The Corner

World

Roots

Defendants in the dock at a Nuremberg trial (Wikimedia Commons)

With some regularity, my critics will say to me, “Today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union, you know!” I say, “I know. But does Putin? Are you sure?” He murders his critics, invades foreign countries, sows discord in the democracies … It’s as though a KGB man were presiding in the Kremlin.

Today, we publish the final installment of my series on, and with, Vladimir Bukovsky, the great Soviet-era dissident. Here. One of my questions is, “How should the West deal with Putin?” Bukovsky says, in part: He engages in brinkmanship, just like his predecessors. He is an excellent bluffer. Don’t fall for it.

People like to emphasize the discontinuity between the Soviet Union and modern Russia. But there are also continuities to consider. I find that I have not considered them enough. Twenty years ago, David Pryce-Jones and others told me that the tragedy of the formerly Communist nations was that they had not had Nuremberg trials. There had been no equivalent of denazification. Everyone wanted to “move on” and sweep under the rug.

I always understood this concept, of course. I’m not sure I grasped the full importance of it.

Bukovsky is convinced that, without Nuremberg and denazification, the Nazis would have been back in Germany — not with the swastika, not with “The Horst Wessel Song,” but under some guise. Look at parties that are on the rise today, by the way: in Germany, Austria, France, Sweden, and elsewhere. Examine their roots. They are nasty, those roots, and it would be foolish to pretend they have nothing to do with what’s above the soil.

Toward the end of my installment today, I ask Bukovsky about heroes. There are obvious heroes of Soviet times, such as Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, and himself. What about less known ones? He gives an answer I did not expect.

“There was an extensive group of Old Bolsheviks who completely disagreed with Stalin and went against him. Lots of them were murdered — killed, executed, tortured. I was privileged to know several of them who survived. They were great people. I did not agree with their philosophy at all.”

He mentions, in particular, Sergei Petrovich Pisarev — “a guy who was tortured so severely, they broke his backbone, and the rest of his life he had to wear a special corset. But he didn’t sign any papers, he didn’t sign any false accusations, and they couldn’t break him. He was an Old Bolshevik, but, in all humility, I have to admit he was a great man.”

Most Popular

White House

Trump and the ‘Racist Tweets’

What does “racist” even mean anymore? Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets -- the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid. Like many ... Read More
White House

The Trump Steamroller

As we settle into high summer and the period of maximum difficulty in finding anything to fill in hours of television news, especially 24/7 news television, two well-established political trends are emerging in this pre-electoral period: The president’s opponents continue to dig themselves into foxholes that ... Read More
U.S.

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
Sports

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More
U.S.

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More
Books

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More