The 3rd Petro Grigorenko
Readings, October 16, 2003, Columbia University Harriman Institute, New York, USA
Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed in December 1948 and contains, by my count, some 22 rights. These include the
right to life, liberty and security of the person, the right to marry, to freedom of thought, to social security, to work,
to rest and leisure, and to education
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was not a development of something
new, in terms of rights. It was simply an official codifying of what most people, and governments, had come to agree should
be considered rights.
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the United States of America, on the other hand,
was totally new. It signified a change from the view that men belonged to the class, to the government, the king or society,
and that men were a sacrificial means to the end of others. It codified the view that a man belongs to himself, by right.
Thus the inalienable right to life. It recognized that man has a particular nature, that in order to survive he must think,
and that freedom to think is the natural state of man. Furthermore, it pronounced that a right is the property of the individual.
To quote novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand, "The United States held that man's life is his by right" (which means by moral principle
and by his nature), that a right is the property of an individual, that society as such has no rights, and that the only moral
purpose of government is the protection of individual rights.
The greatness of the American Constitution is that the
government, in being charged with the protection of rights, could not itself use force against men in society. This view
of individual man and government's purpose led to the most prosperous era in mankind's existence.
In the span of only
some 160 years, the years between the American Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the view of rights
changed. It changed from individual rights to action and became rights to the result of action. It changed from the right
to earn one's living to the right to a job. The difference - a man who wants to earn his living cannot demand a job be provided
for him. A man who has the right to a job is entitled to one. If one cannot be found in the private sector, the government
must create one for him. And, if he can?t find one anywhere, then he is owed (unemployment) insurance to make up for everyone's
inability to give him a job.
Why did the right to freedom of action switch to the right to the result of action?
is natural for human beings to want to help each other. After all, life includes illness, accident and poverty. What can
one human being actually do for another in such cases? He can give from what he has earned, but he must earn it first. Whatever
he earns is his, so he gives what is his. First, though, he must set aside enough for himself, for his own consumption, and
to ensure he can continue to earn. He must - because if can't continue he can't succeed nor can he help others. After his
own needs are me, if he chooses, he can give help to another.
What if, though, he decides to make helping others his
primary purpose; no one man can ever earn enough to help every person in need. What is he to do? Get others to join him
in his philanthropic endeavours, of course. But there aren't enough others to do all that needs to be done. Why should everyone
else take part? There's only one way to do this by government force.
It is when the humanitarian creed to help others
becomes the primary purpose of society when the switch from the American Bill of Rights to the Universal Declaration of Human
In To Build A Castle, Vladimir Bukovsky wrote, "It is all so easy, so simple, and so tempting, to confiscate
and divide! To make everybody equal, and with one fell swoop to resolve all problems, It is so alluring to escape from poverty
and crime, grief and suffering, once and for all."
The Bill of Rights enshrined the right to individual life, liberty
and the liberty to earn property, to produce as a rational human being. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrined
the right to the result of production as a primary. The switch was from the right of a man to support his life with his own
work into the right of a man to the work of others; from the right to earn, use and dispose of his own property, into the
right to the property that others earn.
Once that switch is made, whether because of humanitarian reasons or simply
because some men want power over other men, once that switch is made, then suffering will ensue. The switch results in individual
man being subordinated to collective men, with his first duty to others, not to himself. It is a switch from individual freedom
to collective slavery. It results in the acceptance of some of the worst atrocities done by men to other men, in order to
save man. It results in the millions of deaths, unimaginable suffering, and the wars of the 20th century.
Marxist Undergrounds in a Communist
Country and Current Challenges
The 3rd Petro Grigorenko
Readings, October 16, 2003, Columbia University Harriman Institute, New York, USA
By Andrew Grigorenko.
The topic I chose for my presentation might raise some eyebrows. Indeed, why should there be a Marxist underground
in a country where Marxism was the official ideology, or rather, the only ideology
allowed to exist?
The generation to which I belong
came of age in a remarkable time. The Second World War had a devastating impact on the social and demographic landscape of
post war soviet society. The war left in its wake poverty, a high crime rate and a misbalance in the male/female ratio. Although this misbalance affected the entire population, it was of course most drastic among
those of childbearing age. Included in this category was the generation of my oldest brother. i.e. the generation of the last
three wartime drafts. For this reason, most of my generation was left without parental care, abandoned to education in the
streets and uninterrupted official propaganda. Any access to the treasures of the majority of brilliant thinkers was strictly
restricted. One could not go to a library and ask for, say, Nietzsche's "Also spracht Zaratustra" or Tolstoy's "My Creed".
To access these kinds of books, one would need to have a special permit cleared by the all-powerful KGB. An ordinary person
would simply have had to be satisfied with the official Marxist book critics. Even the catalog of restricted books was not
accessible without a special permit
It is no
wonder, then, that many of my soviet contemporaries tried to find the answers in the writing of Marx, Engels and Lenin. I
had the additional stimulus to search for my answers in Marxism due to the history of my family. My maternal grandfather was
a member of the Communist party since 1904. His two older children joined the party before
the Bolsheviks even came to
power. My father's oldest brother fought in the civil war on the red side. My paternal grandfather was enthusiast of collectivization.
My own parents were organizers of the Youth Communist League and members of Communist Party.
However, from my earliest childhood, I was shielded from information about the rest of the family history; about the
devastating impact on my family of purges and the genocidal manmade famine in Ukraine. Slowly, the truth started to filter
into my consciousness.
thaw brought to life discussion clubs, a black-market for philosophical, historical and political books, and gave birth to
a political underground, all unknown in Stalin's time. As I mentioned before, primary political thought, due to lack of real
alternatives, was primarily Marxist.
fifties I joined a discussion club by the name of "Torch", which was rather reluctantly sponsored by local cell of Youth Communist
League. Our discussions were heated ones. By the end of its existence, we were debating whether "the cult of personality"
(the euphemism used by propaganda for Stalin's dictatorship) was an immanent stage in the development of socialist society
or simply an aberration. This proved to be the last straw - the club was quickly dismantled. Since I was one of the youngest
participants in the club, I had not yet developed many ties with other members, and after the club's closure, I continued
discussing such issues with a few of my personal friends of the same age.
About a year later, September 7, 1961, my father delivered his now famous speech at the Moscow Party Conference,
calling to establish certain democratic guaranties against possible reoccurrences of "the
cult of personality" in the future. The party bosses were furious. My father was demoted, his PhD degree scrapped, he was
fired from his professor's position at the military academy, and his pay was suspended. A few months later, he received a
commission in the Far East.
My life changed overnight. I became a full-time factory worker while I continued my education at night school.
I still, however, managed to find time for our political discussions.
By the early sixties, the economic situation in former USSR
started deteriorate, negatively affecting the general population. The government met workers' strikes and disturbances with
prison terms and bullets.
Especially notorious were the massacres in Novo-Cherkask, Temir-Tau and Tbilisi.
A spontaneous strike also occurred at the factory where I worked. All these events, along with the Marxist literature
we were studying, brought my friends and me to the conclusion that a revolution was brewing; we no longer had the luxury to
sit in our ivory tower - we had to do something.
Our decision to act coincided with
the discovery that my older brother George, a young army officer, along with the group of other officers, had also come to
a similar conclusion. George told me that his group belonged to the underground organization called "The League of the Revival
of Leninism". But he failed to mention that our father headed this organization. Two of my friends and I decided to join the
League while a few others decided not to join. During the winter of 1962 and the first half of 1963, we continued studying
Marxism-Leninism and preparing leaflets. The later was not easy do to within the tight government control of paper supplies
and copying equipment. The only available technique was a typewriter. Nevertheless, by October of 1963 we had sizable supply
of leaflets. When they finally came out, the leaflets appeared in several cities of the Soviet Union. The KGB acted promptly.
Arrests started on February first of 1964 and by mid March, all of us were arrested. Ironically,
our case did not finish
with long prison terms for League members. Politburo of KPSU decided that the trial of a popular general could be counterproductive.
It was at this time that the technique of proclaiming political opponents insane was put into motion. My late father was proclaimed
insane, stripped of his military rank, and imprisoned in a special psychiatric prison.
rest of us were released from detention and excluded from army, colleges and schools and were blacklisted.
It was a very taxing time for all of us. A
lot of wills and illusions were shattered, never to recover again.
This time was not easy for me either. After being thrown out of engineering school, I could not secure a steady job
and was forced to perform low-paid odd jobs to support my handicapped brother Oleg and my mother. We also needed money to
travel to Saint-Petersburg, where my father was incarcerated. But on the other hand, it was a time during
which I had the
opportunity to analyze our mistakes and meet new friends who later became known as dissidents. But that is already another
I tell you about my
Marxist underground experience not for the sake of my memoirs but to put before you a question: "Would Andrew Grigorenko of
1963 be able to understand the Andrew Grigorenko of 2003?" I personally doubt it. I would go even further: Andrew Grigorenko of 1963 would not understand Andrew Grigorenko of 1965.
A few months ago, I stumbled onto a review of my father's book
written by a young Trotskyite. The young man proclaimed, without hesitation, that my father was never a real Communist. He
could not grasp the fact that it is possible to be a true believer of a theory, while at the same time not be so blind as
to later ignore the realization that your belief was a tragic mistake. It is extremely difficult to step outside of a scheme
in which you grew up or choose to accept, especially when that scheme promises a bright future.
Totalitarianism easily changes clothes. One day it's talking
about corporate society, as with Italian fascism. The next, we hear about National Socialism. On yet another day, we are told
about International Socialism. The later still rules in Continental China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba etc. One more totalitarianism
looming on the horizon promised nothing less than heaven on earth, but already managed to create a living hell for the people
of Afghanistan and Iran. Theocratic totalitarianism seems to me especially dangerous. As we all well know, the theocratic
past of Christendom, even without modern means of mind manipulations was the darkest period of European history. The theocracy
of the modern age had already shown the world its deadly face. I hardly need to predict what else totalitarianism has in store.
But there is a note of optimism. In any society, however oppressive,
there are always a few crazy people who desire freedom and will be ready to sacrifice their lives for it. And usually they
need help from those who enjoy their freedom without even realizing how lucky they are. By extending a helping hand, one should
be able to
communicate with their less fortunate brethren.
I have stressed before that who I was forty years ago would hardly understand myself today. The young Trotskyite
critic I mentioned before was unable to understand the value of universal liberties. He could simply ignore the fact that
his idol Trotsky was author to the theories of permanent revolution and the extermination of "kulaks" as a class. The latter
was implemented in real life not by him but by Stalin, who sent 17 million Byelorussian, Russian and Ukrainian farmers to
their death. But Trotsky, as Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army introduced decimation as a summary punishment in the army,
drowned in blood the uprising in city of Kronshtadt as well as peasant uprising in central Russia.
I too was as blind as this man forty years ago. At the time,
I completely dismissed that my idol Lenin was the author and architect of concentration camps, or that this educated man,
a man with a law degree, could proclaim that those who did not agree with his party would be sent to prisons and concentration
camps. But it was this same man who later would, without hesitation, order summary executions
and hostage- taking.
common attribute of totalitarian ideologies is a presentation of one simple idea, such as belonging to a common nation, race,
working class, or religious group. When this idea is formulated, so that it becomes appealing to a significant part of the
population, then propaganda and terror will bring about a modern version of slavery.
The challenge of our time is to confront the rise of new totalitarianism and discourage the restoration of old ones.
Unfortunately, we see dangerous tendencies in many former communist countries, and we see the activation of neo-fascist and
neo-Nazis movements in different parts of the world. Do we have adequate answers for these challenges?
I have to admit that my view is a pessimistic one. We declare
a war on terrorism but hardly define what we mean. Our President listed Fascism, Nazism and... totalitarianism in place of
Communism as modern evils. Is this a tactic to attract China in our antiterrorist coalition? China is a country where freedom
is brutally suppressed, the China that annexed Tibet and conducts an ongoing policy of cultural genocide. Why have we decided
to proclaim Chechen rebels, suffering from a brutal genocidal war, part of international terrorism? Is it again a tactic to
attract yet another partner in the coalition? This time it is Russia, who is not only conducting its brutal war in Chechnya,
but is also preparing the anschluss of Belarus, threatens Georgia with invasion, twists the arms of former satellites and
monopolizes all significant sources of mass media within
government hands? We are even ready to invite Iran into our coalition,
with its complete disregard for elementary human rights. We embrace Saudi Arabia, and other countries like it, which, in reality,
cultivate a hatred for our true
allies and us. Blaming Islamic extremism for terrorism, we make no attempt to establish
a real dialog with Islam, completely forgetting about the golden age of Islam, when art and science were blooming in Central
Asia and Mauritania. We have forgotten that during the time of the Dark Ages in Europe, the Islamic world produced such great
poets as Omar Hayam and Alisher Navoyi, medical and
anatomy genius Avitsena ibn Sena, and mathematician and astronomer
Just a decade ago Dr. Francis Fukuyama announced The End of History. But history has almost immediately returned
with a vengeance.
The struggle between freedom and slavery, good and evil continues. And I would like to hope that freedom
Thank you for your attention.