Thursday, 18 June 2020

A steaming cauldron of horse meat; Vasily Grossman and Russian path communism

The light of evening can reveal the essence of a moment. It can bring out its emotional and historical significance, transforming a mere impression into a powerful image. The evening sun can endow patches of soot and mud with thousands of voices, the bitterness of mistakes and the eternal appeal of hope.
Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman
Grossman writes how the members of the defeated German 6th Army are returned to humanity by their defeat on the banks of the Volga. He also records a corresponding return to inhumanity, as indexed by resurgent stalinist antisemitism, in the Russian forces at the point of their victory at Stalingrad. In its political and military victories, communism loses touch with itself. It breaks with those internal constraints which function in the maintenance of a necessary reserve before its own possibilities, which had hitherto defined the ideal of humanity within Russian literature – the same constraints which we must suppose are indispensable to the essence of communism.