Warning to the West
by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“There is a law in the Archipelago that those who have been treated the most harshly and who have withstood the most bravely, who are the most honest, the most courageous, the most unbending, never again come out into the world. They are never again shown to the world because they will tell tales that the human mind can barely accept. Some of your returned POW's told you that they were tortured. This means that those who have remained were tortured ever more, but did not yield an inch. These are your best people. These are your foremost heroes, who, in a solitary combat, have stood the test. And today, unfortunately, they cannot take courage from our applause. They can't hear it from their solitary cells where they may either die or remain for thirty years like Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who was seized in 1945 in the Soviet Union. He has been imprisoned for thirty years and they will not give him up.”
“At the present time it is widely accepted among lawyers that law is higher than morality—law is something which is shaped and developed, whereas morality is something inchoate and amorphous. This is not the case. The opposite is true: morality is higher than law! Law is our human attempt to embody in rules a part of that moral sphere which is above us. We try to understand this morality, bring it down to earth, and present it in the form of law. Sometimes we are more successful, sometimes less. Sometimes we have a mere caricature of morality, but morality is always higher than law. This view must never be abandoned.”
“It is astonishing that Communism has been writing about itself in the most open way, in black and white, for 125 years, and even more openly, more candidly in the beginning. The [book:Communist Manifesto|30474, for instance, which everyone knows by name and which almost no one takes the trouble to read, contains even more terrible things than what has actually been done. It is perfectly amazing. The whole world can read, everyone is literate, yet somehow no one wants to understand. Humanity acts as if it does not understand what Communism is, as if it does not want to understand, is not capable of understanding.”
“Communism has never concealed the fact that it rejects all absolute concepts of morality. It scoffs at any consideration of "good" and "evil" as indisputable categories. Communism considers morality to be relative, to be a class matter. Depending on circumstances and the political situation, any act, including murder, even the killing of hundreds of thousands, could be good or could be bad. It all depends on class ideology. And who defines this ideology? The whole class cannot get together to pass judgment. A handful of people determine what is good and what is bad. But I must say that in this respect Communism has been most successful. It has infected the whole world with the belief in the relativity of good and evil. Today, many people apart from the Communists are carried away by this idea.”
“On our crowded planet there are no longer any "internal affairs." The Communist leaders say, "Don't interfere in our internal affairs. Let us strangle our citizens in peace and quiet. But I tell you: Interfere more and more. Interfere as much as you can. We beg you to come and interfere.”
“Communism is as crude an attempt to explain society and the individual as if a surgeon were to perform his delicate operations with a meat ax. All that is subtle in human psychology and in the structure of society (which is even more complex), all of this is reduced to crude economic processes. The whole created being—man—is reduced to matter. It is characteristic that Communism is so devoid of arguments that it has none to advance against its opponents in our Communist countries. It lacks arguments and hence there is the club, the prison, the concentration camp, and insane asylums with forced confinement.”
“You know, that is one of the consequences of the weak sense of responsibility of the press. The press does not feel responsibility for its judgments. It makes judgments and attaches labels with the greatest of ease. Mediocre journalists simply make headlines of their conclusions, which suddenly become generally accepted.”
“All Communist Parties, upon attaining power, have become completely merciless. But at the stage before they achieve power, it is necessary to use disguises.”
“Of course in the present situation the Communists have to use various disguises. Sometimes we hear words like "popular front," at other times "dialogue with Christianity." For Communists a dialogue with Christianity! In the Soviet Union this dialogue was a simple matter: they used machine guns and revolvers.”
“I think, ladies and gentlemen, and I particularly address those of you who have a socialist outlook, that we should at least permit this socialist economy to prove its superiority. Let's allow it to show that it is advanced, that it is omnipotent, that it has defeated you, that it has overtaken you. Let us not interfere with it. Let us stop selling to it and giving it loans. If it's all that powerful, then let it stand on its own feet for ten or fifteen years. Then we will see what it looks like. I can tell you what it will look like. I am being quite serious now. When the Soviet economy will no longer be able to deal with everything, it will have to reduce its military preparations. It will have to abandon the useless space effort and it will have to feed and clothe its own people. And the system will be forced to relax. Thus, all I ask of you is that as long as this Soviet economy is so proud, so flourishing, and yours is so rotten and so moribund—stop helping it. When has a cripple ever helped along an athlete?”
“But I return to that terrible statement of Bertrand Russell's: "Better Red than dead." Why did he not say it would be better to be brown than dead? There is no difference. All my life and the life of my generation, the life of those who share my views, we all have had one viewpoint: Better to be dead than to be a scoundrel. In this horrible expression of Bertrand Russell's there is an absence of all moral criteria. Looked at from a short distance, these words allow one to maneuver and to continue to enjoy life. But from a long term point of view it will undoubtedly destroy those people who think like that.”
“I must say that the United States, of all the countries of the West, is the least guilty and has done the most in order to prevent it. The United States has helped Europe to win the First and the Second World Wars. It twice raised Europe from postwar destruction—twice—for ten, twenty, thirty years it has stood as a shield protecting Europe while European countries counted their nickels to avoid paying for their armies (better yet, to have none at all), to avoid paying for armaments, thinking about how to leave NATO, knowing that in any case America would protect them. These counties started it all, despite their thousand year old civilization and culture, even though they are closer to the danger and should have seen it more clearly.”
“We are told: "We should not protect those who are unable to defend themselves with their own human resources." But against the overwhelming forces of totalitarianism, when all of this power is thrown against a country—no country can defend itself with its own resources. For instance, Japan doesn't have a standing army.
We are told: "We should not protect those who do not have a full democracy." This is the most remarkable argument of all. This is the leitmotif I hear in your newspapers and in the speeches of some of your political leaders. Who in the world, when on the front line of defense against totalitarianism, has ever been able to sustain a full democracy? You, the united democracies of the world, were not able to sustain it. America, England, France, Canada, Australia together did not sustain it. At the first threat of Hitlerism, you stretched out your hands to Stalin. You call that sustaining democracy? Hardly.”
“And we, from the whole of our life experience there, have concluded that there is only one way to withstand violence: with firmness.”
“You have to understand the nature of Communism. The very ideology of Communism, all of Lenin's teachings, are that anyone who doesn't take what's lying in front of him is a fool. If you can take it, do so. If you can attack, strike. But if there's a wall, retreat. The Communist leaders respect only firmness and have contempt for persons who continually give in to them.”
“For me and my friends, for people who think the way I do over there, for all ordinary Soviet citizens, America evokes a mixture of admiration and compassion...You're a country of the future, a young country, with yet untapped possibilities, enormous territory, great breadth of spirit, generosity, magnanimity. But these qualities—strength, generosity, and magnanimity—are usually combined in a man and even in a whole country with trustfulness. And this has already done you a disservice several times.”
“That Marxism is not a science is entirely clear to intelligent people in the Soviet Union. One would even feel awkward to refer to it as a science. Leaving aside the exact sciences, such as physics, mathematics, and the natural sciences, even the social sciences can predict an event—when, in what way and how an event might occur. Communism has never made any such forecasts. It has never said where, when, and precisely what is going to happen. Nothing but declamations. Rhetoric to the effect that the world proletariat will overthrow the world bourgeoisie and the most happy and radiant society will then arise.”
“But there was never any such thing as Stalinism. It was contrived by Khrushchev and his group in order to blame all the characteristic traits and principal defects of Communism on Stalin—it was a very effective move. But in reality Lenin had managed to give shape to all the main features before Stalin came to power.”
“This is Communism's view of war. War is necessary. War is an instrument for achieving a goal.
But unfortunately for Communism, this policy ran up against the American atomic bomb in 1945. Then the Communists changed their tactics and suddenly became advocates of peace at any cost.”
“Where an open war is impossible, oppression can continue quietly behind the scenes. Terrorism. Guerrilla warfare, violence, prisons, concentration camps. I ask you: Is this peace?
The true antipode of peace is violence. And those who want peace in the world should remove not only war from the world but also violence. If there is no open war but there is still violence, that is not peace.”
“You have theoreticians who say, "The U.S. must stop the process of nuclear armament. We have enough already. Today America has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the other half of the world. Why should we need more than that?" Let the American nuclear specialists reason this way if they want, but for some reason the nuclear specialists of the Soviet Union—and the leaders of the Soviet Union—think differently.”
“I was profoundly impressed by my contact with these places which are and have always been, the wellsprings of your history. It makes one think that the men who created your country never lost sight of their moral bearings. They did not laugh at the absolute nature of the concepts of "good" and "evil." Their practical policies were checked against their moral compass. And how surprising it is that a practical policy computed on the basis of moral considerations turned out to be the most farsighted and the most salutary. This is true even though in the short term one may wonder: Why all this morality? Let's just get on with the immediate job.”
“By a peculiar coincidence, the very day when I was giving my address in Washington, Mikhail Suslov was talking with your senators in the Kremlin. And he said, "In fact the significance of our trade is more political than economic. We can get along without your trade." That is a lie. The whole existence of our slaveowners from beginning to end relies on Western economic assistance....The Soviet economy has an extremely low level of efficiency. What is done here by a few people, by a few machines, in our country takes tremendous crowds of workers and enormous amounts of material. Therefore, the Soviet economy cannot deal with every problem at once: war, space (which is part of the war effort), heavy industry, light industry, and at the same time feed and clothe its own population. The forces of the entire Soviet economy are concentrated on war, where you don't help them. But everything lacking, everything needed to fill the gaps, everything necessary to free the people, or for other types of industry, they get from you. So indirectly you are helping their military preparations. You are helping the Soviet police state.” [This is true for China as well... - The Catacombs]
“In actual fact our Russian experience—when I use the word "Russian" I always differentiate it from the word "Soviet"—I have in mind even pre-Soviet, pre-revolutinoary experience—in actual fact it is vitally important for the West, because by some chance of history we have trodden the same path seventy or eighty years before the West. And now it is with a strange sensation that we look at what is happening to you; many social phenomena that happened in Russia before its collapse are being repeated. Our experience of life is of vital importance to the West, but I am not convinced that you are capable of assimilating it without having gone through it to the end yourselves.
You know, one could quote here many examples: for one, a certain retreat by the older generation, yielding their intellectual leadership to the younger generation. It is against the natural order of things for those who are youngest, with the least experience of life, to have the greatest influence in directing the life of society. One can say then that this is what forms the spirit of the age, the current of public opinion, when people in authority, well known professors and scientists, are reluctant to enter into an argument even when they hold a different opinion. It is considered embarrassing to put forward one's counterarguments, lest one become involved. And so there is a certain abdication of responsibility, which is typical here where there is complete freedom....There is now a universal adulation of revolutionaries, the more so the more extreme they are! Similarly, before the revolution, we had in Russia, if not a cult of terror, then a fierce defense of terrorists. People in good positions—intellectuals, professors, liberals—spent a great deal of effort, anger, and indignation in defending terrorists.”
“I am not a critic of the West; I am a critic of the weakness of the West. I am a critic of a fact we can't comprehend: how one can lose one's spiritual strength, one's will power and possessing freedom, not value it, not be willing to make sacrifices for it.”