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Soviet Russia

Politics/World

Christopher Hitchens: Premature Anti-Castroite

Nearing the end of his life, Christopher Hitchens no longer considered himself a Trotskyite, or even a socialist. But he never repudiated his Vietnam-era politics, and to his dying day praised the “heroic” Vietcong, despite Ho Chi Minh’s obvious Stalinist-style politics and how said politics were murderously applied after Saigon fell (Hitchens, like others in the New Left, blamed Minh and Pol Pot’s savagery on America’s relentless bombing campaign). But Hitchens departed from the New Left from the very beginning by criticizing one of their sacred cows: Fidel Castro. Like Lee Harvey Oswald (who, as a gun-brandishing Marxist-spouting deadbeat, would have fit easily into the Weathermen), the New Left lauded the Cuban dictator for his scrappy opposition against “fascist” American imperialism and for his “purer” form of Marxism over the Soviet syetem. For them, Castro was worthy to stand beside their other idols, Ho Chi Minh (many of the violence-practicing New Left proclaimed themselves “America’s Vietcong”) and Mao. But Hitchens kept his head about Castro. Like many of his… Keep Reading

Culture/History

George Orwell: More Astute Than Edmund Wilson

Biographers of literary critic Edmund Wilson have asserted that the writer who bears the closest resemblance to Wilson, who reigned as America’s premier man of letters from the 1920s—1960s, is George Orwell. Writing of his subject, Lewis Dabney sought to validate this trans-Atlantic connection by stating that, like Wilson, Orwell was “a social critic who’d digested Marxism, a satirist and autobiographer until 1984 better known as a man of letters than for his fiction.” Dabney noted that both men, rarely praiseworthy of their contemporaries (although Orwell inexplicably lauded Henry Miller), were so toward each other. Orwell lauded Wilson’s essay on Charles Dickens, and Wilson praised Animal Farm even more, calling it “absolutely first-rate” and Orwell worthy to stand beside “Swift and Voltaire.” With this review, Wilson, stingy with praise, made Orwell’s reputation in America, and, according to Dabney “helped sell many thousands of [Animal Farm] copies in United States.” During a largely cordial meeting, Wilson, nevertheless, was angrily critical of the British author for blaming the damage done to… Keep Reading

History/Politics/Religion

Graham Greene: Catholic Communist

One of the more transparently manipulative and hypocritical slogans used by Western Communist Parties in the mid 1930s to recruit allies for Stalin was specifically designed for Catholics: “You can still take Communion and love the Soviet Union.” Graham Greene, novelist, pundit, and above all, Catholic, embodied this slogan. Indeed, Greene’s attempts to link Catholicism with a Soviet Union that persecuted priests from the get-go predated this slogan. Since the 1920s, Greene had sought to merge his Catholic faith with his Communist one, which prompted George Orwell, a foe of both organized religion and communism, to label Green the first “Catholic fellow traveler.” But even today, an argument is made that Greene was hostile to Communism in whatever form it took until his death in 1991. This school of thought relies on criticisms Greene made toward the ideology throughout his life. Keep Reading

Culture/History

The Struggle To Publish Animal Farm

George Orwell’s devastating satire on Stalinism, Animal Farm remains even 72 years later, along with Nineteen Eighty-Four, the gold standard for totalitarian literature. But Orwell’s classic novel which established the phrase “Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others” nearly didn’t secure a publisher, who based their rejections not on the quality of the book, but because of its unwelcome politics. Written and submitted during the height of Soviet popularity in 1943-1945, who, as a war-time ally pushed Hitler all the way back to Berlin, the fable was rejected not only by pro-Stalinists and at least one KGB agent, but by conservatives as well. Copies were even burned at one point in protest. Keep Reading

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