Saturday, August 07, 2010

Our cousins in the East

Francis Spufford expands on the observation by Stephen Kotkin that the Soviet Union was "booby-trapped with idealism":
The 1961 party congress adopted the imminent end of all scarcity as its official programme, thus making possibly the rashest and most falsifiable promise in the entire politics of the 20th century. An act so foolish can only be explained through idealism: Khrushchev's own, for he was a man whose troubled relationship with his conscience required a happy ending to give him retrospective absolution, but also the idealism coded despite everything into the structure of the régime. It was the same heedless true-belief at work which would manifest itself a generation later in Gorbachev...

...Alongside our well-documented, well-founded knowledge that Soviet history was a tragedy ought to run a sense of it, too, as a comedy...But this shouldn't be the kind of comedy in which we laugh from a position of comfy security at the fools over there; and not just because the ascent of the Soviet piano was achieved at a monstrous price in human suffering. It should be the comedy of recognition we register, at this point in the early 21st century, when we're in mid-pratfall ourselves.

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