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hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
8 months ago

Solzenitsyn is absolutely correct that different cultures think differently and that it’s folly for the West to imagine that its beliefs and values are coveted by other peoples.
Living in Southern Africa, it is quite obvious that my belief system is starkly different to those around me.
I note, for example, when I visit South Africa and Kwazulu-Natal in particular, that everyone to a man is proud of the conquests of their fabled King, Shaka. Guilt for conquest is something reserved for westerners and practiced by Westerners alone.
The Zulus are not unusual: many groups who bemoan in one breath the evils of colonialism are, in the next breath, very pleased about any history of their own group murdering and conquering other groups.
Many of the black people I was at school with have happily gone to the West to play the victim card there, taking full advantage of BLM, despite having been in families that, in their own countries, orchestrated murder, mass unemployment, and the gutting of national health services.
They have done this, to my observation, without shame or guilt, destroying the lives of black people while simultaneously cashing in on those same people’s suffering. Suffering that they themselves created.
Many find well paid jobs in diversity and inclusion departments. These characters exhibit outrage on Twitter over George Floyd but are simultaneously deafeningly silent about Isis beheading villagers in Northern Mozambique. It is telling that black lives only matter to them in places where the cause affords them social status and job opportunities.
This contradiction belies the cynical exploitation of Western values by people who don’t share the West’s core beliefs about equality, fairness and freedom, but who are nevertheless happy to use such beliefs to advance their own status and power.
Solzhenitsyn, having seen human nature up close, will have known how unusual Western values were, then, as they are now.

Last edited 8 months ago by hayden eastwood
Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
8 months ago

What you say about Africans coming to the West is largely true of American-born BLM activists in the US. The fact that the vast majority of killings of blacks are by other civilian blacks doesn’t faze them at all. They only care about those relatively few who are slain by law enforcement and civilian whites. SOME Black Lives Matter would be a more appropriate title for the group. Only those black lives lost which can further their political ambitions are deemed worthy of their notice.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago

The writer shows a poor grasp of how history and geography mould people. Why is a Bengali different to a Pushtun ? Scratch a Russian find a Tatar. High walls make good neighbours. Russia is flat and has been open to marauding steppes people for millenia . Attila The Hun, The Mongols, Tatars, Turks have all murdered and enslaved The Rus in their millions. The Cossacks evolved to fight against the marauders from the East. which in order. This is why one can only be secure if one is strong if one is a Russian. One can only negotiate with Russians from a position of strength.
The USA di not arm Islamic Terrorism in Afghanistan The two effective fighters were Shah Massoud a Tajik in the North and Huq a Pushtun in the South. Islamic Terrorism starts with the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the early 1920s; get a boost with Arab defeat in the 1973 Yom Kippur War , funding of Islamic organisations post 1979 by Saudis, murder Sadat in 1981 and creation of Taleban in Pakistan created by Pakistan ISI in 1990 and mainly 1992 onwards. Huq was murdered by Taleban and Shah Massoud by Aq. Pakistan ISI tried to murder Huq previously.
What does Liberal Democracy actually mean ? Now it means an upper middle suburban class enjoying a sybaritic life while others undertake dirty dangerous work in arduous conditions, dying and being crippled in order to shield them from a nasty and unpleasant World. As Asquith and the Liberal Party discovered in 1914 after 99 years of peace, the brutality of war interrupted their charming sybaritic summer.
Solzhenitsyn shattered the delusions of pleasant comfortable life of the sybarites. Human rights only exist where there are ” Rough men standing ready to do violence ” as Orwell would say.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
8 months ago

It has always been well known that Solzhenitsyn was not a liberal. He was an embodiment of the Russian soul in my opinion. I recommend his novel, August 1914.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dermot O'Sullivan
Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
8 months ago

It is unclear to me, what the writer would prefer to see. That Russians cease being Russians? They have been an imperial power, that isn’t easily forgotten. When Russia vis a vis Ukraine issues are raised, as an American I can only extrapolate to, say, the USA vis a vis Mexico. The Ukraine is within the sphere of influence of Russia, yet it was becoming a client state of the US. The recipe for tears before bedtime was there. I pity the people, I sympathize with their nationalistic feelings. But by the same token, it seems to me, the Russians have a right to be Russian, as well.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
8 months ago
Reply to  Liz Walsh

You will have to define this ‘sphere of influence’ very carefully to make sense of the argument.

I can quite easily imagine a left-wing government in Mexico with a tendency to make alliances with other left wing nations, and a US government (and people) getting antsy about it. I can imagine long term economic warfare between the two countries, and nationalistic pronouncements raising the temperature intermittently, with the usual boneheaded politicians trying to solidify their bases and secure their wealth, and tiresome impacts on international treaties.

What I can’t imagine is the US sending in tanks and flattening the border towns in an attempt to scratch the patriotic itch. Maybe 60 years ago, but not now. And certainly not in the expectation that people would try to justify it by saying ‘Well, what if it were Russia and the Ukraine, eh?’. How we would laugh.

Last edited 8 months ago by Andrew McDonald
Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
8 months ago

Can somebody explain to me, what specifically, is wrong with nationalism? Maybe there is some mutation of the word “national” I am not familiar with. Is nationalism not another way of saying “patriot”?

Last edited 8 months ago by Antony Hirst
hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
8 months ago
Reply to  Antony Hirst

I would argue that nationalism, in the right dose, is extraordinarily important.
We now think of it is as a dirty word, but people forget that, without it, we cannot have a nation state.
In the West, we have, for various reasons, which are all mad, decided to revert to hatred between tribes living in close proximity to each other, because, as the theory goes, ummm, that will make us all happier. It’s as though none of these critical theorists have ever studied the Balkans or any region of Africa.
Nationalism is absolutely essential, though, as I always argue, it should exist at a dosage that holds a state together, without being so strong that it drives conquest and expansion of neighbouring territories.

Last edited 8 months ago by hayden eastwood
Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
8 months ago

Indeed. I would argue that nationalism leading to militaristic aggression to expand one’s national borders, is one of the core characteristics of a fascist state (I mean fascist in its actual meaning, not as a word just to sling at people one does not approve of…although the overlap is strong there!!).
I would say that the function of a national state’s democracy is to foster patriotism and nationalism, but without the despotism needed for overt aggression and expansion. Many Western countries seem to be losing their patriotism, their democracy and their nation…

Peter LR
Peter LR
8 months ago
Reply to  Antony Hirst

Antony, I imagine a distinction: patriotism is the desire to see one’s country prosper and be committed to that end; nationalism is a tendency to despise other countries and develop a superiority mentality even when not deserved.
This was a great summary from a comment on here from Charles:
Orwell said ”Patriotism is the preference of one’s culture without a desire to impose it on others. Nationalism is a belief in the superiority of one’s culture with a desire to impose it on others”.

Last edited 8 months ago by Peter LR
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Thank you. I think there are no better writers when it comes to understanding the middle class left wing intellectuals; the issues of censorship, totalitarianism, freedom, nationalism, patriotism, propaganda, the 1920s and 1930s, Fascism, Nazism, Communism, Pacifism and the character of the people of the people who support these doctrines, than Orwell and M Muggeridge. Orwell’s collected four volumes of essay, Muggeridge’s various essays, autobiography plus his work “The 1930s “show an insight into the character of left wing middle class intellectuals which largely remains unaltered. Muggeridge says communism is an urban religion, a product of cheap hotels by people with a grudge against their fellow man and civilisation.
From 1942, while Orwell was working at the BBC he noticed left wingers did not want Britain to win in North Africa but the USSR to win. Left wingers transferred their nationalism to the USSR.
Solzhenitsyn and Orwell know that the left wing suburban middle class or American middle class liberals lack the resolution, resilience, robustness and patriotism to defend what they have. Or as Ibn Khaldun said ” Men living behind walls protected by garrisons lose their uprightness and manliness “. Muggers are good risk managers, they rarely attack people who will put them in hospital.
Solzhenitsyn would have removed The Cheka from Russia and it is this failure which has allowed Putin to come to power.
The difference between Putin and a crime boss is scale, not mentality.

Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

That makes it more understandable. But the conflation of culture and state is interesting. I’m not sure I agree with Orwell really. Nationalism imposed on others is by definition, fascism. Can somebody not be nationalist and isolationist? Isn’t that what Trump was accused of?
Also, how could somebody be patriotic if they didn’t believe that their nation/state/culture is better/superior to the alternatives? Only when one is resigned to realising this is the culture/state/nation you are stuck with, with no other options.
I like being British. I like democracy. I think the British are superior to all other nations and I think democracy is superior to all other political systems. I don’t want to be anything other than British and I don’t want to live in a system that is not democratic.

Last edited 8 months ago by Antony Hirst
Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
8 months ago
Reply to  Antony Hirst

There have always been those who think that some large international world order needs run things. Blaming the nationalists for the wars we would have avoided if only we just let the <fill in your favourate supra-national organisation> run things has a long history. Serbian nationalism caused WW1, German nationalism caused WW2, and so on and so forth. We already hear that Ukrainian nationalism provoked the recent conflict in some quarters.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
8 months ago
Reply to  Antony Hirst

….patriotism, is the love of one’s country, nationalism is antagonism towards other ones.

Dawn McD
Dawn McD
8 months ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

I’m increasingly suspicious of the use of “nationalism” as an epithet tossed around by the kind of people who are working hard to turn the whole planet into a big, bland mass of “global citizens.” Nationalism to me (maybe I’m confusing it with patriotism) means the right of the French to remain French, the Dutch to remain Dutch, etc. This to me does not imply a sense of superiority or aggression, rather “what is ours may not be better than someone else’s, but it is ours and we want to keep it.”
I just don’t understand why governments in the U.S. and Europe continue to impose mass immigration on their citizens, mostly of people who have no intention of assimilating to the host culture and in some cases even seek to destroy it (see Islamist terror attacks in France), and then these governments have the nerve to be surprised and indignant when the citizens become angry and “nationalistic.”

Bruce V
Bruce V
8 months ago
Reply to  Dawn McD

Thank you.

Peter LR
Peter LR
8 months ago

This is informative but doesn’t posit a solution. Western nations have become homogenised by a combination of Christianity and secular materialism. They have lost something of their unique national character in so doing. It is right to respect the cultures of other countries and allow them to develop at their own pace.
I suppose Russia would be different because of its large armed forces and weapons. However, there are now several nuclear weapon countries and we don’t expect them to go Western and forget their historical cultures.
Perhaps the important point, not mentioned here, is the nature of the leader. I can’t imagine a Yeltsin behaving like Putin, nor did Deng behave like Xi is. That’s the real unknown and probably the real issue.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago

As I recall Solzhenitsyn said that while he was trapped in the old Soviet Union he idolised the West and that when he moved to the West he realised that all that glistens is not gold.
“Asserting that the world is divided into distinct cultural zones, and opposing any ideology that on whatever premises puts our common humanity before their preservation, Solzhenitsyn implied that liberals would have little to look forward to from a post-Communist Russia.” – Seems fair enough to me.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
8 months ago

Seeing Putin’s Russia as a continuation of the Soviets–or even of the 19th C Tsars–unfortunately misunderstands the nature of Putin and his fellow Siloviki.
Both the Tsar and the Communists carefully monitored their spy services, just as we do in the West. Until 1991, the Party was in charge, not the KGB.
But now Russia’s spy service has gained absolute control over all aspects of Russian life. ANY cause, be it Orthodoxy or Communism, is thus irrelevant.
Putin & Co were trained to fight a long term struggle with “the enemy,” and that is what they are doing. Indeed, without the “struggle” THEY would become irrelevant.
Putin does this for love of the game itself, not for the love of any ideology.

R S Foster
R S Foster
8 months ago

…I’d suggest everybody reads Samuel P. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”…based on a series of lectures he gave in the wake of Fukuyama’s “End of History”…Huntington’s thoughts look an awful lot more like 2022 than the other does…

Last edited 8 months ago by R S Foster
Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  R S Foster

Exactly.
West leaders spent the last 30 years believing Fukuyama’s nonsense by disarming and spending so called “peace dividend” on multi-culti, gender studies net zero or another woke idiocy.
Not even mentioning engagement with China on Chinese terms.
While nothing in this article was new to me, it explains well why so many people on this forum get Russia wrong.
I mean all those who claim that West should had accepted Russia into NATO, provide them with sort of Marshal Aid because Russia was always part of Europe, etc, and etc.
Reality is that Russia was never part of Europe politically and it never had desire to belong there.
Most Russians still think that their greatness is best expressed by invading, occupying and terrorizing other nations.
Many years ago Russian explained to me the difference between Russian patriot and imperialist.
Patriot thinks that Russia should rule what was part of Soviet Union.
Imperialist thinks the same but adds former Soviet Block countries.
We both laughed then.
Maybe he is not laughing now but invading Ukraine?

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
8 months ago

Copyediting problem: The sixth paragraph ‘Most Western observers …’ is a duplicate of the fifth.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
8 months ago

Yes, another thoughtful article, spoiled by the the fact that both the author, or the publishing editor, couldn’t be arsed to read it before posting it online.
It really makes me despair. If the author, or editor, care so little about what they write, then why should anybody else care, or is it all just noise, to fill a space, and earn some dosh ? Quite depressing.

David Bell
David Bell
8 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Sloppy (non)editing.

David Bell
David Bell
8 months ago

That often happens at Unherd.

Jerry Smith
Jerry Smith
8 months ago

Not to mention using ‘forward’ instead of ‘foreword’ in the first paragraph.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
8 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Smith

Yes, I noticed that too. Though it is possible that that’s a problem with Spell Check.

Mark Falcoff
Mark Falcoff
8 months ago

There is nothing in this article that I didn’t already know. Long ago, that is, during the height of the Cold War (or should I say, the First Cold War?) many of us who were anti-Soviet recognized that there were limitations to Solzhenitzen’s thinking on these subjects. Or put another way, in spite of his moral and artistic achievements, he was not above citicism. There is, however, a difference between Russian nationalism and Russian imperialism, although I admit that in practice the distinction may not always be evident.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Falcoff

Orwell said ” Patriotism is the preference of one’s culture without a desire to impose it on others. Nationalism is a belief in the superiority of one’s culture with a desire to impose it on others”.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
8 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

OK, aren’t the author and others the ones calling Solzhenitsyn a Russian nationalist? Perhaps he would have described himself as a Russian patriot.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago
Reply to  Tom Krehbiel

This is an example of how Orwell would say the Left has manipulated language to obtain power. The Left confused Nationalism with Patriotism and denigrated Patriotism.

Dawn McD
Dawn McD
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Falcoff

The Gulag Archipelago is still on my to-do list, and I trust that I’ll be able to get the promised value from it while remembering that the author was not perfect. We shouldn’t be surprised, however, as according to the Bible (and I’ve only gotten through Genesis so far), only God is “above criticism.” Shocking! (insert smile emoji here)

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
8 months ago

Is UnHerd going all-in for the cancellation of all things Russian too?

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
8 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

I think Putin is?

Zak S
Zak S
8 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

No. It has published many different views on Russia.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
8 months ago

But while Western intellectuals and politicians acclaimed this aspect of his message, they largely ignored another side of it. 
Does the “BUT” herald an admonishment? It seems that way to me.
And I don’t think there was one message with two sides. They are different messages grounded on sets of different experiences. Thus, any attempt to link a negative moral valence from his other ‘message’ to his gulag message is, to me, specious.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
8 months ago

A lot of people get terribly right-wing in their old age, Solzhenitsyn can be forgiven for this. It by no means detracts from the universal truths he lays out in “The Gulag Archipelago”.