To understand the moral and literary power with which Robert Conquest wrote, consider the second sentence in his book Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, a study of the 14.5 million deaths that resulted from Joseph Stalin’s murderous takeover of his nation’s agricultural sector: “We may perhaps put this in perspective in the present case by saying that in the actions here recorded about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this book.” . . .
As Conquest's friend, the British novelist Martin Amis, would later observe with a palpable shudder, "The sentence represents 3,040 lives. The book is 411 pages long." The math is too terrible to contemplate.
|True for all values of truth|
The communist revolution, Peter wrote, seems to have burnt itself out in two long decades of flaming arson masterminded by disguised Okhrana survivors and low level tsarist functionaries of the old service apparat operating out of closet Moscow rooms and communicating through secret drops in public trash cans.
Early in 1921 reactionary plotters devised their master plan while accidentally reading The Collected Works of V.I. Lenin which was in use as their secret code book for the trash can messages. Lenin's major theme was a vituperative insistence upon the one correct line—his. This, the plotters deduced correctly, would lead to squabbles upon Lenin's death which could be cleverly exploited in the revanchist cause.
The critical Okhrana files on the Bolsheviks had been saved during the disastrous October days and were hidden away in the mattress of an ex-Moscow prison guard. After hushed discussions behind black-shaded windows and the delivery of many messages on non-garbage collection days inside hollowed-out sausages, it was recommended that Joseph Dzhugashvili (Stalin) be set up as the plot's principle dupe.
He was seen as an opportunist with no tolerance at all for men superior to himself which meant that with careful provocation he could be used as a deadly tool to destroy all Bolsheviks more able than himself. Thus the entire socialist organization could be liquidated. For the purposes of the plot Stalin was assessed to be lacking only in intelligence and organizational ability, but these necessary commodities could be supplied by infiltrators who would do his thinking and organizing for him. Such a man was very dependent upon help.
It must be remembered that the tsarists were decimated at this time. Their entire first rank of leadership had been wiped out, they were badly organized, disunited, and thousands of them were acting independently, unaware even that there were others of the same sympathy. They sat home and drank vodka and complained about the price of food. This gave them time to plot while the socialists were busy rebuilding the nation.It was slow work at first but the restorationists used divisive technology effectively enough to fragment the socialists into isolated cadres. By promoting different "correct lines" and using Stalin as a tiebreaker they lifted their dupe to power. The reactionaries weren't able to place any of their own in high places but by being the actual physical people who controlled Stalin's files they were able to bring to his attention a sufficient number of scoundrels whom they knew would appeal to him, Stalin being Stalin.
The Bolsheviks classified rich peasants as kulaki; medium peasants as seredniaki; and poor peasants asbedniaki. Under Lenin, authority in village affairs was delegated to the poor peasants who were recruited to inform the government when the kulaki and seredniakihid grain from the Bolshevik tax men. To destroy peasant resistance to the revolution's taxes Lenin turned class shadings into class war.
"Attack rich peasants!" was a slogan that Stalin preached. By then, on the say-so of informers, peasants were being arrested wholesale by OGPU agents with large kulak quotas. Meanwhile the Bolshevik baskaks of 1930-31 were confiscating food for export (to be sold on foreign markets at below-cost depression prices), leaving next to nothing in the countryside. What did it matter if those who objected to working for nothing were tortured for withholding grain they had never dared grow, were shot, were sent to the Gulags to build socialism with their free labor? Their neighbors had denounced them. That was enough. A peasant's rights had never been guaranteed by tsarist law— why change?
The Bolsheviks made their first fatal doctrinal mistake by disavowing socialist comradeship with the peasants. The Bolsheviks needed the surplus value that the peasants could supply if properly milked, but didn't relish the dirty work of collecting it, especially since it meant that to do so they would be forced to face the peasant families they were robbing. Thus The Bolshevik City Workers hired tax collectors. Hundreds of counterrevolutionaries, most of them acting independently, seized upon this opportunity like starving wolves at a fawn. The tsarists, as unorganized and demoralized as they were, had plenty of people who knew how to squeeze taxes out of the countryside.
By 1935 the counterrevolutionaries who had started out in Ivan jobs murdering peasants for the OGPU, now had respectable jobs in the NKVD, plenty of vodka, enough money for girls, and each one of them had his own room in Moscow. It was decided after much trash can searching that the time was ripe for the great offensive.
Letter writing squads, patterned after the congressional letter writing clubs of the United States, began to complain about wrecking and sabotage, named names, and demanded action. Writers from the Washington Post were imported to write articles for Pravda about dishonesty and hypocrisy in high places. A few arbitrary arrests were made to satisfy "the outrage of the masses" and some torture begun to prime the restoration fuse.
There was no danger of backlash. The NKVD's victims were carefully picked to appeal to Stalin—they were in every way superior to him. At first only journalists true to the masses were executed. Socialists connected to a free press were very dangerous to the counterrevolution and so all honest voices had to be destroyed during the first strike. Then came the big offensive. In NKVD backrooms, hordes of counterrevolutionary troops began to fabricate false testimony and forward it on to the vain Stalin-tool for approval.
Here was one of the strangest things that Kaissel was learning about the Russian culture during his prison studies. Russian villains had long mastered group solidarity, while the legions of brave Russian heroes, hordes of them, continued to fight on as individuals,with no understanding at all of the power of union. Working Americans read Marx avidly while that shaker of men was alive. Presto, powerful American labor unions sprang up. Yet in a hundred years no Russian had ever organized a successful labor movement. Why?
Perhaps in a sea of informers it was impossible.----The Moon Goddess and the Son by Donald Kingsbury