Western writers as an intellectual “heavy dragoon” (“take allnthe remarkable people in history / rattle them off to anpopular tune”): the joint incarnation of Shakespeare and St.nJohn of the Cross, with a little Montesquieu thrown in fornseasoning.nReading Russian literature only in translation, I havenfailed to discover the qualities that are supposed to elevate itnabove the other not quite first-rate literatures of modernnEurope. From Pushkin to Solzhenitsyn, there may be half andozen or even a dozen writers who have made an impact onnthe West, but the same can be said of German and Italiannwriters in the same period. Russia has produced no Goethenor Dante; no Shakespeare or Gervantes; no Balzac ornBaudelaire. I do not wish at all to detract from thenaccomplishments of Russian fiction, which I continue tonread with pleasure; at the same time, I firmly believe thatnScott, Thackeray, and Trollope, Balzac, Flaubert, andnStendahl, Hemingway and Faulkner are as good, if notnbetter. I also believe that there have been, writing recently innthe United States, more accomplished novelists than Solzhenitsyn.nAh, but what of the deep Russian soul, the greatnspirituality of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky? You won’t find thatnin Trollope or Balzac. Exactly. Western novelists havenalways recognized that fiction is a bourgeois form of art thatnis concerned mainly with the vicissitudes of social life. Ournbest fiction is, for the most part, solid and skeptical ofnexcesses. There is nothing more civilized, in our world, thannTrollope’s investigations of the microcosms of parsonagesnand Parliament, and there is no better work of socialnprophecy than his most gloomy novel, The Way We LivenNow.nThere is not a drop of mysticism — or even of realnreligion — in Trollope, but England and America (to saynnothing of France) have produced their share of Christiannnovelists. That great Christian gentleman, Walter Scott,nprayed at church or read the Prayerbook with his family; yetnfor all his affection for the Scottish peasantry, he did notnrush out onto his estate and hug the first yokel he could findnor move out into a hovel to discover the wisdom that comesnfrom the soil.nThe Russians have had to become “spiritual” as theirnonly means of defense against the tyranny and suffering theynhave inflicted upon themselves throughout their entirenhistory. Incapable, as a people, of individual responsibility ornpolitical liberty, they have had to take refuge in religion or innthe mysticisms of race and soil. Their liberals (in the oldnsense) — such men as Herzen, Turgenev, the elder Nabokov—nwere driven into exile and despair.nThis is not to deny the validity or value of Russiannmysticism. Suffering can confer both dignity and wisdom,nalthough it is just as likely to degrade its victims. From thisnperspective, the Russian variation on our civilization has atnleast as much to teach us as the Italian, German, andnScandinavian.nNow, especially, that the Russians and their subjects arenpaying the bills for Lenin and Stalin, we can learn manynlessons from their experiences. Perhaps we can only foretellnour own future. But as the West falters and stumbles, as thenfoundations of our culture crack and crumble, eventuallynbringing the jerry-built – political, economic, and socialnstructures down upon our heads, we would do well to takeninstruction from a nation that has given the world so manynmen who are experts at inflicting and enduring misery.nIt is impossible to do justice to the worst features of thenSoviet Empire, but any intelligent outsider reading thennewspapers would conclude that the main problems have tondo with the creation of a centralized political system thatnmanages a planned economy, the campaign to suppressnnational identities, and the attempt to establish a newnpolitical order, based not on history or tradition, but onnideology and propaganda. These causes, quite apart fromnother difficulties, would be sufficient to explain the secessionnmovements in the Baltic states and the ethnic conflictsnthroughout the Union, the chronic food shortages andngrotesque inefficiencies of production and distribution, andnthe helplessness and paralysis of both the people and thenlocal authorities in the face of economic disaster and politicalndisintegration. The most frequentiy heard cry, at least in thenpress, is the desire for a strong leader who will restore order,npunish the wicked exploiters, and get the system movingnagain. Oh for the days of Comrade Stalin.nSensible critics in the West have been saying for years thatnthe Soviet system could not survive, much less prosper. Freenmarket competition for resources and status is an inherentnpart of human nature, and if individuals are prevented fromnowning property and advancing their fortunes in farming orncommerce through individual initiative and hard work,nambitious natures will find other ouflets. “Whatever is thenroad to power,” Burke warned, “that road will be surely trodnupon.” If Party membership and positions in the nomenklaturandefine status and power, then the best and brightestnwill gravitate toward those official institutions that offer thenbest advantages.nWashington, D.C., is full of the healthiest and bestlookingnyoung people in America, because in largenmeasure that is where the action is, not just in government,nbut for all those gigantic business interests whose existencenand prosperity depend upon special privileges from government:nagribusiness worried about subsidies, communicationsnand entertainment companies eager to retain their monopolies,nutilities and other industries anxious to make sure thatnenvironmental regulations are all written in their favor.nThe corruption of Congress and the wealth and power ofnlobbyists are only the superficial symbols of an increasinglyncentralized American economy. While every new technologynsmashes through the monopolies and cartels that dominatenAmerican business, it does not take long for the cartelsnto harness the technology — air travel, fax machines, 900nnumbers — in the service of the great interests. The conspiracynof business, labor, and government that we now callneconomic planning used to go by its correct name: corporatenfascism. America’s first major experiment in fascism wasnFranklin Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration.nSenator William Borah correcfly perceived that the aim andnend result of such planning would be the destruction ofnsmall businesses, which he regarded as the backbone of thenAmerican republic:nI look upon the fight for the preservation of then”litfle man,” for the small, independent producernnnJUNE 1991/13n