Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Everything I Needed To Know...

Stanley Kurtz, who is my age, was a PhD in Social Anthropology at Harvard, and taught both there and the University of Chicago.
Yet the most important lesson of my trip (to the USSR in 1979) was that everything I learned about communism in sixth grade was right.


Anna said...

Does he mean that it was good or it was bad? Seems as though his generation would have been taught that it was bad, but in my generation we were taught that it is good.

Gringo said...

I took a Politics course in 9th grade that summed it pretty well. From reading Solzhynitsyn's A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, I learned that the Soviet system was immoral. From doing a term paper on Soviet agriculture, I learned that the Soviet system was incompetent. Immoral and incompetent: what's to like?

I did have an anti-anti-Communist phase in college, but I grew out of it. Memories of my home town may have helped.

I knew a a fair number of refugees from the Iron Curtain in my small home town, including the mother of a classmate. I worked with a man who was a child during the Stalin-induced famine in the Ukraine [the?]He and his wife got out by slave labor in Germany.That he didn't want to talk about it said a lot. That was a common reaction. Commies are a bad memory people do not want to revisit.

Seeing the effects of guerrillas in Latin America reinforced that. I worked in Guatemala with people from a small town where guerrillas had killed about 15 on suspicion of being orejas- informants. The tendency is to shoot, ask for proof later. Guerrillas took over a rig about 15 miles from the rig I worked on.

I worked with a guy in Argentina who had gotten a job offer to transport messages for the guerrillas. Lucky for him he declined the offer.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Anna, thank you for shaking me up that I was narcissistically assuming a precise cultural knowledge of the timing of the switch. We were very much taught that communism was bad up until 6th grade.* But one year later, the popular weeklies started to carry more stories about Americans who thought it good. And I got a guitar, and started listening to Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, PP&M, who, while not saying communism was good, thought America deeply flawed and communists misunderstood. Kurtz even speculates that he absorbed classical liberalism, the open debate of ideas, at the last possible moment in our history. There's something in that.

Gringo - Ukraine means "frontier," and outsiders (especially Russians) tend to call it the Ukraine when speaking English; natives just Ukrainia. But even that is modified by the fact that much of Eastern Ukraine is Russian or sympathetic to Russia, and when they are in the West, might say the Ukraine. I say "Ukraine," myself, to mildly suggest a solidarity with those who are more Western-focused.

*This brings up an interesting personal timeline that I never realised might be part of a larger discussion. A new post on that is forming in my mind.

Michael said...

AVI, we are the same age, but I went to Catholic school. Since the Commies were a godless lot, the view of them never changed during my pre-college education. My "re-education" started in college, but it never quite took with me.

One of my co-workers went to Middlebury in the 80's and majored in Russian - he's still a liberal through and through. Probably a contemporary of Anna's.

Anna said...

Er, probably not, I went to grade school in the 90's and college in the Aughts.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Ben's age. Got it.