By Kalin Yanakiev
It is interesting to talk about the metastasis of communism today. However, I would like to mention three or four basic, fundamental features of Communist totalitarianism. Although many attempts have been made to outline the face of this marvelous phenomenon of the twentieth century, we still – maybe just because of the multiplicity of the prominent features – have not managed to build a composite image of the regime.
I think the first main feature of communist totalitarianism is the basic deprivation of life as a right.
This does not mean that the life of any individuals who obeyed the communist dictatorship could be taken away. The question was that the basic human right – his life – during the communism became a resource that the state rather than a human right on its own. Life became a property not to the one whom it was given by god, but to the state.
Human life is a resource owned by the state. Everyone is permanently mobilized in communist terms. All in all was mobilized in favour of the state. In exceptional cases, tragic moments any normal country could mobilize the lives of its citizens – for example, to protect the national community. But no country in history has achieved total and permanent mobilization of people’s lives. No country had ever allowed to make the life of people its own resource, and its own possession. This is a basic feature of communist totalitarianism.
Not just life as a fact, but all its sectors was mobilized by the Communist state and were considered a resource. The main living resource of a man was – his work, his work was not as in normal social systems of property rights, which he carried out his self-expression, his well-being and his dignity. No, the communist state labour and work were a service.
Significantly the politically correct language of Communism talked about service and commitment to labour rights. Everyone was mobilized on the job front. And when it is said that under communism there was no unemployment, we must, at all costs, see what the other side. Any lack of desire to work was criminalized and was considered a failure to fulfil the requirements of the regime. You should never be fooled that such mobilization has not been recorded in the constitutional and legal documents of the state. Even though labour was not recorded, everyone had to work, especially the once who got paid by the state.
Even though everyone under communism was born in his/her family, but he didn’t belong to his family. From the very beginning he was born in his family as a possession of the state. No parent could decide not to send your son or daughter to pioneer, to the Komsomol and other organizations.
The individual belonged to the regime from the very beginning, he was theirs.
All material property of the citizens was mobilized, at a later point of time. In normal countries have one home. Home did not exist under communism, there was a residential area, owned by the state through the Fatherland Front organization, for example. This residential area was precisely mobilized the same way they mobilize technical equipment. It was a constant mobilized state resources, which the state could have when it wanted.
Further – the famous right of women to work, and indeed their obligation not be a housewife, namely that’s how men and women were becoming alienated from one another. They could, they would been allowed to share only those reducible functions that the state, however, could not take away from them, namely reproduction. Husbands and wife did not belong to each other, but to a different division of the labour army. It was usual that the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ were not widely used if one wanted to be politically correct.
Communists didn’t have their husband and wife they had their comrades
Universal mobilization of everything and everyone was the first feature of communist totalitarianism. It brought incredible anthropological, ontological deviations in the society.
The first one of them was that private in all its branches, the private life is not the first reality, as it is in normal societies, but a deviation of publicity. Private in a state of general and permanent mobilization is the place where one can defect – potentially dangerous, potentially antisocial place, where one can get out of their mobilization.
And for this reason, any private part of live was under suspicion
Brighter clothing was an expression of demonstrating its alienation from the legal self-determination to the state. To such extend that even the person who in terms of the classical Christian, European sense is the entyleheia, the colour of human nature, was considered a place of danger.
Personality is where a person cannot be restricted, place of non-subordination. Therefore, communism did not like bright personality in all its manifestations.
Spartakiad was perhaps the aesthetic ideal of communism – faceless, poorly dressed, non-erotic, immersed in the generic face of a person.
Reversing the order of public and private, turning private, which was reported, in a society deviation publicity caused extremely serious anthropological implications. Personality became something you had to hide, something that should be reduced because it was normative to be self-belonging, to be completely devoted as resources to the one who owned everything of everyone, the totalitarian state. This is the first feature of communist totalitarianism, which I think is fundamental.
The second feature results from the first – to maintain such a general mobilization, similar conversion of life, and ultimately from the first and ultimate law to a resource, it should be nurtured and a continuous heat-sacrificial heroic ethos should be supported.
Ethos of sacrificial heroic acts dominated the ideological communist regime. The whole story in all its three dimensions was stylized in this ethos. The past always was a territory of the never-ending battle ontologically divided by a barricade, and everyone who lived in the past was always situated on one or other side of this ontological barricade.
None of the actions carried out in the past, could not be neutral. The whole society – from its very creation until the coming to power of the Communist state – is a territory of permanent war, it is an area that cannot be settled by neutral people, but only by heroes or bastards … If this was all past, the time of the Communist victory was а fateful moment when the age-old battle is won and it must be brought up. Which justifies the general mobilization in the future.
This heroic and sacrificial ethos also led to an incredible anthropological deviations. In the 60s, 70s in Bulgaria there was a real epidemic of so-called multi-camp weavers, and no one could truly understand what is the reason for such a foolish and pointless self-exhaustion. The point is, however, that it had to be maintained at all costs in order to justify the first feature – universal mobilization, as the condition requires the introduction of a sacrificial-heroic ethos.
The third feature – the introduction, kindling and simulation of such sacrificial heroic ethos required something that is very thin, it is
The ideology of the communism
Communism had some special theatrical youth. The young, reckless, heroic young man was the main character of communism. Communism was gerontocratic only at its sunset, at the beginning, especially in the early years of the Soviet Union, communism is clearly bastardy.
It is symptomatic that when we destroy, we destroy the old and build new, simply because it is new. Fathers and sons are opposed, the same way retrogrades are opposed to innovators. This particular was purely ideological, because the society cannot be populated only by young people, and is not naturally the young man to be the master of your life … And as a young, radical, capable of continuous-heroic sacrificial ethos cannot complete the whole society alone, its place is occupied by an adult who has the qualities of a reckless young man that is a fool. Which means that communism was the society of structural nonsense normative ideological idiocy.
These three features of Communist totalitarianism might not be bright enough, but they have led to incredible anthropological deviations. I will conclude with another – after these three traits are strong enough embedded in society, Communism faced the temptation to make radical destructive actions of the type of final decision.
Just because the state was seen, for the first time in the history, as an owner of everything of everyone all, it was tempted to make things that no other country would ever allow itself to do. Such a radical action led to the undermining of society. In the early Soviet Union, when Leon Trotsky was still a leading figure in the Communist Party, he had the following idea for a total transformation of society – to increase the efficiency and mobility of labour, Trotsky decided he must at all costs delete the underlying retrograde evidence that people live in certain places, in villages and towns, in constant agglomerations. Why is this necessary when the whole Soviet country could be surrounded by wires similar to those of power, on them trolleys could be uploaded, which would have beds, one table and a few chairs, and thus generalized Soviet population could be converted to radical mobile workforce. Where a need arises, the state would unload most of the people, would begin to build and operate, and then they would concentrate somewhere else. Thankfully, this project was not implemented, but it shows in a similar resource the idiocy that government and regime could reach.
The most important thing is that if this project or similar projects could have been carried out, they had just undermined the very reason for which such work could be performed. Well, I ask, the entire population will be converted to a luggage that will be clustered, concentrated and deconcentrated in order to increase production efficiency? But I ask who would benefit from this increased production efficiency? Isn’t the last recipient of the production the population and the people? If you had turned the people and the society into a carriage luggage, why would you need to raise the production efficiency? Who will this increased efficiency work for, for the idea itself? You would no longer have people, no cities, you will no longer have permanent communities and agglomerations. They would all be converted into a carriage load; they had all been converted into minimum skilled workforce.
Such a temptation of radical-scale actions deconstructing traditional society could lead to absurdity. In history communism is a reduction to absurdity
Historical reduction to absurdity
If these could be three of the main features of Communist totalitarianism, we are liberated from communist totalitarianism? Yes, we already live in such a society. And we must all pay tribute to all those who can might not have fought actively enough, but managed to contribute to this sinister phenomenon disappearing from the face of the planet. We are no longer mobilized, our life is not a resource. We are no longer forced to live in a sacrificial-heroic ethos. We have even reached the other extreme – super individualism and hedonism. Nobody makes us perform theatrical and polished tics. We can be peaceful and ascetic and erotic, our streets are filled with beautiful faces.
Yes, communism has its metastases
These metastases should be investigated. We have to see today the people who turned our lives into a resource and what they have turned into. But we must fight with them, but we should also have confidence. We managed to free ourselves from totalitarianism. We are fighting with the mafia, the oligarchy, with devious people, the rear detachment of the communist masters of informers, with the officers of the State Security, but we are not fighting with totalitarianism anymore. I say this, risking provoking the discontent of some of you, but I say it because the low confidence we have bothers me. Communists continue to rule us, we continue to be their victims, we continue to be pariahs of the previous regime. This is not good for our confidence. We cannot fight with this mode of metastasis, if we continue to see ourselves as victims, if we continue to see ourselves as people who have done nothing. No, we have done. Many of us in this room have also done a lot so we should not forget that.
Kalin Yanakiev is a lecturer in the Faculty of Philosophy of Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski, and member of the International Society for Medieval Philosophy Studies. He is editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Kultura”. He is an author of number of books, papers and articles in the sphere of philosophical studies.