Who Will Bury Whom?

Who Will Bury Whom?
(An Open Letter to Nikita Kruschev)

Mr. Premier:

I am in possession of several history books in which you are quoted as telling the capitalist nations of the West, “We will bury you.” You might recall that the uneducated masses of the world misinterpreted you in your own time, thinking you meant this as a threat, whereas in context your remark is an obvious Hegelian syllogism: you were trying to tell us the error of our ways, and that we would burn brightly and die out, leaving the communist nations of the world the burden of collecting our ashes. As someone who did not believe your remarks when I heard them, allow me to apologize for the cold war furor your nuanced remarks provoked among the most ignorant of your listeners. The right and complete answer to your remarks in their full nuance and context, was not spoken by any Western leader during your lifetime. You were wrong in your own time and more wrong in the light of history, but you deserved and still deserve the courtesy of a nuanced answer.

As I am writing to you from your future, I think it would be unfair merely to point out the ways in which your professed world view crashed down around your successors and things worked out very differently than you bespoke. So let me first answer you in terms you could have understood even while alive. You and your inner circle knew that your Soviet empire was unsustainable. You knew that you could only suppress and never answer or incorporate internal dissent – that the “everyman” you worshipped could only be – somewhat self-contradictorily – a slave in your system. You knew that your economy depended upon expansion by military means and the subjugation of a stream of new nations each temporarily contributing their wealth and productivity to your doomed empire. You knew that central planning never leads to innovation, and you knew that the Marxist model of “the workers” and “the means of production” was cartoonishly maladapted to describing the world humans think and act and live in.

As I puzzle over what I know you knew, I am reminded that communist dogma allows for separation between the truth that can be spoken and the truth that can be known. I have long meditated upon the so-called dialectic of your time, and there are no records showing whether you knew how completely crazy the idea of “Pravda” was. If you believed there was a positive good in having the world and your people be told “A” when you and your politburo knew that the operable truth was “NOT A” then I cringe at the thought that you were a fool, easily misled by a transparently unreal but perfectly circular and self-fulfilling ideology. If on the other hand you did not believe there was a public good to be served by lying to the world and to your people about, well, about just about everything – if you were doing it out of habit or custom, or out of a need to postpone the end of your unsustainable empire – or if you were doing it to preserve the privileges of you and your politburo elite – then I cringe again, but in this case because it makes you an ass.

But I’d like to get to the burying part. For this you’ll have to witness the world through my time machine – because I’m going to tell you how things actually went, and who is burying whom. I was inspired to write this letter during a recent visit to Berlin – my first. The year is 2012, and Berlin and all of Germany and all her peoples never looked better. But the state of play differs considerably from what you knew and probably also from what you anticipated in the decades following your life.

Your wall is gone. It was pulled down by people on both sides, in 1989 – that’s 23 years ago as I write these words. There’s news footage in the archives showing teenagers from both East and West Berlin breaking the wall open and down. Pieces of that wall were sold all over the world as collectors’ items. This made me wonder if you could have partially funded your Soviet empire by periodically tearing down the wall and rebuilding it, and selling the pieces of the old one.

There’s a U.S. embassy proudly standing at the edge of what used to be East Berlin. Adjacent to it is a monument to the millions of Jews murdered during World War II. Note, I’m not blaming you or the Soviets or East Berlin or East Germany for those murders, only noting that the people now in control of this land agreed that this was a good use for the old “Death Zone”.

Unter der Linden is now a broad avenue stretching from the Brandenburg Gate to Museum Island. There are tourists and shoppers parading at all hours. An American coffee company called Starbucks has a prominent store in the first block. A few fragments of the old East Berlin architecture have been kept, sometimes sandwiched between two newer buildings.

Germany’s prime minister as of this writing was born in East Germany and lived the first part of her life behind your wall. Today the participatory democracy of the Federal German Republic is a model for the world, and there are no puppets. I do not think Germany will ever again tolerate the stench of puppetry – your Soviet empire taught everyone how to recognize it and why it can never be allowed.

Europe has been through a financial upheaval similar to the fate you expected for all capitalist Western nations. But the Europe of today is not like the one you knew – most of Europe now has a common currency, which was based on the German Mark at first since Germany was the strongest economy and first to adopt the Euro. And when Ireland and Greece needed their sovereign bonds bolstered by the European Central Bank, it was Germany and her impressively strong economy who led the “bailout”.

As a nation, Germany has some regrets. Her militancy in WW I and WW II was hardly her finest hour in her own eyes. Yet the German Technical Museum has factual and complete models of Germany’s innovative weapons of destruction, and tour guides to explain where they were made and where they were used. The V-2 rocket motor, the buzz bombs – it’s all there. Along with an ode to the German Airlift made necessary by the Soviet blockade of West Berlin at the end of WW II.

Is that enough about Germany? Germany was merely center stage for the conflict we all called “the cold war”. When the wheels came off your empire in 1989, Poland was the first to break free. Now when I visit old Soviet puppets through central and Eastern Europe I meet with free women and men of my own age who remember being forcibly taught Russian in grade school, up to a certain age, and they remember when that requirement was dropped. In another generation, Soviet occupation will be like a myth taught to unbelieving children.

In closing, let me thank you for the cold war. Given how fiercely the Soviet ideology was held and by so many, the end of the Soviet empire was not going to be an easy thing. By avoiding a hot war – an exchange of missiles for example – you saved hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people – from futile unnecessary deaths. The Western world was able to bleed the Soviet empire dry through endless cold war skirmish, and so the empire’s collapse was entirely without bloodshed. I believe all humans now living owe you and the other Soviet Premiers of your era a debt of gratitude for the coldness of your empire’s war against the rest of the world.


Paul Vixie
Born 1963


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