not be owed any debt personally, except to Hussein your God. If your love of family, lovers, and siblings gets in the way of your obedience to Hussein your God, you must worship no other God but the one True God, no other idol can replace Hussein the Messiah and True God.

    This is what actually goes on in the heads of the zombies, the Leftist cannonfodder. Hussein tells them to bring up healthcare and sign people up at Christmas and Thanksgiving, they obeyed. A holiday that was for family, is now suddenly turned into an enforced commission for the GLory of Hussein.

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    Parker, as seen in Iraq, the US military is relatively weak against propaganda. Even a battle that can be won with sheer force, can lose the war in the end if the propaganda uses it for the other side.

    Also, those corrupt officers loyal to the Democrats in the US military are getting their orders from someone.

    So keep in mind the correct targets and ways of utilizing propaganda to offset conventional military power.

  22. Gringo Says:

    Eric’s quoting a “letter to the HKS community:”

    ….. the Kennedy School cannot ethically stand by this dissertation whose end result can only be furthering discrimination under the guise of academic discourse.”

    We’re talking about Harvard. What percent of its undergrad applicants does Harvard admit? Ten percent? And students at such an institution are concerned about discrimination?

    Suffice it to say that the writer of that letter is not so concerned about the egregious discrimination shown by Harvard to immediately sever ties with such a DISCRIMINATING institution. After all, it would be a badge of shame to have a degree from such a DISCRIMINATING institution.

    I have a similar reaction to those Ivy League types who get their panties in a twist about INEQUALITY- to which I would also say that the wealthiest universities in the country, in the interest of reducing INEQUALITY, should liquidate their endowments. Pay all to the feds, say.

  23. Don Carlos Says:

    The US military and/or its increasingly militarized police allies are not going to come for dissident citizens by riding 4-wheelers across open ground. The Feds have been giving small town police forces (Neo: Keene NH) APCs; there are now more than 50.000 SWAT raids per year by helmeted, body-armored ‘cops’ with full auto assault guns.

    SWAT raids are the model for the future.

    1 MOA accuracy at 400yards wont do it. Eevil large magazines to hose down as fast as finger pulls trigger will be more important (full auto is illegal for citizens); which is why the Left wants them banned.

  24. Ymarsakar Says:

    The Left is only merely beginning their hijacking of the US military. They failed during the Vietnam days, for some reason. Probably because conscription was thrown out, hard to find volunteers on the Left to volunteer to infiltrate the US military to maybe die. Easier for them to find infiltrators for the Catholic Church.

    I think the Left’s upper priesthood and inquisition slots like Holder, don’t trust the US military to do what they are told to do in the US. That’s why it is easier to reform a civilian security force wholly loyal to the Husseins. I heard there were US military forces used in the confiscation of guns in Katrina, but hard to say which members were involved. The media wasn’t paying attention.

    The Left is currently buying the loyalty of women officers. With additional combat attached to the record of female officers, the females can get on the promotion gravy train. Once they are situated in the proper command positions, that personal loyalty and favor might be called on. But as for whether the grunties down below will obey, that’s an entirely different issue. Hussen may merely be keeping Afghanistan alive as a blood sink for US conservatives, and to get his female corps more combat time so that they are promoted beyond the old officer corps of the US military.

    For the domestic side, I ran some simulations concerning the US Regime putting in a black ops team on military bases, capturing the family barracks, and holding them for ransom to ensure military loyalty. This was a few months before Ft. Hood 1. So now after Ft. Hood 2, it seems their policy is to bleed the domestic US military members via Gun Free zones. For civilians, SWAT teams breaking into the “wrong house” will render that issue null and void. There, if they find you pointing a gun at them, they can justify the kill with “we were under threat”.

    Some things about the Left I haven’t mentioned yet. People weren’t ready for it. They weren’t ready to hear it. Now, though, they might be ready.

    Strangely enough, we may not run in the same social circles but other Americans are forming their own social defense alliances.


    Those authors, like most other Americans, had been keeping their views quiet although it was obvious from their books what they believed. Now a days, everyone is speaking up, like the social chains of slavery had been lifted or something.

  25. Lizzy Says:

    Interesting, there are a lot of similarities between the American Left and the Soviets. Recent examples include the OWS movements and the anti-tech vandals in San Francisco. There’s a war against the productive/successful by those who consider themselves thinkers, the — Studies graduates with no marketable skills except the ability to opine and critique. Really, Obama has been waging little wars on the productive/successful since taking office – bankers, Wall St., jet owners, etc.
    I’d have to say that Ayn Rand did and excellent job illustrating where this all leads, right down to the language used to separate wealth from people in order to give it to others.
    - – -
    Steve57 – There was a conversation on another blog this morning about “triggering” – the Lefty trend of suppressing certain thoughts or speech because they trigger and intense emotional reaction in others (anger, hurt). This seems right in line with the whole Islamic rage concept (self-censorship for fear of sparking violent rage), as well as the “uncovered meat” approach to explaining away/excusing sexual assault & rape.

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    As for the role of long range marksmen…


    The propaganda war can be primed ahead of time. That way, those that are left can more easily turn lost battles into advantages.

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