We talked some more and she said to me, "After the war I really believed 'never again!'." But, of course (we agreed), it has happened again -- in Biafra, in Indonesia (the Sukarno years), in Cambodia (Pol Pot), Uganda (Idi Amin), Rwanda, the Sudan, and so on.
Ach weh! Human depravity!
I remember telling my high school teachers of 55,000 Latvians -- that's the number I had heard -- having been deported to Siberia by the Stalinists before WWII. I think my teachers thought of me as a rabid right-wing nut. I hope my former teachers later read Solzhenitsyn -- or that, at least, heard of his accounts of the Soviet Gulag Archipelago.
I also remember the high school teacher who tossed me out of his course ("Problems of Democracy") when he said, "Anyone in America can become President," and I moaned, "No, that's not true." That former teacher of mine taught "Moral Rearmament" in his course (a public high school course). He had ordered me to keep my mouth shut after I had questioned (politely, I thought) some of his strange claims. It was after that happened that he threw me out of his class. And I was a conservative-minded fellow at the time. But not conservative enough.
Solzhenitsyn. He got a Nobel Prize. And he was invited to give a commencement address at Harvard. He disappointed his hosts by saying (in 1978), for example:
But the persisting blindness of superiority continues to hold the belief that all of the vast regions of our planet should develop and mature to the level of contemporary Western systems, the best in theory and the most attractive in practice; that all those other worlds are but temporarily prevented (by wicked leaders or by severe crises or by their own barbarity and incomprehension) from pursuing Western pluralistic democracy and adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in that direction. But in fact such a conception is a fruit of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, a result of mistakenly measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet's development bears little resemblance to all this.The Solzhenitsyn Reader pp. 563-564 (Edward E. Ericson, Jr. & Daniel J. Mahoney, ISI Books, 2006).
His Harvard hosts had apparently expected this champion of liberty to be a liberal campaigner against tyranny.
Tyrants victimize all sorts of people. Stalin tormented all sorts of people -- right-wing, left-wing, middle of the road, Jews, non-Jews, Poles, Chechens. It rained on both the poor and the rich, the good and the evil. He repressed, killed, and imprisoned them all. Consider Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate (Harper & Row: Robert Chandler, trans., 1985) (Translator's Introduction, p. 8: "In February 1953, however, as a new series of purges, directed particularly at Jews, gathered momentum, Grossman was again attacked, possibly at the instigation of Stalin himself. During the following months he was repeatedly and hysterically denounced as a Jewish nationalist, a reactionary idealist alienated from Soviet society..."). See also John Garrard & Carol Garrard, The Bones of Berdichev: The Life and Fate of Vasily Grossman (Free Press, 1996) (the blurb on the book's flap states: "Born a Russian Jew and an ardent patriot of the Soviet motherland, Vasily Grossman rationalized away the Stalinist horror of his time as he chronicled the Red Army's westward sweep during World War II, becoming the Soviet Army's premier wartime correspondent. It was not until he discovered 30,000 victims were massacred by Nazi forces in his hometown of Berdichev--including his own mother--that he confronted his own Jewishness and the genocidal horror of the Holocaust. Determined to tell the story of Soviet complicity with the Nazi extermination of Russian Jewry, Grossman was labeled an enemy of the state by both Stalin and Kruschev--barely escaping Stalin's death squads--and his exposes were suppressed and buried deep within the Communist Party's archives.")
I stand against tyranny: right, left, or middle.