« Immodest Proposals | Main | New Look »

March 21, 2005



This Zizek guy is good. I just finished reading this: Somewhere over the rainbow!, and I think he has some good points there.

BTW, Belomors are not called 'cigarettes', they are papirosas.


Time adjusted paths are great - the US killed over 400,000 working class Japanese in 3 days (Tokyo Raid, Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Which do you admire more: ideology or efficiency?


I'm no fan of the communists- either the ones in the soviet union, or the hopeless fools who have that name now in Russia. And seeing Stalin nastalgia there is very sad and depressing for me. But, I'd not put too much credence in what Applebaum says on most things, both in history, which she does like a journalist, and on Russia in general, which she does like a typical westerner who rarely, if ever, gets beyond Moscow. She's not quite hopeless, but not much better. Take what she says here. She's right that former communists are apposed to saying bad things about the soviet union. But she's quite wrong if she thinks that there is a clear majority of people there who are not ex communists in any interesting sense who want to have the badness of the soviet union brought to light. She'd know this if she spent time talking to more normal Russians in more parts of Russia. This is similar to the fact that, despite how things seem around universities, many, perhaps most, Americans think the lesson of vietnam is that we should have fought harder. When you are one of the losers of history, this is even hard to take. I'm rambling a bit now, but this is just becuase it annoys me how Applebaum has become something of an authority on Russia when she's pretty clearly got a simple-minded view of it. She's a journalist in the pejoritive sense of the word.

joe o


The full excerpt seems to deal with your points. She gets out of Moscow in the first paragraph.

she also says:

>Many Russians experienced the collapse of the Soviet Union as a profound blow to their personal pride. Perhaps the old system was bad, they now feel—but at least we were powerful. And now that we are not powerful, we do not want to hear that it was bad. It is too painful, like speaking ill of the dead.


Thanks, Joe
I'll take your word on the full article. So many things I've read by Applebaum are so simple-minded and simplistic that I can't bear to read the full thing now. But, you might be right. (I still doubt she really spends much time in the real Russia, at least not when not on a self-serving "assignment", but I may be wrong. Her writing rarely reflects it.) but, what you quote here is at least better (though still a bit condesending, I think.) Having lived there for some years, and having friends and family there, I take such things a bit personally. Also, that bit, at least, still doesn't accept, as is clearly true (and clearly true to anyone who has bothered to look!) that for _many_ russians that old system was, in fact, better for them. The percentage now is less than it was, say, 5 or 10 years ago, but 5 or 10 years ago at least it was a very significant percentage, and even today it's not a small number. That's not just hurt pride.

Rich Puchalsky

I like the way that peBird carefully specifies the number of _working class_ Japanese killed. I guess the middle and upper class deaths were good riddance?

And abb1, your liking for the linked Zizek piece is as odd as your previous implication that Lenin was a social democrat. Do you really think that "what's the matter with Kansas" is that liberals created conservatism by being tolerant and humane? Or is it the proposed Communist-Conservative alliance against the liberals that caught your fancy?


Good God! Not only is "Real America" now defined as non-urban, but so is "Real Russia!" How about Singapore?

What is it about cities that makes their denizens non-citizens of their nations?

I suppose there's an argument that most (educated) city-dwellers are cosmopolitan, and thus, by definition, citizens not of their nations but of the world, but really, isn't that a bit of a stretch?

Of course, it's similar to the VP that the only opinions that count (that are "real") are uneducated ones. Like that an amount of force that was sufficient to beat Hitler _and_ Tojo was just a little bit less than what it would've taken to beat Uncle Ho. Westmoreland was such a p****.


"It's this kind of thing that makes you really glad to have been born in America in the '70's."

Tell me about it. In 70's Canada, people were just gettin' gulagged right and left.

"I like the way that peBird carefully specifies the number of _working class_ Japanese killed. I guess the middle and upper class deaths were good riddance?"

Sidestep much?


of course Lenin was a Social Democrat. Russian Social Democratic party split into two fractions: Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, he was the leader of the Bolsheviks; but all of them were Social Democrats.

As far as the Kansas thing - yes, something like that. Not "Communist-Conservative alliance" and not "against the liberals", but I think the Democratic party has been very much weakened by the liberals. There's nothing wrong with being tolerant and humane, but the economic interest should be the foundation and the stuff like gay rights only an addition; it's nice, but it's secondary. Putting the carriage before the horse is not going to get you anywhere.

Adam Kotsko

Atlantic Monthly has a good review of Frank and others this month, in which he makes the point that counterculture has basically replaced socialism as the basis of radical thought.


What's remarkable - to me, anyway - about Applebaum's article is not so much the lack of remembrances and commemorations for the victims of the Soviet era, but the fact that this absence is remarkable to so many today. While there is a long history of commemorating and dedicating monuments to wars, the idea of doing the same for the victims of brutal regimes who suffered as a result of the everyday cruelty of their societies seems to be a much more recent one. The use of trials and truth and reconciliation commissions to investigate not specific incidents, but the general conditions of the past, seems to be a product of the post-WWII world. (Or perhaps post-WW1 - in the US the WPA did interview ex-slaves.)

As an example, consider the American Civil War. There are plenty of war monuments, national parks, battlefields (some of which are also national parks), cemetaries, etc. But monuments to those who suffered under slavery? There are some now (I think, and I believe others are being planned if not already under construction) but how many existed back in the 1880s as Reconstruction was coming to an end?

At the same time, however, this is - like Applebaum's piece - an argument for facing the past rather than burying - or at least not unearthing - it.


Good God! Not only is "Real America" now defined as non-urban, but so is "Real Russia!"

And the "Real Internet" is actually off-line.

Gary Farber

Why is it that I post a bunch of excerpts from this article, and no one comments, but you guys get plenty? Ditto most posts I make, versus most posts y'all make.

This isn't related to the way commenting here results in comments from the future, is it? Is that the key?


I called non-moscow "real russia" becuase that's what Russians do. Note that one need not be non-urban to be out of Moscow- there are many large cities, including the one I lived in (about 600,000 people) that are clearly urban, and very, very different form Moscow. The standard joke is that Russia needs to open an embassy in Moscow to represent the country to the people who live in the capital. (Petersburg is even less typically Russian, though in some rather different ways.) An example- the numbers people threw around when I lived there (I have no way to confirm them) was that 80% of the wealth of Russia was in Moscow, 10% in Petersburg, and 10% in the rest. That's why it's not "real russia".


Brilliant! You will have to teach me how to do this.

Cheers and beers from New Zealand.


The comments to this entry are closed.

Email John & Belle

  • he.jpgjholbo-at-mac-dot-com
  • she.jpgbbwaring-at-yahoo-dot-com

Google J&B

J&B Archives

Buy Reason and Persuasion!

S&O @ J&B

  • www.flickr.com
    This is a Flickr badge showing items in a set called Squid and Owl. Make your own badge here.

Reason and Persuasion Illustrations

  • www.flickr.com

J&B Have A Tipjar

  • Search Now:

  • Buy a couple books, we get a couple bucks.
Blog powered by Typepad

J&B Have A Comment Policy

  • This edited version of our comment policy is effective as of May 10, 2006.

    By publishing a comment to this blog you are granting its proprietors, John Holbo and Belle Waring, the right to republish that comment in any way shape or form they see fit.

    Severable from the above, and to the extent permitted by law, you hereby agree to the following as well: by leaving a comment you grant to the proprietors the right to release ALL your comments to this blog under this Creative Commons license (attribution 2.5). This license allows copying, derivative works, and commercial use.

    Severable from the above, and to the extent permitted by law, you are also granting to this blog's proprietors the right to so release any and all comments you may make to any OTHER blog at any time. This is retroactive. By publishing ANY comment to this blog, you thereby grant to the proprietors of this blog the right to release any of your comments (made to any blog, at any time, past, present or future) under the terms of the above CC license.

    Posting a comment constitutes consent to the following choice of law and choice of venue governing any disputes arising under this licensing arrangement: such disputes shall be adjudicated according to Canadian law and in the courts of Singapore.

    If you do NOT agree to these terms, for pete's sake do NOT leave a comment. It's that simple.

  • Confused by our comment policy?

    We're testing a strong CC license as a form of troll repellant. Does that sound strange? Read this thread. (I know, it's long. Keep scrolling. Further. Further. Ah, there.) So basically, we figure trolls will recognize that selling coffee cups and t-shirts is the best revenge, and will keep away. If we're wrong about that, at least someone can still sell the cups and shirts. (Sigh.)