The US is Already Worse than the USSR:
A Reponse to Spencer Quinn
I would like to take a moment to briefly respond to Spencer Quinn’s excellent letter to Terry McAuliffe. In Werner Herzog’s 1977 film Stroszek the protagonist, Bruno S., gives an account of the difference he had experienced between living in a National Socialist-run orphanage and living in America. In the orphanage, if a boy wet the bed he was forced to stand in the sun, holding the sheet until it dried. Occasionally one of the administrators would strike the boy on the back with a riding crop. In contrast, Bruno’s experience in America is that people smile to your face and stab you in the back when you least expect it.
I agree with Quinn’s assessment that we are set in some sort of trajectory towards a Soviet-style society but would like to argue, in the vein of the Stroszek analysis, that our situation is worse. I will grant that the gulags were terrible for particular, contingent reasons, just as our prison systems are terrible for their own particular, contingent reasons. Fortunately, because our legal system is set on surer ground than Russia’s was it seems like the paranoid show trials of the latter are not imminent in the US.
My question then, has less to do with the actual imprisonment of thought criminals, but in how the overall cultures of our two states differ. It seems as if the answer lies in the fact that for the Soviet state there was a de jure prohibition from speaking against the powers of authority. It was illegal to criticize authority figures and doing so led to physical imprisonment. In our present system there is a coalescing on the part of our authorities (both government and corporate) to a de facto punishment of criticism. The certainty of a specific kind of imprisonment is excluded because there is no law governing it, instead, anything could happen to individuals who speak out.
If Charlottesville did anything, it cemented the fact that the Alt Right, at its core, is a critique of authority. Hence, the only people who will be subject to the myriad scope of punishment meted out by the system of authority will be members of the Alt Right. Right now the “anything” mentioned above is limited to: doxxing, lawsuits, harassment, defunding, and deplatforming. If Quinn’s analysis is prescient it will also lead to a more formal de jure precedent in which members of the movement will actually be imprisoned.
I cannot say whether or not this transition will reach completion. However, there are a few points to be made here. First, the system of authority is pushing the meme that “hate speech is not free speech” and in this respect is pushing for the punishments it hands out to fall under the de jure classification. Second, historically maybe the Soviet Union wasn’t as bad as the state we’re headed for simply because there was an inherent honesty attendant to its operation. The Soviets did not have hyper-consumerism and therefore implemented a dull conformity that individuals could identify as being an explicit feature of the oppressive system. Furthermore, this system was imposed upon an ethnically and culturally homogeneous people.
Multiculturalism and hyper-consumerism as they are being employed in the United States is explicit but its effects are nebulous. Even a de jure prohibition on free speech will not wake up the majority of US citizens, who are a heterogeneous lot, to the fact that their existence is just as bland and unfulfilling as their Soviet counterparts was.
This point was addressed by Michael O’Meara in his book Toward the White Republic:
Born of a less happy, but more bona fide nation, Soviet Russians put greater emphasis on individual achievement and recognition than on economic success. Money and materialist designations didn’t play quite the same role in their lives as they do in the US, for their primary needs – work, housing, basic services – were essentially provided by their collectivized economy and the lifestyle consumption native to the American economy wasn’t an option. When the political system stopped functioning and the formal economy suffered its knockout blow, there simply wasn’t the moral and social devastation that is likely to affect Americans.
One of the tacit premises of O’Meara’s essay on the contrasts between the US and the USSR is that no matter how badly the government of the USSR regulated the economy and the general environment of the Russian people, it did so in a way in which the people were allowed to maintain a sense of cultural identity. The explicit indifference of the state to the plight of the individual created an alienation that would ultimately shield the Russian people as a whole when their system of government collapsed.
This is clearly not the case in the US, where the myth of a state/industry that works cooperatively with its denizens is employed in a manner intent on undermining the identity and subsistence of said denizens. In this light, the primary function of multiculturalism is the prevention of this fundamental kind of unity. This unity and solidarity is not only our right, a right we must fight for if we are to survive the transition into a Soviet state of repression, it is also a duty we are bound to protect by sheer virtue of our awareness of this hostility on the part of the state.
 Michael O’Meara, Toward the White Republic (San Francisco: Counter-Currents Publishing, 2010), p. 132.
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Did you mention Strozek?
Always reminds me of Ian Curtis formerly of Joy Division.
I would agree that the American system has more of a subtle, backstabbing attack on quality of life.
If Bruno S had been living in the USSR, how could he had been living in a “National Socialist run orphanage” (per paragraph 1) ??? I never read the book, but isn’t this s typo? Communist/Socialism is a very, very different animal than National Socialism. As different as a bed of roses is from the bed you sleep in.
This error in the article needs to be corrected, but otherwise a great article.
Wrong. There is no error in the article. You’re confusing two clearly different things. One is Herzog’s 1977 film (I had the pleasure of meeting the director back in 2012) and the comparison made by the protagonist between the US and Nazi Germany; the other is the comparison that Kirillov makes between the US and the USSR. The first comparison is a springboard for the second and what unites them is the notion that the tyranny imposed by so-called liberal democracies is more insidious, if (or precisely because) less evident, than the sort of tyranny to be found in more obviously authoritarian/totalitarian regimes.
The basic point of this article, that we are headed the way of the Soviets, albeit in our own form and manner, seems indeed highly likely. There is finally little enough separating the doctrines of communism from those of our present society, and this basic similarity shows forth more clearly year by year—even, in these accelerated times, month by month.
However, to assert that there was an “inherent honesty” in the Soviet system seems to me wildly inventive, as does the idea that there was any kind of “law governing” the interactions of the state and the people. To be sure, there were explicit laws against challenging authority; but these were mere pretexts for the state to bring arbitrary power against anyone whatsoever, whether that person had ever infringed upon those laws or no. There is nothing honest, legal, or clear about a system like that; at it essence it even represents the repudiation of such principles. It is also dubious to what extent there can be anything like “a sense of cultural identity” beneath such a violent, unruly system.
Precisely because we might be headed in their direction, it behooves us to see the Soviets for what they were.
Did you live there?
Not remotely. If you did, I would be most open to being corrected on the basis of a first hand account.
Interesting and horrifying.
What I read is that the (same) forces hellbent on destroying us have learnt from their ‘mistakes’ in the USSR and will use that knowledge to destroy the west even more thoroughly.
Will we bounce back with a lot more force than Russia did?
I sincerely hope so.
A very interesting response. Thanks, Alex. I hope you’re not right, but I am afraid that you are.
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