The Ugliness of Intellectual Fraud: an Apologist for Communism
-Pt 2 The Disregard for Reality

(2) On page 291 we find the sentence: "Like the Congress of the United States, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets and its CEC were vested with enumerated powers (Articles 49-52), but since they were of very broad scope and included 'altering and supplementing of the Constitution,' this legislature resembled more closely the British Parliament which, in theory, possesses unlimited sovereignty." Again the attempt to arouse sympathy by comparison with American and British institutions is obvious. The trick lies in the equivocal use of the term legislature . The Russian "legislature" of 1918 resembled in no way the American Congress or the British Parliament except in the scope of its jurisdiction. But on the point of jurisdiction, there is no difference between Parliament and an absolute monarch. The relevant differences, may I suggest, lie elsewhere.

(3) In discussing the constitution of 1936 on page 301, the author considers Article 141, which vests the right to nominate candidates for election in various organizations of the working people. He omits to state that there is also an Article 126, which provides that the Communist Party forms "the leading nucleus of all organizations of the toilers." Instead he stresses that "in contrast to the United States, where citizenship is defined by the federal constitution and suffrage by the States within the limits of federal constitutional restrictions, both citizenship and suffrage in the USSR are defined in the Union Constitution." The net impression is that the election of representatives based on general suffrage is in Russia better secured than in the United States. The fact that the nomination of candidates is controlled by the Communist Party is suppressed. Otherwise the "facts" are reported with scrupulous correctness.

(4) On pages 304 ff., in discussing the federal organization of the Soviet Union, the author says, "The greatest glory of the Soviet State is its achievement of effective equality in rights and opportunities for peoples of all races, languages and cultures. Under the formula of a new civilization 'national in form and proletarian in content,' each ethnic group has been guaranteed cultural autonomy and local self-determination within the political and economic framework of Soviet society." The facts again are correct. But there is a noticeable absence of comment precisely where it would have been necessary to explain that "national in form and proletarian in content" means in practice the ruthless extermination of national culture, of the social form as well as of its spiritual expression, insofar as it is incompatible with Communism as a creed and as a political and economic form of society. And all national culture is incompatible except language and perhaps a few customs on an innocuous folkloristic level.

If we do not hear more of the unspeakable misery inflicted by this "greatest glory," which resulted, for instance, in the wholesale massacre of nomads who did not care to become factory workers, the reason is that the nationalities in question are mostly on a primitive level, which prevents them from being sufficiently vociferous to be heard beyond the Soviet border. In one instance, that of the Volga-German Republic, the destruction of national substance does not seem to have been quite successful. The republic was dissolved in September 1941, when the German armies approached; its territory was divided among neighboring republics, its population was deported to Siberia. The necessity for this measure might give food for thought, but Schuman disposes of it incidentally as "a disregard for constitutional niceties" (314).

Moreover, he does not relate what would have been most pertinent in this context, that Stalin's policy concerning nationalities was evolved on the basis of his critical study of the Austrian problem of nationalities. The fact that the Austrian Social Democrats did not organize as one party but preferred to form their respective Czech, German, etc., Social Democratic Parties aroused Stalin's disapproval. The mistake was not to be repeated in Russia. I wonder whether the genesis of Stalin's policy was suppressed by Schuman because it would have been a bit difficult to explain why the growth of national culture in substance, which characterized the Austrian development, constituted inequality and serfdom, while the destruction of the substance by Communist intellectuals in the Soviet Union constitutes equality and freedom.

(5) The author gets into a fix on pages 321 ff. in explaining the unanimity of Soviet elections, which smacks strongly of the unanimity achieved by the National Socialist government on similar occasions. The parallel is not denied, but the author resorts to minimizing its significance: "Electoral unanimity is an old Slavic custom, long antedating Sovietism and Marxism. It is reflected in the procedure of the ancient Russian Veche or assembly and in the liberum veto of the Polish Diet." The Russian vieche as an institution has nothing to do whatsoever with the Polish Diet and its liberum veto , and neither institution has anything to do with the unanimity secured by the pressure of a totalitarian party. In this groping for support at all cost, even factual correctness is surrendered.

These points should be sufficient for the purpose of illustration. They are not isolated instances; the entire book would require a similar sentence-by-sentence commentary. Moreover, only points were selected that lent themselves to a comparatively brief analysis. They are by far not the worst that occur in this chapter. They were, furthermore, chosen from the chapter on constitutional questions because in the field of institutions and legal provisions there is comparatively little leeway for extravagant interpretation. The well-circumscribed facts and the rigidity of legal concepts make it easy to detect and reveal the disregard for reality.

Subject matter that requires a more complex conceptual apparatus for its interpretation offers more ample opportunities for the type of apology Schuman undertakes; but the unraveling of his propositions concerning personal motives, political intentions, historical causes and effects, religious experiences, political ideas, etc., would be a task beyond human powers. What goes on in some of the chapters would definitely be worth attention, but it defies analysis within the space of a review. I can only assure the reader that it is hair-raising.

Selected Book Reviews
CW Vol 13
Review: Soviet Politics: At Home and Abroad ,
by Frederick L. Schuman
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946)
pp 141-143.