A Warning to the West

by Harley Voogd

Following is an excerpt from a speech given by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in New York City in 1975….

July 9, 1975

Is it possible or impossible to transmit the experience of those who have suffered to those who have yet to suffer? Can one part of humanity learn from the bitter experience of another or can it not? Is it possible or impossible to warn someone of danger?

How many witnesses have been sent to the West in the last 60 years? How many waves of immigrants? How many millions of persons? They are all here. You meet them every day. You know who they are: if not by their spiritual disorientation, their grief, their melancholy, then you can distinguish them by their accents or their external appearance. Coming from different countries and without consulting with one another, they have brought to you exactly the same experience; they tell you exactly the same thing: they warn you of what is now taking place and what has taken place in the past. But the proud skyscrapers stand on, jut into the sky and say: It will never happen here. This will never come to us. It’s not possible here.

It can happen. It is possible. As a Russian proverb says: “When it happens to you, you’ll know it’s true.”

But do we really have to wait for the moment when the knife is at our throat? Couldn’t it be possible, ahead of time, to assess soberly the world-wide menace that threatens to swallow the whole world? I was swallowed myself. I have been in the dragon’s belly, in its red-hot innards. He wasn’t able to digest me. He threw me up. I have come to you as a witness to what it’s like there, in the dragon’s belly.

It’s an astonishing phenomenon that communism has been writing about itself in the most open way — in black and white — for 125 years, and even more openly, more candidly in the beginning. The Communist Manifesto, for instance, which everyone knows by name, and which almost no one ever takes the trouble to read, contains even more terrible things than what has actually been done. It’s perfectly amazing. The whole world can read, everyone is literate, but somehow no one wants to understand. Humanity acts as if it does not understand what Communism is, as if it does not want to understand, is not capable of understanding.

I think it isn’t only a question of the disguises which communism has assumed in the last decades. It’s rather that the essence of communism is quite beyond the limits of human understanding. It is hard to believe that people could actually plan such things and carry them out. And precisely because its essence is beyond comprehension, communism is so difficult to understand.

In my last address in Washington I spoke a great deal about the Soviet state system, how it was created and what it is today. But it’s perhaps more important to discuss with you the ideology that inspired the system, that created it, and that still governs it. It’s much more important to understand the essence of this ideology, and above all its legacy which hasn’t changed at all in 125 years. It hasn’t changed since the day it was born.

That Marxism is not a science is something which is entirely clear to intelligent people in the Soviet Union. One would feel awkward to refer to it as a science. Leaving aside the exact sciences, such as physics, mathematics, and the natural sciences, even the social sciences can predict an event — when, in what way, and how an event might occur. Communism has never made any such forecasts. It has never said where, when, and precisely what is going to happen. Nothing but declamations. Rhetoric to the effect that the world proletariat will overthrow the world bourgeoisie and the most happy and radiant society will then arise. The fantasies of Marx, Engels, and Lenin break off at this point, not one of them goes any further to describe what this society would be like. They simply said: the most radiant, most happy society. Everything for the sake of man.

~Excerpt taken from Warning to the West, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1976, pg 52-55