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We Made a Mistake – “Life and Fate” – Vasily Grossman

April 6th, 2012 · No Comments · Communism, Extremism, Ideology, Totalitarianism

A conversation between two Bolsheviks in a Siberian gulag:

‘Listen now,’ he said, sitting up in bed. ‘Listen, my friend. This will be the last time I call you like this.’

‘Don’t talk like that,’ said Abarchuk. ‘You’re going to live!’

‘I’d sooner undergo torture, but I have to say this… You listen too,’ he added, turning to the corpse. ‘What I’m going to say has to do with you and your Nastya… This is my last duty as a revolutionary and I must fulfil it… You’re someone very special, comrade Abarchuk. And we met at a very special time – our best time, I think… Let me begin now. First. We made a mistake. And this is what our mistake has led to. Look! You and I must ask this peasant to pardon us… Give me a fag. What am I saying? No repentance can expiate what we’ve done. I have to say this… Secondly. We didn’t understand freedom. We crushed it. Even Marx didn’t value it – it’s the base, the meaning, the foundation that underlies all foundations. Without freedom there can be no proletarian revolution… Thirdly. We go through the camp, we go through the taiga, and yet our faith is stronger than anything. But this faith of ours is a weakness – a means of self-preservation. On the other side of the barbed wire, self-preservation tells people to change – unless they want to die or be sent to a camp. And so Communists have created idols, put on uniforms and epaulettes, begun preaching nationalism and attack in the working class. If necessary, they’ll revive the Black Hundreds… But here in the camp, the same instinct tells people not to change, not to change during all the decades they spend here – unless they want to be buried straight away in a wooden jacket. It’s the other side of the coin.’

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