Sunday, September 04, 2016

History riddle

The WSJ links to Gary Saul Morson's "The house is on fire! ... On the hidden horrors of Soviet life." There is a discussion of who murdered more, the Nazis or the Communists? In the early 20th century, class war and race war rhetoric were widely invoked. But since the Holocaust, race war rhetoric is decidedly unfashionable (at least in polite company). But class war rhetoric is almost a mainstay of political campaigns around the world. The free-lunch brigade exploits it all the time.

Morson mentions that the body-count casualties of class war (Stalin, Mao, Castro, Kim, Pol Pot, etc.) are largely out of sight-out of mind. But that begs the question. Why should it be so?

Both of the socialisms (national socialism and bolshevik socialism) were utopian. Both promised to create a "new man" (and woman, I suppose).  But the Nazis were German-centric while the bolsheviks talked in international terms (their anthem).

Morson's punchline is one of those laugh-or-cry East bloc jokes:
 ... a story, set during the Great Purges, about some families in a communal apartment who are awakened at 4 a.m. (the usual time for arrests) by a peremptory banging at the door. Finally one old man, with less life left to lose, answers, disappears into the corridor, and at last returns. “Comrades, relax!” he explains. “The house is on fire!”

I am reading Svetlana Alexievich's Seconhand Time. Today's Homo Sovieticus is tragic in many ways.