When Evil is Ignored…
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, a new work seems to be coming out every year, shaking our understanding of Communism to the root. The opening of the archives in Moscow has facilitated the phenomenon. The Forsaken by Tim Tzouliadis tells us about a forgotten mini-migration, the story of those Depression era Americans, who left America and went to the Soviet Union in the 30s to find some work.
For a twenty-first century person, it is hard to imagine that someone would want to migrate from America and go to the Communist Russia, of all places. In the post-Cold War era of television, the splendor of America is too well-known for anyone to even harbor such a thought. But those who are familiar with the work of John Steinbeck would be less skeptical. Tzouliadis chooses this as his starting point of reference in his first chapter, The Joads of Russia, naming it on the hero of The Grapes of Wrath.
The America of early 1930s was full of depression, and though people were not actually starving, destitution was common. It was especially a hard time for the Americans, who had just experienced the roaring twenties. Psychological depression was widespread and public anger was directed towards America and the American dream.
Now, after the fall of Communism, we know that at no point in history, Communist Russia was better than America in material terms, but this was not the general perception in 1930s America. Though the Bolsheviks had destroyed a lot already and hushed reports had seeped to the West of the Red Terror, the complete control of the channels of communication was preventing the true picture from coming out in the public. The Communist fifth column in America helped to hide the Communist crimes. The Great Terror was yet to come and the collectivization had just begun. The relative prosperity of NEP still had some lingering effects on the Soviet people.
In those times, it was possible for an American, who was formerly used to material prosperity and was currently facing financial ruin, to believe in the Communist dream. The Communist propaganda had painted a picture of worker’s paradise. American capitalism was their sworn enemy. And only if for the time being, capitalism had failed a lot of Americans.
The Forsaken tells us the story of those unfortunate Americans who took the bait and migrated to the USSR, believing in the Communist propaganda.
The troubles started as soon as they stepped on the Russian soil. Their passports were confiscated by the Communist authorities and were conveniently misplaced. Like every ordinary Russian, they were now, the prisoners of Stalin.
At first, they got jobs and places to live but as the Terror approached, things began to deteriorate. These Americans began disappearing gradually into the innumerable forced labor camps of the USSR. The beginning of the World War did not bring respite for them. They were continued to be suspected as foreigners and were hauled in the labor camps.
Most of the Joads had by then realized how better their native land was. They had seen the reality of the workers’ paradise. But now there was no way to leave. Stalin would not let them. How could he let these damned Americans go after all they had seen in Russia? It was a security risk!
Tzouliadis describes the realities of Stalinist Russia and the mechanism of the Communist bureaucracy and secret police through the travails of these unfortunate Americans.
It is written in flowing prose and the reader is compelled to keep the pages turning. Communist indoctrination, show trials, mock parades, complete suppression of the freedom of expression and the general atmosphere of fear, are all beautifully described. Though readers who are already familiar with more serious Stalinist studies of Conquest, Pipes, Service, Malia, Figes and Applebaum etc. will hardly find anything new.
The book has one fault. The first chapter promises the readers a tragic story slowly unfolding with the pace and passion of a thriller. However, there is no such story in the following chapters. Tzouliadis is too occupied in explaining Stalinism. There is no secret held, to be told in the later chapters. From the point of view of the development of the story, every chapter is complete in itself with a snapshot review of the individual stories.
The more important story which The Forsaken tells us is how the West ignored the crimes of Communism. How it was fooled or chose to be fooled by the Communist propaganda. How intellectuals such as Shaw, Russell and Sartre turned a blind eye towards the atrocities committed in Soviet Russia. How artists and rock stars such as Paul Robeson and Bob Dylan blamed America for everything, while turning a blind eye towards nationwide starvation in Russia; how politicians, academicians and journalists like Walter Duranty lied to their country and to the world. How Roosevelt ignored every warning of Churchill and gave a red carpet treatment to Stalin, ignoring the genocides he inflicted upon the Soviet population. How he traded with Stalin in the gold of Kolyma while he knew how it was mined.
Some of them were not just blind. They were the collaborators of the totalitarian regime in Moscow. Paul Robeson knew about the Great Terror, but the benefits showered on him by Stalin silenced his ‘voice for the people’. Walter Duranty, hailed as a great journalist of ‘people’ in his times, was a Soviet spy.
There were some, though, who accepted the reality. Steinbeck was on the side of liberal Left before his Russian visit. But once he saw the reality he could no longer lie. He continued to speak the truth about Communism till his death, even supporting the Vietnam War. Andre Gide, in stark contrast to Jean Paul Sartre, declared his loss of faith in Communism in his famous, The God that Failed.
The Forsaken is a lesson to those who ignore the evils of Communism and Islamism while opposing American politics blindly. It exposes the Chomsky generation, which blamed America for everything and overlooked the crimes of Soviet Union, Communist China and the Viet Cong. It is a warning to those who get influenced by the contemporary Left, a crop which now works for Islamic apologists as it had worked for Moscow two decades before.
Nations were destroyed because some intellectuals lied about the reality of Communism. Though Communism is gone, they continue to live: now, for their new masters, Islamists.
And if we do not manage to see through their lies, much can be destroyed again.