Skip to content

Almost Awakened: 090: Alexandr Solzhenitzen – Climbing out of the Dark Night of the Soul

Britt flies solo today doing deep dive into nihilism, when deconstruction goes too far, and how to rebuild from the ashes.


1 thought on “Almost Awakened: 090: Alexandr Solzhenitzen – Climbing out of the Dark Night of the Soul”

  1. Hi, I’m an exmormon who grew up in Kaysville, UT and I left the church 16 years ago when I was 18. I love Bill Reel, I was exposed to his work through Radio Free Mormon’s podcast and I’m just beginning to listen to your podcast. I heard them mention this episode on one of the Mormonism Live podcast episodes, and I thought I’d check it out because they said it’s one of the most listened-to episodes in the series so I thought that would be worth checking out. I searched for “dark night of the soul” and found this episode – I didn’t realize it was regarding Solzhenitzyn’s book “The Gulag Archipelago”. Knowing what I know about Soviet history and Solzhenitzyn, I braced myself for the anti-communist deluge I knew was coming.

    A little bit about me – I am a member of the Communist Party USA, and I was a founding member of the Utah branch of our party – the Joe Hill Club. When I first started researching the history of the Mormon church and realizing that I had been lied to my whole life by not just my friends and family, but by everyone in my ward, my stake, and on up to the leaders of the organization I had devoted my life to, my natural question was “What else did they lie to me about?”. So I started researching the history of the United States, and what it’s done in the world. I started reading about the history of Marxism-Leninism, and what I found shocked me. It turns out, the US has killed tens of millions of people since the end of WWII, and every foreign intervention it’s participated in since then has been done in order to prevent democracy from taking place all over the world. Any time poor, working people organize collectively to advocate for their class interests, the US steps in to crush them by any means necessary – including mass murder, torture, using biological and chemical weapons, simply burning millions of people alive, burying thousands alive in places like Iraq, coups d’etat, assassinations, and it keeps the Third World in desperate poverty for its own benefit through predatory lending and financial exploitation of foreign markets.

    And I found out that I was lied to about not just the American political project itself, but capitalism – how it actually functions – but more than all of that, I was lied to about the history of socialism in the world. I was told so many easily verifiable lies in my civics and history classes in public school about socialism. First of all, I was told that the socialist systems in places like the USSR and China are actually “communism” – not socialism. I was told that communism means the government owns everything and controls everything. It turns out, communism is a stateless, classless, money-less world – a world where there are no countries at all. No governments whatsoever. No borders. No police. No standing armies. That’s the Marxist definition of communism. And all of these states are/were socialist. It’s literally in the name – United Socialist Soviet Republics. It’s in all of their constitutions.

    I was told that in “communism”, everyone gets paid the same wages, so there’s no incentive to become a doctor if you’re going to get paid the same as a janitor. I was told that the government picks what job you’re going to do, so there’s no personal freedom to even decide your career. Turns out, wages vary greatly depending on the profession, and people choose their own careers. I was told the government owns everything – including your house and your possessions – and that it decides who gets what stuff. Turns out, that’s not remotely true – only the means of production are public property, and they’re owned by all the people. Personal property is still inviolate. I was told that no one gets to vote on anything in “communism” (aka socialism), and that rulers are self-appointed dictators with absolute power who rule for life. Turns out, socialism is inherently democratic, since it means “the dictatorship of the proletariat”, aka the working class – the 99% – dictating policy to the 1% (instead of the other way around, as we have here in this capitalist dictatorship. The capitalist class – the 1% dictates policy here, and the 99% have next to no say whatsoever). I read the Soviet constitution that was in place during the Stalin years, and found that council delegates are elected in neighborhood meetings, and these delegates then elect the levels above them, and on and on to the very top. In a way it’s a sort of indirect democracy – but it’s democracy nonetheless. Representatives are paid a regular working wage, and they can be recalled at any time for any reason by majority vote of their constituents – up to and including the head of state. This is how socialism works in every place it’s been implemented in. And moreover, they have/had democracy in the workplace. The capitalist class dictates policy in the USA both in workplaces and in civil society. The working class dictates policy in the workplace and in civil society in socialism. Workers’ unions actually administer all the social programs of the state, and these are administered democratically by the workers themselves. Pensions, free housing, healthcare, education, vacations, daycare – it’s all done through your union. I found out that even the CIA – the sworn enemies of socialism – admitted that “Even in Stalin’s time there was collective leadership. The Western idea of a dictator in the communist setup is exaggerated.”

    I found out that, far from being murderous, cold-hearted power-hungry intellectuals who carried out the Chinese Revolution, and who proceeded to slaughter 60+ million Chinese citizens, the Communist Party of China (our media can’t even get their name right, choosing to call them the “CCP” instead of the “CPC”) under Mao was a mass-based peasant movement in which hundreds of millions of peasants took part in a heroic struggle that took 22 years to gain their freedom (and I mean freedom – they abolished chattel slavery which was still widespread in the 1940’s, they advocated for the rights of women, the disabled, the elderly, the poor, and they took the land from the tiny minority of slave-owning “landlords” who made up about 1% of the population but who owned 90% of the land, while most peasants had no land or home whatsoever and were in such a desperate position that they commonly had to sell their children just for a bag of rice) – and they were fighting against the reactionary nationalists known as the KMT led by Chiang Kai-Sheck (who I was told in school was the US-backed democrat fighting to bring democracy to China) who, using American bombers and airfields made from slave labor, was conducting a genocidal campaign of carpet bombing peasants who had no air force and no air defense. Chiang and the KMT carried out 3 “extermination campaigns” which killed hundreds of thousands of peasants in the course of months, each time. And they did this with American guns.

    I found out that life expectancy for the entire populations of the USSR and the PRC doubled in one generation under Mao and Stalin. And that the only mass killings carried out in the course of the revolution (against the slave-owning “landlords”) were carried out by peasants themselves, against the orders of the Communist Party. And the Great Chinese Famine was horrific, yes – but it was a result of incorrect policies and a wave of hysteria which swept the nation in which people employed all sorts of novel agricultural methods which largely served to exacerbate an unprecedented drought and caused millions – perhaps tens of millions, the numbers are speculative – to die. I was told in school that the famine was caused intentionally, and that Mao was just a heartless mass murderer who wanted to kill off entire swaths of the population for opposing his rule (they didn’t oppose his rule).

    I found out that in the last 2,000 years of recorded history, there have been 1,828 famines in China. And in the century prior to the Revolution – 1849-1949 – 125 million people starved to death from famine in China.

    Since the Revolution, there has been ONE famine. They literally stopped a millenia-long cycle of famine in its tracks with land reform – by democratically distributing land in such a way that provided equality of opportunity to peasant farmers.

    I could go on, but I won’t. The question that kept coming to my mind was, how could I have been lied to about so much, by so many people – by school, the media, the government, my religion, nearly every movie, TV show, etc – anti-communism is the state religion of America, and yet no one seems to even know what communism is. They think socialism is communism. The disinformation abounds.

    That brings me back to this podcast episode. This was my first time listening to you, Britt. I was surprised to hear you begin the podcast by repeating one of the most absurd historical falsehoods I’ve ever encountered, and from someone who studied history in college, no less!

    You began by repeating Solzhenitzyn’s claim that ***60-100 million people*** died in the gulag system in the USSR. No one – and I mean NO ONE – has ever claimed such a thing. Perhaps he did in his book, I haven’t read it. But the history is clear. Around 1.6 million died in the gulag system throughout the history of the USSR.

    And over 90% of them died from hunger during WWII, when the Nazis had destroyed tens of thousands of villages and murdered 27 million Soviet civilians, enslaving 12 million more, and destroying their logistical supply lines.

    That’s not just misleading, that’s a WHOPPER of a lie to repeat uncritically, especially if you studied history in college! How can you do this to your listeners?

    As you can see in this thread a comrade of mine wrote about the book in question, you’ve misrepresented basically everything in this book. You can read it for yourself, they screenshot the book extensively:

    He wasn’t arrested for saying bad things about Stalin in a letter. In his court documents he was arrested for treason and conspiracy to commit terrorism. He admits to working with Ukrainian fascists to try and overthrow the Soviet state. And even then, he only went to prison for a few years! Some other interesting tidbits that can be drawn from that book which I’m sure will be ignored in the rest of the episode:

    A civilian witness had to be present for every arrest. You can pack a suitcase and take it with you to prison – you can even bring your own food. They took him to a hotel on the way to prison. He’s constantly casting former slave-owners as poor victims of a totalitarian regime; not as convicts facing justice for their crimes against humanity. He admits that even traitors to the state were given land upon release from prison. He favorably compares the Nazi concentration camps to the gulag system (that’s because he was a fascist and an antisemite, but I’ll get to that – good to know you elevate these kinds of people on your show!).

    Some other interesting tidbits about the gulags – prisoners were paid a living wage, payable upon release (many were also given land) – compare that to the USA today, where slavery is legal if it’s in punishment for a crime (just read the 13th Amendment). Prisoners were allowed to go home for a week or two every Christmas to see their family, with good behavior of course.

    This is just fucking gross. I came here to hear you tell the truth, because the truth is supposed to set us free. Instead what I found was you honoring the legacy of a fascist, quoting his most absurd claims about a socialist state as if they’re historical fact (**literally** exaggerating deaths by orders of magnitude), and not a word about how horrible of a man the author actually was. What even is this?

    “Without Jews there would never have been Bolshevism. For a Jew, nothing is more insulting than the truth. The bloodthirsty Jewish terrorists have murdered sixty-six million people in Russia from 1918-1957”. – Solzhenitzyn, definitely not a fascist antisemite, right? Jesus… This guy got a Nobell Peace Prize. This guy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *