Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson

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That's an awkward allusion to Anatole Shub's An Empire Loses Hope, a textbook study of life behind the Iron Curtain, or perhaps as much of a study as was possible in those days, in which the loss of hope is the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.  Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 is able to make use of records that have come to light since liberation, in order to detail the ways in which Stalin and his lackeys imposed their own version of Soviet society in the conquered territories, many of which, thanks to Lebensraum and war, were devoid of civil society, sometimes of habitable communities, and accordingly, ripe for reconstruction along Stalinist lines, complete with ethnic cleansing, corrective labor camps, khrushchobas with a snitch on every floor, mandatory celebrations, mandatory work days, and windy speeches.

I could confine Book Review No. 15 to a single remark from page 55 by useful idiot Jean-Paul Sartre to useful idiot Albert Camus.  "Like you I find these camps intolerable.  But I find equally intolerable the use made of them every day in the bourgeois press."  Would that contemporary apparatchiks in student affairs be as candid.  That takes me to page 181.  "Russian cultural officers observed that the combination of ideology and culture didn't always work. ... They grew suspicious that attempts to lighten ideology would simply water it down."  Well, it didn't work, and logic and content, plus a smattering of backbone from the civilized world, carried the day.  That despite politically correct youngsters being able to take control of doctrine early in the establishment of the evil empire.  Per corollary, there is yet hope for the United States.

But the transition out of captivity was not easy, and the lesson the Warsaw Pact nations learned ought be understood by anyone who throws around "Wise Experts" or "social construction" willy-nilly.  Page 468 ought be required reading for any such person.

As a result of this civilizational damage, postcommunist countries required far more than the bare institutions of "democracy" -- elections, political campaigns, and political parties -- to become functioning liberal societies again.  They also had to create or re-create independent media, private enterprise and a legal system to support it, an educational system free of propaganda, and a civil service where promotions are given for talent, not for ideological correctness.  The most successful postcommunist states are those that managed to preserve some elements of civil society throughout the communist period.  This is not an accident.

Institutions are emergent.  Emergence is messy.  Deconstruct at your own risk.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Tags: history, war

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