How many of you have noticed the page on my side bar called Svetlana’s Letters, I do not know. so, allow me to introduce her. Svetlana Kunin immigrated to the United States in 1980 from the Soviet Union. She is a retired software developer and in the Soviet Union she was a Civil Engineer. Svetlana has written a series of letters, originally published by Investors’ Business Daily under their “perspectives” series. Grant Davies of What We Think and Why, a blog I have followed for some time, made a collection of Svetlana’s letters for his blog and he was gracious enough to allow me to copy them for my readers. Grant recently published her latest letter via Investors’ Business daily. This is her fifteenth letter.
Today I want to share with you Svetlana’s first letter followed by her most recent letter. I personally wish that her letters were required reading in every highschool in America. Having lived under the Soviet Socialist regime, she perhaps has a better appreciation for what America has to offer it’s citizens than many Americans do.
In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, I was taught to believe individual pursuits are selfish and sacrificing for the collective good is noble.
In kindergarten we sang songs about Lenin, the leader of the Socialist Revolution. In school we learned about the beautiful socialist system, where everybody is equal and everything is fair; about ugly capitalism, where people are exploited and treat each other like wolves in the wilderness.
Life in the USSR modeled the socialist ideal. God-based religion was suppressed and replaced with cultlike adoration for political figures.
The government-assigned salary of the proletariat (blue-collar worker) was 30%-50% higher then any professional. Without incentive to improve their life, professionals drank themselves to oblivion. They — engineers, lawyers, doctors, teachers — earned a government-determined salary that barely covered the necessities, mainly food.
Raising children was a hardship. It took four to six adults (parents and grandparents) to support a child. The usual size of the postwar family was one or two children. Every woman had the right to have an abortion and most of them did, often without anesthesia.
There is a comparative historical reality that plays out the consequences of two competing ideologies: life in the USSR and in America. When the march to the worker’s paradise — the Socialist Revolution — began in 1917, many people emigrated from Russia to the U.S.
In the USSR, economic equality was achieved by redistributing wealth, ensuring that everyone remained poor, with the exception of those doing the redistributing. Only the ruling class of communist leaders had access to special stores, medicine and accommodations that could compare to those in the West.
The rest of the citizenry had to deal with permanent shortages of food and other necessities, and had access to free but inferior, unsanitary and low-tech medical care. The egalitarian utopia of equality, achieved by the sacrifice of individual self-interest for the collective good, led to corruption, black markets, anger and envy.
Government-controlled health care destroyed human dignity.
Chairman Nikita Khrushchev released facts about Stalin and his purges. People learned of the horrific purge of more than 20 million citizens, murdered as enemies of the state.
Those who left Russia found a different set of values in America: freedom of religion, speech, individual pursuits, the right to private property and free enterprise. The majority of those immigrants achieved a better life for themselves and their children in this capitalist land.
These opportunities let the average immigrant live a better life than many elites in the Soviet Communist Party. The freedom to pursue personal self-interest led to prosperity. Prosperity generated charity, benefiting the collective good.
The descendants of those immigrants are now supporting policies that move America away from the values that gave so many immigrants the chance of a better life. Policies such as nationalized medicine, high tax rates and government intrusion into free enterprise are being sold to us under the socialistic motto of collective salvation.
Socialism has bankrupted and failed every society, while capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other system.
There is no perfect society. There are no perfect people. Critics say that greed is the driving force of capitalism. My answer is that envy is the driving force of socialism. Change to socialism is not an improvement on the imperfections of the current system.
The slogans of “fairness and equality” sound better than the slogans of capitalism. But unlike at the beginning of the 20th century, when these slogans and ideas were yet to be tested, we have accumulated history and reality.
Today we can define the better system not by slogans, but by looking at the accumulated facts. We can compare which ideology leads to the most oppression and which brings the most opportunity.
When I came to America in 1980 and experienced life in this country, I thought it was fortunate that those living in the USSR did not know how unfortunate they were.
Now in 2009, I realize how unfortunate it is that many Americans do not understand how fortunate they are. They vote to give government more and more power without understanding the consequences.
Svetlana Kunin, Stamford, Conn.
Studying the history of the world’s evil is disturbing. But being ignorant of reality — or worse yet, ignoring it — is dangerous.
In 2009, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the “reset button” to Russia’s foreign minister, I wondered whether anyone in the Obama administration was aware that the goals of the Russian negotiator were the enforcement of regional influence and the demise of the USA.
If the true history of communism was taught in American schools, perhaps this administration would understand that the collapse of capitalism was and is part of the communist/socialist psyche.
Today, when President Obama and Secretary Clinton make loud statements about “immediate” changes in the government of Egypt, I wonder if they understand the history of the region as deeply as they understand Russian negotiating partners.
Even the history of World War II — the rise and fall of German National Socialism/Nazism, and the history of the anti-fascist resistance — is presented to the American people in a somewhat dim way.
Growing up in the USSR, where almost everyone had a family member who fought anGd was wounded or killed in the war, we learned about the Young Guard (Molodaya Gvardiya), a partisan organization made up of 15- to 18-year-olds, under the leadership of Oleg Koshevoy (1926-43).
They fought the Nazis from 1941 until they were exposed and captured in 1943. We learned about multiple partisan groups, where children as young as 7 were part of the anti-Nazi resistance.
It is appalling to find an apologetic sentiment from 400 rabbis for George Soros’ collaboration with Nazis against Jews. It is quite justifiable to examine Soros, who is personally financing multiple organizations to influence the Democratic Party, and who recently declared that in the current events in Egypt, “The main stumbling block is Israel.”
It is easier to project an image of a noble and caring person to the ignorant while talking socialist platitudes. Only honest studies of world history will put light on the fact that in both Nazi Germany and socialist USSR, justifying the “common good” over respect for individual liberties led to the concentration camps.
Claire Berlinski, a contributing editor at City Journal, wrote “A Hidden History of Evil: Why Doesn’t Anyone Care About the Unread Soviet Archives?” But not everyone reads City Journal.
Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum reviewed “The Way Back,” Peter Weir’s new movie about Soviet gulags. “I haven’t found any reviews, so far, that hail this as Hollywood’s first gulag movie, perhaps because hardly anyone noticed that there weren’t any before,” Applebaum wrote.
“Weir told me,” she continued, “that many in Hollywood were surprised by the story: They’d never heard of Soviet concentration camps, only German ones. ‘If you need to explain what a film is about,’ the film is in trouble — and this one almost was. Weir had difficulties getting it distributed.”
A few years ago, Laura Bialis’ documentary “Refusenik” — about the triumph of Soviet dissidents and their exodus from the USSR — got very limited exposure. One can only hope that “The Way Back” will find a bigger audience.
A fellow immigrant of mine once said about coming to the USA: “I was not looking for paradise; I was trying to escape hell.” Unfortunately, so many beneficiaries of life in the USA have a distorted view of their country and very shallow understanding of the life outside.
I did not hear Warren Buffett asking for his taxes to be raised 30 years ago, and I did not hear Bill Gates asking for government regulations at the inception of Microsoft. So while Buffet, Gates, Soros and Hollywood are busy raising money for the re-election of Barack Obama so he can complete his dream of transforming the USA, I am glad that there are people who love the American founding principle of individual liberty.
I just hope American school curricula will be changed sooner rather than later.
Please visit my side bar and read more of Svetlana’s letters. Make copies and send them to any liberal thinkers you might know.