Monday, February 05, 2007

Speaking of Stalin, here's a quote from the LRB piece (which I still haven't finished reading) - it's a view of Dmitry Furman, who, according to the author of the piece, "has perhaps the most worked out, systematic view of post-Communist developments of any thinker in Russia today":

The country is a ‘managed democracy’: that is, one where elections are held, but the results are known in advance; courts hear cases, but give decisions that coincide with the interests of the authorities; the press is plural, yet with few exceptions dependent on the government. This is, in effect, a system of ‘uncontested power’, increasingly similar to the Soviet state, but without any ideological foundation, which is evolving through a set of stages that parallel those of Russian Communism. The first phase sees the heroic destruction of the old order, a time of Sturm und Drang – Lenin and Yeltsin. The second is a time of consolidation, with the construction of a new, more stable order – Stalin and Putin. The leader of the second phase always enjoys much broader popular support than the leader of the first, because he unites the survivors of the original revolution, still attached to its values, and the anti-revolutionaries, who detested the anarchic atmosphere and the radical changes it brought. Thus Putin today continues Yeltsin’s privatisations and market reforms, but creates order rather than chaos. The successor to Putin in the third stage – comparable to Khrushchev – is unlikely to be as popular as Putin, because the regime, like its predecessors, is already becoming more isolated from the masses.

Stalin enjoyed "much broader popular support" than Lenin? Right, after he killed off tens of millions of those that remained after Lenin's own feast, the rest obviously grew to love him.

Putin creating "order rather than chaos"? Like Stalin did, right? Ha-ha. Seriously, though, I think there's order somewhere in Iowa, or in Japan, but with hospitals like they have here, it's a mess, not order. And with all the bribe-taking.

Finally, maybe it's my lack of abstract thinking skills again, but I really don't understand how anyone can seriously compare Putin to Stalin, at any level, in any way.

What they like to remember of Stalin here now isn't the butcher, but the guy who won the war. Hence the Putin comparison, I guess. Whatever. It's true that Putin knows how to sound tough, but he was hiding like a sissy throughout the Beslan horror, God knows where, and then after it was over, he went on hiding behind the hastily devised initiative to appoint rather than elect Russian governors, which everyone, including the Western press, found too outrageous to ignore. (Then came another distraction from Beslan - the Orange Revolution - and Putin managed to be quite a star in it, too.)

Why not compare him to Brezhnev instead - who wasn't just a ridiculous, senile guy, the hero of so many Soviet jokes - "the mediocre personality," as he's described a few paragraphs later in the LRB text - but rather the man under whose regime people like Vasyl Stus, Vyacheslav Chornovil, Sergei Parajanov, Mustafa Jemilev, Pyotr Grigorenko, Andrei Sakharov and countless others were deprived of their lives/health/freedom/dignity (I'm copy-pasting myself, from here).

Putin is a lot more coherent than Brezhnev, that's true, but he's much younger as well: he's 54 now, while Brezhnev was 57 when he became the General Secretary and 75 when he died. Who knows what Putin is going to sound and look like 20 years from now... It may well be that the future dissidents would have to remake all those Brezhnev jokes into Putin jokes...

1 comment:

  1. One of the things that gets my blood pressure up, is that Hollywood has never made a film critical of Stalin or of the living conditions in the USSR. As far as I know, the only films that depict life in the USSR are "Doctor Zhivago" and well…I think that is about it. Sure there have been both dramas and comedies dealing with the Soviet threat to American sovereignty, but nothing dealing with the plight of people in the USSR.

    We get plenty of movies showing the horrors of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. It seems there is a new film dealing with this subject matter every year. While this is a good thing, since such evil should not be forgotten, the evil of the USSR never gets covered by the “entertainment” media.

    I suppose Joe McCarthy is partially to blame for making a circus out of exposing all the Stalinists that were members of the screenwriter’s guild in Hollywood back in the 40’s and 50’s. This ended up causing Hollywood to veer even further to the left. Today, Hollywood is still chock full of Marxist-Leninists who still can’t bring themselves to apologize for their support of socialism/communism during the Cold War.

    I find it ironic that I can find more movies critical of the Soviet Union made by the French than by the English, British, or Germans combined. Speaking of which, I just saw “Est – Ouest” this weekend. Highly recommend the film to anyone who hasn’t seen it.

    Is anyone aware of anyone ever making a film documenting the horrors of the Ukrainian Famine or the Great Purge from 1936-1938? In my book, these events are just as horrific as the Holocaust. I suppose there is “Utomlyonnye solntsem” but that only vaguely covers the lead up to the great terror.