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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Soviet Empire -- A Retrospective of Spectacular Failure

The Soviet Union undoubtedly represents the most spectacular failure of empire-building in the twentieth century. MrKen notes that many "conservative/religious zealots" or "CRZ'ys" point to this failed empire as an example of the evils of "state-sponsored atheism" and a supposed indictment of where the "secular progressives" or "S-P's" are leading this country.

But this interpretation is to misread what the Communist State actually represented. The Communist party was both a criminal enterprise - not unlike the Mafia - and a priesthood! Martin Walker describes the system in his fascinating book, 'The Cold War' (1993):

"The corruption of privilege in the lifestyle of the Communist Party's nomenklatura, those who qualified for the state and party jobs for which Central Committee approval was required, was only one part of the social sickness at the heart of the state. At one level, the party operated as a system of extortion, a form of protection racket. On another, it sought to act as an ideological priesthood which established a firm body of doctrine to which all could adhere, or at least pay lip-service. The enforcement of this mental, and indeed spiritual discipline was the responsibility of ...the KGB..."

In the Brezhnev era, corruption had become legendary in many republics. Walker observes...

"...Brezhnev's own private collection of sports and vintage cars, including the armoured Lincoln limousine which Nixon had given to him, and in which he terrified the American President by driving at high speed around the hilly forest bends of Camp David, symbolized the way in which Soviet leadership enjoyed the fruits of power, The affairs and high life of Galina, Brezhnev's daughter, were so much the stuff of gossip that bitter jokes were widespread in Moscow. Perhaps the most characteristic was the tale of Brezhnev proudly showing his mother and daughters around his luxurious dachas, his hunting lodge at Zavidovo, his vast garage. 'It's wonderful, Leonid,' the mother is said to have muttered. 'But what happens if the Communists come back to power?'


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