Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 2. 13th March 1974
Solzhenitsyn: The new Mickey Mouse of the Bourgeoisie
Solzhenitsyn: The new Mickey Mouse of the Bourgeoisie
On February 13, less than 24 hours after secret police had arrested him in his wife's flat in Moscow, Soviet novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn was deported to the West. Since then he has become the darling of the bourgeois press, ranging from Newsweek to Socialist Action. The latter, with unconscious irony, found it "noteworthy that Solzhenitsyn is the first formal exile from the Soviet Union since Leon Trotsky." (Socialist Action, 1/3/74)
The seriousness with which the Soviet authorities had viewed his activities was reflected in the fact that Solzhenitsyn's exile had been authorised by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko, found time while selling out the Arab people to call Solzhenitsyn a "poison drink" which the Soviet Union could well do without.
The Soviet response was two-pronged. On the one hand, it underlined the fact that Solzhenitsyn's heart belonged to the Western capitalists, he having found Western imperialism preferable to Soviet reality which masks its exploitive class relations under a mask of "Marxist" rhetoric.
On the other hand, the Soviet leaders hoped that Solzhenitsyn's enforced exile would lessen his potential for martyrdom while ridding them of a thorn. A Soviet journalist crowed: "Solzhenitsyn is now a spent cartridge. Solzhenitsyn in the West is not Solzhenitsyn in the USSR. How long will his name be in the spotlight of newspapers? One month? Three?" (News from the USSR, 25/2/74)
There is probably no more revealing illustration of the ideological deterioration of Soviet society than the fact that Solzhenitsyn, one of the USSR's most gifted writers, isa reactionary and self-promoting anti-communist. But it will not do, to brand Solzhenitsyn, nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov and other Soviet dissidents as CIA agents or as bearers of an alien ideology without roots in the Soviet Union, as have Soviet apologists.
Nor will it do, as the Trotskyists have with that predictable knee-jerk "anti-Stalinism", to hail Solzhenitsyn's "firm committment to socialism" or to see the dissidents as the socialist opposition in the Soviet Union". Nor will it do to paint most of them as remaining "socialists at the same time as they criticise the regime and its policies." (Socialist Action 1/3/74)
The transparency of these absurdities is demonstrated by Solzhenitsyn's own statements. While Sakharov and the Medvedevs could be fairly called bourgeois democrats, Solzhenitsyn is more at one with fascists.
In his Nobel Prize lecture, written in 1970 but undelivered Solzhenitsyn shows that when it comes to choosing between supporting the people of the Third World in their struggle for national liberation or supporting imperialism, he lines up with the latter. While the US was trying to bomb Indochina out of existence, Solzhenitsyn condemned patriotic and revolutionary movements which are "announcing their determination to shake and destroy civilisation."
When he nominated Andrei Sakharov for the Nobel Peace prize Solzhenitsyn attacked liberals in the West as having "two moral standards". To make his case, he used Pentagon-created slanders against the Vietnamese people. According to him, "The bestial mass killings in Hue, though reliably proved, were only lightly noticed and almost immediately forgiven because the sympathy of society was on the other side." The "mass killings" in Hue by the NFL during the Tet Offensive of 1968 were manufactured by the Pentagon following the exposure of the My Lai massacres. They were "reliably proved" to nobody except apologists for US aggression in Indochina. Solzhenitsyn attacked Ramsey Garke for not having recognised that US prisoners-of-war in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam "had been subjugated to torture". This too is nothing more than a manufactured lie of the Nixon administration.
With incredible arrogance, Solzhenitsyn asserted: "Could, say, the Republic of South Africa, without being penalised, ever be expected to detain and toture a black leader for four years as General Grigorenko has been? The storm of world-wide rage would have long ago swept the roof from that prison." No clamour comparable with that about Solzhenitsyn's exile has accompanied the jailing of Alex La Guma, black South African writer, or the shooting down of black workers in South Africa.
His first statement in exile, an open letter to Soviet leaders characterised by Time as "apocalyptic", revealed Solzhenitsyn as an alienated intellectual with a deep contempt for the people. In prattling about the "decline of the West", Solzhenitsyn portrayed Western democracy as a system in which "politicians, and indeed the entire country, nearly kill themselves over an election, trying to gratify the masses." (Time 11/3/74)
This encapsulates the illusion of bourgeois democracy. Far from being a competition to "gratify the masses", in essence elections in capitalist countries decide which section of the capitalist class will loot the treasury.
In a diatribe against workers which could have been written by Heath or Muldoon or Harold Wilson, Solzhenitsyn claimed that "there are examples today of groups of workers who have learned to grab as much as they can for themselves whenever their country is going through a crisis, even if they ruin the nation in the process." (ibid) The "greedy" workers have been invoked by the bosses in order to weaken working struggle to improve living conditions ever since the beginning of capitalism.
It is no wonder the Solzhenitsyn is more famous than Mickey Mouse. The US loves him. Solzhenitsyn is an unsavoury hangover of the old ruling classes in the USSR. He is no dissident who has "personally broken" with socialism as a result of an alleged "Stalinist" terror, as Socialist Action and the rag-bag of bourgeois intellectuals who have flocked to his side would have us believe. Solzhenitsyn never was a socialist.
The same cannot be said for other prominent Soviet dissidents. In an interview with a Swedish radio correspondent Sakharov criticised strongly the Soviet bureaucracy's elaborate system of special privileges and its alienation from the people which has led to what he called "the most extreme form of the development of capitalism as it already exists in the United States and other Western countries."
Social ownership by the whole people has degenerated into ownership by a privileged stratum in the Soviet Union. This privileged stratum what Charles Bettelheim has called a new "state bourgeoisie" (see "On the Transition to Socialism", available from The Paper Book-club)—controls the means of production and decides how the fruits of production are to be used. Whatever may be the legal forms, this is the real content of the relations of production, of class ownership in the Soviet Union.
The privileged stratum live in bigger and better flats. They shop in stores which offer a greater variety of goods than the best stores open to the public. In the interview mentioned above Sakharov cited "a network of hidden distributors, whose merchandise is both better and cheaper". There the privileged buy at 25—50% discount. The elite send their children to the best universities.
In June 1972 an anonymous "Citizen's Committee" circulated in Moscow a leaflet which charged that the national wealth was being siphoned off for privileged citizens while ordinary people endured shortages. It attacked "Kremlin officials" for spending the people's money on their luxurious life, on their dachas, villas, limousines, their enormous salaries and bonuses, on their special rations concealed from the people, special rest houses, hospitals and sanatoria. The Kremlin rulers live better than many tsarist bureaucrats." (Press, 11/7/72)
While this leaflet attacked Soviet aid to the Vietnamese people, it nevertheless accurately represents the causes of worker resentment in the Soviet Union which has errupted occasionally in strikes and in widespread achoholism. Every week an example of profiteering, nepotism or some other scandal is revealed in the Soviet press.
The solution which the Soviet dissidents offer is not a socialist one. A manifesto signed by Sakharov, Turchin and Roy Medvedev and addressed to "greatly honoured Conrades Brezhnev, Kosygin and Podgorny" published in Le Monde in April 1970, gives a solution which is one of gradual democratisation in which tight control is kept over the working class and other labouring people. It called for democratisation under the leadership of the CPSU; the closure of the gulf between the Party apparatus and the State and the intellectuals; the setting up of an institute of public opinion whose findings would be available only to limited circles at first; rapproachment in all fields with the West; and to avoid the "dangers of slippipg and sliding to the right and to the left, matters are to be improved from above, in an orderly fashion, slowly, gradually, progressively.
But this picture of Soviet Fabianism is coloured by the "Chinese danger". If there is one thing which concerns all the dissidents more than Soviet censorship, it is what Solzhenitsyn has called the danger of "Chineseisation" of Soviet life. Sakharov and the others thought that because of the "threat" from "militant Chinese nationalism" the USSR "must increase or at least maintain our significant preponderance over China".
The Soviet dissidents are bourgeois intellectuals. They fear the consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in China and the intensified struggle against bourgeois ideology which was at the heart of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the present movement to criticise and repudiate Confucius and Lin Piao.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution aroused the Chinese in their hundreds of millions to air their views freely, to write big character posters and hold great debates on the path to be taken by the People's Republic and to study Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. The capitalist roaders, enemy agents and reactionaries of all kinds were flushed out of hiding and the bourgeois headquarters in the Communist Party was smashed.
Unlike the Soviet leaders who have abandoned political and ideological struggle, and used police power to consolidate their rule, Mao Tsetung teaches: "The only way to settle questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues among the people is by the democratic method, the method of discussion, of criticism, of persuasion and education and not by the method of coercion and repression." ("On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People").
What is involved in China is not superficial formal rights under the law, but the essence of proletarian democracy and the involvement of the masses in the building of socialism. There has been the continuous creation of a Marxist party and state which is responsive to the needs of the people and which leads them in solving their problems.
The Chinese people recognise that without extensive democracy, without an atmosphere of free and open criticism and self-criticism which pervades the whole of society, there can be no dictatorship over the reactionaries and bad elements. There is no liberal tolerance of those activities aimed at rejuvenating bourgeois ideology or restoring bourgeois rule. There is a continuous struggle against efforts to create a privileged stratum which can place social control beyond the reach of the masses.
The Soviet dissidents are a sorry [unclear: ot] who manifest the decay of Soviet society. Apart from Solzhenitsyn their struggle is one for bourgeois democratic rights. They want democratic reforms to enable them to participate in decision-making in Soviet society, whereas Solzhenitsyn's vision is essentially fascist. He wants a technocratic autocracy based on the moral authority of the Christian religion, a society "headed by those who can direct its activities intelligently."
But those alienated intellectuals are not the mainstream of opposition to the present Soviet regime. Within the Soviet Union new Marxist-Leninist groups are arising. In the coming years, these groups will be consolidated and will lead the Soviet people to overthrow the state bourgeoisie and restore the dictatorship of the proletariat.