Sunday, April 8, 2018

Countervailing institution

"In [Slezkine's] account, the Soviet experiment failed, half a century before the country's actual collapse, because it neglected to drain the oldest, most persistent swamp of all—the family....
     "Unable or unwilling to abolish the family, Bolsheviks proved incapable of reproducing themselves.  For Slezkine, this is cause for celebrating the resilience of family ties under the onslaught of Stalin's social engineering.... the same Bolsheviks who willingly deported or exterminated millions of class enemies as remnants of capitalism balked at similarly radical measures against the bourgeois institution of the family....
So "the children they raised in the House of Government became loyal Soviet citizens but not ['religious'] millenarians.  Their deepest ties were to their parents (many of whom, as Slezkine shows with novelistic detail, were seized from their apartments and shot during the Great Terror) and to Pushkin and Tolstoy—not to Marx and Lenin.  Instead of devouring its children, he concludes, the Russian Revolution was devoured by the children of the revolutionaries."

     Benjamin Nathans, "Bolshevism's new believers," a review of The house of government:  a saga of the Russian Revolution (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2017), by Yuri Slezkine, The New York review of books 64, no. 18 (November 23, 2017):  21 (18-21).

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