Sunday, March 29, 2009

A brief introduction of the devil's advocate

Thank you to Useless Dissident for the invitation to post on his blog. I will be playing the part of the Golitsyn-sympathetic voice - not only for sport and to enliven the debate, but also because it is my natural inclination. However much one wants to hew to a strict empiricism and an even temper, the facts comprising the phenomenon Russia - and especially Bolshevik Communism and its actual institutions - defy such a desire in significant respects.

I think the most reasonable way of proceeding will be to reconstruct my own intellectual journey towards an acceptance of what might be described as the form of Golitsyn's analysis rather than its particular details. It is of course the details that confound the natural American sensibilities; the reality of Bolshevism (and police-party states in general) sounds too exotic, too much like a conspiracy theory, to mesh with expectations. And therefore, since its beginnings, Americans and the heirs of other liberal-revolutionary traditions - the French, the inchoate German, etc. - have always found it easier to accept the notion that Communism is a brash experiment in enlarging human freedom than that it is a vicious conspiracy bent on world domination.

Unfortunately, it is a conspiracy bent on world domination with absolutely nothing in common with any liberal impulse. Yet no matter how many times you repeat this, or provide actual examples or analogies or any of the usual didactic devices, somehow this fact breeds no insight in the vast majority of non-Communist minds. Communicating what this actually means, though, is partly the point of this blog, and the Golitsyn thesis is a perfect prism through which to do so.

And so, I will open with a simple question, and leave it to later posts to elaborate: is it so unlikely that a government which is itself a conspiracy, came to power through conspiracy, maintained and expanded its power through conspiracy, and whose primary institution - the KGB - is a gigantic conspiracy wielding absolute power...should engage in a conspiracy of the kind Golitsyn claims to have defected in order to report?