Respect could be lost. Fear was honest...
What follows is a creative writing experiment inspired by a reading of The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a history of the Soviet prison camp system. This writing is an attempt to glimpse the world from the viewpoint of Joseph Stalin.
“For what purpose?” This was always the question on the minds of those who were skeptical of him and his means. God he was tired of it. He could see it bubbling behind their frightened visage. They were terrified of him. There was no doubt. He was the man whose name struck terror into the hearts of those who heard it. He liked it that way. After all, how else could power be held?
Respect was no basis for the perpetuation of great power. Respect could be lost. Respect is bound by too many rules, too many niceties. Fear was honest and it didn’t have rules… at least no hard and fast rules. The judiciary? He didn’t have to concern himself with the legality of a given occurrence or rule. He made it legal. He was the law. And whatever he said would become law.
But it wasn’t this simple. Given the fact that the world was more interconnected than ever before, he needed to create a façade to keep the rest of the worlds’ naïve people, the rule followers, uncreatives, the capitalists, at bay. Otherwise there’d be an outrage over the so-called disregard for human rights. Those oh-so-noble nations who proclaimed to stand on the basis of human rights, yet do nothing in practice to uphold them. It was the Soviets who understood what human rights meant. How barbaric it was for other nations to throw their criminals into jail cells and simply let them rot. At least here in the Soviet Union, criminals could work, could contribute to the betterment of society. They were being productive.
This philosophy came from the great man Karl Marx himself. The only way to truly correct a criminal was to allow him to work. Society needs labor if it is to become its true self, if it is to become better at all. Why put the criminals in a dark cell, away from the world, doing nothing, and draining the states’ (the peoples’) resources?
The West could not understand this. They thought of the work camps as an outrage against human rights. Of course they didn’t say this. They didn’t want to enrage Stalin. But they thought it. And certainly the masses of the West had no idea of the labor camps at all. But that was all for the better as they would not understand the justification for them even if they did know.
The rest of the world was too stupid to grasp the fact that Stalin himself wanted peace. But peace meant war. The kind of peace that he could bring was a peace the world had never known. Peace under capitalism? Outrageous. Talk about a violation of human rights. Capitalism kept everyone distracted, chasing something different. So much division, so much inefficiency. Everyone pursuing different things, contradicting each other, doing and undoing each others’ work, running in circles… He was going to fix this. But who did he think he was aspiring to these ends? To make such a large claim a man needed to be a madman, delusional, narcissistic… But that’s just what the rest of the world thought. People tell themselves all the time not to care what others think of them. Well, Stalin was no different.
Peace meant war. In order to establish peace, war was needed. The Soviet empire needed to expand. Stagnancy meant death. Just as people grow, the nation needed to grow. “But by any means necessary?” he could hear his opposers thinking. Yes, by any means necessary. The greatest utopia mankind had ever seen… any price would be worth paying for this.