Sunshine Recorder

Link: Reason Displaces All Love

Libidinal economizing in the early Soviet Union.

“She had suffered an acute attack of ‘love’- the name given to a disease of ancient times when sexual energy, which should be rationally distributed over one’s entire  lifetime, is suddenly concentrated into one inflammation lasting a week, leading to absurd and incredible behavior.” —Vladimir Mayakovsky, The Bedbug

In summer 1956, six tons of books were thrown by court order into the public incinerator on 25th Street in New York City. Those smouldering pages were written by Wilhelm Reich, who died in jail shortly thereafter, infamously denounced as the fraudulent peddler of “orgone,” a mystical cosmic life force. As a young communist psychoanalyst in interwar Vienna, Reich had argued that capitalism unhealthily restrains primal sexual instincts, and that a genuine political revolution would shatter the constraints of bourgeois sexual morality, unleashing sexual energies through a kind of wild orgasmic release.

In 1929, Reich visited the Soviet Union, where psychoanalysis would soon be outlawed, and was rather scathing of the psychologists he met there, including one of his hosts, Aron Zalkind, a leading figure in the psychological community in Moscow. Zalkind was the author of the influential treatise “12 Commandments for the Sexual Revolution of the Proletariat,” first published in 1925, which argued that the capitalist free market was incompatible with what he somewhat confusingly called “free love,” given that he meant something like the opposite of what it meant in the 1960s. Unlike Reich, whose prurient embrace of unrestrained lovemaking was to be enthusiastically championed during the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s, Zalkind advocated sexual abstinence as the appropriate conduct for the revolutionary proletariat.

During the period of the New Economic Policy (1921–1928), which saw the reintroduction of certain forms of private enterprise into the Soviet economy, sexual relations were being renegotiated for both ideological and practical reasons. As the heroine of Feodor Gladkov’s 1925 novel Cementobserves: “Everything is broken up and changed and become confused. Somehow love will have to be arranged differently.” But how exactly love was to be arranged was unclear. Although the fledgling Soviet government had legalized divorce and abortion, secularized marriage, and decriminalized homosexuality, and although women’s roles in the home and workforce were being concretely transformed, Zalkind’s emphasis on sexual inhibition is characteristic of the ambivalence toward sex during the NEP period.

Zalkind’s commandments were as follows:

  1. Sexuality should not develop too early.
  2. Sex should not occur before marriage.
  3. Sex on the basis of pure physical attraction should be renounced.
  4. Sex should only result from “deep and complex feeling” between comrades.
  5. Sex should be infrequent.
  6. Sexual partners should not be changed too frequently.
  7. Sexual relationships should be monogamous.
  8. Every sex act should be committed with the awareness that it might lead to the birth of a child.
  9. Sexual partners should be selected on the basis of class. (“Sexual attraction to class antagonism, to a morally disgusting, dishonest object, is as perverse as the sexual desire of a human for a crocodile or an orangutan.”)
  10. There should be no jealousy.
  11. There should be no “sexual perversions.”
  12. In the interests of the revolution, it is the duty of the proletariat to intervene in the sex lives of others.

Zalkind relies on an economic, quantitative conception of psychic sexual energy or libido borrowed from Freud. In the interest of self-preservation, the fragile organism must protect itself from both external and internal excitations, and the constant tension between pleasure and unpleasure must be regulated through sublimation, repression, and cathexis. Or in Zalkind’s inelegant phrasing, “The body is stuffed with a certain amount of energy, a certain amount of internal stress and excitement, which erupts on the outside.”

In The Future of an Illusion — the last of Freud’s works to appear in Russian translation in 1930, with a hostile introduction by Zalkind — Freud is dismissive of those who would claim that “a reordering of human relations” might overcome the necessarily repressive character of society, stating that “every civilization must be built up on coercion and renunciation of instinct,” (though he explicitly declares that his conclusions are not intended as a comment on the “great experiment in civilization” occurring in Russia). Unlike Reich, Zalkind does not contradict Freud on this point. He may imagine repression and sublimation as conscious, voluntary, and collective, but he insists that communism cannot be built without forgoing immediate gratification. The oft-repeated Soviet injunction to make sacrifices in the present to reap the eventual benefits of the bright Communist future corresponds to Freud’s reality principle, defined inBeyond the Pleasure Principle as the “temporary toleration of unpleasure as a step on the long indirect road to pleasure.”

Freud argued that giving the instincts free rein would be dangerous. Civilization is a by-product of repressed instincts rather than the result of some immanent tendency toward progress or perfectibility. By assuming that renouncing pleasure will ultimately lead to a superior form of society, Zalkind’s argument is more explicitly value-laden: Sex too much, too soon, too often or with too many people diverts energy that could otherwise be used for building the new Communist society. For Zalkind, sexual desire does not originate in the seething depths of the primitive unconscious. Sex is morally rather than mortally dangerous; it is wasteful and frivolous rather than primal and destructive.

In Freud’s theory, the regulation of psychic energy remains largely metaphorical. But Zalkind insists that Freudian theory has a materialist essence; his more literal conception of energy thus has a closer relation to contemporary discussions of labor efficiency and industrial production. In tune with this infamously Taylor-obsessed period, Zalkind focuses on management, rationality, organization, and discipline.

But if under capitalism, energy expenditure is primarily concerned with maximized productivity and profitability in the workplace, in communism all human activity is up for grabs, including people’s most intimate encounters. Any unnecessary exertion might deviate resources that could otherwise be spent building the new classless society. Zalkind’s quantification of energy allows for the commensurability of action. As historian Anson Rabinbach puts it in The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity, “Energy is the universal equivalent of the natural world, as money is the universal equivalent of the world of exchange.”

Building barricades, constructing dams, designing factories, or fucking your comrades — all activity is reduced to the amount of energy they require to perform. Zalkind imagines a scenario in which a worker is insulted by his boss. Such an event, he claims, produces a fixed volume of anger, which will inevitably “break out”: The worker might erupt and throw a plate at his wife. But instead, the energy could be positively channelled into organizing a demonstration or distributing agitational pamphlets.

Zalkind’s vision recalls Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1921 dystopian novel We, in which controlled copulation can be performed only during the alloted “sex hour,” when people are permitted to lower the curtains in their glass homes, and encounters must be tracked with a pink ration book of signed tokens. But these concerns were not confined to the pages of science fiction: Some married couples in the period actually attempted to organize their domestic chores and sex lives on the basis of the Scientific Organization of Labor.

Despite his likening of the libido to a flowing liquid, Freud’s conception of the unconscious knows no spatial constraints – quantity has no meaningful existence there. In bourgeois Vienna, there is no suggestion that a patient’s libidinal resources might simply run out; their sexual drives are understood in relation to their historical experiences rather than their physical well-being.

But in post-revolutionary Russia there was a genuine fear that people were literally running out of energy. Zalkind’s anxieties about squandering libidinal currency rely on a physiological understanding of energy developed amid acute privation. “Exhaustion” was rife among revolutionaries; Lenin’s death in 1924 from a brain hemorrhage was said to have been provoked by his excessive exertions on behalf of the global revolutionary proletariat. Hunger, often accompanied by energy-sapping cold, gnaws insistently in first-hand accounts of the period. Revolution and Youth, the book in which Zalkind’s proclamations were originally published, includes detailed nutritional charts to ensure revolutionaries retain optimal “brain fuel.” Victor Serge’sMemoirs of a Revolutionary constantly returns to the subject of food (or lack of it), its pages strewn with paltry, unappetizing morsels. Stoic revolutionaries survive on black bread, dried fish, coffee made from raw oats, rotten horsemeat, and the odd spoonful of sugar. This nutritional dearth had sexual implications: As a result of malnutrition, impotence was widespread.

Link: The Day After

How being 100 km away from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster changed my life.

Before the world’s worst nuclear accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986, I was full of the certainties of youth. Then, overnight, or should I say over the course of a few beautiful spring days, everything changed and I stepped reluctantly into adulthood. Those who remember those days talk of the same thing: the weather. It was unseasonably warm, hot enough to sunbathe, and the lilac blossoms came early, infusing the parks and streets of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, with an aroma of lemons, vanilla and roses. I was studying Russian there and having the time of my life. As a Russian-speaking British student in what was still the USSR in the midst of the Cold War, I was regarded by the KGB as a potential future adversary and under constant surveillance. They took it seriously, I didn’t. Indeed, here, safely ensconced behind the iron curtain, I felt liberated from a far more significant entity than the KGB: my parents. I studied hard and partied hard, high on the adrenaline of playing hide-and-seek with those who were keeping tabs on me, and, of course, on Soviet vodka. I felt totally free for the first time in my life in spite of the restrictions of a totalitarian state because none of the rules of my world applied.

So it was with tremendous irritation that I listened one Monday morning to a panicky phone call from my parents in the UK warning me about a nuclear “incident” somewhere close by. Other foreign students had received similar calls. Someone had a radio that captured BBC broadcasts warning of an unexplained radioactive cloud emanating from somewhere in Western USSR, where we were located.

I ignored the news. It was interfering with my fun. I thought it was probably no more than a mixture of over-anxious parents keen to find any excuse for their children to come home and exaggerated anti-Soviet propaganda by the BBC. I skipped class and went to the ‘beach’, a small strip of sand on the bank of the Dniepr river that flows through Kiev, for a sunbath. It was probably the worse thing I could have done.

Further North, in Sweden, high levels of radiation had been detected the day before and suspicions were growing that something very serious had gone wrong in the USSR, from where the wind was blowing. The Swedes asked Moscow for an explanation but were met with a stony silence. As radiation levels continued to rise, the Swedes began to take emergency anti-radiation precautions in areas close to the Soviet border. They advised parents to keep children away from sandpits and avoid using rainwater, as both sand and water are extremely efficient vehicles of radioactive contamination.

That was 1,100 km from Chernobyl. We were 100 km away, and the news blackout was total.

As more alarming reports began to filter through the radio and over the phone, a wave of collective hysteria began to rise among foreign students. I was still in denial, sulking with a small group of non-believers. We had distanced ourselves from the main group, but I remember seeing a lot of tears and pleas with our group leader to organise an evacuation. Eventually, on 29 April, orders came through from the British embassy in Moscow that we were to pack our bags and leave by any means possible.

It must have been about then that I started to cry. I am not really sure what triggered my tears, but once they started, they would not stop. It may have been because a friend who worked in a Kiev hospital told me that a whole wing had been cordoned off with rumours of young men with severe burns being treated there. When I asked my teacher what he thought about this ‘nuclear accident nonsense’, he said he couldn’t believe that the Soviet government would allow its children—his children—to walk the streets unprotected if they were really in danger. I saw fear and doubt in his eyes.

Worried mothers had begun dressing small children in ridiculous woollen hats to protect them from radiation. Rumour had it that vodka offered good protection—for adults. Some opted for the hats and the vodka. Tragically, simple iodine tablets would have protected the population from radioactive iodine, which gets into the thyroid gland and is particularly lethal to children. But distributing these tablets would have meant admitting a problem.

I could no longer remain in denial, but I did not want to leave either. I felt like a rat leaving a sinking ship, abandoning my friends and their children to face whatever invisible poison was seeping into our bones. I was also, selfishly, dreading going home. I preferred to face the uncertainty of danger to the certainty of boredom in an English suburban town. I did not realise then how lucky I was to have a choice. My whimsical attitude was that of a privileged Westerner who could play at tipping her toes into misery, with the certainty that she could leave when things got too uncomfortable.

It was not that easy to get out of Kiev. Foreign students needed permission from the Soviet authorities to leave the city and country. Once that was secured, we faced the additional hurdle of finding transportation. By now panic was beginning to spread in Kiev. A brief broadcast on television nearly 72 hours after the accident had mentioned a minor incident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and rumour mills had started whirring in full force. People were scrambling for tickets on buses and trains leaving Kiev to go south or east, away from the wind. Seats were hard to come by.

Link: On Lyudmila Pavlichenko

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a Soviet sniper credited with 309 kills—& an advocate for women’s rights. On a US tour in 1942, she found a friend in the first lady.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko arrived in Washington, D.C., in late 1942 as little more than a curiosity to the press, standing awkwardly beside her translator in her Soviet Army uniform. She spoke no English, but her mission was obvious. As a battle-tested and highly decorated lieutenant in the Red Army’s 25th Rifle Division, Pavlichenko had come on behalf of the Soviet High Command to drum up American support for a “second front” in Europe. Joseph Stalin desperately wanted the Western Allies to invade the continent, forcing the Germans to divide their forces and relieve some of the pressure on Soviet troops.

She visited with President Franklin Roosevelt, becoming the first Soviet citizen to be welcomed at the White House. Afterward, Eleanor Roosevelt asked the Ukranian-born officer to accompany her on a tour of the country and tell Americans of her experiences as a woman in combat. Pavlichenko was only 25, but she had been wounded four times in battle. She also happened to be the most successful and feared female sniper in history, with 309 confirmed kills to her credit—the majority German soldiers. She readily accepted the first lady’s offer.

She graciously fielded questions from reporters.  One wanted to know if Russian women could wear makeup at the front. Pavlichenko paused; just months before, she’d survived fighting on the front line during the Siege of Sevastopol, where Soviet forces suffered considerable casualties and were forced to surrender after eight months of fighting. “There is no rule against it,” Pavlichenko said, “but who has time to think of her shiny nose when a battle is going on?”

The New York Times dubbed her the “Girl Sniper,” and other newspapers observed that she “wore no lip rouge, or makeup of any kind,” and that “there isn’t much style to her olive-green uniform.”

In New York, she was greeted by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and a representative of the International Fur and Leather Workers Union, C.I.O., who presented her with, as one paper reported, a “full-length raccoon coat of beautifully blended skins, which would be resplendent in an opera setting.” The paper lamented that such a garment would likely “go to the wars on Russia’s bloody steppes when Lyudmila Pavlichenko returns to her homeland.”

But as the tour progressed, Pavlichenko began to bristle at the questions, and her clear, dark eyes found focus. One reporter seemed to criticize the long length of her uniform skirt, implying that it made her look fat. In Boston, another reporter observed that Pavlichenko “attacked her five-course New England breakfast yesterday. American food, she thinks, is O.K.”

Soon, the Soviet sniper had had enough of the press’s sniping. “I wear my uniform with honor,” she told Time magazine. “It has the Order of Lenin on it. It has been covered with blood in battle. It is plain to see that with American women what is important is whether they wear silk underwear under their uniforms. What the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn.”

Still, Malvina Lindsey, “The Gentler Sex” columnist for the Washington Post, wondered why Pavlichenko couldn’t make more of an effort with regard to her style. “Isn’t it a part of military philosophy that an efficient warrior takes pride in his appearance?” Lindsey wrote.  “Isn’t Joan of Arc always pictured in beautiful and shining armor?”

Slowly, Pavlichenko began to find her voice, holding people spellbound with stories of her youth, the devastating effect of the German invasion on her homeland, and her career in combat. In speeches across America and often before thousands, the woman sniper made the case for a U.S. commitment to fighting the Nazis in Europe. And in doing so, she drove home the point that women were not only capable, but essential to the fight.

Link: In Defense of Soviet Waiters

"Take away the lash of the boss, and you are suddenly forced to confront service employees as human beings with human emotions, without their company-supplied masks of enforced good cheer"

There’s been a bit of a discussion about affective labor going around. Paul Myerscough in the London Review of Books describes the elaborate code with which the Pret a Manger chain enforces an ersatz cheerfulness and dedication on the part of its employees, who are expected to be “smiling, reacting to each other, happy, engaged.” Echoing a remark of Giraudoux and George Burns, the most important thing to fake is sincerity: “authenticity of being happy is important.”

Tim Noah and Josh Eidelson elaborate on this theme, and Sarah Jaffe makes the point that this has always been an extremely gendered aspect of labor (waged and otherwise). She notes that “women have been fighting for decades to make the point that they don’t do their work for the love of it; they do it because women are expected to do it.” Employers, of course, would prefer equality to be established by imposing the love of work on both genders.

Noah describes the way Pret a Manger keeps “its sales clerks in a state of enforced rapture through policies vaguely reminiscent of the old East German Stasi.” I was reminded of the Soviet model too, but in a different way. I’m just old enough to remember when people talked about the Communist world as a really-existing place rather than a vaguely-defined bogeyman. And one of the mundane tropes that always came up in foreign travelogues from behind the Iron Curtain concerned the notoriously surly service workers, in particular restaurant waiters. A 1977 newspaper headline reads “Soviet Union Takes Hard Look At Surly Waiters, Long Lines.” In a 1984 dispatch in the New York Times, John Burns reports that “faced with inadequate supplies, low salaries and endless lines of customers, many Russians in customer-service jobs lapse into an indifference bordering on contempt.”

One can find numerous explanations of this phenomenon, from the shortcomings of the planned economy to the institutional structure of the Soviet service industry to the vagaries of the Russian soul to the legacy of serfdom. But one factor was clearly that Soviet workers, unlike their American counterparts, were guaranteed jobs, wages, and access to essential needs like housing, education, and health care. The fear that enforces fake happiness among capitalist service workers — culminating in the grotesquery of Pret a Manger — was mostly inoperative in the Soviet Union. As an article in the Moscow Times explains:

During the perestroika era, the American smile was a common reference point when the topic of rude Soviet service was discussed. In an often-quoted exchange that took place on a late-1980s television talk show, one participant said, “In the United States, store employees smile, but everyone knows that the smiles are insincere.” Another answered, “Better to have insincere American smiles than our very sincere Soviet rudeness!”

With the collapse of the USSR and the penetration of Western capital into Russia, employers discovered a workforce that adapted only reluctantly to the norms of capitalist work discipline. A 1990 article in USA Today opens with a description of the travails facing the first Pizza Hut in the Soviet Union:

To open the first Pizza Hut restaurants in the Soviet Union, U.S. managers had to teach Soviet workers how to find the ”you” in U.S.S.R.

”We taught them the concept of customer service,” says Rita Renth, just back from the experience. ”Things that come naturally to employees here we had to teach them to do: -smiling, interacting with customers, eye contact.”

In no time, however, the managers hit on what I’ve described as the third wave form of the work ethic. Rather than appealing to religious salvation or material prosperity, workers are told that they should find their drudgery intrinsically enjoyable:

The five U.S. managers – and colleagues from Pizza Huts in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Australia and other nations – spent 12 to 14 hours a day drilling the Russians on service and food preparation, Pizza Hut style.

As a way of ”motivating them to be excited about what they were doing, we made (tasks) like folding boxes into a contest,” Rae says. ”When they finished, they said they couldn’t believe they would ever have fun at their jobs.”

That feeling, rare in Soviet workplaces, has been noticed. ”A comment made by a lot of customers was that as soon as they walked in, they sensed a feeling of warmth,” Rae says.

It’s the Pret a Manger approach to enforced cheerfulness (which had better be authentic!), combined with gamification, 1990-style. Along the same lines is this blog post from a business school professor, who recounts the experience of the first Russian McDonald’s:

After several days of training about customer service at McDonald’s, a young Soviet teenager asked the McDonald’s trainer a very serious question: “Why do we have to be so nice to the customers? After all, WE have the hamburgers, and they don’t!”

True enough. But while they may have had the hamburgers, with the collapse of Communism they no longer had steady access to the means of payment.

The brusqueness of customer service interactions has typically been interpreted as an indication of Communism’s shortcomings, their low quality understood as a mark of capitalism’s superiority. And it does indicate a contradiction of the Soviet model, which preserved the form of wage labor while removing many of the disciplinary mechanisms — the threat of unemployment, of destitution — that force workers to accept the discipline of the employer or the customers. That contradiction comes to a head in a restaurant where both employees and customers are miserable. As the old saying goes, “they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.”

Link: George Orwell on Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon"

"Darkness at Noon" (1940) dramatises the Moscow show trials and Stalin’s "Great Purge" of Old Bolsheviks. In his review for the New Statesman, Orwell praised Koestler’s “inner knowledge of totalitarian methods”: “The common people,” argues the Party operative Gletkin, “cannot grasp ‘deviation’ is a crime in itself; therefore crimes of the sort they can understand – murder, train-wrecking and so forth – must be invented.” Many see Rubashov’s confession as a direct influence upon Winston Smith’s.

Orwell used his review as an opportunity to chastise the left-wing press in Britain for their refusal to speak up; a powerful statement made two years after Kingsley Martin refused to publish his despatches from Spain, fearing they would appear critical of Stalin, and therefore socialism: “What was frightening about these trials was not that they happened – for obviously such things are necessary in a totalitarian society – but the eagerness of Western intellectuals to justify them.”

Mr Arthur Koestler should know something about prison, for he has spent a respectable proportion of the past four years there. First a long stretch in one of Franco’s fortresses, with the sound of firing squads ringing through the walls twenty or thirty times a day; then a year or so of internment in France; then escape to England, and a fresh internment in Pentonville – from which he has just been unconditionally released, however. In no case, needless to say, has he been accused of any particular crime. Nowadays, over increasing areas of the earth, one is imprisoned not for what one does but for what one is, or, more exactly, for what one is suspected of being. Still, Mr Koestler can congratulate himself on having hitherto fallen only into the hands of amateurs. If England imprisoned him, it at any rate let him out again, and did not force him beforehand to confess to poisoning sheep, committing sabotage on the railways or plotting to assassinate the King.

His present novel, fruit of his own experiences, is a tale of the imprisonment, confession and death of one of the Old Bolsheviks, a composite picture having resemblances to both Bukharin and Trotsky. The events in it follow the normal course. Rubashov, one of the last survivors of the original Central Committee of the Communist Party, is arrested, is charged with incredible crimes, denies everything, is tortured and is shot in the back of the neck. The story ends with a young girl in whose house Rubashov has once lodged wondering whether to denounce her father to the Secret Police as a way of securing a flat for herself and her future husband. Almost its whole interest, however, centres about the intellectual struggle between three men, Rubashov himself and the two GPU officers, Invanov and Gletkin, who are dealing with his case. Ivanov belongs to the same generation as Rubashov himself and is suddenly purged and shot without trial in the middle of the proceedings. Gletkin, however, belongs to the new generation that has grown up since the Revolution, in complete isolation both from the outside world and from the past. He is the “good Party man,” an almost perfect specimen of the human gramophone. Ivanov does not actually believe that Rubashov has committed the preposterous deeds he is charged with. The argument he uses to induce him to confess is that it is a last service required of him by the Party. The common people, he says, cannot grasp that “deviation” is a crime in itself; therefore crimes of the sort that they can understand – murder, train-wrecking and so forth – must be invented. Gletkin uses the same argument, but his attitude is somewhat different. It is never certain whether he believes Rubashov to be guilty or not; or, more exactly, no distinction between guilt and innocence exists in his mind. The only form of criticism that he is able to imagine is murder. As he sees it, anyone capable of thinking a disrespectful thought about Stalin would, as a matter of course, attempt to assassinate him. Therefore, though the attempt at assassination has perhaps not been made, it can be held to have been made; it exists, like the undrawn production to a line. Gletkin’s strength lies in the complete severance from the past, which leaves him not only without pity but without imagination or inconvenient knowledge. On the other hand, it was the weakness of the Old Bolsheviks to have remains Europeans at heart, more akin to the society they overthrew than to the new race of monsters they created.

When Rubashov gives in and confesses, it is not because of the torture – he has suffered worse at the hands of the Nazis without confessing – so much as from complete inner emptiness. “I asked myself,” he says at his trial, almost in Bukharin’s words, “‘For what am I fighting?’” For what, indeed? Any right to protest against torture, secret prisons, organised lying and so forth he has long since forfeited. He recognises that what is now happening is the consequence of his own acts – even feels a sort of admiration for Gletkin, as the kind of subhuman being probably needed to guide the Revolution through its present stage. The Moscow trials were a horrible spectacle, but if one remembered what the history of the Old Bolsheviks had been it was difficult to be sorry for them as individuals. They took the sword, and they perished by the sword, as Stalin presumably will also, unless he should happen to die prematurely, like Lenin.

Brilliant as this book is as a novel, and a piece of brilliant literature, it is probably most valuable as an interpretation of the Moscow “confessions” by someone with an inner knowledge of totalitarian methods. What was frightening about these trials was not the fact that they happened – for obviously such things are necessary in a totalitarian society – but the eagerness of Western intellectuals to justify them. Correspondents of Liberal newspapers pronounced themselves “completely satisfied” by the confessions of men who had been dragged into the light after, in some cases, years of solitary confinement; an eminent lawyer even produced a theory that the loss of the right to appeal was a great advantage to the accused! The simultaneous cases in Spain, in which exactly the same accusations were made but no confessions obtained, were sedulously covered up or lied about in the Left-wing press. It was, of course, obvious that the accused in the Russian cases had been tortured or threatened with torture, but the explanation is probably more complex than that. Mr Koestler thinks, like Souvarine, that “for the good of the Party” was probably the final argument; indeed, his book is rather like an expanded pamphlet, Cauchemar en URSS. As a piece of writing it is a notable advance on his earlier work.

4 January 1941

“Forget Your Past” by Nikola Mihov

Nikola Mihov is a photographer and video maker living in Bulgaria. In his series “Forget Your Past“, he looks at old and abandoned soviet era moments and statures in Bulgaria. The series features 38 photographs with detailed information about the people who designed the structures and the history behind them.

Many of the iconic communist era monuments in Bulgaria were dismantled after the fall of the totalitarian regime in 1989. Nevertheless, more than one hundred important monuments built between 1945 and 1989 remain standing. The majority of these sites are not recognized by the state and they remain ownerless. Their exact number is unknown and it is difficult to find information about their authors and their history. The graffiti “Forget Your Past” above the entrance of the Bulgarian Communist Party memorial demonstrates their faith. Situated in towns across the country, and once a symbol of pride, today most of communist era monuments are neglected and ransacked. Regardless of whether they were built to commemorate the Soviet Army or the struggle against Ottoman rule, they all share one and the same fate: to be a silent symbol of the forgotten past. Nikola Mihov’s photographic series “Forget Your Past” reveals 14 of the most significant communist era monuments in Bulgaria. This project is realized within the support of Trace, a platform that brings together artists and architects to consider the integration of the communist monuments into the present day urban environment.

(Source: sunrec)


The Forgotten Archipelago
"No one is so stubborn and dangerous as the beneficiaries of a fallen idea—they defend not the idea, but their bare life and the loot." — Sándor Márai
One of the decided advantages enjoyed by central planning is the ability to, in the words of Captain Picard, “make it so,” and thereby create – or wreak – change on a grand scale. In the 20th century, techniques of social, political and economic control were refined by authoritarian governments to the extent that vast reorganizations of the social fabric were effected in a relentless fashion. Initiatives that come to mind include China’s Great Leap Forward, or the Khmer Rouge’s decidedly anti-urban policies, exercised with great verve during their brief but dismal tenure. For its part, the Soviet Union offers many examples, but the consequences of one such phenomenon continue on: the so-called “closed cities” that were devoted to the research and manufacture of military equipment and, most importantly, nuclear weapons.
Originating in the late 1930s under Stalin’s direction, these cities bore all the hubristic hallmarks of an authoritarian command-and-control regime, including a unrepentantly narrow raison d’être and an utter disregard for geography. Known as ZATO cities (for “zakrytye administrativno-territorial’nye obrazovaniia,” or “closed administrative-territorial formations”), the sensitivity of their mission furthermore prevented them from even being placed on maps. A logical corollary to this is, if you don’t want to place something on a map, you probably aren’t keen give it a memorable name, either. At first, these cities were named in relation to the nearest, recognized city, and hyphenated with the approximate distance in kilometers. I must admit, given the nuclear remit of about ten of these cities, that there is something deliciously evocative about such a nomenclature – as if one was listing the known element and its artificially fabricated, enriched but less stable isotope. However, even this nomenclature proved a bit too explicit for the comfort of the Soviet authorities:

Thus, the All-Russian Scientific and Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF) was initially known as Arzamas-60, a postal code designation to show that it was 60 km from the city of Arzamas. But the “60” was considered too sensitive, and the number was changed to “16.” In 1947 the entire city of Sarov (Arzamas-16) disappeared from all official Russian maps and statistical documents. The facility has also been known Moscow-300, the town of Kremlev, and Arzamas-75. Zlatoust-20 is probably the same as Zlatoust-36, and Kurchatov-21, Moscow-21, Moscow-400 and Semipalatinsk-121 are almost certainly the same as Semipalatinsk-16.

This points to another difficulty intrinsic to the ZATO archipelago – how many of them are there? Even today, it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty. Estimates tend to cluster around 40, but, somewhat confusingly, “in addition, there are thought to be at least 15 ZATO in existence that cannot be accounted for.”

The Forgotten Archipelago

"No one is so stubborn and dangerous as the beneficiaries of a fallen idea—they defend not the idea, but their bare life and the loot." — Sándor Márai

One of the decided advantages enjoyed by central planning is the ability to, in the words of Captain Picard, “make it so,” and thereby create – or wreak – change on a grand scale. In the 20th century, techniques of social, political and economic control were refined by authoritarian governments to the extent that vast reorganizations of the social fabric were effected in a relentless fashion. Initiatives that come to mind include China’s Great Leap Forward, or the Khmer Rouge’s decidedly anti-urban policies, exercised with great verve during their brief but dismal tenure. For its part, the Soviet Union offers many examples, but the consequences of one such phenomenon continue on: the so-called “closed cities” that were devoted to the research and manufacture of military equipment and, most importantly, nuclear weapons.

Originating in the late 1930s under Stalin’s direction, these cities bore all the hubristic hallmarks of an authoritarian command-and-control regime, including a unrepentantly narrow raison d’être and an utter disregard for geography. Known as ZATO cities (for “zakrytye administrativno-territorial’nye obrazovaniia,” or “closed administrative-territorial formations”), the sensitivity of their mission furthermore prevented them from even being placed on maps. A logical corollary to this is, if you don’t want to place something on a map, you probably aren’t keen give it a memorable name, either. At first, these cities were named in relation to the nearest, recognized city, and hyphenated with the approximate distance in kilometers. I must admit, given the nuclear remit of about ten of these cities, that there is something deliciously evocative about such a nomenclature – as if one was listing the known element and its artificially fabricated, enriched but less stable isotope. However, even this nomenclature proved a bit too explicit for the comfort of the Soviet authorities:

Thus, the All-Russian Scientific and Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF) was initially known as Arzamas-60, a postal code designation to show that it was 60 km from the city of Arzamas. But the “60” was considered too sensitive, and the number was changed to “16.” In 1947 the entire city of Sarov (Arzamas-16) disappeared from all official Russian maps and statistical documents. The facility has also been known Moscow-300, the town of Kremlev, and Arzamas-75. Zlatoust-20 is probably the same as Zlatoust-36, and Kurchatov-21, Moscow-21, Moscow-400 and Semipalatinsk-121 are almost certainly the same as Semipalatinsk-16.

This points to another difficulty intrinsic to the ZATO archipelago – how many of them are there? Even today, it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty. Estimates tend to cluster around 40, but, somewhat confusingly, “in addition, there are thought to be at least 15 ZATO in existence that cannot be accounted for.”

(Russian: Летят журавли) Mikhail Kalatozov’s luscious portrait of love and loss during World War II stars almond-eyed beauty Tatyana Samojlova and handsome Aleksei Batalov as moony-eyed young lovers whose innocent romance is shattered by war. When the idealistic boy volunteers for service, his draft-dodging cousin steals the despondent girl by brute force, yet she never gives up on her true love, even when he’s reported dead. Kalatozov’s patriotic paean to fallen soldiers and home-front heroes is an undeniably sentimental melodrama suffused with lush images and lyrical sequences, a kind of cinematic poetry unseen in Soviet cinema since the experimentation and optimism of the silent days. Produced during the “thaw” following Stalin’s repressive reign, it won the Palme d’Or prize at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival and set Kalatozov on the road to more ambitious expressions of Soviet idealism in the modern world, culminating in his masterpiece, I Am Cuba. #
If you have not seen this classic russian WWII film, you should.
(Russian: Летят журавли) Mikhail Kalatozov’s luscious portrait of love and loss during World War II stars almond-eyed beauty Tatyana Samojlova and handsome Aleksei Batalov as moony-eyed young lovers whose innocent romance is shattered by war. When the idealistic boy volunteers for service, his draft-dodging cousin steals the despondent girl by brute force, yet she never gives up on her true love, even when he’s reported dead. Kalatozov’s patriotic paean to fallen soldiers and home-front heroes is an undeniably sentimental melodrama suffused with lush images and lyrical sequences, a kind of cinematic poetry unseen in Soviet cinema since the experimentation and optimism of the silent days. Produced during the “thaw” following Stalin’s repressive reign, it won the Palme d’Or prize at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival and set Kalatozov on the road to more ambitious expressions of Soviet idealism in the modern world, culminating in his masterpiece, I Am Cuba. #

If you have not seen this classic russian WWII film, you should.


Cosmonaut Crashed Into Earth “Crying In Rage”
So there’s a cosmonaut up in space, circling the globe, convinced he will never make it back to Earth; he’s on the phone with Alexei Kosygin—then a high official of the Soviet Union—who is crying because he, too, thinks the cosmonaut will die.
The space vehicle is shoddily constructed, running dangerously low on fuel; its parachutes—though no one knows this—won’t work and the cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov, is about to, literally, crash full speed into Earth, his body turning molten on impact. As he heads to his doom, U.S. listening posts in Turkey hear him crying in rage, “cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.”
This extraordinarily intimate account of the 1967 death of a Russian cosmonaut appears in a new book, Starman, by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony, to be published next month. The authors base their narrative principally on revelations from a KGB officer, Venyamin Ivanovich Russayev, and previous reporting by Yaroslav Golovanov in Pravda. This version—if it’s true—is beyond shocking.
Starman tells the story of a friendship between two cosmonauts, Vladimir Kamarov and Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human to reach outer space. The two men were close; they socialized, hunted and drank together.
In 1967, both men were assigned to the same Earth-orbiting mission, and both knew the space capsule was not safe to fly. Komarov told friends he knew he would probably die. But he wouldn’t back out because he didn’t want Gagarin to die. Gagarin would have been his replacement.

Cosmonaut Crashed Into Earth “Crying In Rage”

So there’s a cosmonaut up in space, circling the globe, convinced he will never make it back to Earth; he’s on the phone with Alexei Kosygin—then a high official of the Soviet Union—who is crying because he, too, thinks the cosmonaut will die.

The space vehicle is shoddily constructed, running dangerously low on fuel; its parachutes—though no one knows this—won’t work and the cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov, is about to, literally, crash full speed into Earth, his body turning molten on impact. As he heads to his doom, U.S. listening posts in Turkey hear him crying in rage, “cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.”

This extraordinarily intimate account of the 1967 death of a Russian cosmonaut appears in a new book, Starman, by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony, to be published next month. The authors base their narrative principally on revelations from a KGB officer, Venyamin Ivanovich Russayev, and previous reporting by Yaroslav Golovanov in Pravda. This version—if it’s true—is beyond shocking.

Starman tells the story of a friendship between two cosmonauts, Vladimir Kamarov and Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human to reach outer space. The two men were close; they socialized, hunted and drank together.

In 1967, both men were assigned to the same Earth-orbiting mission, and both knew the space capsule was not safe to fly. Komarov told friends he knew he would probably die. But he wouldn’t back out because he didn’t want Gagarin to die. Gagarin would have been his replacement.

(Source: sunrec)

“Another Russia” (1987)

This photo exhibition travelled around the world visiting Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and France. It was that popular because it revealed what had been concealed from both people from other countries and those from the totalitarian state.

(Source: sunrec)

Link: Goodbye Lenin?

“Sometimes they come back.” The title to a classic Stephen King horror story about dead people that just won’t rest can also be used to characterize the continuing discussion surrounding the body of Vladimir Lenin. More than two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, both the Russian state and the Russian public remain uncertain as to what can be done about the body of the revolutionary leader, which continues to rest in the mausoleum on Red Square, at the heart of the nation.

The latest suggestion to go ahead and bury Lenin, the man most directly responsible for the transition from the Russian Empire to the Soviet Union, originates with the country’s new culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky.

According to Medinsky, Lenin’s burial could allow Russia to move on from its Soviet past. His position is supported both by those who see Lenin as first and foremost as a bloody revolutionary, as well as those who see something macabre and unsettling about the presence of the leader’s body right by the Kremlin’s walls.

Yet other observers note that the continuing criticism of Lenin’s legacy, as well as the discussion surrounding the burial of his body, is state propaganda aimed at quashing dissent and discrediting the revolutionary spirit in Russia.

There is also division about the costs of maintaining Lenin’s body in the mausoleum – with some seeing them as unjustifiable. “The dead Lenin actually lives a whole lot better than many living Russians do,” Alexeyeva told The Moscow News. “There is something hugely ironic about that.”

(Source: )


History of a Kiss
One of the greatest kisses in History is the one that took place between communist leaders Erich Honecker, from East Germany, and Leonid Brezhnev, from Soviet Union, during the 30th Anniversary of the German Democratic Republic in June 1979. Despite the controversy and ridicule arisen in the West, this was actually a common sign of socialist solidarity, very used since Khrushchev era. It seems, moreover, that both leaders were very keen on kissing*. However, this kiss has a greater story.
Honecker had become the leader of German Socialist Party in 1971, after the fall of Walter Ulbricht in disgrace, thanks to Brezhnev support, and in 1976 had become president of the Counsel of State of the GDR, also aided by the latter.
In the new 70’s spirit of the “détente”, the Soviet Union achieved, in exchange of a relaxation of weapon tensions, that the United states recognised its influence area in Eastern Europe. In this political atmosphere appeared the “Brezhnev Doctrine”, that imposed the right for Soviet military intervention in European socialist states. This happened, for instance, in the invasion of Prague by the Warsaw Pact in 1968, with the passivity of Western allies.
Honecker carried out a series of economic reforms in the GDR that lead the country to a so-called “consumption socialism”, that resulted in an improvement of the population’s standards of living. Apart from that, relationship with its Soviet colleague were a true love story. GDR and the USSR needed each other, the first became the greatest ideological defender of Communism in a time when this system was more than questioned. In turn, the Soviet Union guaranteed the Red Army intervention in case of a popular revolt similar to that in Prague, which was pretty probable considering the number of opponents to Honecker’s regime. Finally, the GDR was interested in furthering all possibilities of German reunification, so the “détente” politics was very useful to follow.
Nowadays, a painted version of the “Fraternal Kiss" can be seen on the eastern side of Berlin Wall’s ruins, performed by Dmitri Vrubel after the collapse. If one looks to it attentively, one can realise that this kiss is typical of a Greek tragedy, a suffocating kiss, in which lovers get too compromised on each other, despite of knowing that there is no future in that poisoned relationship. Actually, the painting is named “The Kiss of Death”, and one can read under it “God, help me to survive this deadly love”.

History of a Kiss

One of the greatest kisses in History is the one that took place between communist leaders Erich Honecker, from East Germany, and Leonid Brezhnev, from Soviet Union, during the 30th Anniversary of the German Democratic Republic in June 1979. Despite the controversy and ridicule arisen in the West, this was actually a common sign of socialist solidarity, very used since Khrushchev era. It seems, moreover, that both leaders were very keen on kissing*. However, this kiss has a greater story.

Honecker had become the leader of German Socialist Party in 1971, after the fall of Walter Ulbricht in disgrace, thanks to Brezhnev support, and in 1976 had become president of the Counsel of State of the GDR, also aided by the latter.

In the new 70’s spirit of the “détente”, the Soviet Union achieved, in exchange of a relaxation of weapon tensions, that the United states recognised its influence area in Eastern Europe. In this political atmosphere appeared the “Brezhnev Doctrine”, that imposed the right for Soviet military intervention in European socialist states. This happened, for instance, in the invasion of Prague by the Warsaw Pact in 1968, with the passivity of Western allies.

Honecker carried out a series of economic reforms in the GDR that lead the country to a so-called “consumption socialism”, that resulted in an improvement of the population’s standards of living. Apart from that, relationship with its Soviet colleague were a true love story. GDR and the USSR needed each other, the first became the greatest ideological defender of Communism in a time when this system was more than questioned. In turn, the Soviet Union guaranteed the Red Army intervention in case of a popular revolt similar to that in Prague, which was pretty probable considering the number of opponents to Honecker’s regime. Finally, the GDR was interested in furthering all possibilities of German reunification, so the “détente” politics was very useful to follow.

Nowadays, a painted version of the “Fraternal Kiss" can be seen on the eastern side of Berlin Wall’s ruins, performed by Dmitri Vrubel after the collapse. If one looks to it attentively, one can realise that this kiss is typical of a Greek tragedy, a suffocating kiss, in which lovers get too compromised on each other, despite of knowing that there is no future in that poisoned relationship. Actually, the painting is named “The Kiss of Death”, and one can read under it “God, help me to survive this deadly love”.

"Another Russia" (1987)

This photo exhibition travelled around the world visiting Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and France. It was that popular because it revealed what had been concealed from both people from other countries and those from the totalitarian state.

Link: Edward Lucas on Putin and Russian History

The international editor of The Economist and author of a new book about Russia gives an excoriating critique of Putinism and explains how Russia’s amoral present is rooted in a failure to come to terms with its past.

Wherever you turn – from contemporary literature to media reporting – there seems to be an unremittingly negative portrayal of modern Russia as corrupt, undemocratic and gangster-run. Is that a fair description?

Well, it’s both better and worse than the popular perception. It’s worse in the sense that I think the country is really run by what amounts to a gangster syndicate which is ruthless in its pursuit of wealth and power, and distorts the machinery of the state in order to achieve that and to perpetrate crimes against the Russian people. So I think Russia is worse than the slightly sanitised picture we get in the media, not least because of libel laws that mean it’s quite hard to write clearly and bluntly about some of the people involved.

But I think things are also better, because you have a new generation of Russians who don’t remember the Soviet Union, except possibly for childhood memories, are living lives largely unclouded by fear and official propaganda, and are integrated into the world in a way in which Russians haven’t been for 100 years. It’s those people who made up a chunk of those protesters who were filling the streets of Moscow and other cities during the weeks after the phony Duma elections in December [2011]. There’s cause for hope there, and the Putin propaganda bubble seems to have popped pretty substantially. Although he’s still in power he no longer enjoys the hypnotic popularity that he’s had over the last 10 years.

Rather than compare Russia with Europe, might it be more appropriate to compare it with other countries whose oil exports make up a disproportionate amount of their wealth and are often ruled by corrupt, undemocratic and potentially dangerous regimes?

There’s a danger of being patronising and deterministic. It’s like saying African countries can’t be democratic or Asian values are antithetical to democracy. Actually, what we have seen in Europe in the last 25 years is that countries that conventional wisdom thought were doomed to poverty and chaos have become very successful ones and countries that we thought were doing very well have fallen into great difficulties. So I’m very hesitant to say that Russia is beset by eternal woes that mean it can never be democratic, prosperous or law abiding.

I do think the shock of the Soviet collapse was very deep, and many people underestimated how difficult things were going to be after that. The country was ruined in so many ways – from brains to bridges – and a huge work of reconstruction is still needed to get over the terrible damage done by communism. I think it was fanciful to think it was ever going to be very easy, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t deplore things that have gone wrong. I think the 12-year Putin experiment in retrospect looks like a very serious wrong turn for Russia, rather than being a gateway to a bright and better future as it was portrayed at the time.

The dominance of the oil and gas sector has allowed Russia to punch above its weight in the world. Without it, the Russian government would surely behave differently.

I think that’s true. The main business of the regime is stealing natural resource rents. Rents is a rather technical economic term, but it’s the windfall money you get from just digging something out of the ground and selling it for a lot of money. There are also what people call bureaucratic rents, which is a fancy word for bribes. I think there are two pyramids in Russia – one of natural resource rents and one of bureaucratic rents or bribes. The regime sits at the top and sucks money up from both of those and then squanders some of it on high living in Moscow but pumps a lot of it into the West, where it’s laundered in places like Vienna and even London and New York.

You’ve chosen five books for us, all of which have been published relatively recently. Is there a single thread that ties your choices together?

I think history and the legacy of the past is something of a thread. The communist party has gone but the KGB is still there, and the difficulty in confronting the crimes of KGB – and the regimes whose instrument it was – is a very big deal. I spent a lot of time in West Germany in the 1980s and was very aware of the very painful and sometimes rather intrusive idea of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, which is the coming to terms with the past. It’s always been striking that once you go east of the Iron Curtain, people are often ignorant about the misdeeds of their country’s history or relativise them in a way that is really shocking by the standards of Western Europe.

There is a feeling that the Soviet Union is gone and forgotten, when it shouldn’t be. There should be a memory of the totalitarian past in a country like Russia. Which is not to say that every Russian should feel personally guilty for it, but everything you see is built on the bones of millions of innocent people and that should be a really big deal in Russia. But sadly – and partly because of the Putin regime – it is not.


Moscow by Yevgeniy Fiks
My book Moscow (forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse), of which the following is an extension, documents ideologically charged Communist sites appropriated by gay subculture in the Soviet era, as photographed in 2008: Sverdlov Square with its monument to Karl Marx, the lavatories of the Lenin Museum, and other public spaces adopted as cruising sites that have become countermonuments of the queer experience under “really existing socialism.” Vladimir Lenin’s government decriminalized homosexuality in 1918; in 1933–34, Josef Stalin’s recriminalized it. British Communist Harry Whyte’s 1934 letter to Stalin, excerpted here, went unanswered; it was released from the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation in 1993, published that year in the journal Istochnik, and translated for Moscow by Thomas Campbell.
To Comrade STALIN.
The content of my appeal is briefly as follows. The author of this letter, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, requests a theoretical grounding of the March 7 decree of the USSR Central Executive Committee on [the institution of] criminal liability for sodomy. Since he strives to approach this question from a Marxist viewpoint, the author of this letter believes that the decree contradicts both the facts of life itself and the principles of Marxism-Leninism. […] Although I am a foreign Communist who has not yet been promoted to the AUCP(b), I nevertheless think that it will not seem unnatural to you, the leader of the world proletariat, that I address you with a request to shed light on a question that, as it seems to me, has huge significance for a large number of Communists in the USSR as well as in other countries.
The question is as follows: Can a homosexual be considered someone worthy of membership in the Communist Party?
First and foremost, I would like to point out that I view the condition of homosexuals who are either of working-class origin or workers themselves to be analogous to the condition of women under the capitalist regime and the coloured races who are oppressed by imperialism. This condition is likewise similar in many ways to the condition of the Jews under Hitler’s dictatorship, and in general it is not hard to see in it an analogy with the condition of any social stratum subjected to exploitation and persecution under capitalist domination.
Read more.

Moscow by Yevgeniy Fiks

My book Moscow (forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse), of which the following is an extension, documents ideologically charged Communist sites appropriated by gay subculture in the Soviet era, as photographed in 2008: Sverdlov Square with its monument to Karl Marx, the lavatories of the Lenin Museum, and other public spaces adopted as cruising sites that have become countermonuments of the queer experience under “really existing socialism.” Vladimir Lenin’s government decriminalized homosexuality in 1918; in 1933–34, Josef Stalin’s recriminalized it. British Communist Harry Whyte’s 1934 letter to Stalin, excerpted here, went unanswered; it was released from the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation in 1993, published that year in the journal Istochnik, and translated for Moscow by Thomas Campbell.

To Comrade STALIN.

The content of my appeal is briefly as follows. The author of this letter, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, requests a theoretical grounding of the March 7 decree of the USSR Central Executive Committee on [the institution of] criminal liability for sodomy. Since he strives to approach this question from a Marxist viewpoint, the author of this letter believes that the decree contradicts both the facts of life itself and the principles of Marxism-Leninism. […] Although I am a foreign Communist who has not yet been promoted to the AUCP(b), I nevertheless think that it will not seem unnatural to you, the leader of the world proletariat, that I address you with a request to shed light on a question that, as it seems to me, has huge significance for a large number of Communists in the USSR as well as in other countries.

The question is as follows: Can a homosexual be considered someone worthy of membership in the Communist Party?

First and foremost, I would like to point out that I view the condition of homosexuals who are either of working-class origin or workers themselves to be analogous to the condition of women under the capitalist regime and the coloured races who are oppressed by imperialism. This condition is likewise similar in many ways to the condition of the Jews under Hitler’s dictatorship, and in general it is not hard to see in it an analogy with the condition of any social stratum subjected to exploitation and persecution under capitalist domination.

Read more.