I missed this when it came out in Reason late last year. Yes, It Was An 'Evil Empire.' I have heard Cathy Young being interviewed and she tends to meander. There is some of that here, but she writes well enough that one can see it more as thoroughness. I remember well from my young radical days how often my lefty comrades would divert from any criticism of the Soviet Union to whatever bad thing happened to come to mind about America at the moment. Whatever stick (or shtick) was handy. I did that less often - usually only in response to someone who really did seem to embody a jingoistic attitude - and I don't believe I ever engaged in the common "Oh it's just as bad here" claims about free speech. I knew there was something crazy about that, even in my most benighted phase. Perhaps I was less radical in doctrine than I supposed, being attracted to leftist conversation because of the opportunities to make fun of people. It is one of the reasons it has been easy for me to perceive the domination social rather than intellectual appeal of liberalism, because I saw if from the inside of my own head.
So it is good to remind lefties of this, especially younger ones who seem to be drawn under the spell again these days. Yet I have another reason for linking to something that explains and gives examples of oppression in the USSR as a reminder: this time for the conservatives who have taken to saying "It's just as bad here now," especially about free speech issues. That is not by a long shot true, and I have to wonder if this too is just a social pose. As with the liberals who threaten to move to Canada if (Republican nominee) X is elected but never do, if people really believed that they would be trying to get out of here. AFAIK, they aren't. The fallback position, rather a motte-and-bailey that "Well, but we are on our way to that" is difficult to formally disprove, but I do not see evidence that we are very close.
Good intentions + delusions of infallibility and of incorruptibility = evil that finds it easy to salve an aching conscience--and to delude oneself into thinking one hasn't lost sight of the end in the means.
I remember well from my young radical days how often my lefty comrades would divert from any criticism of the Soviet Union to whatever bad thing happened to come to mind about America at the moment.
Having known Iron Curtain refugees- some from the Soviet Union- in my hometown, even when I was a lefty I had little tolerance for the "we're just as bad as they are" comparison of the USA and Soviet Union. My taking a Politics course in 9th grade, which included reading A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch and writing a term paper on Soviet agriculture, fortified my views.
Disclaimer: "we're just as bad as they are" came from a family friend. I am still in touch with one of his sons. I was so shocked- though I said nothing in reply- he was talking to my father- I never forgot it.
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