Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's the frequency, Kravchenko?

Slavoj Zizek, New York Times:

This brings to mind the life and death of Victor Kravchenko, the Soviet engineer who, in 1944, defected during a trade mission to Washington and then wrote a best-selling memoir, "I Chose Freedom." His first-person report on the horrors of Stalinism included a detailed account of the mass hunger in early-1930s Ukraine, where Kravchenko -- then still a true believer in the system -- helped enforce collectivization.
...
Kravchenko also became more and more obsessed with the inequalities of the Western world, and wrote a sequel to "I Chose Freedom" that was titled, significantly, "I Chose Justice." He devoted himself to finding less exploitative forms of collectivization and wound up in Bolivia, where he squandered all his money trying to organize poor farmers. Crushed by this failure, he withdrew into private life and shot himself in 1966 at his home in New York.

"I Chose Freedom" is one of my favorite memoirs.   It's the story of a Soviet industrial manager during Stalinism.  It reads like an insider's guide to corporate America -- except with gulags.  Which is basically the Russian equivalent of a business meeting, only more meaningful and for shorter durations.

My edition was published by a right-wing outfit called The Library of Conservative of Thought.  By their account, "There exists no conservative counterpart of Das Kapital, because conservatism is not a bundle of theories and exhortations got up by a closet philosopher."  That's right: conservatives get paid, and rarely is it for anything approaching "philosophy."  They don't bundle theories, they bundle debt -- the theory is that liberty is served just so long as their arrest warrants are not.  So it's a lot like Communism, except it collapses more frequently.

I never read Kravchenko's "I Chose Justice."  I'm sorry to hear it didn't work out for him.  He was a bright guy and an effective writer, even in translation; but suffice it to say, justice is hard to come by.

1 comment:

123 said...

It is certainly interesting for me to read this article. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.
Alex
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