The Corner

None So Deaf as Them That Don’t Want to Hear

Back in the 1970s, Solzhenitsyn inspired me to dig out all the Soviet truth-tellers I could find. The truly dismaying thing was how many of them there were: Anatoli Granovsky, Viktor Kravchenko, Victor Serge … This stuff goes back to the 1920s. It subtracts nothing from Solzhenitsyn’s suffering, work and achievements to note that the West had to be ready for him.

The truth about Leninism was there from the beginning. Reading Lenin’s pre-1917 works, in fact, you could say it was there from before the beginning. Perceptive observers didn’t need telling. Bertrand Russell went to Lenin’s Russia in 1920, saw through the whole thing, wrote a book about it (The Theory and Practice of Bolshevism, 1920), and lost half his friends. The young Vladimir Nabokov, whose family fled for their lives from the Leninists, was at Cambridge University 1919-20, baffled by his fellow-students’ inability to grasp what he was telling them about the new regime. They just listened politely and smiled indulgently. They knew better!

T.S. Eliot’s “humankind cannot bear very much reality” doesn’t tell the half of it. Humankind in general loathes reality, and will escape from it through any hatch that can be kicked open.

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