The author of the Wanda Tinasky letters sent Bruce Anderson a remarkable glossy photo of Nikolai Bukharin, who he referred to as “Bucky.” (Were there other Bolshevik leaders in the shot?) When I was writing annotations I read Stephen Cohen’s Bukharin book, which got me thinking —after my falling out with Bruce— about a factor (sic) in false confessions: You and only you know the worst things you’ve ever done and considered doing. So even if the charge against you isn’t on the mark, you know in your heart that you are that bad.
From the NYT obituary for Stephen Cohen, 9/20/20:
“Loosely identified with a revisionist historical view of the Soviet Union, Professor Cohen held views that made him a controversial public intellectual. He believed that early Bolshevism had held great promise, that it had been democratic and genuinely socialist, and that it had been corrupted only later by civil war, foreign hostility, Stalin’s malignancy and a fatalism in Russian history.”
I’ve always been with Cohen. (Isaac Deutscher, actually.) The obit by Robert McFadden goes on:
“A traditionalist school of thought, by contrast, held that the Soviet experiment had been flawed from the outset, that Lenin’s political vision was totalitarian, and that any attempt to create a society based on his coercive utopianism had always been likely to lead, logically, to Stalin’s state terrorism and to the Soviet Union’s eventual collapse.”
The “traditionalist” line was once enunciated by George Kennan, who did distinguish between Lenin and Stalin. But the field has moved to the right since the Kennan era, with Daniel Pipes and disciples deciding what to publicize from the KGB files.
PS Speaking of Wandannotations… From the SF Chronicle, 9/23/20: “A fourth candidate, Stephen “Lulu” Schwartz, said, “We need a serious long-range plan that supports all housing needs.”