far the MSM commentariat has failed to find some obvious
connections between globalization and a
relatively recent social experiment—the Russian
Revolution. Apparently, it`s easier to speculate about
the nascent internationalism of
Alexander the Great, the Knights Templar(mentioned
Economist as the earliest
multinational company) or
Genghis Khan than it is to try to explain critical
events of 90 years ago.
the beginning of the 20th century, Europe
imagined itself on the threshold of worldwide
enlightenment. The growth of international socialism
would end nationalism, it was widely believed. At most,
questions“ had become mere irritants to be swept
aside on the road to the Great Enlightenment.
More recently, all this has been happening again. But
this time the triumphalism is capitalist (at least
Davos-style capitalism). Thus Wall Street Journal
late editor Robert Bartley notoriously
declared the nation-state dead. Bartley never
explained, at least in public, what he thought would
replace it. But I suspect he would have shared the
Economist`s enthusiasm over the fact that
General Electric "seems able to train … its
recruits to think as GE people first and
Offspring, The Economist, April 7, 2007]
However, long before the editors of the Wall Street
Journal and The Economist were acting as if
primacy of international commerce and consumerism
had trumped the nation-state,
the creators of the Soviet empire were insisting that
all peoples would blend peaceably together into one. For
the Bolsheviks too, there was no "national question"
For instance, both Lenin and Stalin regarded Jews as a
nation which existed on paper only. They predicted the
4,000 year-old people, along with all other nations,
would soon become part of a new
nationality-free human race. Trotsky, the
supreme internationalist, ostentatiously disavowed
his Jewish identity.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn addresses post-nationalism
directly in his latest work 200 Years Together.
(Volume 1, on pre-Revolutionary Russia, was published in
Russia in 2001; Volume 2,
covering the Revolution and the Soviet era,
in 2002). In a
remarkable cultural development, 200 Years
Together has yet to find an
English-language publisher, arguably because of its
frank focus on Russian-Jewish relations, although the
eminent Jewish scholar Richard Pipes,
reviewing the first volume in the New Republic,
concluded that Solzhenitsyn
“absolves himself of the taint
observes that doubts about the
validity of national identity tend to rise at
various times when useful to those in power or as part
of political strategy. Such was the straitjacket imposed
on thought by Soviet socialism that nationality was
"a social construct" that could easily be
de-constructed. As Solzhenitsyn observes in his frank
"Before the camps, I regarded the existence of nationality
as something that shouldn`t be noticed—nationality did
not really exist, only humanity. But in the camps one
learns: if you belong to a successful nation you are
protected and you survive. If you are part of universal
bad for you."
Solzhenitsyn proposes that the "February"
revolution of 1917, while establishing
civil rights for all minorities in the realm, was
essentially a "Russian" revolution carried out by
Russians for Russians. The February Revolution was a
ruinous misstep, but at least it did not require the
complete destruction of all that went before it.
But the second, or "October", revolution in 1917
was an "internationalist" revolution and
destroyed the entire order that fell into its grasp.
Solzhenitsyn notes it was "international vanguards"
that mowed down Easter worshippers as they processed
from the old city in Tula in 1918. It was
internationalists who banned the teaching of
"reactionary", "nationalist" Hebrew and set
up "living synagogues" and "living churches"
where Lenin`s portrait was to hang in a prominent place
on the walls.
The Bolsheviks undertook a great social experiment,
which they expected would be copied and expand across
the globe. Indeed, some Bolshevik ideologues held that
proletarian dictatorship would not succeed unless
it encompassed the entire globe. It`s not just
capital which has no fatherland.
Revolution poured convulsively outward, establishing a
temporary beachhead for the
global proletarian dictatorship in Warsaw,
Budapest, Berlin and Bavaria as well as challenging the
governments of China and Western Europe.
Western intellectuals who could be found
buzzing around Moscow in the early years after
the revolution. And not only intellectuals—Solzhenitsyn
quotes this from a diarist of the time after the
suppression of the rebellion against the Bolsheviks in
the Baltic seaport
These were halcyon
days for European leftist intellectuals—anticipating the
swoon in some circles over globalism today.
What would it take
to end the left`s enchantment with
the Soviet experiment? Solzhenitsyn reports on the
efforts of B.D. Brutskus to raise a protest among
Western intellectuals in 1930, long after the
horror of the Soviet regime was
obvious to those with eyes to see,
Albert Einstein signed a protest after the execution
of food industry workers in September, 1930 for
"causing" famine. But
Einstein later withdrew his signature saying the
"Soviet Union has achieved a great accomplishment"
and "Western Europe… will soon envy [the Soviets]".
Romain Rolland, the French author and
Nobel Prize in Literature in 1915, refused to
protest the criminal regime.
that only "Germans and rightists" could be found
to protest Soviet barbarism. The glorious future
beckoning from just over the horizon justified
the ranks of the Soviet apparat were predominantly
Russian, but political power, at least in the early
years, was international and "its diverse elements
united to form an anti-Russian front against a Russian
state and Russian traditions." Despite the
anti-Russian orientation of early Soviet power and the
multinational makeup of the executioners, Solzhenitsyn
says it was still Russians who were blamed for enslaving
the other ethnics that made up the Soviet empire.
ethnicity conveniently substituted for the
boilerplate class-origins categories that were
scapegoated by Soviet PC history for all that went wrong
in Russia`s past.
From Solzhenitsyn`s experience in the camps:
"All nations in the
Gulag crawled in order to survive and the lower to
the ground they got, the better the chances of survival.
But Russians in `their own Russian` camps were the
Any denationalization campaign leads with an assault on the
core nationality of the nation-state.
"During the 20`s the very understanding of Russian history
was changed—there was none! And the understanding of
what a Russian is was changed—there was no such thing!
And what was most painful, we Russians ourselves
willingly walked along this suicidal path. The period of
the 20`s was considered the dawn of liberation…. I
recall from my school days that even the word `Russian`,
such as `I am a Russian` sounded like a call to
counter-revolution…. But everywhere was heard and
printed the term `Russopyati`."
[a curse word for
Sound familiar? In "liberated" America, only
minorities can claim a national identity.
Elite foundation support for racist organizations,
"affirmative action" for immigrants, the
astonishing alliance between the welfare state and
corporate power, border guards
jailed while drug dealers roam free, federal handout
programs, such as
the USDA Minority Farm Register which
white farmers no matter how poor while including
recent immigrants no matter how wealthy, an amnesty and
mass invitation to welfare—could the most evil xenophobe
have dreamed up better ways to identify centralized
immigrant entitlement and privilege?
This and faux
multiculturalism, a maidservant of the globalist
agenda, have resulted in one group being asked to deny
nationality and past while others are encouraged to
play up their separate identity.
co-dependence of the
state and aggrieved minorities is the ultimate irony
of the new
Its clearest mainstream political expression is found in
Bill Richardson`s oft-repeated question: "What do
Hispanics want? Fully funded government programs!"
The state can
never grow large enough to satisfy the wants
of newly-arriving immigrant groups, especially when
it is encouraging the growth of those groups and their
expectations. At the same time, to the extent the
state is identified, rightly or wrongly, with minority
or immigrant privilege, it will lose its legitimacy and
Of course, in some
ways it might appear to be simpler if nationality did
not exist and everyone on earth had the same way of
life. That`s the presumed, unmentioned benefit of
globalization and the varying ideologies that travel
Solzhenitsyn asserts that "the erosion of nations…
will sooner lead to the entropy of the soul… not the
unification of humanity". And the 20th
century showed us just what that "entropy of the
soul" can bring.
wisely refrain from predicting what a truly globalized
look like in the end. The Russian Revolution, a
signal event of the universalist,
socialist vision remains little understood. And the
work of one most capable of explaining it has been
But a debate is
underway, perhaps out of public view, over the proper
balance between the
universal and the national.
The latter is
still very much alive—100 years after it was supposed to
And every nation
must face the dilemma noted by Solzhenitsyn:
"How difficult and
intertwined are the ways of self-preservation and self
sacrifice which alone can save humanity."
Thomas Allen (email
him) describes himself as a recovering refugee worker.
Fluent in Russian, he is currently translating
200 Years Together.