Robert Conquest, Kingsley Amis and "The Great Terror" - a letter to the Editor

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Niccolo and Donkey
Thomas777 Dionysian SteamshipTime SweetLeftFoot Don Johnson Asterion popfop Cornelius Nordic Norm

I found this thanks to Steve Sailer .

Kingsley Amis and "The Great Terror"

In response to:

Executioner Songs from the March 1, 2007 issue

To the Editors :

In a footnote to John Banville’s review of Martin Amis’s House of Meetings [“Executioner Songs,” NYR , March 1] I am quoted as having suggested, for a title for a new edition of The Great Terror , “How About I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?” A few weeks earlier, in a TLS review of Zachary Leader’s The Life of Kingsley Amis (February 2), Clive James called me “unfailingly polite in controversy.”

Hard to reconcile the two views—except that the “I told you so, etc.” comment was actually made, and attributed to me, by the ever-inventive Kingsley.

This also gives me an excuse to join in the welcome to Martin Amis’s moving new book. I am particularly glad to read in his acknowledgments the tribute to Tibor Szamuely, who understood Stalinism better than I did. I remember saying to him that I could see why Stalin had Marshal Tukhachevski shot, but why did he do the same to his old friend Marshal Yegorev? Tibor’s answer was “Why not?”

Robert Conquest
Stanford, California
This is something I don't quite understand. From what I can gather from Beevor's account of Stalingrad and the Battle of Berlin, both Stalin and his generals were killing his own people all the time. This is not something that would work with western peoples: I don't see how we could get motivated by extreme cruelty and the impending menace of death. So, what is it, is it an Asian thing?

niccolo and donkey Dionysian Thomas777
Nolte claims that the Russians were habituated to ''Oriental'' brutality, anecdotally exemplified by Stalin's revival of the ''rat cage torture''; an alleged fact which struck a deep chord and provoked a great terror in the European mind.

The alternative explanation, and one more generous to the Russian people I suppose, is that fratricide is intrinsic to Communist political ethics, in that the only way to facilitate a truly Revolutionary culture is to murder the not only the standard bearers of the ancien regimge but to also do away with all persons who are psychologically tethered to mores, customs, thoughts, practices, and sympathies inextricably related to things that preceded, and thus are inimical, to the Revolutionary state.

Davies makes the case for the latter in his history of Europe. He cites the Jacobin Noyades as the original instance of annihilation therapy concomitant with ideological terrorism in the modern era.