It is symptomatic that in the history of postcommunist societies the greatest political and journalistic hatchet jobs were against those who had doubts about granting the communists first immunity, then privileges.Professor Ryszard Legutko
On the Fourth of July I received best wishes from a Romanian friend, Dr. Anca Maria Cernea. I could not help asking what Romanians were saying about the ongoing assault on America’s national symbols — the toppling of statues, the burning of flags (not to mention the pillaging and burning of stores, the defunding of police departments and rising crime in cities like Chicago and New York).
She reported that the Romanian media, like our own, was not trustworthy. However, the mindset of Romania “is still so pro-American that no politician or journalist, who has career plans, would dare to openly say anything against America.” Nevertheless, the Romanian media spreads doubt about the United States through “distorted information, and they generally attack President Trump, as they used to praise Obama.”
More interesting, she said, is the public reaction on the Romanian internet: “no matter how biased media articles, the comments underneath are usually quite okay. Normal people still have a lot of common sense and don’t buy leftist propaganda.” There is a caveat to this. The younger generation in Romania, she added, don’t have the experience of communism and don’t necessarily see the U.S. as the bastion of freedom on this planet.”
Despite the “disappearance” of overt totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe, covert totalitarian institutions continue to operate in those countries. This is by design, as the “fall of communism” left in its wake a powerful set of communist-controlled businesses, government agencies and media outlets — all of them deceptively affixing a “liberal” label. Looking to the West, our own leftists suddenly portrayed themselves as “centrists” while the entire political spectrum shifted leftward. To explain the phenomenon of “liberals” becoming more Marxist as Marxists became more “liberal,” it is helpful to remember a curious notion from Soviet Russia in the 1960s known as “East/West convergence.” This idea was first outlined by the father of the Soviet H-bomb, Andrei Sakharov. The point here, of course, is to show the strategic efficacy of inversions, reversals and ideological collapses — which can be used to convert free societies into totalitarian societies by deceptively turning totalitarian societies into free societies.
Returning our focus to the former Warsaw Pact countries, what we find is not a mere residue of an overthrown system, but a powerful fifth column left in place by the “departing” communist occupiers — with a significant hold on the media, culture and government. The same communists who operated a system of administrative tyranny for decades were, by sleight-of-hand, mainstreamed into “democrats” and fast friends of our Western “liberals.” In this episode of Decline and Fall the West’s elite resembled a pack of lobotomized cretins. In truth, the end of the Cold War was a kind of civilizational lobotomy, with conservatives crowing over a victory they had no business claiming as communists took over the very schools and universities that were educating everybody’s children.
Meanwhile, as the communists were not purged from the newly minted “democracies” of Eastern Europe, they were free to use their political, financial and administrative advantages to play the free market game. Subsequently, there has been no true accounting of the West’s losses, especially in terms of economic forfeitures and long-term strategic disorientation. One only has to hear the alternating and confusing claims of Sean Hannity; a broadcaster who often reminds us of communism’s defeat in the Cold War, now alarmed at a communist insurrection on the streets of Minneapolis, New York, Seattle and Portland, etc.
It seems, per Reagan’s slogan of “Morning in America,” they had mistakenly misidentified the twilight’s last gleaming. We fooled ourselves in those days, and we kept fooling ourselves. We failed to discover the real, underlying, ideology of Clinton and Obama (whose presidencies dominated the post-Cold War era), and we failed to identify what were, almost certainly, domestic linkages to long range Russian and Chinese plans. Our envelopment all but completed, we now wait for the red circle to close around us.
Was Eastern Europe a poison pawn in the Great Game? What is the strategic value of these small European nations? Compare them to Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, which was never really built. What is the value of Hungary or Romania next to the post-Cold War neglect of America’s nuclear arsenal? Have our strategic calculations been sound? — to defend more countries than before, with fewer and older weapons?
And what other countries were lost in exchange for those in Eastern Europe? Revisiting the “Domino Theory,” the communists won the civil war in Angola. They took mineral-rich Zaire (now Congo) in 1997. They took Nepal. They’ve now got control of Nicaragua, and don’t forget Venezuela with all its oil. South Africa, another mineral storehouse, is under absolute Marxist control, militarily aligned with Russia and China. These communist victories were won after the Soviet Union “collapsed.” Did anyone bother to notice? Did anyone reckon the consequences if a new Cold War should erupt?
Who yet grasps the consequences of Moscow and Beijing’s “long deception”? I dare say no one does. Not one senator, not one Congressman, not one general or admiral, not one television pundit. Even our maverick president, possessed of an instinctive distrust of received wisdom, cannot break the magic spell cast by Gorbachev’s “perestroika” and the supposed collapse of the Soviet Union.
The conventional mind casts about for a familiar refrain, for a stock phrase, for a trusty shibboleth. “Reagan won the Cold War.” “Communism is dead.” “America is the only superpower.” There are those, more cunning in the defense of their make-believe world, who will say that I have exaggerated the competence of the Russian special services and the Kremlin. Of course, that argument misrepresents what I am saying; for in politics as in war, Murphy’s Law prevails. Yet, If Russia bungles while following a consistent policy, such bungling will eventually prevail over the bungling inconsistency of the United States government.
Fantastic? Impossible? No. Just politics as usual, and history as it has always been told. Those who are weak and stupid lose to those who are strong and cunning. Oh! And you thought your good intentions would protect you? — Only if such intentions could, perchance, stop a thief or a murderer. Good intentions can be useful, but not for bulletproofing. Not for national defense.
There is yet another point which should be underscored: Communist power did not begin or end with the Soviet Union. When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote about a “specter … haunting Europe — the specter of communism,” they were describing a new secular religion that initially recruited its true believers from the working class and intelligentsia. Today that same religion has evolved into a interlocking web of organizations and movements, sporting new subversive creeds.
We should not expect the Bolsheviks of 2020 to sound like the Bolsheviks of 1917. Communism, as a political religion, is adaptive in its pathological desire to destroy. It may appear to have shifting principles; but that is an illusion, because destruction and dissolution are its ruling principles. If communism is sometimes at war with capitalism, sometimes in business with the capitalists, we should not be confused; because both policies can be used dialectically to bring about destructive effects. The consistency of communism is not found in its opposition to the market, or even in opposition to democracy, but in its criminal propensities.
The conservatives of the 1980s, here in America, never really understood communism, and they never understood how it operated in Eastern Europe. In December 2018, when I interviewed the ailing Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, he wholeheartedly agreed that America never understood its Cold War enemy. I asked him why. He said, “because communism is complicated and Americans want easy answers.”
I reminded Bukovsky of a speech he gave in 1988, before the Intercollegiate Studies Institute at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. He was introduced as someone who had “come from Hell, not empty handed,” Bukovsky steadfastly berated his American hosts:
My friends know that I always grumble about the shortcomings of the West, and the United States in particular — about wishful thinking and shortsightedness, lack of political leadership….
Bukovsky admitted that things had been much worse, ten to fifteen years earlier (under Nixon, Ford and Carter), but the situation under Reagan was by no means adequate. Bukovsky likened the West to the beggar in a popular Russian Joke. The beggar was walking down the street on a rainy day wearing only one shoe, happily singing. People who saw the beggar were irritated and said, “What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy? Look! You have lost a shoe!” — “Oh no,” replied the beggar, “I’ve just found a shoe.”
Like the beggar in the story, the West imagined — watching Gorbachev — they had “found a shoe.” The fact that the West was cheated by Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin has not been fully appreciated. Bukovsky warned that Gorbachev had no intention of turning Russia into a real democracy. Therefore, he added, “The West’s current infatuation with Gorbachev is quite ridiculous.”
The West was being fleeced by Moscow in those days. Billions were being given to the Kremlin. Bukovsky pointedly asked, “Why do we have to pay for glasnost and perestroika?” And what did we get in the end? Thirty years later Russia has rearmed, having gained access to Western technology. Russia now threatens NATO as never before.
But there is more. Thirty years later we have communist mobs openly marching through the streets of America, pulling down statues of George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant, denouncing our ordered liberty as “systemic racism.” How will our conservatives, so full of braggadocio in 1991, live down their declaration of victory in 2020? Anyone who dared to think more carefully at the time would have seen through it. But anyone who dared interrupt the victory celebration was disregarded. The intellectual hero of that time was Francis Fukuyama, whose End of History was nothing but the disgraceful confession of a serial self-deceiver — typical of our Sovietologists.
Is it possible to pour a bucket of ice water over an entire country? At this late hour, in a country under siege, would it do any good? Well, this essay is my bucket of ice water, fetched up from cold depths — and dumped on you all.
Are you awake now?