(by Robert Conquest)
It is hard to understand why so many intelligent people admired the socialist experiment of Soviet Union c. 1934-1940. These useful idiots defended and lauded systematic mass slaughter on an industrial scale. Conquest’s book, originally appearing in 1968, helped convince those still impervious to, inter alia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The case is made, with solid and well sourced evidence, that Stalin basically topped anyone who looked at him sideways, or didn’t look at him, or whatever.
Nor were the good and great spared: my battered 1971 Pelican edition has, as Appendix D, a list of Full and Candidate Members of the 1934 Central Committee and of those, I have made notes that 49 of them were shot, mostly in the 1930s and 7 of them died in prison, under interrogation or by suicide. Osip Mandelstam died in the Gulag in 1938, largely because of a poem he wrote about Stalin, containing the lines : “the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip, the glitter of his boot rims. Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses he tows with the tributes of halfmen…He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries. He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.”.
Vale Conquest (15 July 1917 – 3 August 2015) – he was someone who followed facts, not ideology. Facts led him from an early flirtation with communism, and he learnt not only from his own mistakes, but, impressively, from those of others. One imagines him in a celestial library, gazing out of golden windows down at Stalin’s useful deniers, the whole gang of them floating in a sea of burning pus. Appropriate Conquest footnotes..