Of History, Apathy, And The Soviet Archives

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 14, 2010

[tweetmeme]

I am with Claire Berlinski: More people should care about, and be interested in the content of the Soviet archives. Indeed, the indifference to them is nothing short of shocking, but I suppose that said indifference is easily explained by the fact that the archives revealed Mikhail Gorbachev to think (a) that the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983 was good for giggles; (b) that the Chinese were right to massacre protesters in Tienanmen Square in 1989; (c) that the Soviets themselves were right to massacre peaceful protesters in Tbilisi in 1989; and (d) that Zionism/Judaism is equivalent to racism. If the Soviet archives had revealed that Gorbachev was the humanitarian everyone publicly believed him to be, I would bet that there would be significantly more interest in publishing them.

The fact that the archives reveal that there were efforts made to merge the European Parliament with the Supreme Soviet “to isolate the rightists in the European Parliament (and in Europe), those who are interested in the USSR’s collapse,” that European socialists believed that perestroika was supposed to lead to “socialist revolutions,” and that socialists “cannot accept” it when “passages in the documents of ‘G7’ [state that] the problems of democracy, freedom of human personality and ideology of market economy are set on the same level,” might also serve to explain why there is no major push to publish them. Too many intellectual applecarts might be upset by revealing that the Soviet corruption of supposedly mainstream European institutions really was as bad as some people claimed it was.

Speaking of the Soviet corruption of supposedly mainstream European institutions . . .

Zagladin’s records also note that the former leader of the British Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, approached Gorbachev—unauthorized, while Kinnock was leader of the opposition—through a secret envoy to discuss the possibility of halting the United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear-missile program. The minutes of the meeting between Gorbachev and the envoy, MP Stuart Holland, read as follows:

In [Holland’s] opinion, Soviet Union should be very interested in liquidation of “Tridents” because, apart from other things, the West—meaning the US, Britain and France—would have a serious advantage over the Soviet Union after the completion of START treaty. That advantage will need to be eliminated. . . . At the same time Holland noted that, of course, we can seriously think about realisation of that idea only if the Labour comes to power. He said Thatcher . . . would never agree to any reduction of nuclear armaments.

Kinnock was vice president of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004, and his wife, Glenys, is now Britain’s minister for Europe. Gerard Batten, a member of the UK Independence Party, has noted the significance of the episode. “If the report given to Mr. Gorbachev is true, it means that Lord Kinnock approached one of Britain’s enemies in order to seek approval regarding his party’s defense policy and, had he been elected, Britain’s defense policy,” Batten said to the European Parliament in 2009. “If this report is true, then Lord Kinnock would be guilty of treason.”

Similarly, Baroness Catherine Ashton, who is now the European Union’s foreign minister, was treasurer of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament from 1980 to 1982. The papers offer evidence that this organization received “unidentified income” from the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Stroilov’s papers suggest as well that the government of the current Spanish EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Joaquín Almunia, enthusiastically supported the Soviet project of gradually unifying Germany and Europe into a socialist “common European home” and strongly opposed the independence of the Baltic states and then of Ukraine.

Oh, and there is this:

Unofficially, [Senator Joseph] Biden and [Senator Richard] Lugar said that, in the end of the day, they were not so much concerned with having a problem of this or that citizen solved as with showing to the American public that they do care for “human rights.” . . . In other words, the collocutors directly admitted that what is happening is a kind of a show, that they absolutely do not care for the fate of most so-called dissidents.

I suppose it is sad to say this, but while Lugar’s stance on this issue–if accurately reported–really disappoints me (I have long considered myself a fan of his), Biden’s stance surprises me not at all.

  • http://blog.infinitemonkeysblog.com Jim_Lakely

    Outstanding summary, Pejman. I'm trying to imagine if the politics of this were reversed. If, say, “right wing” politicians were conspiring with a Pinochet (imagining Chile as a global power with aims to destroy “the West”) to undermine the United States and/or Britain.

    I imagine this would be getting a little more play in the American and British press. But being a leftist has always meant never saying you're sorry — even for treason.

  • http://blog.infinitemonkeysblog.com Jim_Lakely

    Outstanding summary, Pejman. I'm trying to imagine if the politics of this were reversed. If, say, “right wing” politicians were conspiring with a Pinochet (imagining Chile as a global power with aims to destroy “the West”) to undermine the United States and/or Britain.

    I imagine this would be getting a little more play in the American and British press. But being a leftist has always meant never saying you're sorry — even for treason.

Previous post:

Next post: