Sometimes Lessing is less:
Doris Lessing and the Afghans
One of more annoying features of modern life is the writer who becomes involved in a worthwhile cause and then uses it has a platform to pontificate about stuff they know little about. A classic example is Doris Lessing. Now Doris Lessing is a very well known writer who in 2007 won the Nobel Prize for literature. Unfortunately Doris Lessing aside from writing well written books has also shown a less than sterling intellectual sense about certain matters.1
For example Doris Lessing boosted the work, rather dubious, of Idries Shah who was to put it politely a rather shady character.2 However that is not what will be discussed here instead I will discuss her thoughts, if that is the proper word for it, on Afghanistan and related matters.
In the late 70’s Doris Lessing became involved in Afghan relief efforts, dedicated to providing relief to Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran. Doris Lessing also became involved in efforts to raise awareness concerning the plight of the Afghans and their country in the wake of the Soviet invasion. All of which was an entirely worthy endeavour. After all the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was unbridled act of aggression carried out with considerable brutality and the plight of the millions of Afghan refugees was quite terrible.3 So what is the problem with Doris Lessing’s efforts?
Well what is the problem is that Doris Lessing used the plight of the Afghan refugees as a launching pad for a rather thoughtless and frankly borderline idiotic attacks on the so-called left. In Doris Lessing’s book The Wind Blows Away Our Words,4 Aside from useful and heart rending stuff about Afghanistan and the resistance, there is a piece of badly written, purple prosy, masturbatory and self indulgent piece called Her Long Hair Streaming Loose,5 and the subject of this essay The Strange Case of Western Conscience.6
The Strange Case of Western Conscience is full of the standard shibboleths and fantasies of the standard Cold War received wisdom. It is a piece that regurgitates and processes the received wisdom of Cold warriors caught in the Manichean struggle between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. The following is a selection of quotes from this piece of polemical crud with commentary.
Now it is important to remember that one of Doris Lessing’s tactics in this essay is the big lie, which she employs over and over again. One thing Doris Lessing isn’t afraid of is a timid start. The lies start right on the first page of the essay proper.
They cannot understand why we do not help them.7
They being the Afghans of course. The statement is a lie and since Doris Lessing by this time had been heavily involved in Afghan relief efforts she would know that by then hundreds of millions had been spent on Afghan humanitarian relief to say nothing of billions on military aid to the Afghan resistance. Of course Doris Lessing does not mention that assistance was being provided to the Afghan resistance before the Soviet invasion. But then accepting this would force her to deal with how the aid was distributed and used. The chronic corruption of Pakistani politics the fact that large amounts of the aid were sucked off by the ISI and corrupt officials and much given only to favoured parties in the Afghan resistance.8 Doris Lessing’s comment about the indifference of the West is a lie, the massive amount of aid funnelled through give the lie to that to say nothing of the massive aid that came from Muslim countries to say nothing of thousands of Holy War volunteers who came to fight the infidel Russians.9
And Doris begins her pattern of thinking that lack of coverage by the Western media indicates indifference by Western governments. Nope Western governments were very interested and aid flowed in massive amount to say nothing of technical help from organizations like the CIA.10 Aside from the dubious argument about lack of interest by the media the conflation of media and government is striking.
Doris Lessing then starts her distortion concerning the media. Doris Lessing says:
I said it was unprecedented for a war to be fought for five years by a virtually unarmed people against a super power, while the world took virtually no notice. She murmured, at once ‘Vietnam’ – as I expected she would. I said that the Vietnamese had been armed, equipped. I said that a million Afghan civilians had been murdered by the Russians.11
The lies in the above paragraph are many. Aside from ignoring the massive by then aid to the Afghan rebels, who were not unarmed. As for the world not taking notice – a flat out lie given the aid from the West and the CIA help to say nothing of the involvement of much of the Muslim world. In fact just like the Vietnamese the Afghan’s were armed and equipped. The last comment is fascinating. It is also a lie. It is not clear if a million Afghan’s altogether died because of the war. The figure includes battle deaths, deaths by disease etc., not just those deliberately killed by the Russians. The actual number of civilians directly murdered by the Russians is not known, but it is undoubtedly considerable although not a million.12
Doris Lessing can’t help herself she must lie. She says things like:
There are ‘about’ ten million refugees in the world, and half of them are Afghan.
Why has the horror of Afghanistan never been considered important?13
The first statement is factually incorrect. The second is pure agitation propaganda and a knowing lie.14
One of Doris Lessing’s tactics in this piece is the interview with the un-named media person who attitude is characterized as dismissive or unserious. Actually naming the person or the organization this person is attached to is almost never done in this piece. Instead Doris Lessing mind reads and fantasizes. Thus we read about various magazines refusing to publish her pieces on Afghanistan. Such horrible lese majesty! But then Doris Lessing's hints about the “mysterious inhibition, this ukase”.15 Doris Lessing lets the cat out of the bag. Ukase is a Russian word and the “mysterious inhibition” is reluctance by the Western media to criticise Russia. So the Western media, which in Doris Lessing’s view is all that counts in terms of measuring Western interest in Afghanistan, is a servant it seems of the Soviet Union requiring permission to say, or investigate certain things. This is pure Cold war agitation propaganda. It is also an out and out lie. In the mid 1980’s during the so-called Second Cold War, denunciation of the Soviet Union was “Politically Correct” and demanded by most of the media. It is abundantly easy to demonstrate that the media followed by and large standard Cold War policies of anti-communism.16 As for permission to cover certain atrocities I could mention the failure to cover the Western backed genocidal massacres in East Timor. As for slavish Cold war coverage how about the bogus Bulgarian Connection in the attempted assassination of Pope John-Paul II.17
Doris then whines about a program critical of the Afghan freedom fighters. Given what we now know about some of the Holy warriors it merely seems both prophetic and accurate.
Doris then says:
This programme and two others said, ‘No, Afghanistan is just a bore’.18
Logic not being Doris Lessing’s strong suit it seems, that she forgot that if they really thought Afghanistan was a bore they would not have made the program.
Doris then whines some more and mind reads concerning an interview she did, because horror of horrors they wanted to discuss other things than Afghanistan.
Doris Lessing then says:
They do it [Give interviews] because they need help, and they believe, poor souls, that if we, the West, see what they are experiencing, we will want to help.19
Doris Lessing again lies, by 1986 the help from both the West and Muslim countries was in the billions of dollars. Doris Lessing then whines about lack of media coverage on the front page has against famine in Africa on the front page. Such lese-majesty! By definition Doris Lessing’s favourite cause should be on the front page (sic). Of course what was also not on the front page was genocide in East Timor or the Nicaragua court case in the World Court.20 Doris Lessing whines some more about famine coverage about Africa as against Afghanistan once again confusing media coverage with the level of interest that Western governments have in Afghanistan. Doris Lessing just doesn’t want to understand the media instead its some sort of vaguely sinister “inhibition”.
Doris then dismisses the idea that Afghanistan can be compared to Vietnam. Doris says:
For one thing the Vietnamese had all kinds of weapons, training, aid, For another, the war was fought in a blaze of publicity,…21
Once again Doris Lessing forgets that the Afghan fighters had “all kinds of weapons”. As for publicity. Doris Lessing is unaware that by and large, especially before the Tet offensive American coverage was pro-American government policy. The relative lack of media coverage was a product of the Russian refusal to allow much Western media in and threats to Western journalists going in with the Jihadists. Even so coverage was extensive and overwhelmingly pro-Afghan resistance.22
Doris than further fantasizes about a “light humorous voice”,23 by the Western media. It is entirely in her own head. Lessing in another one of her comments about a media commentator dismissing Afghan suffering “in a light, casual voice,”.24 Of course we are not given the name or the program or the date. Doris Lessing thus doesn’t in the least back up her slimy insinuations.
Then Doris makes a statement that the Soviets were withdrawing forces strictly for show and of course the West would fall for it. Doris Lessing here indicates her acceptance of the Cold War trope of a vast, evil super cunning adversary against a weak, pliant West that has little backbone. Implicit in this narrative is that the Soviet Union was a cohesive, unitary state with all the elite apparatus united in a cunning, decades old strategy to undermine the West and that behind the Iron Curtain there were no disputes over policy among our all seeing, enemy whose unity was absolute.25
Of course this view of Soviet politics seems in retrospect and should have been seen at the time as utterly absurd. The Divisions concerning policy in the Soviet Union were both real and fundamental.
After Doris Lessing makes another idiotic comment about another ploy that the West seemed anxious to accept by the Russians. Doris comments about a statement by Gorbachev about wanting an early end to the Afghan war. To her it is just propaganda and once again she talks about unnamed papers talking about an end to the war and unnamed people saying that Gorbachev is ending the war. Of course what Lessing ignores, as per usual the Muslim press is unmentioned, is that Western aid to the Freedom fighters increased after Gorbachev came to power and continued to increase until the end of the Soviet occupation.
Doris Lessing does finally mention two papers the Guardian and Independent and snidely says, with no evidence, that they believe Gorbachev will end the war with a mere promise. No evidence provided so it can be dismissed.
Doris Lessing than lies:
They will not stop fighting even if the slight flow of aid does dry up.26
It wasn’t slight when Doris Lessing wrote this and given her knowledge of Afghan affairs by then she would know it was false.
I further note that while Doris Lessing is quite contemptuous of Gorbachev’s comment about an early end to the Afghan war she does not seem to be aware that Nixon in 1969 was promising an early end to Vietnam. Another Afghan – Vietnam parallel.
Doris Lessing’s dismissal of as mere propaganda Gorbachev’s desire for an early end to the Afghan war is par for the course in her Manichean view of the all wise, all evil Soviet colossus. Of course we now know it was entirely sincere and Gorbachev really did want out.27
Then comes a series of lies about the Soviet Union and Islamic Fundamentalism. Doris Lessing takes seriously idle rumours that Khomeini’s Iran is a Soviet puppet. Of course we have abundant evidence that the Soviets did indeed dislike Islamic Fundamentalism, and this played a role in the invasion. Doris Lessing’s belief that the Soviets were working closely with Khomeini’s Iran is somewhat unlikely given the violent suppression of the Iranian Communist party, and the lack of Soviet advisers etc., in Iran. In other words this is simply Doris Lessing making up her own facts.28
There is then the obligatory comment about the West falling for “it” again and again. Once again the innocent West in the coils of the all powerful, Satanic, infinitely cunning enemy. This was / is? a standard trope of anti-Communist hysteria and shows just how closely Doris Lessing hoes the party line.
Now we get to the real meat of Doris Lessing’s polemical technicolour yawn.
There is a reluctance to criticize the Soviet Union.29
As an overall statement about the Western media this is a flat out lie. Although with utterly unintended irony Doris Lessing refers to attitudes etc, that are un-examined and not even acknowledged which apply to knee jerk Anti-Sovietism and her regurgitation of the usual familiar anti-Communist bromides about a supine Western Liberal media. In other words old fashioned red-baiting.
There was no Western reluctance to criticize the Soviet Union in fact denunciations and anti-Communism was in fact the “politically correct” attitude by the media. However it was an effective tool of dealing with media reports that upset anti-communists to accuse the media of servility to the Soviet Union and being stooges of the Russians. All in all a very effective “flack” tool. Doris Lessing whines about if you raise this subject you are accused of being “reactionary”. Well how about red-baiting. There existed a whole assortment of organizations dedicated to combating the alleged “inhibition”, the mythical Liberal subservience to Moscow. This is pure Cold War and pure John Birch crap. It was and remains nonsense. Overall in the Media the default position was anti-Communism and denunciations of the Soviet Union.30
Ah but then Doris Lessing perhaps mistakes the positions of some “Leftist” papers for the media in general? But then Doris Lessing if she wants to speak of “inhibitions” might want to look at the “inhibition” regarding East Timor or the Indonesian massacres of 1965-1966, or the invasion of the Dominican Republic or coverage of the Contras or the Salvador elections etc.31
After the above we get to a variation of Reds under the bed crap. Doris talks about feeling despair about raising her Red-baiting stories of a media subservient to the Soviet Union, and then she mentions an Australian court case, (no name given, typical.), and about how we, the public are being kept from knowing how many Soviet Agents they are, how much treason is going on. This is straight anti-Communist paranoia. All about the enemy is everywhere and weak supine, Liberals etc., are covering up treason and aiding the omnipresent enemy. I expect Doris Lessing to talk about her precious bodily fluids next.
Doris Lessing then reiterates her lie about the reluctance to criticize the Russians that exists only in the minds of true believers oblivious to reality. Then she talks about how Chernobyl and Three Mile Island will be equated and judged the same by the media. Of course with very few exceptions this never happened. Doris is simply once again making up her own facts. But then practically all the coverage talked about how much more dangerous was Chernobyl. Doris is again engaging in agitation propaganda.
Then Doris makes a reference to KAL 007. Once again she fantasizes about how the supine media would blame the US for the shooting. Of course Doris Lessing ignores from the get go the idea that it was a deliberate spy mission was regarded as nuts and not taken seriously by the majority of the media, or that a the US launched a sustained propaganda campaign about the Soviets deliberately shooting down a civilian aircraft that the media in the US supported. Doris ignores that it does appear that the Soviets did think it was a spy plane when they shot it down. Doris Lessing is engaged in systematic distortion here.32
Then Doris Lessing says:
The United States’ (to my mind, mistaken) policy in Nicaragua is relentlessly criticized at the top of everybody's voice, vituperously, endlessly – but the Soviet policy in excused, softened.33
Doris Lessing ignores that US government policy was also relentlessly supported by large sections of the media, and most of the media in fact supported the overall policy towards Nicaragua, if some disagreed about the manner of implementation. A telling indication is the Media’s treatment, or should I say non-treatment, of Nicaragua’s case against the US in the International Court at the Hague. As for Soviet policy being excused, softened; what world does Doris Lessing live in? Soviet policy was often viciously, hysterically denounced. The idea that the media in general excused, softened Soviet policy in general is bluntly a lie. But a standard lie of the Liberal media Red baiting mythos.34
Then Doris meditates about historians will wonder how such a brutal regime was excused by democrats, humanists etc. Doris Lessing is of course describing the fellow travellers who idiotic celebration of Stalin’s Russia was basically a phenomenon of the 1930’s and due to the war of the first half of the 40’s. Doris Lessing “forgets”, that fellow travelling, which was even then a minority phenomenon was virtually dead by the early 50’s and a long dead corpse by the 80’s. I note Doris Lessing doesn’t mention any of the current fellow travellers who celebrate the Soviet Union or how the Western media swallows what they write about Russia. Probably because such people do not exist and Doris Lessing here is once again engaging in good old fashioned Red baiting, along with referring to a long dead phenomena.35
Doris Lessing then continues her continued reference to a media figure. Doris Lessing refers to a un-named Russian saying on a un-named program that a comment about the Soviet’s had killed ten times as many people as Hitler was removed least it offend the Russians. Just why should we take this seriously? It is just another “fact” that Doris Lessing conjured up, like the “light, casual voice”. Of course this story also indicates the subservience of the Western media to Russian dictates. I suppose all the massive and extensive media coverage, virtually all of it favourable to Solzhenitsyn when he was expelled and his books The Gulag Archipelago, in the Western media didn’t happen. In fact negative assessments of Solzhenitsyn were very had to find in the Western media. I could also talk about the Bulgarian connection in an alleged plot to kill the Pope, which was uncritically accepted by much of the Western media.36
There is some more un-sourced references to things people allegedly said. All to indicate the “fact” the Western media is subservient to Soviet desires.
As if it cannot get any more intellectually bankrupt Doris Lessing then goes into a truly idiotic, purple prose bit of number atrocity porn. It is also intellectually shabby.
First we get a reference to the infamous famine of the mid 1930’s in the Soviet Union. Doris Lessing talks about 7-9 million being deliberately murdered. Well aside from the question of just how many actually died, it is virtually certain that the actual number deliberately murdered was not anywhere close to that number. That Soviet policies were absolutely instrumental in causing the famine and then not dealing with it, except ineffectually and brutally is true. However that the Soviets deliberately set out to starve millions of people to death is simply false. It appears that the famine was the result of stupid policies and the failure to deal with it from callous disregard, but deliberate murder – no. In other criminal negligence causing death not homicide. Still a damning indictment of the regime but not deliberate murder.37
I note that Doris Lessing seems to be unaware of the at least partially man made famines in India during the late 19th century and the similarly human aggravated famine in India in 1943. The Ukrainian famine has not been forgotten but those Western and British Famines have. In fact the Ukrainian famine was a regular feature of anti-Soviet / anti-Stalinist polemic. Taking a leaf from Doris Lessing it would be interesting to wonder what inhibitions prevented the Western media from remembering this, or East Timor or the Nicaragua International court case?38
Doris Lessing then proceeds to show her deep ignorance and un-willingness to learn.
Apparently it was not twenty million Russian soldiers who died in the last war, but eight million as Stalin himself said. The twenty million now cited (by the West too, following the Russians’ lead) includes all those murdered by Stalin (with the enthusiastic and efficient co-operation of Party members) in Gulag.39
Doris is again lying, or simply colossally ignorant. The figure of twenty million dead does NOT include the dead in the Gulag or the famine. It includes the millions murdered by the Nazis, (civilians), the millions of Russian prisoners of war shot or starved to death by the Germans and the millions of civilians who starved to death or died as collateral damage due to the war. Oh and the figure is probably closer to 26 million.40 Doris converts the additional figure of 12 million into deliberately murdered by the Russians forgetting about the Germans, when it is trhose who died during the war, either deliberately or indirectly aside from “forgetting” that the figure is overwhelmingly those killed directly / indirectly by the Germans and deaths due to the disruption and destruction of war and does not include Gulag deaths. Thus Doris Lessing engages in wilful distortion amounting to lying.
Doris then refers to Victor Surorov (real name Vladimir Rezun), defector and fantasist who alleges that Soviet demographers claimed the Soviet Union should have had a population of 315 million in 1959 and where are the hundred million. Now Victor Surorov is one of the authors of the dubious notion that Stalin was planning to attack Hitler in 1941, but here both he and Doris Lessing miss the boat. Aside from the dubiousness of the figures, to put it mildly, they forget that a higher death rate invariably, during a famine, war etc, leads to a lower birth rate. So that millions of people who would have been born are not born. Even if that hundred million figure was even remotely plausible the bottom line is that much or most of those hundred million were never born. Further damaging Victor Surorov’s credibility is his apparent belief that Hitler “executed” 20 million of the hundred million.41 That is pure fantasy.
Doris Lessing then makes a world weary comment:
What’s twenty million? Or even a hundred million those days?42
Slacker sarcasm is a bore.
Then Doris Lessing talks about reading somewhere that during the Great Leap Forward between twenty and forty million died. That figure may well be true but we lack the details and the Communist government of China is not giving us the detailed information required to make a complete analysis. Of course Doris Lessing once again does not give a source. But then Doris goes off the deep end she talks about the news, once again not giving a source, that between 20 - 80 million died during the Cultural Revolution. This is pure fantasy. The death total while terrible, was only a tiny fraction of 80 million. Doris Lessing is once again making up her own facts. Of course once again it is all too likely she got this fact from rabid anti-Communists who not satisfied with the rather terrible reality make up crap.43
Doris Lessing then refers to a comment allegedly made by Mao, (Once again no source or date although location is given.), in which he said that it would not matter if the West dropped atom bombs on China and killed half the population there would be many Chinese left. Since Mao did in fact make comments dismissing the atom bomb as a “paper tiger”, it is likely he made some sort of comment like this, however given Doris Lessing’s track record so far one wonders. Of course Doris Lessing has this to indicate the callous disregard for human life people like Mao had. I should point out that since Mao didn’t provoke a nuclear war it is possible the alleged quote and others like it were mere polemical posturing, much like Doris Lessing’s essay.44
Doris Lessing then complains about the refugee figures from Iran and suggests a cover-up. No doubt by the evil Soviets who control Iran and aided by their fellow travelling stooges in the Western press. (sic.) Of course once again Doris Lessing gives no evidence and utterly fails to support her lying insinuations.
Doris Lessing doesn’t disappoint , after a few hundred words she has to lie again:
These are mostly middle class – the educated members of the population who were not murdered, who are still in prisons in Afghanistan. These refugees are never mentioned.45
Aside from confusing the Afghan Communists with the Khmer Rouge, the fact of the matter is that the Afghan Communists did not specifically target the middle class. In fact most of the Afghan Communist party was middle class educated and raised. It is of interest that Doris Lessing does not mention that the Afghan Communist party was divided into two factions who were at each others throats frequently, with torture, murder, coups and counter coups and generally intriguing against each other. I suppose mentioning this would detract from Doris Lessing’s Manichean view of Communists all united in the goal of subversion and conquest. Of course perhaps Doris Lessing thought at the time this was simply a Communist deception by clever propagandists. As for the last line about the refugees not being mentioned, apparently by the Western media; that is simply another bold-faced lie. I should note that refugees from East Timor, a Western supported atrocity, were definitely largely ignored and “covered up”.46
Doris repeats her fatuous assertion about a million Afghan civilians murdered by the Russians, ignoring that this includes all Afghans killed in the war by all causes not just deliberate murder. The statement is true only if you think an invading army has basically “murdered” everyone who dies as a result of the invasion and war that results. In which case Doris Lessing should have no problem with the statement ‘the Americans murdered one million Vietnamese civilians’.47
Then Doris Lessing gets positively slimy and pathetic.
The people murdered by the Khmer Rouge. Two million of the population, were not mentioned either. At the time no one demonstrated for them, the humanitarians were not protesting, circulating petitions, but then they were murdered by a communist dictator – (with the energetic co-operation of the young comrades,) so the automatic inhibition came into action: rather bad taste, really to mention it.48
This is utterly disgusting aside from ignoring the massive coverage of the atrocities in Cambodia by the Western media and the campaigns for humanitarian assistance. This ignores that during the period of Khmer Rouge rule there was a great many articles, books etcetera condemning the Khmer Rouge and their brutal rule. The fact that they almost completely banned journalists, so it was hard to get information about what was going on. However there was no inhibition about condemning the Khmer Rouge for vile atrocities. As for the alleged inhibition of the Western media to criticize communist dictators it didn’t exist. Doris Lessing’s once again shows that she believes that the Western free media is a stooge of the Russians and is engaged in serving Russian / Communist ends. Oh and she forgets that Vietnam, another Communist country invaded and overthrew the Khmer Rouge in a invasion that was opposed by the West / Americans who supported an alliance dominated by the Khmer Rouge. Once again Doris Lessing indicates the depth of her Red baiting beliefs.49
Now Doris Lessing returns to Hitler and she wonders why his atrocities are remembered but Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot are forgotten. That is the purest agitation propaganda. Communist atrocities are remembered most diligently by anti-Communists and raised to public attention over and over again. Meanwhile Suharto of Indonesia responsible for two horrible blood baths and many other atrocities, is let off and his atrocities are forgotten. (Say Indonesia 1965/66, East Timor.). Of course in 1985 when Doris Lessing was writing this stuff Saddam Husain’s myriad atrocities were equally played down / ignored.50
Doris Lessing then talks some more about the Holocaust, which amazingly she thinks became a ‘catch phrase’ for the event from a TV program. Doris Lessing seems to be utterly unaware that the phrase goes back to the 1950’s and was in regular use by the mid 60’s. But then Doris Lessing’s meditations on the Holocaust seem to consist of free association with nothing to back it up. It is pretentious drivel. Showing again her ignorance Doris Lessing refers to the “anti-Zionist” campaign by Stalin of the early 50’s, also called the ‘Doctor’s plot’; with nothing to back her up she talks about hundreds of thousands of deaths or a million. This is pure fantasy obviously Doris Lessing is fantasizing and didn’t bother to do even the most basic research. This campaign however terrible it was, and it was terrible, did not kill in such large numbers, but only a small fraction of such numbers although large numbers of people did suffer.51
Doris then refers to the Ukrainian famine again making the assumption the deaths were deliberate. Then Doris Lessing mentions the Gypsies and gives the figure of one million dead, which is almost certainly an exaggeration. Doris then shows her ignorance by alleging there are no books etc, by the victims. That is false and would have been shown to be false if Doris Lessing had done any research at all instead of engaging in free association.52
Doris then rants about other stuff including that the German resistance to Hitler has not be honoured and their story not told. Doris Lessing once again reveals a cavalier ignorance that she apparently made no effort to alleviate.53
Doris Lessing’s idiotic idea that the word Holocaust should be put away is very arrogant. The phrase is the one Jewish writers have created and then used to describe the horror. Doris Lessing is basically telling them not to use that word to describe what happened to their co-religious.
In an example of hilarious quite un-conscious irony Doris Lessing says:
Until we do this [Honour German opponents of Hitler] I believe we shall be poorer for it, as we are when we allow ourselves black and white judgements, pattern thinking, over simplification.54
The above is stupefying because in this essay Doris Lessing does all those things in spades in her essay.
In the end this intellectual abortion is an example when a gifted intellectual decides to run off the mouth and not check what s/he is doing. There obviously was no fact checker or anyone to edit or suggest Doris Lessing prove her point or make an argument rather than flat assertion.
That the essay strongly reflect a right wing paranoid view of the world complete with an omnipresent, omnipotent evil adversary and a supine opponent, undermined by stooges who might as well be described as unconscious traitors. In the paranoid anti-Communist view the supine West was infected by “Reds” everywhere, and the Liberal media was undermining resistance. So that any attitude that was less than fanatical anti-Communist was submission to Moscow. Thus the continual attacks on the media for being insufficiently anti-Communist. That the Media was largely anti-Communist was ignored, it was insufficiently so and by screamingly loudly enough the non fact of submission to Moscow became a fact.
What this essay also shows is the belief, again common in Right wing circles, of the idea of the supremely powerful, cunning adversary that was destroying the West from within and without. Whose every act was part of a calculated scheme for world conquest. From the perspective of 2011 such a belief seems psychotic nonsense. The Soviet Union collapsed and it was revealed that the moral, economic and military basis of the system had been hollowing out for years and that in many respects it was a ‘paper tiger’. The hollowing out process was so complete and the system’s lack of credibility so massive that it collapsed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe with a stunning lack of violence. Even the great majority of party members had little interest in preserving the system it seems.
It now is clearly known that the West vastly exceeded the Soviet Union in economic might and social legitimacy and that the Soviet System spent most of the time desperately, in Eastern Europe, and even in the Soviet Union staving off destruction from its own internal contradictions. What has also been revealed is that the Soviet Leadership was ossified, backward thinking and stagnant and in great fear of the West and being beaten by the West. The system rotted from within and then collapsed.55
The paranoid right wing view of the situation was a paranoid delusion and basically an inversion of reality.
What is also interesting is, for all Doris Lessing’s pooh poohing, Islamic fundamentalism did receive a huge boost from the Afghan war and a generation of Islamic Jihadists fought in Afghanistan including Bin Laden. The West helped to train the force that turned against the West. So it appears that the alleged Russian fears of fundamentalism were not a propaganda ploy. And Russia has had for over a decade the running sore of Chechnya.
Meanwhile Afghanistan as not seen peace in a generation. Once the Russians left the various Afghan groups began to fight among themselves and foreigners just can not stop interfering. The numbers of Afghans who have died directly and indirectly from war since the Russians left numbers probably over a million. Meanwhile Afghanistan is devastated, its population poor and disease ridden, ruled by corrupt politicians and warlords and saturated with violence. The Russians have long gone and Afghanistan is a bloody ruin.56
It has been more than 30 years since fighting began in Afghanistan and the dead keep piling up. Meanwhile Doris Lessing keeps pontificating.
|Afghan Refugee 1984|
1. Doris Lessing, Wikipedia Here.
3. The number of books concerning the Russian Afghan war are legion, the following are some books to start with. Arney, George, Afghanistan, Mandarin, London, 1990, Cordesman, Anthony H., Wagner Abraham R., The Lessons of Modern War, v. 3: The Afghan and Falklands Conflicts, Westview Press, San Francisco, 1991, Kakar, M. Hassan, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response, 1979-1982, University of California Press, Berkeley CA, 1995, Laber, Jeri, Rubin, Barnett R., “A Nation is Dying”, Northwesten University Press, Evanston IL, 1988, Roy, Oliver, Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan, Cambridge University Press, London, 1985, Borovik, Artyom, The Hidden War, The Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1990, Anwar, Raja, The Tragedy of Afghanistan, Verso, London, 1988, Bradsher, Henry S., Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, Second Edition, Duke University Press, Durham NC, 1985, Bonner, Arthur, Among the Afghans, Duke University Press, Durham NC, 1987, Grau, Lester W., Gress, Michael A, (Translators and Editors of a Russian General staff study.), The Soviet-Afghan War, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence KS, 2002.
4. Pan Books, London, 1987.
5. IBID, pp. 13-30.
6. IBID, pp. 155-172.
7. IBID, p. 157.
8. See Bonner p. 342, Cordesman, p. 81, Arney, pp. 149-159.
9. Bonner, p. 175-177, Ali, Tariq, The Clash of Fundamentalisms, Verso, London, 2002, pp. 208-210.
10. Cordesman, pp. 28-94, provides a chronology of the war that lists at chronologically appropriate places the military aid / technical assistance that the Afghan resistance got.
11. Lessing, p. 158.
12. See Footnotes 10 and 3. See Especially Cordesman, p. 96, and Laber.
13. Lessing, pp. 158-159.
14. Doris Lessing’s own essay supplies considerable refutations of this absurdity, but to add to this point see, Lee, Martin, A., Solomon, Norman, Unreliable Sources, Carol Publishing Group, New York, 1990, pp. 328-330, Chomsky, Noam, Herman, Edward S., Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon Books, New York, 1988, pp. 176-179.
15. Lessing, p. 159.
16. Chomsky, 1988, pp. 29-31, Arnson, James, The Press and the Cold War, Second Edition, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1990, Hallin, Daniel C., The “Uncensored War”, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1985, pp. 212-215, Herman, Edward S., Brodehead, Frank, Demonstration Elections, pp. South End Press, Boston MASS, 1984, 17-180, Chomsky, Noam, Necessary Illusions, CBC Enterprises, Toronto, 1989, pp. 137-159, 223-261.
17. See Chomsky, 1988, pp. 143-167, 313-319, Herman, Edward S., Brodehead, Frank, The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection, Sheridan Square Pub. Inc., New York, 1986.
18. Lessing, p. 160.
19. p. 161.
20. Friel, Howard, Falk, Richard, The Record of the Paper, Verso, London, 2004, pp. 184-225, Chomsky, 1989, pp. 82-84, Klaehn, Jeffery, Corporate Hegemony: A Critical Assessment Of The Globe and Mail’s News Coverage Of Near Genocide In Occupied East Timor, 1975-1991, in Filtering News, Editor, Klaehn, Jeffery, Black Rose Books, Montreal, 2005, pp. 138-163, Chomsky, Noam, Herman, Edward S., The Political Economy of Human Rights, v. 1, Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1979, [a] pp. 129-204, Chomsky, Noam, Towards a New Cold War, Pantheon Books, New York, 1982, pp. 337-370.
21, Lessing, p. 162.
22. Footnote 14.
23. Lessing, p. 162.
24. IBID, p. 164.
25. This is not a caricature. The reaction to Gorbachev by many in the West, as some how a deceiver and liar and trickster shows that this belief existed in abundance. See Alterman, Eric, Sound and Fury, HarperPerennial, New York, 1992, pp. 203-227.
26. Lessing, p. 164.
27. Arney, pp. 209-210, Kaiser, Robert G., Why Gorbachev Happened, Touchstone Books, New York, 1992, pp. 202-203, Oberdorfer, Don, The Turn, Touchstone Books, New York, 1992, pp. 237-243.
28. History of the Tudeh[Communist] Party of Iran, The Iran Chamber Society Here. To quote from this Website:
After repressing the organisation of the People's Mojahedin, and other left groups, Islamic regime turn its attention toward the Tudeh Party of Iran and the Organisation of Iranian People's Fadaian (Majority). On 6th February 1982 with the help of CIA's list of the Tudeh Party members to the Islamic Republic and information supplied by British government on the party, branding those identified as “Soviet agents”, the Iranian government charged the Party's leadership with "spying", and sent them to prison. In later consecutive attacks, the Iranian government arrested more than 5,000 members and cadres and supporters of the Party, and declared the Tudeh Party of Iran outlaw. The U.S. concern was that a post-Khomeini Iran might move to the left.The Party confronted grave difficulties; its organisation collapsed, many of its members and cadres were forced to emigrate, and general confusion prevailed. In spite of these problems, the period did not last long, and the Party, convening its 18th plenum in December 1984, succeeded in taking a step in reorganising itself both within and outside the country.The Islamic Republic started the trials of 101 members of the underground military wing of the Tudeh Party and sentenced 10 of them to death, and the rest to total imprisonment terms exceeding 700 years. But Noureddin Kianouri first Secretary of the Tudeh Party, Ehsan Tabari (The great theoretician) and many other leaders collaborated with the Islamic Republic and lived. (From: here)
Look at the dates. All this happened before Doris Lessing wrote the essay. So here Doris Lessing is engaging in wilful distortion.
29. Lessing, p. 165.
30. See Chomsky, 1982, 1988, 1989, Klaehn, Herman, 1984, 1986, Arnson, Lee, Herman, Edward, O’Sullivan, Gerry, The “Terrorism” Industry, Pantheon Books, New York, 1989, pp. 73-212.
31. Herman, 1984, pp. 93-152, Chomsky, 1979, [a] 129-217, 242-250. For a look at the Indonesian massacres see Friend, Theodore, Indonesian Destinies, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MASS, 2003, pp. 100-125, Robinson, Geoffrey, The Dark Side of Paradise, Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY, 1995, pp. 273-303, Challis, Roland, Shadow of a Revolution, Sutton Publishing, London, 2001, pp. 104-113, Schwarz, Adam, A Nation in Waiting, Westview Press, Boulder CO, 1994, pp. 19-23.
32. Chomsky, 1988, pp. 32-33, Lee, pp. 211-212, 278-283, Hersh, Seymour M., The Target has Been Destroyed, Random house Inc., New York, 1986. For a look at the “Liberal” media myth see Alterman, Eric, What Liberal Media?, Basic Books, New York, 2003. for a look at the US media during the Reagan administration see Hertsgaard, Mark, On Bended Knee, Schocken Books, New York, 1989.
33. Lessing, p. 166.
34. Friel, pp. 184-223, Chomsky, 1989, pp. 82-84. See also Chomsky, 1988, pp. 29-31, Aronson.
35. See Caute, David, The Fellow Travellers, Second Edition, Yale University Press, London, 1988.
36. See Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I., The Gulag Archipelago, v. 1-3, Harper and Row Pub., New York, 1974-1978. For an example of the positive view of Solzhenitsyn by the western media see Smith, Hendrick, The Russians, Ballantine Books, New York, 1976, pp. 557-586. For the plot to kill the Pope see Herman, 1986.
37. Lewin, M., Russian Peasants and Soviet Power, W. W. Norton and Co., London, 1968, pp. 482-509, Litvin, Alter, Keep, John, Stalinism, Routledge, London, 2005, pp. 58, 123-124, Tucker, Robert C., Stalin in Power, W. W. Norton and Co., New York, 1990, pp. 119-194, Heller, Mikhail, Nekrich, Aleksandr M., Utopia in Power, Summit Books, New York, 1985, pp. 222-276, Snyder, Timothy, Bloodlands, Basic Books, New York, 2010, pp. 52-54.
38. Chomsky, 1979, [a] pp. 129-204, 1982, 337-370, 1989, pp. 82-84 223-261 324-337, Friel, pp. 184-225. For the forgotten Indian famines see Davis, Miles, Late Victorian Holocausts, Verso, London, 2001, pp. 141-175, O’Grada, Cormac, Famine, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 2009, pp. 159-194, Sen, Amartya, Poverty and Famines, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1981.
39. Lessing p. 167.
40. Litvin, p. 64, Heller, p. 443, Glantz, David M., House, Jonathan, When Titans Clashed, University of Kansas Press, Lawrence KS, 1995, p. 292, Evans, Richard J., The Third Reich at War, Penguin Books, London, 2008, pp. 182-186, World War II Casualties of the Soviet Union, Wikipedia, Here.
41. O’Grada, pp. 102-108. See Surorov, Victor, Icebreaker, Viking Press, New York, 1990, for his dubious thesis. For a demolition of this absurd idea see Gorodetsky, Gabriel, Grand Delusion, Yale University Press, New Haven CONN, 1999, and see pp. 3-9 for his look at Victor Surorov.
42. Lessing, p. 167.
43. Roderick MacFarquhar, Roderick, Schoenhals, Michael, Mao’s Last Revolution, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MASS, 2006, p. 262, Spence, Jonathan D., The Search For Modern China, W.W. Norton and Co, New York, 1990, pp. 583, 602-617, 633-639, Dikotter, Frank, Mao’s Great Famine, Walker and Co., New York, 2010.
44 For example see Mao’s conversation with Montgomery, China Daily Here.
45. Lessing, p. 168.
46. See Bradsher, Arney, Kaker, Anwar, Chomsky, 1979, [a] pp. 129-204.
47. Footnote 12.
48. Lessing p. 169.
49. See Chomsky, Noam, Herman Edward S., The Political Economy of Human Rights, v. 2, [b] Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1979, pp. 135-294, Vickery, Michael, Cambodia 1975-1982, South End Press, Boston, MASS, 1984, pp. 290, Evans, Grant, Rowley, Kelvin, Red Brotherhood at War, Verso Books, London, 1990, pp. 104-111, 201-230, Kiernan, Ben, The Pol Pot Regime, Yale University Press, New Haven CONN, 1996, pp. 357-465.
50. Footnotes, 16, 31, Chomsky, Noam, Deterring Democracy, Hill and Wang, New York, 1991, pp. 179-211. For an over view of Saddam Husain’s regime see Al-Khalil, Samir, Republic of Fear, Pantheon Books, New York, 1989.
51. Doctor’s Plot, Wikipedia Here, Snyder, pp. 339-377.
52. Evans, p. 532. The debate over the number of Gypsies killed in the Second World War is contentious but it appears that the figure of 1.5 million is a great exaggeration. See Hancock, Ian, Romanies and the Holocaust, Radoc, Here, Porajmos, Wikipedia Here.
53. For example see Hoffmann, Peter, German Resistance to Hitler, Harvard University press, Cambridge MASS, 1988. (English translation of an earlier German book). See also Shirer, William L, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon and Shuster, New York, 1960.
54. Lessing, p. 171.
55. See Saxonberg, Steven, The Fall, Harwood Academic Publishers, Toronto, 2001, Kaiser, Oberdorfer, Remnick, David, Lenin’s Tomb, Vintage Books, New York, 1994, Rowen, Henry S., Wolf, Charles Jr., (Editors), The Impoverished Super Power, Institute For Contemporary Studies, San Francisco CA, 1990, Feshbach, Murray, Friendly, Alfred Jr., Ecocide in the USSR, Basic Books, New York, 1992, Jowitt, Ken, New World Disorder, University of California Press, Berkeley CA, 1992, Silber, Irwin, Socialism: What Went Wrong?, Pluto Press, London, 1994, Kornai, Janos, The Socialist System, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1992, Blackburn, Robin, (Editor), After the Fall, Verso, London, 1991.
56. Again a large literature but for a start see Tomsen, Peter, The Wars of Afghanistan, PublicAffairs, New York, 2011.