Sunday, December 11, 2011

Omnivorous censorship, Implacable propaganda

"Horrors Of Making The Mistake of Expecting To Find In Russia What You Elsewhere Find Without Expecting"

"My dear fellow, let me beg you most earnestly not to make the ridiculous mistake of judging by appearances; the thing to realize, that here people run themselves: they are truly--for the first time in human history--free."

I have returned to reading E.E. Cummings' satirical travelogue and modernist manifesto, Eimi. While many other foreign writers came away from Russia with positive impressions of "the world's first proletarian state," Cummings was obviously appalled by what he saw during his sojourn in Moscow. Cummings saw a culture of surveillance, falsehood, propaganda, atheism, bureaucracy, and xenophobia. He also encountered a number of naive expatriate defenders of the communist dictatorship. These sycophants were utterly enthralled with their hosts, and willing to forgive almost everything if it meant that they could continue to believe that the Russian Revolution had brought humankind one step closer to utopia. The quotes below are, more often than not, the apologias of foreigners who decided to see progress where in fact there was only sacrilege, a dearth of consumer goods, an acute housing shortage, a runaway personality cult, torture and murder, a dead artistic climate, and countless other banalities and horrors. Forgive me for stringing such a long series of random quotes together. I sometimes remind myself of the man in my office who underlines every single word of his daily newspaper. The point of Eimi is that Soviet Russia was indeed a brave new world, but it was an absurd and dreadful one.

Soviet Apologia

"You must realize that we, we the Russians, have over us no sovereigns; we are not compelled; we are striving for IDEAS."

"What you've noticed is that each of us has an INNER DISCIPLINE, not a discipline which has been imposed by some outer authority. Let me make this point perfectly plain--people talk of Stalin as if he were a dictator! why, you can't imagine how small he is at a workers' meeting."

"You mean, I presume, that comrade Stalin is not imposing his power on others, but is expressing their power."

"Well, what if prohibition is a failure in America? That's the fault of America's social system: the burdens imposed upon the workers by capitalist society are enough to weaken anyone's character."

"..anyone who still wants to serve The Lord can do so, but the Lord's servant must have a useful occupation or starve; people have awakened to the fact that religion is opium: in a worker's republic there;s no place for parasiites..."

"Well, ten years ago I was born. Do you know what that means? I became a communist."

"Would you like to see the vast industrial plants by which Russia is trying to get her place in the world? Russia is striving; a whole race, a vast part of the earth..."

"...I always feel that we haven't any right to criticize: the point is, you are now in a workers' republic which is bound to make mistakes like anything else; but the mistakes are being rectified as quickly as possible--and after all, the ideal is what counts, isn't it!"

"They're not police at all, they're guardians of the proletariat, and quite the most spending organization in Soviet Russian--altogether noble and unselfish--why I've even been accused of being in the Gay--Pay-Oo myself.."

"Do you realize that without some sort of guidance you will not see anything, let alone understand?"

"Yes, that's a radio: there;s one in every room: the programs are mostly propaganda, but very interesting"

"Of ocurse, I shouldn't dream of living like this anywhere else: the point is, what you spend here enriches the government instead of some private individual who has a great deal too much already.."

"You probably don;t realize that coffee is a tremendous luxury!--not that things aren't getting better every day; it's really nothing short of miraculous, what they've done."

"mymymymymymym, How I envy you, Seeing Moscow for the first time...."

"...he was much impressed and showed a genuine understanding of the basic principles on which this worker;s republic is founded...really. yes...[T]hese mischievous correspondents (at least the Russians are honest thieves) got hold of poor Gene Tunney and they took him to a place where ecclestical refuse of one sort and another was being burnt--not the really good things, of course: the good ones are carefully preserved by the government, it;s extraordinary what they;ve done, really extraordinary.. By the way, this is a dead secret--I'm interested in icons, myself, but from a purely business standpoint, you understand--even my worst enemiescan't accuse me of being religious! O: well, and the correspondents arranged it so that, just as poor brother Tunnney came walking in, a life-size statue of Our Lord Jesus Christ rolled right out of the flames clear to Gene's most Catholic feet. Giggle. At least that's the story. Tunney, of course, was horribly shocked--it spoiled his entire Russian trip."

"Oh well...but we who've seen Russia before--they can't fool us!"

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