SAMIZDAT REGISTER 2 by Roy--Ed. Medvedev


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A great chasm has opened between those dissidents who have fled, or have sought to flee, the Soviet Union and those who have chosen to stay. The leavers have seen Israel or America or some other place as offering a better life, while the stayers, committed to the ideal of socialism, have no Jerusalem but Moscow. Historian Medvedev has become the best known of the resident socialist dissidents, and he disagrees with physicist Sakharov, who is absent from this anthology of semi-clandestine tracts, in seeing not free emigration but freedom of speech, press, and thought as the main deficiency of Soviet public life. The twelve essays by eight authors--Medvedev, the only ""name"" contributor, is represented by four pieces--generally take this line, arguing for increased freedoms combined with a less bureaucratic economy (""social"" rather than ""state"" ownership, with more latitude for private ownership of small businesses and farms). The authors identify with Lenin while castigating Stalin and Stalinism as the corruptors of Soviet socialism. The period of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in the early '20s--Lenin's transitional program that included a mixed economy--thus becomes a sort of Golden Age, and two essays by the former Menshevik Mikhail Yakubovich express a view of NEP as a crossroads by following the careers of two top Bolsheviks, Kamenev and Zinoviev, as they wound their way toward destruction by Stalin. On the whole, the collection is more valuable as a checklist of some basic ideas in the USSR than for their historical or theoretical worth; the discussions are carried on in the stultified language of Soviet discourse, and without benefit of the more sophisticated literature coming out of western Europe on the themes of noncommunist socialism. Two of the more interesting articles are not theoretical at all: one argues that from 1918 to 1958, over 40 million people died in the USSR of unnatural causes (war, famine, Stalin's camps, etc.), while the other, entitled ""Commodity Number One,"" documents the revenue accruing to the state thanks to the profligate drinking of vodka--suggesting that the state has a stake in alcoholism. The rest is standard and repetitive.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1981
ISBN: 039333578X
Publisher: Norton