Posts Tagged ‘USSR’

Birgitta’s Historic Book

November 22, 2017

If you’re an early baby boomer like me you grew up with a sinister presence in the background of our American life—the threat of nuclear war with the USSR. On the distant edges of all that fear we could almost hear the low rumble of a Cold War; it was perpetually being waged somewhere in the world between “us’ and “them.”

We young Americans were told that those Russians over there in the Far East were perpetrators of terrible, repressive political system called Communism.

In 1956, the Premier of the USSR, Nikita Khruschev, began to talk about the widespread abuses that were heaped upon the a Russian people through Josef Stalin’s cruel network of surveillance and prisons.

It was said that many, many citizens, perhaps millions, of  Soviet citizens were unjustly persecuted, arrested, imprisoned and executed without due process of law. American paranoia about the threat of Russian aggression and enslavement grew more and more intense through the 1950’s and ’60’s. We generally heard and believed reports from our Western news-gatherers, both military and journalistic,  warning us about the nefarious presence of a horrific Communist empire on the other side of the world.

In 1973, Alecksandr Solzhenitsyn managed to publish to the world his voluminous report on the Soviet system of imprisonment. His book, Gulag Archipelago, was written from personal experience. Its IronCurtain-busting contents became for the world generally, but also for the Soviets, a basis for a widespread re-evaluation of the Soviet Union and its immense network of prisons and slave camps.

In 1989, the peoples of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics fomented a revolution in which they overthrew the old communist system and began to replace it with something new and far more democratic than Russians had ever known. The great thrust of this revolution was powered by the people being sick and tired of communist oppression and cruelty.

In 2017, I learned that a woman in my hometown is daughter of a man who survived eleven years in the Soviet gulag, in a slave camp in Siberia, above the Arctic Circle.

Having heard about this stuff all my life, I was amazed to meet someone whose life had been directly affected by that infamous gulag archipelago.

In her historic book, Years Stolen,  Birgitta Gottlieb McGalliard releases to the world her father’s own written account of his enslaved life, which was imposed on him by Russian soldiers in Bulgaria in 1944. That long imprisonment included months of miserable train transports, years in Lefortovo and Lubyanka prisons in Moscow, and ultimately Arctic imprisonment at Vorkuta slave labor camp in the faraway, frozen Siberian north.

YearsStoln

Yes, Virginia, there really was a Siberia. And it was absolutely as bad as anything you ever heard about it. This terrible tale was not made up by yankee Red-baiters.

Birgitta’s account, obtained and documented meticulously from her own father’s memoirs, is a truly amazing testimony of his survival saga through unimaginably cruel, cold conditions. Roland Gottlieb wrote and spoke of his real life experience there after his release in 1955. Birgitta’s writing about his ordeal is laced with the tenderness of a daughter’s love; it is also strengthened with a visceral thoroughness that painstakingly communicates the immensity of Roland’s achievement in surviving eleven years in the gulag.

If you have ever doubted all those post-WWII reports of Soviet oppression and cruelty, this book will dispel your doubts. Thank God the people of the former USSR have seen, since 1989, the light of freedom and are now following that hopeful star of democratic reforms instead of the old Red Star of communist enslavement. One reason that beacon burns brightly in our world today is because of the testimony of survivors like Roland Gottlieb, as reported by his daughter, Birgitta.

The book is, as they say, a good read. Buy it now and you will be much the wiser after this textual journey into the hell of suffering that some humans have historically imposed on other humans.

Glass half-Full

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Proxy War

July 9, 2014

 

In the world of the 1930’s, two destructive European ideologies were accumulating an arsenal with which to obliterate each other.

Unlike today, when the world is polarizing along ancient religious divisions, the scenario of the ’30s was moving Europe toward a death-struggle between two opposing Western economic ideologies–fascism and communism.

The rise of two masterminding evil geniuses–Hitler and Stalin– enabled their respective war-making nation-empires to rise to their full militarily destructive capacities and impose widespread destruction upon the world. During that period, seventy or eighty years ago, the civil war in Spain became the puppetized proxy war. Militarizing fascist states–Germany and Italy–propped up Spanish insurgents led by General Franco, as he sought to run the Communist-leaning, Soviet-supported government of Spain out of Madrid and out of power.

Today, the hotspot is not Spain; it is Syria. The power-brokers are not the Allies and the Axis; they are the West vs. Islam.

The civil war in Syria, which is now spreading into Iraq, is becoming the proxy war for two opposing ancient strains of Islamic power–Sunni and Shia. Iraq is caught in the middle between Syria (mostly Sunni) against the Shia empire, Iran, on the other side.

This scenario is eerily similar to the European ideology-based polarization of eight decades ago. During the 1930’s, Spain, Czechoslovakia, and Poland were caught in the middle between Hitler’s bloodthirsty power-grab and Stalin’s stealthy gulag death machine.

Today’s version of human-powered depraved bellicosity is not exactly the same, of course, as what was taking shape in the ’30’s, but there are similarities. The student of history can dimly discern these similarities. In our war-bound world of today, Syria, Iraq and other Arab states are caught in the middle, as Spain, Czechoslovakia and Poland were in the former times.

ISIS radicals in Syria are the Islamic version of Franco’s quasi-Catholic fascists in Spain in 1936-1939. They are hiding  their heartlessly demonic destruction behind a facade of the indigenous religion.

Franco’s insurgents were supplied by the emerging-under-VersaillesTreaty-radar Nazi-fascist German Luftwaffe, who shocked the world with their air-powered obliteration of the town of Guernica, Spain, April 26 1937.

Today, ISIS brutes are shocking the world with their brutality in western Iraq, as has happened in Mosul. Now the battle is getting more intense and bloodier between Sunni and Shia , as it was between Fascist and Communist in the late 1930s.

This showdown is one that the major powers, comfortable in their relative prosperity and peace, prefer to watch from a distance and get involved if it becomes absolutely necessary.

In Britain and France in the 1930’s, capitalist power-brokers stealthily supported Hitler’s camouflaged Nazi heathen militarism, because they saw it as a potential defense against Soviet Communism.

Little did they know what Adolf Hitler had in mind.

Is there an Islamic Feuhrer out there in the middle east somewhere now, waiting in the wings to make his big move?

In 1938, Prime Minister Chamberlain went to Munich and made a deal with Hitler. He came back to England waving a piece of paper that he thought represented peace. But a few months later, Hitler, having stalled the Allies off long enough to build up his wehrmacht, jumped on Czechoslovakia and Poland like a pit bull on a squirrel. You know the rest.

The world got sucked into a terrible war; millions were killed. Because the Allies were worn out with it all by 1945, Stalin took the scraps in eastern Europe that Hitler had failed to hold and therefore left behind for his former ally. Stalin, the fox, outsmarted and outlasted his ally-nemesis, Hitler. Stalin could not have done it without our help. War makes strange bedfellows.

Nowadays, it looks as though the United States, weary of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, is willing to turn the defense of weak Iraq over to the Iranian ayatollahs, so that ISIS will not take all of Shia-dominated Iraq.  Hitler didn’t want the Czechs/socialists to have Sudetenland either.

Those Iranian Shia will be doing the dirty work in proxy war as Franco did for Hitler and Mussolini in 1936-39.

Is this something like turning the protection of the hen-house over to the fox?

We shall see.

 

Smoke

Nikita Khrushchev!

March 16, 2014

On February 25, 1956, in the U.S.S.R, Premier Nikita Khrushchev made a speech that later rocked the world. As he addressed  the 20th annual congress of the Communist International party, a frigid straitjacket of ruthless Stalinist tyranny that had ruled the Soviet Union since the early 1930’s began to thaw. Khrushchev’s admission of Stalin’s paranoid crimes while terrorizing the Soviet world initiated a loosening of Russian rulership that wasn’t fully realized until 1989.

This turnaround had been a long time coming. Khrushchev’s revelation of Stalinist-era abuses exposed terrible events and purges that had happened over the last twenty years.  Rumors and unconfirmed reports of torturous cruelties had, from time to time, glinted through the iron curtains of Soviet secrecy. Confirmed communists across the world had fallen into the habit of  awkwardly denying the Party’s murderous mistreatment of its subjects.

In spite of the enormity of his exposé, the dutiful Premier was striving to keep this volatile information under wraps. The comrades to whom Khrushchev was admitting these extreme violations of Marxist-Leninist doctrine were delegates who were ruling the communist world. This speech was supposed to be an internal secret!

Thanks to the Israeli Mossad, (according to David Horowitz in his autobiography Radical Son) the explosive contents of the Khrushchev report got leaked to the world at large. A few months later, on June 4, 1956 the U.S. Dep’t of State released it. The New York Times published it. This revelation rocked the world, especially the world of those diehard communists who had been striving since 1917, in countries all across the globe, to liberate us clueless freedommongers from bourgeois degeneracy and capitalist oppressions.

As the Premier of the USSR had let his comrades in on the dirty little secrets of Stalin, he skillfully wove his presentation of the facts into an ex post facto defense of classical Marxist-Leninist doctrine. The Communist Party line was supposed to have been all about the “People,” and what the “People” could do together to deliver the world from capitalism into (in the sweet by-n-by of proletarian dictatorship) socialist utopia.

Dictatorship of the Proletariat is what Marx and Lenin had called it. Not one-man dictatorship!

But according to Comrade Nikita, Joseph Stalin had managed to wrangle the at-first disorganized, emerging Communist state machinery into–not what the great theorists had designed for it–but a murderous police state, patterned after Stalin’s own paranoia and ruthless control tactics.

Maybe the communist theoreticians should reevaluate their philosophical presuppositions about human behavior. (But that’s another can of worms.)

Nikita Khrushchev, a loyal Party man if there ever was one, had somehow managed to morph into a bold whistleblower, although he wanted to keep his little Molotov cocktail of party revisionism in-house. He wisely discerned that this historical elephant could no longer be concealed in the smoke-filled back room of the Soviet household. And so his argument against reprehensible  Stalinist legacy was presented as an exposé of “the cult of the individual.” 

As an American who was four years old at the time of Khrushchev’s secret speech in 1956, I have, just recently, come to appreciate his innovative willingness to talk about the Stalinist elephant in the salon room of world politics. My present idea of who this Nikita Khrushchev was, and what he was up to, is markedly different from my earliest youthful impression of the man, which was a fuzzy TV news image of a pudgy fellow banging his shoe on a podium at the United Nations while provocating  us yankees with the words, “We will bury you!”

Maybe Nikita was just thinking about starting a funeral home business or something. I don’t know.

This was the same Russian leader who, just two years before his world-rocking secret speech, reportedly “gave” the Crimean peninsula to the Ukrainians, whatever that means. And what’s up with that, I don’t know either but we shall soon find out, after today’s so-called “illegal” election in Crimea, eastern Ukraine.

It seems a little odd to me that any popular referendum anywhere in the world could be condemned as illegitimate by an American President and his Secretary of State. I would think that we Americans, the vanguard of the free world, would be all about elections and referenda. Where’s Jimmy Carter when you need him?

CR, with new novel, Smoke, soon to be published