We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

There has never been a greater day, than this.

So said Churchill on VE Day, but in its own way, 25 years ago, 25th December 1991 was a yet greater day, the day when the Soviet Union collapsed with Gorbachev’s resignation as President of the USSR, and so it vanished after the leaders of Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus had told Gorbachev, who had by then become Lenin’s Dönitz, to go away and take what Auberon Waugh called ‘that accursed, groaning slave empire’ with him.

The events leading up to the disappearance of the USSR are recalled in an article on the BBC website, ‘How three men signed the USSR’s death warrant‘ rather lacking in nostalgia for the slaughterhouse of nations. The then leader of Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich, was a key figure, as the article tells us:

8 December, at 09:00 the leaders (of Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus), with their prime ministers and various officials in tow, gathered for the negotiations – still apparently unclear what they were about to discuss.

The first suggestion came from a Russian adviser, Gennadi Burbulis – and it could not have been more radical.”I will remember this sentence to the end of my life,” says Shushkevich.
“It is the opening statement of our agreement, the only one which was adopted without any arguments. ‘The USSR, as a geopolitical reality, and as a subject of international law – has ceased to exist.’ And I was the first to say that I would sign up for this.”

The agreement would render the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev irrelevant, while giving more power in Moscow to Russia’s president Boris Yeltsin.
But putting an end to the centuries-old Russian empire and its successor, the USSR, was a big step. Years later, many wondered whether the three politicians were entirely sober when taking this momentous decision?

“According to a popular myth, we drafted our agreement while drunk,” says Shushkevich. “This is completely wrong! Of course, it was a typical Soviet arrangement, and alcohol was freely available everywhere in the residence – but no-one touched it. The most we would allow ourselves was a drop of brandy every time we adopted a new article.”
In the next few hours, 14 articles in all were adopted. By about 15:00, the document confirming the dissolution of the USSR was ready. The next step was to inform the world, and the Byelorussian leader drew the short straw.

Shushkevich goes on:

“Yeltsin and Kravchuk said to me jokingly: ‘We have voted to nominate you to inform Gorbachev.’ And then I said: ‘Kravchuk and myself nominate you, Mr Yeltsin, to call your good friend, the US president George Bush.’

“I dialled Gorbachev’s office in Moscow – but they wouldn’t put me straight through, they kept passing me from pillar to post, and I had to explain who I was over and over again. Meanwhile, Yeltsin, seeing that I was on the phone to Moscow, dialled President Bush. [Andrei] Kozyrev, the [Russian] minister of foreign affairs, was on the other line, translating Bush’s comments.”

For a more sanguine review of the Soviet Union, the good people at Breitbart have provided this piece, full of details of the horrors of Soviet power.

An example of a diary entry from 1920.

The machine of the Red Terror works incessantly. Every day and every night, in Petrograd, Moscow, and all over the country the mountain of the dead grows higher … Everywhere people are shot, mutilated, wiped out of existence …

Every night we hear the rattle of trucks bearing new victims. Every night we hear the rifle fire of executions, and often some of us hear from the ditches, where the bodies are flung, faint groans and cries of those who did not die at once under the guns. People living near these places begin to move away. They cannot sleep …

Getting up in the morning, no man or woman knows whether he will be free that night. Leaving one’s home, one never knows whether he will return. Sometimes a neighborhood is surrounded and everyone caught out of his house without a certificate is arrested … Life these days depends entirely on luck.

And then there was Brezhnev’s abuse of psychiatric hospitals for those who rejected the logic of Socialism, and it wasn’t just locking people up, it was using drugs for torture.

As head of the KGB in the 1970s, Yuri Andropov (who later was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after Leonid Brezhnev’s death in 1982), accepted a new theory in Soviet psychiatry which said opposition to the socialist regime was a sign of mental illness.

Why? Because only the mentally disturbed would resist the logic and the truth of Marxian dialectical determinism and its “proof” that socialism and communism were the highest and most humane stage of social development. Those who criticized the system or wanted to reform or overthrow the Soviet socialist regime were mentally sick and required psychiatric treatment.

And the grim reality?

Of all the drugs administered [at the mental institution] to impose discipline, sulfazine stood at the pinnacle of pain … ‘People injected with sulfazine were groaning, sighing with pain, cursing the psychiatrists and Soviet power, cursing with everything in their hearts,’ Alexei told us. ‘The people go into horrible convulsions and get completely disoriented. The body temperature rises to 40 degrees centigrade [104 degrees Fahrenheit] almost instantly, and the pain is so intense they cannot move from their beds for three days. Sulfazine is simply a way to destroy a man completely. If they torture you and break your arms, there is a certain specific pain and you somehow can stand it. But sulfazine is like a drill boring into your body that gets worse and worse until it’s more than you can stand. It’s impossible to endure. It is worse than torture, because, sometimes, torture may end. But this kind of torture may continue for years.’

So remember when people talk of the need to reform or reduce government, it is possible for an entire State to be swept away, without bloodshed, in hours, and whilst in the Soviet Union’s case, the aftermath was economically chaotic, that was because of where they had been, not because of where they were going.

Edit: TM Lutas points out in the comments, for which I am grateful, the following regarding an apparent error in the linked article:

Sulfozinum is not sulfazine. The former is what was used in political psychiatry. The latter is actually used in legitimate medicine. Could you add the spelling variant at least to the article so people unfamiliar with the substance are not led astray? The following two links above in combination illustrate the problem.

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21 comments to There has never been a greater day, than this.

  • PapayaSF

    At the time I thought: “Wonderful, and now everyone will finally give up on the idea of communism!” Amazingly, it still infests the universities….

  • Mr Ed

    PapayaSF,

    There are, more or less, three reasons for the persistence of socialism, the urge to rob and murder under cloak of benevolence.

    1. It wasn’t ‘done right‘, i.e. they killed the wrong people (not too many, just the wrong people).

    2. They didn’t plan properly.

    3. ‘When I can kill them all, it’ll work alright, because I am special and my theory explains it all‘.

    The urge to avoid having to lead an economic life leads some to dream of winning a lottery, but others to dream of murder and piracy. Add the latter to an institution with government funding, and they thrive like mould in a damp, hot greenhouse.

  • Snorri Godhi

    First of all, Merry Christmas.

    To get back on topic, i note that the first link in the OP is faulty.
    Actually, i had a casual look at that BBC article. At first glance, it did not change my opinion that the turning point was the failure of the coup in August of that year (1991).

    In answer to Papaya, the “communism” that infects universities today is quite different. It looks even more insane to me, but still, it is different enough for its advocates to say, with some plausibility, that the experience of the Soviet Union is irrelevant.

  • Stonyground

    I have the feeling that many people lean to the left simply because they feel compassion for poor people. They think that taking from people that they perceive as having too much and giving to people that they perceive as having too little is virtuous. They think that the taking is justified and so they don’t consider it to be theft. They also seem completely unaware of the wider economic consequences that inevitably occur, without fail, every time that their ideas are put into practice. The blame for those are always laid at the door of the nasty party that has to take drastic measures to repair the damage.

  • Alisa

    Stonyground: yes, those are the majority – basically good people, AKA Useful Idiots. They are usually fellow travelers and enthusiastic supporters of the minority consisting of the types described by Ed above. Come the Revolution, they tend to be among the first ones stood in front of the firing squad by the latter.

  • Stuck-Record

    “…accepted a new theory in Soviet psychiatry which said opposition to the socialist regime was a sign of mental illness.”

    Does this ring any bells? Sounds awfully familiar to the current bleating of the IYI & SJW crowd. i.e. ‘All opinions are valid – except yours, which is evil and needs to be eradicated.’

  • It was a great day, but I’m with Churchill: we have yet to experience a greater day than VE day. Communism was horrific to those it conquered but its strength was in lying, not in fighting. It always needed cooperation from its enemies whereas the nazis got so close to the point of relying on mere strength that they reached out and touched it. Communism got a lot of help from useful western idiots but in the end not nearly enough to even look like it was about to win.

    That said, it is communism that still needs exposing. May intellectuals who deny the scale of Stalin’s murders or Mao’s be in time recognised as morally on a level with holocaust deniers.

  • Sulfozinum is not sulfazine. The former is what was used in political psychiatry. The later is actually used in legitimate medicine. Could you add the spelling variant at least to the article so people unfamiliar with the substance are not led astray?
    The following two links in combination illustrate the problem.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfozinum
    https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sulfazine&redirect=no

  • bobby b

    Years ago – in seventh grade – I read this dumb little book by some oddly-named author I’d never heard of titled “We The Living.”

    It made me hate those people with a passion that sometimes disturbed me.

    1991 was a very good year. Skol!

  • AndrewZ

    2017 will see the hundredth anniversary of the Russian revolution and the beginning of the communist era. It will be covered extensively by the old media and the way that Fidel Castro’s death was reported is an indication of just how ignorant and biased much of the coverage will be. All the old communists will be out to lie for the cause one more time, because they will see it as a golden opportunity to define what communism means to a new generation that doesn’t remember the Cold War.

    We should see it in exactly the same way. By “we” I mean everybody who is opposed to the evils of communism and who wants to spread the truth about what it was really like. We should see 2017 as a golden opportunity to bury the reputation of communism once and for all.

    In many ways this will be another old media vs new media fight. Leftist media outlets like the Guardian, New York Times and BBC will present a rose-tinted history of communism in which people with good motives made a few unfortunate mistakes. Many other media outlets will be easily fooled by left-wing propagandists because the “on-screen talent” is a bunch of talking hairstyles who think that Lenin was that guy from The Beatles. But the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump are evidence that the old media is losing its power to set a narrative for the rest of society. They must not be allowed to control how the hundredth anniversary of the Bolshevik catastrophe is remembered.

    But victory will depend on preparation. Start stockpiling facts and figures and rehearsing arguments. Start writing drafts for articles, blog posts, comments, tweets, etc. and think about they can best be used. Design images and think of memes. The operators of popular web sites like Samizdata need to plan a proper campaign, to seize the initiative from the old media and get the real story across (if anyone from Breitbart or PJ Media is reading, that definitely means you too; ditto anyone with a big social media profile).

    The one thing that’s not needed is any central control. The “vast right-wing conspiracy” only exists in the fevered imaginations of leftists and that’s where it should stay. If the reputation of communism is to be finally buried, then it is only right and fitting that it should be done by free people acting on their own initiative through the mechanisms of civil society.

  • Stuck-Record:

    The quote you highlighted made me think of drapetomania.

  • PapayaSF

    What AndrewZ said, x100.

  • Patrick Crozier

    “The operators of popular web sites like Samizdata need to plan a proper campaign”

    A rare example of the words “Samizdata” and “plan” being used in the same sentence.

  • A rare example of the words “Samizdata” and “plan” being used in the same sentence.

  • the other rob

    Start stockpiling facts and figures and rehearsing arguments.

    Like the fact that Lenin had a habit of appending “Etc.” to the list of names on the death warrants, before he signed them. People focus on Stalin, ignoring the fact that Lenin would, for example, enthusiastically support resolutions against banditry then turn around and send “Korba” to knock off a bullion train.

    I was a little tipsy last night and found myself listening to 1980’s Prog Rock. One song, State of Mind, by the unabashed left winger Fish (formerly of Marillion) struck me as being a good candidate for the theme song for Brexit/Trump/Whatever. There’s probably some irony in that.

    I don’t trust the government, I don’t trust alternatives
    It’s not that I’m paranoid, it’s just that’s the way it is
    Every day I hear a little scream inside
    Every day I find it’s getting louder
    I just want to reach out and touch someone
    ‘Cause I find I need a friend in this dark hour

    We the people are gettin’ tired of your lies
    We the people now believe that it’s time
    We’re demanding our rights to the answers
    We elect a precedent to a state of mind

    I trust in conspiracies, in the power of the military
    In this wilderness of mirrors here, not even my speech is free
    Every day I hear a little scream inside
    Everyday I find it’s gettin’ louder
    I just want to reach out and touch someone
    ‘Cause I find I need a friend in this dark hour

    We the people want it straight for a change
    ‘Cause we the people are getting tired of your games
    If you insult us with cheap propaganda
    We’ll elect a precedent to a state of mind

    Every day I hear a little scream inside
    Every day I find it’s getting louder
    I just want to reach out and touch someone
    ‘Cause I find I need a friend in this dark hour

    When we the people have our backs to the wall
    Do we the people then assume control?
    When it’s too late to stop our own execution
    When we’re faced with the final solution
    You can’t elect a dream revolution
    When you’ve a bullet in the back of your mind

    It’s just a state of mind

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I tend to disagree that the modern ‘Left’ is Communist; it seems to me to consist of those who want to use government-by-the-Elect to force virtue on the public and, not incidentally, reward the Elect for their services. Puritans, in other words.

    The term ‘Puritan Left’ may sound a little odd considering the details of historical Puritanism, but the marching of the sinners to virtue at bayonet’s point is exactly the same, even if the march goes in a different direction; and the leaders’ “doing well by doing good” needs no translating at all.

    So: ‘Puritan Left’.

  • There was an old Marxist called Lenin
    Who did two or three million men in.
    That’s a lot to have done in,
    But where he did one in,
    His follower Stalin did ten in.

    (Robert Conquest)

  • There was a time when I wanted to engage in debate with socialists / leftists / progressives / communists / whatever the label du jour is, but since I’ve aged, I now just want to tie each of them to a chair and beat them to death with a cricket bat.

    Regardless of race, creed or color. (Inclusive, that’s me.)

  • Laird

    the other rob, that’s quite a lyric. I’ve never heard the song (it’s not my style of music); thanks for posing it.

    It’s useful to be reminded of the Soviet use (abuse) of psychiatry on political opponents. Today we are treated to the spectacle of supposedly “respectable” practitioners calling conservatism a “mental illness”. They need to be excoriated as the intellectual heirs of Andropov that they are.

    And I also agree with AndrewZ; the time to begin preparing for the centennial of the Russian Revolution is now. You know that the other side is doing so.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Mr Ed.

  • NickM

    I dunno. Look guys I’m sorry for my last comment which looked terrible but it was incomplete – note the hanging “h” at the end. I had intended something else from the rest which disappeared dissolved in the digital ether and Crimble alcohol.

    Back to the point. In his novel, “Sap Rising” the late AA Gill draws a distinction between decision and victory. Roughly decision is the one without the parties but it is very real. Success was Midway, or when Enola Gay flew. Victory was when the sailor and dame kissed in Times Square.

    I think historically it is impossible to put a single specific date on the decision over the SU but the election of Ronald Reagan and Karol Józef Wojtyła was the tipping point. Not to forget Lech and Margaret and others helped. They were a perfect storm which the Kremlin couldn’t endure. What I’m arguing is the loss of the Soviet fiefdoms was the end-game and the rest afterwards was popping the corks.

    In no way am I saying after the decision there isn’t a lot of heavy lifting. There is but for me that was when things changed.