One of the most famous enemies of Soviet communism is Vladimir Bukovsky. He was tortured by Soviet authorities and spent many years in Soviet prisons. He was even declared “insane” and sent to a psychiatric prison. When Bukovsky was exiled to the West, people paid lip service to his courage; but few heeded his warnings about Gorbachev’s Perestroika.
Bukovsky reminded everyone that all Soviet leaders were liars. Gorbachev, he said, was no exception—and was certainly no democrat. Like Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev, Gorbachev was a liar and a hangman. But hardly anyone listened. Everyone wanted to believe the Cold War was over.
But how could we have won the Cold War? This was the inconvenient question Bukovsky asked. Random House senior editor Jason Epstein rejected Bukovsky’s question altogether. And so, Bukovsky’s book on the equivocal “fall of communism” was not published in English—until now.
Communism EverywhereVladimir Bukovsky: “There were some complimentary reviews in France, but few really paid it much attention. In Germany the reception was even more subdued.”
J.R. Nyquist: "And how will Bukovsky’s tale of Western complicity in communist crimes, and Western obliviousness—and the bungled 'end of the Cold War'—be received in the English-speaking world?"
Mr. Bukovsky: “It is a lonely struggle I have conducted since the age of 16. And the struggle will continue to be lonely. The real problem is the elite in the West, the forces of ‘peace and progress.’ The Western elite is socialist. They were never serious about fighting Soviet power.”
Mr. Nyquist: "And what about the conservatives? Weren’t they serious about opposing communism?"
Mr. Bukovsky: “They wouldn’t realize the truth. There was a mistaken idea behind them. Most of the conservatives believed it was not so bad in the West. The first to notice was Solzhenitsyn. He said communism is in front of everyone, yet no one understands what it is.”
Mr. Nyquist: "If they did not understand communism, couldn’t you have explained it to them?"
Mr. Bukovsky: “Unfortunately there is no short way of doing it and, because the subject is complicated, people quickly lose interest. It bores them. They are lazy and prefer superficial answers.”
Mr. Nyquist: "So the West never understood communism. Or perhaps they came to think that anti-communism was crazy."
Mr. Bukovsky: “No, it’s a question of losing the audience. People are lazy. They prefer superficial assessments. It is impossible for them to go deep. When you talk about communism, their eyes glaze over. They become bored.”
Mr. Nyquist: "Could that be true?"
Mr. Bukovsky: “Yes, I have delivered many lectures on the subject. People get up in the middle and leave. The concepts are too difficult for them. They want it to be easy.”
Mr. Nyquist: "What is the hope for the future?"
Mr. Bukovsky: “There will be more suffering, more ruined lives.”
Mr. Nyquist: "Are the communists in Russia putting the Soviet Union back together?"
Hope in Ukraine?Mr. Nyquist: "What about the orange revolution in Ukraine? Surely there is hope in Ukraine."
Mr. Bukovsky: “Ukraine is on a razor’s edge. The whole thing hangs in the balance. It could go either way.”
Mr. Nyquist: "What about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko?"
Mr. Bukovsky: “Poroshenko is just another apparatchik. He is typical. The problem in Ukraine, like in Russia—we don’t have any leaders. It is the same old story, same old biographies. Their thinking is not that different from the Soviet past.”
Mr. Nyquist: "We have a similar problem in the West."
Mr. Bukovsky: “At the moment, you’re right. The absence of leadership is frightening. Our so-called elites became rotten. In the past, in history, the elites would be periodically wiped out in revolutions. In our time, it does not happen. We are too civilized.”
Mr. Nyquist: "Yet, could the ideal of freedom spread from Ukraine into Russia?"
Mr. Bukovsky: “Yes, but not yet. Ukrainian nationalism arose from serious Russian mistakes. Moscow made tremendous blunders in Ukraine.”
Mr. Nyquist: "Could these blunders be corrected after Putin leaves office?"
Mr. Bukovsky: “No, they cannot fix it. The Kremlin insulted the Ukrainians as junior brothers. ‘You are too little to decide for yourself,’ they said. ‘Moscow has to decide for you.’ This was the reason for the rise of Ukrainian nationalism.”
Mr. Nyquist: "So the Kremlin made a big mistake?"
Rotten ElitesThe problem, then, is not East versus West. The problem is that the elites in nearly every country have become rotten and socialist. As Bukovsky wrote in his book, “Even the ageless James Bond does not fight the KGB, but is most frequently in an alliance with the KGB, against some mythical super-corporation headed, as a rule, by a lunatic capitalist.”
Bukovsky’s book, "Judgment in Moscow," will be released in English in May. What does he say happened toward the supposed end of the Cold War? Bukovsky wrote, “This was a full debacle, a total surrender of its positions by the West at the most critical moment of our history.”
The West rushed in to support the “hangman, Gorbachev.” And despite all that help, when the Soviet Union “fell,” the hangmen in their thousands were not made accountable. There was no trial of communism as a system, no “judgment in Moscow” as there had been a “judgment in Nuremberg.”
Instead, a KGB general like Oleg Kalugin, who bragged about his murders, retired to live in the West. If there is no statute of limitations on murder, how can this happen? Bukovsky wrote that Glasnost and Perestroika were “diabolical inventions” that ratified what followed in its wake. “Out of hundreds of thousands of politicians, journalists and academics, only a tiny handful retained sufficient sobriety not to yield to temptation, and it was an even tinier one that had the courage to voice their doubts out loud.”
Later in the book, Bukovsky characterized the American elite as “raised on lies and betrayal,” damning them as the “natural ally of the USSR.” And so it remains true as ever today.
Look at the resulting shift in the global balance of power decades later: Putin’s regime links arms with the communist regime in China, with the communist regime in Cuba, with Nicaragua and South Africa, Vietnam and North Korea, Bukovsky’s words come home. The communist bloc rises from the ashes, with new weapons, new technologies, and new economic clout. We believed the communist lies and invested our “peace dividend.” Now we are threatened from within and from without.
“The whole thing hangs in the balance,” said Bukovsky.