To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter, by Vladimir Bukovsky

This is the lead-in by Leon Kass, editor  of “Being Human,” a collection of humanities readings.

“For more than twelve years beginning in 1963, dissident Vladimir Bukovsky was held as a political prisoner in the former USSR. In 1976, following years of international pressure, he was released to the west and freedom. In the following excerpts from his autobiography, Bukovsky reflects on ‘the soul of man under socialism,’ this ‘new type of man,’ who is subject to totalitarian rule, often with a passivity that perturbs Bukovsky.”

The socialist dream of universal equality leads to the suppression and ultimate destruction of the individual, in body and in spirit.

This is from Bukovsky’s memoir itself:

I remember that one part of the psychiatric examination to which I was subjected as a prisoner was a test for idiocy. the patient was given the following problem to solve: “Imagine a train crash. It is well known that the part of the train that suffers the most damage in such crashes is the carriage at the rear. How can you prevent the damage from taking place?” The idiot’s usual reply is expected to be; uncouple the last carriage. That strikes us as amusing, but just think, are the theory and practice of socialism much better?

Society, say the socialists, contains both the rich and the poor. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer- what is to be done? Uncouple the last carriage, liquidate the rich, take away their wealth and distribute it among the poor. And they start to uncouple the carriages.

So the richest section of society is liquidated first; and everyone rejoices because everyone gains from the share-out.  But the spoils are soon spent, and people start to notice inequality again – again there are rich and poor. So they uncouple the next carriage, and the next, without end, because absolute equality has not been achieved.

It is all so easy, so simple, and so tempting – to confiscate and divide!

That concludes the excerpt.


“According to a Pew Research Center poll, 49% of younger Americans have a favorable view of socialism, while 46% have a favorable view of capitalism.” WSJ, Nov. 23, 2012.




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