Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Most of Post-Soviet Intelligentsia Suffers from Marxist Dogmatism about Russia’s Past, Tsipko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 8 – Calls by many Russian intellectuals and politicians to return to Soviet times reflect the unfortunate reality that most of them suffer from “Marxist dogmatism” about Russia’s past and the belief that tsarist Russia was so horrific that the actions of the Bolsheviks and even Stalin were needed to overcome them, Aleksandr Tsipko says.

            That mistaken vision of the past, the Moscow commentator says, not only “deepens the current political and spiritual crisis” in Russian but “deprives us of any hopes for the future.” The tsarist past was better than such people think, and the Soviet one far more horrific (mk.ru/politics/2021/02/08/nado-li-putinu-uchitsya-u-stalina.html).

            Present-day suggestions that Putin should follow Stalin in his approach provide an explanation of “the reasons for the defeat of our anti-communist revolution in 1991. It turns out that one cannot carry through an anti-communist revolution if for you, the country which existed before the Bolsheviks was worse than the country created by this very revolution.”

            According to Tsipko, “anti-communism presupposes a developed national memory and the ability for a moral assessment of the leaders of one’s country. But Marxism by its very nature destroys interest in the positive sides of pre-communist life.” It portrays the tsarist past in exclusively dark colors in order to present the Soviet period in bright ones.

            And that leads people to forget that “in Russia of the times of the first, second and third Dumas, there was a great deal more freedom than in Soviet Russia. Under Nicholas II, it was a place for the sharpest of discussions and criticism of the tsars. There was neither a GULAG or ‘an iron curtain,’ and there was nothing like Stalin’s serfdom-like slavery.”

            If it were true that pre-Soviet Russia was as bleak as the Marxist and Marxist-influenced would have it, “then those who consider that today we would be better off to return to the times of the USSR are right.” The countries of Eastern Europe knew that their pre-Soviet pasts were better than the Soviet one and they thus made the transitions Russia hasn’t.

            The big question now, Tsipko says, is this: “is the rebirth of our national memory in Russia possible, when almost all branches of the intelligentsia profess Marxism in various forms?” Or is it the case that this Marxist straightjacket so constrains their thinking that no forward progress is possible?

            The Moscow social theorist cites the arguments of Pitirim Sorokin, the Russian sociologist who went into emigration after the Bolshevik coup. He wrote already in the 1920s that “if it had not been for the Bolshevik ‘destruction of the best of our nation … Russia without any Stalin would have been one of the leaders of human civilization.”

            Pre-revolutionary Russia gave the world religious philosophy and great literature. Its Soviet successor gave the world only Stalin’s “Short Course,” Tsipko adds. Until that is recognized about Russia’s past, he suggests, Russia will find it difficult to have a future that anyone would want. 

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