From Saint Petersburg to Leningrad
Added: 2017-10-30
Added: 2017-10-30

[from:] M. Zdziechowski, Od Petersburga do Leningrada, Vilnius 1934.



… Since the very beginning of the Russian Revolution, I have played the thankless role of Cassandra – I am warning wherever and however I can, with my words and my writings, against the most dangerous threat to humanity that the world has ever seen; unfortunately, just like that mythical Trojan priestess, I am doing it in vain and without effect.

Mundus vult decipi, the world wants to be deceived” – thus wrote in 1924 the late Leon Kozłowski – one of our noblest authors and a great expert on Russia whose writings (Półksiężyc i gwiazda czerwona [Crescent and the Red Star]) I published in 1930. “Already the prophet Isaiah”, wrote Kozłowski, “rebuked those who deliberately sought illusions and falsehoods and who told prophets: tell us pleasant things and deceive us with your prophecies”. The prophet would rebuke us today, equally in vain: “A dense veil woven with unconscious illusions and deliberate falsehoods, a veil of naïve ignorance and pointless lies now hides Soviet Russia from the Westerners’ eyes”.

The Soviet Union is using this and is preparing its future offensive with unmoved faith in victory, which is based on solid grounds. However, it has been taught a lesson in 1920 and will not begin this offensive until it is sure that Europe has been mentally disarmed. The key to this mental disarmament is propaganda, which is orchestrated from Soviet diplomatic missions and trade agencies in all countries; in those countries singled out for assault and conquest, it skillfully exploits all kinds of discontent arising from both social and political conditions, from class and nationalist struggles.

Moreover, an additional factor that helps the Soviets and makes their task much easier is defeatism, which is common particularly in larger European states and clearly reflected in the careful nurturing of diplomatic and commercial relations with the Soviet Union. Proponents of this defeatism have convinced themselves that the struggle against Soviet Russia will inevitably be lost and thus all fight is futile, while by ingratiating themselves to Russia and appeasing it, they want to postpone the threatening tomorrow indefinitely. And so we are witnessing a really astonishing conversation the like of which history has never heard before. This is conducted by two opponents. “The days of your power and glory”, says one of them, with frankness bordering on impudence, “are numbered. In your house, I am preparing a revolution that will start when I say so, raze the house and exterminate or enslave its occupants”. “I do not want to believe it”, replies the other one, bowing deeply, “and I do not want to doubt the sincerity of our mutual friendship; I yearn to strengthen and consolidate it”.

From time to time, a Soviet diplomat who has quarrelled with his superiors decides to play a trick on them and informs us of some details of their destructive actions in various countries. In this way, we learned that the explosion in the Warsaw citadel was the Soviets’ work and that the Bolsheviks planned to murder Marshal Piłsudski together with Marshal Foch who visited Warsaw at the time [G. Z. Besedovsky, Memoirs of a Soviet Diplomat]. “This will not change our course”, we state after such an event. “We will strive to strengthen and consolidate the ties that connect us”.

I will never believe that such tactics can be successful. On the contrary, I hear triumphant laughter from Moscow who knows that the less the opponent has personal and national dignity, strong convictions, sincerity and faith in the rightness of his cause, i.e. the less he has moral strength, the more certain and closer is the Soviet victory. …

Understanding what progress requires and at the same time being attached to the beauty of the past is a condition of each society’s life and health.

The beauty of the past is called tradition. Attempts have been made to steer the policies of independent Poland away from tradition, thus depriving it of the moral force that cannot be replaced by agricultural reforms, tax progression, threats directed at Germany, bowing low to the Soviets, party squabbles or so-called sanation.

In this atmosphere, minds and souls, and especially young souls, are becoming sterile. Tradition is expressed in the names of great spirits – leaders of the nation. We are used to associating these names with the idea of a national mission. Unfortunately, this idea may easily lead us to chauvinism, but we cannot ignore it, since it is dictated by our geographic and historical conditions. In the eyes of the world, Poland’s raison d'être from the very beginning was to serve as a bulwark of Christendom. We used to guard Europe first against the Tatars and the Turks, then against Tsarist Russia – and today, to honour our past and have a clear conscience, we should stand guard against Bolshevism.

Tatar and Turkish invasions were often horrible, but after they had conquered the country they invaded, they satisfied themselves with collecting tributes from the population without interfering in matters of faith, nationality or custom.

Tsarist Russia was more dangerous, since it tried to destroy us both materially and morally, but ultimately had to show some restraint in putting its intentions into action since it wanted to think of itself as a European state and part of Christian civilisation. Bolshevism, on the other hand, is a phenomenon so horrendous and abominable that nothing in history can be compared to it. It constantly appeals, as it has been rightly said, to bloodthirsty instincts in man, since these instincts are incomparable allies in the destruction of the existing order in the name of some communist paradise where everyone will be happy but which has never existed and no one will ever see it.

Designed on the model of ants or termites, this paradise would be a torment for the soul, which is yearning to break out of the confines of its earthly existence, relishes infinity and looks longingly at the sky above.

Killing this soul, making beasts out of humans and transforming them into raging animals, and after the raging animal has completed its work of destruction – putting a yoke on it, skillfully transforming the tiger into a humble beast of burden fit to be a citizen of the future communist hell who will work the hours allocated to him in dull apathetic despair, whipped by his caretaker – that is the goal of rulers of today’s Russia.

But who realises this and who thinks about this?

A dry, logical concept that was hatched in Marx’s Jewish brain and elaborated upon by a few of his compatriots, a concept that could be easily understood by each malcontent in its materialistic simplicity, successfully entered the simplistic minds of Russian revolutionaries and proved to be a perfect hammer with which to break the Tsardom’s mighty walls.

And we are accustomed, almost reflexively, to treat each new type of social system as progress. Thus Bolshevism is the latest sign of progress and communist hell is the most perfect product of democratic thought. In comparison to the Bolshevik democracy, all other democracies, even when they threaten a revolution, are just childish talk. Hence their shyness, the humiliating sense of their own weakness, this base fear when faced with a true Bolshevik who shouts at them. They cannot see that Bolshevism is not some extreme democratic left at all. It is something completely different, and it might as well be called the extreme right, for in the Soviet state that is the model of the future torment worldwide, the people’s commissars and heads of Cheka are masters of their subjects’ life, death and consciences.

Trepet malogo pered bolshim – I still hear these words and how our Professor of Philosophy Vladislavlev spoke them. This was the way in which he described the feeling of shyness in his psychology lectures. I listened to him as a student at the University of Saint Petersburg. Trepet malogo pered bolshim [The trembling of the small before the great] – does this not describe the behaviour of democratic Poland and its representatives in their contacts with every scoundrel or bandit if he only is acting as a delegate of the Soviets? It was the case in Riga and it was also the case in Warsaw after Voykov’s assassination. Poland’s small democracy trembles before the aristocratic arrogance and greatness of those in Moscow who offend the world with their cynical whims and insolent claims.

The excellent journalist and exceptionally insightful observer Konstanty Srokowski has trembled as well. He visited Moscow and, having returned, presented to us his philosophical treatise on Bolshevism, which also trembles before its greatness (K. Srokowski, Elita bolszewicka. Studium socjologiczne [Bolshevik Elite: a Sociological Study], Kraków 1927). This is an apotheosis I have never seen either in Poland or outside it, since it has been written not by a stupid doctrinaire or a fanatic freshly converted to Bolshevism, but rather by a man with a sharp and strong mind.

Little people, Srokowski tells us, do not do great things, “and there is no other example in history of intellectual and moral insolence as great as that of Bolshevism”; thus Bolshevism is a thing of greatness and its rulers “should be numbered among conquistadors, condotiers, great adventurers and discoverers”; compared to them, the founders of the most powerful religions and the most ambitious social and political reformers appear modest and timid… “with their eyes fixed on their perfect goals, completely immersed in them and devoted to them without any reservations”, Bolshevik leaders “hold the reins of apocalyptic steeds harnessed to the chariot of revolution and direct them”. “Russia is a tool that is obedient to them” and their feeling for her “is the prophets’ love for the nation that first listened to them” (sic!). The author correctly points out that this unrelenting criticism and “scientific rigour” of the Bolsheviks’ thought of which they boast go hand in hand with incredible illusionism. It is not a weakness though; on the contrary, this illusionism, according to the author, is a strength, since it flows from “mighty, invincible and fanatical” faith; for the Bolsheviks, this faith is “an abundant, unending source of moral strength”, because how could they otherwise have taken upon themselves “the unspeakable burden of responsibility for the rivers of blood spilled and for the immensity of human misery”, which they have directly caused.

In their faith, “in the fierce and cruel fight that they are waging not on one religious organisation or another, but on religion and religious sentiment of the masses as such”, lies the seed of a new religion, a new cult. This is the natural order for things. The communist paradise turned out to be an illusion and the revolution must now become long-term evolution. The slower and more painstaking the evolution, the more insistent will be the need to compensate for it in the metaphysical domain – and these elements of the “birth of the new religion” that the author has noticed are in his view “the most important and most consequential characteristics of the Bolshevik mind”. These words by Srokowski are proof of how comprehensively he has grasped and how deep he has been able to penetrate the essence of Bolshevism, the conditions that are present in its environment and determine its development.

Pushed by internal necessity and the need to strengthen its power over the masses, Bolshevism will move towards establishing a new Church. But who will be its god, when, in its fanatical frenzy, Bolshevism tries to extinguish the very idea of God from people’s hearts and minds?

“Let us call it”, follows the answer, “a negative god”. This is a brilliant diagnosis that hits the very heart of the matter. But, hearing it, we feel our skin tingle and perhaps the author himself did not ponder on the importance of what he said.

No living man has ever seen God, but the greatest minds rose to comprehend God’s idea at the highest moments of their lives, and invariably connected it with the ideas of Truth, Good, and Beauty, which, despite the different ways in which we grasp them, evoke the same worship and enthusiasm in every noble heart. A “negative” god would be the opposite of Truth, Good and Beauty; that god is a lie, which is contrary to the truth of Existence and that of God, but still recognised as Truth and Existence; it is Evil, i.e. crime and sin that is praised as Good; it is Ugliness adulated as Beauty. In short, this is Umwertung aller Werte – the revaluation of all values which would frighten Frederick Nietzsche (who invented the concept) himself, and which is similarly depicted by all great philosophies of the world – as a dark spirit feuding with God, Satan or the Devil, although the origins, birth and power of Darkness are presented in different ways. Thus we must recognise that Bolshevism is – or in any case more or less consciously wants to be – a direct descendant of Darkness, a direct, unprecedented intervention by the powers of Hell in the affairs of this world; according to Srokowski, this superhuman elite, which Artsybashev, who knew Bolsheviks up close, described as “international scum”, are the Devil’s servants possessed by his black powers, and the religion that Bolshevism is going to give birth to, will be, or rather already is, the worship of the Devil embodied by the bloodthirsty Lenin.

Lenin’s corpse, which lay in state in Moscow, was seen by more than 600,000 people in 48 hours. They were standing in rows, waiting for long hours in the freezing January cold of minus 35 degrees. Did Lenin, a fierce enemy of all metaphysics and of everything that resembled metaphysics, think that his corpse would become a foundation on which new metaphysics and a new religious cult will be built?

Christianity adored the Crucified as the incarnate Word, the Saviour of the World. In the emerging future religion, the saviour of the world is the one who has crucified, murdered and tortured hundreds of thousands or even millions of living human beings to satiate his bloody fantasy of a proletarian human community that is devoid of any higher thought and only obedient to its stomach and will humbly carry the yoke of hard toil while the fruits of its work will be consumed by masters and executioners adorned with the titles and dignity of commissaries of the reigning “dictatorial” proletariat.

And it is to these executioners and torturers, the like of which the world has never seen, that Poland pays tribute on the 10th anniversary of the Cheka! …

Since the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, it has been compared to the French Revolution for there were many similarities. In both cases, ruthless and artfully cruel terror was chosen as the way to achieve the goal and, having achieved it, to make the new state of affairs permanent. In both cases, the victories of the revolution not only failed to bring prosperity to the masses, which the revolution was ostensibly meant to defend, using the slogan of equality with the privileged classes in France, and of working class dictatorship in Russia – the masses suffered even worse misery than under the old regime.

These are, however, superficial similarities, while the differences go far deeper. At the very outset, we are struck by one thing: the terror in France lasted less than two years, and in Russia it has been already 16 years since it began. During this time, a new generation was born, completely isolated from Western influence, without any knowledge of the history of Europe, without any idea of its culture and of the foundations of every culture, i.e. religion, family and property, but instead carefully indoctrinated to believe that all of this is bourgeois rot and that it will only be the Bolsheviks who will create a new order – a new world.

Let us suppose that the dreams of Russian emigrés and of all the honest people in the world have come true and that the Soviets have been defeated and wiped out and that a new government has been installed that sincerely wishes to repair everything that the revolution has destroyed or tried to destroy; will this government be strong enough to break the resistance, even if only passive, of this new generation that has been morally barbarised and brought up in the arrogant contempt of all the values that we call culture? These gangs of devils who hate everything that is spiritual and everything that has to do with God (according to Lenin: “the great landowner who owns all the inhabitants of the Earth”) and who think that worshipping this tyrant is “the deification of one’s basest and slavish instincts and fouling oneself” (Lenin) – who will be able to force these gangs to submit themselves to the spiritual culture that is foreign and repulsive to them?

And the revolution’s longevity is not just an incident which we could disregard. This can be explained by the fact that it did not face the same obstacles as the French Revolution – coalitions of European states and bloody uprisings in the west of France. The Russian revolution quickly suppressed the resistance of the Tsarist armies, which had been exhausted by four years of war, and European states had favoured and supported it from the beginning – obviously, they never admitted this and explained their behaviour as a reflection of their strict neutrality. Here, I am reminded of the words of President Masaryk that he did not care what happened in Russia and what should be done in Russia because “this will be dealt by the Russians themselves”. Those words were spoken by a distinguished philosopher who always emphasised his ethical values – were they not a hypocritical platitude? Are we allowed to regard murder perpetrated against a great nation as just a spectacle that can be indifferently observed from our box? Is this strict neutrality, this non-interference in others’ affairs not in fact tantamount to interfering in favour of the stronger?

Finally, and most importantly, since this is the most fundamental and profound difference between Bolshevism and the French Revolution – the latter, as opposed to Bolshevism, set itself a realistic and sensible goal that could be achieved. In France, absolute power was held by the king whose power base included the nobility and the higher clergy, and the revolution was the work of the bourgeoisie who wished to gain the same privileges and subsequently depose those higher classes owing to its numerical superiority, and to govern France. Among the revolutionaries, there were also people with a communist mindset but they were a small minority. So when the goal had been achieved, terror naturally had to give way to legal order.

On the other hand, the Russian revolution decided to establish integral socialism on the ruins of the utterly ruined capitalist system. Capitalism is based on private property, and property ownership is in human nature; what is mine and what is yours is already the subject of squabbles among little children. Things that lie in human nature and that result from it may be destroyed, as Russia has shown, by applying terror, but will not nature, after being violated in this way, reassert itself? This is why I call the goal of the Russian revolution unrealistic. …

The Russian revolution abolished private property, which is the basis of the capitalist system, but it replaced it with a new form of capitalism in which the state owns everything. This was accompanied by the return of something which was mankind’s shame and appeared to have been buried for ever: serfdom was revived. Bolshevism started by destroying the wealthy classes; having accomplished this, it attacked peasants. Since property is a crime, a peasant who still owns something or has managed to save something is a criminal – in Bolshevik terminology, he is a “kulak”. His property is taken away; if he resists, he will die or be sentenced to hard labour. In collective farms, everything is dictated by the bell or the drum: there is a detailed daily schedule, each minute of work has been counted, including short pauses for rest and meals, which are served from a common pot. This food from the common pot (is this not ironic?), these few spoonfuls of buckwheat are the peasants’ only compensation for the freedom that has been taken away from them. In the capitalist system, poverty cannot be eliminated; only its symptoms can be alleviated by individual mercy, welfare and state intervention; if universal communism or, more precisely, state capitalism were to be introduced, to which the Soviet Union aspires, everyone could be sure of minimum subsistence, i.e. a few spoonfuls of buckwheat with a slice of dry bread and nothing more, but everyone would live like a slave or prisoner. And is there a prisoner or slave who does not yearn to be free?

According to Gustave Le Bon, a revolution is successful when its mystical element takes over, when it becomes a religion, creating fanatical faith – if not in a living God or gods, then in dead formulas or words. The French Revolution was driven by a fanatical belief in reason that would rescue humanity from the madness in which it used to live. Rulers of the Russian revolution are in fact vivisectionists who conduct their terrible experiments on the nation’s living body, but they have offered the masses the religion of the machine, since the machine is the fullest expression of progress and a symbol of the future happiness of the human race. More than twenty years ago, Ferrero argued that “in an age in which everything can be rejected – God, the motherland, the family – there is one thing that you are not allowed to doubt: benefits of technical progress”. Machines will become ever more perfect and they will produce ever more and ever faster, in ever shorter time and with ever less effort, and thus things will be of ever lower quality; no civilisation will be able to stop the machines’ fury and they will drown the world in junk; “quality will fall under the blows of quantity”. This was especially painful to the Italian historian and thinker. Moreover, since machines increase production for which there is ultimately no demand, artificial needs will have to be invented. “The machine demands that man be transformed into an ever hungry animal and this is the reason for colonial wars, for imposing this machine-based civilisation on nations that only have one wish: to live in peace”.

But, writing 20 years ago, Ferrero did not consider the fact that even artificial needs have limits, that our globe also has limits and time may come when it will be impossible to sell all these huge amounts of goods produced. This moment has come,

but Bolshevism does not care about it. It has decided to make men similar to machines. One needs to visit Bolshevik Russia and get to know it, one needs to penetrate it and experience, as Fülöp-Miller put it, “the Bolshevik’s joyless joy”, to comprehend the horror of this fantastically barbaric idea that emerged there – to transform mankind into a single giant machine, into a monster with thousands of legs and arms that is called the “collective man”. The Bolshevik artist Krinsky depicted this collective man as a huge machine consisting of tiny blocks, each of which has a human shape. In another of his drawings, we see the interior of a temple where a machine is suspended from the dome, above the altar, and it is surrounded by these pious human-shaped blocks, all similar and devoid of any expression, life or individuality. If Bolshevism wishes to be consistent, it should erase first names and surnames and refer to people as numbers, but will it be able to eradicate human individuality to such an extent that person No. 125 will not differ at all from his neighbour, person No. 124? And can we assume that a living, feeling and thinking being will agree to being a mindless automaton, a cog in a machine or a mere addition to one?

In order to want something like that, you first have to get rid of the religious feeling, the essence of which was so insightfully described by Saint Augustine: “Our heart, O Lord, is restless, until it finds its rest in Thee”. We associate the idea of God with the most exalted and best feelings that come to us in the most exalted and best moments of our lives. Man would like to escape from the confines of his worldly existence, from small and futile things, from what is transient and disappears; his heart wishes to achieve that which is permanent and does not disappear! We look with delight at a bird that glides in the blue sky; it is a symbol of a distant but infinite happiness that we long for, while we are revolted by an amphibian that crawls on the ground.

This upward movement is innate to man and those who do not feel this drive are cripples; Bolshevism has decided to cripple humanity. It would appear that the Bolshevik concept of a mechanised world in which living people would become soulless machines should be repulsive to everyone. Alas, it is not! With a heavy heart, we must admit that it does have some allure that attracts the modern man. This sentiment is described by Dmitry Merezhkovsky as a wish or desire to get rid of oneself (vola k bezlichnosti); this sums up our will, as he says.

Not to be oneself but rather to be in God, to drown in God’s eternal, absolute beauty, i.e. to rise above nature by nature – this is the deepest secret of religion. Not being oneself, ceasing to be oneself, becoming a cog in a machine that can be winded at a designated time like a clock for a set period, is the most repulsive caricature of religion imaginable.

This is anti-religion that drags humanity down from its heights to the abyss of humiliation. This is the abyss that Soviet Russia has fallen into and Europe is following it with increasing speed, like a stone thrown into a well. “The world has never seen such a phenomenon”, Doctor Jan Bobrzyński correctly stated. “Such universal blindness and such suicidal policy that follows from this blindness”. No wonder that Merezhkovsky thought that the world had probably gone crazy, affected by some mystical suggestions from dark powers.

Or maybe not – maybe Merezhkovsky is crazy or maybe I am crazy – after all, who are we as writers, people from the world of dreams or ideals, to oppose political realists, professional politicians and chiefs of state? Is it not a pretentious presumption to think that these non-aggression pacts that these politicians beg the Bolsheviks to sign, and then triumphantly announce to the world as masterpieces of diplomatic art that will ensure peace and prosperity for mankind in years to come, are in fact madness – demeaning and suicidal madness? …



Marian Zdziechowski (1861–1938), historian of culture and literature, literary critic and author. He was born on 30 April 1861 in Novoselki (present-day Belarus). He studied at the University of Dorpat and in Saint Petersburg. From 1899, he was lecturer at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and from 1919 to 1932 he lectured at the Stefan Batory University in Vilnius. In 1902, he became a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. He conducted comparative studies of the psychology of Slavic peoples against the background of their political, social, religious, philosophical and ethical systems. His publications included, among others, Mesjaniści i słowianofile [Messianists and Slavophiles] (1888), Wpływy rosyjskie na duszę polską [Russian Influences on the Polish Soul] (1920), Europa, Rosja, Azja [Europe, Russia, Asia] (1923); he also exchanged many letters with numerous representatives of Russian elites (including the Trubetskoy brothers, Merezhkovsky and Berdyaev). A defender of traditional European culture and opponent of Catholic modernists of the turn of the 20th century, Zdziechowski not only reflected on the foundations of this culture and contemporary threats to it, particularly from radical movements, and especially from Bolshevism (Pesymizm, romantyzm a podstawy chrześcijaństwa [Pessimism, Romanticism and the Foundations of Christianity], 1914, Gloryfikacja pracy [Glorification of Labour], 1916; Renesans a rewolucja [Renaissance and Revolution], 1925, Widmo przyszłości [Spectre of the Future], 1936, W obliczu końca [Facing the End], 1938), but also studied the history of literature (Byron i jego wiek [Byron and his age], two vols., 1894–1897; U opoki mesjanizmu [Foundations of Messianism], 1912), mainly the works of Zygmunt Krasiński and Stanisław Brzozowski. He died on 5 October 1938 in Vilnius.



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