When the Iron Curtain Fell

How totalitarianism came to Eastern Europe, and why it didn’t stay.

Frank Dikötter
Reason Magazine
1/5/2013

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956, by Anne Applebaum, Doubleday, 608 pages, $35.00.

 

ironcurtain

…From 1948 onwards, the communist parties also began to dismantle the institutions of civil society. Schools were nationalized and independent organizations suppressed. Jazz was decried as decadent.  Even chess clubs were viewed with suspicion: They might be fronts for spies and saboteurs. Within a few years, the Soviets were eating their proverbial children: In 1949 and 1950, show trials choreographed from Moscow accused hitherto loyal party members and decorated generals of being traitors or spies.

The Roman Catholic Church was the object of a particularly sustained attack. Priests who survived the ordeal became employees entirely dependent on the state. In universities, once thriving faculties of history, law, and sociology were transformed into vehicles for the transmission of state ideology. The theories of “socialist realism” shaped painting, sculpture, music, literature, design, architecture, theater, and film. Step by step, private enterprise was undermined, as everything was forced under the purview of the state’s central plan. Most private restaurants became “people’s cafeterias” or state-owned “proletarian pubs.” Even kindergarteners were subjected to indoctrination. In Poland they were taught to call Stalin by his childhood nickname, Soso. The gruesome founder of the Soviet secret police, Felix Dzerzhinsky, was given the endearing nickname of “Franek.”

All the while, Marxist-Leninist regimes across Eastern Europe continued to gain followers. Many were idealists, some were opportunists, others thugs. Although some joined the party enthusiastically, many collaborated reluctantly, driven by fear or necessity. As Applebaum demonstrates in two compelling chapters, the majority of people simply wanted to get on with their lives and had to conform in order to survive. “Millions of people did not necessarily believe all of the slogans they read in the newspaper,” she writes, “but neither did they feel compelled to denounce those who were writing them.”

In an epilogue, Applebaum argues that the history of Eastern Europe illustrates an unpleasant truth about human nature: When enough people with adequate resources and sufficient power are determined to destroy old and seemingly stable legal, political, educational, and religious institutions, they are able do so with astounding speed and thoroughness. Civilization, in other words, is fragile…

Read the complete book review at Reason.com

RelatedSchool Daze – The Dumbing Down Of American Schools

In every state and county, schools districts are crying out for more money. For what? Higher pay for teachers unions? For teachers who can’t teach? And for those teachers that can teach, what are the children learning? To hate themselves because they don’t bow low enough to Gaia (mother Earth)?

Critical Race Theory perhaps?

Zinn, Alinsky, Chomsky, Said?

Pseudo-history. Racial politics. Goracle non-science. God is dead perhaps? Legal positivism?…

Read the whole thing.

If you understand the history of the Iron Curtain, you’ll get why we found this video somewhat disconcerting, even though the mayor specifically mentions illegal guns : Mayor Cory Booker: $1,000 to turn in your gun owning neighbors

Update: Political Arrests In Cuba Increasing

HAVANA — Political arrests in Cuba jumped to more than 6,600 in 2012, the highest in decades as authorities shifted their strategy for dealing with growing civic resistance, say dissident groups.

Cuba’s communist government is using more short-term arbitrary arrests to disrupt and intimidate critics rather than slap them with long prison sentences like those used against dozens of Cubans in a 2003 crackdown on dissent…

Though various American nutbars like some Kennedy family members believe Fidel Castro ‘an amazing guy’

Yeah.

We recommend a daily reading of Babalú blog if you really want to see what Communist tyranny looks like, just 90 miles off our U.S. shores:

54 years later, no end in sight to indignities in Cuba

 

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