But Who Do You Sue to Get Your Life Back?
By Mary Theroux • Monday September 8, 2008 6:30 PM PST •
Truth does eventually come to light, unfortunately too often not in time to save countless waste or tragic loss of life. A recent case in point is the new book, The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia, recounting the tale of thousands of Americans who fell prey to the intelligentsia’s love affair with Soviet Russia at the depth of the Depression and put their lives on the line by moving there. Though 20/20 hindsight may make it easy to pronounce, as one reviewer did, “It’s pretty easy to blame them for making such a foolish decision. . . . most astute Americans realized that freedom and communism went together like oil and water,” was it indeed so obviously foolish at the time? As the book recounts, The New Russia’s Primer: The Story of the Five Year Plan was an American bestseller; George Bernard Shaw gave a national radio address passionately extolling “hope everywhere in Russia,” that was reprinted in the New York Times; and the Department of Commerce responded to the great demand for information about living and working there by producing its pamphlet, “Employment for Americans in Soviet Russia,” which presumably did not include a warning that such was likely to result in death. Magazines ranging from the American Amalgamated Clothing Workers union’s Advance to Barron’s extolled the Five Year Plan. In short, it likely looked as if all the smart money were on the Soviets.
The tragic end for most of those emigrants was arrest and death or imprisonment as foreign victims of Stalin’s terror, even while intellectuals continued to hold up the Soviet bloc as superior in every way to the West.
This of course begs a parallel with what notions beloved of today’s intelligentsia will be exposed as death sentences in the future—prescriptions to cure global warming, “overpopulation,” health care crises, terrorism?
As Robert Conquest, whose own writing exposing the truth of the Soviet state was too often belittled, says “the two great causes of human troubles are impatience and laziness.” Hurray for those willing to put in the hard work, endure ridicule and hang in there over the long haul to bring us information counter to what “everyone knows.”