Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky (in conjunction with Pavel Stroilov) has written an extraordinary analysis of Diana West’s American Betrayal, and the controversy it has generated, stoked by Ronald Radosh’s screed “review” of the book at Frontpage Magazine.
Bukovsky (b. 1942) spent almost a third of his first 33 years of life in Soviet prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals. Compare that experience to Ronald Radosh’s (b. 1937) and his colleague Frontpage Magazine owner David Horowitz’s (b. 1939) first 33 years of privileged existence in the U.S., and their perverse support, during that same period, for the liberty-crushing, Soviet Communist totalitarian system that imprisoned Bukovsky.
Bukovsky’s “crime” was having the temerity to insist that the rights allegedly guaranteed to citizens in the Soviet constitution actually be honored and protected. Unable to withstand the impact of Western public opinion forged by the stalwart efforts of anti-Communist Westerners, Leonid Brezhnev released Bukovsky from his imprisonment during December, 1976, in exchange for the Chilean Communist, Luis Corvalan.
Bukovsky’s first book, To Build A Castle, published in 1979, captures the remarkable tenacity of this brave and brilliant man. To Build A Castle relates in detail how Bukovsky, despite repeated imprisonments, openly defied the KGB, never relinquishing his wit or sense of detachment and irony, his spirit remaining unbroken.
Here is Bukovsky’s description of the punishment cells, the concrete “box,” and how he survived his periodic confinements there, by drawing castles with a smuggled fragment of pencil lead, and embellishing them with the vast powers of his imagination:
There, you get no paper, no pencil, and no books. They don’t take you out for exercise or to the bathhouse; you get fed only every other day; the only window is blocked; and the one electric light bulb is set in a niche at the top of the wall, where it meets the ceiling, so that its feeble light barely illuminates the ceiling. A ledge jutting out from the wall is your table, another your chair—ten minutes is as long as you can sit on it. At night they issue you a bare wooden duckboard for a bed; blankets or warm clothes are forbidden. In the corner there is usually a latrine bucket, or simply a hole in the floor that stinks to high heaven all day. In short, it’s a concrete box. Smoking is forbidden. The place is indescribably filthy. Dried globs of bloody saliva adorn the walls from the TB sufferers who have been incarcerated here before you. And right here is where you start to go under, to slip down to the very bottom, into the ooze and the slime. The words they have for it in jail express it exactly—you “go down” to the box, and you “come up” again.
…Knowing all this in advance, I would try, when sent to the box, to smuggle in a fragment of pencil lead, usually by hiding it in my cheek. Then I could spend my time drawing castles on scraps of newspaper or directly on the floor and walls. I set myself the task of constructing a castle in every detail, from the foundations, floors, walls, staircases, and secret passages right up to the painted roofs and turrets. I carefully cut each individual stone, covered the floor with parquet or stone flags, filled the apartments with furniture, decorated the walls with tapestries and paintings, lit candles in the chandeliers and smoking torches in the endless corridors. I decked the tables and invited guest, listened to music with them, drank wine from crystal goblets, and lit up a pipe to accompany coffee. We climbed the stairs together, walked from chamber to chamber, gazed at the lake from the open veranda, went down to the stables to examine the horses, walked around the garden–which also had to be laid out and planted. We returned to the library by way of the outside staircase, and there I kindled a fire in the open hearth. before settling back in a cozy armchair. I browsed through old books with worn leather bindings and heavy brass clasps. I even knew what was inside those books. I could even read them.
This was enough to occupy me for my entire spell in the box, and still there were plenty of problems left over to solve the next time; and it was not unknown for me to spend several days trying to decide a single question, such as what picture to hang in the drawing room, what cabinets to put in the library, what table to have in the dining room. Even now with my eyes closed, I can retrace that castle in every detail. Someday I shall find it—or build it.
I lived for hundreds of years in that castle and shaped every stone with my own hands. I built it between interrogations in Lefortovo [an infamous NKVD/KGB prison in Moscow], in the camp lock-up, and in the Vladimir [a prison 100 miles northeast of Moscow] punishment cells. It saved me from apathy, from indifference to living. It saved my life. Because one must not let oneself be paralyzed; one cannot afford to be apathetic—that is precisely when they put you to the test.
Bukovsky’s review essay on American Betrayal was turned down by Frontpage, which 9-months earlier (December 31, 2012)) had published a well-deserved tribute to the great Soviet dissident, entitled, “A Life of Integrity: Vladimir Bukovsky at 70”.
Fortunately, in keeping with the integrity of its founder, the late Andrew Breitbart, Brietbart’s Big Government has published Bukovsky’s assessment of West and American Betrayal. The review-essay opens by comparing American Betrayal to other seminal analyses of Communist totalitarianism’s ideology, tactics, and depredations, written by “non-professional” historians—such as Conquest, Solzhenitsyn, and Suvorov:
Groundbreaking books about the history of communism, such as Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago or Viktor Suvorov’s Ice-Breaker, are never written by “professional” historians. Indeed, historians typically meet those books with remarkable hostility. Yet, non-academic history books certainly have their advantages. For one thing, they are readable. More often than not, they are better researched, too. Above all, they are intellectually honest, free from the unspoken taboos of the academic world, and from allegiances to theories and to colleagues that tie the hands of many an academic. Where a professional historian pursues an academic career, the amateur seeks after the truth. Ignorant of taboos, the amateur can follow the trail of evidence to wherever it leads, and discovers things which, according to the academic conventional wisdom, are best left untouched and unsaid.
That is what Diana West does in American Betrayal.
And Bukovsky/Stroilov are unsparing in their critique of the “Learned Professor” Ronald Radosh’s gross misrepresentations of American Betrayal.
Amazingly and alarmingly, it was the Frontpage Magazine who published the Pravda-style leader which triggered that campaign, and provided a catalogue of smears and insults for endless repetition by other members of the consensus. No doubt a highly distinguished ‘conservative historian’ called Professor Radosh wrote a lengthy review of American Betrayal, headlined (with remarkable wit, good taste, and academic courtesy, if we may say so) McCarthy on Steroids. There, the Learned Professor dismissed the author as Sen. “McCarthy’s heiress” and the book as a “yellow journalism conspiracy theory” not really deserving the honour of his eminent critique. In his infinite generosity, however, the Learned Professor reluctantly agrees to provide some, and picks several specific points from American Betrayal to accuse Mrs. West of dishonesty and incompetence.
For anyone who has read both Mrs. West’s book and the Professor’s review, however, it is the review that is dishonest and incompetent. The Professor’s trick is to pick a couple of minor points from the book, invent a few more points of his own which he falsely attributes to the book, declare all those points to be “the pillars of West’s conspiracy theory”, and then to ‘disprove’ them with all academic solemnity. Unable to argue with the book itself, he instead argues with his own misrepresentation of the book.
Bukovsky/Stroilov conclude with a paean to Diana West’s unique effort. Please read their review/essay in its entirety to fully understand why they reached this apt conclusion!
While American Betrayal does reveal many little-known and interesting facts, Mrs. West is very far from claiming any credit for her discoveries. She pays excessive tribute to her academic sources. What she does say is that all those facts do not fit into the overall ‘conventional’ theories of history; that the known facts invite very different conclusions from those we have been offered. The only role she claims is that of the child from Andersen’s fairy tale, pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes on, while the chamberlains still walk behind him bearing the train that isn’t there. She only claims “to connect the dots”, which is a very modest description of the huge and brilliant work she has obviously done. Yet, it is a fairly accurate description of what the Learned Professors have obviously failed to do. No doubt, when they angrily protest that they had known all these facts all along, they are for once truthful. The sheer number of their academic degrees bears witness to their infinite knowledge. It is just that they lacked honesty and courage to tell us the truth.
Clearly, history is far too important to be left to the historians.
Bukovsky and Horowitz, Juxtaposed