Tags: Critique | Natan | Sharansky's | Book

A Critique of Natan Sharansky's Book

Thursday, 10 March 2005 12:00 AM

With his co-author, Ron Dermer, a born-and-bred American with academic degrees, he has published a book, dedicated to Sakharov and entitled "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror."

The book quotes reverently and copiously President Bush, who praised it as consonant with his own political worldview and thus turned it into a sensational best seller, while Sharansky's previous book remains virtually unknown.

There is a strong similarity between the political worldview of Sharansky and that of Bush because both views stem from the Enlightenment, a European "philosophical movement" of the 18th century that ignored local cultures as "irrational" and postulated Homo sapiens, a universal "man of reason" inhabiting the earth. Bush proceeds from the Homo sapiens of the Founding Fathers, the mental children of the Enlightenment, and Sharansky (for all his "dissidence"!) from the Homo sapiens postulated by Marx, also a mental child of the Enlightenment.

For Bush and Sharansky, the world is populated by Homo sapiens, while the socio-psychological differences between Anglo Saxons, French, Germans, Italians, Russians, Iraqis or Chinese are no more important than differences between languages, dresses, customs and other national peculiarities.

According to Bush and Sharansky, Homo sapiens in the English-speaking countries has been living in democracy, but in other countries, tyrants and terrorists (in the tyrants' service) forced the French to live under the absolutism of kings and then of Napoleon, the Germans to live under Hitler, the Italians under Mussolini, the Russians under Stalin, and the Iraqis under Saddam Hussein.

What about the Chinese? Here there is a silence on the part of Bush, while Sharansky does not doubt that 1.3 billion Chinese will live in democracy, the Western "power of freedom to overcome tyranny and terror."

Look at Iraq! Where is Hussein? The Iraqis danced for joy as they voted.

But what if a majority in a country does not want democracy? Thus, in Iraq the Shia voted for a fundamentalist Islamic Shia theocracy, while the Sunni wage a desperate guerrilla-terrorist war for a secular Islamic Sunni oligarchy.

A majority in a country does not want democracy? Impossible! It is the same as saying to Christopher Columbus that the "Indians" of "India" into which he stumbled by mistake do not want to be baptized, or saying to a Communist in Soviet Russia that a majority of Americans do not want Communism.

The "Indians" unwilling to be baptized? Do not make Columbus laugh hysterically or regard you as the devil, seeking to entice the "Indians" into hell. Baptized, the "Indians" will go to heaven for an eternal bliss – to paradise! What madman would prefer hell to paradise?

A majority of Americans unwilling to live under Communism? Do not make a Soviet Communist laugh no less uproariously! So they want to stay in a society where a Rockefeller has a 600-room mansion while others sleep in a night shelter, or cannot afford medical care and university education for themselves and their children?

The Soviet slogan was "All roads lead to Communism!" But here a majority of Americans do not want (ha-ha-ha!) to be liberated from their billionaires and enjoy free medical care and free university education? In Sharansky's worldview, democracy replaced Communism, no longer fashionable anywhere except in China. But his belief in the socio-political universalism of human nature is a Soviet-Marxist belief, ascending to the Enlightenment.

Sharansky calls the democracies "free societies" and the non-democracies "fear societies." A "fear society" exists as long as the local tyrant is able to instill fear into his subjects. Most of them hate him but conceal their hatred out of fear and pretend that they love him. But as soon as the "power of freedom" of the democracies delivers them from their fear (by invading Iraq, for example), the tyrant falls and the country becomes democratic.

But is this not a fairytale? Take Stalin's Russia, for example. Sakharov, whom Sharansky calls his teacher, became a "dissident" in 1968, at the age of 47. Under Stalin the reprisals were too severe for him to criticize the Soviet system, though under Stalin, who died in 1953, Russia was much worse off than in 1968.

It is unfair to blame Sakharov for insufficient courage. But while Stalin forced him into silence, no one forced him into the development of nuclear weapons (in particular, the hydrogen bomb) for Stalin from 1945 to 1953, when Sakharov was from 24 to 32 years old. Either Sakharov loved, and not hated, Stalin, or he cynically armed the man he hated with the most powerful and destructive weapons known. It is only in 1968, at the age of 47, that Sakharov became a "dissident."

Sharansky knows nothing about public opinion polls in post-1991 Russia, according to which Stalin was the "greatest Russian statesman" for four times more respondents than Yeltsin was. Gennadiy Zyuganov's Communist Party, which received in the Russian post-1991 Parliament far more votes than any other party, has been carrying portraits of Lenin and Stalin in its rallies and demonstrations.

But according to Sharansky, the fall of the Soviet dictatorship in 1991 occurred for two reasons: (1) Sakharov's and hence nearly all Russians' love of freedom and democracy and their hatred of tyranny and tyrants (the worst being Stalin); and (2) Reagan's "Star Wars" proposal, which convinced "advisers of Gorbachev" that "the USSR could never compete with Star Wars" and "made them finally accept demands for internal reform" (p. 138).

The subtitle of Sharansky's book is "The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror." So the U.S. "power of freedom" (Reagan's Star Wars) "overcame" Soviet "tyranny and terror."

But first of all, Reagan's Star Wars proposal was not a reality. Second, in 1986, when Gorbachev became the dictator, he increased the annual production of submarine-launched cruise missiles from 35 to 200. The Soviet submarines were submerged off both Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States, and cruise missiles (in contrast to ballistic missiles) could not be intercepted by Reagan's Star Wars missiles even if they had been in existence.

Besides, since the early 1970s, Soviet Russia had been developing post-nuclear superweapons. Sharansky does not say a word about them, as he does not say a word about their development in China since 1986. But they may reduce the West, and in particular Israel, to dust.

Why did the Soviet dictatorship collapse in 1991 in reality, and not in Sharansky's fairytale? Islam describes paradise much as Communism was described by Marx and Soviet Marxists. But a Moslem cannot see whether paradise is or is not a utopia until he dies. Now, Communism was "not in heaven, but on earth," as Heinrich Heine proudly proclaimed.

By the late 1980s, the Soviet population saw that Communism was a utopia. Where is its dazzling "abundance," which anyone can have free? As a Soviet taxi driver explained to me, Communism had been created in America! "True, you cannot have a car free there, but it costs only $1."

So, let us have capitalism and all that – as in the United States!

"Fear," the word that Sharansky repeats incessantly, had nothing to do with the case either. In Soviet Russia in the 1960s to the 1980s, there was no fear of arrest among those who did not criticize the Soviet system publicly, as did Sakharov and Sharansky.

Also, mass fear may exist in a democracy, not only in a dictatorship. It is the fear of Stalin's invasion of the virtually defenseless democratic Germany that brought Hitler to power, and it is the fear of the notorious mafias that helped Mussolini become the dictator of Italy.

On the other hand, those inhabitants of Soviet Russia in the 1960s to the 1980s who did not want to criticize the "Soviet system" publicly felt safer than do many Americans in the United States with its high crime rate and "social insecurity."

Predictably, soon after 1991 many inhabitants of Russia decided that the "abundance of capitalism" was a utopia (where can cars actually be bought for $1 apiece?) and became nostalgic about good old Stalin's times, as public opinion polls indicate.

At the same time, there is a definite "backsliding" in Putin's democracy, and it is not impossible that Putin will become the dictator. So Sharansky's fairytale about the conversion of Soviet Russia, "a fear society," into a democracy owing to the general love of freedom and hatred of tyranny, and owing to Ronald Reagan's "power of freedom," is pointless.

Much of Sharansky's book is devoted to making Palestine a democracy, as the only way to discontinue the terrorism of Hamas and Islamic Jihad that allegedly exists owing to tyranny and will disappear in democracy, along with Islamic anti-Semitism.

The history of Jews has been tragic since the Roman Empire deported them from Israel about two millennia ago. But societal mental regression as the downside of democracy also applies to the leadership of Israel, while the Middle East is Islamic and anti-Semitic.

The tragedy of Israel is overshadowed by the general tragedy of the West, mortally endangered by post-nuclear superweapons developed in China. But Sharansky is too preoccupied with the conversion of Palestine into a democracy to notice such trifles. Besides, while postulating the disappearance of anti-Semitism in Palestine as a democracy, he does not notice that he himself describes "the new anti-Semitism" in the European democracies – "within the ‘enlightened' quarters of Europe" (p. 225).

The keynote of Sharansky's book is optimism: Democracy is going to spread worldwide, and the days of tyranny are numbered. Homo sapiens is winning all over the world.

However, democracy did not originate in the United States or in Israel. The word is Greek (demokratia), and democracy flourished in Greece about 25 centuries ago and then in ancient Rome under the name "republic" (respublica). If Homo sapiens loves democracy and hates tyranny, democracy should have become global a couple of millennia ago.

To the contrary, both demokratia and respublica were followed by tyrannies even in Greece and Rome, and it was only in the 13th century in England, and somewhat earlier in Novgorod, that there originated the seeds of what came to be known in the West in the 20th century as "democracy," but its establishment in Iraq (one of the oldest civilizations on earth) in the 21st century has proved to be impossible, despite the overwhelming military superiority of the Coalition.

You can e-mail Lev at

The link to my book online is www.levnavrozov.com. You can also request our webmaster@levnavrozov.com to send you by e-mail my outline of my book.

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With his co-author, Ron Dermer, a born-and-bred American with academic degrees, he has published a book, dedicated to Sakharov and entitled"The Case for Democracy:The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror." The book quotes reverently and copiously President...
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Thursday, 10 March 2005 12:00 AM
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