Friday, March 24, 2006
The good old times when we sang Horst Wessel
Finland is a unique country in the West in the sense that our 1970’s generation of student radicals turned towards orthodox Marxist-Leninism and the Soviet Union and not towards more utopian socialist traditions. Even more curiously they largely embraced the “Stalinist” minority faction of the Finnish Communist Party and not the more independent minded majority. (It is debatable to what degree the quotation marks are in order: in spirit that faction had a direct genealogy from the Stalinist mentality hardened and traumatized by the embraced purges.) In any case it was a colossal failure of intelligence and morality. Especially the latter – but in many ways quite excusable in the burning youthful radicalism, in that natural search for a fixed identity, all explaining faith.
But what I find very hard to accept is this rueful, amused nostalgia that most of the educated class and the ex-radicals themselves seem to feel about those times. There is almost a universal absence of any serious, even half-serious moral reflection. You can see the hammer and sickle on t-shirts, I would not wonder if one day there would a KGB (or even NKVD) logo on the chests of young idealistic people. Swastikas on the other hand are quite a bit more rare. I freely grant that Nazi-Germany in its brief, awful history advanced even further into the darkness, but not radically further when you think of the sheer number of the victims of Marxism-Leninism.
Stalin’s system was actually more dangerous in the sense that it survived much longer and was thus able to murder even more people – finally even becoming the object of half-amused nostalgia, having logos on t-shirts. The names of Vorkuta and Solovetsk should lead to similar chilling, horrified feeling as Dachau and Auschwitz – for me, for many people they actually do, but there is no real public awareness of those millions of nameless graves, no real collective sense of a living historical memory. The victims and the crimes are forgotten: it seems it’s all right to murder masses of innocent people if you can disguise your bloody hysteria into few stolen enlightenment dregs.