Monday, May 14, 2012

"Occupy" Your Mind

'Way back in the wayback -- the first Red Scare, it was -- idealistic anarchist Emma Goldman got herself deported to the nascent Soviet Union. She spent two years there and departed deeply disillusioned.

You can say what you like about Goldman -- she did tend to throw herself at a cause heart and soul, then get a closer look and step back, aghast -- but she knew manure when she fell into a wagon load and she didn't mince words:
Though an Anarchist and an anti-governmentalist, I had not come to Russia expecting to find my ideal realized. I saw in the Bolsheviki the symbol of the Revolution and I was eager to work with them in spite of our differences. However, if lack of aloofness from the actualities of life means that one cannot judge things fairly, then my critic is right. One could not have lived through two years of Communist terror, of a régime involving the enslavement of the whole people, the annihilation of the most fundamental values, human and revolutionary, of corruption and mismanagement and yet have remained aloof or "impartial" in the critic's sense.

Would that today's Occupiers could read and understand Goldman; would that even a leaven of them, eager to destroy the establised order, might read,
...[M]y curiosity was aroused by the revolutionary mystery which seemed to hang over everyone, and of which no one dared to speak. When four years later I left with my sister for America I was no longer the German Gretchen to whom Russia spelt evil. My whole soul had been transformed and the seed planted for what was to be my life's work. Especially did St. Petersburg remain in my memory a vivid picture, full of life and mystery.

I found Petrograd of 1920 quite a different place. It was almost in ruins, as if a hurricane had swept over it. The houses looked like broken old tombs upon neglected and forgotten cemeteries. The streets were dirty and deserted; all life had gone from them. The population of Petrograd before the war [WW I --RX] was almost two million; in 1920 it had dwindled to five hundred thousand. The people walked about like living corpses; the shortage of food and fuel was slowly sapping the city; grim death was clutching at its heart.
Be careful what you wish for -- it might come with a hidden surprise center.


Alan said...

Unfortunately Communism never runs out of useful idiots.

perlhaqr said...

I am now tempted to take a bullhorn and a copy of Gulag Archipelago to an Occupy event.