Continuing my respite, I’ve been reading about the Soviet Union — its prison system in particular. I picked up Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago a couple days ago, and have been enjoying the read. The book is a weighty one, but Solzhenitsyn manages to insert a good bit of humor into an otherwise depressing tome. Most of this humor is a result of the absurdity of Soviet policy and the many shortcomings of the people who implemented it.
Archipelago is a real-life example of an Orwellian dystopia, but it differs in some key respects from Orwell’s 1984. First, the party is characterized more by blundering fools and petty villains than any sort of ruthless efficiency. Rather than intelligent, dedicated inner party technocrats like 1984′s O’Brien, Soviet NKVD (predecessor to the KGB) interrogators were greedy, lazy brutes who were simply trying to keep their place in the organization and line their pockets with the least effort possible. Unfortunately for Soviet prisoners, the easy way for the NKVD to accomplish its objective was to obtain confessions by any expedient means. For stubborn prisoners – especially those who insisted they were innocent – torture was the norm.
Secondly, although confessions were happily used by Stalin and his cronies for political purposes, the real prize was slave labor. Yes, many, many people were shot outright, but the overwhelming majority did time in slave labor camps across the vast expanse of Eurasia. Sadly, few young Americans are even aware that slavery was one of the defining characteristics of the mid-20th century. The Nazis and Japanese made extensive use of slaves during WWII, but Stalin outdid them all. Stalin was, for all intents and purposes, the successor to the Asiatic despots who have ruled Russia from time to time all the way back to the Huns. He ruled over a slave empire that stretched from the Baltic to the Pacific; even from the Arctic Ocean to the shores of the Caspian Sea. Genghis Khan himself would have been impressed.
What is most depressing about the book is that it dawns on the reader that an awful, nightmare of a totalitarian state need not be created by some cabal of evil geniuses, but rather can develop simply as a result of base human instincts, such as greed, resentment and a lust for power. Following the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia was in a shambles. During the chaos of the 1920s, a sort of gangsterism prevailed, which resulted in Stalin’s accession to power (not that Lenin was much better). The gangster lord then went about expanding his style throughout the entire Empire, enthusiastically supported by armies of thugs who were handsomely rewarded for brutalizing their own people.
Solzhenitsyn goes into quite a bit of detail about the early development of Soviet courts and law. Following the Revolution, over the course of little more than a decade, justice was entirely subordinated to the party and its organs, and for all practical purposes ceased to exist. It took some time to work out the details, but by the 1930s the Soviet penal system became an industry in its own right, and was kept functioning at the expense of other sectors. Even as people starved to death by the million in the worst famines in Russian (and Ukrainian) history, the prisons were well-funded and well-staffed.
The constant churning of the population as people were uprooted, displaced, arrested and exiled to Siberia was an important factor in Nazi Germany’s early success in Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 invasion of the USSR. Without massive American material support in the form of trucks, locomotives, food, tanks, airplanes and huge shipments of steel, explosives and ammunition – over 16 million tons in all – Stalin probably couldn’t have withstood the assault. Ironically, some of the hundreds of thousands of trucks (mainly Studebakers and Fords) we sent to the USSR were used by the NKVD as their infamous “black marias” for collecting prisoners. The Studebakers were also famous as the platforms for the mobile rocket artillery (“Katyushas“) the Red Army used to awesome effect in battles.
Of course, when you abuse people to the extent Stalin did, there tends to be some blowback. A little known story of WWII concerns the hundreds of thousands of Russians – ethnic Russians, no less – who actually volunteered to fight for the Nazis, despite being treated like subhuman dogs in German POW camps, which suggests that Stalin treated them even worse than that (ultimately, he did — after the war, returning Russian POWs were routinely sent to be worked to death in Siberia for the crime of having been taken prisoner). If it weren’t for the ideological constraints and small-mindedness of Nazism, Germany could have potentially overthrown Stalin with his own subjects.
Stalin’s USSR serves as an example of the depravity to which governments can sink, and because it was very real, the USSR is a far more disturbing example than 1984 could possibly be. It should remind us that we must be vigilant in preventing anything similar – no matter how “limited” – from developing in our own society, but unfortunately that lesson has been lost on many.
And how do we know it has been lost? Because people are at work using the same methods the early Communists employed right here at home. Communism is set up on the principle of “equality,” which is antithetical to the principle of “liberty.” If we are all to be equal, we cannot be free, because individual choices have different results. This is in direct conflict with English common law, which was developed on the basis of protecting liberty (e.g. property rights) rather than equality (redistribution).
Second wave feminism was directly influenced by Communist theory, and it was second wave feminists who wrote and implemented family law starting in the 1980s. The Violence Against Women Act was also strongly influenced by these Marxist feminists (despite Joe Biden’s fraudulent claims of authorship), who have little regard for concepts such as due process, rights of the accused, and so on. In fact, if you take a close look at the way family law has come to operate, it resembles Soviet law very closely. It is neither criminal law nor civil law, but some strange hybrid that purportedly “levels the playing field.” In so doing, men are substitutes for the “class enemies” of the Communists — capitalists, bourgeoisie, aristocrats, etc.
Guilt need not be established for a man to be dispossessed, children may be used as hostages, detention without trial is frequently employed and a mere accusation is enough to remove a man from his home. In many cases, child support and alimony orders amount to debt bondage (a form of slavery). All is justified because women are seen as an exploited class by feminists, and efforts to rectify this cannot be hampered by “reactionary” (Futrelle frequently uses that term — shows his true colors) notions of due process, trial by jury, and presumption of innocence.
The most disturbing parallel, however is currently developing in our universities in response to rape hysteria. For a couple years now, universities have been setting up sexual assault tribunals at the urging of the US Department of Education, which is using Title IX as leverage to force compliance. These tribunals find a remarkably similar predecessor in the Cheka (later NKVD) troikas used to mete out extrajudicial punishment, such as summary execution or imprisonment. They were created expressly to avoid trials, which were impractical due to the need for solid evidence and other such reactionary impediments to punishment. Likewise, our own college tribunals were created for essentially the same purpose. On reading about them, one gets the impression that Russlyn Ali, who is responsible for ordering the “new standards,” must have picked up the idea while reading about Genrikh Yagoda or another one of the sadistic villains responsible for implementing Stalin’s madness.
Ali’s new standard, known as “preponderance of evidence,” is a farce and a travesty of justice. Any fool or liar can claim that there’s a “preponderance of evidence” in whatever case he or she pleases. What preponderance of evidence really comes down to is opinion, politics, or just plain preference, and what man in his right mind would trust a university-appointed troika on sexual assault to be unbiased?
Christina Hoff Summers reports:
“We will use all of the tools at our disposal including … withholding federal funds … to ensure that women are free from sexual violence,” Ali told NPR last year. One such tool is the standard of proof that college disciplinary committees use when determining guilt. Many colleges employ a “beyond a reasonable doubt” or a “clear and convincing” standard. (Roughly speaking, “beyond a reasonable doubt” requires a 98-percent certainty of guilt; clear and convincing, an 80-percent certainty.) Ali, however, orders all colleges to adopt the far-less-demanding standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” Using that standard, a defendant can be found guilty if members of a disciplinary committee believe there is slightly more than a 50/50 chance that he committed the crime. That standard will make it far easier for disciplinary committees to try, convict, and punish an accused student (almost always a male).
How did Ali and her fellow lawyers in the Department of Education manage to find in the Title IX gender-equity statute grounds for demanding colleges to adopt a “preponderance of evidence” standard? That is a mystery. Hans Bader, a former Education Department lawyer, says that nothing in Title IX justifies taking away an accused person’s right to a firm presumption of innocence, requiring clear and convincing evidence. Ali and her colleagues, he suggests, are “legislating through administrative fiat, in a way that is arbitrary and capricious.” And dangerous, one might add.
We might be tempted to write this off as more campus silliness, but even taken in context this is a chilling development. While they may not be executing people, detention isn’t all that far-fetched, especially when we have people in the President’s administration demanding that schools implement extrajudicial punishment measures with troikas that approximate the Cheka model pioneered by the Bolsheviks. That the current administration is trying to preempt investigations and trials in state courts is another issue here, and may well be a violation of the Constitution.
The US may not be the hellish totalitarian dystopia of the early USSR, but there’s no sense in allowing any one part of our society to resemble it at all. Whether they are found in the family or the university, Bolshevik standards of “justice” should be firmly rejected before they metastasize and spread to other institutions. Finally, feminists should be called out for what they really are rather than given cover by politicians and the press. They are, quite literally, tyrants who will use whatever method they deem expedient to accomplish their goal. As I read The Gulag Archipelago, I find quite a bit of material that is familiar in the contemporary world. It seems that even we Americans carry the germ of totalitarianism within, and we would do well to keep an eye on it and aggressively root it out where we can.