A little more about Zinoviev
This is another item that
ended up in bit heaven two days ago. It is part of the crisis-series
because Zinoviev's books about the Soviet Union should help one
understand the crisis in the West, if read with genuine
intelligence, because his theme was in fact mostly power and its
mechanisms and abuse in social institutions of any kind, whether
nominally "socialist", "communist" or "capitalist".
1. A little more about Zinoviev
There are several more or less well-known Zinovievs (also spelled
"Zinovyev", Zinov'yev or - in German - "Sinovjev") but the one I mean
is the Russian philosopher, logician and dissident Aleksander Aleksandrovich Zinoviev,
whom I wrote about several times in Nederlog, notably here, in
The reason I bracketed "Soviet" is
that I believe he was mostly talking about mankind and the use and
abuse of power
of all kinds.
To quote myself:
struck me from the first when reading "Yawning Heights"
is that Zinoviev in fact was talking far more about the general
characteristics of power, bureaucracy,
and human corruptability than he seemed to think - for while he wrote explicitly
about the Soviet Union, and only with real experience of Soviet type
societies, and without real experience of Western societies, it was
immediate clear to me that the human
types, practices and the consequences thereof that he wrote about apply
pretty generally in human history (possibly apart from the
Renaissance and Ancient Greece), and often apply more or less literally
to - for example - the modern Dutch society I live in.
There is considerably more by way
of the link including this, that is one of the reasons
to write about him again:
this which interests me in Zinoviev's - as he calls
them - sociological theories whereas his more particular judgements
about the Soviet Union, Russia, or politics since 1980 interest me much
less, also because I usually diasgreed more than not, and because I
believe that wheras I can judge sensibly about the Soviet Union and
Russia in general terms, I cannot do so on the basis of having
lived there many years as a citizen.
about what it really all is about: It concerns the possibilities of
a real humane civilization, dedicated to the development of its human
individuals, science and art, where human beings are free to think and
speak as they please, and can make the most of their native talents,
especially in the light of what has been made of this foundational plan
and motivation for human society (after all: to cooperate so as to
further each other's interests, find knowledge, and make life better by
developing technology and art) in the course of history.
Now I found a text by someone
who knows more about Russia and the Soviet Union than I do, and
probably also more about his non-logical books, and it is here, on a
site called Zinoviev.info:
where there is considerably more about him that I have not read yet and
may return to:
of the Soviet Union
as such I cannot properly judge for lack of sufficient relevant
knowledge, and usually I did (and do) not agree with Zinvoviev's
political judgments after 1980, as I also did (and do) not
agree with his judgements about modern Russia (to which he returned in
1999, aged 77, and where he lived till his death in 2006), though it is
again true that he knew a lot more about the Soviet Union and Russia
than I do, and that he lived there for a long time - something which
seems to me to be quite relevant for adequate understanding of what it
was and is like.
This I have
read, and found interesting, and it clarified some for me, though not
much. To explain some of the paradoxical qualities of the man, here is some from an obituary that appeared in 2006,
that I also found on the Zinoviev.info
I'll quote from this in a
moment, but first try to explain three special reasons for my being
interested in him.
First, logic. I
learned about him in 1975, when I found that he had written books about
logic that incorporated ideas about negation that I
had found myself (considerably later than he did), so that I am one of
the few - outside the former Soviet Union - who knew of him as a
logician and philosopher before knowing of him as a satirist.
Apart from that, I hail from a Dutch communist family. My parents were
sincere communists, partially because of the economic crisis of the
thirties, partially because they were members of the communist
resistance against Nazism, for which reason my father and his father
were arrested and convicted to German concentration camps, as
"political terrorists", that my grandfather did not survive, and
partially because they were moral idealists, who believed in a better
world and a better society than they were born in.
At age 14, in 1964, I had managed to be a candidate for removal as an
undesirable alien from the German Democratic Republic (the Soviet
satellite state under Walter Ulbricht),
whereto I had been send by my parents as "a Dutch Pioneer",
because the GDR struck
me as "fascist pig's crap" - German: "fascistische Schweinerei" - which
I had said and repeated in public, and refused to retract, because I
really thought so: I found the militarism, the discipline, the forced
praise of Our Comrade Leonid Brezhnev by seven year olds demeaning,
degrading, inhuman and immoral, and I was 14, and was used to be able
to speak my mind.
As it happened, I was not removed as an undesirable alien from the GDR
because meanwhile I had stepped into a rusty nail and had gotten blood
poisoning and had to be hospitalized, and as it also happened I had
given up Marxism,
socialism and communism byv the time I was 20,
mostly because I had then discovered Bertrand Russell,
Aristotle, Plato and mathematical logic, all of which seemed to me a
lot more sensible than Marx.
So this explains why I found Zinoviev quite interesting, and indeed
also why I have briefly corresponded with him and indeed met him once,
though by that time he already had political ideas - see below - that I
could not accept.
Zinoviev, who died on May 10 aged 83, was a Soviet philosopher whose
biting satires of life under Communism caused him to be exiled to the
West for more than 20 years.
And here is a little more:
Like his compatriot
Alexander Solzhenitsyn he was equally critical of the liberal
democracies which had given him refuge; after the fall of Communism he
returned to his homeland an intransigent and unrelentingly gloomy
commentator on the world and all its ills.
A Professor of Logic at
Moscow State University, Zinoviev had already acquired a troublesome
reputation by the time he wrote The Yawning Heights, the allegorical
satire that was to lead him into exile. Published in Russian in
Lausanne in 1976, it portrayed the Soviet Union as Ibansk (”f***town”),
where the inhabitants obey the Soviet imperative that only mediocrity
shall prosper; that those who stand out should be cut down, and that
moral worth must be persecuted.
The town is ruled by The
Boss (Stalin), who rose to the top only because he was a complete
nonentity. He is displaced by Hog (Krushchev), who repudiates the boss
only in order to hold on to power. The leaders are decorated for being
leaders, then decorated again for being decorated. The only reason
there is no unemployment is that people are engaged in an imitation of
work; everything is deliberately kept inefficient.
Given a position
in the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences, he wrote
more than 20 works on logic, including Philosophical Problems of
Many-Valued Logic (1960), which won him international recognition and,
in 1962, a professorship. Later he became chairman of the Department of
Mathematical Logic at Moscow University.
Zinoviev’s name was often
included on Soviet delegations to international conferences, but he was
never allowed to go. His refusal to expel dissident professors from his
department aroused official suspicions. These hardened still further
when, in 1970, Zinoviev resigned from the editorial board of the
leading Soviet philosophical journal in protest at Brezhnev’s
personality cult. By 1974 he was almost completely isolated.
In exile Zinoviev
continued to publish, and remained one of the most outspoken critics of
Soviet Communism until perestroika. But his belief that the stability
of the Soviet system was grounded in popular consent and that western
concepts of freedom were alien to the Russian character meant that he
was never very close to other dissidents, and he remained an isolated
figure. Democratic ideals, he believed, were irrelevant to most
Russians: “Talk about human rights, about freedoms, is something empty
for these people. It is like a guitar for a clergyman. An umbrella for
In the 1990s he emerged
as one of the most vociferous critics of the reforms initiated by
Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin and, in 1996, to the surprise of
some, supported the Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov for the
presidency. The unexpected collapse of Communism had come as a
considerable shock to Zinoviev, and transformed his view. In that
collapse he saw the fall of Russia, an event that had been planned and
precipitated by the West. In 1999, declaring that he could no longer
live “in the camp of those who are destroying my country and my
people,” he returned to Russia.
Back on his native soil
he predicted that the whole world would soon experience the fearful
consequences of a “democratic totalitarianism” being imposed by the
United States under George W Bush. A fervent supporter of Slobodan
Milosevic, he was co-chairman of an international committee to defend
the fallen Serbian tyrant.
The last paragraph probably
clarifies why I spoke of "the paradoxical qualities of the man" - that
probably have a lot to do with his having been born and raised in the Soviet Union,
where I have never been, and that I very probably would have disliked as strongly as
I disliked and despised the GDR, whence
I only was not forcibly removed from at
age 14 as an undesirable alien because
I urgently needed to be hospitalized,
and after I had recovered from that could be returned normally with the group I had come with.
In any case: Alexander Zinoviev was a
smart and brave man, who wrote many
interesting books that
should enable the intelligent reader to understand
more about society,
and being human(e).
more about the man here, where I have linked to the English version:
There are also Gernan, French and Russian versions.The
link gives another view of Zinoviev, by
(*) The subtitle
is word play: One of Zinoviev's
books is called "The Reality of Communism"
- that turns out to be rather like the
reality of postmodern capitalism: Human kind and ordinary men
are the same, and so are
relations of power.
(that I prefer
to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which
is a disease I have since 1.1.1979: