RUSSIA: by R.J. StoveNews Weekly
Putin, Communism, and Santamaria's hopes for Russia
, January 29, 2005
"You Can Trust The Communists (To Be Communists)"
- Title of 1960 book by American anti-Communist leader Fred Schwartz
"Bad history, like cancer, tends to recur, and there is one radical treatment: timely therapy to destroy the deadly cells. We have not done this."
- Anna Politkovskaya, Russian dissident, 2004Even The Sunday Age's progressivist Teletubbies no longer dare to deny that Moscow ordered the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko, now Ukrainian President.
Yushchenko's disfigurement has performed at least one useful function. It has made impossible any continued belief, save among the terminally doltish, in the much-trumpeted "death of Soviet Communism".
Far from dying, Soviet Communism merely changed its title, its more conspicuous tactics, and its public face: a fact that some of us realised, unfashionably, at the time.
When Gorbachev's troops in January 1991 gunned down peaceful protestors in Vilnius, Lithuania - this outrage being largely ignored by Western media outlets obsessed with Gulf War One - we recognised the echo of Uncle Joe scheduling Trotsky's murder to coincide with the Battle of Britain.Recivilising Russian rule
Once Gorbachev's career of mingled criminality and fantasy ended 14 years back, B.A. Santamaria lucidly stated what needed to be done. He did so not only in News Weekly
editorials but also in private discussions, at one of which I had the privilege of being present. Santamaria's plan for recivilising Russian rule (if indeed Russian rule permitted recivilising, a point he always left open) consisted of three strategies:
- The restoration - for which Santamaria called as early as 1980, upon Tito's death - of a Habsburg-style Danubian monarchy. This monarchy would possess a threefold function: (i) forcing the European Community (later the European Union) back to the first Christian principles of its late-1940s founders; (ii) being a bulwark against Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe; (iii) being, similarly, a bulwark against that tribalism which during the 1990s, in such a monarchy's absence, turned Yugoslavia into a graveyard.
- Criminal proceedings against Warsaw Pact leaders. This notion originated not with Santamaria but, famously, with Solzhenitsyn, who emphasised the rank hypocrisy of hauling Third Reich leaders before Nuremberg trials while letting Communists escape prosecution scot-free.
- A Marshall Plan for Russia, probably necessitating de facto American military occupation of the capital. This would have been a much more productive use of US troops than the subsequent demented - and bloodily defeated - American crusades for bringing "democracy" to such Hobbesian abattoirs as Haïti and Somalia.
It is not 100 per cent certain that all three of Santamaria's strategies would have worked. It is all too certain that his were the only strategies which could
Since the cast-iron alliance between pagan spite and sectarian spite remains the chief characteristic of what passes for antipodean intellectual culture, Santamaria's solution elicited from local panjandrums only contempt. As Santamaria's own repeated political failures confirmed, any traditional Catholic in Australia is insane if he supposes that editorialists' cant about "free speech", "human rights", "equality" and "fairness" was ever meant to apply to him
Santamaria's counsel fared equally ill with Washington's policymakers, whose ideas of serious thought comprised little more than squeaks of devotion towards the bizarre "end of history" snake-oil then being peddled by Francis Fukuyama. The concept of reviving genuine Christendom in Eastern Europe horrified George Bush the First - with his menacing moonshine about a "New World Order" - as much as it horrified Australia's own spiritual heirs of Egon Kisch and Judah Waten.Shock therapy
Had Bush-Clinton malice entailed mere obeisance to glib frauds, it might have been less disastrous than it was. In truth, it also took the form of much-touted economic "shock therapy", under the direction of Harvard guru Jeffrey Sachs. This "therapy" exemplified that same messianic faith in democratism, secularism and economic determinism which, as these words are being written, is sending fragments of American soldiers home from Iraq in body-bags.
"Shock therapy" could have been tolerable in a country that had some tradition of independent entrepreneurship within the rule of law. Applied to Russians, whose only 20th-century experience of strong non-totalitarian government was Pyotr Stolypin's prime ministry (lasting a grand total of five years, and ending in Stolypin's assassination), Sachs' medicine effected what we now observe on every side.
Under Sachs and such Russian stooges as Economy Minister Anatoly Chubais, the former Party apparat reinvented itself - without turning a hair - as the Russian Mafia (current specialty: child porn). Weimar-style hyperinflation reached 2,500 per cent per annum
(Strobe Talbott, The Russia Hand
[New York, 2002]), thereby eliminating all hopes of a thrifty middle-class as ruthlessly as, if less gorily than, did any OGPU death-squad. The resultant economic disaster prompted - in a Slavic reductio ad absurdum
of the Western sexual revolution championed by such heroes as Alfred Kinsey, Marie Stopes, and Margaret Sanger - the payment of factory employees' salaries in condoms rather than in roubles (The New Criterion
, October 1998).
Had Solzhenitsyn been allowed to fill the same role in post-Gorbachev Russia that Lech Walesa filled in Poland, Russia's economic humiliation might have been stoically borne.
Instead, Russia endured Boris Yeltsin, a drunken lout whose pre-Gorbachev career had consisted of slavishly following every twist of Kremlin doctrine, without even a Khrushchev's peasant shrewdness to give him stature. (His vandalism of Romanov relics at Ekaterinburg attracted adverse attention even from other Soviet bruisers.)
Yeltsin, in typical spasms of confused rage, saddled Russia in 1994 with Chechen warfare that shows no sign of ceasing. Given that Chechnya is Muslim and has been intermittently battling against Russia since the 1700s, any sober calculation of Russia's national interest would have dictated letting Chechnya secede, rather than essaying the hopeless task of absorbing extra Muslim communities into the Russian body politic. Still, Yeltsin is neither the first nor the last political ham-actor to imagine that military success would take his subjects' minds off domestic catastrophe.
Following Yeltsin the shameless clown came Vladimir Putin the shameless spy. Putin, far from showing contrition about his background with the KGB and its successors, freely and gloatingly calls himself "a Chekist". (I touched on Putin-era secret policing in my 2002 book The Unsleeping Eye
; the relevant section went completely unnoticed by most reviewers, who preferred haranguing me for my loathsome failure to worship at the shrines of Martin Luther King and the Kennedys.)Financial Times
correspondent David Satter, in his study Darkness at Dawn
[New Haven, Connecticut, 2003], is particularly instructive on the real - as opposed to publicised - Putin.
The president's personality cult, as well as guaranteeing the production of Dear Leader portraiture on a scale familiar from North Korean politics, extends to the classroom. Russian schoolchildren now learn their alphabet from books illustrated with photos of Putin in boyhood.
Five years ago, The Internationale
became Russia's official anthem once again (Slate
, December 11, 2000), while Putin did nothing to oppose the Moscow Mayor's demand that Felix Dzerzhinsky's celebrated statue - a casualty of 1991 - be restored to its plinth (BBC News
, September 21, 2002).
Satter convincingly argues that September 1999's apartment-block bomb explosions which slew hundreds in Moscow and other cities - massacres attributed by both Putin and Yeltsin to Chechen separatists - were actually carried out on Putin's instructions by the FSB, as the KGB has been called since 1995. Indubitably FSB agents provocateurs
planted a bomb elsewhere: blandly describing their activity, when detected, as "a training exercise." Sure, sure, and presumably the Katyn Forest's victims all committed suicide.
A further instance of Putin the unabashed Bolshevist came with his reinstatement of a singularly vile 1970s apparatchik. Under Brezhnev, Dr Tamara Pechernikova ran the Serbski Psychiatry Institute, which notoriously diagnosed political dissidents as "schizophrenics".
Under Putin, lo and behold, Pechernikova has crawled out from the sewer and back onto the government payroll, this time to equip a Chechen-raping Russian soldier with a convenient diagnosis of "mental breakdown" (Anna Politkovskaya, Putin's Russia
As recently as December 2004, benefiting from the one-man-one-vote-once mentality so long exploited by black African tyrants, Putin formally abolished the popular election of governors.
Had white South African or Rhodesian leaders ever attempted any analogous power-grab, Australia's appalled commentariat would have screamed itself into permanent apoplectic paralysis. But when the power-grab is Putin's ... total silence.
Faced with an entirely unrepentant Russia, what can and should we do now? The short answer is, nothing: except "put our faith in God and keep our powder dry." The longer answer is, admit the fact that no intelligent analysis of today's Russia will be allowed into this country's mainstream print media.
An honest observer of Russian mores, like the late Robert Haupt, would now find himself locally unpublishable. Fortunately our cultural commissars' technological illiteracy stops them from blocking Internet access to real scholarship, although they would doubtless block it if they could.
Those who mocked the Santamaria solution in 1992, when there was still time to implement it, have lost the right to expect that anyone will take their own too-little-too-late nostrums seriously. As Satter's volume notes: "Russia's problem is that Russian society lacks moral foundations."
Even American academic Richard Pipes, who wasted much of his career as a Solzhenitsyn-baiting leftist, admitted in 1993: "It [Bolshevik terror] preceded from ... the most pernicious idea in the history of thought, that man is merely a material compound, devoid of either soul or innate ideas."