It happened today - December 30, 2015

On December 30 the Soviet Union was established. It’s not quite enough to say that if the day were a fish we should throw it back. Lots of other things happened too, that were better. But the establishment of the USSR on Dec. 30, 1922 is a curious example of the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

Theoretically it was a federation. It rather echoes the United States in being the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Each joined freely, under a legitimate government, retaining certain rights while delegating certain powers to the centre.


Even in 1922 the Soviet Union was a communist dictatorship. If it wasn’t perpetrating horrors on the scale Stalin would achieve a decade later it’s because the government lacked the organizational resources after a Civil War in which it had shown itself no stranger to repression or atrocities. (Vyacheslav Molotov, long Stalin’s right-hand man, told an interviewer at the end of his very long life that “Compared to Lenin, Stalin was a mere lamb.” And he would know.)

Why, then, the pretense? I do not ask why, for administrative purposes, it was desirable to keep the Soviet Union divided into regional entities. It’s a very big place in every respect. But why ape “bourgeois” forms of political organization you openly despise in theory and clearly also in practice?

Simple. There is a law “written on the human heart” that extends to what is decent and legitimate in politics regardless of the situation. And a frank confession of what the Soviets were really up to, even in context of a “dictatorship of the proletariat”, would have repelled the vast majority of interested foreigners, engaged Russians and even a surprising number of party members.

The Soviet Union was, in short, a monstrous fraud. Lenin, Stalin, Molotov and a few others knew it, and dreamed of a day when their monstrous goals could be openly proclaimed and defended. But they knew that day had not yet come and, indeed, it never did.

In that sense, the whole giant governmental apparatus was the tribute vice pays to virtue. Virtue might well prefer a less appalling tribute. But it’s a revealing deception all the same.