This entire year, I’ve been a vagabond, but you, too, have been on a journey, away from just about everything you’ve known, into the vaguest of futures, and we’re just getting started. Steered by obscured hands, we’re whipped around blind bends, towards a reality we have no part in shaping.
Yesterday, my friend Chuck Orloski emailed me photos of Fiddler’s, a bar in Larksville, PA (pop. 4,400). They depict normal folks, men and women from roughly 30 to 65-years-old, sitting next to each other, each with a glass or bottle of beer. There’s a ketchup squeeze bottle as well, so at least hotdogs are served. With a bag of potato chips, it’s a fine meal.
The bartender is a pretty blonde in her early 20’s. Eye candies snare customers and get good tips. Older broads must work harder. In Philadelphia’s O’Jung’s, there’s a beer slinger in her 50’s, with short hair, false teeth, ample jugs and a fondness for jokes.
“What blinks and fucks all night?”
“I don’t know, Brigitte.”
She started to blink really fast.
As you leave, she’d yell something like, “Come back tomorrow! Free blowjobs!”
Chuck and I have sat in many bars like Fiddler’s. It’s where guys like Johnny the Hat or Johnny AC go after work to reward and gather themselves. It’s where they drop in after dinner to banter, brood, listen to all those old songs, again and again, or stare at balls and strikes. If they’re retired or just unemployed, they can show up minutes after breakfast. Of course, no one goes to faggoty concerts, operas or art galleries, but even ballgames have become way too expensive.
“So bars in Scranton are operating normally now?” I asked Chuck.
“No. Have not seen any Scranton bars open like that. Fiddler’s is in a small town, Larksville, near Wilkes Barre. Was like being on another planet, Linh.”
Now, just having a beer in a neighborhood dive is “like being on another planet”! Looking more closely, I notice no one is smiling in Fiddler’s. All fifteen faces are blank or even grim, and who can blame them? How many have lost their jobs? How many can no longer pay for groceries and must rely on food banks or soup kitchens, like Chuck himself? How many have skipped several months’ rents and are facing eviction?
Soon enough, you may have to hit actual roads, just to eat, a nation of juked and jived Joads.
During the last Depression, thousands of Americans were desperate enough to sail all the way to Stalin’s Soviet Union. Though many were Communists or at least left-leaning, most were just economic migrants, with some arriving only on short-term contracts. These distinctions didn’t really matter. Most would be killed, either with a bullet to the back of the head or from overwork in gulags. With the conniving yet bumbling FDR as Stalin’s chum, these hapless Yanks got no help from their government.
Thanks to an Unz commenter, mark tapley, I found out about Tim Tzouliadis’ The Forsaken. Scrupulously researched and beautifully written, it’s 364 pages of harrowing yet mesmerizing reading, and entirely relevant to our times. Most instructively, Tzouliadis highlights the moral dimension of each character, from world figures to the forsaken and practically erased, even now.
Tzouliadis’ important book was completely ignored by the Washington Post and New York Times, etc., but it’s no surprise, really, for the red tinted Paper of Record had just run a remarkably bloodless, wistful and even optimistic series on Communism, The Red Century. Since there were a few unfortunate snags the first time around, let’s do it again, but more political correctly. It’s time for a Red redux!
Invited writer Kristen R. Ghodsee tells us, “Some might remember that Eastern bloc women enjoyed many rights and privileges unknown in liberal democracies at the time, including major state investments in their education and training, their full incorporation into the labor force, generous maternity leave allowances and guaranteed free child care. But there’s one advantage that has received little attention: Women under Communism enjoyed more sexual pleasure.”
Yuri Slezkine spins hammer and sickle childrearing, “The Bolsheviks never worried much about the family, never policed the home, and never connected the domestic rites of passage–childbirth, marriage and death–to their sociology and political economy […] Even at the height of fear and suspicion, when anyone connected to the outside world might be subject to sacrificial murder, Soviet readers were expected to learn from Dante, Shakespeare and Cervantes.”
Never policed the home?! What about all those Soviet kids who were brainwashed and hectored into denouncing their parents as enemies of the people? For accusing his peasant father of hoarding grain, 14-year-old Pavlik Morozov became a Soviet hero whose statues littered the Russian landscape.
Andrew Gittlitz concludes his piece, “‘Make it So’: ‘Star Trek’ and Its Debt to Revolutionary Socialism,” with a “revolutionary ultimatum” from Rosa Luxemburg, “socialism or barbarism,” and that’s pretty much the New York Times’ stance as well. There’s only one correct way forward!
Even with 85 to 100 million victims, Communism remains au courant, especially among the sophomoric, ahistorical and, well, Jews, so if you even dare to cite those unfathomably ghastly figures, you must be a Nazi or something.
With its absolute moral righteousness, us-against-them mentality and incitement to violence in the name of global justice, it attracts the worst kind of busybody fanatics. Cloaking their boundless hatred, anger and resentment with feel-good buzzwords, they can go on an invigorating offensive against accused bourgeoisies, kulaks, reactionaries, Fascists, spies, wreckers, diversonists and deplorables, ad infinitum. Since there will always be those who resist their suffocating orthodoxy, if only by a hair, they will never run out of enemies.
By 1937, Soviet Russia has already disappeared 17 million souls. Tzouliadis, “According to a report from Mech, a Russian-language weekly published in Poland, the  census declared a population total of 159 million, instead of the projected 176, amounting to 17 million people who had disappeared […] Stalin reacted to the news by having the hapless statisticians shot. A new census was ordered whose experts learned from their predecessors’ mistakes and wisely presented the ‘correct’ set of results. Years later a secret report ordered by Nikita Khrushchev revealed that between 1935 and 1941, the NKVD arrested more than 19 million citizens.”
At the beginning of the 1930’s, however, no one could foresee this impending carnage, so thousands rushed to the Socialist Paradise. “In the first eight months of 1931 alone, Amtorg—the Soviet trade agency based in New York—received more than one hundred thousand American applications for emigration to the USSR.” As the country collapsed, like right now, citizens simply fled. There were “more people out of work in the United States, both actually and proportionately, than in any other nation on earth.”
This influx of Americans was a propaganda bonanza for the Soviets, so they gladly touted how well these transplants were doing. In 1934, 30,000 Russians watched as a 19-year-old American, Victor Herman, jumped from an airplane to set the world free fall record, at 142 seconds. Herman was feted as “the Lindbergh of Russia.”
When a black American, Robert Robinson, was assaulted by two white compatriots, the resulting trial generated worldwide publicity. Ironically, the repatriation of his assailants likely saved their lives, while Robinson would be stuck in the Soviet Union for 44 years, with his attempts to get out repeatedly thwarted.
When Robinson sought help from Paul Robeson, he was lectured by one of his aids, “What do you think you are doing, Robinson, running away from here? You must stay right where you are. You belong here for the good of the cause. Or maybe you’re trying to tarnish Paul’s reputation, by getting him involved in your attempt to leave. That is all I have to say to you. You may go now!” Robeson’s wife added, “We have thought about your request, and he has decided that he cannot help you. You see, we do not really know you well enough, to know what is in your mind. Suppose he were to help you leave, and then when you arrived in Ethiopia, you decided to turn anti-Soviet. We would find ourselves in trouble with the authorities here.”
Finally allowed to take a vacation in Uganda in 1974, Robinson was granted asylum by Idi Amin. There, he married an American, but only in 1986 could they return to the US together.
By November 1932, the Anglo-American school in Moscow already had 125 students. There, Lovett Fort-Whiteman taught chemistry, physics and math. A co-founder of the American Negro Labor Congress, Fort-Whiteman had first come to Moscow in 1924 for ideological training.
By 1937, the Texas native had seen enough of the Soviet Union. Tzouliadis, “Lovett Fort-Whiteman disappeared soon after applying for permission to return home to the United States. His exit visa was refused, and the former teacher at the Anglo-American school, born in Dallas and educated at the Tuskegee Institute, was denounced as a ‘counterrevolutionary’ by a lawyer from the Communist Party of the United States. Three weeks later Fort-Whiteman was arrested and sent to a ‘corrective labor camp’ in Kazakhstan. In Moscow, Robert Robinson heard more news from a Russian friend who had returned from the same camp. According to this witness, Fort-Whiteman had been severely beaten because he had failed to meet his work quota. In the camp, he had died of starvation, a broken man whose teeth had been knocked out.”
Tzouliadis points out, “Sympathy for the Soviet cause was no guarantee of safety; instead it attracted suspicion.” Born in Russia, Julian F. Hecker was educated in the US, where he published several books defending Communism. With his American wife and three young daughters, Hecker returned to his native country to teach philosophy at Moscow University.
Tzouliadis, “According to the American embassy, in earlier summers, when Moscow was crowded with tourists, Julius Hecker had made ‘speeches almost daily to the visitors on the subject of religious tolerance in the Soviet Union.’ His daughter Marcella Hecker remembered the day the NKVD came to take her father away. ‘He was asleep in a little room which I occupy now,’ she said. ‘Although my mother opened the door very, very quietly, Father must have had some terrible dream, because he woke up at once with a jerk, and immediately understood everything. They bore him away and we never saw him again.’ Julius Hecker’s wife remained convinced that her husband’s arrest was just a terrible mistake, and she waited long years for his return. She never learned that just two and half months after his arrest, on April 28, 1938, Professor Julius Hecker confessed to being an American spy who had written his books merely to draw attention away from his espionage. Two hours after making this false confession, he was shot.”
The hard-hearted may sneer that American Communists had it coming, but top American officials, from FDR on down, were also praising the Soviets, and the US was the biggest buyer of Russian gold, as mined by its gulag slaves.
Tzouliadis sums up Roosevelt’s assessment of Stalin, “After his return from Tehran [in December of 1943], the president broadcast a fireside chat to the nation: ‘To use an American and somewhat ungrammatical colloquialism, I may say that ‘I got along fine’ with Marshal Stalin. He is a man who combines a tremendous, relentless determination with a stalwart good humor. I believe he is truly representative of the heart and soul of Russia; and I believe that we are going to get along very well with him and the Russian people— very well indeed.’ Nor was this simply a public façade designed to reassure the American public. In her memoirs, Eleanor Roosevelt confided that her husband had been ‘impressed by the strength of Stalin’s personality. On his return he was always careful in describing him to mention that he was short and thick-set and powerful… He also said that his control over the people of his country was unquestionably due to their trust in him and their confidence that he had their good at heart.”
On March 17th, 1945, Roosevelt telegrammed Stalin to ask that sick and injured American soldiers be allowed to leave Poland, “This government has done everything to meet each of your requests. I now request you to meet mine in this particular matter.” Nothing came of it. Stalin knew his ally well.
In fact, hundreds of US soldiers were kept by the USSR, to be worked to death or killed, with survivors sighted well into the 1950’s. Having locked up Americans with impunity since the 30’s, the Soviets saw no reason to stop. Tzouliadis, “There was no logic within this hidden underworld in which American soldiers were held captive with German and Japanese prisoners, their wartime enemies, in camps run by their former Soviet allies.”
Top capitalists felt no qualms dealing with Commies, and Victor Herman’s father, Sam, was personally recruited by Henry Ford to come to Russia. Tzouliadis, “No other firm in the United States, or even the world, conducted as much business with Joseph Stalin as the Ford Motor Company between 1929 and 1936 […] Lenin himself had been a passionate advocate of Ford’s methods of mass production […]” Man as cog was their shared vision.
What doomed Victor Herman, “the Russian Lindbergh,” was his repeated refusal to declare himself a Russian in the paperwork for his record jump. It made no sense, for he’s an American.
In 1938, Herman was abruptly taken away in a Ford Model A, of the kind his father had helped the Soviets build. Herman couldn’t fathom why he was arrested, “I am an American! You will pay for this! This is kidnapping! You cannot do this to an American!”
Herman would spend 18 years in Siberian gulags, where he somehow survived starvation, freezing temperature, barbaric overwork and beatings. Before leaving Moscow, Herman was subjected to “physical pressure,” a Stalinist term, or what Americans now sinisterly christen as “enhanced interrogation.”
Tzouliadis, “After the fifteenth night, Victor began bleeding from his penis, his rectum, his nose, and his eyes. He was returned to his cell each morning at dawn. Eventually the cell ‘elder’ pleaded with him to talk—‘Save your life, American’—but Victor Herman stubbornly refused to confess to a crime he had not committed. On the fifty-third night of his torture, he was told he would be released if he only signed a list of names. When Victor refused again, he was taken to a basement cell and beaten by a gang of men with clubs. The next morning he was coughing up clots of blood, and the following night he was beaten again and told he was going to be killed. Losing consciousness, Victor was woken by the sensation and smell of his leg being burned to bring him back around.”
After Herman returned to the US in 1976, he published his memoir, Coming Out of the Ice, and another key source for Tzouliadis is Thomas Sgovio’s Dear America! Why I Turned Against Communism. Although many testimonies in Tzouliadis’ book were already out there, they had not been essentialized, given a clear context or synthesized into a compelling narrative.
As Americans were disappeared, tortured, sent to gulags or killed, as they desperately needed protection, intervention and help in going home, their officials did next to nothing. Their ambassador during the worst of the Soviet Terror was Joseph Davies, a long-time friend and benefactor of FDR with no diplomatic experience, Russian knowledge or, apparently, much interest in being an ambassador, for he was often absent for long stretches.
Tzouliadis describes Davies’ majestic entrance, “In January 1937, the Davies entourage arrived in Moscow on a special train, waited on by a small army of footmen, secretaries, chauffeurs, a chef, a hairdresser, and a masseuse–making up sixteen servants in all, with an attendant mountain of luggage. Stepping off the train dressed for the Russian winter in a thick fur hat, immaculately tailored coat, and gold-topped cane, Joseph Davies glanced around for the first secretary of the embassy, Loy Henderson, who recognized the ambassador’s ‘flashing, probing eyes,’ and noted his fine clothes.”
His residence has been thoroughly remodeled, with a crystal chandelier, insured for \$10,000, lording over the ballroom. “In the basement, a Belgian electrical engineer had installed the twenty-five deep freezers required for two box cars of American frozen food shipped ahead to Russia. Steaks, fowl, wild game, and exotic fruit and vegetables were all now on the daily menu, with four hundred quarts of frozen cream specially imported to soothe the ambassador’s troublesome stomach. News of the couple’s ‘desert-island’ food supply was soon leaked to the press, irritating the Soviet censors with its presumption that there was no decent food to be had in Moscow […]”
This, in a country of long lines for food, with innocent Americans among the tortured and killed, and others begging for help, only to be shooed away, to then be arrested, very often, right outside their embassy.
Too busy hunting art bargains everywhere, Davies was oblivious. Tzouliadis quotes him, “As usual, we cannot resist them and have been having somewhat of an orgy again in picking up these interesting souvenirs.” Attending show trials, Davies was convinced of each cowed and tortured defendant’s bizarre confession. From Leningrad harbor, Davies and his heiress wife set sail for the Baltics on their 375-foot yacht, Sea Cloud. On board, Davies watched Hollywood movies with his Soviet secret police minders.
In this sick drama, there are plenty of villains, such as an NKVD who at age 79 recounted quite casually, “I figure, that thirty-seven people were shot dead by me personally, and I sent even more to the camps. I can kill people so that the shot won’t be heard… The secret’s this: I make them open their mouth and I shoot down their throat. I’d only be splashed by warm blood, like eau-de-cologne, and it doesn’t make a sound. That I can do–kill. If I didn’t have seizures, I wouldn’t have taken my pension so soon.”
One of the most repulsive characters in the book is Walter Duranty. Working for the New York Times, his extensive reports on the Soviet Union earned this monster a Pulitzer.
Tzouliadis quotes Duranty on the gulags, “Each concentration camp forms a sort of ‘commune’ where everyone lives comparatively free, not imprisoned, but compelled to work for the good of the community. They are fed and housed gratis and receive pay for their work . . . They are certainly not convicts in the American sense of the word.”
Duranty on the Holodomor that killed millions, “I have made exhaustive inquiries about this alleged famine situation […] And here are the facts: there is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”
According to Duranty, there was also no famine in the Caucasus, “The use of the word ‘Famine’ in connection with the North Caucasus is a sheer absurdity. There a bumper crop is being harvested as fast as tractors, horses, oxen, men, women, and children can work… There are plump babies in the nurseries or gardens of the collectives… Village markets are flowing with eggs, fruit, poultry, vegetables, milk and butter at prices lower than in Moscow.”
The man simply lied and lied. Tzouliadis, “But Walter Duranty’s private remarks were very different from his published story. To British diplomats in Moscow he admitted ‘that Ukraine has been bled white… It was quite possible that as many as ten million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year.’”
Abandoning his mistress and son in Russia, Duranty lived until 73, and is buried in Orlando. His breed lives on, of course. There are many Duranties roaming around.
Tzouliadis, “Many years later, Victor Hammer–the brother of the notorious American businessman Armand–told an investigative reporter that Duranty had reported regularly to the OGPU throughout his period working for The New York Times in Moscow. According to Victor Hammer, Duranty had a weakness for young girls, and Victor’s brother, Armand, had kept him supplied.”
On July 13th, 1956, Paul Robeson had to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Questioned about his long time support for Stalin, Robeson’s response is telling, “Whatever has happened to Stalin, gentlemen, is a question for the Soviet Union and I would not argue with a representative of the people who, in building America wasted sixty to one hundred million lives of my people, black people drawn from Africa on the plantations. You are responsible and your forebears for sixty million to one hundred million black people dying in the slave ships and on the plantations, and don’t you ask me about anybody, please […] As far as I know about the slave camps, they were Fascist prisoners who had murdered millions of the Jewish people and who would have wiped out millions of the Negro people could they have gotten hold of them. That is all I know about that… You are the non-patriots, and you are the un-Americans and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves… You want to shut up every colored person who wants to fight for the rights of his people.”
Just brand all your enemies as Fascists then. Sounds familiar? Russian POWs were also massacred after they had been repatriated, and even the greatest war heroes weren’t safe.
Tzouliadis describes a Kremlin meeting in 1949, “Stalin wondered if perhaps the leaders of the Leningrad siege should replace him as premier and general secretary. The rest of the Politburo immediately chorused, ‘No, no, Comrade Stalin!’ But when Aleksei Kuznetsov and Nikolai Voznesensky hesitated, Stalin had them arrested. At the end of the show trial known as the ‘Leningrad Affair,’ the former Soviet war heroes were draped in white shrouds and led out of the courtroom to be shot one hour later.”
In a book filled with mass murderers, evil cynics, hypocrites, liars and fools, there are also individuals who managed to remain decent and kind, to their own kind.
Tasked with burying eight bodies unloaded from a prison train, a worker noticed one was still breathing, so he didn’t put this half-dead man underground, for it “did not correspond to Christian traditions.” A second worker, one Mrs. Khorshunov, then nursed him for a week in her own home. Before dying, he managed to tell Mrs. Khorshunov that he was American named Fred, with his last name sounding like “Collins.” With much strain, Fred Collins even managed to draw a picture of a falling airplane, to indicate that he was a pilot, perhaps? After Mrs. Khorshunov and her son, Yuri, buried the American, they tended to his grave for many years.
Tzouliadis, “Decades later, fulfilling his duty to the American prisoner, Yuri Khorshunov sat down to write his letter to [American] investigators: ‘There may be nonsense in my writing to you, since one human life is really nothing for such a great country like yours, though the relatives of that man may still be waiting for some information about him. If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them.”
Germany’s invasion of Poland triggered WWII, we’re told, and though the USSR did the same, the US became its ally. At the end, the Soviets controlled not just Poland, but Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, half of Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania and Yugoslavia, with the last splitting from Stalin three years later. Comrades in arms, the American and Russian empires divided their loots, split it in half, literally, with millions of subjected Europeans having no voice regarding their fate.
Human lives don’t matter much to “great” nations, for their elites must never lose sight of the big picture. They don’t see humans, only maps, and, of course, profits must be tended to.
Though constantly hounded by the big boys, small, underfed men must try their best to nurture and protect their own identity and heritage, if they don’t want to be deformed, or even erased.