Jeff Nyquist was kind enough to respond to my previous article. He even offered me a mock apology. Notwithstanding that, I will treat his polemic with utmost seriousness. To my insistence that an anticommunist ought to differentiate between the sinister soviet power and “Russia”, Nyquist replied:

The Soviet Union is no longer the Soviet Union. Poland is no longer Poland. Do you understand what this means? There is no final political form. And there is no final victory, and no final defeat. What nation, above all others, is better able to receive this truth than Poland?”

My understanding is clouded at best but even I can see the strength of Nyquist’s case: it is surely correct, if a trifle obvious, to say that nothing in human affairs is final (nothing apart from death that is). I confess I know zilch about nations and their relative abilities to receive the truth or otherwise. Simple minded that I am, I still believe that nations do not think for themselves, only individuals do, so being a Pole does not make me “better to receive” anything. The Truth is unattainable to human perception and all we can do is strive for it. Only that much but even that is beyond most – and surely beyond nations. One point in the above citation is certainly true though: that Poland since 1945 has no longer been Poland. And that sad truth still remains unchanged. It seems to me, however, that Poles are somewhat unable to receive this truth – so where does this leave us? I think it leaves me in dire need of being patronised some more. Let’s dig deeper then.

So things do not stay the same and we cannot get into to the same river twice. That is so. But beyond the flowing, ever changing waters, there is still a river, constant in its changing. Philosopher distinguishes between what is essential and what is merely accidental; in other words, I may have less hair but I am still myself; should however my mind be altered I would no longer remain myself. The same is true about rivers and it can also roughly be extended to political forms. Was post-revolutionary France “still France”? Not in the eyes of Joseph de Maistre. Was the Leninist creation “still Russia”? Not as far as Vladimir Nabokov was concerned. Did the soviet union undergo the similarly essential changes in the 1991? Not in my view.

Nyquist advises me further – and I am grateful for his advice – not to “see and judge the world as it appears today but, instead, to judge on the basis of what is coming, what can no longer be avoided”. That is a novel idea so I will require further instruction on this point. If there is “no final political form” and the human affairs can develop in a bewildering variety of ways, how can anyone maintain that one particular version out of many possible futures “can no longer be avoided”? I try (and often fail) to see the world as it appears today. I try not to judge it, although I am weak and sometimes I can’t help it. But to judge on the basis of what is coming, i.e. has not yet happened, seems to be beyond us, mortals. And even if it were possible, I’m not sure I’d want to do so, because having knowledge of what is coming would put one on a different plane of wisdom and one’s judgment of mere mortals, who by definition cannot know the future with any degree of certainty – would be flawed and condescending.

Yet, there appears to be a disturbing grain of truth in Nyquist’s statement. First of all, because it is noble to seek to fathom what is concealed from us so hats off to those who try; but secondly, because I happen to agree with him that what is coming – however uncertain and theoretically avoidable it may be – is likely to be terrifying. In light of that unpleasant and unsettling vision of the future our behaviour today is akin to that of children playing in the sandpit in the shadow of the volcano. Nyquist’s nightmarish vision is intellectually honest and, although we ought not to allow ourselves to “judge on the basis of what is coming”, we should indeed live by our own beliefs. – But all this does not make Poland a front line state.

Nyquist’s polemic is like a voyage. The trouble is that his conclusion, i.e. semantics are a potent weapon in bolsheviks’ hands, directly contradicts his starting point, i.e. we cannot demand precision from our terminology when dealing with something as bizarre as the phenomenon of soviet power. Naturally and in spite of Nyquist, we can be precise without being “compelled to use only immaculate and scientific language”, which would be absurd. What is demanded of us is that our language and precision of our terminology be adequate to our subject. More importantly, we cannot afford to be imprecise in our dealings with the commies or we risk being reduced to the “thoughtless multitude”, as Nyquist precisely describes it. I will come back to this point later. Now let me focus on Nyquist’s conclusions.

From first to last, the anti-Communists allowed the Communists to invent and define most of the words used during the Cold War. When the Communists publicly did away with those words, people began to talk of “the end of the Cold War”. Anti-Communists understood this as a victory. In reality, the anti-Communists were semantically eliminated from the game. The thoughtless multitude is so attached to words that eliminating the use of a word effectively neutralizes or eliminates those who stand against it. I call this method “the semantic liquidation” of the opposition. It is not coincidental that towards the end of his life, Stalin became interested in semantics.”

Oddly, I agree with every sentence in this passage. But then again, that was precisely my thesis. Semantics do matter. It matters quite a lot to me that here, in The Underground, we do not fall for the “end of the cold war” nonsense and even less for the “collapse of communism” baloney, not to mention the “disintegration of the soviet union” claptrap. We pride ourselves in trying to see through the communist veil of semantic confusion. We have no track with “thoughtless multitude” or with what “common usage permits” and we have always pointed at the old bolshevik method of semantic liquidation. The method was instigated by Lenin and perfected by Trotsky. It was in evidence as early as in the choice of their name (Bolsheviks vs. Mensheviks, i.e. positive more vs. negative less), in their campaigns against the kulaks and other “enemies of the people” etc., etc. The power of “naming” was fundamental to Lenin’s methods; the whole machinery of agit-prop or “political agitation and propaganda” was based on ruthlessly assumed and mercilessly maintained control over language. Stalin extended his supremacy over semantics well beyond the borders of his soviet paradise. When he called Draza Mihailović a fascist it was enough for the Western Allies to switch their support to the communist gangs led by Tito. When his propaganda machine condemned members of the Polish Home Army as “reactionary dwarves” no one would move their little fingers in defense of the largest underground fighting force assembled against Hitler in occupied Europe, persecuted by Uncle Joe, the glorious ally of victorious Western powers.

Anticommunists were not semantically eliminated at the end of the cold war, as defined by thoughtless multitude. The Cold War in the stricter sense ended after Stalin’s death, with Malenkov’s visit to the West. Since then we had numerous false dawns, springs, thaws, even détentes, perestroikas and glasnosts. In fact, Gorbachov’s insistence on using the words “the end of the Cold War” in the late Eighties was just another step in the same long standing deception game; deception game, which started with hiding the soviet substance behind the “Russian” form.

I cannot emphasise strongly enough how much I disagree with Nyquist that, were he “compelled to use only immaculate and scientific language [on political topics], he would use no language at all”. I could offer an example of this very website, where most authors strive to distinguish between what is “Russian” and what is soviet. I, for one, love Russian culture. And I don’t mean just Chekhov and Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Pushkin, where the distinction is easy to make. I also adore the symphonies and string quartets by Dmitry Shostakovich, I admire the prose of Mikhail Bulhakov, I am in awe of the artistry of Sergei Eisenstein’s films (even those with unambiguously communist message) or those directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. In my eyes, the distinction between the soviet and Russian is clear even if we are only given glimpses of Russia from under the horrifying soviet crust. But it is also fundamental because these two are opposites and that’s exactly why it is in the interest of the soviet propaganda to see them as synonymous. Every single one of the above authors was shamelessly harnessed by soviet propaganda machine to further the case of the soviet union as a “normal state”, as “Russia”.

I can offer a much more important example of precision in terminology then a little known website; example of someone using the same distinction between soviet and Russian precisely and without complaints in hundreds of articles, in numerous languages, in monumental novels and in political treatises. I’m talking about the greatest anticommunist of the Twentieth century, Józef Mackiewicz. Ah, but he was not a defector, nor a dissident, not an “ex-“ – ex-communist, ex-kgb officer, ex-party apparatchik – so no one had ever listened to him; they listened even less than they did to Golitsyn or Sejna.

Distinction between Russian and soviet is absolutely fundamental to Mackiewicz’s thought. He made it a punctum saliens of his political treatise The Triumph of Provocation * and I won’t even try to relate it here. In another article on the same subject, published shortly after the war, he wrote that the “word Russia used instead of Bolshevism is the main lever of soviet global policy”. It started with Hitler who since August 1939 needed to popularize his new found friends and stopped referring to bolschewismus and instead his propaganda cheered “Russian successes” in the war with Finland. The tune was picked up by Churchill. It’s worth quoting from his speech made in the evening of 22 June 1941:

The Nazi régime is indistinguishable from the worst features of Communism. It is devoid of all theme and principle except appetite and racial domination. It excels all forms of human wickedness in the efficiency of its cruelty and ferocious aggression. No one has been a more consistent opponent of Communism than I have for the last twenty-five years. I will unsay no word that I have spoken about it. But all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding. The past, with its crimes, its follies, and its tragedies, flashes away. I see the Russian soldiers standing on the threshold of their native land, guarding the fields which their fathers have tilled from time immemorial. I see them guarding their homes where mothers and wives pray – ah, yes, for there are times when all pray – for the safety of their loved ones.”

What should we admire more? The timeless beauty of his language or the subtle manipulation, the imperceptible shift from “communism” to “Russia”? “Russia” could be an ally, godless bolshevism could not.

Stalin saw the simple beauty of this equation and returned gladly to the Leninist tradition of hiding the soviet subject matter behind the Russian façade. But the formula is not just a defensive tool used out of necessity, it works much better when employed to suppress others because – to quote Mackiewicz again – “no Pole can be simultaneously German, no Pole can be Russian, since a Pole who becomes German ceases to be Polish. However, any Pole (or Englishman, or Frenchman, or Russian etc.) can be a Bolshevik at the same time”.

Nyquist maintains that our enemies “all speak Russian and are identified under a Russian banner; they were formed under the Soviet Union; their weapons and bunkers are in Russia”. Really? Does Chavez speak Russian? Let’s perhaps look at it differently: should an international gang of thugs take over the Government of the United States of America would we be justified in calling them “American”? I’d rather call them un-American whatever language they speak but, hey, “their weapons and bunkers would still be in America”. In the same way, I insist on calling current and previous rulers of what used to be Russia – anti-Russian or soviet. Nyquist is undoubtedly right in so far as communism has an important centre in Russia but not all of its bunkers are in Russia nor do all of its supporters speak the lingo. Nyquist knows this very well. He wrote extensively about Chavez and Castro, Lula and Morales. They all have the same goals as Putin but are they “identified under a Russian banner”? I think not.

When the thoughtless multitude calls soviet union “Russia”, I just shrug my shoulders. When Jeff Nyquist does so, it is more difficult to ignore. And more painful to see.


Lastly, I try not to despair, Mr Nyquist, but thank you kindly for your concern. I do not despair of my country – I try not to despair at all. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.” And – thanks be to Lord our God – my cup overflows. But there is yet another reason why a cold, detached, intellectual analysis ought not to drive us to despair: non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere. My sole aim is to understand, not to make me feel better, although I admit that in the process I quite often have a hearty laugh.


* Józef Mackiewicz, The Triumph of Provocation, Yale University Press 2009

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8 Comments “The Unbearable Weight of Semantics”

  1. 1 Serge Kabud

    The irony here is that leading Russian thinkers of today and many of them made an effort to convince us, including me personally for that matter

    that the monster which is a REGIME in Russia today

    IS RUSSIA AT 100%.

    I had this argument with many of them, the last figure who was passionately enough convincing me in this was Yakov Krotov.

    There are numerous sources written about Russian history tha al;ways maintained the idea that Russia as soon as it separated from Kyiv Rus became exactly THIS, forgive me for not describing this Hell redundantly again and again

    It was well done by MANY and all of us know the names. In a tiny detail including details on pathological lies that so many Russians tell so often, cruelty, rating on others to the authority in power and on and on..

    It may be that your naive and wishful thinking on the matter is very human and kind BUT is based on the fact that you never actually experienced Russian life.

    Russians did suffer from communism a lot. My estimation is that 50% of the population of Russian empire were exterminated by communists

    But they did support communism in big numbers and after all communism won and `good Russians` lost this battle and it seems that there is going to be another round of Russian offense. This time under 3-color banner and with a fake czar-figure whoever the modern Russian kgb elite will choose. He may very well be some Romanov character or a fake one for that matter.

    I can only imagine how hard it will be to explain to innocent people in Poland that those nukes that (God forbid) leveled Warsaw and Krakow were delivered

    NOT BY RUSSIAN rockets

    build NOT BY RUSSIAN engineers

    launched NOT BY RUSSIAN ARMY

    and that several millions Polish citizenz kill;ed NOT BY RUSSIAN MURDEROUS BASTARDS

    but by…whom??????????????

    You may very well think about what you going to tell to your people now because you may not have enough time, my friends.

    I wonder what in the hypothetical situation above would Pan Józef Mackiewicz tell his people?

  2. 2 michał

    Well, well, well, what have we here?

    This really put me in a pickle. Either I did not comprehend the meaning of the above or it is the highest concentration of nonsense I’ve seen for some time. Or perhaps this is a poem? Random use of capital letters and strange (modernist?) versification would point in that direction. So not knowing what to do with it, I will just limit myself to the parts where I can have a wild guess as to the supposed meaning.

    “Leading Russian thinkers” and “numerous sources” are supposed to convince me of what exactly? To close my eyes and follow the sheep? I’ll leave that to others, thank you. Feel free to follow the thoughtless multitude (I like this Nyquist’s phrase more and more) of pseudo historians who can all be thrown into the same bracket: “from white to red tsardom”. What a lot of nationalistic twaddle. I will keep my eyes open and will remember that only rubbish goes with the flow.

    The fact remains that the communists want to confuse “Russian” with soviet and you perpetuate that obvious disinformation. Stop it. Whatever you were trying to talk about – and God knows I tried hard to understand – millions of Poles and Ukrainians, Jews and Russians, were killed by murderous commie bastards and their nationality was of secondary importance.

    And now to the last sentence… I sense an attempt at irony here but I’m not sure because irony can hardly be delivered with a battleaxe. So perhaps I will say that: spare the irony! Just try and articulate instead, because creative articulation can be conducive to an intelligent discussion, whereas empty rhetoric and multiple question marks cannot. And, please, spare Józef Mackiewicz. If you’d really wished to find out what he had to say just read him. He wrote in many languages and was translated into even more, as long as you do not apply the idiocy of mechanical translation like google translate, you should be able to get it.

  3. 3 Serge Kabud

    if you provide us with the ability to edit comments- some of you formal concerns will be gone. and font size is another issue)))

    so now alow me to get back on subject

    for sources you may start with Marquis de Custine- a very good read on Russian

    read Yakov Krotov as well

    read anything you can get on Ivan the Terrible – it is Russia as it is today in its pure intact form

    read also what you can find on peter the greate- you ll find it interesting
    and may be after some reading you will start to see the essence not the just the apital letters :

    because it is about mass killings of humans.

    Nikolai Bedyaev on russian communism is a good choice for the beginner also.

    It will help you to keep your eyes open and remember that only rubbish goes with the flow- love it))))

    Communists resort to Russian imperialism and nationalism ideology for some time already. Do the google search on russian domain- you will be able to learn what any russian in moscow can just plainly tell you.

    Kremlin propaganda these days is anti bolshevik and imperial: they made an effort to redirect it because the major success they had in the past with provoking and winning the war – was based exactly on nationalism of russian imperial type.

    This is something any school boy in russia knows.

    > communists want to confuse “Russian” with soviet – is an outdated strategy. And term soviet itself is obsolete in political language: soviets were desmantled for a long time already as you may know

    Killers of millions were mostly ethnic russians as are the operators of today offences in latin America, Middle East and all over: ethnic russians

    And they dont regard themselves communist even though i would still call em that sometimes.

    An finally,


    you never answered my question:

    if it gets to war that your nation is constantly threatened with
    and was specifically warned recently on the subject of nuclear attack on Poland:

    what are you going to tell your people to provide them with knowledge and inspiration and to secure the national survival of Poland:

    how will you call those who may level your cities with megaton nukes?

    NON-RUSSIANS? Communists without communist features?

    Your nation is faced with an existential threat

    In order to survive you must be absolutely clear on naming the enemy ang providing the People with exact definitions

    Please answer the question

  4. 4 michał

    Can I suggest, in the nicest possible way, that you edit your comments before you publish them? Especially so if you write here. Most basic manners demand that, don’t you think? Writing comments on a website is a primitive sort of publishing, I’ll grant you that, but after placing here incomprehensible gibberish, to then demand that we allow you to come back post factum and change your own lamentable production, frankly, defies belief. No. Quod scripsi scripsi. Once you publish something that’s it. From that moment onwards you, as the author of your own words (I expect you are the author, are you?) have to take full responsibility for your words. Do you know the saying: live by the sword – die by the sword? Don’t complain if you are put to the sword.

  5. 5 michał

    Have you ever considered putting words in a comprehensible sentence? Something along the lines of a beginning, then a middle section and then the end? It also helps when sentences are logically connected, otherwise you may fail to communicate. For sources, you may start with Winnie the Pooh – a very good read. Peter Pan is a good choice for a beginner too. Peter Rabbitt you may find a little bit too taxing but whatever you do – do not put him in a bramble patch! Do a google search, this will allow you to prove that you are right or anything else for that matter. Support it with a quote from wikipedia – that’ll show them!

  6. 6 Serge Kabud

    to me it is preferable when text is separated by blank lines

    then i can better concentrate on the essence of the writings

    and it is much more constructive

    to try to answer the question then to change the subject

  7. 7 Serge Kabud

    looks like this is pointless

    you have no courage to face a reality of the possible coming war

    you lack what is called a responsible thinking of a statesman

    it is very sad.

  8. 8 michał

    At least we agree on one point: it is very sad.

    Anyone who knows anything about this website knows that we do not lack courage and that we do not avoid difficult discussions or duck questions. However, to engage intellectually, I have to be presented by a comprehensible statement but in the comments above, apart from nationalistic clichés about Russians being liars, I failed to deduct much else.

    Good God, this is kindergarten staff! I have met lying Brits, lying Germans, even lying Ukrainians, are they “unrepresentative of their nations”? Whereas a lying Russian is representative? “Responsible thinking of a statesman” – indeed! Do you know no shame?

    No, thank God, nations do not have characters. When we speak about such things, this is only a shorthand. One has to be simpleminded indeed, to take it seriously. Englishmen are supposed to be reserved and phlegmatic – have you ever seen an English football fan? Or do they leave their national character at the gate of a football stadium?

    Forgive me but I refuse to lower myself to such a level.



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