I will never forget the day Vladimir Bukovsky, the celebrated Soviet dissident, walked unsteadily across a bridge to freedom, having been swapped with the head of the Chilean Communist Party. He was one of my heroes, and became a friend while studying psychology at Stanford University. He spent years in the Gulag, but the KGB was unable to break him, and his first book, To Build a Castle, will long remain one of the classic testimonies to the evils of Soviet Communism.
When the Soviet Empire fell, in part as the result of Bukovsky’s tireless efforts to destroy Communism, many of us hoped it would be possible to get our hands and minds on the Kremlin’s archives, but there were endless bureaucratic hurdles, some of them shamefully on our side of the great divide. In the end, many of these were overcome by a handful of private citizens. A group of us bought a laptop computer and a scanner, taught Bukovsky how to use them, and off he went to Moscow.
For a brief period, the Soviet archives, even the secret ones, were accessible to investigators, and we thought Bukovsky might well be able to get his electronic hands on the documentary history of Soviet Communism, one of the most malevolent forces in twentieth-century history. We hoped that the Soviet documents would enable our citizens to understand what had really happened in the Cold War, and help us frame a more realistic foreign policy in the future. Moreover, we and Bukovsky wanted to stage a trial of the Communists, along the lines of the Nuremburg trials of the Nazi leaders after World War II.
We didn’t get that trial, and the documents have been locked up by Putin. But Bukovsky got a lot, and now his book on his discoveries is about to be published in English (Judgment in Moscow), after its original appearance in French and German twenty years ago. It’s a fascinating saga. Once there, Bukovsky scanned tens of thousands of Politburo documents into his laptop, and brought them back to the free world. You can find them all in the Bukovsky Archive, and read about them in his book. He recounts such secrets as the Kremlin’s clandestine payments to foreign Communist parties and leaders, covert paramilitary training in places like Czechoslovakia for their foreign comrades, and extensive disinformation campaigns throughout the “West.” He also details the cooperation between the Kremlin and our own political class.
You might expect that such a detailed documentary expose would attract great attention, but no. There were sparse reviews in France and Germany, and no major American publishing house would agree to bring it out (there are important details in the book). Yet it remains an extremely powerful and important source for anyone who wants to understand the true nature of our deadly adversary.
Why is this book not on the desk of all self-proclaimed foreign policy gurus? For that matter, why is Bukovsky not widely known? At a luncheon in Washington recently with very well-educated and well-read gentlemen, not a single man at the table had even heard of him — a tribute to the ignorance of our ruling class.
Part of the problem is political/ideological. As Bukovsky put it in a very recent interview with Epoch Times, “The Western elite is socialist. They were never serious about fighting Soviet power.” That is why Communism has made such a comeback in recent years, even in the United States, which rests on a foundation of capitalist success. Our current generation of emerging leaders speak openly and enthusiastically about Communism and socialism: “The absence of leadership is frightening. Our so-called elites became rotten. In the past, in history, the elites would be periodically wiped out in revolutions. In our time, it does not happen. We are too civilized.”
Try to imagine what it must have been like for a group of brilliant, eloquent and courageous Soviet dissidents to come to the West, having been inspired by Ronald Reagan’s brave words and actions against the tyranny under which they had suffered, only to find that very few Western leaders, such as Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, properly understood what they were up against.
For me, the most awful moment came when Stanford University, where Bukovsky was then studying and working, invited a group of Soviet “scientists” to visit and lecture. Bukovsky went to the university president in protest. “You can’t have those people,” he observed, “they tortured me for years.” The invitation stood. Bukovsky, true to his principles, left America for a sanctuary in Cambridge, England, where he still resides.
Judgment in Moscow will soon appear in English. Time for you to catch up on the corruption of our elite, on the basic facts of the Cold War, and on one of the most remarkable men I know.