Posts tagged Trotsky

“I Write as I Please” 1935 book (Part IV)

If you look at the index of Walter Duranty’s book, it is chock full of names and places, five pages worth.  As a journalist Duranty knew to include as many people as possible which may have brought this book up on the charts of the New York Times bestseller list, if they kept track of such things back then.  People like to see their names in print whether in a newspaper article or in a book, so he knew that all who were “readers” would like to buy a copy of this book which was published so long ago.  Yet, there are many things that remain the same or history definitely repeats itself.  I’ll continue where I left off with what I think are interesting quotes:

p. 212 – Liatsis theory of Red Terror and warning and example [other references to who wrote the manual on terror and how to get people to do what the communist regime wanted them to do]

“His Majesty’s Opposition” – English phrase – W.D. learned to read between the lines of the Soviet Press. “Bewildering difference between Russian and non-Russian and Bolshevik and non-Bolshevik mentality.” [I have the same problem here in Astana, what is Kazakh and not Kazakh, what is post-Soviet and what is just human nature?]

In the spring of 1930, Walter Duranty went to Alma Ata where Trotsky was first exiled to do an interview.  So few references to Central Asia so to me this is interesting.  Christopher Robbins, in his book “Apples are from Kazakhstan” writes about Trotsky’s exile to Kazakhstan.

I like the following poem that Duranty quoted, it fits with living here in Kazakhstan, especially in the capital city of Astana:

p. 240

There was an owl who in an oak

The more he heard the less he spoke

The less he spoke the more he heard

Soldiers, imitate that wise bird

p. 247 – “The tempo of life by which the Bolsheviks /////[can’t read my writing] the rush of their progress, the haste of their desire to catch up and surpass the capitalist world in material achievement, has been too swift to allow any of them to pause awhile by the wayside, and think.”

p. 249 Three old enemies of newspaper:  time, space and selection

How to handle news in Russia – 1st rule – believe nothing that I hear, little of what I read and not at all of what I see

p. 278 – “I had no intention of being an apologist for the Stalin administration” [whether he intended or not, he was the mouthpiece that many people listened to, especially Governor Roosevelt from New York, who later opened up relations with U.S.S.R. in 1933 when he became President.]

(to be continued)

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“I Write as I Please” 1935 book by Walter Duranty

Anyone who has followed me and my blog for any length of time starting in 2006 in Kyiv, Ukraine knows that I am NO FAN of Walter Duranty. As many of my readers might or might not know, he was a British man who wrote articles about Russia for the New York Times.  I downloaded off the Internet [must be public domain by now] the book Duranty had written that was published by Simon and Schuster in 1935 in New York titled “I Write as I Please.”  Dedicated to Duranty’s friend and mentor, Bill Ryall, who later was known as William Bolitho, it was an interesting read for me just looking at the chapter titles.

I need to look up and order the book written about Duranty titled “Stalin’s Apologist.” In one of the last chapters of his own book, where he wrote the way he wanted to, Duranty claimed he was not Stalin’s apologist. “I had no intention of being an apologist for the Stalin administration” [p. 278]  That may be true at the beginning of his journalist career in Moscow but after each progressive year he became more PINK!  The more recent book about Duranty should shed some more light as to what he was doing in the pocket of Joseph Stalin.  Thought the chapter titles were enlightening:

Ch. 1 – Baptism of Blood

Ch. 2 – News Not Fit to Print

Ch. 3 – Enter Litvinov

Ch. 4 – White Front!

Ch. 5 – Balts, Barons and Bolsheviks

Ch. 6 – “The Poor do Stink”

Ch. 7 – Exclusive

Ch. 8 – The Brave Man Dies But Once

Ch. 9 – From Bolitho to Lenin

Ch. 10 – “The Bad Years”

Ch. 11 – Volga Famine

Ch. 12 – From A.R.A. to N.E.P.

Ch. 13 – Love Among the Ruined

Ch. 14 – Red Star

Ch. 15 – Lenin and Stalin

Ch. 16 – The Founding Fathers

Ch. 17 – A Prophet with Honor

Ch. 18 – Lenin’s Funeral and Trotsky’s

Ch. 19 – A Cantor with Pegasus

Ch. 20 – I Write as I Please

Ch. 21 – Retreat from Moscow

Ch. 22 – War of the Titans

Ch. 23 – Collectives Spell Civilization

Ch. 24 – I Re-Write as I Please

Ch. 25 – Moscow Re-visited

Ch. 26 – Time Forward

More quotes from this book from the notes I took after I read through the downloaded version.  Who needs a Kindle? You may be wondering what this has to do with Kazakhstan. I’m glad you asked. I am trying to get to the bottom of this mystery of cover-up and what was REALLY happening in Russia, Ukraine AND Kazakhstan during these trying years of the 1920s and 1930s leading up to WWII.  Unfortunately, Duranty was a Russophile and there is not much he wrote about Ukraine or Kazakhstan.

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“Turn-of-phrases” – Part III

The following are quotes taken from Colin Thubron’s book titled “The Lost Heart of Asia.”  He has some insightful perspectives, even though they are dated.  Much has happened in Kazakhstan since Thubron visited in the early 1990s.

 

“Next morning I flew to Karaganda, the second city of Kazakhstan.  This was no more than a feint into the heart of a steppeland spreading thinly peopled towards Siberia, for you could travel it for weeks and encounter no one.  Far down, under the wings of our groaning Tupolev, drifted an unchanging, dun-coloured earth, where cloud-shadows moved in grey lakes and there was no glint of life.  It was hard to look on it without misgiving.  In these secretive deserts and the grasslands lapping them to the north, the Russians had for decades concealed an archipelago of labour camps, nuclear testing sites, ballistic missiles and archaic heavy industry.  It was the dumping ground of unwanted nations.  Around the handful of those exiles it hammered into stature – Dostoevsky soldiered here in disgrace, Solzhenitsyn festered – millions more succumbed into death or obscurity.  Trotsky spent two years banished in Almaty, before the murderer’s ice-pick found him in Mexico.”

 

From time to time the land had floated visions.  In the late 1950s Russians and Ukrainians flooded into the northern steppes to plant a hundred million acres of wheat and barley on Kruschev’s ‘Virgin Lands’ (lands not virgin at all, but Kazakh pastures) and for a few years the scheme flowered spectacularly, before soil erosion called it to heel…” (p. 337)

 

“But the testing sites near Semipalatinsk have left half a million people ill with radioactive sickness, some of them – in Stalin’s time – exposed intentionally as guinea-pigs.  Over a region now riddled with unfissioned plutonium, some 500 bombs, exploded over forty years, have undermined a bewildered populace with cancers, leukemia, heart disease, birth defects and blindness, so that the first act of an independent Kazakhstan in 1990 was to ban all tests on its territory.  All across this blighted country, lead smelters and copper foundries, cement and phosphates works still plunge the skies and waters in poisonous effluent, and some two million Kazakhs and Russians are rumoured chronically sick from the pollution.” (p. 337)

 

In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan the author met a writer named Kadyr.  He informed Thubron of the following problem:  “We’ve hundreds of writers, but no money…and our publishers can’t get paper.  It used to come to us from Russia, but now everything’s atrophied.  So at last we have our freedom to write – but no paper!” His lank hair and glasses lent him a juvenile charm which drifted on and off.  An ingrained wariness pervaded him.  Questions turned him vague. ‘There was always too much that we couldn’t say. We couldn’t draw on our traditions or write our own history.  Now our spiritual situation is richer, far richer, but our material one is hopeless.”

‘What did you used to write about?’

‘My novels were about nature,’ he said quickly, as if exculpating himself from something, ‘how the mountains sit in people’s spirits, and how people relate to them and to one another.  There are inhabitants of Bishkek like that, and I suppose I’m one of them…People call us ‘the mountain people’ because we’ve never really left the wilds.”

To write about the mountains, I supposed, was a covert way of expressing patriotism.

‘It wasn’t dangerous,’ he said, ‘Nature is nature, whoever is in power.’”

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Animal Farm Literacy: Achievement and Pretense

When I lived and taught English in communist Red China in the late 1980s I had heard of the ironic motto “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.” This facetious slogan for the masses goes along with the “iron rice bowl” policy I wrote about a week ago.  I heard at a Kurbanait holiday supper last night a variation of this care-worn slogan again, “We pretend to teach while our students pretend to learn.”  I hope that more than just pretense happened in my classroom this past semester.  Some of my students achieved great things, they wrote inspiring words in English, their second or third language. I’m very proud of them. The following is what C.S. Lewis wrote about pretense:

 

There are two kinds of pretending.  There is a bad kind, where the pretence is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you.  But there is also a good kind, where the pretence leads up to the real thing.  When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are.  And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were.  Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already.  Mere Christianity, Book IV, Ch. 7.

 

Yesterday I finished the book Animal Farm, it is a short little “fairy tale” which takes an hour or so to read.  Then I looked up what the allegory was for all of George Orwell’s farmyard characters.  The following is what is commonly known, I had guessed right on the pigs  

Napoleon = Stalin and Snowball = Trotsky. 

Squealer the pig = Molotov and the Soviet paper Pravda

Major, the boar = Marx (Lenin?)

Minimus the pig = Gorky

Farmer Jones = Russian tsar

Frederick, the neighboring farmer, owner of Pinchfield = Hitler

Mr. Pilkington, the other feuding farmer = U.S. and U.K.

Battle of the Windmill = WWII

Mr. Whymper = George Bernard Shaw (I had thought he might have represented Walter Duranty)

Hens = kulaks who destroyed their eggs like the farmers who destroyed their produce

Sheep = masses

Moses the Raven = Russian Orthodox religion

Horn and hoof green flag = hammer and sickle

Boxer, the hard working horse = the proletariat

Mollie = bourgeoisie or nobility, the Russian diaspora

Benjamin, the donkey = the author, George Orwell

 

Writing can be a powerful thing if the meanings of words come across successfully to your reading audience.  The pen IS mightier than the sword and I hope my Kazakh students catch the essence of writing down their thoughts as often as possible so that what is documented can be looked back on in the future.  Practice makes perfect and their writing can eventually stir others to action for the betterment of this great country of Kazakhstan. 

 

The story of Animal Farm showed that those animals (the pigs and dogs) who could write the Seven Commandments on the side of the barn had power over those animals who remained illiterate.  In fact, those who wrote had power to change the meaning of the laws by adding just a few words to the end of each law in order to twist the commandment to their advantage.  Our memories are also important to remember the original truths.  My students have better memories at their young age than us older folks. Institutional memory is important to have in order to counter the lies and pretense that harms rather than helps.

 

We, as older veteran teachers, have the experience like the donkey Benjamin, to outlive the pretense and charades that went on during the former Soviet Union.  It is an achievement that the Animal Farm in real life was demolished 18 years ago but there are still remnants of the old thinking that is residual in our institution of higher learning.  What will it take to have a REAL education to change society?  Perhaps when teachers stop pretending to teach and REALLY teach and have a classroom full of students who REALLY want to learn.  That would be an achievement in any country, not just in Kazakhstan!  I think it happened in my classroom, I am hopeful and optimistic for Kazakhstan’s future.

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Hannah Arendt’s Totalitarianism vs. Animal Farm Literacy

I’m ensconced in my office with students’ files, papers, portfolios, exams, checklists, and scoring rubrics.  I’m familiarizing myself once again with the Excel spreadsheets in order to efficiently do my final grades for my four classes (about 60 students to account for).  I was interested by what C.S. Lewis wrote about Individualists and Totalitarian.  In our “western” institution of higher learning I’m struck with what we are required to do with our Central Asian students who have been taught by those former Soviet teachers who were under a totalitarian, communist form of government over 18 years ago.  It will take a generation or two to sift out the rigidity of one form of teaching to allow the students (and teachers) to breathe freely on the shallow academic air of freedom of expression and freedom of thought.

 

“When you find yourself wanting to turn your children, or pupils, or even your neighbours, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that.  You and they are different organs, intended to do different things.  On the other hand, when you are tempted not to bother about someone else’s troubles because they are ‘no business of yours’, remember that though he is different from you he is part of the same organism as you.  If you forget that he belongs to the same organism as yourself you will become an Individualist.  If you forget that he is a different organ from you, if you want to suppress differences and make people all alike, you will become a Totalitarian.”  From Mere Christianity, Book IV, Ch. 6

 

In 1951 Hannah Arendt had published her seminal volume of “The Origins of Totalitarianism” coining the phrase which essentially means: A type of government that has total control over all aspects of its citizen’s lives.” From Answers.com.  Hannah was a Jew from Germany who was married to a Russian who had fled the Soviet Union’s form of totalitarianism.  She lived safely in New York where she could boldly write about her views of both forms of government, Soviet Union’s communists and the fascist Nazis.  Heavy stuff of which my Kazakh students have been writing about since the former regime of communism greatly affected their great grandparents and grandparents in the early days of collectivization in Kazakhstan and the subsequent call to arms to fight for the “Motherland” during the Great Patriotic War.

 

To stay on the lighter side, I’m reading Animal Farm and enjoying George Orwell’s view of the Soviet Union by taking a fictional spin around a farmyard once the animals had rebelled against Farmer Jones.  I’m guessing that Jones was the Russian tsar and that Major, the horse, was Marx and that the two pigs who don’t get along are Stalin and Trotsky. 

 

I had to laugh when I read the following about what Animal Farm’s rules were laid out for all the beasts of the newly emancipated farmyard.  This concerned their supposed reading and writing classes which were a seeming success:

 

“As for the pigs, they could already read and write perfectly.  The dogs learned to read fairly well, but were not interested in reading anything except the Seven Commandments.  Muriel, the goat, could read somewhat better than the dogs, and sometimes used to read to the others in the evenings from scraps of newspaper which she found on the rubbish heap.  Benjamin could read as well as any pig, but never exercised his faculty.  So far as he knew, he said, there was nothing worth reading.  Clover learnt the whole alphabet, but could not put words together.  Boxer could not get beyond the letter D.  He would trace out A, B, C, D in the dust with his great hoof, and then would stand staring at the letters with his ears back, sometimes shaking his forelock, trying with all his might to remember what came next and never succeeding.  On several occasions, indeed, he did learn E, F, G, H, but by the time he knew them it was always discovered that he had forgotten A, B, C and D.  Finally, he decided to be content with the first four letters, and used to write them out once or twice every day to refresh his memory.  Mollie refused to learn any but the five letters which spelt her own name.  She would form these very neatly out of pieces of twig, and would then decorate them with a flower or two and walk round them admiring them.” (p. 21).

 

May my students grasp the ideas I have presented them this semester with searching on the electronic research databases (Ebscohost, ProQuest, SAGE, InfoTrac, J-Stor) and NOT Googling for information or using Wiki-pedia.  May my students know how important a thesis statement is to help guide them to creating a manageable and readable essay.  May my students long remember to look up the intricacies of the APA formatting style on their own and know there are many other versions out there with their own picky rules (MLA, Turabian, Chicago, etc).  May my students enjoy writing as a way of expressing themselves.  May they always have a curiosity and love of learning and NOT do what everyone else is doing with cutting and pasting (better known as plagiarism).  May my students find out what information they need which is out there for them to synthesize and may they use their critical thinking skills to let others know just what smart students they really are!!!  After all, that is what education is all about, to find answers to life’s problems and find ways to solve questions for the betterment of mankind.

 

 

 

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