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In Search of a Soviet Holocaust

A 55-Year Old Famine Feeds The Right

Something therefore always remains and sticks from the most impudent lies…
The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed.

— Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

The girl is dying. She looks about five years old, but we know she may be older, dimin­ished by hunger. She leans wearily against a gate. Her long hair falls lank about bare shoul­ders. Her head rests against her arm. Her neck is bent, like a stalk in parched earth. Her eyes are the worst — large and dark, glazed yet still wistful. The child is dying, starving, and we feel guilty for our witness …

The Ukrainian émigrés who made Har­vest of Despair knew a gripping image when they saw one. The black-and-white still, played over an arching, minor-mode chorus, was chosen to close the Canadian documentary on the Ukraine of 1932-33. The same photograph was used to pro­mote the film, to symbolize a long-dor­mant cause célebre: a “man-made” fam­ine, “deliberately engineered” by Stalin to crush Ukrainian nationalism and cow a stubborn peasantry into permanent col­lectivization. Seven million Ukrainians were killed, the narrator tells us, as “a nation the size of France [was] strangled by hunger.”

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The result, intoned William F. Buckley, whose Firing Line showed the film last November, was “perhaps the greatest ho­locaust of the century.”

The term “holocaust” still burns the ears, even in our jaded time. As we watch the film and see corpses piled in fields, bloated bodies sprawled in streets, pale skeletons grasping for bits of bread, we wonder: How can such a terrible story have been suppressed so long?

Here is how: The story is a fraud. The starving girl, it turns out, wasn’t found in 1932 or 1933, nor in the Ukraine. Her picture was taken from a Red Cross bulletin on the 1921-22 Volga famine, for which no one claims genocide. Rather than an emblem of persecution, the photograph advances the most cyni­cal of swindles — a hoax played out from the White House and Congress through the halls of Harvard to the New York State Department of Education. Pressing every pedal, pulling all the strings, is a Ukrainian nationalist lobby straining to cloak its own history of Nazi collabora­tion. By revising their past, these émigrés help support a more ambitious revision­ism: a denial of Hitler’s holocaust against the Jews.

There was indeed a famine in the Ukraine in the early 1930s. It appears likely that hundreds of thousands, possi­bly one or two million, Ukrainians died — ­the minority from starvation, the major­ity from related diseases. By any scale, this is an enormous toll of human suffer­ing. By general consensus, Stalin was partially responsible. By any stretch of an honest imagination, the tragedy still falls short of genocide.

In 1932, the Soviet Union was in crisis. The cities had suffered food shortages since 1928. Grain was desperately needed for export and foreign capital, both to fuel the first Five-Year Plan and to counter the growing war threat from Ger­many. In addition, the Communist Par­ty’s left wing, led by Stalin, had come to reject the New Economic Plan, which re­stored market capitalism to the country­side in the 1920s.

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In this context, collectivization was more than a vehicle for a cheap and steady grain supply to the state. It was truly a “revolution from above,” a drastic move toward socialism, and an epochal change in the mode of production. There were heavy casualties on both sides — ­hundreds of thousands of kulaks (rich peasants) deported to the north, thou­sands of party activists assassinated. Production superseded politics, and many peasants were coerced rather than won to collective farms. Vast disruption of the 1932 harvest ensued (and not only in the Ukraine), and many areas were hard-pressed to meet the state’s grain requisition quotas.

Again, Stalin and the Politburo played major roles. “But there is plenty of blame to go around,” as Sovietologist John Arch Getty recently noted in The London Re­view of Books. “It must be shared by the tens of thousands of activists and offi­cials who carried out the policy and by the peasants who chose to slaughter ani­mals, burn fields, and boycott cultivation in protest.”

Such a balanced analysis, however, has never satisfied Ukrainian nationalists in the United States and Canada, for whom the “terror-famine” is an article of faith and communal rallying point. For decades after the fact, their obsession was con­fined to émigré journals. Only of late has it achieved a sort of mainstream credibil­ity — in Harvest of Despair, shown on PBS and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and at numerous college campuses; in The Harvest of Sorrow, an Oxford University Press account by Rob­ert Conquest; in a “human rights” curric­ulum, now available to every 10th-grade social studies teacher in New York State; and in the federally funded Ukraine Fam­ine Commission, now into its second year of “hearings.”

After 50 years on the fringes, the Ukraine famine debate is finally front and center. While one-note faminologists may teach us little real history, they re­veal how our sense of history is pulled by political fashion until it hardens into the taffy of conventional wisdom. And how you can fool most of the people most of the time — especially when you tell them what they want to hear.

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THE FILM

Harvest of Despair was the brain­child of Marco Carynnyk, a Ukrai­nian translator and poet who lives in Toronto. In 1983, Carynnyk found a sponsor in St. Vladimir’s Institute, which formed a Ukrainian Famine Research Committee of well-to-­do émigrés . The committee raised $200,000 for the documentary, including a major grant from the Ukrainian Cana­dian Committee (a spiritual descendant of the fascist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists), and a loan from the simi­larly right-wing World Congress of Free Ukrainians.

As chief researcher for the film, Caryn­nyk had two major functions — to locate and interview famine survivors, and to find archival photographs. Talking heads would not be enough to make a case for genocide. To gain its intended shock val­ue, the film would have to show what the famine was like. “There can be no ques­tion,” assessed The Winnipeg Free Press, “that without the films and photographs uncovered from the 1932-33 famine, the film would lose much of its authority.”

“I gave them two sets of photographs,” Carynnyk said. “I told them, ‘Here are the ones from the 1930s, and here are the ones from 1921-22.’ But in the cutting of the film, they were all mixed up. I said this can’t be done, that it will leave the film open to criticism … My complaints were ignored. They just didn’t think it was important.”

One problem, Carynnyk said, was that producer Slawko Nowitski faced an im­possible five-month deadline to ready the film during the famine’s 50th anniversa­ry. (In fact, Harvest of Despair would not be completed until late 1984.) But the researcher believes it was more than mere sloppiness at work. “The research com­mittee was more interested in propagan­distic purposes than historical scholarship,” said Carynnyk, who has sued the Famine Research Committee for copy­right violation. “They were quite pre­pared to cut corners to get their point across.”

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In October 1983, Carynnyk left the project — “relieved of his duties,” accord­ing to Nowitski, “because he did not pro­duce the required material.” Three years and seven awards later, the lid blew last November at a meeting of the Toronto Board of Education, where terror-famine proponents were pressing to include the film in the city’s high school curriculum. The show stopped cold when Doug Tot­tle, former editor of a Winnipeg labor magazine, stood up and declared that “90 per cent” of the film’s archival photo­graphs were plagiarized from the 1921-22 famine.

Tottle traced several of the most graphic photos, including that of the starving girl, to famine relief sources of the 1920s. (Some of these resurfaced in 1933 as anti-Soviet propaganda in Voelk­ischer Beobachter, an official Nazi party organ.) Other pictures were lifted from the 1936 English edition of Human Life in Russia, by Ewald Ammende, an Aus­trian relief worker in the earlier Volga famine. Ammende attributes them to a “Dr. F. Dittloff,” a German engineer who supposedly took the photos in the sum­mer of 1933. The Dittloff pictures have their own bastard pedigrees — three from 1922 Geneva-based relief bulletins, others from Nazi publications. Still other Ditt­loffs were also claimed as original by Robert Green, a phony journalist and es­caped convict who provided famine mate­rial to the profascist Hearst chain in 1935. Green, a convicted forger who used the alias “Thomas Walker,” reported that he took the photos in the spring of 1934 — almost a year after the Ukraine famine had ended, and in direct contra­diction of Dittloff.

Although Green was exposed by The Nation and several New York dailies by 1935, right-wing émigrés have used his spurious photos for decades. “It’s not that these pictures were suddenly discov­ered in 1983 and accidentally misdated” in the film, Tottle noted.

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Tottle had done his homework. Caryn­nyk confirmed that “very few” photos in Harvest of Despair could be authenticat­ed, and that none of the famine film footage was from 1932-33. But the Ukraine Famine Research Committee de­cided to stonewall. At first they insisted that any photos from the 1920s were used only when the film discussed the Volga famine — a blatant evasion, since that segment lasts a scant 28 seconds and uses only two still photos, neither especially potent. Committee chairman Wasyl Jan­ischewskyj recently softened that stance: “We have researched further and made discoveries that some photos we thought were from 1932-33 were not … We are now having further deep investigations of these pictures.”

In the main, however, the filmmakers have sought to justify their fraud. “You have to have visual impact,” said Orest Subtelny, the film’s historic adviser. “You want to show what people dying from a famine look like. Starving children are starving children.” A documentary, added producer Nowitski, must rely on “emotional truth” more than literal facts.

“These people have never attempted to refute my claims,” said Tottle. (His book on the subject, Fraud, Famine, and Fas­cism, will be published this fall by Toron­to’s Progress Books, an outlet for Soviet releases.) “They have tried to lie and cover it up, but they have not tried to refute it.”

Nor have the nationalists refuted Tot­tle’s contention that several “witnesses” in the film were Nazi collaborators, in­cluding two German diplomats who served in the Third Reich and an Ortho­dox Church layman who blessedly rose to bishop while the Third Reich occupied the Ukraine in 1942.

“Just because they’re collaborators,” countered Nowitski, “does that mean we cannot believe anything they tell us? Just because they’re Nazis is no reason to doubt the authenticity of what happened.”

This slant pervades émigré research on the famine. Soviet sources are rejected out of hand, while Nazi sources (or known liars like Walker and Dittloff) are accepted unconditionally. In the Goeb­bels tradition, the nationalists’ brief al­ways serves their anticommunism — no matter how many facts twist slowly in the process. Harvest of Despair follows unholy footsteps, and never breaks stride.

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THE BOOK

According to a 1978 article in The Guardian of London, Robert Con­quest got his big break shortly after World War II, when he joined the Information Research Department of the British Foreign Office. Staffed heavily by émigrés, the IRD’s mission was a covert “propaganda counter-offen­sive” against the Soviet Union. It was heady, hands-on work for a young writer, a chance to slant media coverage of Russia by adding political “spin” to Eastern bloc press releases and funneling them to top reporters. The journalists knew little about the IRD, beyond the names of their mysterious contacts. The public knew nothing at all, even as their opinions were being sculpted.

After Conquest left the IRD in 1956, the agency suggested that he package some of his handiwork into a book. That first compilation was distributed in the U.S. by Fred Praeger, who had previously published several books at the request of the CIA.

The shy and courtly Conquest has come a long way since then, from gray propagandist to éminence grise. He is now a senior research fellow at the Hoo­ver Institute at Stanford, as well as an associate of Harvard’s Ukrainian Re­search Institute. But his heart and his pen never left the IRD. The Soviet Union would be Conquest’s lifetime obsession. He churned out book after book on the horrors of communism: The Nation Kill­er, Where Marx Went Wrong, Kolyma: The Arctic Death Camps. His landmark work of 1968, The Great Terror, focused on Stalin’s purges of the late 1930s. But by 1984, his work had turned surreal; What To Do When the Russians Come was the literary equivalent of that politi­co-teen-disaster flick, Red Dawn. Yet he remained a mainstream heavyweight, coasting on reputation, his excesses ac­cepted as Free World zeal.

In 1981, the Ukrainian Research Insti­tute approached Conquest with a major project: a book on the 1932-33 famine. The pot was sweetened by an $80,000 subsidy from the Ukrainian National As­sociation, a New Jersey-based group with a venerable, hard-right tradition; the UNA’s newspaper, Swoboda, was banned by Canada during World War II for its pro-German sympathies. (The grant was earmarked for Conquest’s research expenses, including the assistance of James Mace, a junior fellow at URI.)

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The nationalists knew they’d be getting their money’s worth. At the time, famino­logy was virgin ground. There was little source material available, since the Soviet archives remain sealed. More to the point, most non-émigré historians viewed the 1932-33 famine as an outgrowth of collectivization, not a political phenome­non of itself, much less a stab at geno­cide. But Conquest was different. In his Terror book, he’d already concluded that more than three million Ukrainians were killed by the famine. Here, clearly, was the right man for the job, a man who once stated: “Truth can thus only perco­late in the form of hearsay … basically the best, though not infallible, source is rumor.” And with no one on record to dispute the issue, Conquest’s rumors could rule.

In The Harvest of Sorrow, Conquest outdoes himself. He weaves his terror­-famine from unverifiable (and notorious­ly biased) émigré accounts. He leans on reportage from ex-Communist converts to the American Way. He cites both “Walker” and Ammende. Black Deeds of the Kremlin, a period piece published by Ukrainian émigrés in 1953, is footnoted no less than 145 times.

Conquest can be deftly selective when it suits his purpose. He borrows heavily from Lev Kopelev’s The Education of a True Believer, but ignores Kopelev when the latter recalls Ukrainian villages that were relatively untouched by famine, or relief efforts by a Communist village council.

By confirming people’s worst suspi­cions of Stalin’s rule, The Harvest of Sor­row has won favorable reviews from The New York Times, The New Republic, and The New York Review of Books. But leading scholars on this era are less im­pressed. They challenge Conquest’s con­tention that Ukrainian priests and intelli­gentsia — two major counterrevolutionary camps — were repressed more ruthlessly than anywhere else in the country. They point out that the 1932-33 famine was hardly confined to the Ukraine, that it reached deep into the Black Earth region of central Russia. They note that Stalin had far less control over collectivization than is widely assumed, and that radical district leaders made their own rules as they went along.

Most vehemently of all, these experts reject Conquest’s hunt for a new holo­caust. The famine was a terrible thing, they agree, but it decidedly was not genocide.

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“There is no evidence it was intention­ally directed against Ukrainians,” said Al­exander Dallin of Stanford, the father of modern Sovietology. “That would be to­tally out of keeping with what we know — ­it makes no sense.”

“This is crap, rubbish,” said Moshe Lewin of the University of Pennsylvania, whose Russian Peasants and Soviet Pow­er broke new ground in social history. “I am an anti-Stalinist, but I don’t see how this [genocide] campaign adds to our knowledge. It’s adding horrors, adding horrors, until it becomes a pathology.”

“I absolutely reject it,” said Lynne Vio­la of SUNY-Binghamton, the first U.S. historian to examine Moscow’s Central State Archive on collectivization. “Why in god’s name would this paranoid gov­ernment consciously produce a famine when they were terrifed of war [with Germany]?”

These premier Sovietologists dismiss Conquest for what he is — an ideologue whose serious work is long behind him. But Dallin stands as a liberal exception to the hard-liners of his generation, while Lewin and Viola remain Young Turks who happen to be doing the freshest work on this period. In Soviet studies, where rigor and objectivity count for less than the party line, where fierce anti-Commu­nists still control the prestigious institutes and first-rank departments, a Con­quest can survive and prosper while barely cracking a book.

“He’s terrible at doing research,” said veteran Sovietologist Roberta Manning of Boston College. “He misuses sources, he twists everything.”

Then there are those who love to twist, and shout — to use scholarly disinformation for their own, less dignified purposes. In the latest catalogue for The Noontide Press, a Liberty Lobby affiliate run by flamboyant fascist Willis Carto, The Harvest of Sorrow is listed cheek-by-jowl with such revisionist tomes as The Auschwitz Myth and Hitler at My Side. To hype the Conquest book and its ter­ror-famine, the catalogue notes: “The act of genocide against the Ukrainian people has been supressed [sic] until recently, perhaps because a real ‘Holocaust’ might compete with a Holohoax.”

For those unacquainted with Noontide jargon, the “Holohoax” refers to the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews.

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THE CURRICULUM

In 1982, the New York State Depart­ment of Education set out to blaze a new trail: a definitive curriculum on the Nazi holocaust. The department assembled a distinguished review committee, including such Holocaust ex­perts as Terrence Des Pres and Raul Hil­berg. It assigned the actual writing to three top-rated social studies teachers. The finished two-volume project, which went to classrooms in the fall of 1985, does credit to everyone involved. It is a balanced mix of archival documents, sur­vivor memoirs, and scholarly essays.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the high schools: The Ukrainian nationalists stole the show. Their point man was Bohdan Vitvitsky, a New Jersey attorney and author who was invited to join the state’s advisory council, which would steer the curriculum’s develop­ment. Vitvitsky’s first move was to gain inclusion of an excerpt of his book on Slavic victims of the Nazis. His second victory was to eliminate all but passing mention of Ukrainian war criminals.

“I took the position they should be dealt with,” said Stephen Berk, a Union College history professor and advisory council member, “but Vitvitsky insisted there should be no dwelling on [Nazi] collaborators.” (The Catholic lobby didn’t fare so well; over its protests, the curricu­lum includes a critical assessment of Pope Pius XII’s inaction.)

But Vitvitsky’s major coup, helped along by a nationalist letter campaign, was to install material on the Ukraine famine of 1932-33. In the curriculum’s second draft in 1984, the famine was treated as a 17-page precursor chapter to the second Holocaust volume — a plan which met heated resistance from Jewish groups. By the time the material reached the schools last fall, however, it had swol­len into a separate third volume, with 90 pages on the “forced famine,” and anoth­er 52 on “human rights violations” in the Ukraine.

A key player in the transition was As­semblyman William Larkin (Conserva­tive Republican, New Windsor), a retired Army colonel, assistant minority whip, and old friend of Gordon Ambach, then the state commissioner of education. Lar­kin had ample incentive to help; his dis­trict contains about 8000 ethnic Ukraini­ans. He arranged “four or five” meetings between the state education staff and 20 upstate Ukrainian nationalists in 1985. He also enlisted other Republican assem­blymen to press for the famine book, and says he spoke personally to Ambach. The commissioner “offered to do any­thing be could,” Larkin said. “But if we didn’t go up there in force, if we didn’t push it, it wouldn’t have happened.”

By most accounts, the political pres­sure was intense — enough to squeeze a department deemed relatively apolitical. The Ukrainians mounted “an enormous letter-writing campaign with the Board of Regents,” said Robert Maurer, the execu­tive deputy commissioner. “There were phone calls and visits. There’s not often that much interest in curriculum matters; it was very unusual.”

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The famine boosters found an especial­ly sympathetic ear in Regent Emlyn I. Griffith, then chairman of the committee that unanimously endorsed Volume Three in 1985 — a vote which ensured its future use. “As a member of a minority people put down by a majority govern­ment, I emphathized” with the Ukrainian nationalists, said Griffith, an ethnic Welshman. “There was a significant lob­bying effort … It was persuasive. It wasn’t threatening, it was positive.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly who made the fatal decision on Volume Three. Griffith said his committee acted on a strong staff recommendation. Ambach failed to return phone calls for this story. Maurer lodged responsibility with Deputy Commissioner Gerald Freebome, who in turn pointed to Program Development Director Edward Lalor, who referred questions to a low-level official named George Gregory, the chairman of the Hu­man Rights Series advisory committee.

Shrouded by this corporate haze, Vit­vitsky ran in an open field. No one chal­lenged his basic premise. The famine “certainly does represent another exam­ple of genocide,” Gregory asserted. “It was a planned attempt by Stalin to elimi­nate the Ukrainian people.”

(“George is the consummate bureau­crat,” said one educator involved with the series. “His experience is mainly in grade-school curricula — like ‘Appreciat­ing Our Indian Heritage,’ or ‘The Impor­tance of the Finger Lakes Region.’ When I started up there, he really didn’t know anything about the Holocaust.”)

To write the famine material, Gregory hired Walter Litynsky, a Troy High School biology teacher and a local chair­man of Americans for Human Rights in Ukraine. For the job of principal review­er, Litynsky recommended James Mace, the Conquest protégé who also directs the Ukraine Famine Commission under a $382,000 congressional appropriation. Mace and Litynsky proceeded to stack the review committee with Ukrainian academics, the omnipresent Vitvitsky, and four upstate nationalists. “No contrary [review] letters were either solicited or received,” Berk acknowledged. “I’m sorry this came out, because it was distorted — ­but I felt it was a fait accompli.”

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When asked about contrasting view­points from such scholars as Lewin and Viola, Gregory was unmoved. “Quite frankly, we have not heard of any of them,” he said. “We tried to present a balanced point of view. We didn’t ask for the Soviet opinion, since the Soviet view was that the famine never happened. [In fact, the Soviets now concede that a fam­ine was “impossible to avoid,” because of drought, mismanagement, and kulak sab­otage.] We relied heavily on James Mace; he’s the leading historian of that time period.”

This paean would startle academe, where Mace’s work is infrequently read and rarely found in footnotes, the base­line of a scholar’s importance. He is wide­ly regarded as a right-wing polemicist, an indifferent researcher who has made a checkered career out of faminology.

“I doubt he could have gotten a real academic job,” Manning said. “Soviet studies is a very competitive field these days — there’s much weeding out after the Ph.D. If he hadn’t hopped on this politi­cal cause, he would be doing research for a bank, or running an export-import business.”

The Mace-Litynsky partnership yield­ed a predictable end product — the undis­tilled nationalist line. The state curricu­lum on the Ukraine famine apes both Harvest of Despair and The Harvest of Sorrow. (The education department now supplies the embattled documentary, as an audiovisual supplement, to any inter­ested teacher.) Like the film and the hook, the curriculum features faked pho­tos from Ammende, dubious atrocity tales (including 16 selections from Black Deeds of the Kremlin), and sections of the “Walker” Hearst series, all without caveat. Like Conquest and Nowitski, the famine volume red-baits anyone who challenged the genocide scenario, such as New York Times reporter Walter Dur­anty. It goes Conquest one better by re­ferring to the region as Ukraine, with no article, in deference to a sovereignty that exists only in nationalist fables.

The curriculum is most obviously ex­posed in its estimate of the famine death toll: “… it is generally accepted that about 7 million Ukrainians or about 22% of the total Ukrainian population died of starvation in a government planned and controlled famine.”

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How did Litynsky arrive at this talis­manic figure, cited over and over again in emigre literature? “I don’t pretend to be an expert on this subject,” the biology teacher said. “This is not my field. I had a list of people who went from 1.5 million to 10 million. In my reading I saw seven million used more than any other figure, and I decided that was realistic. It got to the point where it was so confusing that you had to decide.” (Mace has opted for 7.9 million Ukrainian famine deaths in his own work, with an “irreducible mini­mum” of 5.5 million. Conquest fixes on seven million famine deaths, including six million Ukrainians, with no appendix to show how his numbers are derived.)

But the magic number, like the geno­cide theory it shoulders, simply can’t pass scrutiny. Sergei Maksudov, a Soviet émigré scholar much cited by Mace and Conquest, has now concluded that the famine caused 3.5 million premature deaths in the Ukraine — 700,000 from starvation, and the rest from diseases “stimulated” by malnutrition.

Even Maksudov’s lower estimates are open to challenge. Writing in Slavic Re­view, demographers Barbara Anderson and Brian Silver maintain that limited census data make a precise famine death count impossible. Instead, they offer a probable range of 3.2 to 5.5 million “ex­cess deaths” for the entire Soviet Union from 1926 to 1939 — a period that covers collectivization, the civil war in the coun­tryside, the purges of the late ’30s, and major epidemics of typhus and malaria. According to these experts, and Maksu­dov as well, Mace and Conquest make the most primitive of errors: They overesti­mate fertility rates and underrate the im­pact of assimilation, through which many Ukrainians were “redesignated” as Rus­sians in the 1939 census. As a result, the cold warriors confuse population deficits (which include unborn children) with ex­ cess deaths.

Which leaves us with a puzzle: Wouldn’t one or two or 3.5 million fam­ine-related deaths be enough to make an anti-Stalinist argument? Why seize a wildly inflated figure that can’t possibly be supported? The answer tells much ahout the Ukrainian nationalist cause, and about those who abet it.

“They’re always looking to come up with a number bigger than six million,” observed Eli Rosenbaum, general counsel for the World Jewish Congress. “It makes the reader think: ‘My god, it’s worse than the Holocaust.’ ”

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HIDDEN AGENDAS

Your husband’s courage and dedication to liberty will serve as a continuing source of inspiration to all those striving for freedom and self-determination.
— Letter from President Reagan to the widow of Yaroslav Stetsko, ranking OUN terrorist, murderer, and Nazi collabora­tor, read by retired general John Singlaub at a conference of the World Anti-Com­munist League, September 7, 1986.

In the panel discussion that followed Harvest of Despair on PBS last fall, Conquest addressed the issue of Ukrainian war crimes. “It’s not the case,” he said blandly, “that the Ukrainian nationalist organizations collaborated with the Germans.” Once again, the aging faminologist had tripped on the public record. It is one thing to suggest, rightly, that Ukrainian nationalism had little popular support among the peasantry. (It was actually a narrow, urban, middle-class movement.) Millions of Ukrainians fought with the Red Army and partisans. Many others can be accused of nothing worse than indifference, and a smaller number risked their lives to save Jews from the Ger­mans. But on the matter of the OUN, the principal nationalist group from the 1930s on, the record is quite clear: It was fascist from the start.

In its original statement of purpose in 1929, the OUN betrays a raw Nazi influ­ence: “Do not hesitate to commit the greatest crime, if the good of the Cause demands it … Aspire to expand the strength, riches, and size of the Ukraini­an State even by means of enslaving for­eigners.” This sentiment was echoed in a 1941 letter to the German Secret Service from the OUN’s dominant Bandera wing: “Long live greater independent Ukraine without Jews, Poles, and Germans. Poles behind the [river] San, Germans to Ber­lin, Jews to the gallows.”

As the authoritative John Armstrong, a staunch anti-Communist and pro-Ukrai­nian, has written: “The theory and teach­ings of the Nationalists were very close to Fascism, and in some respects, such as the insistence on ‘racial purity,’ even went beyond the original Fascist doctrines.”

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But the OUN storm troopers, like any terrorist group, prized action over theory. Their wartime brutalities have been am­ply documented (Voice, February 11, 1986, “To Catch a Nazi”). They recruited for the Waffen SS, pulled the triggers at Babi Yar and Sobibor, ran the gas cham­ber at Treblinka. During their brief inter­ludes of Nazi-sponsored “independence” (in the Carpatho-Ukraine in 1939 and in Galicia in 1941), pogroms were the order of the day, in the spirit of their revered Simon Petlura. They strove to outdo the Nazis at every turn.

And when the Third Reich fell, the nationalists fled — to Munich, to Toronto, and (with the covert aid of the U.S. State Department, which viewed them as po­tential anti-Soviet guerrillas) to New York and Chicago and Cleveland.

This is not ancient history. The Ukrai­nian émigré groups still contain more than a few former OUN members, and many of their sons and daughters. The nationalists still heroize their wartime past. On occasion their old passions sur­face as well — as in Why Is One Holocaust Worth More Than Others?, recently pub­lished by Veterans of the Ukrainian In­surgent Army: “In 1933, the majority of the European and American press controlled by the Jews were silent about the famine.”

From this perspective, the “conspira­cy” lives on: “In (February} 1986 the Jew­ish newspaper Village Voice … published one-and-one-half pages of accusations against a high-standing member of the Ukrainian nationalist movement, Mykola Lebed.”

And finally, most transparently: “Tens of millions of people have been killed since the Zionist Bolshevik Jews, backed by the Zionist-oriented Jewish interna­tional bankers, took over Russia.”

Not surprisingly, Ukrainian émigrés are among the harshest and most power­ful critics of Nazi-hunting. They have sought to kill both the Justice Depart­ment’s Office of Special Investigations and the Canadian Deschenes Commis­sion — and with good reason. Sol Littman, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto, recently presented the com­mission with the names of 475 suspected Nazi collaborators. He reports that Ukrainians were “very heavily represent­ed” on the list.

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It may not be sheer coincidence that faminology took wing just after the OSI was commissioned in 1979. For here was a way to rehabilitate fascism- — to prove that Ukrainian collaborators were help­less victims, caught between the rock of Hitler and Stalin’s hard place. To wit, this bit of psycho-journalism from the 33 March 24 Washington Post, in a story on accused war criminal John “Ivan the Terrible” Demjanjuk: “The pivotal event in Demjanjuk’s childhood was the great famine of the early 1930s, conceived by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as a way of destroying the independent Ukrainian peasantry … Several members of [Demjanjuk’s] family died in the catastrophe.”

Coupled with the old nationalist ca­nard of “Judeo-Bolshevism,” faminology could help justify anti-Semitism, collabo­ration, even genocide. An eye for an eye; a Nazi holocaust in return for a “Jewish famine.”

Just as the Nazis used the OUN for their own ends, so has Reagan exploited the famine, from his purple-prosed com­memoration of “this callous act” to his backing of the Mace commission. Faced with failing fascist allies around the world, from Nicaragua to South Africa, the U.S. war lobby needs to boost anti­-Communism as never before. Public en­thusiasm to fight for the contras will not come easy. But if people could be con­vinced that Communism is worse than fascism; that Stalin was an insane mon­ster, even worse than Hitler; that the seven million died in more unspeakable agony than the six million …. Well, we just might be set up for the next Gulf of Tonkin. One cannot appease an Evil Em­pire, after all.

As Conquest noted on PBS, after the starving girl’s image finally faded from the screen: “This was a true picture we saw … It instructs us about the world today.”

It turns out that the picture is far from true — that the purveyors of a famine genocide are stealing a piece of history and slicing it to order. It’s a brash bit of larceny for Conquest and company, even within the prevailing vogue of anti-Sta­linism. But if they say it loud enough and long enough, people just might listen. Lie bold enough and large enough, and — as the man once said — it just might stick. ❖

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Report From Prague: Viewing a Disaster

What follows is a simple eye­witness account of two days in Prague under Soviet occupation. This is a report, not an analysis or a commentary. It is because I know that every “Cold War­rior” welcomes the events in Prague that I must note simply that bad as the invasion was it does not compare to the United States actions in Vietnam where a million or more have died. Prague and Saigon are linked, symbols of the contempt great powers have for the right of smaller nations to self-determination. Let all those who so easily demand immediate and complete Soviet withdrawal apply that same standard to the situation in Vietnam.

I had gone to Europe to attend two working conferences, one in Vienna (War Resisters International) and the other in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia (International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace). Between the conference was a space of four days and I chose to spend that time in Prague as vacation. I arrived there on Saturday evening, August 17. I was due to leave early Wednesday morning, August 21.

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Other American radicals in Prague spent their time to good advantage, seeing student leaders, liberal writers, political figures. I simply wandered aim­lessly, having fallen under the charm of the city, the most beau­tiful I’ve seen in Europe. I stood in church on Sunday morning listening to the chants and smelling the incense. I visited the old Jewish cemetery, the most tragic graveyard I’ve ever seen, filled with thousands of tombstones leaning on one another for comfort in their eternal sorrow. Graveyards are places where the living come, the sons and daughters and the grandchildren, to honor their ancestors. Graveyards fascinate me, for they are not a symbol of an end, but proof of beginnings — here we stand, observing the gravestones, and there lie the ancestors from which we have sprung. Between the living and the dead there is a silent communion. But in the Jewish cemetery, carefully enclosed by high old walls, there was the chilling knowledge that only death was there, for those who should have come to lay flowers had perished in the death camps. The ancestors lay there beneath the stone tablets and only tourists visited, stran­gers to the family. I wept twice in Prague and the first time was when I spent an hour wandering through this silent field of graves.

I roamed through the National Museum, drank beer in small cafes, and walked out on the Charles Bridge to take pictures of the chalk drawings done by the long-haired young rebels­ — slogans in English against the war in Vietnam and slogans in German against Ulbricht. I walk­ed down the broad main street, Vaclavske Namesti, watched stu­dents in Wenceslas Square, and stood listening to debates in the “Hyde Park” of Prague, a little square off Na Prikope.

And in this way I spent my time. I had some contacts through Allen Ginsberg but they were never home when I phoned. By Tuesday night, my last night in Prague, I felt sharp pangs of guilt that I had not been more “responsible” and ” political” in looking people up. I wandered Prague late Tuesday night, until it was a city asleep and moving toward dawn. (At 11 p.m. invasion forces crossed the frontier). I got to bed at 2:30 a.m. (At that hour Russian air­craft had landed at Prague air­port.) I slept fitfully, waking once at 5:30 a.m. to the roar of jets. I slept again until 6:30 a.m. when I had to get up to catch my early flight to Yugoslavia. I went down for coffee and sensed a crisis in the air — Rude Pravo, Communist Party daily, had appeared with large headlines and printed on only one side of the sheet. At one point the Czechs in the room stood by the window and I joined them to watch tanks roll by in the streets below. Still groggy with sleep I took it for granted they were Czech tanks (who else would have tanks in Prague?). I finish­ed my coffee, packed, and then, a thin edge of anxiety working through my mind, went down to the main lobby to make sure the airport was not affected by what­ever crisis had brought Czech tanks into Prague at 8 a.m. There at the front desk I found this note:

American Embassy advises (5:50 a.m.) American citizens to stay where they are. Listen to the Voice of America at 1200 KC (if you were foresighted enough to bring a radio). Stay off streets.”

It was now just after 8 a.m. Wednesday, August 21.

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I went out in front of our hotel, the Hotel Flora on Vino­hradska Street, about 12 blocks from the center of town. I watched tanks and troop carriers roll by. Czechs stood weeping openly on the streets, gathered in small quiet groups. And now, for the second time in Prague, I wept. I had profoundly identified with the Czech experiment in “Communist democracy.” The Russians had done more than in­vade Czechoslovakia — they had sent their damn tanks crashing into our skulls, they had invaded the hopes of socialists all over the world.

There was an unreal quality to the invasion. The troops were all in trucks or tanks, not on foot. The sidewalks belonged to us, where we stood silent and unmoving. The streets belonged to the tanks. Tanks are ugly things. They were filled with young Russians, men who had been told they were going on maneuvers and found out they were invaders of a socialist country. They were frightened. The troop carriers had machine guns mounted on the front and men with automatic rifles watching the windows and roofs of the buildings they pass­ed. In the distance one could hear the harmless toyish sound of automatic weapons being fired — a kind of “pop—pop—pop.” People moved along the streets, lining up at food stores — which were virtually the only stores open. The streetcars were not running and few cars were on the streets. I had shot my last frame of film Tuesday evening and had to hike for several blocks to find a drug store open where I could buy some film. I came back, then, having seen Russian troop carriers lining the road all the way toward town, as if they were in a traffic jam. I shot some tanks with a telephoto lens from my hotel window.

Perhaps it was because we were motionless on the sidewalks, while the Russians sped by in trucks and tanks, that the invasion was like a dream. The tanks were motorized images, with which the population was not interacting, only observing. It was not yet noon but the resist­ance was beginning, as a car moved down the street throwing out mimeographed copies of Rude Pravo. Then it was noon and the first organized resistance began. A young man pulled his bicycle into the street and block­ed traffic — which consisted, actu­ally, of a single Czech truck which pulled over to one side. Horns began to blare for a two­-minute general strike. At that moment, with the kid in the street and the horns blaring, a Soviet troop carrier came shoot­ing down the street. The kid held his ground, perhaps paralyzed with fear or courage, but it would have made no difference to the troop carrier which wasn’t even slowing down. At the final moment, as most of us nervous­ly pulled away from the corner, fearful of gunfire or seeing the boy run down, an older man moved out from the crowd, put his arm gently around the boy and the bike, and guided him to one side of the street. The troop carrier shot by without ever having paused.

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A student walked past our hotel, moving away from the center of town, holding a large Czech flag.

Radio Prague went off the air early, and Radio Pilsen began broadcasting. It used German, Russian, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Polish as well as Czech — it was beaming its appeal to the invading Warsaw Pact troops, explaining there was no basis for the invasion, that socialism was safe, the invasion illegal. It was also urging the population not to provoke an incident but simply not to cooperate. Radio Pilsen went off the air while I slept in the afternoon out other stations then came on and the Russians, having forgotten to bring tracking equipment with them, could do nothing.

The dream quality came back at dinner, for the Flora is a first class hotel with an excellent restaurant presided over by an imperious head-waiter. We all went to our tables, ordered cocktails or wines and our dinner as if nothing had happened. People chatted in the muted luxury of the Flora, they ate and drank quietly. Outside, somewhere, Czechs were organizing. Some were dying. Some were already dead.

All night long there was the buzzing of motorbikes back and forth through the city. The students were organizing. The underground papers were now being printed, having found presses. About 9:30 p.m. I took another walk toward the center of town, and found out why the line of Russian troop carriers had been backed up earlier in the day.

The Czechs had built up a barricade about 10 blocks from the hotel and two blocks from the National Museum, trying to stop the tanks from getting to the radio station. When I got there I saw a fantastic tangle of burned out streetcars, buses, trucks, and debris — including at least one Soviet truck half blown up and hurled into a side street. This was where the firing had been coming from in the morning and some had been killed — no precise figures. (Note — in fair­ness to the Russians, they generally fired into the air and no estimate of the dead exceeded 30 for the first day, about par for an American riot.) Hundreds of people were milling around the barricade, while the Russians were staying discreetly in their trucks a block away. It is report­ed that at least one Russian tank was set on fire during the morn­ing at this barricade area.

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The milling of so many people made me nervous and I went back to the hotel and it was about 11 p.m. when, looking out my window, I saw fireworks coming from the area where I had just been. Beautiful orange rockets going up in the air. I didn’t understand why fireworks should be going off and went to the window for a closer look. Suddenly the crowd in the street below me broke and ran as if a heavy summer shower had hit them. I leaned farther out to see why they were running for shelter when I heard a “flick” against the building near my win­dow and realized the fireworks were tracer bullets and they were falling in our area.

Suddenly my window, large enough in any case, seemed to fill the whole wall, offering the entire room as a target. I scrambled for the side of my bed where I stayed for perhaps two minutes when I realized that even though the firing was getting closer (the gentle almost lazy “pop—pop—pop” had shifted to a a harsher “tat—tat—tat”), with tracer bullets you could see which way the fire was going. I edged back to the window and standing at one side watched the tracers climb into the sky. I had never realized before that bullets had a “finite speed,” that you could see the graceful blazes of orange climb slowly like Roman candles, and, like Roman candles, wink out.

So Wednesday came to an end. The Czech army had put up no resistance, on direct orders of the party. The only real fighting anywhere near us had occurred around the makeshift barricade 10 blocks away. But it was already clear that non-violent resistance was taking place. When I woke up Thursday it was clear at once that the Russians had made three mistakes. First, they had waited eight months too long. The Czechs, once the most docile of Communist populations, had enjoyed eight months of genuine press and radio freedom. Free­dom, like tyranny, can become a habit. Second, the Russians had assumed they would have some support from within the country and, as it turned out, they had no support at all. Third, they let the first 24 hours pass without any decisive action.

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The Russians may well have assumed, having seized the radio and tv, the airport and the train station, and having surrounded the National Assembly, arrested Dubcek, and sealed off every large area that might have been used for demonstrations, that they had “won.” Certainly their actions had been decisive, total, overwhelming. They had encoun­tered no effective or organized resistance. They had occupied the city. But it became obvious they didn’t know what to do with a population that “refused to re­cognize them.” They had failed to shoot the occasional flag­-carrying student on that first day. They had not counted on the underground radio and tv.

They had not, it seems, thought about the problems of suppress­ing illegal papers, and Thursday one could see that manifestos and leaflets and papers were every­where in evidence. Posters had gone up on all buildings. Trains had ”SVOBODA — DUBCEK” chalked on their sides. Trucks and cars had posters draped over their fronts. Signs in Russian were everywhere telling the troops to leave as well as signs in Czech urging no support for collaboration and no cooperation with the traitors Moscow was seeking to install as a provisional government. The national flag began to appear in apartment windows. Half the people on the streets were wearing bits of rib­bon showing the national colors. Police cars (Czech police) carried large Czech flags. A spe­cial appeal to the occupying ar­my had been printed up. The Czechs were also churning out short leaflets in French, English, and German to make sure the tourists understood the situation. Their radio was still on the air, and this gave the citizens hope. People grouped themselves around little portable radios. People appeared on the streets with petitions and other people stopped and signed the petitions.

An ambulance corps had been organized, and civilian cars flying red cross flags shot up and down the streets. The people were beginning to give a loud whistle when the tanks clanked past (this being something in the nature of a hiss). The Russians had taken Prague but they had not managed to capture its people.

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I went for a long walk Thurs­day afternoon, at one point walk­ing directly under the gun of a Soviet tank, to get down to the National Museum and see if — as rumored — it had been burned out. (It hadn’t been, although along with a number of apartment buildings that I saw, its facade had been heavily raked with machine gun fire, breaking most of the windows.) What I did see, and found incredible, was that every Russian tank and every Russian troop carrier was sur­rounded by groups of Czechs. Whatever spontaneous spitting or rock throwing may have occurred early Wednesday was gone — the crowds were arguing, pleading, explaining. I remember one tank on which a student was perched reading some manifesto to the two Russians sitting in the tank. If the image the West has of the Hungarian uprising in 1953 was a youth throwing stones at a tank, the image from Prague was one of dialogue and verbal confronta­tion.

(I learned that on Wednesday night all the bars had been closed to prevent anyone from getting drunk and charging at tanks. The radio broadcast steady appeals for calm, for no provocation and no cooperation.)

I walked into Wenceslas Square and found the main street leading into it filled with thousands upon thousands of persons. As I watch­ed, two truckloads of Czech stu­dents drove up waving flags and headed straight for a Soviet tank which, somewhat to my sur­prise, yielded the right of way.

My time in Prague was draw­ing to an end. I walked back to the hotel, realizing that I under­stood at last what a student had meant when I asked him, early in my stay, what would happen if the Russians invaded. He said, “For us they will not be here.” Shortly after 5 p.m. the Ameri­can Embassy notified us of a special train leaving for Vienna. We got taxis and boarded the train. ❖

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Emma Goldman Is Alive and Well and Making Trouble on the Lower East Side

Emma said it in 1910/Now we’re gonna say it again!
—Protest marchers on Fifth Avenue, 1970

A certain kind of career is well known among American intellectuals. An eager young person joins the Socialist Something-­or-other movement and spends several fer­vent years in its ranks. He develops literary and analytic skills. And after a while the Socialist Something-or-others begin to dis­appoint him. They aren’t prospering the way he expected. They need to shape up. He tells them how. But they won’t hear of it.

The young comrade therefore undergoes a crisis. Why, he asks himself, can’t the Something-or-other movement do better? Why is the Party a failure and why is social­ism not proving popular in America?

Different answers come to mind. Maybe socialism doesn’t deserve to be popular. In that case the young militant becomes a con­servative. Maybe socialism is all right but the Party’s version is extreme, rigid, or mis­guided. The militant becomes some sort of liberal or social democrat. Maybe what the Party believed as literal truth should be reinterpreted figuratively. The militant be­comes a sophisticated radical.

In any case, the young person makes some amazing discoveries, namely three. (A) He discovers his interests have broad­ened. In his days in the Party he wrote and talked about economics and the doctrines of Marxism or anarchism. But in pondering why socialism hasn’t prospered, he finds he requires answers from literature and drama and every possible field. He is no longer a militant, he is an intellectual. (B) He is a very smart intellectual. He may have gone to a seedy public college or to no college at all, and in formal terms his education may be none too great. But in fact his education turns out to be superb. The Trotsky alcove at City College and the dingy office at Union Square stand revealed as schools of the first rank. And these places have put their stamp on him. The pitch of his voice is a little higher than what you find among intellectuals who lack the left-wing back­ground. His tone is a little more urgent. He has the knack for debate, perhaps in excess. He is a little tougher, a little shrewder, than other intellectuals. (C) He discovers, won­der of wonders, that people listen to him. In the old days he addressed no one but his own comrades, who never paid much atten­tion, anyway. Now he gets up to talk and notices that the auditorium, if not exactly full, isn’t empty either. Quite a few people seem to take an interest in why the Some­thing-or-others have failed, or at any rate take an interest in the broader topics this inquiry has led him to explore. In the old days the young militant had the distinct impression of standing on the remote side­lines of American life; but by a miraculous development, he now finds himself as close to the center as intellectuals get to be in America.

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How many times this story has been told! Among writers who came up in the 1930s you find it, in whole or in part, in autobio­graphical accounts by William Phillips, William Barrett, Sidney Hook, Lionel Abel, Richard Wright, Daniel Bell, and Dwight Macdonald. Among the young writers of the 1940s, you see it in memoirs by Irving Howe and Irving Kristol. Last year the radical historians’ organization published a volume of interviews called Visions of History in which the same story is told over and over by scholars who came up in the 1950s, such as the late Herbert Gutman, and in the 1960s. Soon enough we will, I am positive, be hearing the same story from student rad­icals of the 1970s. For some reason the story has never much been told on stage or in the movies, though traces can be found. One very striking version exists in fiction, Lionel Trilling’s The Middle of the Journey, though otherwise it hasn’t been too prominent there, either. Still, Norman Mailer’s Trotskyist novel, The Barbary Shore, touches on some of the themes. Bits and pieces of the story turn up in Mary McCarthy’s early fiction and in early writings by Saul Bellow, where Trotskyism or Commu­nism is always lurking in the background. James T. Farrell evoked the story. Clancy Sigal’s novel, Going Away, follows the clas­sic plot: young militant despairs of the left and goes off to become a writer. And from the sundry autobiographies and fictions a generalization can be drawn. Intellectual classes must always come from somewhere; they are not self-generating. The some­where might be life at Versailles, or training in the ministry, or work on the daily press; and in the case of modern American intel­lectuals, a prominent somewhere turns out to be apprenticeship in the socialist ranks, then one or another kind of breaking away.

What can explain this very curious phe­nomenon? Socialism has not, after all, played a central role in a great many areas of American life. Thus far its failure has been real, and it’s not often that movements produce, in the dismal course of failing, dy­namic intellectual cultures. Yet this does occur sometimes. The collapse of a movement can under certain circumstances send up dust and rubble that are altogether stim­ulating to writers and thinkers who happen to be in the way. American literature offers a 19th-century example. New England Puri­tanism went into a decline after the Ameri­can Revolution. As an intellectual system and as a social system, Puritanism no longer seemed to work. Young intellectual-minded people who grew up in the Puritan environment were shocked. They retained the in­tense Puritan emotions, the sense of pain and suffering that derived from settler days in New England, plus the keen desire to create a perfect society. The young people retained these feelings because that was their tradition, and because their own par­ents underwent those experiences. They also retained the old Puritan tone of voice. But the dogmas had stopped making sense, and the young people had to ask why. Why, and what should come next? And by some mysterious process, these questions, posed in the tone that only Boston intellectuals could achieve, produced a main current of the 19th century. You see it in Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and many lesser writers, refugees all from the collapse of the Christian church.

Surely something similar accounts for the New York intellectuals of the present cen­tury. Over the course of many years, the socialist church more or less fell apart. The young intellectual-minded militants were shocked. The intellectuals retained certain of the feelings expressed by the old socialist cause. Those feelings were a sense of suffer­ing and pain deriving from immigrant days, the feelings of people who fell victim to the horrors of the industrial revolution — com­bined with a keen desire to make a perfect society for industrial times. The modern intellectuals retained these feelings because that was the tradition they learned from socialism, and because they themselves in some cases, or their parents or grandpar­ents, were the oppressed and exploited workers. They also retained the old socialist tone of voice, the instinct for moral urgency, the conviction that ideas are a form of pow­er. But the dogmas had collapsed, and like the Boston intellectuals contemplating the failure of old-fashioned Christianity, the New York intellectuals had to ask why. Why, and what should come next? And by that same mysterious process, these ques­tions, posed in the inflection commanded only by writers with a background in social­ism, have produced, well, something less than the Boston renaissance, but surely a main impulse of modern culture — the urge to experiment with the new, the tendency to emphasize social interpretations and to scorn the narrowness of academic life, the habit of debating with a little more passion than American intellectuals are used to summoning up, the orientation toward Eu­rope, the tendencies, in short, that we think of in connection with New York.

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***

Emma Goldman makes an odd example of a New York intellectual. She is certainly remote in time. Her own generation is the one that came up in the 1890s. Her best­-known book, the autobiography Living My Life, which Knopf brought out in 1931, suc­ceeds chiefly when it recounts events that took place at the turn of the century. What influence she once had dissipated after 1919, when she was deported. Nearly every­thing about her, in short, reflects an era considerably earlier than that of modern intellectual life. Nevertheless that autobiog­raphy, read with a proper eye, has one very noticeable quality. Buried within it is pre­cisely the story I’ve just described — the sto­ry of a radical militant who leaves behind her first revolutionary enthusiasm and blos­soms into an arts critic or philosopher, finds herself championing everything modern and innovative, finds that she is no longer on the despised sidelines of American life but instead in its vanguard. It is the classic story of a New York intellectual. Only it is that story in an exceptionally early and primitive version.

Naturally some of the sophistication, not to say campus tranquility, of later variants cannot be seen in Emma Goldman’s long-­ago version. She converted to revolutionary socialism in sympathetic indignation over the 1887 Haymarket hangings in Chicago, and the doctrine she embraced, though it contained several virtues, was less than a shrewd theoretical system. There was a good deal of talk about proletarians rising up to massacre the capitalist bloodsuckers. Gory social vengeance was the characteris­tic note. The doctrine was, in fact, a furious sort of raw left-wing fundamentalism. The commitment she made likewise differed from that known by certain more fortunate later generations. One went to anarchist meetings in the years after the Haymarket affair as if going to the gallows. There was an unmistakable cult of martyrdom. The Martyrs of Chicago had died in a mood very close to exhilaration, and the young people of Goldman’s age who followed them into the revolutionary ranks half-expected, half-­hoped, to come to a similarly glorious and grisly end, perhaps a death like that of Louis Lingg, who blew himself up rather than let the government put a rope around his neck. Louis Lingg, Goldman tells us, was the special hero of her little circle of comrades.

His fate, as it turned out, was something she always managed to avoid, but not for fear of running a risk. Five years after the Chicago hangings, she and her companion Alexander Berkman were building bombs in a tenement on East 5th Street, New York City, and conspiring to avenge the wronged steelworkers of Homestead, Pa., by assassi­nating their odious employer, Henry Clay Frick. Berkman, for reasons of economy, ended up all alone in the attack on Frick, and afterward he did have to endure suffer­ing on a martyr’s scale. He was imprisoned from 1892 until 1906, spent years at a time in solitary confinement, at one point was locked in a straitjacket for two days in a pitch-black room. During most of his term he was denied the right to receive visitors. Goldman got off scot-free, somehow. But even with the best of luck, an anarchist commitment meant a great deal of punishment. A year after Berkman’s assassination attempt, at the depth of a depression, social democrats and anarchists led an unem­ployed movement and Goldman, the 24-year-old firebrand, was invited to speak at Union Square. She commended the anar­chist tactic of direct action; she may have advised direct assaults on the homes of the wealthy; and in the anti-labor, none-too­-libertarian atmosphere of the time, she found herself serving 10 months on Black­well’s (Welfare) Island, the New York City jail. That was the minimum a prominent revolutionary could expect. And thus it went through all of her younger years. The anarchists in Europe had adopted a policy of tyrannicide — during the 1880s and ’90s revolutionaries assassinated the president of France, the archduke’s wife in Austria, the king of Italy (liquidated by a New Jer­sey comrade named Gaetano Bresci), the prime minister of Spain, and many lesser figures — and each time one of these individ­ualist deeds of insurrection took place Goldman was likely to find herself under suspicion, handcuffed to some unsympa­thetic uniformed agent of the upper classes.

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Then came 1901 and President William McKinley was assassinated by a young man on the outskirts of the movement named Leon Czolgosz, who regrettably professed to be a follower of Emma Goldman. This time she spent two weeks in the Chicago jail, where she was alternately treated well (Mc­Kinley was Republican, and Chicago was Democratic!) and subjected to beatings. One of her front teeth was knocked out. The shadow of the Haymarket gallows was definitely creeping up on her then. One of her guards had stood watch over the Mar­tyrs themselves 14 years before. Her friends were convinced a new Haymarket was in the making, and that Comrade Emma would hang, and Comrade Emma’s friends would hang, too. They advised caution. But Emma herself, being in the Martyr mold, the mold of Berkman and the old Russian revolutionaries, was nothing fazed. From her cell in the Chicago jail she insisted on defending Czolgosz, not because she be­lieved that shooting presidents did any good, but on a principle of solidarity. It was because of her admiration for rebels, her respect for the out-of-control emotions of people who cannot tolerate an unjust social order even for one moment more; and it was because Berkman was in prison and she thought Czolgosz was another Berkman. Neither fear nor any other sort of personal consideration could have much effect on someone with a commitment like that. Fa­naticism is not an inappropriate word.

Yet the autobiography shows that she nearly broke in 1901. It was due to the political situation. The Haymarket Martyrs went to death 14 years earlier convinced that a popular revolutionary labor movement was cheering them on and that a mili­tant finale would hasten the day of retribu­tion. But no one could sustain such beliefs in 1901. Goldman discovered that she was the only well-known person in America to say a good word for the assassin of William McKinley. Her own comrades were keeping quiet, or worse, heaping abuse on the poor imprisoned avenger. They were changing, these comrades. Even on the Lower East Side, where anarchism enjoyed a certain popular acceptance, a mob attacked the offices of the Jewish revolutionary paper, the Freie Arbeiter Stimme, and the previously courageous stalwarts, from behind their overturned desks and chairs, pretty much found that accustomed ways of thinking, the belief in individual deeds and justice by tyrannicide, the willingness to suffer and die in the expectation of barricades tomor­row and a new world the day after — in short, the primitive flags of the Haymarket revolution — were hard to wave with the old enthusiasm. She was still waving them. But she was the only one. Then she got out of jail and things were so bad she couldn’t rent an apartment or find a job. She was obliged to print up calling cards labeled “E.G. Smith,” nurse. (Nursing was what she learned during the year on Blackwell’s Island.) With her self-professed follower in the electric chair and Berkman in a Penn­sylvania penitentiary and herself on a blacklist one name long, she entered the new, crucial phase of her long career. It was the moment of crisis, the moment of real­ization that the movement had failed and revolution was not about to descend on America. It was, in its antique, exaggerated way, the crisis that so many milder, less operatic militants of the left have under­gone at a certain point in their careers, the crisis, that is, of the left-wing intellectual.

What to do? In 1901 the possibilities were as follows. One could pretend nothing had happened. That was no response. One could try to cover up the difficulties with rhetori­cal maneuvers. Anarchists had been trying that for some years. Reading through Pitts­burgh newspapers for the period of Berk­man’s attentat, I came across a story of three comrades who arrived at Homestead to rally the striking steelworkers to anar­chist action and addressed them with all sorts of appeals to Washington, Jefferson, Tom Paine, and other “noble revolution­ists” of 1776, as if revolutionary socialism were nothing but George Washington brought up to date. That didn’t work; that never works. The three anarchists were run out of town. Alternatively, one might drop out. Goldman’s most important lover of that period, Ed Brady, who served 10 years in Austrian prisons for his anarchist propaganda, quietly dropped out and went into business. Goldman considered it, too. She was despondent after Czolgosz’s execution; she felt contempt for her cowardly com­rades; she wanted nothing more to do with them. That was her urge, anyway. There was also the possibility of defecting to other movements. A good many anarchists were becoming electoral socialists, like Abraham Cahan, the novelist and editor. According to Living My Life, still others were drifting toward William Jennings Bryan, the Demo­crat. Yet how could an Emma Goldman do such things? She had shouted too many illegal slogans from wagon tops in Union Square to give it up now, and in any case could neither convert nor drop out without betraying Berkman in his cell at Pittsburgh and the Martyrs in their Waldheim graves. Whatever Goldman did had to be in the name of revolutionary anarchism, had to feel like anarchism, had to be a plausible continuation of what the Martyrs set out to do, had to wage the revolution.

The revolution, though, can mean differ­ent things. The Haymarket image of a working-class insurrection, the battle-to­-death with the capitalist class, the creation overnight of new socialist institutions — that was the fundamentalist idea. But there’s no reason revolution can’t also be gradual, even unto 300 years. C.L.R. James has ob­served that the democratic revolution in England began in the 1640s and wasn’t completed until women got the vote in the 20th century. That is the social democratic idea. Then again, even 300 years may not express revolution’s possibilities. There is a third idea, not usually acknowledged by those who hold it, according to which revo­lution will take place neither at once nor over the course of an epoch. This third kind of revolution isn’t historical at all. It is a feeling of expectation, a sense that inequal­ity and injustice are false and intolerable, and that truer, greater, more human princi­ples exist. These truer principles we intu­itively assign to the future. We say, “The revolution is coming.” But we’re careful not to assign a date. Our phrase is a metaphor. “In common speech we refer all things to time,” Emerson wrote. “And so we say that the Judgement is distant or near, that the Millennium approaches, that a day of cer­tain political, moral, social reforms is at hand, and the like, when we mean that in the nature of things one of the facts we contemplate is external and fugitive, and the other permanent and connate with the soul.” Injustice and tyranny may be facts of the present moment; but justice and liberty are principles for all moments. That’s what we mean when we say the revolution is com­ing. Naturally the revolution in this third or metaphoric version looks a little different than revolution in its other meanings. Some people can’t see it at all. The feeling of anticipation, the notion that what exists to­day is too horrible to last forever, that a tremendous new potential exists, that the potential is burrowing steadily underground, advancing always, retreating never — this feeling is not something that everyone experiences. Yet it is an actual emotion not just a figure of speech. Revolutionaries feel it and other people don’t. The other people must accept its existence on faith.

The anarchists of the 19th century always stood for revolution in its primitive or fundamentalist sense. But once they had dispatched sundry heads of state without sparking the expected insurrection, there was reason to think anew. That was Peter Kropotkin’s role. Socialists of all varieties accepted the progressive idea of history according to which society advances from primitive to the present to future perfection, and it was this view that justified revolution in either its gradual or overnight forms. But in the 1890s Kropotkin proposed something more anthropological. History in his theory reveals a struggle between what he called mutual aid as a factor in society, and the principle of hierarchical authority. In some eras, the happy ones, mutual aid has dominated; in other eras, authority. The goal of anarchist revolution was a society of perfect mutual aid, which he called anarchist communism; but it was an implication of his theory (which be hesitated to draw out) that such a society could never fully exist. Mutual aid or anarchist communism could someday flower, possibly even soon; but authority would never entirely go away and would require constant opposition. In this respect the revolution as final stage of history would never come about but the revolution considered as endless struggle for more mutual aid and less au­thority — this revolution exists always. Rev­olution is evolution; evolution never ends. Anarchists might use a lot of rhetoric about the impending upheaval; he himself was prone to inspired passages about the chariot of humanity advancing into the future; but the actual goal should be the creation of ever-increasing spheres of liberty and mu­tual aid in the present, not the future.

Where might these spheres be estab­lished? Among the European anarchists, events presented an unexpected answer. The world center of the anarchist move­ment in the 1880s and ’90s was Paris, and revolutionary tenor and tyrannicide in Par­is didn’t greatly bestir the oppressed and exploited classes. Instead, it was the radical artists and intellectuals who felt excited. The problem that tyrannicide presented to the workers’ movement — that it failed to advance the movement’s future goals — was no problem to artists and intellectuals, to the bohemians. Their goal was in the present­. They wanted to criticize bourgeois life, which is to say, “dynamite” the bourgeoisie, and bold and grisly attentats presented a kind of model. Anarchist heroes and bandits ­threw bombs, and avant-garde artists and writers rushed to join the anarchist ranks — much to the horror of old-timers like Kropotkin who never intended such a re­sult. Some of these old-timers broke away to build the trade unions, and the movement that remained consequently veered in a bohemian direction. The movement’s language, the talk of proletarian revolution, remained the same, but the meanings began to shift. All kinds of ideas about individual rebellion, about the need to shake up mid­dle class sensibilities, about the sanctity of the individual and the importance of artis­tic creation, ideas about realizing human capacity in the here and now instead of in some abstract revolutionary future — these ideas, which had never played much of a role in the anarchist workers’ movement, now gathered under the anarchist flag. It was the triumph of the revolutionary meta­phor. Nietzsche was the new prophet, Sym­bolism the new literary form. There were slogans like “Long live anarchy! Long live free verse!”

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That was Paris, but it’s plain in Living My Life that something similar was hap­pening in New York City, in a slightly dif­ferent and more provincial way. When Goldman first arrived on the Lower East Side in 1889, the environment she encoun­tered was dominated by old-fashioned revo­lutionaries, the kind of radical fundamentalists who were hanged at Chicago. These men were by no means negligible as intellectual or cultural types. Johann Most, her first mentor, who fulminated so ferociously for dynamite and assassination, was a frustrated actor whose deformed jaw had pre­vented him from attempting a career on the stage, yet who still got up to perform now and then. He loved Schiller and the Romantic writers and was happy to lend her books during the time of their affair. He took her to the opera. He was not narrow. The same could be said of a man like Robert Reitzel of Detroit, who was influential in the move­ment nationally through his weekly news­paper, Der Arme Teufel. Reitzel published some of the only reports in America of the artistic avant-garde in Europe. When he got up in public, he was likely to deliver the old anarchist ferocity with a cultured touch. He addressed the funeral for the Chicago Mar­tyrs in Waldheim Cemetery and quoted Herwegh: “We have loved long enough/Now we are going to hate!” Yet no one could call these men rounded intellectuals. They were, rather, conspirators and revolu­tionists of the old European type, men who might have consorted with Blanqui or Bakunin in 1848. They were consumed with revolutionary wrath and with plotting con­spiracies and with accusing one another of being police spies. That was the fundamen­talist environment. Nor was the immigrant world they inhabited rich with cultural in­stitutions. There were the choral societies and the revolutionary press, and there were the anarchist bars and cafés. Goldman de­scribes some of these hangouts in Living My Life, Sach’s cafe on Suffolk Street and Justus Schwab’s saloon on 1st Street. They sound lively, Schwab’s especially. American intellectuals like Ambrose Bierce and James Huneker went to Schwab’s to meet the immigrant radicals. Six hundred books were stacked behind the bar. But that didn’t make for a very profound cultural environment. The old-fashioned fundamen­talist revolution didn’t require a profound cultural environment. It required social bit­terness and determined militants, and these it had.

***

What you see in Living My Life, though, is the growth of something more like the bohemian environment that took up anar­chism in Paris. Goldman’s generation of militants, the people who were in their twenties in the decade after Haymarket, were sincere about the revolution, but their interests showed a new dimension. Her em­phasis on attending opera and theater indi­cates what this was. She got up a sort of commune with three or four other young comrades, moving from apartment to apart­ment for a couple of years, everyone falling in and out of love with one another, and among this group was Berkman’s cousin Modest Stein, called “Fedya” in Living My Life — an anarchist, but rather more of an artist. Already she was arguing with Berkman over the place of art and beauty in the revolution, which Berkman, as a man tem­peramentally of the older rock-ribbed gen­eration, thought was no place at all. She describes going with other young people to Netter’s grocery on the East Side, where they would sit around in the back room discussing serious issues over tea and snacks with the learned grocer and his family. Netter’s grocery was the kind of place where she got to know young men like Da­vid Edelstad — an anarchist, but a poet, too (in Yiddish). She began a romance with Max Baginski, who went to Chicago to take the job once held by August Spies, one of the Martyrs, as editor of the anarchist daily, the Arbeiter-Zeitung, and what she empha­sizes is that Baginski personally knew the great German playwright Gerhart Haupt­mann. She lists the writers that she and Baginski discussed: Strindberg, Wedekind, Nietzsche, and so forth. In fact, with almost every one of the lovers she had in those early years, she pauses to list the books they read together, which is nice to see. It’s always enjoyable to watch the unfolding of an intellect, the eager way someone young gob­bles down an education. The enthusiasm captures what it means to follow that non­vocation, “intellectual.”

We watch, too, the growth not just of Goldman herself but of a large community, the community we see over her shoulder, the crowd at her lectures. This community, the readers of the radical literary press, the audience at productions of Chekhov in Rus­sian or the German playwrights in German, the crowd before whom Goldman played her part, was the new intellectual class of the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village, with outposts in Chicago and other places. It’s hard to look at this crowd without feeling a certain fondness. The downtown intelligentsia of 75 years ago had several qual­ities that have largely disappeared today, not to our benefit. The fact that tendencies like bohemian anarchism had emerged from the labor movement meant that the artists and intellectuals remained tied in some way to the unions and the working class. Anar­chism and social democracy — in their newly loosened, more metaphoric forms — pro­vided something of a coherent view of the world. They gave a purpose to artistic and intellectual work, which was to serve the cause of the people, and they rooted that work in the neighborhoods where the peo­ple live. You see the results in the work of anarchist artists like George Bellows and Robert Henri (who were followers of Gold­man) and electoral socialists like John Sloan (who admired her, but disagreed). Historic innovators in the world of art these men were not; but they were dedicated to capturing the life of the city, and at this they succeeded. They caught the New York spirit, indeed they were the only artists ever to do that, so that when one thinks of the authentic New York hurly-burly, of the life of the stoops and the vistas that appear from second-floor windows and tenement roofs, it is these artists who come to mind. That intellectual class may not have been the most brilliant in New York history, but it was surely the most local, the most close­ly tied to the lives of ordinary people, the most expressive of the city — no matter how many languages it spoke. Living My Life is a classic example. Goldman tells us she lived now on 3rd Street, now in a Bowery flophouse, now on East 13th Street, now she ran a facial massage parlor on Union Square. Those are addresses of the intelli­gentsia and of the working class both. Now she toiled in a factory, now she hung out with a visiting Russian theater troupe in the Bronx. She wasn’t escaping from the work­ing class, she was living the peculiar kind of working-class life that was also the life of the intellectual.

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The anarchists were never a very large party on the East Side, but they did play an important role in helping to build that envi­ronment. Their characteristic “deed” was, after all, the lecture, and once the Czolgosz debacle was behind them those lectures ex­panded into a handful of notable institu­tions. In 1910 Goldman herself helped orga­nize something called, after a martyred Spanish anarchist, the Ferrer Center on St. Mark’s Place (later 12th Street, still later East Harlem), which until it was suppressed by the government served as a meeting ground for teachers like Will Durant and Robert Henri and students like Moses and Raphael Soyer. Artists and writers rubbed shoulders there with union organizers and the ordinary working people who came by to take a class or attend a talk. Trotsky, during his exile in New York, studied art at the Ferrer Center. Similarly, she started a “revolutionary literary magazine,” the monthly Mother Earth, which for most of its history was published on 13th Street. Mother Earth was a stolid journal, digest-­size, with magnificent political cartoons by the great Robert Minor and other anarchist artists, though with political articles by Goldman and Berkman and other comrades that were often wooden, sometimes looney in the old bomb-throwing style. One issue was dedicated to the memory of Leon Czol­gosz. Still, Mother Earth had influence: it published items on European literature and theater, it championed the cause of artistic realism and the legacy of Walt Whitman (still considered innovative and daring in 1906, when the journal began) and it was able now and then to set an appropriately riotous tone. The founder famously waltzed in a nun’s habit at the magazine’s “Red Revel” anniversary ball in 1915. Such was the spirit. It’s worth mentioning that this Lower East Side monthly constituted the first journal of its type — the journal of radi­cal culture and radical politics — to appear in New York. What was arising was Man­hattan’s downtown left-wing arts communi­ty. In those years she was also conducting free speech campaigns coast to coast, and these too ought to be regarded as part of her cultural work, a free speech committee being a sort of muscle wing or enforcer unit for cultural radicalism. (The free speech campaigns laid a groundwork for the American Civil Liberties Union, “that most vital organization in America,” whose founder was happy to acknowledge Gold­man’s inspiration.)

Her shift from anarchist fundamentalism to the new-style bohemian radicalism came without any shift in rhetoric, which is how it always is when the revolution turns to metaphor. And this same supercharged rhetoric, vivid though it could be, did not necessarily generate great sensitivity to her new artistic themes. During the period of her largest success, 1908–1917, she fastened on drama criticism and lectured around the country on European playwrights; but you can barely read these lectures today with­out squirming in your chair at all those dynamite bombs besprinkling the page. She praised the arts as “a greater menace to our social fabric” than “the wildest harangue of the soapbox orator.” Ibsen she described as a “dynamiter of all social shams and hypoc­risies.” Drama as a whole she defended as a kind of revolutionary tactic. “In countries where political oppression affects all class­es, the best intellectual elements have made common cause with the people, have become their teachers, comrades, and spokesmen. But in America political pressure has so far affected only the ‘common’ people. It is they who are thrown into prison; they who are persecuted and mobbed, tarred and deported. Therefore another medium is needed to arouse the intellectuals of this country, to make them realize their relation to the people, to the social unrest permeating the atmosphere” — this medium being excellent plays imported from Europe. The normal language of drama criticism this was not.

What the radical rhetoric did, of course, was fend off the old-style purists among her comrades. To their philistine claim that art is no help in revolutions, she was replying in semi-philistine fashion that art is, too, a help. She never did get beyond this debate, never managed to loosen up the oratorical style, either (except when she wrote about herself). Great claims therefore cannot be made for her critical achievement. Even her interpretation of the political and social val­ues in plays tended to be what you’d expect from essays called, in their collected form, The Social Significance of the Modern Drama. She saw what she wanted to see. Yet testimony is strong that those interpre­tations played a very large role in populariz­ing Ibsen and Strindberg and helping estab­lish the “little theater” revolt against Broadway. “No one did more,” said Van Wyck Brooks. One can cite remarks by Eu­gene O’Neill, Rebecca West, Kenneth Rex­roth. Henry Miller described meeting Emma Goldman as “the most important encounter of my life” because of how she “opened up the whole world of European culture.” And it was the revolutionary approach, in spite of everything, that made these successes possible. For Goldman’s revolution, in turning metaphoric, had tak­en on a new list of enemies entirely suited to the stage, no longer just capitalists, po­licemen, and politicians, but also busybod­ies, puritans, preachy monogamists, cen­sors, and defenders of civic virtue. Let one of these walk into the room and the anar­chist drama critic would swell up “like a toad” about to burst. (We know this physi­ognomical detail from a fellow convict dur­ing one of Goldman’s spells in jail, who happened to watch when an evangelist came to address the inmates.) If that was her idea of the revolution’s enemies, then she was not at all out of tune with the advanced European theater, even if the sound of bombs going off begins to wear on the ear. In Ghosts, Ibsen spent an entire play swelling up like a toad at the local minister, who is the seat of all hypocrisy, nastiness, and oppression unto the second generation. Goldman loved Ghosts. “Verily a more revolutionary condemnation has never been uttered in dramatic form before or since.” Boom! Brieux, in Damaged Goods, showed how sexual prudishness leads to calamities of venereal disease. Brieux was a “revolutionary.” Boom again! Those booms were in the right spirit: that was the main thing. The plays were meant to be subversive, and no one attending an Emma Goldman lecture was going to forget that.

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The “social significance” that she pointed to mostly concerned the difficulties faced by women and the horrors that derive from sexual repression, and about these topics it is reasonable to ask how feminist was her point of view. Alix Kates Shulman, who has been championing Emma Goldman for many years, argues that it was entirely (and on this question Margaret Forster, in her history of feminism’s precursors, funda­mentally agrees). Goldman saw, as the earli­er anarchist theoreticians did not, that women suffered as women, not just as pro­letarians, that what must be swept away are not only the economic and political rela­tions of class society but the web of atti­tudes and relations obtaining between men and women. Therefore she stood up and defended the reasonableness of women sometimes abandoning their husbands, as in Ibsen, or of women having children with­out being married, as in Brieux. She de­fended the idea of women playing many different roles, living without families or pursuing careers, and many ideas of that variety, for which today we have a clear and undisputed name. So Shulman is right. Yet Goldman herself did not like that name, and it’s important to see why. Feminism for her was a word to describe the kind of wom­an reformer who was too much in the old American Protestant vein. The people she considered feminists looked to institutional reforms, like giving women the vote, which Goldman thought would do no good at all. And they were too keen for morality. The American feminists, in her eyes, wanted more morality, loftier morals, a stronger way for society to condemn the wayward and the wicked. But Goldman watched all those European plays and knew that as soon as talk goes to lofty morals, duties and obligations are about to descend on women. She wasn’t a feminist; she was a radical.

Her ideal was Dr. Stockman in Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. Stockman is the man who blows the whistle on the town health spa, having discovered pollution in the wa­ter, and then discovers his scientific analy­sis has been censored from the newspaper, and no auditorium in town will let him speak, and rocks are coming through his window. That was easy to identify with: Goldman had been in Stockman’s position from coast to coast. She was the national Dr. Stockman. But what she liked especial­ly was Stockman’s individualist ethic, his contempt for the stupid conformist masses, his assurance that “the strongest man is he who stands alone.” Dr. Stockman doesn’t want to improve the town morals or make the general tone loftier. He’s not a moral guardian, he’s a hardcore individualist, he wants to take his own position and let the world do as it may. That was Goldman’s viewpoint, too. From the perspective of feminist solidarity, this kind of strong-indi­vidual stuff was a trifle problematic. To tell people to go do like Dr. Stockman can be a pretty heartless thing. Stockmanism has many virtues, but sympathy for the weak is not among them. There was nothing in Goldman’s individualism that couldn’t lead to sudden lapses of sympathy. And in fact she was, on the issue of women’s solidarity, an undependable ally. She liked Strindberg, for instance. Strindberg wrote all those plays in which poor bedeviled men get trampled by hateful harridans, and even James Huneker, who quaffed beers at Schwab’s and wasn’t averse to a bit of anar­cho-individualism himself, called him a mi­sogynist. Goldman would have none of that. She responded to the wild note in Strind­berg, the bitterness against the upper class, the sympathy for outcasts, the hatred for hypocrisy. She saw him ripping down veils of deception, and if ripping veils left women looking bad for once, that was for the best. Strindberg wrote a play called Comrades satirizing an emancipated woman who de­mands alimony, and Goldman stood with Strindberg. Why should a woman who has no children require alimony? Why shouldn’t a woman be equal with a man, therefore have to suffer and labor just as men do? A hard line, which she was happy to make too hard, on occasion. But the hard line was what Goldman had in mind when she said, in her most famous passage, that “true emancipation begins neither at the polls nor in courts. It begins in woman’s soul.” Institutional equality or support for women wasn’t her goal, nor even collective action against society’s oppression of wom­en, not that she was against these things; she looked instead for personal strength, self-reliance. Woman “must realize that her freedom will reach as far as her power to achieve her freedom reaches.” The power of individuals: that is what Ibsen and Strind­berg showed on stage. “The strongest man is he who stands alone.”

***

There was a lot of this Dr. Stockman stuff — superman, blond beast, it was all the same — at the turn of the century. Rough-­tough individualism was a useful corrective to the sickly sentimentality of the age. Sometimes the individualism was right-­wing, sometimes left-wing. Among the writ­ers of her generation, Jack London, the So­cialist, was making it right-wing and left-wing both. Goldman’s inspiration was to apply the individualist idea not only to women but to matters of love. That was her stroke of genius. The passage about true emancipation beginning in woman’s soul continues like this: “The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved.” Why she intro­duced this issue, why she went so far be­yond even the bohemian anarchists on this particular point, isn’t hard to see. In certain respects she didn’t suffer very much as a woman and encountered no more obstacles in her career as lecturer and agitator than men with similar views encountered (though she did often feel she had to resist the objections of various men in her life). But for “the right to love and be loved” she had always had to struggle. The reason she left Russia for America in the first place was to escape her despotic father’s schemes to marry her off. Then she married a man of her own choice, discovered the choice was bad, and needed to get out of it, for which she lacked courage. That was 1887 and the example of the Chicago Martyrs gave her courage. She left the husband and was os­tracized by “the entire Jewish community of Rochester,” New York. But off she went to the arms and comradeship of such as Berkman the terrorist and Most, the mad dog propagandist. The Dr. Stockman question, then, the revolt of the individual against the tyrannical community, intruded into her life from the start, and it took the form of struggling for the right to love as she chose.

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The principle she enunciated, the anar­chist doctrine of Free Love, was of course a kind of libertarian rationalism. “Every love relation should by its very nature remain an absolutely private affair.” No church, no state, no entire Jewish community of Roch­ester. That meant if a woman wanted vari­ety in love, variety was her right; indeed variety, a bit of flitting about, seemed a good idea. She populated Living My Life with quite a few lovers, some of them more serious than others, to show what she had in mind. There was “Fedya,” Johann Most, “Dan,” Hippolyte Havel, Baginski, Ed Bra­dy, not to mention Berkman, with whom she maintained an always tender and close lifelong relation that was sometimes amo­rous, sometimes amicable. And she de­scribed going rather easily from one or an­other of these men to the next. Baginski, who ran off to Europe with another woman at the wrong moment, was the only one to make her suffer. More often it was the men who took it hard. Most, Brady, and Havel were all heartbroken by her: they wanted homes, children, a faithful life’s companion. What she wanted was her career as lecturer and revolutionary, and resented anyone who proposed something different. She was generally the strong one in these relations, the indomitable, the free spirit. That was the idea. Everyone was supposed to be strong and indomitable.

On the other hand, Free Love was more than a rationalist doctrine, it was a celebration of high passion. This notion came natu­rally from all those Romantic plays and novels she read. Or possibly she merely reflected her geographical base, for after she left Rochester she ultimately arrived on the Manhattan square mile bounded by East 14th and East Broadway, and this neigh­borhood has always been a seat of emotion­al abandon, a thumping heart to the rest of the country’s phlegmatic body. The history of the Lower East Side is, after all, a story of successive youth movements, the young generation of anarchists in the 1890s and early 1900s, Young Communists of the 1930s, beatniks of the ’50s, hippies of the ’60s, punks and neo-anarchists of the ’70s and ’80s; and each of these movements has in its own way, whether impressively or not, elevated high emotion to a principle. Some­thing like that certainly emerges in the first hundred pages of Living My Life. Those early chapters are practically an ode to emotional excess, abandon, outrage, inflam­mation of the heart. And in accordance with that romantic sensibility, Free Love was supposed to enable something a bit warmer, a bit more passionate than anything associ­ated with stability or convention. This her early loves demonstrated — in moderation.

Then in 1908, when she was 38, she took up with Ben Reitman, who was a kind of low-life gynecologist, hobo activist, friend of prostitutes and pimps, lost soul. “The fan­tastic Ben R,” went Margaret Anderson’s famous remark, “wasn’t so bad if you could hastily drop all your ideas as to how human beings should look and act.” Anarchists were a bit quicker than others at dropping their ideas, but even among the comrades Reitman proved a trying case. His under­world connections brought him uncomfort­ably close to the police; on one of her first evenings out with him, Goldman sat aghast at the table as he jumped up to greet warm­ly the very Chicago cop who had arrested Louis Lingg in 1886. He was oddly devoted to his mother, whom he preferred to live with, and he was relentlessly promiscuous, sometimes secretly, sometimes openly, and was always showing up with someone new. On the other hand, it’s not hard to see, almost 80 years later, what the man’s at­tractions were, apart from his good looks and exotic appeal, which were not negligi­ble. The promiscuity expressed a profound need both for sex and for mothering, a de­sire to lose himself in love, to drown in it, and the fact that this desire was, at least in his younger years, so insistent, only made it keener. Women who met Reitman must have felt repulsed or attracted, but in either case impressed, and in a matter of minutes. Goldman was attracted. Reitman made her feel more powerfully desired than anyone had made her feel before. She wasn’t averse to mothering him; she loved it. And he opened doors to places she had never quite been. Odd as it seems for someone with her experiences, she felt herself to be the pris­oner of refinement, she had the scholar’s fear of missing out on raw life — even her. And in Reitman she found a barbarian (“You are the savage, the primitive man of the cave”), which pleasantly fit the bill. As for her appeal to him, this too is pretty clear. The cave man wanted civilization, and in Goldman he stumbled on one of the only champions of high culture in America who managed also to identify with his own world of outcasts. She was his match emo­tionally, too, for if the rushing about from lover to lover expressed a desire on his part to be wanted with more than ordinary power, to be desired endlessly, then Goldman had a lot to offer. Her energy was no small thing. To be taken up by her meant to receive letters day after day, outpourings of love, endearments, heart-wringings, complaints, naggings, emotional explosions, confessions of need. Other men might have been appalled by the directness and sensuality, might have felt themselves under siege, but to someone like Reitman it must have seemed his heart’s desire. At last! he must have exclaimed, and she must have exclaimed, when they first met, and the walls of their Chicago hotel must have trembled assent, for there was bound to be no end of intensity in the coming together of people as formidably equipped as these remarkable characters.

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Reitman’s wanderings did raise certain difficulties. Goldman, the “arch-varietist,” had no objection on principle, needless to say, though she did worry that Reitman was exploiting the women he met and perhaps was even seducing them with the glamour he drew from being the lover of Emma Goldman, which wasn’t thrilling to contemplate. But this time she wanted more from her man than she wanted from earlier loves, she wanted to feel she was satisfying him completely. Her own interest in variety by and large disappeared; the thought of other men suddenly repulsed her. And she was always abruptly discovering that he could never respond in the same way. This was not a happy situation. “I am mad, absolute­ly mad and miserable.” Candace Falk, in her biography of Goldman, prints so many letters in this vein that you wish poor Emma would go champion some cause to take her mind off her problems — and of course she did accumulate causes and was continually organizing solidarity commit­tees for the Mexican Revolution or cam­paigns to free IWW boys from Texas jails. But the Mexican Revolution was only so much help. From Reitman’s perspective, too, there were plentiful fields of unhappi­ness. He was not a cowardly man, he was willing to risk life and limb going around the country as Goldman’s manager year after year, spreading the news about Henrik Ibsen and birth control and getting at­tacked by mobs and tyrants. On behalf of birth control he went to jail twice and served more than six months. On behalf of Ibsen he was tortured and tarred and feath­ered by vigilantes in San Diego, and the letters IWW were seared into his buttocks. Yet in the anarchist crowd into which he had fallen, Alexander Berkman set the standard for bravery, and Reitman, who was not above beating an indecorous retreat now and then, came out second best. Com­parisons to Berkman were unfair, as Gold­man herself recognized in one passage of Living My Life, though not in other pas­sages. Berkman was “a revolutionist first and human afterwards.” He was without fear, therefore it was nothing for him to be brave. Nevertheless that was the standard, and Reitman looked like a mouse. Intellec­tually, he stood at mouse-level as well in the bookish anarchist world. So there was hu­miliation for him, too, in his long affair. And these powerful things, her insecurity, his humiliation, her unsatisfied desires, his frustrated rage, took on, between passages of serene delirium, an almost sensual antag­onism, a “voluptuousness,” in Alice Wexler’s word. Their letters show the two of them luxuriating in mutual pleasures, and something very close to luxuriating in their individual pains. The resulting insta­bility, the inequalities now tipping one way, now the other, only tied them closer togeth­er. Love requires sacrifice, Goldman thought, and they were both sacrificing like mad.

It was inescapable in any such affair that what was rationalist in Free Love would run up against what was passionate. As one of the biographers points out, Emma Goldman the rationalist was roaming the country delivering a lecture called “Jealousy: Causes and a Possible Cure,” in which the causes were linked to the institution of private property and the possible cure was linked to varietism and the triumph of anarchy, and all the while the woman behind the podium was dying of jealousy while her faithless manager stalked members of the audience. A bad scene. Eventually she was throwing chairs at him. The lecturer herself saw it all too clearly. “How is it possible that one so decided, so energetic, so independent, as I, one who has defied a World and fought so many battles, should have wound herself around a human being without whom life seems absolutely desolate. How has such a process taken place? I cannot find an an­swer. I only know it is so, that my being is so closely glued to yours, I feel as if all interest, all energy, all desire had gone with you and left me numb and paralyzed.…” So she had to make a choice about Free Love, had to decide between high passion and level sensibleness, and during the 10 years when her lectures were proving suc­cessful, she stuck to her heart’s yearning and quietly let a few shafts of irony fall across her public doctrine. The biographers, Falk and Wexler, both express disappointment at this decision. They think the life failed to live up to the dogma. They find their Goldman a little neurotic and self­-destructive. Reading these writers, one can appreciate what Goldman had in mind in complaining about the over-moral feminists of her own time.

In any case, matters of love emphasize again what a rock of integrity this woman was. The Chicago Martyrs set a standard of absolute courage and independence, and this standard became a norm in American anarchism, became in fact that movement’s greatest accomplishment. Berkman merely followed in that path, and some years later Sacco and Vanzetti did the same. Goldman spent her years in America always expecting that someday she too would be called on to die for the cause or to suffer in some other monumental way, and beyond her lost tooth, some beatings by the police, the three years she spent in jail (her imprison­ment in 1893 was repeated for a longer term in 1918–9 for the crime of opposing the World War I draft) and the numberless arrests for speaking out on birth control or Ibsen or something, plus the federal sup­pression of her magazine and ultimately her cruel deportation — beyond this continual wretched treatment, nothing worse ever happened, miraculously enough. But the iron adherence to principle was the same, and that was as true of her life in love as her life in politics. She was many things, but she was certainly dauntless. When love had ended with Brady or some other man, she left him; and when it began with even some­one as preposterous and embarrassing as the hobo doctor, she was not afraid to join him. Appearances meant little to her, even appearances within the anarchist move­ment, where Reitman was always in bad odor. In her older years it was more difficult, she was living in exile, and she suffered what she called the hardships of an emanci­pated woman, which become severer with age. The loneliness and instability that she acknowledged were a risk of Free Love afflicted her then (though it’s true she always had Berkman in his role as comrade-for-life). But even then her romantic heart still managed an occasional insurrection. In Ger­many in the 1920s, she struck up an affair with a Swedish man — her “Swedish sunbeam” — more than 20 years younger than herself. The next decade, during the time she was living in Montreal, it was with an anarchist delicatessen man from Albany, New York. She was in her sixties, a “grandmotherly person with a blue twinkling eye,” or alternatively “a battleship going into action” (two contemporary descriptions), yet once again she was besieging the new light of her life with sexy billet doux and one can only imagine what in person. Later still she found a blind young man from Chicago who, full of enthusiasm for her, traveled to Canada and raised her to “sublime heights.” “Imagine, last Thursday, the 27th of June, I was sixty-six years of age. Never did I feel my years so much. Never before was it borne in on me how utterly incongruous is my mad infatuation for you, a man thirty years younger than I.…” She complained to Berkman about her own per­sonality: “I wish I could at least make my peace with the world, as behooves an old lady. I get disgusted with myself for the fire that is consuming me at my age. But what will you do? No one can get out of his skin.” In the end she was not, of course, failing to live up to the dogma. “Anarchism,” she wrote to a European comrade, “must be lived now in our relations to each other, not in the future,” and on that basis the battleship steamed steadily forward.

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More to the point, her labor as writer was also steaming forward, for all those experi­ences always managed to express them­selves in words. How do you become a prophet, Allen Ginsberg was asked. “Tell your secrets,” he said. Goldman devoted two volumes of memoirs plus sundry other writings and something approaching a quarter-million letters (not all of which survive) to telling her secrets. In a sense even the drabbest of her lectures and essays told a secret, for everything she did was intended to mythologize its author, and the myth revealed a secret about people’s capacity for experience. That was her success. Ginsberg isn’t wrong. In the early years, when she lectured solely on the proletarian revolution, she never reached more than a small number of sympathizers. But when she be­gan presenting herself as the woman who has lived, as the real-life Nora or female Dr. Stockman, the woman who has fled the so­cial conformities for a free-fall through the anarchist air — then she was someone people wanted to see. That person was no longer on the despised immigrant sidelines. That per­son had stumbled into a series of debates that still seem recognizably current. It’s not too much to say that in her half-cranky, not always deft manner, she had become the first stalwart of the radical left to make the move into modern intellectual life.

***

Emma Goldman’s final distinction was to last so long in the revolutionary movement, 53 years altogether, that she went through the crisis of the socialist intellectual not once but several times. About the last of these crises, which occupied the final four years of her life, very little has been known. This crisis had to do with the Spanish Civil War. She was 67 when the war broke out, living in France, burdened by Berkman’s suicide a few weeks earlier, and reluctant to get involved. But the comrades insisted and two months later she was in Barcelona, wel­comed by the anarchist groups as their “spiritual mother.” She addressed 16,000 people at a Barcelona anarchist youth rally (characteristically, she quoted Ibsen), toured areas where social revolution had begun, then took up duties, in answer to her Spanish comrades’ instructions, as solidari­ty organizer in London. She returned to Spain for two additional extended visits in the next couple of years and she wrote at length about it. But these writings never received much play. Her condemnations of the Soviet Union — she was already talking about Communism and Fascism in the same breath — had damaged her standing among the duller and more authoritarian liberals and radicals in the United States, and liberal magazines like The New Republic and The Nation, where her writings nor­mally ought to have appeared, were no long­er open to her. The energy to write another book was more than she could summon. Her Spanish commentary took the form, then, of lectures, personal letters, and articles for obscure British and American anarchist magazines whose public influence was zero. Only today have these writings been collect­ed, under the title Vision on Fire, in an edition laboriously edited by David Porter, and even this book is a product of a not­-very-powerful movement press.

The importance of Goldman’s Spanish commentary ought, however, to be immedi­ately apparent. Many well-known English ­language writers reported on Spanish events, but none of these writers was especially sympathetic to the anarchists. George Orwell, who didn’t hate the anarchists, be­longed to a splinter party of Marxists and wrote about Spain more or less from that party’s perspective. Even John Dos Passos, who was a bit anarchisant, wrote affection­ately about anarchists in his Spanish novel yet in practice sympathized mostly with a moderate non-revolutionary breakaway fac­tion of the Spanish “libertarians.” Heming­way went to Spain and was positively terrified of the anarchists. He called them “dirty, foul, undisciplined, kind, loving, sil­ly and ignorant, but always dangerous be­cause they were armed” (For Whom the Bell Tolls). Their personal habits revolted him. And of course that was not Emma Goldman’s view. The more armed and dan­gerous were the men in red and black, the more she liked them. She went to live among them, during her time in Spain, at the expropriated ITT building in Barcelona which served as anarchist headquarters, and she earned their respect by refusing to flee to bomb shelters when German and Italian planes were bombing the city. She was no old lady, one might say; she was Hemingway. And since the anarchists were, in fact, the largest single political group in Spain, the dominant force in several re­gions, and the group chiefly responsible for holding off the Fascist uprising at the start of the war, her writings are singularly im­portant. Fragmented and occasional as they are, they constitute the one book we have that was written in English by a well-known observer whose principal sympathies were with the mainstream of the Spanish resistance, not with a splinter party or secondary force.

She went around to the anarchist collectives and the experiments in workers’ self-management, the Syndicate of Public Amusement, the Socialized Milk industry, the anarcho-syndicalist chicken farms and rabbit breeders, and the textile factories that were organized on principles of libertarian self-management. She didn’t describe at great length these constructive achievements of the anarchist revolution — the experiments in democratizing industry, in collectivizing the land in a libertarian manner, in establishing a nonstate variety of grassroots socialism, el communismo libertario — mostly because she didn’t know Spanish (she had to get by with French) and because she was touring in any case with Augustin Souchy, the German anarcho-syndicalist, who was taking this duty on himself. But what she did describe conforms generally to accounts provided by other witnesses. Needless to say, she was thrilled. “There was never a more proletarian revolution than the Spanish one,” she wrote, no doubt correctly. “Yes, my dear, I feel it was worth all I have given to the Anarchist movement to see with my own eyes its first buddings. It is my grandest hour.” But the enthusiasm didn’t extend to every particular. The ecstatic tone that writers fell into in regard to the Spanish revolution, the tone you see in Orwell’s de­scriptions of Barcelona, crops up in Gold­man’s reports only in fleeting passages and often then leads to a raised eyebrow, a bit of skepticism, a holding back. “Yesterday I visited the largest, most important champag­ne vineyards and industry in this country­. It was founded in the 16th century and continued by a long line of the same family until the Revolution. It is the most modern and perfectly organized plant I have seen there. And would you believe it, the entire personnel including the manager are members of the CNT [the anarchist labor federation]. The plant is now collectivized and run by the workers themselves. The manag­er, a comrade who fell on my neck when he learned my name, was quite surprised when I asked him whether the workers will have a chance to drink the champagne. ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘What is the Revolution for if not to give the workers what they never en­joyed?’ ” — to which she added, “Well, let’s hope this will really be so.” She was espe­cially critical of women’s status in the anarchist areas. She thought the women needed to speak a little louder. “It is true of women, as it is of the workers. Those who would be free must themselves strike the first blow.” She lectured the anarchist men and sent furious letters to her old comrade Max Nettlau explaining that no, all Spanish women don’t want broods of babies.

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The chief point of skepticism concerned the political policies of the anarchist leaders toward the Communists. What Orwell re­ported about the Communists — the rise of the tiny Communist party through shrewd use of Soviet aid, which was the only significant source of arms, the start of Communist assassinations and executions, the jailing of anarchists and other revolutionary anti­-Fascists, finally the Communist assaults on the farmworkers’ collectives and self-man­aged factories, which is to say the outbreak of civil war within the civil war — Goldman reported, too. What was different in her account was that, as an “influential” in the anarchist ranks, she partook in the debate over how to respond. There was, alas, no way to respond. It would have been possible for the anarchists to establish a dictatorship in anti-Fascist Spain and to suppress the Communists altogether, but this they were against on principle (though it is striking to see that the possibility was discussed). Be­sides, where would they get arms if they alienated the Soviet Union? They were stuck, these anarchists. They were stuck in the very situation that in later years would recur several times in the Spanish-speaking world, the situation of indigenous revolu­tionaries fighting a Catholic feudal reaction that is tacitly backed by the Western de­mocracies, and in which their own allies are tied to the Soviet Union whether they like it or not. The Spanish anarchists agreed to appease the Communists. They accepted a limit on the anarchist revolution, recog­nized Communist areas of power, agreed not to publish unfavorable truths about the Soviet Union. They went further yet and joined the United Front with the Commu­nists, which meant taking their place as members of what they had sworn to destroy, the centralized state. They were given four ministries in the Spanish Republic. And all this Goldman went along with. More: she herself accepted a position from the United Front government. She became an official representative to England of the Catalan government. A state official at the age of 68! But she wasn’t happy about these concessions. Certain of the anarcho-syndicalist leaders seemed actually to like the Communists, even to like Stalin, and this naiveté revolted her. She had little expectation that allying with the Soviets would do any good. But she did not go public with her reservations and she corresponded with an­archists around the world telling them not to go public either. Solidarity with the Spanish libertarians was her priority, and the Spanish libertarians felt they had no alternative. So she exercised “discipline”­ — her word — an anarchist discipline, self-imposed. Then, of course, it turned out that appeasing the Communists was no good anyway. The jailing of labor militants and the executions and murders began in ear­nest; her own building, the expropriated ITT headquarters in Barcelona, was as­saulted by Communist troops, though not while she was there (it was this attack that Orwell described). She toured a Communist prison and saw non-Communist revolution­aries from all over Europe locked up there, men who had fought fascism in their own countries and then continued after defeat to fight it in Spain only to fall into the hands of their supposed allies. Some of the in­mates turned out to be Communists them­selves, at any rate members of the Commu­nist-led International Brigades, jailed on charges of Trotskyism and other preposter­ous offenses. It was an appalling scene. And finally she unmuzzled herself.

The Communists, she wrote to John Dew­ey, “have done so much harm to the labor and revolutionary movement in the world that it may well take a hundred years to undo.” To another correspondent, she blamed Marxism itself: “The introduction of Marxist theories into the world has done no less harm, indeed I would say more, than the introduction of Christianity — at any rate in Spain it has helped to assassinate the Spanish revolution and the anti-fascist struggle.” She swore undying hostility. “The rest of my years will be devoted to the exposure of the scourge that has been im­posed on the world by Soviet Russia.” But by then the war was lost. The revolutionar­ies were getting massacred in Spain by Franco, and those who escaped were locked in concentration camps by the French, and within the concentration camps the Com­munists were continuing their persecutions, incredibly enough. And there was nothing to be done. Her influence over liberals was long over, and now the one place on earth where anarchism had prospered was elimi­nated, too. She had reached the ultimate point in the crisis of the left-wing intellectual, the point of total political isolation. Henceforth anything she said spoke only for herself. She came up with a lecture called “Stalin: Judas of Spain” and delivered it to Canadian audiences. But she could hardly pretend to be a leader of a political move­ment anymore.

A younger person under those circum­stances might have done some rethinking. Reading her Spanish commentaries, you can almost see what that rethinking could have been. It is what Orwell came up with. So much of Goldman’s commentary resem­bles Orwell’s that you can’t help supplying some of his conclusions and observations. She did read his book and approved of it heartily, and you keep expecting to find her own version of his analysis of totalitarian­ism, with its unavoidable corollary, which is that worse things exist on earth than bourgeois democracy. There was, in fact, a breeze blowing toward democratic liberalism among some of the older anarchist thinkers in the 1930s. The German anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker was going soft on democracy. Certain comrades in America were finding friendly things to say about liberalism. These people were becoming, in the contemptuous phrase of the harder-line comrades, “almost social-democratic.” And Goldman was definitely wafting in that particular breeze. She was one of the “social democratic anarchists.” You see it in some of her surprisingly sympathetic references to Franklin Roosevelt (who for his part returned the interest to the extent of reading Living My Life, not that he ever lifted a finger to rescind her deportation).

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But more than a breeze this never came to be. Social democratic anarchism died aborning. In one passage of her Spanish writings she would acknowledge that the democracies were infinitely to be preferred to the totalitarian states, but in another passage she would write that democracy was totalitarianism in disguise. She was against the Communists, but sometimes she would indulge just as much hostility to the parliamentary Socialists. She opposed the fascist above all, to be sure. But did she oppose them in the only way that commanded rea­sonable degrees of might, once the anarchist alternative was defeated — which is to say, was she willing to go far enough beyond anarchist tradition to endorse the Allied war effort? She pointed out that the democ­racies were, from a colonial point of view, themselves vile dictatorships. (That was a good point.) Sometimes she thought about pacifism. She was leaning in that direction.

The debate over World War II — should anarchists come to the defense of the anti­fascist governments? — was the last she en­gaged in. She conducted it in circumstances that were anything but happy. She was in Canada because Western Europe was fall­ing to the Nazis and because she loathed every aspect of British life and wouldn’t dream of staying there; but mostly because Canada was close to what she still consid­ered home, the United States. She used to get a comrade to drive her to the border so she could look across. Meanwhile the anar­chist circles were growing pathetically small. My Yiddish translator and old friend Ahrne Thorne, the last editor of the Freie Arbeiter Stimme many years later, tells me he used to come around in those days to cheer the venerable comrade up. He himself supported the war, anarchism notwithstanding. He took an exceptionally dim view of the Germans; he felt that as a Jew the issues were entirely clear. But by then Emma had reverted to tradition all the way. An imperialist war was an imperialist war. She recalled that Kropotkin let the cause down in World War I by deciding the Ger­mans were especially evil and the Allies ought to be supported. “Look, you are now assuming the same attitude as Kropotkin,” she said. “But look at the Germans today!” said Thorne. “Maybe Kropotkin was right.” But no. That was not going to be Goldman’s line. The woman who came alive by reading about the martyrdom of Haymarket, who had thrown herself into the most forward trenches of the class war and then was first in America to follow the path from revolu­tionary militant to free-lance intellectual, the woman who had transformed so much of the old proletarian revolutionary bitter­ness into a passion for European theater and free speech and modem ideas, who her­self embodied American labor’s role in gen­erating modern intellectual life and went on to raise some questions that have not exact­ly disappeared from contemporary debate — this woman was not going to do anything else. And as if to mark the completion of her work, the anarchist comrades in Canada and the United States arranged, after she died, for her body to be brought across the border — then the American authorities would let her in — and buried her at Waldheim Cemetery, Chicago, a few feet from where the Martyrs themselves, her inspiration, were buried.

I have only one story about Emma’s death to add to what has already been pub­lished. It is a story that Thorne tells. He remembers when he first learned, in Toron­to, that she had suffered a stroke. He ran to her apartment — it was upstairs from the home of some Dutch comrades — and found several other anarchists already gathering. They were mostly Italians. The Italian an­archists in Toronto loved Emma because she had led a quiet campaign to save them from deportation back to Mussolini. The comrades stood around in front of her door, and the narrowness of the corridor formed them into a sort of honor guard. Then Emma was carried out on a stretcher, para­lyzed on her right side. She stared at the honor guard through her thick eyeglasses, and as she passed, she pulled her skirt down to cover her knee. This detail somehow stuck in Thorne’s mind. A few days later he figured out why.

The tug on her skirt reminded him of a story he read by Y.L. Peretz 20 years earli­er, during his childhood in Lodz, Poland. In this story, “The Three Gifts,” a beautiful Jewish girl is caught wandering outside the ghetto, where Jews are not allowed to go. It is a Christian holy day and for a Jew to wander about on such a day is a heinous crime. Worse, her beauty has attracted the attention of a noble knight and thereby sul­lied his religious purity. Guards bring the girl before a magistrate, who condemns her to a gruesome death. Her long hair will be tied to a horse’s tail and she will be dragged through the streets until the blood from her corpse has washed away her sin.

The magistrate allows her, however, one wish. She asks for pins. Pins? No one can imagine what she has in mind. Still, the wish is granted, the pins are brought, and she fastens the hem of her dress to her feet, sticking the pins right into the flesh. Then her hair is tied to the horse’s tail and the horse begins to trot. The doomed girl gets miserably dragged through the streets. Yet as this happens her skirt remains immovably fastened. The girl will die but her mod­esty will never be violated. The crowd will gape but never will anyone see anything that should not be seen. It is a story about defiance. ■

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Madison Avenue, Moscow

With the Russians at the Summit

GENEVA — The Russians called their Mission in Geneva “Madison Avenue, Moscow” and won­dered aloud if an American Express card in Raisa Gorbachev’s hand would change the world. The 150 men and women who made up the delegation were the Westernized elite of Moscow’s cultural and scientific communities. They sucked on Marlboros and Salems; many chewed thoughtfully on the tips of designer eyeglasses, others removed their jackets to reveal the Ralph Lauren polo ponies embroidered on the shirts they had selected at Bloomingdale’s while on assign­ment in New York. When not caught up in the hard­-sell of Mikhail Gorbachev and his version of the Soviet Union, they tuned their TV sets to French cartoons, or strolled to the supermarket to load up on corn flakes.

Fully versed in the arithmetic of nuclear death Rea­gan and Gorbachev had come to Geneva to discuss, the Kremlin account executives also displayed a savvy and sometimes frightening understanding of Patrick Ewing’s rebound average, and what it took to make Raisa a People magazine cover girl. They joked that Gorbachev’s jet was nick­named Comrade One, quipped about the unfortunate bag ladies who must sleep in Union Square, and — breaking a long­standing Soviet policy of never attacking an American leader personally — cracked gleefully that Ronald Reagan was a bad actor who couldn’t remember the time of day. Representatives from the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada — the Soviet think tank on American policy and cul­ture headed by Georgi Arbatov — wan­dered Geneva like old divas back under the klieg lights, showing a unique affinity for American public relations; they chat­ted up morning talk show bookers, de­scribed by one Russian as “those cute little women” dispatched by the networks to usher the comrades in gray flannel suits into hastily built sets for transmission back to Americans eating their breakfast.

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The Russians stormed Geneva five days before the two leaders arrived, eat­ing, drinking, cajoling, and press releas­ing their way through the snow-dusted city, telling blue-nosed network reporters about their love affair with America. The Russian public relations exercise was a smash, so effective that it overshadowed the critical issues both sides were to have discussed. Mikhail Gorbachev came to Geneva to field test the weaponry of pub­lic relations instead of the weaponry of war. He may not have met Reagan mis­sile for missile, but he beat him badly press event for press event. The ultimate irony of the summit was that the Great communicator was bested at his own game by a former Soviet agricultural minister.

“I’ve seen all this Russian stuff on TV back home for days,” said Patrick Bu­chanan, the White House’s most hawkish adviser, upon his touchdown in Geneva four days into the Soviet PR blitzkrieg. “They’re not saying anything new. I don’t know why anyone is listening.”

The Russians might not have been say­ing anything new, but they were saying it in a new way — with style, the cool, famil­iar televised style that Americans used to consider their own. Although the Soviets never fully understood what they wrought in Geneva, they were generally pleased with the result. The Old Guard of Brezhnev and Chernenko and Andropov had been wrong — not all Americans were congenital scum. There were great Amer­icans — people like David Hartman, Bry­ant Gumbel, Maria Shriver, and the hungry packs of style reporters from the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The Russians plunged head first into media-politics, selling their general secre­tary like an American president. “Ronald Reagan is used to the image of the Sovi­ets as cheaters who do things behind closed doors,” said Sergey Plekhanov, deputy director of the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada. “Our job here is to show that the image the American public has of us is untrue.”

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The White House press corps, who whisked into Geneva wearing baseball caps sweaty with jet lag and toting leatherette gym bags emblazoned with the official White House summit logo, weren’t prepared for the fandango the Russians had to offer. The boys on the bus had come prepared to be disappointed with the Soviet posture toward anything Western, and were shocked to find repre­sentatives of the Evil Empire ready, will­ing, and exceptionally able characters worthy of being quoted. The White House crew had ensconced itself in the Intercontinental Hotel, a $5 cab ride from Madison Avenue Moscow’s head­quarters in the International Press Cen­ter. The first thing they viewed upon ar­rival at the Intercontinental was a Broadway marquee flashing WELCOME TO THE SUMMIT and a dove of peace in bright white lights. “The moment I saw that I knew we were in for a show,” chuckled Jon Margolis, who covered the summit for the Chicago Tribune.

In preparing for the summit, the Sovi­ets had to Russianize words and phrases for events that had been alien to their culture in the past. “Press pool” flowed off Russian lips as “prezza poola,” and the Russian translation for the “news blackout” that was in effect for the sum­mit had something to do with draping a dark curtain over a body. “The Soviets are really turning it on for the summit,” observed Bill Eaton, Moscow correspon­dent for the Los Angeles Times. “It’s really hard to get to these guys back in Moscow, but we’re falling all over them here in Geneva.”

“We were surprised at the extensive­ness of the Soviet briefings, and at Gor­bachev’s quickness to respond to report­ers’ questions,” said Richard Cooper, Los Angeles Times news editor. “It was clear­ly calculated to serve and advance Soviet interests. I think Reagan had made a conscious decision to give Gorbachev the center stage because in some ways it increased the Soviets commitment to a successful summit. Nonetheless, it made them a critically important source of news and comment in light of the news blackout.”

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The Russian PR campaign went to great lengths to script Gorbachev, who arrived in Geneva with a fanfare of accommodation, as a friendly uncle. “Gorby is arriving in a few moments,” said one of the members of the Soviet delegation sent to greet him. The Russians wanted us to like Gorbachev, who, despite his iron teeth, harbored no viceral desire to blow us to kingdom come over Reagan’s intention to orbit a space-based laser weapons system named after a George Lucas movie, the videocassette of which would cost a Muscovite bureaucrat a month’s wages on the blackmarket.

But when it came to Gorbachev’s appe­tite for chewing on meaty global issues like Soviet troops in Afghanistan, the starving children in the Horn of Africa, and the plight of Jews and other minor­ities in the Soviet Union, the general secretary, rather than take a fresh view, took a stance that sounded all too familiar. What impressed people here was that Gorbachev ordered his troops to parade his unsavory policies in public with the snap-crackle-pop sophistication and elec­tric energy of Pepsi’s anti-Coke cam­paign.

“It’s not practical for a Soviet citizen to stand up on a soap box,” roared Soviet jurist Dr. Samuil Zivs, eyebrows flying like a humorless Groucho Marx. Zivs, proud of his role as deputy chairman of the Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public, a Kremlin-controlled human rights group, was flown to Geneva to hec­tor American television viewers that So­viet Jews never had it so good. Nobody in the press believed him, of course, but they were amazed when he began drop­ping bombs on the Reagan administration for its lack of action on federal budget deficit. “I’m shocked by your monetary problems, outraged that people are homeless and out of work in America. You talk of human rights? Bah! When was the last time anyone in your country listened to the street corner critics you say are so important?”

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But then Zivs, a big man with a deep voice and the huge, dappled hands of an NFL nose guard, dropped his old style polemics and held court on a bright or­ange couch next to a coffee stand in the International Press Center. The couch was his domain, and he ruled the area surrounding it with the sharp gaze of a life-long party member who knows he’s the boss. Zivs said that he was willing to discuss anything, so I asked him if he had seen the movie Rambo.

Rambo,” exclaimed Zivs in a loud whisper, his dark eyes radiating an eager glow. “Did you bring a videocassette with you to Geneva?”

The lengths to which the Russians were willing to go in their attempt to emulate American style was shown in the Battle of the Blondes, a tawdry footnote to the first superpower dialogue in six years. Karna Small, the press spokes­woman for the National Security Council, certainly the most attractive female to take the stage over the course of the sum­mit, sat next to National Security advisor Robert MacFarlane during his briefings at the International Press Center, prompting the Russians to search for a counterpart to perch next to Soviet spokesman Leonard Zamyatin during his own twice-daily press conferences. The Soviets brought out Marina Volotskova, a blonde stenographer at the Soviet Mis­sion to the U.N. and had her look long­ingly into the televison cameras. The Russians thought this was a great coup, and later privately asked a few reporters if they wanted her phone number back in Moscow.

The Soviet thinking behind the meet­ing between Reverend Jesse Jackson and Gorbachev showed how the Kremlin intended to portray the American public’s perception of nuclear peace to their peo­ple. Jackson traveled to Geneva with the leaders of four antinuclear groups to ap­peal for a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing and a freeze on new atomic weap­ons. SANE, Nuclear Freeze, Women for a Meaningful Summit, and Jackson’s Rain­bow Coalition presented Gorbachev with petitions signed by 1.25 million Ameri­cans urging nuclear disarmament and an adequate solution to the plight of Soviet Jews and other Soviet human rights vic­tims. The tête-à-tête between the two men was big-time news in Moscow, re­ceiving seven minutes on the Soviet eve­ning news show Vremya and a front-page story in Pravda — but the reports, not surprisingly, failed to mention Jackson’s appeal for human rights.

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“Gorbachev thinks that the peace movement in the U.S. is significant,” ex­plained Soviet-America watcher Sergey Plekhanov excitedly. “Gorbachev’s popu­list instincts made him meet with Jack­son. He was impressed with Jackson and he thought it was his duty to meet with him because the people he represented were an important part of America and they [the American people] shared the same aspirations.”

But Jackson, who said “good God Al­mighty, these international waters are treacherous” shortly after he was burned for accepting a bear hug from PLO chair­man Yassir Arafat, is a political surfer who roams the world looking for the big­gest wave. Although he was playing for a U.S. audience, Jackson neglected to grasp how the Soviets were going to hitch a ride for their own propaganda purposes, and, more important, as a hedge against Rea­gan. Gorbachev called Jackson a “prominent political leader” because he repre­sented a constituency worthy of stroking in the event of a failed summit. “The meeting between Jackson and Gorbachev was diplomatically risky because Reagan might have taken the time to meet with [Anatoly] Shcharansky’s wife,” a Soviet journalist speculated privately after the summit. “If the summit had been a fail­ure, then Jackson was Gorbachev’s pro­tection. He could say that he was for peace because he met with Jackson.”

The Russians gambled that their en­counter with Reverend Jackson wouldn’t become a pilot fish for disaster, and it paid off when Reagan refused to match the Russians by taking a meeting with the wife of Soviet dissident Anatoly Shcharansky, or any other of the dozens of Soviet human rights activists who flocked to Geneva like cripples to Lourdes.

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The Soviets slickly played the human rights issue to achieve a notable degree of intimacy with the West, particularly in their use of Irina Grivnina, the founder of the now disbanded Moscow Committee to Investigate Psychiatric Abuses. It had taken Grivnina nearly three years to get out of the Soviet Union and she had come to Geneva as a reporter for the Dutch magazine Elseviers only three weeks af­ter being issued an exit visa.

Grivnina is a haggard woman, the re­sult of hard times spent behind Russian bars for editing an underground newspa­per critical of the Kremlin’s psycho-gu­lags. Over the course of the summit, she engaged Soviet spokesmen Leonid Za­myatin, Albert Vlassov, and Vladimir Lo­meiko in barbed public exchanges on the plight of Soviet human rights activists being force-fed drugs in Russian hospital wards.

“We have no psychiatric units and our medical examinations follow strict inter­national norms,” Zamyatin said during one of their frequent arguments in the International Press Center. “We are not scared to confront human rights or the Helsinki agreements. I do not know your circle of friends.”

The poor woman, whipped into a fren­zy by Zamyatin’s lies and threats to “call the militia” to have her removed, would literally foam at the mouth and shake violently, prompting Soviet diplomat Ni­koli Kosolapov to say at one point: “Look! Look for yourself! Do you see how crazy these people you call human rights activists are?”

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The Russians (after a praetorian pha­lanx of KGB guards surrounded her at the Geneva airport so that Gorbachev and his wife would not hear her pleas) asked the Swiss to pull her credentials. They refused, and Grivnina returned to Madison Avenue Moscow for one final battle with foreign ministry spokesman Vladimir Lomeiko. Everyone in the room knew that Grivnina was a ticking time bomb for the Soviets, the only human rights activist willing to risk alienating a press corps utterly charmed with the Russians by wrestling with the Kremlin high command in a forum reserved for questions. Lomeiko spotted Grivnina mo­ments before the briefing began and asked Swiss security police to have her thrown out. Grivnina refused to leave, and the press corps — more interested in asking Lomeiko questions that he never answered — began shouting for her to be removed and pleaded with Lomeiko to stay. Grivnina, gutsy to the end, didn’t budge, forcing Lomeiko to storm out of the room threatening to cancel future briefings.

Madison Avenue Moscow’s queer idea that they could court the West with pub­lic forums was suddenly beginning to look insane. They had not counted on predatory characters like Grivnina domi­nating the scenes they had so carefully sculpted for Geneva. Or so it seemed. Lomeiko, the coolest man in the Soviet camp, turned the confrontation to his ad­vantage by dismissing the incident and holding an impromptu press conference around a small and intimate table in the Situation Room on the third floor of the International Press Center. It was the oldest and most effective trick in Ameri­can politics. The Soviets had not only learned how to cope deftly with their cra­zies, but had effectively dismissed, for the moment, the “ridiculous lies” of Sovi­et human rights activists.

But on one issue, at least, the Soviets seemed ready, even eager, to recant one of their own “ridiculous lies.” Over the past year, the Russians had expressed a hysterical attitude toward the AIDS cri­sis. Pravda and the labor newspaper Trud had written that AIDS was the re­sult of germ warfare research conducted by the CIA on the east coast. One Trud article claimed that the CIA tested this chemical weapon on poor Haitians and unsuspecting homosexuals. Moscow sneered at any suggestion that AIDS was a disease, and categorically refused to discuss the problem in an international forum.

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Robert Kunst, a gay activist from Mi­ami, came to Geneva attempting to change the Soviet’s attitude toward AIDS. Kunst wanted the superpowers to donate $3.6 billion — the price of 20 mis­siles — to a superfund for AIDS research to be set up under the auspices of the World Health Organization. For three days Kunst stood with a banner in the gray Geneva cold outside Madison Ave­nue Moscow, waiting patiently for a promised meeting with a Soviet official, a meeting that nobody — not even Kunst — ­ever thought would take place.

“Kunst and I met over tea for 45 min­utes, and I was there as a representative of the Soviet government,” said Dr. Vladimir Federov, a Russian physician who works at the World Health Organization. “I’m aware of the Soviet position in the past, but I’m taking a scientific approach to the problem of AIDS. We’ve yet to have an outbreak of AIDS in the Soviet Union, but it’s time we get together on this serious problem before it becomes out of control.”

Over breakfast in the Hotel de Rhone, Dr. Yevgeniy Velikhov wanted no news of Soviet dissidents either, but, like Dr. Federov, went out on a limb to modify the Soviet headline in another area. Plunging his spoon into a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn ­Flakes, the mastermind of the approxi­mately $70 million program to computer­ize Russia’s schools and the scientist responsible for Moscow’s own star wars research paused between bites to speak glowingly of America and his “friend” Steven Jobs, one of the founders of Apple Computer. “Steven is very smart and represents the entrepreneurial culture,” enthused Velikhov, wiping a wet flake off one of the tigers on his Princeton tie. “The entrepreneurial spirit is not in conflict with Marxist-Leninist thought. Gen­eral Secretary Gorbachev understands this spirit and is sensitive to it happening in the Soviet Union.”

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If a leading Soviet scientist had equat­ed Marxism with entrepreneurship in the past he would most likely have been trucked off to the gulag for rehabilita­tion. But Velikhov — who signed “From Russia With Love” on U.S. Defense Department booklets that called him “in­strumental in the development of ad­vanced ballistic missile defensive systems” — is a Kremlin favorite, the man who first showed Gorbachev how to use an IBM PC. He deals with his love of things American much in the way a newly dry alcoholic deals with booze — with a reluctant longing for something he desires, but knows he can’t have and wishes he didn’t want.

When asked how a nation that keeps its typewriters and copying machines un­der lock and key will control the free flow of information once the first wave of his 3.5 million computers hits the Soviet Union, Velikhov began speaking of barnyard animals. “We’ve put our first com­puters to work controlling cows,” said Velikhov. “They are much happier with PCs than people. Our cows don’t worry and they milk better.

“The problem with people and com­puters is the technomania that occurs once they understand how computers operate,” Velikhov stressed as he boarded a Mercedes limo waiting to whisk him to Madison Avenue Moscow. “Technomania led the U.S. to develop star wars. We must learn to control technomania.”

Controlling technomania, of course, is Soviet code for controlling the informa­tion fallout from the computer revolution they so desperately need to ignite if they hope to catch up with Western technol­ogy. And that’s the great irony of the Soviet Union, a country that yearns to give its people the tools necessary to com­pete with America yet remains frightened to allow them the personal freedom nec­essary for real growth. In a world geared for specialized and upwardly mobile technicians, the Russians are potential losers, and they know it. Kremlin leaders don’t want their people to submit quietly to their collective fate, but they are stone-cold terrified over what could hap­pen if the Soviet people start believing in the Kremlin’s American PR campaign.

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The interesting thing is that the Rus­sians, who have always been so blunt and colorless in their posturing toward America, wore the facile suit of marketing with real flair. They did it well, better than they expected, and by the time they left Geneva the world had been presented with a whole new Russia and was left hungry for more.

“America is a fascination for us,” said Julian Semonev, a Russian spy novelist and feature writer who recently took home the annual KGB award for artistic merit. “We disagree with you, but we must learn now to deal with you.” Se­monev is a Russian in a class by himself, and his opinions and popular screeds have meaningful reprecussions through­out the Soviet Union. So it was no won­der that Leonid Zamaytin brought Se­monev, a crew-cut stump of a man with the countenance of a Hell’s Angel and a striking resemblance to football coach Bum Phillips, out in front of the press at Madison Avenue Moscow to tell the world that the Soviets were concerned with getting out of Afghanistan.

The attention paid to Semonev was pure balm to the Russian ego. Semonev and his cronies were courted by the talk shows like Liz Taylor after her second divorce from Richard Burton. They bull­ishly defended their presence in Afghanistan, stopping just short of comparing their Afghani debacle to America’s war in Vietnam. “When a country is no longer in a position to defend its revolution,” ex­plained Soviet Justice Minister Alex­andre Soukharev, “we move in.”

Although this kind of propaganda was met with predictable cynicism and disbe­lief, the warmth and friendliness with which the Soviets packaged their spiel seduced the American media. Semonev, and others like him, came away from this experience with a sudden fame that con­firmed what they had always wanted to believe: recognition of the fact that the Soviet Union is a major world power, driven by people as fascinating and rare as those in America. The pleasing shock of this long overdue pat on the back made them giddy with pride.

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So much pride, in fact, that the Rus­sians were able to joke about the summit. “Is it not significant,” chuckled Vladimir Pakhomov of Komsomolskaya Pravda, “that Gorbachev arrived in the daylight and Reagan arrived in the dead of night?”

They were also able to laugh at the jokes the Western press played on them. At one point some reporters got their hands on a Soviet Press Group press re­lease letterhead and distributed a story that former KGB turncoat Vitaliy Yur­chenko had written to Gorbachev urging him “not to sell us out to Reagan.”

“Please beware of the pitfalls placed in your path,” read the bogus letter from Yurchenko, who actually told a Moscow press conference a few days earlier that the CIA had forced him to play golf and get a suntan. “The CIA is everywhere in Geneva. They have been known to kid­nap innocent Soviet ballerinas, chess masters, and shepherds, drug them into submission, force them to accept huge sums of money, and, at gun point, make them appear on the Today Show with Jane Pauley.”

With the first salvo of the Soviet PR barrage ended, it is unmistakably clear that Mikhail Gorbachev is not your typi­cal Kremlin boss. Nowhere did the image of Gorbachev as an enlightened manipu­lator of Western Culture express itself better than at the extraordinary press conference he conducted at the Soviet Mission the day after the summit official­ly ended. Gorbachev spoke more openly to reporters than any other Soviet leader in history, on issues ranging from space­based laser beams to radical cuts in stra­tegic and other nuclear weapons. But his most curious, and significant, comment came in a response to the final question of the press conference. Julian Semonev asked Gorbachev if he thought Hollywood might start acting in the spirit of the fireside summit and stop making movies that portray Russians as fiendish warmongers. Gorbachev glowed at the question and his face broke into a huge grin. “Yes,” said the general secretary. “The motion picture industry should start acting in the spirit of Geneva.”

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It was a perfect line on which to end the summit. And that statement will just sit there like a heavy hole card in Gorbachev’s hand. How can we have peace while Sylvester Stallone is making mil­lions greasing evil Soviet colonels and computerized boxers on the silver screen?

The summit was no more than a begin­ning to a new relationship between America and the Soviet Union. All that came out of the two-day meeting were a few harmless and loosely worded agree­ments that ranged from cultural ex­changes to bilateral cooperation on the development of fusion energy sources. But it came as no surprise to the Rus­sians that they were the stars of Geneva. Ronald and Nancy Reagan may have been movie stars, but Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev looked like movie stars.

“What I make of all this is change,” said Pavel Mamaev, a Soviet diplomat who was the ringmaster for the Moscow Circus during its 1976 tour of America. “My country is changing and your coun­try is changing. Hopefully it will all be for the good. Nobody wants to die.

“I woke up last night dreaming about what we accomplished in Geneva,” Ma­maev added with a laugh. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, wel­come to the Moscow Circus.” ❖

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Revolution in D Minor: How the Czech Philharmonic Toppled Communism

Revolution in D Minor: How the Czech Philharmonic Toppled Communism
June 19, 1990

On December 14, 1989, the leading sym­phony orchestra of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Philharmonic, gave a concert at Smetana Hall in Prague. It was probably the most famous concert in the history of that country. The orchestra played Beetho­ven’s Ninth Symphony. Václav Neumann, the Philharmonic’s principal conductor, was at the podium.

People in the hall were delirious with happiness. The overthrow of communism was halfway completed, already the communists were vacating seats in the govern­ment, and leaders of the prodemocracy Civic Forum were taking over one post after another.

Mr. Neumann wore a big Civic Forum pin in his lapel. The last notes of Beetho­ven’s final movement, the “Ode to Joy,” with its parts for chorus and solo singers, died away, and Václav Havel came on stage. Mr. Havel was not yet the president of his country; a communist still occupied that office. But everyone knew that Mr. Havel was the leader of the Civic Forum and ought to be president, and probably would be soon enough, once the last of the communists were finally pushed out.

Mr. Havel introduced the new Civic Fo­rum members of the government, who were sitting in the audience. He introduced the new foreign minister, Jirí Dienstbier, an old jail-mate of Mr. Havel’s and a famous dissi­dent. Mr. Dienstbier was sitting in the box of honor. And at the sight of the victorious dissidents sitting in the hall, the audience, the musicians, the chorus, the solo sing­ers — everyone, thrilled, applauded ecstatically.

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Three tiny paragraphs about this concert appeared in The New York Times the next day. Naturally the Times concentrated on the important political leaders like Mr. Ha­vel and Mr. Dienstbier. But in the last of the paragraphs the article turned to the orchestra.

In the reporter’s stony prose: “The members of the Czech Philharmonic are among the heroes of what Czechoslovaks have tak­en to refer to matter of factly as ‘our revolution.’ They were the first artistic en­semble to go on strike and have played several concerts as benefits for striking students.”

That was the orchestra’s entire mention. Then the Times went on to other things. The concert, the conductor’s Civic Forum pin, Mr. Havel’s introductions from the Smetana Hall stage, the “exuberant” ap­plause from a “jubilant house” — these de­tails sparkled for an instant and disap­peared into the waterfall of amazing information that has come pouring out of the countries of Eastern Europe.

Historical events as vast as the overthrow of world communism can be analyzed on a cosmic scale, the way astronomers study the universe by peering at whole galaxies. Or they can be analyzed in miniature, by focusing on a molecule.

Here is an analysis of the fall of commu­nism that examines one droplet of informa­tion: the exuberant applause at Smetana Hall on December 14, 1989, and why it was directed not only at the dissident leaders and the new democratic government, but also at the people seated in concentric rows to Vaclav Havel’s rear — those other “he­roes” of “our revolution,” the symphony musicians of Prague.

The Communist Cell

The Soviet Army, as is sometimes forgot­ten, cannot be blamed for every black shad­ow that has fallen across the countries of the Warsaw Pact. Communism was export­ed to Eastern Europe from across the Soviet border, but it was a local product, too. A bright inner core of the big-city intelligen­tsia, the writers and artists, the concert­goers, readers of literary and philosophical reviews, student intellectuals — these peo­ple, in the aftermath of the Nazi occupa­tion, showed no little enthusiasm for the communist idea.

Bolshevik habits like ferocity and disci­pline struck them as practical virtues, nice­ly adapted to an age of fascism. And they saw in communism what seems impossible to remember today — a cultural ideal, not just an economic program. For these people were the partisans of civilization against barbarism, they upheld the old notions of the enlightened European intelligentsia, they were the champions of ever-expanding liberations in every field of life — except that civilization and barbarism had ex­changed their customary geographies, and the Paris and Vienna of the golden future were going to be, in the postwar imagina­tion, Moscow and Leningrad.

These communist sympathizers, circa 1945, were not exactly well-informed about the Moscow and Leningrad that really existed. Or possibly they did have an idea of Soviet reality and were not especially dis­turbed. Their revolutionary project was al­ways faintly ambiguous. Were commu­nism’s sympathizers anti-obscurantists in the great liberal tradition? Or were they obscurantists like their leader, Stalin? Were they fascism’s bitter enemy, or its twin? Progressives or reactionaries?

It was impossible to say. The communist intelligentsia was a new twist in the history of ideas. Yet in the atmosphere of the 1940s, in the institutional rubble left be­hind by the defeated Nazis, these people­ — communism’s most important social base — found themselves with a good deal of power. And with a helpful shove from the Soviet army, one country after another followed them into the radiant future, and a whiff of uncertainty about communism’s meaning and intent always lingered behind, like exhaust fumes.

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The communist experience of the Czech Philharmonic began in something of that spirit. The young Václav Neumann, the same musician who later became world famous as the Philharmonic’s principal conductor, organized the orchestra’s original party cell in 1946 by saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are forming the first communist organization in the Czech Philharmonic.” That was an odd way to usher in the new era, given that true Bolsheviks, enemies of the bourgeoisie, address one an­other as comrades, not as “ladies and gen­tlemen.”

Mr. Neumann was a true enough Bolshe­vik to put together a cell. But he managed not to be a comrade. The works he performed were those of the grand masters of the past, and he continued to wear the tails and starched shirts of ancient custom, and he would never abandon the Czech stuffi­ness that insists on “Mr., Mrs., Miss, ladies and gentlemen.” He was, everything con­sidered, bourgeois tradition’s stout defend­er — as well as Moscow’s. And in that same ambiguous way, the communist movement built popular cells all over post-Nazi Czechoslovakia.

A great bulk of the population leaned instinctively toward social democracy. And since the communists were not without a clever tactical sense, the party described itself as a sort of social-democracy-without­-bourgeois-illusions. The comrades spoke of a “Czechoslovak Road to Socialism,” something smoother and more civilized than the barbarous Bolshevism of the uncouth Soviet Union. By appearing to be democratic yet allied with Stalin, authenti­cally Czechoslovak yet pro-Soviet, refined yet tough, by cultivating the kind of ambi­guity that could prompt an earnest maestro into addressing his comrades as ladies and gentlemen, the communists managed to en­tice all but the shrewdest corners of the social democratic movement into a fateful­ly disastrous popular front. Large sectors of the working class joined with large sectors of the intelligentsia under communist aus­pices, and in a free election in 1946, the party managed to come away with no less than 38 per cent of the popular vote.

Had there been a second election a cou­ple of years later, communism would prob­ably have accumulated an absolute majority. Except that 38 per cent was quite sufficient, and soon enough the commu­nists did away with the bourgeois custom of free elections, and by 1948 the deed was done, not because of the Red Army. The Republic of Czechoslovakia metamorphosed into the Czechoslovak Socialist Re­public, member in good standing of the world communist movement.

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The meaning of communism’s rise to pow­er was not immediately obvious to most people (though there were a clear-eyed few who instantly fled into exile). The new gov­ernment expropriated the country homes of rich bourgeois and turned them into vaca­tion resorts for poor workers, which seemed, from a solidly progressive point of view, exactly what any decent person would have advocated. The communist notion of how to build an economy, the army-like system of administrative fiat, unwavering obedience, central planning, and mass ef­fort, worked well enough, so long as eco­nomic growth meant new steel plants and weapons factories. The economy under these principles expanded for a decade and a half even without the economists faking the figures.

Yet in the first years alone, the Czecho­slovak Road to Socialism — less smooth than anticipated — managed to execute 8000 people, according to literature put out by dissidents later on. The very first of the communist show-trials in Prague did away with the leaders of the duped and manipu­lated factions of democratic socialism. As many as 150,000 unfortunates ended up in prison, and the rest of the population found themselves dwelling among party cells and secret police informers and subject to less than civilized demands for conformity in every sphere of life and thought.

By the mid-1960s, the party’s own econo­mists began to notice that economic growth wasn’t what it seemed either (as one of those economists, the present ambassador to the U.S., Rita Klímová, has told me). The brute-force approach worked well enough at building steel plants, if you didn’t mind executing a lot of people, but was not so good at tuning the economy to any finer pitch.

The economy, having climbed upward for 15 years, began to climb back down. And when some of the top political leaders, not just the economists and technocrats, noticed the sorry effects of their own rule and tried to institute reforms — when Alexander Dubcek and his party comrades launched the “Prague Spring” of 1968 in order to liberalize their own system (though not so much as to permit opposition parties or normal democratic procedures) — in came the tanks and troops of “fraternal aid” from the Soviet Union and the War­saw Pact, and self-deception about commu­nism’s liberating potential became that much harder to maintain. The situation, as the Party leaders said, “normalized.” Nor­malization meant, after August 1968, that Czechoslovakia’s Road to Socialism was barely even Czechoslovak.

The Leonore Overture

The Czech Philharmonic, being a jewel of the national culture, not to mention a de­pendable source of six million crowns a year in hard currency, never had to endure the worst of these bleak developments. The party maintained its cell in the orchestra and ran the unions and controlled the con­cert halls, and by manipulating the differ­ent levers of power, had the musicians un­der firm control. Yet the Czech Philharmonic, like all the great orchestras in Europe, was by tradition a self-governing institution, and this tradition never entirely disappeared.

The communists asserted the right to veto any proposal made by the orchestra. But the orchestra retained a countervailing power of veto over the communists, which made for a bit of check and balance. Most of the elected positions in the orchestra fell into communist hands. But the musicians somehow kept the right to vote freely on one of the important jobs, the Representa­tive for Secondary Activities.

In most of the Czechoslovak orchestras, the secret police supervised the hiring of musicians in order to prevent anyone suspected of anticommunist sentiment from infiltrating, say, an important flute section. At the Czech Philharmonic, for instance, the police intervened to prevent the young winner of a cello competition in 1983 from taking a seat in the orchestra, due to the inconvenient fact that the cellist’s father had signed a notorious dissident manifesto, Charter 77, calling for human rights. Gen­erally, though, the Philharmonic retained the power to pick its own members, and the secret police didn’t interfere.

In that way, the Philharmonic never lost control over what was, after all, the main thing — its own musical quality. Yet it could hardly be said that members of the orches­tra were free citizens. Over the years, the party cell in the orchestra hovered between 10 and 20 people and was always active and strong, either because some musicians honestly upheld communist principles, or because the pressure to join the party was too great to resist. Mr. Václav Junek, the principal trumpeter (until he went on half­-time, due to age), was a communist of the first type, a man of stalwart Leninist principles who kept the cell in good repair as a matter of political commitment.

In recent times, the cell — or the “swine,” as I have heard them called (“There’s al­ways the chance of one of those swine recognizing your voice,” Julia tells Winston in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four) — consisted of one flutist, one double-bassist, three cel­lists, five first violinists, and one second violinist, plus Comrade Junek. Strictly un­der the discipline of their own higher-ups in the party ranks, these 12 musicians domi­nated the orchestra, mostly by keeping tabs on their fellow musicians.

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The orchestra might travel to faraway con­cert halls in Switzerland, or further still, to remote New York, but not even distance offered relief. The Czech violinists or clari­netists who could be seen hurrying along Seventh Avenue or 57th Street on their way from the Wellington Hotel or the Holiday Inn to Carnegie Hall, canvas-covered cases beneath their arms, looking for all the world like free musicians from a free repub­lic, were under precise instructions not to engage in random conversation with strangers.

The bitterest injunction of all was not to converse with their own most fervent fans, the Czechoslovak exiles who flocked to Carnegie Hall in the hope of bathing their ears in Dvorák or Smetana, and who after­ward might want to stop by the dressing room for a nostalgic chat about the old country. Or, if such forbidden conversa­tions did take place, the musicians’ obliga­tion was to report on them right away. Perhaps to Comrade Junek in the trumpet section or to someone else in authority. Apart from the well-known members of the party cell, there must have been, as every­one knew, members of the secret police in the orchestra’s entourage, though possibly not among the musicians themselves.

It was not that if a musician fell out of favor with the party or showed a lack of enthusiasm for party projects, anything drastic was likely to happen. Repression was mostly a system of threats and infer­ences, like a color filter that could gradually make life a little darker. One of the orches­tra’s two harpists, Renata Kodadová, was invited by party leaders to establish a chap­ter of the Union of Socialist Youth, a com­munist enterprise. But Mrs. Kodadová, who didn’t approve of communist enterprises, indignantly refused — and found that her career as soloist dribbled to a halt, without any word of a blacklist ever being uttered. Invitations to perform simply no longer arrived.

Ludvík Bortl, the bass trombonist (a bass trombone is a regular trombone with extra heft and an extra tube), had a different problem. Mr. Bortl’s error may have been his patent honesty, which made him less than shy at expressing his democratic convictions. One day an anonymous letter ar­rived accusing him of embezzling funds from a recording contract — and for two years afterward, the police kept hinting to the trombonist about advantages he could enjoy by making himself quietly useful to the authorities.

Even Maestro Neumann, though he was an old-time parlor communist, had his dif­ficulties, just to show that no one stood above the party. Mr. Neumann’s error was to rush home to Czechoslovakia from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in East Germany at the time of the ’68 invasion­ — without fulfilling, according to the authori­ties, his contract with the same East Ger­mans who, from another point of view, had just invaded his country. Afterward Mr. Neumann could no longer count on official sympathy. He was invited to conduct the Munich Philharmonic at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, but on the day before his planned departure, official per­mission evaporated and the famous con­ductor found himself stranded — “desper­ate,” he told me — in his own country.

In order to go on a foreign vacation, orchestra members had to avoid arousing the enmity of the 12 comrades of the party cell. There was the fear that someone who fell out of favor might not, in a medical emergency, receive the best health care. There were the worries that everyone in Czechoslovakia had to entertain about their children — whether they would be locked out of higher education, the way that Václav Havel was as a young man, because of the anticommunist politics of his parents.

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How could orchestra musicians withstand a lifetime of pressures like that? They did it slyly, as Mr. Neumann now acknowledges, in musical code. Mr. Neumann and the orchestra became ever fonder of perform­ing works by Beethoven, notably the Leon­ore overture No. 3, which Beethoven origi­nally intended as the overture to an opera about liberals versus tyrants.

Did the authorities understand that refer­ence? Perhaps not, or perhaps they didn’t mind. Musical codes are notoriously unreli­able. Beethoven, the champion of freedom, was a favorite of the Czechoslovak dissi­dents, just as he was of the Allies in the Second World War, but then again he was a favorite of the Nazis, too. The conductor Herbert von Karajan conducted a Beetho­ven symphony back in 1938 to celebrate the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland re­gion of Czechoslovakia. Slippery Beethoven!

In any case, the Leonore overture kept turning up on the Czech Philharmonic’s program. Other resistance, if that word doesn’t overstate the reality, was merely social: when the orchestra traveled abroad, no one wanted to room with the 12 comrades. That was prudent, too, given that a fit of overly frank late-night soul-bearing might do your life no end of harm.

Overt political protests on the orchestra’s part were out of the question. But as disaf­fection with communism grew more acute in the Eastern bloc, some quiet or clandes­tine resistance was not altogether impossi­ble. Mr. Bortl, the bass trombonist, was the key figure, joined by younger musicians like Jacob Waldman, a baby-faced double bass­ist, and a few others. This inner nucleus of activists gathered a secret list of 20 or 25 orchestra members who could be counted on to contribute money for the samizdat, or underground, publications that dissident intellectuals were putting out. Fundraising was a daring thing to do and had to be gone about conspiratorially, with no one but the top organizers knowing which of the musi­cians figured among the contributors.

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A more public resistance, when it began, came strictly in the name of musical values, though the line between politics and music wasn’t always clear, given the communist predilection for politicizing the nonpoliti­cal. The party had its musical demands, its preferred or proscribed performers and composers, about which, normally speak­ing, the orchestra had very little to say. Mr. Neumann was eager to perform a sympho­ny by Miloslav Kabelác, but the censors pored over the score and discovered the irksome Babylonian inscription, “Mene, mene, tekel, ufarsin” — the Bible’s “writing on the wall” — and Kabelác’s symphony disappeared into the black hole of the unperformable.

Yet on other occasions the orchestra ex­ercised its ancient prerogatives and refused to be manipulated. In 1986, the orchestra and the government decided to commemo­rate the 90th anniversary of the Czech Phil­harmonic’s founding, a grand moment in the history of Czech music. The post office issued a stamp. The state television sched­uled a concert. But what was to be performed at the concert? Commemorative concerts, by tradition, are supposed to re­-perform whatever was played at the origi­nal event — in this case, Antonín Dvorák’s Biblical Songs, which the composer himself had led back in 1896.

Biblical Songs was not a happy title, though, in an age of official atheism. The communist authorities proposed some contemporary Czech and Soviet composers in­stead. Since the orchestra had a veto, it refused on grounds of strict tradition to perform anything but Dvorak’s songs and the rest of the 1896 program. This backed the government into a corner. But there was nothing to be done about it, and the cultural officials, furious, canceled the broadcast in spite of the postage stamp and the publicity.

The Bass Trombonist

It has to be asked why the difficulties between the Philharmonic and the commu­nists tended to revolve around television and radio broadcasts. The answer has to do with the one important post that remained fully under orchestral control, the Repre­sentative for Secondary Activities, whose business was nothing other than to grant permission for radio and television broad­casts, along with recordings. In its wisdom the orchestra managed to elect to this re­sponsible but not very fascinating job the capable bass trombonist, Mr. Ludvík Bortl, otherwise known for quietly tiptoeing among the musicians to collect secret funds for samizdat publications.

The bass trombonist saw to his duties as Representative for Secondary Activities with zeal. One day the Ministry of Culture, in its eagerness to impose politically reli­able conductors for broadcast concerts, in­vited the Philharmonic to perform under the baton of Milosz Konvalinka, the con­ductor of Prague’s National Theater orches­tra. Mr. Konvalinka was highly regarded by the cultural officials of the Communist Par­ty, but less highly by the musicians of the Czech Philharmonic. Mr. Bortl, on the or­chestra’s behalf, declined to permit the broadcast concert to go on with Mr. Konva­linka conducting.

The ministry was aghast. The orchestra declined? Mr. Bortl was called in for a dis­cussion with the Central Committee of the Communist Party. He and the orchestra manager received threatening phone calls. But there was no backing down: In the opinion of the musicians of the Czech Phil­harmonic, as expressed through their freely elected Representative for Secondary Ac­tivities, the government’s preferred conduc­tor was not up to standard, and the Philhar­monic would not perform, and investiga­tions by the police and threatening phone calls and requests to confer with the Cen­tral Committee simply had no influence on their decision.

In choosing the bass trombonist to be the Representative for Secondary Activities, the Philharmonic had selected the sort of man whom management never likes to see sitting across the negotiating table. Mr. Bortl’s big arms, when they weren’t holding his oversized American-made King trom­bone up to play, lay folded across a large chest in the gesture that communicates im­movability. He sat in the back row at con­certs and waited for the bass trombone part to turn up in the score, and from a place in the audience you could easily imagine, with a little knowledge of what he was like, that the Czech Philharmonic consisted of 95 or a hundred musicians made of flesh and blood — and one granite boulder.

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At negotiations, he had a zest for driving other people crazy by repeating himself with stubborn inflexibility. The most infamous example came in February 1987, when the orchestra went on one of its tours to the Soviet Union. The musicians were scheduled to perform a concert commemo­rating the seizure of power by Czechoslova­kia’s Communist Party in 1948, a festive holiday for all friends of the Czechoslovak Road to Socialism. The Soviet Union scheduled a television broadcast, and the musicians arrived in the hall and took out their instruments and the television crews completed their preparations, and the great revolutionary concert was set to beam onto the television screens of the Union of Sovi­et Socialist Republics.

Mr. Bortl, however, as the Representa­tive for Secondary Activities, wondered why the Czech Philharmonic, on its Soviet tours, was expected to perform without pay. Nonpayment for Soviet concerts seemed to him an offense to the orchestra’s pride. He explained to the Soviet officials that when the Czech Philharmonic tours the United States, it never plays for free. So why should the Soviet Union be any different?

After many decades of communist rule, this may have been a foolish question on Mr. Bortl’s part. It was gloriously naive of him to raise such an issue, or rather, disin­genuous, since every schoolchild in the Warsaw Pact knew perfectly well why the Czech Philharmonic was expected to play for free in the Soviet Union, namely be­cause Czechoslovakia no longer figured as a sovereign nation and the orchestra no long­er constituted an ensemble of free musicians.

Mr. Bortl nonetheless asked the question, and by doing so, posed a delicate problem. The true answer to his question could never quite be said aloud nor even whispered by a kindly Soviet concert impresario in a corri­dor conversation. Yet what was to be done? Mr. Bortl, declining to give final permis­sion for the orchestra to perform, kept ask­ing his disingenuous question. Some kind of response was required.

The Soviet authorities got angry. They threw up their hands: the concert was sup­posed to go on and there was no time for stupid bickering. But Mr. Bortl was immov­able. In the United States, the damnable man kept saying, the Czech Philharmonic never performs for free. So why should the Soviet Union … and so forth through his idiotic but unanswerable argument until, with chaos in the concert hall and five minutes left to go, a Soviet official came dashing into the theater, contract in hand specifying payment to that most irritating of orchestras, the Czech Philharmonic.

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In his own thinking, the struggles led by Mr. Bortl had a definite political dimen­sion, which he described, in the case of the Soviet television concert, as “our own, per­sonal, very little protest against totalitarian­ism.” But this, too, was never said out loud. His reasoning was always phrased either as a worker’s demand for pay, or as a musi­cian’s insistence on tradition. And if Mr. Bortl’s mosquito attacks on totalitarianism were never stated in political terms, nei­ther, on the other hand, did anything seem to be political in the difficulties that the orchestra began to encounter in its dealings with the Czechoslovak government.

To begin with, where was the orchestra going to perform? This question, which grew ever more pressing, seemed merely to reflect a government tendency toward bu­reaucratic inefficiency and poor planning, without political meaning. Bohemia (the Czech part of Czechoslovakia, where Prague is located) used to be called “the conservatorium of Europe,” as Mrs. Koda­dová, the harpist, has told me. But in this century, nobody has bothered to erect any new halls in Prague. Nor has anyone re­paired the old halls. The Czech Philhar­monic traditionally performed in the Ru­dolfinum, named after the Emperor Rudolf, but in recent years the Rudolfinum had become so decrepit that nothing was left to do but pack up and move until grand-scale renovations could eventually be made.

The authorities, though, contrived these renovations in such a way that, when the work would someday be completed, computers and climate-control mechanisms would occupy crucial space in the cramped hall, which the orchestra would still have to share with the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Musical Arts. The computer­ized, air-conditioned concert hall was going to be a cattle car. So there was, from the Philharmonic’s point of view, no concert space for the time being, and there was not going to be a suitable hall in the future, and there were no plans for anything better.

The orchestra meanwhile scheduled its performances for Smetana Hall, a big creamy cavern, gymnasium-shaped, with skylight panes stuck in the ceiling like a giant emerald. Smetana Hall wouldn’t have been a bad place, except that the Prague Symphony Orchestra and other groups per­formed there, too, which made for a lot of traffic and inconvenience. Sometimes the Philharmonic was shunted into still another hall, the Zofín, doubtless the world’s most romantic concert auditorium, grandly lo­cated on a tiny island in the Vltava River. Only the Zofín, too, was pretty much in disrepair. Broken glass gaped from win­dows, stucco dribbled onto the grounds, the heating could not be counted on.

The musicians lugged their instrument cases across the stone bridge to the island auditorium, and they wore sweaters and coats to rehearsal and had to clear out be­fore a dance class got underway. Besides, the Zofín was too small for symphonic con­certs. So the problem of a concert hall was severe, even a little ominous. And in case anyone still didn’t get the point, the orches­tra office staff discovered, as the 1980s wore on, that the office, too, was less than securely housed.

An emergency eviction notice ordered the staff out of their own premises. The orchestra manager fought the eviction off. A second notice went out. Again the man­ager fought it off. He felt like he was “box­ing” for the orchestra’s life.

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The Petition

The orchestra’s uneasiness was not, of course, confined merely to the practical dif­ficulties of locating a decent hall and reli­able office space. The musicians had a sus­picion that musical quality in Czechoslovakia was slipping. The cultural grandeur promised by communism, the brilliance that was supposed to radiate from Moscow and Leningrad, the bright beam of communist civilization — this somehow cast a light that seemed to grow ever dimmer in the run-down concert halls of Prague. The Czech Philharmonic used to attract the greatest musicians of the world to perform as soloists or guest conductors. Was the orchestra imagining things, or were great musicians increasingly reluctant to perform in Prague? And if that was true, what was the explanation?

Different theories made the rounds. Some of the most influential orchestra members pointed, in their conversations with me, to Czechoslovakia’s foreign policy problems with Israel. In 1967, as part of the communist bloc’s anti-Zionist turn, the Czechoslovak government abandoned its historic sympathy for Zionism and came out in favor of Israel’s enemies, not just the peaceful ones. (It was Czechoslovakia that sent Semtex plastic explosives to Muammar Qaddafi for distribution to terrorist groups such as the Palestinian faction that appar­ently blew up the Pan Am jet at Lockerbie, Scotland.) And since people in Czechoslo­vakia never much approved of this anti-­Zionist development, there was, at any rate among the musicians, a resentment of the consequences that filtered back to Prague.

Great musicians like Erich Leinsdorf and Gerd Albrecht still came to perform with the Philharmonic. But there were others who held Israeli passports and could no longer visit Czechoslovakia, and still others who chose, in that case, not to. And since some of the best musicians in the world figured among those who took Prague off their concert tours, the members of the Philharmonic regretted the loss keenly.

There were other explanations for the orchestra’s gloomy sense of its position in the world. Mr. Neumann told me (through the double medium of a telephone and an interpreter) that getting musicians to Prague was not, in his opinion, the prob­lem. His own feeling about Czechoslova­kia’s decline was vaguer, though more poi­gnant. He was haunted by the worry that the Czech Philharmonic, in its appearances abroad, might be greeted with hostility.

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He pictured an audience somewhere in the West welcoming the orchestra with whistles of disdain and contempt — not because of how it performed, but because of the coun­try it represented. The fear was unreason­able; never once was the Czech Philhar­monic greeted less than warmly. But the worry did express the feeling of isolation that overtook the Philharmonic, the sense that grand vistas of culture and quality lay elsewhere and that the conservatorium of Europe had become a pariah even in the world of music.

Then again, these plaintive feelings were merely the musicians’ version of what ev­eryone in the Eastern bloc began to feel. Czechoslovakia under communism had be­come a country whose best writers were either in and out of jail, like Mr. Havel, or in exile, like Milan Kundera and Joseph Skvorecky. A full 500 authors, according to Mr. Skvorecky, came under a ban. The country’s best filmmaker, Milos Forman, emigrated to the United States. Its industri­al economy, one of the strongest in the world, degenerated into the third or fourth rank.

Even life expectancy, due mostly to de­cades of cheap brown coal and dead rivers, shriveled to a level five years below that of Western Europe. The sense of musical me­diocrity and isolation, the effort to intimi­date the bass trombonist with secret police investigations, the blacklisting of the harp­ist from her solo career and of the cello­-competition winner from his rightful seat, the canceled commemorative concert, the inability of Mr. Neumann to conduct at the Olympic festival in Japan, the chipping plaster, broken windows, shrinking space, the eviction notices — all this was nothing but the national predicament.

The move toward open politics, the prog­ress that would make the Philharmonic the first important sector of Czech society to go into open opposition, came only last year, in fitful steps. In January 1989, Václav Ha­vel was arrested yet again and condemned to four and a half months in prison, this time for laying flowers on the grave of Jan Palach, the student who immolated himself to protest the 1968 Soviet invasion. And with Mr. Havel once again in jail, a petition began to circulate, addressed to the com­munist prime minister, requesting the play­wright’s release.

Naturally the bass trombonist, with his dissident connections, took his place in the ranks of secret petition-circulators. Togeth­er with Mrs. Kodadová and one of the bassoonists and certain of the others, he passed the document around to the more reliable musicians. But who would want to sign such a petition? A chair in the Czech Philharmonic was the best position any musician could dream of having. To play in a historic orchestra was an honor, not to mention a joy. Whereas to sign a petition, to court the wrath of the party and the government, to risk your hard-earned chair merely for a noble civic gesture — was that a sound idea?

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The petition clandestinely circulated, and each little group of musicians quietly went into existential crisis. Some musicians did sign, not just the young militants either. The silver-haired veteran cellist, Mr. Jan Stros, added his name, and there were, finally, 30 signatures on the petition. The organizers figured that if enough people got up their courage, the numbers would reach a critical mass, the orchestra would be un­assailable, and the petition could go public.

Mr. Bortl got along well with Maestro Neumann and hoped discreetly to ask him, too, for his signature, which would have heartened the timid. But Mr. Neumann who often toured abroad while guest conductors took over the orchestra, was in Vienna. Thirty turned out to be the upper limit. “Most of us,” as Mr. Stros recalled later on, “were afraid.”

Then the orchestra manager got wind of the document and brought it up at a general meeting. What was this idea of protesting, he wanted to know. Did the musicians un­derstand that the Czech Philharmonic was still trying to find a hall and the manager’s job was not made any easier by people going around signing petitions? Did the musicians understand that, if the petition went through their own wages might be in danger?

Mr. Waldman, the double-bassist, and some of the more militant and sophisticat­ed musicians regarded the manager as something of a bluffer. Wages were not, in spite of what he said, endangered; they came steadily from the state, no matter what. As for the hall, that particular sore point was not going to be resolved any time soon, no matter how cooperative the musi­cians became. The concert hall was a doomed issue, short of a Japanese investment.

But the manager’s statement had its ef­fect. Wages! The hall! A good half of the musicians who had signed the Havel peti­tion sneaked back to the organizers and asked to strike their names. Other signato­ries held firm, but the panic couldn’t be suppressed. The handful of remaining names was not enough to guarantee any­one’s safety, and the project of collectively signing the Havel petition in the name of the Philharmonic was shelved — a fiasco.

Mr. Bortl signed, in that case, on his own behalf, as a lone individual and not in any way as a representative of the orchestra. That was bad enough. From the City Com­mittee of the Communist Party came an invitation to come in for a discussion. His brother heard a rumor about the trombon­ist getting thrown out of work. Mr. Bortl was not, lucky for him, a soloist, and he had no trombone students on the side, which made him less vulnerable to official pressure. He did play sometimes in a quintet and had to wonder if it might somehow be made to suffer — though nothing like that came to pass. But already some of his colleagues in the Philharmonic recognized him as a marked man and stopped return­ing his hellos.

The failed petition nonetheless stirred up a feeling in the orchestra. For the first time since the stormy days of the Warsaw Pact invasion, the orchestra had tried to take an independent public position that had noth­ing to do with self-interest or money or musical values but was strictly political. And while the controversy over the failed effort was still vivid in everyone’s mind, a second more momentous development oc­curred. The revolutions in East Germany, Hungary, and even Poland were still in the future. But the Soviet Union, that glacier, was already beginning to show a few signs of change.

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Radicalism and Exhibitionism

In early 1989, as part of the Gorbachev reforms, the Soviets stopped jamming Ra­dio Free Europe. People in Prague had always listened to other, less important short­wave stations, like the Voice of America and the BBC. VOA was especially popular; people called it “Prague 3,” meaning the capital’s third station. But VOA devoted only so many hours to the Czech language, and its stories were too often about the magnificence of the Rocky Mountains and the exotic customs of the American Indi­ans, which was amusing and pleasant, but did nothing to inform the Czech people about their own circumstances.

Radio Free Europe, for all its origins in the CIA, was less of a propaganda station. Listeners could tune in a beloved Prague radio announcer who had fled Czechoslova­kia after the ’68 invasion and hear him read translated clippings from American jour­nals as far afield as The Village Voice and The Nation. RFE reported news of the dis­sident movement. People could learn what their own neighbors were doing, what argu­ments were being made, and whose famous or not-famous necks were being risked on the public behalf.

One day in June, Radio Free Europe’s Czech language broadcasts reported on a new dissident petition called “Several Sentences.” An announcer read the petition aloud —  and more important, read some of the signatories’ names, along with their pro­fessions. Listeners sat by their radios, trans­fixed. The announcer droned on, “So-and-­so, filmmaker; so-and-so, worker,” and as the names came sailing from the radio speaker, the listeners, each in the privacy of home, heard with astonishment the names of people they knew or respected, or at any rate the names of people from their own lines of work.

The kind of existential crisis that took place in the orchestra during the unsuccess­ful effort to gather names for the Havel petition now took place in society as a whole. Names floated from the radio, and individual souls sitting around living rooms wondered, “Should I, too, sign? Should my name, too, be broadcast over Radio Free Europe?”

No one doubted the risk in endorsing “Several Sentences.” In the performing arts, signatories of “Several Sentences” found themselves denounced over the offi­cial airwaves and blacklisted from Czecho­slovak radio and television. Everyone knew that the basements of Prague were full of coal stokers who used to be well-known intellectuals. Yet here came the RFE’s next broadcast, and the announcer turned again to the topic of “Several Sentences,” and still more names floated from the radio speaker.

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Among the listeners to Radio Free Europe were, of course, the members of the Czech Philharmonic. The musicians had gotten in the habit of tuning it in during their tours abroad, where they could receive the broad­casts without jamming, and they kept up the habit when Soviet interference miracu­lously disappeared. In October ’89, several months after “Several Sentences” ceased to be circulated, but while its signatories were still being singled out for punishment, the Philharmonic traveled to Neuchâtel, Switzerland, to perform under a guest conduc­tor. The musicians tuned in the news — and caught an amazing item. The name of their own principal conductor, Mr. Václav Neu­mann, came floating from the radio speaker.

Mr. Neumann was not himself a signato­ry. But like everyone else he followed the controversy over “Several Sentences” and he was infuriated at the official denuncia­tions of the very fine citizens whose signa­tures did go down on the civic manifesto. He was a little intimidated at the idea of making a protest of his own, since the retri­butions might endanger the orchestra and not just himself. Yet the itch was in him. He wanted to act; he only wondered how.

Czech television provided the answer. The television authorities invited him to give a telecast concert. Yet these were the very people, as he reflected, who kept broadcasting scurrilous slanders against the courageous signatories of “Several Sen­tences.” The television authorities had come to the wrong man at the wrong time. Mr. Neumann’s moment of moral courage had arrived. He informed the authorities­ — “with pleasure,” a delicious phrase — that he had no intention of accepting their invitation. Václav Neumann, principal conduc­tor of the Czech Philharmonic, a National Artist by decree of the government, a world figure, was not going to perform, thank you.

His refusal was in every respect a solitary act. Kurt Masur, the Gewanthaus conduc­tor from Leipzig, was not yet leading mass demonstrations in the East German streets. The violist who would soon enough become the secessionist president of democratic Lithuania, Vytautas Landsbergis, was still unknown to the world. The leading conduc­tors and musicians of the Eastern bloc were holding no secret conspiratorial discussions arriong themselves. Mr. Neumann had sim­ply, on his own, reached his personal limit. And by October, while the members of the Czech Philharmonic were resting in their rooms at the Neuchâtel hotel, the news of this personal stand was beaming across the waves of Radio Free Europe to everyone who tuned in to the Czech language broadcasts.

What! The members of the Philharmonic couldn’t believe their ears. Their own Mae­stro Neumann on a one-man boycott? Per­haps the report wasn’t true. The concert tour took the orchestra to Stuttgart, West Germany, and only there was someone able to reach the maestro by telephone and con­firm the astounding broadcast. And at the news of this confirmation, a “fever” — that was the word Mr. Stros later used — broke out among the different circles of Philhar­monic players.

It is customary before rehearsals, when the Philharmonic assembles onstage, for of­ficers of the orchestra to address the ensem­ble on matters of practical business. At the rehearsal in Stuttgart, the Representative for Secondary Activities got up to say a few words. Staring up at him were the faces of his own friends and the secret donors to samizdat funds and the decent but fright­ened people who had discreetly begged him to remove their names from the Havel peti­tion. But there were other faces, too: the dozen “swine,” the people who turned their glance to the wall when he waved hello, the people whose political attitudes and re­serves of personal courage were, after years in the orchestra, still a mystery, perhaps even to themselves.

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To get up and speak to an audience like that was not in every respect an easy thing. Mr. Bortl was alive to the unhappy fact that while Václav Neumann was a revered ce­lebrity in the world of music, a figure of social weight, a person that Czechoslovakia’s government would never wish to of­fend, he himself, Bortl the trombonist, was not a celebrity, had no social weight, and was, on the contrary, the object of police persecution.

No matter. Mr. Bortl opened his mouth and began to speak. His talk was unprece­dented. Mrs. Kodadová, the harpist, think­ing about that speech several months later, after the revolution, considered it to have been an act of authentic heroism. Mr. Bortl reported Mr. Neumann’s boycott of televi­sion, which by then was no secret to any­one. He proposed that the orchestra should, in an act of solidarity with its principal conductor, join the television boycott. Not as individuals but all together, as an ensem­ble. And more: the orchestra should go fur­ther than Mr. Neumann and boycott radio, too, until the blacklist against the signato­ries of “Several Sentences” was lifted. Mr. Bortl was proposing, in effect, a protest strike on grounds that were explicitly political.

Did such a strike have any likelihood of success? The Representative for Secondary Activities was in no position to offer guarantees. Milan Kundera once wrote, in a polemic against Václav Havel, a cynical essay called “Radicalism and Exhibitionism,” about people with a fondness for glamorous gestures and lost causes. A Phil­harmonic protest might well be radical. But then again it might merely be spectacular, like some desperate East Berliner hurling himself over the wall. If the musicians adopted Mr. Bortl’s proposal, they would not only be, as The New York Times would later report, the single artistic ensemble in Czechoslovakia out on strike, they would be the only ensemble of any kind — artistic, industrial, academic, ethnic, religious, or political.

No great dissident movement was wait­ing to rally around the protesting orchestra. No one in Czechoslovakia was marching in the streets (though three days later, in Prague, the dissidents did get some 10,000 people out for a march — a paltry number compared to street protests elsewhere in the bloc at the time). And in that unpromising atmosphere, the orchestra proceeded to vote.

A full 97 musicians sat on the Stuttgart rehearsal stage, not counting the guest con­ductor and a soloist. Comrade Junek of the trumpet section set himself, of course, against the resolution. But where were the other members of the cell that Comrade Junek had done so much to consolidate, the cell whose history went back to Mr. Neu­mann’s fateful invitation to the ladies and gentlemen of 1946? Somehow this cell, in the aftermath of Mr. Bortl’s courageous speech, buckled and collapsed. (Later, after the revolution, with the Communist Party in disgrace and even considering changing its name, Junek himself, feeling betrayed by the Communist leaders, regretted his own vote against the resolution.)

Three of the musicians abstained. But the rest of the orchestra, all 93 of them, heroes, cowards, unknowns, voted — unbelievably! — with Mr. Bortl. The decision was just short of unanimous. And with the momen­tous vote behind them, the orchestra turned back to its rehearsal. The Stuttgart concert was performed, and the orchestra went about its Western European tour quite as if the meeting on the Stuttgart stage was noth­ing more than a business discussion like any other.

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The Revolution

The musicians returned to Prague after three weeks in Western Europe and had reason to know that their boycott decision was not, in fact, a bit of ordinary business. The leaders of the Communist Party took the trouble to articulate the matter with exemplary clarity. The director of the state radio, an object of the strike, explained that missed performances by the Czech Philhar­monic were nothing to regret since the or­chestra was not very good anyway.

The Ideological Secretary of the Czecho­slovak Communist Party, Jan Fojtík, har­rumphed and noted that the same Czech Philharmonic that was engaged in a protest was asking for a concert hall — and was go­ing to get “shit.” That was a shocking thing to say. The word “shit” from a high official had an intimidating quality, like a cop giv­ing the finger to a protest march. It was alarming. It convinced people that Czecho­slovakia was, just as everyone feared, sink­ing into savagery under rulers who lacked culture and education and who could no longer even open their mouths without butchering the beautiful Czech language.

Comrade Fojtík’s vulgar comment ap­peared in Tvorba magazine. Meanwhile ru­mor reached the orchestra that Fojtík’s mentor, General Secretary Milos Jakes, the party’s highest official, had decided to dis­band the Czech Philharmonic altogether­ — which seemed conceivable. For the link be­tween communism and the intelligentsia, the promise of communism’s cultural great­ness, the coming brilliance of the proletar­ian order — these things were no longer even a ghost of a memory. The Ministry of Culture, in those last decadent days of com­munist rule, was planning to sell off some of Czechoslovakia’s greatest cultural assets for hard currency — the magnificent Prague Judaica collection, for example, even if the collection was a thousand years old. What was a world-renowned orchestra to people like that?

Maybe other musicians, or the same mu­sicians in a less exalted state of rage, would have beaten a convenient retreat, figuring they had bravely made their point and had nothing more to win, except a reputation for “exhibitionism.” But by then, in those first days of November, the Berlin Wall had come down and the news spread across the eastern countries via American and British shortwave broadcasts, and the political air was electric. Or perhaps the explanation was that, among the musicians, Mr. Bortl’s speech on the Stuttgart stage had estab­lished him as the undisputed political lead­er of the Czech Philharmonic, democracy’s trombone.

In any case, the orchestra did not retreat. Messages went out to other orchestras around the world, appealing for solidari­ty — and statements of support promptly ar­rived, beginning with congratulations from the Kraków Philharmonic of Poland. The orchestra telephoned the press in Czecho­slovakia to announce the boycott and ex­plain its logic. The Czechoslovak press had no intention of publicizing the antigovern­ment actions of dissident organizations. The musicians followed up with letters, just so the reporters, those professional liars, could not pretend ignorance. Still, no an­nouncement ran in the press.

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So the musicians took a further step and prepared to communicate directly with their own audience, no longer in the sly code of the Leonore overture, but directly, and on the taboo theme of politics. The orchestra printed a special leaflet announc­ing the Philharmonic boycott, and the leaf­let went straight into the concert program for the homecoming performance, Novem­ber 16, 1989, at Smetana Hall.

The secret police, already suspicious, were lurking around the hall. But their in­formation was perhaps a little vague and they made no effort to stop the crush of concertgoers from lining up on the marble stairway to buy, for one crown apiece, the evening’s program. Or possibly the rebel program wasn’t even needed. The Philhar­monic’s audience, in the privacy of their own homes, had already heard the news over shortwave broadcasts from the West.

The musicians came marching from the wings onto the stage to take their seats beneath the giant medallion of Smetana and the organ pipes. And from the sea of wooden chairs on the unraked auditorium floor a huge, spontaneous ovation arose. Dr. Desidr Galski, Prague’s Jewish leader, who happened to be among the audience, recalled to me later how people jumped to their feet, which is a rare gesture at a Prague concert, merely at the sight of the musicians in their full-length black tails and starched white shirts.

“Thank you!” voices cried out. “Bravo!”

The next day’s concert was the first since the announcement of the boycott that was supposed to be broadcast over the official radio.

The 17th was also a day for student pro­test in Prague. The occasion was an official commemoration of a student who was killed by the Nazis. At least one of the musicians, Mrs. Kodadová, managed to at­tend. The harpist’s daughter, age 14, want­ed to march with the students, and since Mrs. Kodadová was already up to her el­bows in the Philharmonic boycott, she rath­er liked the idea of her daughter participat­ing too, and gave permission.

But since 14 is a little young to be left to the mercy of events, the harpist chose to walk at her daughter’s side, and the two of them went together with the 25,000 young people on the fateful day when the students sang “We Shall Overcome” in Czech and even in English. The police shadowed the marchers like a black cloud. And when Mrs. Kodadová figured that her daughter’s taste of life and protest had lasted long enough, she plucked herself and daughter from the ranks and went to Smetana Hall to dress for the evening concert and tune her harp.

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Naturally the Representative for Second­ary Activities refused to permit the state radio to broadcast the concert. So the deed was done. Again there was tension and ap­plause in the hall. And only afterward, when Mrs. Kodadová changed back into ordinary clothes and went out into the streets and saw that policemen and vehicles were prowling the downtown boulevards and the air was soggy with violence — only then did she have any idea that the student demonstration did not come to an end at the instant that she wisely guided her daughter away.

No, the students marched onward to Narodní Avenue, catty-corner to the House of Cuban Culture. The black cloud of policemen descended on them, plucking peo­ple from the ranks to be clubbed and kicked, and though later it was not clear if the beatings turned into killings, at the time, on the streets, the conviction arose that Prague had just undergone a Tiananmen Square assault and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia had just commit­ted a massacre on Narodní Avenue.

Only this belief did not, in Prague, send the people into a terrified retreat, the way repression did in China. Hardly! The fear and timidity that had stung Czechoslovak eyes for 40 years, like coal smog or tear gas, were somehow wafting away. The students were calling for a strike. No one quite knew it, but the revolution had just broken out. The next evening Mrs. Kodadová had tick­ets to the Realistic Theater, but instead of seeing a performance, she sat in the audience while the actors endorsed the students, and even the theater director got up to say that, although he was himself a member of the Communist Party, having a dialogue with communists was impossible.

Mr. Bortl, jolted by news of the massacre, went about calling on his various political contacts. These turned out to be usefully widespread, not just among musicians. An actress telephoned to keep him up on the theater front. And since Mr. Bortl happened to know the family of a student who was thought to have been killed, his con­tacts extended into the student milieu too. The trombonist hurried over to a high school to pick up the new student literature.

In this way, conferring with the actress, rushing over to the students, Mr. Bortl put together documents from one and another of the mobilizing groups, and by Monday, when the Philharmonic assembled for a meeting and rehearsal, the trombonist was ready with strike literature and proposals. A full 267 people, musicians and staff, turned up at the meeting. The trombonist introduced some students to the orchestra. The students said a few words about their strike. And Mr. Bortl launched into another of his speeches.

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The Universe of Music

He read something that he called the “Dec­laration of the Czech Philharmonic,” which was the product of his weekend’s work. The declaration protested violence and lawless­ness on the part of the government. It put the orchestra on the side of the students and the theater people in their strike. It demanded that the authorities who partici­pated in violent repression step down from power. And it affiliated the orchestra with the committee that Václav Havel and the theater people and other dissidents had put together over the weekend, the new Civic Forum. The statement was not too radical, not too mild, and the whole of it was ap­proved.

Jan Buble, one of the reliables in the first violin section, took the declaration and went to the telephone. He called the Vienna offices of “Prague 3,” the Voice of Ameri­ca, to read the declaration over the phone lines, even if the secret police might have been listening in. And having done their civic duty, the musicians headed out to Wenceslas Square to join the first of that epic week’s mass demonstrations. They chanted at the Communist Party, “We nev­er wanted you” — an odd chant, perhaps not an entirely true one, given the long dialectic of Czechoslovak history, but sin­cerely felt. And as the musicians chanted, they glanced sideways at their own ranks, and they saw the orchestra’s communist collaborators, and the people, too, the de­feated swine, chanted along with everyone else and wore Czechoslovak flags pinned to their coats, quite as if the flag had always been their symbol of choice.

The Czech Philharmonic’s Civic Forum committee consisted of several of the old crew of dissidents, namely Mr. Bortl, Mrs. Kodadová, Mr. Buble, and Mr. Waldman, to whom were added Maestro Neumann and representatives from the office staff, the choir, and the regular soloists. This committee set about painting posters and placards, establishing contacts, gathering documents, and publishing statements of the orchestra.

There was the crucial business of spread­ing the news to the larger Czechoslovakia that lay beyond Prague’s Oldtown center. For how was the rest of the population going to receive reliable reports about the amazing events going on among the students and their supporters? Apart from for­eign bands on the shortwave dial, all media in Czechoslovakia were under Communist control, and if here and there a newspaper wrested a little independence (as the news­paper of the formerly puppet Socialist Par­ty began to do), no system was in place to distribute the uncensored press runs out­side of Prague. Information about the po­lice attack and the strike, if it was going to circulate at all, would have to spread per­son to person. So there was the additional task of loading the protest literature into cars and driving out of central Prague to any place where the strikers had contacts.

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Here again Mr. Bortl, by happy coinci­dence, managed to play a distinguished role. He had not always planned on becoming a professional musician. He played the trombone in dance bands when he was in school, but his studies focused on chemis­try, and afterward he went to work as a chemical analyst at the giant CDK works in the Prague suburbs. CDK is a complex of a dozen foundries and electrical plants with 25,000 employees who manufacture loco­motives, diesel engines, semiconductors and other industrial goods. The place is called “the workers’ heart of Prague.”

Naturally when the student strike began, the communists tried to prevent any sort of contact between the university rebels and CDK. The party brought out the People’s Militia to seal off the industrial center. But some of the workers were themselves active partisans of democracy, which meant that CDK was already, so to speak, infected. Besides, sealing off 25,000 people is not so easy. Workers, too, knew how to tune in a shortwave radio. They went home to fam­ilies that included students. And among the active ties between CDK and the student strikers was, as it happened, the energetic former chemical analyst, Mr. Bortl.

He picked up the student strike literature in central Prague and drove out to CDK to deliver it to faces familiar from the long­ago days, before his knack at the slide trom­bone brought him to the Philharmonic. Wednesday night he was out at the plant. And every afternoon, he and the other ac­tivists joined the students in Wenceslas Square and gazed up at the balcony of the Socialist Party newspaper and listened to the speeches that Mr. Havel and his little group of intellectuals and theater personal­ities delivered according to the staging in­structions of the country’s best theater di­rectors, through sound equipment that was set up by the cleverest of rock band technicians.

Those of us who observed the Czechoslo­vak Revolution on television thousands of miles away saw those rallies grow ever bigger — 200,000 people on Monday, more on Tuesday, 300,000 by Wednesday — and we watched that progress with a too-easy satis­faction. We believed, because it was thrill­ing to believe, that the demonstrators in the square stood in no particular danger and were, on the contrary, destined to win. We had watched the events in Poland, Hunga­ry, and East Germany, and we saw the crowds in Prague as part of a European panorama, and the grandeur and vastness of that panorama seemed to speak of his­torical certainty.

But that was not how things appeared to the hundreds of thousands who stared up at the Prague balcony. Those people had some inkling of events in other countries and they felt themselves to be part of an inter­national movement. Yet the panorama that seized their own attention was mostly one of repression and violence. What did we, who lived a continent away, know of the repressive mechanisms of Marxism-Lenin­ism in Czechoslovakia? The empire of the secret police was so extensive that in Prague alone, the Ministry of the Interior maintained no fewer than 272 safe houses.

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Friday’s police attack on the students promised to be, if events took a wrong turn, only a first step toward a larger “Chinese solution.” The people in the square shook their key chains in a tinkled mass exorcism of tyrants and demons, and they took en­couragement from their own growing num­bers, and their hearts pounded with indig­nation, patriotism, enlightenment, rebellion, rage — with revolution, in a word. But those people were also, most of them, in terror.

When they got home in the evening, the television preached to them not about in­ternational backing but about their own isolation. The country’s main institu­tions — the trade unions, political associa­tions, farm groups, ethnic and religious organizations, the clubs and professional societies, the bearers of national legitimacy, the establishment, the official culture — all stood in adamant opposition to the subver­sive goings-on in the square.

Still, not every important national insti­tution was the enemy of those daily demon­strations. The Czech Philharmonic, the movement’s friend, was as grand and na­tional and above-ground an institution as Czechoslovakia could claim. It was the establishment by definition. So the musi­cians, together with the striking actors, took up the job of infusing those thousands of demonstrators with a feeling not just of courage and stalwartness but with some­thing that could be called a sense of nation­al legitimacy. After voting the strike resolu­tion at the Monday rehearsal and adopting Mr. Bortl’s “Statement of the Czech Phil­harmonic,” the musicians put away their instruments in order to honor their own resolution. But on Wednesday morning the orchestra shifted course and the instrument cases opened again and the musicians tuned to the A above middle C and the orchestra prepared to play — not to under­mine the strike but to bolster it.

The guest conductor that week was scheduled to be one of Maestro Neumann’s protegés, the Czech conductor Libor Pes­cek. He and the Philharmonic’s artistic council looked through the repertory for appropriate works and settled on Má Vlast or My Country, the Czech classic by Be­drich Smetana. The orchestra performed four of the six sections of that work on Wednesday for a student audience at the chilly Zofín on the Vltava island. Then they set out to play it again Thursday morning at Smetana Hall, where the auditorium was heated and the musicians didn’t have to bundle up in sweaters and coats and there was plenty of room.

Tense and agitated students filed inside until the hall, as the official report of the orchestra later put it, was “completely packed.” The musicians laid the score across the music stands. Mr. Pescek raised his baton. And from the moment that he silently indicated the rhythm, in that sec­ond of stillness before the first note sound­ed, the world of politics into which the Philharmonic should never have had to en­ter, the world of declarations and strikes and committees — that world came, so to speak, to an end. The baton flashed, and the orchestra stepped as if through a door into that other, higher place, its home, the seat of its authority, the universe of music.

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God’s Warriors

Revolutions generate extreme and exalted emotions. But normally there is nothing in a revolution or in any other mass political event that can give voice to those emotions. If people march in the streets, they find that parades are inarticulate. They chant­ — and complicated ideas shrivel into jingles. Orators step to the mike — and grand phi­losophies turn into slogans. Something of the popular emotion may get expressed; not much. The whole experience is frustrating, like shouting through a muzzle.

Music, perfectly articulate, has none of those problems. Mr. Pescek’s baton came down, and the first notes of My Country leapt into life, and the dimunition or cheapening that happens to abstract ideas and principles at a scene of mass politics, the muzzling of emotion — none of that occurred.

Those first notes were a solo by Mrs. Kodadová and her fellow harpist, sitting in the last row to the left, behind the violins. Stately, luxurious harp arpeggios sprang heavenward, feathery and implacable, as if from sword-bearing angels. Nor was there any doubt about the specific significance of those opening declarations. Smetana, ever forethoughtful, dispelled all ambiguity by writing down a clear programmatic expla­nation, like a nail to keep the slippery meanings in place.

Did the student audience pay attention to that programmatic explanation? The mu­sicians had it uppermost in mind. Mr. Stros, the silver-haired cellist, in recon­structing that concert for me, spoke of it almost entirely in terms of the composer’s careful annotations. These were on a strict­ly national theme. Smetana was once, in his own student days, a revolutionary in the streets of Prague: he participated in the 1848 uprising against the Austro-Hungar­ian Empire. And though the 1848 revolt went down to defeat and Prague continued to languish under the rule of hated foreign­ers, the composer came away with his patri­otic feelings intact, along with the revolu­tionary notion that one day, wrongs would be set right.

The opening harp solo represented, ac­cording to his specifications, the harp of the mythological Czech prophet, Lumir. The musical phrase in that solo, the implacable and stately melody, evoked the castle of Prague, symbol and center of Czech sover­eignty. And those opening ideas — prophecy and sovereignty, gusts from the revolution of 1848 — blew like a wind through every­thing that followed.

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The orchestra had only to play the work exactly as on every occasion in the past. In the version of the concert that was told to me by Mr. Waldman, that is precisely what they did. The Czech Philharmonic is, after all, a professional orchestra at the highest level of artistic competence and can be counted on to adhere to the strictest tradi­tions and standards in even the most ex­traordinary of circumstances. The gorgeous melodies of My Country‘s early sections, “The High Castle” and “The Vltava” (bet­ter known by its German title “The Mol­dau”), the ecstatic surging scale that evokes Prague’s river, the Bohemian heartbreak­ — these were performed entirely as they have always been, with steadiness, nobility, and force.

Even so, the performance was not exactly ordinary, either. There was the question of where to put the intermission. In the count­less performances of Smetana’s classic over the decades, the procedure was generally to follow “The High Castle” and “The Vlta­va” with Part Three, “Sarka” — then break, with parts Four, Five, and Six to come after the intermission.

But was that procedure appropriate for Thursday’s concert? The morning hour, the audience of edgy students, the street clothes worn by the musicians, the improvised na­ture of the scene, the nervousness that ev­eryone felt, the attention to matters that had more to do with the crowd at Wences­las Square than with music — everything in­dicated a less than formal approach. Be­sides, a technical crew was accompanying the orchestra to record its performances, and the crew’s requirements, too, had to be taken into consideration. Given those fac­tors, the musicians expected to run through several excerpts, as at the previous morn­ing’s concert, and not bother doing a com­plete version.

The decision, once they were out on stage, was up to Mr. Pescek. But at the end of the second section and again at the third, the conductor’s black baton once more rose up, and the orchestra went on playing straight through to the moment at “Sarka” ‘s climax that usually marks the break for intermission. Again the baton waved. The orchestra plunged into the fourth sec­tion too. “From Bohemia’s Fields and Groves” — and only when that was completed did the musicians get a chance to catch their breath and wander into the wings for a few minute’s rest.

Yes, every note was exactly as Smetana indicated. But already the piece was com­ing out in a slightly unusual form. Then they were back on stage and Mr. Pescek’s baton waved again and the first tones of the fifth section. “Tábor,” sounded, and some­thing new cropped up in the performance, a sort of overtone never previously heard. In Mr. Stros’s estimation. Smetana’s program had everything to do with this. My Country, lush and mythological until that point, turns grim and militant with the opening notes of “Tábor.” There arc echoes from 500 years ago, from a medieval chorale sung by the 15th century followers of Prague’s most famous rebel, the religious reformer Jan Huss, who was burned as a heretic.

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The chorale was “Ye Who Are God”s War­riors.” It was not unlike Martin Luther’s terrifying hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” except older and bleaker. Huss’s most fanatical followers, the soldiers of Tábor, sang it when they marched into battle against anti-Czech and anti-Huss oppressors, and their message seems to have been, if you listen strictly to the melody: “Aban­don hope, anyone who opposes us.” The devil himself would quake at such a tune. Every note is a block of stone. No rippling ecstasies spring heavenward from the harps. There are boulders, one after anoth­er in rows and circles, like Stonehenge. “Stubborn inflexibility” was Smetana’s own phrasefor 1he messagein that Hussite hymn.

The initial tone in Smetana’s rendition was supposed to be a low, quiet, ominous D, played as if at a distance by the tympani, the bassoons, the cellos, and the double bass. Then the horns were supposed to sound a rhythm on a different note, the first stubborn rocks of  the Hussite melody, repeated softly on a never-varying discordant C, like this:

“Ye who who ARE … GOD’S …

“Ye who who ARE … GOD’S … ”

Except that when Mr. Pescek gave the signal and the first group of musicians bent over their instruments to produce the low, quiet, ominous D, the note did not come out as quiet as always, not, at least in the estimation of Mr. Stros. The musicians were ever so slightly too intense. The note was a tiny bit too strong, too heavy, too militant. It came out like a challenge. Per­haps the difference in sound would have been inaudible to most people even to mu­sicians. But Mr. Stros, who had performed those opening notes for decades, felt that ominous D like a jolt.

The low tone went on for two bars. Then the horns entered on the repeated discor­dant C of “Ye who ARE … GOD’S … ” But the horn players, too, were a little too intense.

Professionals, of course — some of the finest in the world. Yet those musicians were not, in fact, granite boulders, they were flesh and blood, and they were shak­en. In a matter of weeks, those musicians had, on the advice of a handful of orchestra politicos, taken their lives into their own hands; they had embarked on what would ordinarily have been a suicidal strike; they had seen their suicidal strike spread to hun­dreds of thousands of people; they had found themselves at the center of God alone knew what — a national uprising? A worldwide birth of freedom? An impending calamity on the scale of the Nazi takeover of 1938 or the Soviet invasion of 1968? And through all of those terrifying events, they had kept their fears to themselves and had gone about their protests and then their strike concerts with splendid discipline and control.

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To begin Part Five of My Country at that instant, to perform “Tábor” to an audience of the very students who had survived the police attack at Narodní Avenue and were now naïvely hurling themselves against the communist dictatorship, to perform the first ferocious notes of what was, after all their nation’s most historic and solemn call to arms — that was too much. In the experi­ence of those musicians, the political events had been, until that instant, half-articulate. But Smetana was perfectly expressive, and in bar three of Part Five, when the Hussite hymn began in a grim D-minor, he un­leashed the deepest feelings of those disci­plined symphony musicians.

So the horn players, too, pressing their mouthpieces to their lips, produced sounds that, at least in the veteran cellist’s estima­tion, were a little too determined, a little too much like a grim Hussite grunt. Those first musicians to begin “Tábor” had sud­denly, inadvertently, broken into a cry­ — though to be sure the cry was, in a technical sense, exactly what Bedrich Smetana had specified in his score.

Mr. Stros couldn’t believe his ears. And while still in shock over those strangely fervent first three bars, he heard a second sound, a rumble really, an indistinct loud­ness, huge and not at all musical. He tore his eyes from the conductor and the score and looked out into the audience. That single, piercing. anguished “Ye who ARE … GOD’S … ” from the orchestra passed through the hall like an electric boll. The noisy rumble was the audience’s response. The 1500 students, row after row, were shooting to their feet.

The students did, as it turned out, under­stand Smetana’s program notes. Nothing about that concert was a mystery to them. They shot to their feet to acknowledge the 500-year-old sacred battle song. And facing straight at the orchestra, row after row of solemn, frightened, determined students raised a hand above their heads and spread their fingers in the V-sign salute of the democratic revolution of 1989.

That single phrase from the agitated mu­sicians of their nation’s greatest orchestra made those students recognize that they themselves, in the circumstances of modem Prague, were God’s Warriors, and they stood at attention because they were ac­cepting their role, whatever the cost might be. For no one could imagine that a V-sign in November ’89 necessarily signaled vic­tory’s approach. The history of Czechoslo­vakia has not been such as to permit confi­dent eitpectations. The Táborite army of the 15th century went down to bitter de­feat, just as Smetana and the insurrection­ists of 1848 went down, and just as did every effort against the Nazis, too, then against the Communists — until that moment.

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Smetana’s program, faithful to his opening theme of prophecy and sovereignty, none­theless offered a prophecy that the defeated Hussites, having retreated for eternity to Blaník Mountain, would someday awaken and achieve the final redemption of their country. The last section of My Country evokes, as the composer explained, national resurgence: God’s warriors, singing the Hussite hymn, return at last for triumph and redemption. And with the students still on their feet, still saluting, the orchestra went from “Tábor” to begin My Country‘s sixth and final section, “Blaník.”

The same Hussite phrase, sounding this time almost like a march, introduced the section — loud at first, then tense and quiet, steadily advancing. Only to play those notes quietly, to control one’s instrument with unwavering precision — that was more than a human being could do in the face of an audience like those 1500 magnificent students. The violinists, when they went to bow a soft passage, found that their hands were shaking and the bows trembled on the strings. The windplayers put their instru­ments to their mouths, but their lip muscles were quivering.

The Czech Philharmonic was weeping. Yet it was playing. And at last the great symphonic poem that bad begun with implacable arpeggios from the courageous Mrs. Kodadová and her fellow harpist gave way, in the concluding passages, to Smetana’s final burst of national passion, and the rows of brass players raised their instru­ments to play, the trombonists lifted their golden horns, an oversized bell of a bass trombone pointed like a cannon out at the trembling, upright, saluting audience — and “Ye Who Are God’s Warriors” boomed with the spectacular solemnity of the Hus­site army rushing into battle. A million strands of tone and overtone, fireworks of sound, soared from the crowded weeping stage. “Glory Returns to Bohemia,” was the name that Smetana gave to these final explosive passages.

Mr. Stros, from the perspective of a cou­ple of months later, regarded that perfor­mance as the greatest experience of his life. “In such moments,” the cellist told me, “the nation realizes that it still exists.” Smetana himself had predicted exactly such a discovery, incredibly. “On the basis of this melody,” the composer wrote, referring to the motifs from “Ye Who Are God’s Warriors” in the sixth and final section, “will develop the resurrection and the future happiness and glory of the Czech nation!” How ridiculous those words must have seemed to anyone who bothered reading them during the century after Smetana set them down — how foolish of a composer to believe that melody could resurrect a nation.

Yet something like Smetana’s prediction did occur in the auditorium that bore his name. It was as if the great 19th century musician had written his masterpiece ex­pressly for the single concert that eventually took place on the morning of November 23, 1989. Or perhaps there was another way to interpret the morning’s events. Mr. Wald­man, when he spoke of that amazing morn­ing, recalled how, according to Hussite leg­end, merely the sound of that terrible hymn was enough to drive enemies from the field — a not unreasonable explanation for what turned out to have occurred. “We all understood the power of music,” Mr. Waldman told me.

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The CDK Workers

The stunned musicians and their audience, at the end of the performance, walked over to Wenceslas Square for another of the af­ternoon rallies that Mr. Havel and the dissident intellectuals were stubbornly running from their balcony at the Socialist Party newspaper. But the rally that afternoon proved to be a little different from the ones on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

During the morning, the atmosphere in Prague had somehow altered. The news spread that General Secretary Jakes, the Communist leader, that barbarian, the most hated man in Czechoslovakia, had resigned: the revolution’s first important victory. And the social composition of the revolutionary movement visibly changed. On previous days, the crowd at Wenceslas Square consisted mostly of Prague’s stu­dents, joined by actors and musicians and, generally, the intelligentsia.

But the agitation by some of the workers at the giant CDK works in the suburbs had continued; the leaflets smuggled in by Mr. Bortl and others had evidently begun to circulate, in spite of the People’s Militia; and on Thursday morning, while the con­cert went on at Smetana Hall, the political tensions at CDK finally overflowed. Lead­ers of the Communist Party went out to the plant, thinking to get up a progovernment demonstration.

Comrade Miroslav Stepan, the party boss of Prague, stood up to address the workers. It was an incredible moment in the annals of communism. Marxism-Leninism is, to make the most obvious judgment about it, a philosophy of oppression aimed against workers (though it didn’t begin that way)­ — but its special peculiarity is to blind its own proponents from ever quite recognizing that simple truth. “False consciousness” is Mr. Havel’s apt term.

Prague’s leading Communist visited the country’s largest factory complex believing that there, among the foundries and furnaces and the chemical tubing, were his stalwart supporters, his proletarian base, his legitimacy. Instead, one of the data pro­cessors and a couple of his friends went leaping through the corridors calling out to their fellows, and three or four hundred angry workers showed up at the Commu­nist meeting and broke it up with heckles and shouts.

The workers of CDK were not, as it turned out, the supporters of Comrade Ste­pan, an alarming fact, undetected by de­cades of Marxist-Leninist scientific analy­sis, as one of the Western reporters cheerfully noted. The three or four hundred hecklers swelled into two or three thousand, and the thousands headed out from the factory complex to the place where the na­tional fate was being decided, Wenceslas Square.

The distance was 10 kilometers, but in­stead of taking the subway, which would have been the normal way to go, they went on foot. Other people fell in with the line of march, which swelled the CDK delegation still more until, by the time the crowd reached Wenceslas Square, the outpouring onto the mall was immense. It was the Hussite army for real, as it seemed, not the student advance guard but the main corps, returning from Mount Blanik to redeem the nation. It was the working class of Prague.

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Until that afternoon, the balance of power in Czechoslovakia was far from clear, since no one knew what position the working class was going to take, whether the tradi­tional chasm between workers and the in­telligentsia could be bridged, whether the Communists perhaps did retain support in the industrial zones.

It was not as if anybody had ever taken a proper poll to find out what if anything in the Communist propaganda was true. Since 1946, not a single free election had been held. There was not a single free trade union, answerable to its members. The ac­tual opinions of Prague’s labor force were a mystery even to the workers themselves. Or perhaps the mystery can be stated a little more grandly. What exactly was the state of modem culture? The emancipatory impulse that ran like a current from Beethoven’s Leonore overture to the 1848 uprisings to My Country and beyond — did that impulse still exist? Is freedom merely a “Western” custom, unfit for the Slavic mentality or for people in other regions, something lacking in universality?

What evidence did anyone have that peo­ple in the eastern countries, Poland ex­cepted, despised their own totalitarian systems? Who can honestly claim to have seen the revolution coming? Any number of cat­aclysmic possibilities seemed far likelier than a democratic upsurge in Eastern Eu­rope. Nuclear war, if it had broken out, would have surprised no one. Doomsday books on that very theme have lined the bookstores for years. But where were the volumes that predicted the antitotalitarian revolution? Who can claim to have antici­pated a spontaneous march from the indus­trial suburbs into Wenceslas Square to sup­port a revolutionary movement led by a persecuted playwright?

The Praguers themselves, witnessing that huge congregation on the square, hardly knew what to make of it. Their own success seemed too incredible to believe. One tri­umph rose above of the last, like the climb­ing scale that Smetana used for his “Vl­tava” theme — the first demonstrations at the square, Thursday’s march of the CDK workers, the arrival Friday of the old re­form leader of 1968, Alexander Dubcek, the national two-hour general strike by la­bor on the following Monday. But afterward the scale began to climb back down, and the successes seemed to ripple away into the past — at least they seemed to in the eyes of the principal militants in the Phil­harmonic. And in that gloomy atmosphere, Mr. Bortl and a few others, sitting in one of the wine bars that are spread through cen­tral Prague, came up with the idea of ap­pealing once again to music by holding a further concert — the Philharmonic perfor­mance on December 14, the one that was finally reported in The New York Times — ­though not as a victory celebration. On the contrary, the idea was to fend off defeat by reviving some of the revolutionary spirit.

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The musicians put their idea to the main Civic Forum leaders, the leaders ap­proved — and only when the plans for the “Concert for the Civic Forum” were al­ready going into effect did the deeper reali­ty of what had already occurred in the week after the Massacre on Narodní Avenue be­come clear. The Communist Party, stalwart until that point, suddenly began to wobble, like a boxer who has been knocked out but stays on his feet for another few seconds. The Communists in the government one by one began to withdraw, the balance of seats passed to the Civic Forum, the talk of Mr. Havel becoming president got louder — and by then the concert, even before its first note was played, had changed meaning.

It was a victory concert. In token of that victory, the orchestra decided, through its Representative for Secondary Rights, to cancel the fateful boycott of state television and radio that had been approved on the long-ago Stuttgart stage. For what was the point in refusing to collaborate with a com­munist government when communism was already halfway gone? Why not invite the state television to come and record the im­pending triumphal concert? So the camera­men and the recording technicians took their place in the hall along with the faith­ful admiring audience.

The choice to perform Beethoven’s Ninth instead of Smetana again or Dvorak or some other Czech composer may seem a little odd, from a nationalist perspective. But nationalism, always significant, was never exactly dominant in the Czechoslovak revolution. My Country was a splendid and historic call to arms, the appropriate piece for a moment of crisis when everyone had to gird themselves against the possibili­ty of being swiftly massacred by the Peo­ple’s Militia. But exactly what did the musi­cians mean when they invoked Smetana’s call for “the resurrection and the future hap­piness and glory of the Czech nation?”

Everyone had a meaning of choice, and the meanings tended to stress themes and goals that went beyond mere nationalism. Mr. Stros, when he talked about politics, favored a Christian Democratic orientation and looked forward to the growth of a good solid Czechoslovak Christian Democratic party. Mr. Bortl, more in tune with the “antipolitical politics” of Václav Havel, felt himself to have gone beyond the conven­tional political ideologies — Christian dem­ocratic, social democratic, conservative, or liberal, not to mention communist. He was postideological. His historical heroes were “humanitarian personalities” like Dvorak and Smetana, or like Czechoslovakia’s pres­ident from earlier in the century, Tomas Masaryk. “Higher spiritual values” was the phrase that sprang from his lips.

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Maestro Neumann, the conductor of that triumphant performance, stressed values that were cultural above all — the ability to speak Czech properly, a knowledge of mu­sic, the sort of education and cultivation that communism had never been able to provide, despite the seductive promises of 40 years ago. And for people whose revolu­tionary thoughts wandered along paths like those, Beethoven — even granted the awk­ward slipperiness in matters of politics­ — was an obvious choice. Beethoven was above nationality or party. He was the com­poser of freedom, of pure idealism, of the transcendental sublime. Plus Beethoven was victory’s natural favorite, and never more than in the last choral movement of the Ninth Symphony, the “Ode to Joy.”

The applause that rose up in response to that performance, the ovation whose exu­berance was so great as to echo in the distant columns of the Times, the ebullient noise of the “jubilant house” — that ap­plause was nothing if not Prague’s shout of victory. It was an ovation for civilization and spiritual values, for freedom, for the notions that sound silly and abstract if someone extols them at a mass rally but are wonderfully lucid at a Beethoven concert.

Of course the ovation was also for the individuals who had managed to embody and express those philosophies and aspirations. It was for the celebrated conductor who had mounted a one-man boycott of state radio. Czechoslovakia’s leading play­wright came on stage. The ovation was for him, too, and for the years he had spent in prison, and for his ad hoc Civic Forum, whose nonideological doctrine of gentleness and tolerance had translated the spiritual impulse into practical action.

The playwright introduced the Civic Fo­rum’s new Foreign Minister, Mr. Dienst­bier, the veteran dissident, who sat in the box of honor. Vigorous applause greeted Mr. Dienstbier and honored him for his own time in jail, and for the new, non­-Soviet foreign policy he would conduct. Well-known émigrés, just back from exile, were introduced to the house. They, too, received a grand ovation.

The ovation was for the audience itself, the faithful music lovers, citizens of the conservatorium of Europe. It was for the chorus. And the ovation was, not least, for the people who sat in concentric rows to the rear of Maestro Neumann under the huge medallion of Hedrich Smetana — the anonymous members of Czechoslovakia’s leading symphony orchestra.

Nearly a hundred musicians gazed out­ward from the stage into the cream-colored cavern of Smetana Hall. Then the Czech Philharmonic, too, “heroes” of “our revo­lution,” the first ensemble in Czechoslova­kia to go on strike, the vanguard of the vanguard — they, too, an orchestra of free musicians, burst into applause. ■

 

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From The Archives From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES Security THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized Washington, D.C.

Annals of the Age of Reagan: Missile Mess in Europe

True Story of the SS-20 and Pershing II

In the last few weeks, some of the larg­est demonstrations in the postwar history of Western Europe have surged through the streets of London, Brussels, Bonn, Rome, Milan, and Paris. With varying em­phasis, they have been directed against the growth of so-called “theater nuclear” weaponry — primarily the U.S.-made Pershing IIs and Cruise missiles to be deployed by NATO, and the SS-20 missile deployed by the Soviet Union. 

Western European fears are not hard to explain. The Reagan administration, rabid on the topic of the Russian threat, has escalated bellicose rhetoric to a level which quite simply terrifies people. Ensuing assertions by the administration that deployment of the new NATO missiles will go hand-in-hand with talks with the Rus­sians on reduction of these and the Soviet missiles seem either specious or ludicrous. 

Reaganite rationale for the Pershing IIs and the Cruise, following the line of the Carter administration — which promulgated the policy — is that something had to be done about the threat posed by the fearsome SS-20s, and that it was in fact Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Ger­many who asked for the new weapons in the first place. In a talk with U.S. journal­ists on October 29, Schmidt denied this, and said Carter had proposed the plan at the Guadeloupe summit in January 1979. 

Whatever the truth of Schmidt’s asser­tion, the proposed deployment of the new missiles threatens his own leadership and has posed enormous problems for NATO, confronted by a peace movement broader by far than the campaigns of the late 1950s. 

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Crisis at Nadiradze
Acres of newsprint in recent years have been covered with spine-shriveling ver­biage about the Soviet SS-20 medium­-range missiles, invoked by U.S. and Western European arms lobbies as the most conspicuous evidence of Soviet de­termination to Finlandize the continent from the Elbe River to the Bay of Biscay, and as a threat which had to be countered. 

But in all the high-minded discussion about the famous SS-20s and the NATO response to them, much essential data has been omitted. 

Arms debates, as conducted by politi­cians, strategists, and the press, invariably ignore an important point: weapons are made by people who want to make money out of them. And if these people have no weapons to make, they will be out of a job. 

Such was the grim prospect faced by at least some of the comrades at the Nadiradze Design Bureau in the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s, and by their op­posite numbers in the Martin Marietta Corporation in the United States. 

The Nadiradze Design Bureau has, for the last 20 years, been charged with the responsibility for constructing a solid­-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile for the Strategic Rocket Forces of the Soviet Union. Other bureaus in the Soviet Union, such as the Yangel and Cholomei, have been briskly turning out liquid-fueled ICBMs (the SS-11, 17, 18, 19), all of a type abandoned by the U.S. some 20 years ago. 

After herculean efforts, the Nadiradze Bureau finally managed to come up with a prototype for the SS-16 in the mid-’70s. It was not a success. Test-firings, monitored by the U.S., almost invariably went wrong, and the SS-16 never went into production. Glum faces in the comfortable dachas inhabited by Nadiradze bureaucrats and engineers — and in the adjacent dachas inhabited by the generals of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces, who had been promised up-to-date missiles of the sort flaunted by the Americans.

From this crisis emerged the SS-20, hailed by Nadiradze salesmen and by U.S. threat-inflaters as super-accurate and terrifyingly MIRVed with up to three warheads. In fact the SS-20 is our old friend, the SS-16, chopped down by a third. The Russians began to deploy it in the late 1970s across the breadth of the Soviet Union, aimed at both the Chinese and NATO hordes.

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…and at Martin Marietta
Meanwhile, in the early 1970s, a crisis rather similar to that afflicting the Nadiradze/Strategic Rocket Forces complex was brewing between the Martin Marietta Corporation, headquartered in Florida, and the U.S. Army. 

By 1970, Martin Marietta was in danger of losing its treasured status as a “prime contractor” for military aerospace items. A prime contractor makes complete systems — a plane, a missile, a ship — thus lording it over humbler accomplices making subsystems: parts. One of the corporation’s more successful recent products had been the Pershing I medium-range nuclear missile, contracted for by the U.S. Army and deployed in Europe. But the days of Pershing I production were ebbing. Martin Marietta was faced with the disaster of no follow-on contract, and the U.S. Army with the prospect of being without an up-to-date nuclear missile and losing the last vestiges of nuclear missile turf to the enemy — the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. 

At the time, there were no plans in NATO to purchase a fresh range of nuclear missiles for deployment in Europe. NATO was amply equipped with nuclear bombs on planes, on the aforementioned Pershing I, and on Polaris submarines. Undeterred by the absence of a policy decision by the NATO powers (and certainly undisturbed by the SS-20 threat, which had yet to be invented by the Nadiradze Bureau), the U.S. Army funded the development of the Pershing II, which, it claimed, would have a longer range than its predecessor and unprecedented accuracy.

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A Blessed Threat
Development of the Pershing II went limping along, to the gratification of the army and Martin Marietta but unbeknownst to all but the most assiduous readers of U.S. military budget statements. No production contracts had been awarded. Then came salvation, with the news that the SS-20 was being deployed. Threatmongers, notably Richard Burt — then at the Institute for Strategic Studies, subsequently defense correspondent for The New York Times, and now a Haig deputy in the State De­partment — and Uwe Nerlich, a West Ger­man defense analyst, began to bewail a NATO “escalation gap” which supposedly had opened up, requiring the deployment of a fresh generation of missiles in Europe. 

Thus, in the face of the dreadful SS-20 threat, began the campaign for installation of Pershing II and Cruise missiles — every­one conveniently forgetting that in the ’60s the U.S. had withdrawn medium-range missiles capable of hitting the Soviet Un­ion from Europe in favor of missiles of equal prowess based on submarines cruis­ing in the North Atlantic and Mediter­ranean. 

The advantage of the Pershing II over the Pershing I is that it will be capable, if deployed, of hitting the Soviet Union — a fact not lost on the Soviets, who are less worried about the slow-moving and wildly inaccurate Cruise than the Pershing II, which can reach their territory in five min­utes. 

NATO proposes to deploy 108 Pershing IIs and 464 ground-launched Cruise mis­siles. The Soviets have about 259 SS-20s deployed in the Soviet Union. 

It goes without saying that both the Pershing II and SS-20 have far fewer technical capabilities than those usually pro­claimed on the printed page. Veterans of Pentagon procurement say that even by the usual relaxed standards, the tests of the Pershing II guidance system were “outrageously faked.” The SS-20, some­times called “highly mobile” but with the relative speed of movement of an oil rig, has also turned out to be much less ac­curate than claimed. 

Today, the collective lunges at self-preservation and profit of the Nadiradze Bureau and Martin Marietta have led to the rebirth of the disarmament lobby and a mass movement in Europe, and the corresponding derogation of NATO. 

The uproar has greatly benefited the Russians. For years, the Soviet Union has been trying to get forward-based tactical nuclear systems included in arms-limita­tion talks. For years, the U.S. has stoutly resisted. Now, under pressure from Western European allies, the U.S. may at last have to enter into serious limitation talks about these very systems. 

If the U.S. decides to abort such talks, the Russians come out ahead once again­ because European disarmament cam­paigns will continue with redoubled force. 

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From The Archives From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

RUSSIA ATTACKS!

When Alexander Dubček became Czechoslovakia’s leader, in January 1968, many reformers in his country were hopeful that he would loosen the stifling social and economic constraints enforced in the Eastern Bloc. Ignoring pressure from Moscow, Dubček did indeed implement a program he termed “Socialism with a human face,” which led to greater freedom of expression and association among Czech citizens. After eight months of what became known as the “Prague Spring,” the Soviet Union had had enough of this satellite country questioning the Kremlin’s authority, and on August 21, Warsaw Pact tanks rolled into the city.

In the August 29, 1968, issue of the Voice, the editors published a letter under the heading “Czechmate,” which read in full, “This is not just a tragic moment of Czechoslovakia and its people, but also for the United States. The Soviet Union has just ‘elected’ Nixon President of this country.”

The letter’s author was implying that this display of brutality by the Soviets would strengthen the hand of Richard Nixon, an old-line anti-Communist and fear-mongering demagogue, who had recently been nominated as the Republican Party’s candidate. A Jules Feiffer cartoon at the bottom of the page revealed another dilemma for American citizens: Like the Soviets, the United States was also embroiled in a foreign conflict, one that many saw as even more savage and aggressive — the war in Vietnam.

The following week the Voice published an eyewitness account of the Soviet invasion. It was from David McReynolds, who often wrote for the Voice’s “Press of Freedom” department, which welcomed opinionated manuscripts on any subject. The 38-year-old activist had been in Europe for two conferences addressing war resistance and international disarmament. Afterward, he went to Prague for a four-day vacation.

Then the tanks rolled in.

In his report to Voice readers, he says up front, “It is because I know that every ‘Cold Warrior’ welcomes the events in Prague that I must note simply that bad as the invasion was it does not compare to the United States actions in Vietnam where a million or more have died. Prague and Saigon are linked symbols of the contempt great powers have for the right of smaller nations to self-determination.” Later he notes, “Tanks are ugly things. They were filled with young Russians, men who had been told they were going on maneuvers and found out they were invaders of a socialist country. They were frightened.” One assumes McReynolds got this information from Czechs who talked to the Russians. (In fact, he reports that, rather than throw rocks, Czech crowds surrounded the Russian vehicles, “arguing, pleading, explaining.” He adds, “I learned that on Wednesday night all the bars had closed to prevent anyone from getting drunk and charging at tanks.”)

He treks to a drugstore to get film for his camera and photographs an invading tank; that picture joins another on the Voice’s front page of an armored vehicle on the streets of Chicago at the Democratic National Convention. (That story will appear here tomorrow.) McReynolds observes a young man using his bicycle to block traffic as a protest. Horns honk to instigate a general strike. “At that moment, with the kid in the street and the horns blaring, a Soviet troop carrier came shooting down the street. The kid held his ground, perhaps paralyzed with fear or courage, but it would have made no difference to the troop carrier, which wasn’t even slowing down.” The boy is pulled from harm, but McReynolds’ sensitive account reminds today’s readers of another frustrated citizen facing down the fearsome power of the state, when that forever-unknown protester stopped a column of Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square, in 1989.

McReynolds died last Friday, exactly half-a-century to the day after arriving in Prague for his fateful “vacation.” As the New York Times noted in his obituary, this lifelong progressive ticked off many boxes on the side of the angels: “Mr. McReynolds was best known for his demonstrations against the draft during the Vietnam War, his advocacy of pacifism and denuclearization, and his two bids for president in 1980 and 2000 as an openly gay man running on the Socialist Party USA ticket.” Add to all that, “Village Voice correspondent.”

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CULTURE ARCHIVES FILM ARCHIVES

“Nico, 1988” Demands the World Look More Closely at the One-Time Chelsea Girl

The music made by the songwriter and composer Nico in the two decades after her brief association with the Velvet Underground tended toward drone and plod, toward a Teutonic bluntness and a gothic mournfulness, its beat as flat as her bleat. On occasion, her work echoed the lullaby delicacy of the songs Lou Reed wrote for her, among them “Femme Fatale” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” But Nico’s work, as Nico would be the first to tell you, was not for everyone — which, of course, makes it mean all the more to those of us who love it.

“I’m very selective of my audience,” Trine Dyrholm’s Nico declares to an interviewer late in Nico, 1988, writer-director Susanna Nicchiarelli’s precise, piercing study of the star’s last years. The statement is half put-on justification, something like what the teenage Nico fans I knew during the years the film is set might say to explain the tininess of our groups of friends. But there’s truth in it, too: Nico wouldn’t and couldn’t change her art, her sound, herself even if she had wanted to. Reed wrote for her the question “And what costume shall the poor girl wear to all tomorrow’s parties?” Nicchiarelli’s film, the rare biographical picture to advance a critical argument, insists that Nico, born Christa Päffgen, wore no costume: By the 1980s, a lifetime removed from her modeling career and the Factory scene, Nico and her art had become one. Nico, 1988 shows us the star pouring all her pain and exuberance into music that she doesn’t care whether you take or leave. She even wants to leave it herself, toward the end, when the idea comes to her that she might work in a flower shop instead — that she might spend her days around life. But she can’t. She might insist that some acquaintances call her Christa, but she’s too Nico not to be Nico.

Like much of Nico’s music, Nicchiarelli’s film is a funeral march, trudging toward the oblivion hinted at by the title. Most of Nico, 1988 takes place two years before its subject’s death, in 1986, when a now raven-haired Nico (played with an inquisitive weariness by the excellent Dyrholm) tours Europe with a band of amateur musicians desperate for gigs. Some also are desperate for their next fix. We first see their leader shoot up in Manchester, England, while being shown a one-bedroom flat she’ll be renting. Nico asks to use the restroom, and then, alone, pulls out the microphone of the tape recorder she carries everywhere and studies the room’s ambiance. Apparently satisfied, she pulls a needle from her pack, taps it, then jabs it into her ankle.

At its best, Nicchiarelli’s film, which is based on accounts from people who knew Nico, summons up the presence of its subject, studying her behavior, allowing her her mysteries. What is she listening for on that recorder? When she nods off, heroin pulsing through her, what does she dream of? What does she make of the scraggly crowds of leathered outcasts who attend her shows? Nicchiarelli does offer some explanations, through flashbacks often less convincing than the film’s 1980s present. As the smack hits, we see a baby crying in a hospital, then a vision of Nico’s golden 1960s self, the woman thought of as the femme fatale and the Chelsea girl. Later, crashing in the home of a booking agent who wouldn’t spring for a hotel for the band, Nico declares that she misses her son, the boy she had too young, before she’d had a chance to invent herself — before she had become Nico.

That’s blunt, but so is a parent’s pain. Nicchiarelli doesn’t belabor her subject’s regrets, and she never suggests that there’s one key to understanding Nico’s heart. And instead of setting up a sentimental reunion, Nico’s regrets push the film toward tragedy. We meet the handsome young son (Sandor Funtek) in a French rehab hospital. And we wince when Nico suggests that when he’s released, they might make up for lost time by him coming on tour with her — the last thing a recovering addict should do. He joins her on the next tour, in 1987.

Much of the film covers life on the road in the days before the collapse of the Soviet empire. It’s a blur of cramped cars, school dormitories, small crowds, and even smaller triumphs and humiliations. The show must go on, which means heroin must be secured and border guards must be satisfied. Sometimes the show seems meaningless, and she yells at the band and storms offstage; sometimes, like in an underground club in a school in Prague, the show seems like an urgent cry of freedom itself. (Dyrholm’s furious power in the best concert sequences have more fire than I’ve ever heard from the real Nico.) She’s persistently interviewed by clueless journalists who only know her VU work; she pretends not to notice that the manager (John Gordon Sinclair) with whom she occasionally sleeps is desperately in love with her.

Curiously, movingly, in the final scenes, the sense that we’re treading grimly toward her death lightens, just a bit. Having cleaned herself up, Nico at times seems to enjoy being Nico, and Dyrholm even dares a smile. Her performance works both as impersonation — her amused utterances sound a lot like the real Nico’s announcement, after an exquisite 1983 performance of “Orly Flight,” that “I’m not a very good piano player” — but succeeds most as an investigation, even a summation. Nico, 1988 offers all I want from this kind of movie: a sense of what time with someone unknowable might have been like.

Nico, 1988
Written and directed by 
Susanna Nicchiarelli
Magnolia Pictures
Opens August 1, Film Forum  

 

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CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives FILM ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Theater

Studies in Crap and the USSR’s Ministry of Health Love Themselves Some Gently NSFW Socialized Medicine!

Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.


Public Health and Social Security in the USSR

Author: Either an upbeat cadre of Soviet propagandists or, for you FOX viewers, Obama with a time machine.

Publisher: USSR Ministry of Health
Date: circa 1963
Discovered at: Estate sale

The Cover Promises: Soviet men are so vigorous in all capacities that women must peer upwards, on constant alert, ready to catch the newborn comrades that rain from the skies.

Representative Quotes:

“A uniform system of free medical attention operates throughout the Soviet Union.” (page 14)

“There are increased pensions, depending on the service record, which are granted to teachers, doctors, civil airways air crews, ballet dancers, many categories of circus performers, and people of a number of other professions.” (page 21-22)

Engineered in some Ministry of Smiling Babies & Glorious Sunshine to demonstrate that life in the Soviet Union is, was, and always will be a series of escalating triumphs, this cheerful pamphlet trumpets the USSR’s progress in delivering free health care to its people. The verdict of the apparatchiks working whatever idea assembly-line that pumped this out: everything’s super, and getting super-er.

They back this up with stat after stat in polished English. By 1962, the authors claim, “real incomes” for Soviet workers had risen 18 per cent in three years, while a growing national income at the same time allowed the government to boast about providing pensions for 25 million workers, paid holidays 69 million, and education for 61 million.

This, we learned, stirred happiness in the population, who, to honor this government, made dutiful love to each other:

“The high birth-rate in the U.S.S.R. is testimony of the rising material and cultural welfare of Soviet people, an indication that young mothers and fathers look to the future with confidence.”

Another key factor in that high birth-rate? Hotness!

 

The propagandists admit that even a boon like this storm of Soviet Success Babies can present some minor difficulties:

“The expectant mother prepares layettes for her baby. The father cudgels his brain over the problem of his son or daughter.”

Tragically, the father only can dash that brain in after bribing an official a week’s salary for cudgel access.

Once born, children are arranged into multiplication tables.

Then, just like here, they’re stuffed with false promises.

(Note: “All Roads” excludes any that head west.)

Still, every Soviet baby enjoys one great opportunity: the chance to audition for Bob Fosse!

 

Pop Quiz! Which is he actual caption?
The one on the right is more West Side Story than Cabaret.

  • Baking eliminates trans-fats but still locks in that great baby flavor.
  • Meanwhile, top aides to L. Ron Hubbard come ever closer to hatching Tom Cruise 2.0.
  • In Norilisk, a town within the Arctic Circle, children are growing up healthy and strong. Quartz lamps make up for the deficiency in sunlight.

No matter what, it’s disgusting! Only the most corrupt and desperate failing power would resort to the exploitation of baby nudity!

 

At least the communists have decency enough not to try to make the babies sexy.

Shocking Detail:
Often indebted to the techniques of western advertising, the photos and slogans here seem more persuasive than pamphlet’s many statistics. (What are we to make of the boast “Cars are sold to invalids on easy terms, and those who want motor carriages get them free of charge”?)

More powerfully, the authors promise on page one that “Man is the most precious of all the wealth of the land of the Soviets” and then parade images of that man’s greatness.

The USSR is the home of:
Nude retirement!

Robot gynecologists!

 

Permafrost horseplay!

 

Highlight:
Note the caption’s implication: “Pitiful American men, with your heated water, tasteful underthings, and Ford motor cars like glorious baby asses! Never will you understand the simple pleasure of gang-icing a portly comrade!”

Soviet youth trust so deeply in their health care system that they laugh and cheer even as they destroy their bodies . . . kind of like Americans today, except with sleds and broken bones rather than corn syrup and diabetes!