organization:us federal reserve

  • #WeUnite | Accompany farmers Carlo and Hanna as they drive their tractors to Berlin to protest for a better food and farming system.

    #WeUnite - The 12-minute film ‘We Unite’ is a window into the lives of two organic farmers and the reasons they join the yearly ‘We are Fed-Up’ demonstration in Germany .Along with hundreds of...

  • As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money - The New York Times

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    At a cramped desk on the 22nd floor of a downtown Manhattan office building, Gary Roth spotted a looming disaster.

    An urban planner with two master’s degrees, Mr. Roth had a new job in 2010 analyzing taxi policy for the New York City government. But almost immediately, he noticed something disturbing: The price of a taxi medallion — the permit that lets a driver own a cab — had soared to nearly $700,000 from $200,000. In order to buy medallions, drivers were taking out loans they could not afford.

    Mr. Roth compiled his concerns in a report, and he and several colleagues warned that if the city did not take action, the loans would become unsustainable and the market could collapse.

    They were not the only ones worried about taxi medallions. In Albany, state inspectors gave a presentation to top officials showing that medallion owners were not making enough money to support their loans. And in Washington, D.C., federal examiners repeatedly noted that banks were increasing profits by steering cabbies into risky loans.

    They were all ignored.

    Medallion prices rose above $1 million before crashing in late 2014, wiping out the futures of thousands of immigrant drivers and creating a crisis that has continued to ravage the industry today. Despite years of warning signs, at least seven government agencies did little to stop the collapse, The New York Times found.

    Instead, eager to profit off medallions or blinded by the taxi industry’s political connections, the agencies that were supposed to police the industry helped a small group of bankers and brokers to reshape it into their own moneymaking machine, according to internal records and interviews with more than 50 former government employees.

    For more than a decade, the agencies reduced oversight of the taxi trade, exempted it from regulations, subsidized its operations and promoted its practices, records and interviews showed.

    Their actions turned one of the best-known symbols of New York — its signature yellow cabs — into a financial trap for thousands of immigrant drivers. More than 950 have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records, and many more struggle to stay afloat.

    Remember the ‘10,000 Hours’ Rule for Success? Forget About It
    “Nobody wanted to upset the industry,” said David Klahr, who from 2007 to 2016 held several management posts at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that oversees cabs. “Nobody wanted to kill the golden goose.”

    New York City in particular failed the taxi industry, The Times found. Two former mayors, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg, placed political allies inside the Taxi and Limousine Commission and directed it to sell medallions to help them balance budgets and fund priorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio continued the policies.

    Under Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. de Blasio, the city made more than $855 million by selling taxi medallions and collecting taxes on private sales, according to the city.

    But during that period, much like in the mortgage lending crisis, a group of industry leaders enriched themselves by artificially inflating medallion prices. They encouraged medallion buyers to borrow as much as possible and ensnared them in interest-only loans and other one-sided deals that often required them to pay hefty fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up most of their monthly incomes.

    When the medallion market collapsed, the government largely abandoned the drivers who bore the brunt of the crisis. Officials did not bail out borrowers or persuade banks to soften loan terms.

    “They sell us medallions, and they knew it wasn’t worth price. They knew,” said Wael Ghobrayal, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who bought a medallion at a city auction for $890,000 and now cannot make his loan payments and support his three children.

    “They lost nothing. I lost everything,” he said.

    The Times conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed thousands of records and built several databases to unravel the story of the downfall of the taxi industry in New York and across the United States. The investigation unearthed a collapse that was years in the making, aided almost as much by regulators as by taxi tycoons.

    Publicly, government officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft.

    In interviews with The Times, they blamed each other.

    The officials who ran the city Taxi and Limousine Commission in the run-up to the crash said it was the job of bank examiners, not the commission, to control lending practices.

    The New York Department of Financial Services said that while it supervised some of the banks involved in the taxi industry, it deferred to federal inspectors in many cases.

    The federal agency that oversaw many of the largest lenders in the industry, the National Credit Union Administration, said those lenders were meeting the needs of borrowers.

    The N.C.U.A. released a March 2019 internal audit that scolded its regulators for not aggressively enforcing rules in medallion lending. But even that audit partially absolved the government. The lenders, it said, all had boards of directors that were supposed to prevent reckless practices.

    And several officials criticized Congress, which two decades ago excepted credit unions in the taxi industry from some rules that applied to other credit unions. After that, the officials said, government agencies had to treat those lenders differently.

    Ultimately, former employees said, the regulatory system was set up to ensure that lenders were financially stable, and medallions were sold. But almost nothing protected the drivers.

    Matthew W. Daus, far right, at a hearing of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2004. CreditMarilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    Matthew W. Daus was an unconventional choice to regulate New York’s taxi industry. He was a lawyer from Brooklyn and a leader of a political club that backed Mr. Giuliani for mayor.

    The Giuliani administration hired him as a lawyer for the Taxi and Limousine Commission before appointing him chairman in 2001, a leadership post he kept after Mr. Bloomberg became mayor in 2002.

    The commission oversaw the drivers and fleets that owned the medallions for the city’s 12,000 cabs. It licensed all participants and decided what cabs could charge, where they could go and which type of vehicle they could use.

    And under Mr. Bloomberg, it also began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    At the time, the mayor said the growing city needed more yellow cabs. But he also was eager for revenue. He had a $3.8 billion hole in his budget.

    The sales put the taxi commission in an unusual position.

    It had a long history of being entangled with the industry. Its first chairman, appointed in 1971, was convicted of a bribery scheme involving an industry lobbyist. Four other leaders since then had worked in the business.

    It often sent staffers to conferences where companies involved in the taxi business paid for liquor, meals and tickets to shows, and at least one past member of its board had run for office in a campaign financed by the industry.

    Still, the agency had never been asked to generate so much money from the business it was supposed to be regulating.

    Former staffers said officials chose to sell medallions with the method they thought would bring in the most revenue: a series of limited auctions that required participants to submit sealed bids above ever-increasing minimums.

    Ahead of the sales, the city placed ads on television and radio, and in newspapers and newsletters, and held seminars promoting the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    “Medallions have a long history as a solid investment with steady growth,” Mr. Daus wrote in one newsletter. In addition to guaranteed employment, he wrote, “a medallion is collateral that can assist in home financing, college tuition or even ‘worry-free’ retirement.”

    At the first auctions under Mr. Bloomberg in 2004, bids topped $300,000, surprising experts.

    Some former staffers said in interviews they believed the ad campaign inappropriately inflated prices by implying medallions would make buyers rich, no matter the cost. Seven said they complained.

    The city eventually added a disclaimer to ads, saying past performance did not guarantee future results. But it kept advertising.

    During the same period, the city also posted information on its website that said that medallion prices were, on average, 13 percent higher than they really were, according to a Times data analysis.

    In several interviews, Mr. Daus defended the ad campaigns, saying they reached people who had been unable to break into the tight market. The ads were true at the time, he said. He added he had never heard internal complaints about the ads.

    In all, the city held 16 auctions between 2004 and 2014.

    “People don’t realize how organized it is,” Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, a lender to medallion buyers, said in a 2011 interview with Tearsheet Podcast. “The City of New York, more or less, is our partner because they want to see prices go as high as possible.”

    Help from a federal agency

    New York City made more than $855 million from taxi medallion sales under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

    For decades, a niche banking system had grown up around the taxi industry, and at its center were about half a dozen nonprofit credit unions that specialized in medallion loans. But as the auctions continued, the families that ran the credit unions began to grow frustrated.

    Around them, they saw other lenders making money by issuing loans that they could not because of the rules governing credit unions. They recognized a business opportunity, and they wanted in.

    They found a receptive audience at the National Credit Union Administration.

    The N.C.U.A. was the small federal agency that regulated the nation’s credit unions. It set the rules, examined their books and insured their accounts.

    Like the city taxi commission, the N.C.U.A. had long had ties to the industry that it regulated. One judge had called it a “rogue federal agency” focused on promoting the industry.

    In 2004, its chairman was Dennis Dollar, a former Mississippi state representative who had previously worked as the chief executive of a credit union. He had just been inducted into the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame, and he had said one of his top priorities was streamlining regulation.

    Dennis Dollar, the former chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, is now a consultant in the industry. 

    Under Mr. Dollar and others, the N.C.U.A. issued waivers that exempted medallion loans from longstanding rules, including a regulation requiring each loan to have a down payment of at least 20 percent. The waivers allowed the lenders to keep up with competitors and to write more profitable loans.

    Mr. Dollar, who left government to become a consultant for credit unions, said the agency was following the lead of Congress, which passed a law in 1998 exempting credit unions specializing in medallion loans from some regulations. The law signaled that those lenders needed leeway, such as the waivers, he said.

    “If we did not do so, the average cabdriver couldn’t get a medallion loan,” Mr. Dollar said.

    The federal law and the N.C.U.A. waivers were not the only benefits the industry received. The federal government also provided many medallion lenders with financial assistance and guaranteed a portion of their taxi loans, assuring that if those loans failed, they would still be partially paid, according to records and interviews.

    As lenders wrote increasingly risky loans, medallion prices neared $500,000 in 2006.

    ‘Snoozing and napping’

    Under Mr. Bloomberg, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    Another agency was also supposed to be keeping an eye on lending practices. New York State banking regulators are required to inspect all financial institutions chartered in the state. But after 2008, they were forced to focus their attention on the banks most affected by the global economic meltdown, according to former employees.

    As a result, some industry veterans said, the state stopped examining medallion loans closely.

    “The state banking department would come in, and they’d be doing the exam in one room, and the N.C.U.A. would be in another room,” said Larry Fisher, who was then the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders. “And you could catch the state banking department snoozing and napping and going on the internet and not doing much at all.”

    The state banking department, which is now called the New York Department of Financial Services, disputed that characterization and said it had acted consistently and appropriately.

    Former federal regulators described a similar trend at their agencies after the recession.

    Some former employees of the N.C.U.A., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said that as medallion prices climbed, they tried to raise issues with loans and were told not to worry. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Board also oversaw some lenders and did not intervene.

    A spokesman for the Federal Reserve said the agency was not a primary regulator of the taxi lending industry. The rest of the agencies declined to comment.

    “It was obvious that the loans were unusual and risky,” said Patrick Collins, a former N.C.U.A. examiner. But, he said, there was a belief inside his agency that the loans would be fine because the industry had been stable for decades.

    Meanwhile, in New York City, the taxi commission reduced oversight.

    For years, it had made medallion purchasers file forms describing how they came up with the money, including details on all loans. It also had required industry participants to submit annual disclosures on their finances, loans and conflicts of interest.

    But officials never analyzed the forms filed by buyers, and in the 2000s, they stopped requiring the annual disclosures altogether.

    “Reviewing these disclosures was an onerous lift for us,” the commission’s communications office said in a recent email.

    By 2008, the price of a medallion rose to $600,000.

    At around the same time, the commission began focusing on new priorities. It started developing the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” a model for future cabs.

    The agency’s main enforcement activities targeted drivers who cheated passengers or discriminated against people of color. “Nobody really scrutinized medallion transfers,” said Charles Tortorici, a former commission lawyer.

    A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement that during the mayor’s tenure, the city improved the industry by installing credit card machines and GPS devices, making fleets more environmentally efficient and creating green taxis for boroughs outside Manhattan.

    “The industry was always its own worst enemy, fighting every reform tooth and nail,” said the spokesman, Marc La Vorgna. “We put our energy and political capital into the reforms that most directly and immediately impacted the riding public.”

    Records show that since 2008, the taxi commission has not taken a single enforcement action against brokers, the powerful players who arrange medallion sales and loans.

    Alex Korenkov, a broker, suggested in an interview that he and other brokers took notice of the city’s hands-off approach.

    “Let’s put it this way,” he said. “If governing body does not care, then free-for-all.”

    By the time that Mr. Roth wrote his report at the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2010, it was clear that something strange was happening in the medallion market.

    Mr. Daus gave a speech that year that mentioned the unusual lending practices. During the speech, he said banks were letting medallion buyers obtain loans without any down payment. Experts have since said that should have raised red flags. But at the time, Mr. Daus seemed pleased.

    “Some of these folks were offering zero percent down,” he said. “You tell me what bank walks around asking for zero percent down on a loan? It’s just really amazing.”

    In interviews, Mr. Daus acknowledged that the practice was unusual but said the taxi commission had no authority over lending.

    Inside the commission, at least four employees raised concerns about the medallion prices and lending practices, according to the employees, who described their own unease as well as Mr. Roth’s report.

    David S. Yassky, a former city councilman who succeeded Mr. Daus as commission chairman in 2010, said in an interview that he never saw Mr. Roth’s report.

    Mr. Yassky said the medallion prices puzzled him, but he could not determine if they were inflated, in part because people were still eager to buy. Medallions may have been undervalued for decades, and the price spike could have been the market recognizing the true value, he suggested.

    Meera Joshi, who became chairwoman in 2014, said in an interview that she was worried about medallion costs and lending practices but was pushed to prioritize other responsibilities. Dominic Williams, Mr. de Blasio’s chief policy adviser, said the city focused on initiatives such as improving accessibility because no one was complaining about loans.

    Worries about the taxi industry also emerged at the National Credit Union Administration. In late 2011, as the price of some medallions reached $800,000, a group of agency examiners wrote a paper on the risks in the industry, according to a recent report by the agency’s inspector general.

    In 2012, 2013 and 2014, inspectors routinely documented instances of credit unions violating lending rules, the inspector general’s report said.

    David S. Yassky, the former chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

    The N.C.U.A. chose not to penalize medallion lenders or impose extra oversight. It did not take any wide industry action until April 2014, when it sent a letter reminding the credit unions in the taxi market to act responsibly.

    Former staffers said the agency was still focused on the fallout from the recession.

    A spokesman for the N.C.U.A. disputed that characterization and said the agency conducted appropriate enforcement.

    He added the agency took actions to ensure the credit unions remained solvent, which was its mission. He said Congress allowed the lenders to concentrate heavily on medallion loans, which left them vulnerable when Uber and Lyft arrived.

    At the New York Department of Financial Services, bank examiners noticed risky practices and interest-only loans and repeatedly wrote warnings starting in 2010, according to the state. At least one report expressed concern of a potential market bubble, the state said.

    Eventually, examiners became so concerned that they made a PowerPoint presentation and called a meeting in 2014 to show it to a dozen top officials.

    “Since 2001, individual medallion has risen 455%,” the presentation warned, according to a copy obtained by The Times. The presentation suggested state action, such as sending a letter to the industry or revoking charters from some lenders.

    The state did neither. The department had recently merged with the insurance department, and former employees said it was finding its footing.

    The department superintendent at the time, Benjamin M. Lawsky, a former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said he did not, as a rule, discuss his tenure at the department.

    In an emailed statement, the department denied it struggled after the merger and said it took action to stop the collapse of the medallion market. A department spokesman provided a long list of warnings, suggestions and guidelines that it said examiners had issued to lenders. He said that starting in 2012, the department downgraded some of its own internal ratings of the lenders.

    The list did not include any instances of the department formally penalizing a medallion lender, or making any public statement about the industry before it collapsed.

    Between 2010 and 2014, as officials at every level of government failed to rein in the risky lending practices, records show that roughly 1,500 people bought taxi medallions. Over all, including refinancings of old loans and extensions required by banks, medallion owners signed at least 10,000 loans in that time.

    Several regulators who tried to raise alarms said they believed the government stood aside because of the industry’s connections.

    Many pointed to one company — Medallion Financial, run by the Murstein family. Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, the current governor’s father, was a paid member of its board from 1996 until he died in 2015.

    Others noted that Mr. de Blasio has long been close to the industry. When he ran for mayor in 2013, an industry lobbyist, Michael Woloz, was a top fund-raiser, records show. And Evgeny Freidman, a major fleet owner who has admitted to artificially inflating medallion prices, has said he is close to the mayor.

    Some people, including Mr. Dollar, the former N.C.U.A. chairman, said Congress excepted the taxi trade from rules because the industry was supported by former United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York, who was then the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

    “The taxi industry is one of the most politically connected industries in the city,” said Fidel Del Valle, who was the chairman of the taxi commission from 1991 to 1994. He later worked as a lawyer for drivers and a consultant to an owner association run by Mr. Freidman. “It’s been that way for decades, and they’ve used that influence to push back on regulation, with a lot of success.”

    A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said Medallion Financial was not regulated by the state, so the elder Mr. Cuomo’s position on the board was irrelevant. A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said the industry’s connections did not influence the city.

    Mr. Murstein, Mr. Woloz, Mr. Freidman and Mr. D’Amato all declined to comment.

    The aftermath
    “I think city will help me,” Mohammad Hossain, who is in deep debt from a taxi medallion loan, said at his family’s home in the Bronx.

    New York held its final independent medallion auction in February 2014. By then, concerns about medallion prices were common in the news media and government offices, and Uber had established itself. Still, the city sold medallions to more than 150 bidders. (“It’s better than the stock market,” one ad said.)

    Forty percent of the people who bought medallions at that auction have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records.

    Mohammad Hossain, 47, from Bangladesh, who purchased a medallion for $853,000 at the auction, said he could barely make his monthly payments and was getting squeezed by his lender. “I bought medallion from the city,” he said through tears. “I think city will help me, you know. I assume that.”

    The de Blasio administration’s only major response to the crisis has been to push for a cap on ride-hail cars. The City Council at first rejected a cap in 2015 before approving it last year.

    Taxi industry veterans said the cap did not address the cause of the crisis: the lending practices.

    Richard Weinberg, a taxi commission hearing officer from 1988 to 2002 and a lawyer for drivers since then, said that when the medallion bubble began to burst, the city should have frozen prices, adjusted fares and fees and convinced banks to be flexible with drivers. That could have allowed prices to fall slowly. “That could’ve saved a lot of people,” he said.

    In an interview, Dean Fuleihan, the first deputy mayor, said the city did help taxi owners, including by reducing some fees, taxes and inspection mandates, and by talking to banks about loans. He said that if the City Council had passed the cap in 2015, it would have helped.

    “We do care about those drivers, we care about those families. We attempted throughout this period to take actions,” he said.

    Federal regulators also have not significantly helped medallion owners.

    In 2017 and 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed or merged several credit unions for “unsafe business practices” in medallion lending. It took over many of the loans, but did not soften terms, according to borrowers. Instead, it tried to get money out as quickly as possible.

    The failure of the credit unions has cost the national credit union insurance fund more than $750 million, which will hurt all credit union members.

    In August 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed Melrose in what it said was the biggest credit union liquidation in United States history. The agency barred Melrose’s general counsel from working for credit unions and brought civil charges against its former C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, saying he used company funds to help industry partners in exchange for gifts.

    The general counsel, Mitchell Reiver, declined to answer questions but said he did nothing wrong. Mr. Kaufman said in an interview that the N.C.U.A. made up the charges to distract from its role in the crisis.

    “I’m definitely a scapegoat,” Mr. Kaufman said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

    Glamour, then poverty
    After he struggled to repay his taxi medallion loan, Abel Vela left his family in New York and moved back to Peru, where living costs were cheaper. 

    During the medallion bubble, the city produced a television commercial to promote the permits. In the ad, which aired in 2004, four cabbies stood around a taxi discussing the perks of the job. One said buying a medallion was the best decision he had ever made. They all smiled. Then Mr. Daus appeared on screen to announce an auction.

    Fifteen years later, the cabbies remember the ad with scorn. Three of the four were eventually enticed to refinance their original loans under far riskier terms that left them in heavy debt.

    One of the cabbies, Abel Vela, had to leave his wife and children and return to his home country, Peru, because living costs were lower there. He is now 74 and still working to survive.

    The city aired a commercial in 2004 to promote an upcoming auction of taxi medallions. The ad featured real cab drivers, but three of them eventually took on risky loans and suffered financial blows.
    The only woman in the ad, Marie Applyrs, a Haitian immigrant, fell behind on her loan payments and filed for bankruptcy in November 2017. She lost her cab, and her home. She now lives with her children, switching from home to home every few months.

    “When the ad happened, the taxi was in vogue. I think I still have the tape somewhere. It was glamorous,” she said. “Now, I’m in the poorhouse.”

    Today, the only person from the television commercial still active in the industry is Mr. Daus. He works as a lawyer for lenders.

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    Madeline Rosenberg contributed reporting. Doris Burke contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • How Much Should You Save? 40% Would Struggle With $400 Emergency - Bloomberg

    Many U.S. households find themselves in a fragile position financially, even in an economy with an unemployment rate near a 50-year low, according to a Federal Reserve survey.


  • Des anges gardiens de l’Est au service d’une Europe vieillissante
    (anges gardiennes, non, plutôt ?) (avec des photos)

    Dans les cas les plus graves, le mal-être des auxiliaires de vie peut tourner à la dépression. En Roumanie, le phénomène est connu sous le nom de « syndrome italien ». Le terme désigne les troubles psychiatriques dont souffrent certaines soignantes ayant travaillé des années à l’étranger, souvent en Italie, laissant leur propre famille derrière elles.

    Durant la seule année dernière, plus de 150 femmes souffrant de ce syndrome ont été admises dans une unité spécialisée de l’hôpital psychiatrique de Iasi, dans le nord de la Roumanie.

    Parmi les anciennes patientes de l’unité, une quinquagénaire ayant travaillé en Italie de 2002 à 2014, décrit la montée d’une angoisse « profonde et sombre » au fil des ans : « C’est avantageux d’un point de vue de financier mais après la tête ne fonctionne plus correctement », confie cette mère de deux enfants sous couvert d’anonymat.

    « J’ai travaillé la plupart du temps auprès de malades d’Alzheimer, coincée entre quatre murs (...) Je leur ai sacrifié mes plus belles années ».

    also in english (article plus long, il semble)

    Care workers cross Europe’s east-west divide
    Julia ZAPPEI with Ionut IORDACHESCU in Bucharest, AFP•April 21, 2019

    Women from Slovakia and Romania form the backbone of Austria’s domestic care sector (AFP Photo/JOE KLAMAR)

    Leoben (Austria) (AFP) - Every two weeks, Alena Konecna packs her bags to leave her own mother and daughter at home in Slovakia and travel some 400 kilometres (250 miles) across the border into Austria to take care of someone else’s mother.

    As citizens across the continent prepare to vote in May’s European Parliament elections, 40-year-old Konecna is an example of those who regularly take advantage of one of the EU’s most important pillars: the free movement of labour.

    She’s one of more than 65,000 people — mostly women from Slovakia and Romania — who form the backbone of Austria’s domestic care sector.

    For two weeks at a time, Konecna stays with the 89-year-old bedridden woman to cook and care for her.

    “Without care workers from abroad, the 24-hour care system would break down... No one (in Austria) wants to do it,” says Klaus Katzianka, who runs the agency that found Konecna her current job and who himself needs round-the-clock care due to a disability.

    But the arrangement may be coming under strain.

    – Demographic time bomb -

    Austria — along with other countries such as Germany, Greece and Italy — looked to poorer neighbouring states after the fall of communism to meet the need for carers generated by an ageing population and changing family structures.

    But it is “problematic to build a system on this,” says Kai Leichsenring, executive director of the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research.

    As eastern European nations become richer and their own populations age, workers there may increasingly choose to stay put, he warns.

    Western European nations would then have to look further afield — to Ukraine or China, for example — to meet the ever-growing demand.

    In Konecna’s case, she started to work as a caregiver more than two years ago in the town of Leoben, nestled amid mountains in the Austrian countryside, which reminds her of her home in Banska Bystrica in Slovakia.

    Previously the single mother worked in a factory in the car industry.

    Fed up with the long shifts and inspired by her mother’s erstwhile career as a nurse, in 2015 she took a three-month course in first aid and care skills, including some practical experience in nursing homes.

    She also took a one-month German course, allowing her to watch TV with her employer and read newspapers to her.

    Care workers can earn roughly double as much in Austria than in Slovakia, although Konecna says it’s hard to leave behind her daughter, now 19.

    “My daughter was often sick when I was away. And I have missed things like my daughter’s birthday,” she says, adding she would prefer working in Slovakia if wages were better there.

    – ’Italy syndrome’ -

    Besides being separated from their families, there are other problems in how the sector works across Europe.

    A study by the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz found inadequate training, extreme working hours and salaries below the legal minimum wage.

    Up to 300,000 caregivers are estimated to work in private homes in Germany, mostly illegally. They previously hailed mostly from Poland but now increasingly come from poorer EU states such as Romania and Slovakia.

    Konecna was put off going to Germany by the more gruelling cycle which is common there, with workers staying three months at a time.

    For many of those from poorer EU member states working in the West, workplace conditions can leave lasting effects.

    In Romania, more than 150 women were hospitalised at Socola Psychiatric Hospital in the country’s northeast last year alone, their mental health having suffered after caring for the elderly abroad — what has become known as the “Italy syndrome”.

    “I had the misfortune to work all the time for elderly people suffering from Alzheimer’s so I spent most of my time between four walls, under constant pressure,” says one former hospital patient, a 58-year-old mother of two who worked in Italy from 2002 until 2014.

    “I devoted the most beautiful years of my life to elderly Italians.”

    – ’Big minus’ -

    Added to the stress of such jobs, there are signs that EU migrant workers like Konecna may come under fire from their host governments.

    Last year in Austria for example, the right-wing government decided to cut the amount of child benefit paid to foreigners who work in Austria but whose children live abroad in lower income countries.

    With a monthly salary of about 1,200 euros ($1,400), Konecna says the changes have meant an effective pay cut of 80 euros, a “big minus” for her.

    Katzianka, who fears difficulties to find carers from Slovakia now, has hired a lawyer for Konecna to contest the change.

    Romania has also protested to the European Commission over the change, saying it violates EU principles of equal treatment.

  • Abus narcissique. GPA forcée. Fantasmes de vengeance. Ce ne sont là que quelques-uns des sujets abordés par Larissa Stupar dans son rôle de chanteuse pour le groupe britannique de #death_metal Venom Prison . Stupar hurle, rugit et crache un vitriol déchirant contre les forces largement masculines qui oppriment les femmes dans le monde entier. Mais ne vous y trompez pas : sa position est inclusive.

    « Je m’identifie en tant que féministe, mais je pense que le féminisme n’est pas réservé aux femmes »
    Larissa Stupar

    After ‘Animus’, Venom Prison were already being listed as one of metal’s biggest hopes. With ‘Samsara’ impending–and superior to its predecessor in every way–it’s becoming more and more likely that this band will achieve great things. When you see the world in as horrid a light as Venom Prison do, a little hope can go a long way.
    #bandcamp #tumblr

  • Soldier charged after ’going rogue’ during computer game on virtual battlefield

    The Edinburgh-based Army rifleman is believed to be the first soldier to be punished under UK military law for offences in a virtual scenario rather than in real life.

    He is said to have been fed-up with being stuck at a computer rather than training outside.

    A source from 3rd Battalion, the Rifles told the Mail on Sunday: “We’d spent two weeks sitting in front of laptops pretending we were in a really hostile urban environment - I’d challenge anyone to take it seriously for that long.

    “All this was taking place in an office at our headquarters, when we’d rather be doing real-life soldiering outside in the fresh air. But there’s less of that sort of exercise these days because the Army has committed to Unit-based Virtual Training.

    “We were supposed to imagine we were travelling in armoured vehicles through a really hostile built-up area. One of the lads just lost his rag and ‘opened fire’ as it were, killing the soldier next to him.

    “He then drove down the street deliberately smashing into cars. It’s safe to say the officers in our battalion did not find it as funny as we did.”

    The unidentified Rifleman was reprimanded after the exercise and later formally charged with disobeying orders.

    #armée #jeux_vidéos #boring

  • What to Look for When #investing in Startups

    If you want a safe bet with little risk, investing your money is easy. Just buy Treasury bonds. They carry practically no risk and are guaranteed by the full faith of the United States Government. However, in exchange for that safety, Treasury bonds return a small percentage of the investment that varies based on the Federal Reserve policy.However, to have much higher returns, sometimes a multiple of the money you invested in the first place, there’s only one possible way to achieve those returns. That path is investing in more speculative vehicles, such as privately-held companies, also known as private equity.The problem is this: unless you have a disciplined portfolio strategy, your one or two private equity bets may not work. The companies you invested in may fail. Statistically, (...)

    #hackernoon-top-story #angel-investors #startup #seed-investment

  • How an Internet Impostor Exposed the Underbelly of the Czech Media – Foreign Policy

    When politicians own the press, trolls have the last laugh.

    Tatiana Horakova has an impressive résumé: As head of a Czech medical nonprofit that sends doctors to conflict zones, she negotiated the release of five Bulgarian nurses held by Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya, traveled to Colombia with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to secure a hostage’s freedom from FARC guerrillas, and turned down three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Not bad for someone who might not even exist.

    Horakova has never been photographed. She does not appear to have a medical license. Her nonprofit, which she has claimed employs 200 doctors, appears to be a sham. Her exploits, so far as anyone can tell, are entirely fabricated.

    None of this has stopped the press from taking her claims at face value time and again over the course of more than a decade. When it comes to a good story, incredulity is scant and memories run short.

    Earlier this year, she again emerged from the shadows, this time to troll Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis—and expose just how easily disinformation can slip into the mainstream press, especially when politicians control it.

    In September, the Czech broadsheet Lidove Noviny published an op-ed by Horakova expressing support for Babis’s refusal to offer asylum to 50 Syrian orphans, as was proposed by an opposition member of parliament. Playing up to his populist pledge not to allow “a single refugee” into the Czech Republic, the prime minister said the country had its own orphans to care for.

    That crossed the line and provoked widespread criticism. But Horakova’s op-ed seemed to offer a way out: an expert offering the opinion that the orphans would be better off at home in Syria. 

    Horakova originally sent the piece to the prime minister’s office, which forwarded it to the paper. A brief Google search would have raised plenty of red flags about the author, but the newspaper leaped without looking.

    Lidove Noviny pulled the piece within hours, but not quickly enough to stop several high-profile journalists from quitting. The editors, they complained, could no longer protect the newspaper from its owner—the billionaire prime minister.

    Desperate to deflect criticism, Babis’s office appears to have passed the article to the paper without doing due diligence, and the paper took what it was spoon-fed.

    The debate over the Syrian orphans had created “a highly charged political moment,” Babis’s spokesperson, Lucie Kubovicova, told Foreign Policy. She said she did not know “who exactly” sent the article to the paper.

    #fake_news #medias #presse #république_tchèque

  • MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace bursts out laughing as she tries to read Trump’s incoherent ramblings from his latest interview | Alternet

    En prime une vidéo totalement hilarante (enfin, un rire jaune : c’est le Président des Etats-Unis !).

    « Je crois à mon instinct plus qu’à la science et aux faits ». Terrible message de Donald Trump. Porte ouverte au fascisme : tout devient une questionde foi, de croyance. Rien ne ressort des faits et de la recherche.

    President Donald Trump’s standing as commander-in-chief has devolved into such self-parody that even as his remarks reveal darkly troubling attitudes, some observers can’t help but laugh at their sheer absurdity.

    MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace had that problem Wednesday as she tried to read out portions of Trump’s rambling and deluded mess of an interview with the Washington Post, which was published Tuesday.

    “I’m not happy with the Fed," Trump said in the interview. "They’re making a mistake because I have a gut and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.”

    #Post_truth #Fake_news #Croyance #Fascisme

  • How Vilification of George Soros Moved From the Fringes to the Mainstream - The New York Times

    On both sides of the Atlantic, a loose network of activists and political figures on the right have spent years seeking to cast Mr. Soros not just as a well-heeled political opponent but also as the personification of all they detest. Employing barely coded anti-Semitism, they have built a warped portrayal of him as the mastermind of a “globalist” movement, a left-wing radical who would undermine the established order and a proponent of diluting the white, Christian nature of their societies through immigration.

    In the process, they have pushed their version of Mr. Soros, 88, from the dark corners of the internet and talk radio to the very center of the political debate.

    “He’s a banker, he’s Jewish, he gives to Democrats — he’s sort of a perfect storm for vilification by the right, here and in Europe,” said Michael H. Posner, a human rights lawyer and former State Department official in the Obama administration.

    Mr. Soros has given his main group, the Open Society Foundations, $32 billion for what it calls democracy-building efforts in the United States and around the world. In addition, in the United States, Mr. Soros has personally contributed more than $75 million over the years to federal candidates and committees, according to Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service records.

    That qualifies him as one of the top disclosed donors to American political campaigns in the modern campaign finance era, and it does not include the many millions more he has donated to political nonprofit groups that do not disclose their donors.

    By contrast, the network of conservative donors led by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, who have been similarly attacked by some on the American left, has spent about $2 billion over the past decade on political and public policy advocacy.❞

    The closing advertisement for Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign featured Mr. Soros — as well as Janet L. Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve at the time, and Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, both of whom are Jewish — as examples of “global special interests” who enriched themselves on the backs of working Americans.

    If anything, Mr. Soros has been elevated by Mr. Trump and his allies to even greater prominence in the narrative they have constructed for the closing weeks of the 2018 midterm elections. They have projected on to him key roles in both the threat they say is posed by the Central Americans making their way toward the United States border and what they characterized as Democratic “mobs” protesting the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

    The National Republican Congressional Committee ran an ad in October in Minnesota suggesting that Mr. Soros, who is depicted sitting behind a pile of cash, “bankrolls” everything from “prima donna athletes protesting our anthem” to “left-wing mobs paid to riot in the streets.” The ad links Mr. Soros to a local congressional candidate who worked at a think tank that has received funding from the Open Society Foundations.

    Even after the authorities arrested a fervent Trump supporter and accused him of sending the pipe bombs to Mr. Soros and other critics, Republicans did not back away. The president grinned on Friday when supporters at the White House responded to his attacks on Democrats and “globalists” by chanting, “Lock ’em up,” and yelling, “George Soros.”

    #Antisémitisme #Georges_Soros #Néo_fascisme #USA

  • The bank bailout of 2008 was unnecessary. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke scared Congress into it

    .... news reports on the crisis raised the prospect of empty ATMs and checks uncashed. There were stories in major media outlets about the bank runs of 1929.

    No such scenario was in the cards in 2008. Unlike 1929, we have the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC was created precisely to prevent the sort of bank runs that were common during the Great Depression and earlier financial panics. The FDIC is very good at taking over a failed bank to ensure that checks are honored and ATMs keep working. In fact, the FDIC took over several major banks and many minor ones during the Great Recession. Business carried on as normal and most customers — unless they were following the news closely — remained unaware.


    The Great Depression ended because of the massive government spending needed to fight World War II. But we don’t need a war to spend money. If the private sector is not creating enough demand for workers, the government can fill the gap by spending money on infrastructure, education, healthcare, child care or many other needs.

    There is no plausible story where a series of bank collapses in 2008-2009 would have prevented the federal government from spending the money needed to restore full employment. The prospect of Great Depression-style joblessness and bread lines was just a scare tactic used by Bernanke, Paulson and other proponents of the bailout to get the political support needed to save the Wall Street banks.

    This kept the bloated financial structure that had developed over the last three decades in place. And it allowed the bankers who got rich off of the risky financial practices that led to the crisis to avoid the consequences of their actions.
    While an orderly transition would have been best, if the market had been allowed to work its magic, we could have quickly eliminated bloat in the financial sector and sent the unscrupulous Wall Street banks into the dust bin of history. Instead, millions of Americans still suffered through the Great Recession, losing homes and jobs, and the big banks are bigger than ever. Saving the banks became the priority of the president and Congress. Saving people’s homes and jobs mattered much less or not at all.

    #MSM #mafia #finance #etats-unis

  • News — At The Edge — 6/9

    Two sets of unwanted harbingers this week.Undermining our #future — banks, inequality, & bad faith — by going in wrong direction.Harming our future — panopticon & war — without any redeeming benefit.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Undermining our futureFed Makes a Risky Bet on Banks —“That banks can’t be…trusted to judge the risks they take was a painful lesson…from the Great Recession…[so] Congress established the Volcker Rule… [that] restricted banks from speculating with depositors’ money…in hedge funds and private equity funds…[and] to demonstrate to regulators that such trades were for permitted purposes….Not any more….[Fed says] banks would establish their own risk limits and determine whether such trades are compliant….In other words, trust them, they’re risk-taking experts….If banks are (...)

    #privacy #economics #politics #technews

  • Axie Infinity: Pets for the Digital Age

    Humans have had special bonds with animals since before the rise of civilization. Pets such as dogs provide companionship, protection, and have even been shown to strengthen the immune systems of the human babies that grow up alongside them. Neolithic hunter-gatherers were sometimes buried with their dogs, indicating a connection that was clearly emotionally significant. However, recent trends in urbanization and an aging global population have challenged conventional pet ownership.There are a few problems with pet ownership that increase the barriers to entry for millennials and generation Z.Time commitmentAs global competition increases, young people have less time to commit to pet ownership. Pets must be fed, watched, exercised, and loved! Owning a pet is a difficult journey that (...)

    #axie-infinity #blockchain #gaming #pets-for-the-digital-age #digital-pet

  • The alarming statistics that show the U.S. economy isn’t as good as it seems | Business |

    Article du Washington Post repris (25/5/2018)

    – Forty percent of American adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense such as an unexpected medical bill, car problem or home repair.

    – Forty-three percent of households can’t afford the basics to live, meaning they aren’t earning enough to cover the combined costs of housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cellphone, according to the United Way study. Researchers looked at the data by county to adjust for lower costs in some parts of the country.

    – More than a quarter of adults skipped necessary medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it.

    – Twenty-two percent of adults aren’t able to pay all of their bills every month.

    – Only 38 percent of non-retired Americans think their retirement savings is “on track.”

    – Only 65 percent of African Americans and 66 percent of Hispanics say they are “doing okay” financially versus 77 percent of whites.

    The Fed and United Way findings suggest the U.S. economy isn’t nearly as strong as statistics such as the unemployment rate and the GDP growth rate suggest. Taken alone, these metrics mask the fact that some Americans are doing well and some are not.


    President Donald Trump and many Republicans in Congress are focused on getting people back to work with the belief that once people have jobs they will be able to lift themselves out of poverty. But a growing body of research like the Fed and United Way studies and anecdotes from people working on the front lines at food banks and shelters indicates that a job is no longer enough.

    #emplois #précarité #Etats-Unis #modèle

  • At the Fed, the Scene Is Being Set for Financial Disaster | The Nation

    Warning: What you are about to read is not about Russia, the 2016 election, or the latest person to depart from the White House in a storm of tweets. It’s the Beltway story with trillions of dollars in play and an economy to commandeer, hiding in plain sight.

    While we’ve been bombarded with a litany of scandals from the Oval Office and the Trump family, there’s a crucial institution in Washington that few in the media seem to be paying attention to, even as President Trump quietly makes it his own. More obscure than the chambers of the Supreme Court, it’s a place where he has already made substantial changes. I’m talking about the Federal Reserve.

    #crise_financière #crise_économique #états-unis

  • How the #internet Turned Bad

    The 1990s Vision Failedby Ph.D Arnold King, author of nonfiction books, primarily in the area of political economy, and in a previous life, he started one of the web’s first commercial sites.It has been 25 years since I formed my first impressions of the Internet. I thought that it would shift the balance of power away from large organizations. I thought that individuals and smaller entities would gain more autonomy. What we see today is not what I hoped for back then.In 1993, I did not picture people having their online experience being “fed” to them by large corporations using mysterious algorithms. Instead, I envisioned individuals in control, creating and exploring on their own.In hindsight, I think that four developments took place that changed the direction of the Internet.The masses (...)

    #internet-history #the-internet #internet-turned-bad #hackernoon-letter

    • #seenthis is definitely on the side of bloggers.

      Blogs vs. Facebook

      To me, blogs symbolize the “old vision” of the Internet, and Facebook epitomizes the new trend.

      When you read blogs, you make your own deliberate choices about which writers to follow. With Facebook, you rely on the “feed” provided by the artificial intelligence algorithm.

      Blog writers put effort into their work. They develop a distinctive style. In general, there are two types of blog posts. One type is a collection of links that the blogger believes will be interesting. The other type is a single reference, for which the blogger will provide a quote and additional commentary. On Facebook, many posts are just mindless “shares” where the person doing the sharing adds nothing to what he or she is sharing.

      Bloggers create “metadata.” They put their posts into categories, and they add keyword tags. This allows readers to filter what they read. It has the potential to allow for sophisticated searching of blog posts by topic. On Facebook, the artificial intelligence tries to infer our interests from our behavior. We do not select topics ourselves.

      The most popular environment for reading and writing blogs is the personal computer, which allows a reader time to think and gives a writer a tool for composing and editing several paragraphs. The most popular environment for reading and posting to Facebook is the smart phone, which favors rapid scrolling and photos with just a few words included.


  • Gregory Klimov. The Terror Machine. Chapter 13

    Between Two Worlds

    Before the war I came across a book by Paul de Cruis: Is Life Worth Living? The book was a real find for the Soviet State Publishing Company; it was in complete accord with the Politburo course of that time, with its attack on the ’rotten democracies’. And so the book was translated and published in huge editions.

    The Russian edition had a foreword by the author; it was so amazing that I read it aloud to a friend: "’I cannot pass myself off as a proletarian; rather am I a bourgeois of the bourgeois, enervated and corrupted by the blessings of my social state.

    With a partridge wing in one hand and a glass of Burgundy in the other, I find it difficult to reflect on the social ulcers and painful problems of modern society. Nonetheless I am enthusiastic for the great Soviet experiment, I raise my right fist’ - holding the partridge wing or the Burgundy? - ’and cry: “Red Front!”’

    At this point my friend had had enough, and, swearing violently, he flung the book away. Both of us bitterly regretted that we hadn’t got the simple-minded Frenchman in the room with us. It may be there are people who get pleasure out of watching a dissected rabbit, but the rabbit itself hardly shares the pleasure.

    Paul de Cruis truthfully and honestly analyzed the defects of modem American society; he was indignant at the fact that American unemployed workers were living in extremely wretched conditions, and that their food consisted chiefly of fried potatoes and horribly salted pork. And their children received only a liter of ordinary milk a day, as an act of charity. And he exclaimed: “Is their life worth living?”

    Naturally, standards of good and bad are always relative. And possibly he was justified in concluding that in comparison with American living conditions generally such a state of affairs was very bad.

    But a Soviet reader reading those words might well ask: “And what is the state of the Soviet workers, who work themselves to death to earn a wage - not unemployment pay - which only very rarely assures them such a treat as pork, whether salted or unsalted? And what of their children, who even in the best years, received less milk than an American unemployed worker’s child? What answer could be given to the question: ’Was it worth while for these children to be born?”’

    After the war I recalled Paul de Cruis’ book, and especially his question: ’Is life worth living?’ For now some of us have had an opportunity to see the children of the democratic world, and that in conquered Germany, in conditions that were, generally speaking, worse than those applying in other democratic countries. Now we have had a chance to draw comparisons.

    In Germany the difference between the children of the two systems was painfully obvious. At first we noticed only the superficial differences; but when we had lived in Berlin for some time we saw another, much more profound difference. Soviet children seem like little soulless automata, with all their childish joy and lack of restraint suppressed.

    That is the result of many years of replacing the family by the State. Soviet children grow up in an atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion, and segregation. We in Berlin found it much more difficult to strike up a conversation with the child of a Soviet officer who was quite well known to us than with any German street urchin in the Berlin streets.

    The German children born in the Hitler epoch, and those who have grown up in the years following the capitulation, could hardly be exemplary in their characters. So we found it all the more depressing to note these vast internal and external differences between the children of the two systems.

    Here is a significant detail. The Germans are not in the habit of having their mother-in-law in the young married couple’s home; it is regarded as a family disaster. The German mothers-in-law themselves take the attitude that when they have disposed of their daughters they can ’enjoy life’; they ride cycles, visit the pictures, and live their own lives.

    In a Soviet family the exact opposite is the case. It is a bit of luck for the wife, and even more for the children, if her mother-in-law is living with them. Soviet children usually grow up in their grandmother’s care.

    Whereas the German woman of forty or more often begins a ’second youth’ when her daughter gets married, the Russian woman of over forty no longer has any personal life, she devotes herself wholly and entirely to her ’second family’, to her grandchildren. Only then is there any surety that the children will be brought up in a normal manner.

    Generalizing on this difference, one can say that the German woman belongs to the family, the Soviet woman to the State. A Soviet woman can become an engine driver, a miner, or a stonemason. In addition, she has the honorable right of voting for Stalin, and of being her husband’s hostage if the M. V. D. is interested in him. Only one small right is denied her: the right to be a happy mother.

    For a long time there were two conflicting theories as to the formation of the child character, and Soviet pedagogues were divided into two camps. The heredity theory maintained that the chief part in the development of human characteristics was played by the inherited genes; this theory came to be widely accepted by pedagogues after the emergence of a separate science of genetics. The second, environment, theory declared that the infant mind was a tabula rasa, on which environment wrote the laws of human development.

    This made the child’s characteristics exclusively dependent on the influences of its milieu. In due course the Politburo issued a specific instruction that the environmental theory was to be accepted as the basis of Soviet pedagogy. The totalitarian State fights wholeheartedly for the souls as well as the bodies of its citizens; it cannot stand any rivals in the formation of the citizen - not even genes. Soviet pedagogy now declares in so many words that the Soviet child is a hundred-per-cent product of its communist environment.

    During the period before this approach was finally established the Politburo based its system of Soviet education on a tenden-tious curriculum and the political organization of the youth in the Pioneers and the Young Communist League; in these organizations the children began when quite young to render their service to the State. The years passed, and after much experimentation the authorities went over from the ’method of conviction’ to the ’method of compulsion’.

    In 1940 a ’Committee for the Problem of Labor Reserves’ was set up as a subsidiary of the Council of People’s Commissars, and trades and technical schools attached to the factories and works were organized. The pupils for these educational institutions were compulsorily recruited at the age of fourteen, under the pretext of mobilizing labor reserves.

    In 1948 a State decree established the Suvorov and Nakhimov Cadet Schools. The task of these schools - there are some forty of them - is to prepare children of eight years and upward for a military career by a barrack style of education and training.

    I once had the opportunity to visit the Suvorov Cadet School at Kalinin. It was not far from Moscow, and consequently was the most privileged of all these schools, there being no Suvorov school in Moscow itself. At Kalinin I met a number of lads who were the grandsons of Politburo members.

    Petka Ordjonokidze, the grandson of Sergo Ordjonokidze, at one time People’s Commissar for Heavy Industry, was sitting in his underwear on his bed, for his uniform trousers were being repaired, and service regulations prescribed only one pair per child. In this respect, to have a highly influential and famous grandfather was of no advantage whatever. The teacher, a captain, complained of his delicate position in regard to Mikoyan’s youngest scion, who kept the whole establishment supplied with cigarettes, which he smuggled into the school.

    He could hardly be punished with the cells, for his grandfather was still alive and had a very good seat in the Politburo. Some of these lads of twelve or thirteen years old were wearing service decorations, which they had won as partisans. Seen close up, all this doesn’t look too bad: the Suvorov schools are privileged institutions in which the children are clothed, fed, and educated at the State expense.

    There are candidates and to spare for all vacancies, so it isn’t easy for the ordinary child to get to these schools. In that at Kalinin about half the pupils consisted of relations of generals and other members of the Soviet aristocracy.

    On leaving these schools the pupils may not enter any other than an officers’ training college. Their fate, their future career, are decided when they are eight years old. The classless society divides its children at an early age into strictly delimited castes: the privileged caste of the military and the caste of the proletarians, whose job is to do productive work, to multiply up to the approved limits, and to die for the glory of the leader.

    In 1946 an urgent conference was called by the head of the S. M. A. Political Administration to discuss the question of improving educational work in the Russian school at Karlshorst. Certain unhealthy trends had been noted among the scholars in the higher forms. A month or so before, a scholar in the ninth form had shot his father and his father’s young mistress.

    The father was a Party member, a lieutenant-general, and an official in the S. M. A. legal department. Apparently he had taken a fancy to wartime habits, and had been untroubled by the circumstance that he had been living with his paramour under the very eyes of his grown-up son and daughter, whose mother had remained in Russia.

    After fruitless talks, pleadings, and quarrels with his father, the son, a seventeen-year-old member of the Young Communist League, had decided to appeal to the advice and assistance of the Party organization. He had put in an official report to the head of the Political Department.

    When a Party man is accused of moral or criminal misconduct the Party organs usually act on the principle of not washing dirty linen in public. So the Political Department tried to hush up the affair, and only passed on the report to the father. The result could have been anticipated. The father was furious, and took active steps against his son. It ended by the son snatching up his father’s pistol and shooting him.

    Hardly had the commotion died down after this tragic incident when the Karlshorst commandant, Colonel Maximov, had to entrust a rather unusual task to a company of the commandatura guard. A mysterious band of robbers was operating in the wooded sand dunes and wilderness around Karlshorst, and filling the entire district with alarm and terror.

    The company sent to deal with it was strictly enjoined not to shoot without special orders from the officer in command, but to take the robbers alive. For they were scholars from higher forms of the Karlshorst school, and were led by the son of one of the S. M. A. generals. They were very well armed, with their father’s pistols, and some of them even with machine pistols.

    The district was combed thoroughly, the robbers’ headquarters were found in the cellar of a ruined house, and it was formally besieged. Only after long negotiations conducted through emissaries did the head of the band declare himself ready to capitulate. It is striking that the first of his conditions for surrender was that they were not to be sent back to the Soviet Union as a punishment. The officer in command of the company had to send a courier to the S. M. A. staff to obtain the necessary agreement to the condition. The stipulation greatly disturbed the S. M. A. Political Department.

    It was discovered that the results achieved in the higher forms of the Karlshorst school were not up to the standard of corresponding forms in the U. S. S. R., and on the other hand there was a considerable increase in truancy. The only improvement shown was in regard to German conversation, and this did not please the school authorities at all, as it showed that the pupils were in contact with the German world around them. That might have unpleasant consequences for the school staff.

    The commandatura patrols regularly hauled scholars out of the darkness of the Berlin cinemas in school hours. A search of the desks of older scholars led to the discovery of hand-written copies of banned Yesenin poems and amoral couplets by Konstantin Semionov, which soldiers had passed from hand to hand during the war. Worst of all, the S. M. A. hospital notified the chief of staff that several cases of venereal disease had occurred among the senior scholars. A sixteen-year-old girl was brought to the hospital suffering from a serious hemorrhage as the result of a clumsy attempt at abortion. Another girl lay between life and death for several months after she had made an attempt to gas herself because of an unhappy love affair.

    All these things had led to the Political Department calling an urgent conference, which decided that radical measures must be taken to improve the communist education of the Soviet children and youths in Germany. It was agreed that the most effective step towards effecting such an improvement was the approved panacea for all diseases: additional lessons on the ’Short Course of History of the C. P. S. U.’ and on the childhood and youth of the leaders of the world proletariat, Lenin and his true friend, collaborator and pupil, Joseph Stalin. It was also decided incidentally to send the incorrigible sinners home to the Soviet Union, a punishment which hitherto had been applied only to the adult members of the Karlshorst Soviet colony.


    “Well, did you like it?”

    “Oh yes. An outstanding piece of work.”

    “Unquestionably. A real chef-d’oeuvre.”

    The solid stream of human beings carried us in the darkness out of the cinema of the officers’ club in Karlshorst. The crowd expressed their opinions about the film as they poured out.

    That morning Nadia, the secretary to the Party Organizer in the Administration for Industry, had rather startled us by her obliging conduct. She had gone from room to room, handing each of us a cinema ticket, and even asking affably how many we would like. Normally it wasn’t so easy to get hold of tickets; if you wanted to go you had to apply to Nadia very early.

    “Ah, Nadia, my dear! And what is showing today?” I asked, rather touched by her amiability.

    “A very good one, Gregory Petrovich. The Vow. How many tickets would you like?”

    “Ah! The Vow,” I murmured respectfully. “In that case let me have two.”

    The Soviet press had devoted a great deal of space to this film, extolling it to the skies as a new masterpiece of cinematic art. Although, generally speaking, I am skeptical of proclaimed masterpieces, I decided to go. It was so remarkably publicized that it would have been quite dangerous not to.

    Within five minutes of its beginning Captain Bagdassarian and I were watching the clock rather than the screen. It would have been an act of madness to leave, and yet to sit and watch the film...

    ’Let’s act as though we were going to the toilet, and then slip out," Bagdassarian whispered.

    “You’d better sit still and see it, out of scientific interest!” I advised him.

    Even in the pre-war Soviet films Stalin had begun to acquire a stature equal to Lenin’s. But in The Vow Lenin served only as a decorative motif. When they heard that Lenin was seriously ill the peasants from the entire neighboring district went on pilgrimage to the village of Gorky, where Lenin was living. But now it appeared that they had gone to Gorky only to plead, with tears in their eyes, for Stalin to be their leader. They swore their troth and fidelity to him for thousands of feet.

    I swore too. I swore that never in all my life, not even in pre-war days, had I seen such stupid, coarse, and unashamed botching. No wonder that our officers’ club had stopped showing foreign films for some months past.

    “Show a film like that abroad,” Bagdassarian said as we went home, “and they’ll believe that all Russians are a lot of fools.”

    “They’ve got plenty of rotten films of their own.” I tried to appease him.

    The few foreign films, which had been shown from time to time in the Soviet Union, were real masterpieces of the international cinema. Of course such films were shown only when they corresponded with higher interests and in conformity with the sinuosities of Soviet foreign policy.

    The result was that Soviet citizens came to have an exaggeratedly enthusiastic opinion of foreign cinema art. In Berlin we had extensive opportunities to see the achievements of various countries in this sphere. We often laughed till we cried at some heartrending American picture, with more shooting than dialogue, with blood streaming off the screen right into the hall, and it was quite impossible to tell who was killing whom, and why. It is a striking fact that, if one may dogmatize on the tastes of the ’common people’ at all, the ordinary Russian soldiers never got any enjoyment out of such films.

    It may seem strange, but we liked German films most of all. Whether in music, literature, or cinematic art-all of them spiritual revelations of national life - the German soul is more intelligible than any other to the Russians is. It has the same sentimentality, the same touch of sadness, the same quest for the fundamental bases of phenomena. It is significant that Dostoyevsky has enjoyed even greater popularity among the Germans than among Russians themselves, and that Faust is the crowning achievement of the Russian theater.

    We Russians often had interesting discussions about German films and plays. The Soviet viewer is struck by the unusual attention given to details, to facts, and to the actors themselves. These films provided plenty of matter for argument. The Vow provided no matter for argument.

    “Their art is passive, ours is active. Their art exhibits, ours commands,” Bagdassarian remarked. “Have you seen Judgement of the Nations’!”

    “Yes. It’s a powerful piece of work.”

    “I saw it recently in the American sector. They’ve given it quite different montage treatment, and call it Nuremberg. It’s the same theme, yet it makes no impact whatever.”

    We arrived at Bagdassarian’s apartment. Still under the influence of the film we had just seen, we sat discussing the possibilities of propaganda through art.

    “It’ll take the Americans another hundred years to learn how to make black white,” he said as he took off his greatcoat.

    “If they have to, they’ll soon learn,” I answered.

    “It can’t be done in a day. The masses have to be educated over many years.”

    “Why are you so anxious about the Americans?” I asked.

    “Only from the aspect of absolute justice.”

    “Who’s interested in justice? Might is right. Justice is a fairy-tale for the simple-minded.”

    “I award you full marks in Dialectical Materialism,” the captain sarcastically observed. “But, you know, during the war things were grand!” He sighed. “D’you remember the films the Americans sent us?”

    “Yes, they were pretty good. Only it was rather amusing to see how little they know about our life. In Polar Star the collective farmers had more and better food than Sokolovsky gets.”

    “Yes, and they danced round dances in the meadows, just like in the good old days.” He laughed aloud.

    In 1943 and later, American films on Russian subjects were shown in the Soviet Union. We particularly remembered Polar Star. Although it was very naive, and showed complete ignorance of the Soviet reality, it revealed genuine sympathy for the Russians.

    After a performance one often heard the Russian audience remark: “Fine fellows, the Americans”; although the film represented only Russian characters. The Russians took this kindly presentation of themselves as evidence of the American people’s sympathy for them.

    “That film had a number of expert advisers with Russian names,” I said. “I don’t suppose they’d seen Russia for thirty years or more. The American technique is good, but they haven’t any ideology. Probably they don’t even know what it is.”

    “Stalin’s making hell hot for them, but all they do is gape,” Bagdassarian meditated. “They don’t know what to do. Now they’re beginning to sneer at Russian Ivan: he’s pockmarked, he squints, and his teeth are crooked. The fools! The last thirty years of Russian history are still a white patch to them, yet it’s an inexhaustible well. They’ve only got to strip Stalin naked and the entire world would spit in disgust. And we Soviet people wouldn’t object. But when they start to sneer at Russian Ivan...”

    He sniffed, annoyed to think that the Americans couldn’t tumble to anything so simple.

    We were often amazed to see how little the outside world knew of the true position in Soviet Russia. The thirty years’ activity of the State lie-factory, and the hermetical closure of Russia to free information, had done their work.

    The world is told, as though it was a little child that the capitalist system is doomed to go under. But on that question Soviet people have no hard-and-fast standpoint. History is continually developing, and requiring new forms in its development. But even so, for us the historical inevitability of communism, the thesis that ’all roads lead to communism’, is the one constant factor in an equation which has many unknown and negative factors. For us Soviet people this equation has already acquired an irrational quality.

    We are united not by the intrinsic unity of a State conception, but by the extrinsic forms of material dependence, personal interests, or a career. And all these are dominated by fear. For some this fear is direct, physical, perceptible; for others it is an unavoidable consequence if they behave or even think otherwise than as the totalitarian machine demands.

    Later, in the West, I had an opportunity to see the American film The Iron Curtain, which dealt with the break-up of Soviet atomic espionage in Canada. I had already read various criticisms of this film, as well as the angry outbursts of the communist press, and I was interested to see how the Americans had handled this pregnant theme. It left two impressions.

    On the one hand, a feeling of satisfaction: the types were well chosen; the life of the official Soviet representatives abroad and the role of the local Communist Party were presented quite accurately. Once more I lived through my years in the Berlin Kremlin. No Russian would have any criticism to make of this presentation. It was not surprising that the foreign communist parties were furious with the film, for in this game they play the dirtiest role. Something, which for the staff of the military attaché’s department is a service duty, is treachery to their country when performed by the communist hirelings.

    On the other hand, the film left me with a vague feeling of annoyance. The Americans hadn’t exploited all the possibilities. The Soviet peoples are accustomed to films with the focus on politics, in which the audience is led to draw the requisite conclusions. In this respect The Iron Curtain scenario was obviously weak.

    In Berlin we Soviet officers were able to compare two worlds. It was interesting to set the impression made by real life against the fictions that the Soviet State creates and maintains. The direct creators of this fiction are the toilers with the pen, the ’engineers of human souls’, as they been have called in the Soviet Union.

    Of course we were chiefly interested in the writers who dealt with the problem of Soviet Russia. They can be divided into three main categories: the Soviet writers, who are slaves of the ’social command’; the foreign writers who have turned their backs on Stalinism; and, finally, those problematic foreigners who even today are still anxious to find pearls in the dungheap.

    Let us consider them as a Soviet man sees them.

    One day I found a French novel on Belyavsky’s desk. I picked it up to read the name of the author, and was astonished: it was Ilia Ehrenburg.

    “But haven’t you read it in Russian already?” I asked him.

    “It hasn’t been published in Russian.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “It’s quite simple.”

    He was right. Soviet experts on literature maintain that the finest journalists of the time are Egon Erwin Kisch, Mikhail Koltsov, and Ilia Ehrenburg. There is no disputing that they are all brilliant writers. Koltsov’s literary career came to an abrupt end in 1937, through the intervention of the N. K. V. D. It is said that he is now writing his memoirs in a Siberian concentration camp. For many years Ehrenburg was classified as a ’fellow-traveler’.

    With a Soviet passport in his pocket, he wisely preferred to live abroad, at a respectable distance from the Kremlin. This assured him some independence. His books were published in big editions in Soviet Russia, after they had been thoroughly edited. It was not surprising that I had found a book by him which was in French and unknown in the U. S. S. R. Only the Hitlerite invasion of France drove him back to his native land.

    First and foremost, Ehrenburg is a cosmopolitan. Many people think of him as a communist. True, he subtly and intelligently criticized the defects of Europe and the democratic world. But one doesn’t need to be a communist to do that-many non-communist writers do the same. After he had rid his system of his rabid, guttersnipe denunciations of the Nazi invaders he began to compose mellifluous articles about beautiful, violated France, the steadfast British lion, and democratic America.

    During the war we were glad to read these articles; but it seemed like a bad joke when we saw his signature beneath them. Today, obedient to his masters, he is thundering away at the American ’imperialists’. Ehrenburg, who once enjoyed some independence, has been completely caught in the Kremlin toils.

    His career and fate are very typical of Soviet writers generally. They have only two alternatives: either to write what the Politburo prescribes, or to be condemned to literary extinction. If Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Pushkin or Lermontov had lived in the age of Stalin, their names would never have been added to the Pantheon of human culture. When I was a student books such as Kazakov’s Nine Points, Lebedenko’s Iron Division, and Soboliev’s General Overhaul were passed from hand to hand.

    These names are not well known to the public generally, the books were printed in very small editions and it was difficult to get hold of copies. It is characteristic that they all dealt with the 1917-21 period, when the masses were still inspired with enthusiasm and hope. Their consciences did not allow these writers to write about later times; faced with the alternative of lying or being silent, they preferred silence.

    One cannot condemn the Soviet writers. Man is flesh and blood, and flesh and blood are weaker than lead and barbed wire. In addition there is the great temptation not only to avoid creative and physical death, but also to enjoy all the advantages of a privileged position. Some people may think it strange that there are millionaires in the land of communism. Genuine millionaires with an account in the State bank and owning property valued at more than a million rubles. Alexei Tolstoy, the author of Peter I and scenarios for Ivan the Terrible, was an example of the Soviet millionaire. Who can throw the first stone at a man faced with such alternatives?

    As for the foreign writers, they are simply not to be trusted! Not even the dead. At one time John Reed was in charge of the American section of the Comintern. True, he lived in Moscow, but that was in the order of things. He conscientiously wrote a solid book on the Russian revolution: Ten Days that Shook the World. Lunacharsky, the then People’s Commissar for Education, and Lenin’s wife, Krupskaya, wrote introductions to the book in which they con-firmed that it was a perfectly truthful description of the October Revolution. John Reed departed from this life not very long after he had written the book, and his mortal remains were interred in the Kremlin wall: the highest distinction for outstanding communists.

    Then there was trouble! Reed had not foreseen that in Stalinist Russia history would be stood on its head. In all his story of the revolution he had devoted only two lines to Stalin, and those only in passing, whereas he had extolled to the skies Trotsky and the other creators of the revolution, all those who after Lenin’s death began to pass out with colds in the head and similar ailments.

    So John Reed’s remains had to be removed from the Kremlin wall.

    One can think of dozens of world-famous writers who in their quest for new ways for man waxed enthusiastic over communism. As soon as they came to know the Soviet reality they were permanently cured of their enthusiasm. I need mention only one of the latest of these. Theodor Plievier, author of the book Stalingrad, a German writer and communist who had spent many years in Moscow, fled from the Soviet zone into western Germany.

    In an interview given to the press he explained that there was not a trace of communism left in Stalinist Russia, that all communistic ideas were strangled and all the socialistic institutions had been turned into instruments of the Kremlin’s totalitarian regime. He discovered this quite soon after his arrival in Moscow, but he had to keep quiet and reconcile himself to the situation, since he was to all intents and purposes a prisoner.

    It is difficult to convict the Kremlin propagandists of pure lying. There is a refined art of lying, consisting in the one-sided ventilation of a question. In this field the Kremlin jugglers and commercial travelers have achieved a very high level of artistry: they pass over one side in complete silence, or even furiously revile it, while exalting the other side to the skies.

    In Berlin we often got hold of amusing little books written by foreign authors and published by foreign publishers, extolling Stalin and his regime. It is noteworthy that these books are either not translated into Russian at all, or they are published only in very small editions, and it is virtually impossible to buy copies. They are intended purely for external consumption. The Kremlin prefers that the Russians should not see such books: the lies are too obvious.

    Not far from the Brandenburg Gate there is a bookshop, ’Das Internationale Buch’. It is a Soviet shop selling literature in foreign languages and intended for foreign readers. We often visited it. Of course we didn’t buy Lenin’s works but ordinary gramophone records. Things that can’t be bought at any price in Moscow are offered in abundance to foreigners.

    Propaganda: only a Soviet man has any idea what that is! It is said of a famous drink that two parts of the price are for the mixture and three for the advertising, and many consumers are convinced that there is nothing in the world more tasty, healthy, and costly. Such is the power of advertising.

    Among the Soviet people communism is in a somewhat similar case. They are continually being told that communism is the finest of all systems, an achievement that is unsurpassable. The mixture is rather more complicated than that of any drink. It is injected into the Soviet man - day in and day out, from the moment of his birth. What advertising does in the Western World, propaganda takes care of in the U. S. S. R. The people are hungry, naked, thrust down to the level of speechless robots, and meanwhile they are assured that the complete opposite is the case. Most astonishing of all, they believe it, or try to. That makes life easier.

    The Kremlin knows what enormous power propaganda has over human souls; it knows the danger that threatens it if the mirage is dispelled. Under the Nazis during the war the Germans were for-bidden to listen to enemy broadcasts, but they were not deprived of their receiving sets. But the Kremlin did otherwise: in the U. S. S. R. all receiving sets were confiscated on the very first day of the war. The Kremlin knew its weak spot only too well. If its thirty years of propaganda are undermined, the ephemeral spiritual unity of the Kremlin and the people will vanish like mist.

    “The Press is our Party’s strongest weapon,” Stalin has said. In other words, the Kremlin’s strongest weapon is propaganda. Propaganda welds the internal forces and disintegrates the external ones. So much the better for Stalin that his opponents haven’t any real idea of the accuracy and significance of his words.

    #anticommunisme #histoire #Berlin #occupation #guerre_froide

  • Gregory Klimov. The Terror Machine. Chapter 03

    The Song of the Victor

    The music flowed in caressing waves through the twilit hall, under the great crystal chandeliers, between the lofty marble columns. The air was heavy with the warmth of human bodies, the titillating scent of subtle perfume, all the characteristic respiration of the life of a great city. I thrust my fingers behind my belt and looked about me eagerly.

    I could hardly believe that only yesterday I had felt the Berlin sidewalks still shaking with explosions, that around me men in field-gray coats had been falling, never to rise again. I had the feeling that my uniform was still impregnated with the pungent stench of the Reich capital, the smell of burning, of powdered mortar and rubble, of gunpowder.

    From the platform came the familiar words of soldiers’ song- simple, moving, and intimate. Where had I heard that song last? Of course, it had been a favorite of the tank-driver, Sergeant Petrenko. A young, dashing fellow, he often sang it to the sounds of an accordion he had knocked off. He was a great lad, was Petrenko. He didn’t quite get to Berlin: he was burned alive in his tank somewhere among the sand dunes of Brandenburg.

    Lieutenant Belyavsky was sitting next to me. We had met in the college, and he had mentioned that he had tickets for a concert to be given by artists, every one of them decorated with the order: Meritorious Artist of the Soviet Union. “Come along with me,” he said. “You need a little cheering up.”

    He slapped me on my back. And that was how, the day after my return to Moscow, I found myself sitting in the Pillared Hall of the House of the Trade Unions. During an interval we went to the foyer. For two months I had been in the most exposed section of the front-reason enough for watching Moscow life with hungry eyes. Even after a brief absence one notices many things which the regular inhabitants don’t see at all.

    The great majority of this audience consisted of officers working in the defense ministry or members of the Moscow garrison, students at military colleges, and front-line officers in Moscow for short leave and seizing the opportunity to attend a concert again. Practically all the male members of the audience were wearing military uniforms; any man in civilian dress was regarded either as a hopeless cripple or as a doubtful sort of individual. There were many war-wounded, also in uniform, but without shoulder-tabs. And a large number of the audience, civilians included, were wearing orders or ribbons.

    The authority of the military profession grew enormously during the war. Before 1939 officers were shown little consideration, they were regarded as drones and parasites. But in the war years the officer corps was enlarged by a mass of reserve officers. The army became an inseparable part of every family; people began to regard military service as a necessary and honorable obligation. The external and internal reforms in the army and all over the country forced everybody to revise their ideas of the military class.

    The front-line officer was of all men the most respected. Before the war the civilians had looked down with some condescension on the military, but now the situation was diametrically opposite. The men in dark blue worsted civvies were inferior beings. The majority of them looked pale and worried; the feverish strain of unremitting labor had left its mark on them. The women, too, had the same gray look of chronic under-nourishment, everyday anxieties and need, in their faces and clothes. Their features were indifferent, pasty, and weary. Even the youngsters had lost the unconstrained, invincible, carefree air of pre-war days. The general war-weariness was much more perceptible at home than at the front.

    The so-called ’Narcomatics’, the higher officials of the People’s Commissariats were in a class by themselves; they were well dressed, well fed, and repellently self-satisfied. One could recognize them at once in the street by their light-brown leather coats, which they had all started wearing as one man on one day. The Americans had sent these leather jackets over in 1943 as part of lend-Iease deliveries, together with hundreds of thousands of brand-new lorries. The jackets had been intended as service clothing for the drivers of the lorries.

    The lorries were sent to the front, but the leather jackets remained in Moscow as official equipment for the higher functionaries of the commissariats. They were a quite unnecessary luxury for the men at the front, and ever since the early days of the revolution Soviet functionaries have had a childish weakness for any kind of leather garment. In Moscow it was rumored that the Americans were greatly astonished to find high Soviet officials decked out in chauffeurs’ uniforms. Perhaps they thought it indicated the proletarian modesty of the Soviet bosses.

    After Belyavsky and I had wandered about aimlessly for some time among the brilliant orders and pale, hungry faces in the foyer, we came to the glass showcase of the buffet. Behind the glass were marvelous delicacies, the sort of thing one found in Moscow only in the best of the pre-war years. But the prices! It was painful to see men gathering round the case as though it were a museum-piece, then turning away with hungry looks and empty hands.

    “I’m glad we haven’t any ladies with us,” Belyavsky remarked with stoic calm. “Why the devil do they put such things on show? I’d rather not have my imagination stimulated like that!”

    The second part of the concert consisted of a performance by the State jazz orchestra, directed by the ’Meritorious Artist of the R. S. F. S. R.’, Leonid Utiessov. Utiessov was the most popular jazz-band leader in the Soviet Union: he was assigned the ticklish task of adapting western European jazz music to the frequently changing demands of the ’social command’. His repertoire consisted of foxtrots on the motifs of Stakhanovite songs, and blaring, anti-imperialistic marches. But now, with the help of trombones and saxophones, he was celebrating the demise of fascist Germany.

    Utiessov, a tubby man, showed off quite unconcernedly on the platform. He was wearing the artist’s traditional uniform: evening dress complete with boiled shirt. In his buttonhole he had the Order of the Red Banner ribbon. He waved his arms in a fever of patriotic exaltation, squeezing the last drops of the ’Waves of Leningrad’ out of the perspiring band.

    Utiessov had achieved a great public success with his ’confidential talks’ from the platform. “My father lives in luxury. I myself earn twenty thousand rubles.... My daughter brings home a little more, some five thousand.... And, of course, her husband -he’s an engineer - he helps a little too.... He contributes a full six hundred rubles a month.” This talk received wild applause, but of course he had to withdraw it quite quickly. Rumor has it that in the end he was snapped up by the Narcomvnudel.

    Suddenly silence fell. The orchestra came to an unexpected stop, there were excited whispers, a feeling of uneasiness spread through the audience. From the back of the hall spotlights were switched on, focusing into a ring of light on the platform. Utiessov stood in the spotlight, a sheet of paper in his hand, a strand of hair hanging over his sweating face.

    “Comrades... friends!” he shouted.

    The entire hall held its breath expectantly. Speaking slowly, brokenly, he cried to the silent, excited audience:

    “An order of the day... of the... Supreme Command.... This day, 2 May 1945, the troops of the First Ukrainian Army and the troops...”

    His voice billowed from the platform, but I did not see where it was coming from. It beat in my own breast, it rose in my own throat, it might have been my own voice. So this was victory! In very truth, in the rumbling, stony gorges of the Berlin streets, in the turret of a staff tank, in the everyday existence of a soldier, all the pathos of struggle and victory was much more simple and plain than it was here, in this Pillared Hall of Moscow. There it was only the accomplishment of a military task. Here it was the climax of years of straining expectation, a moment of boundless joy and unrestrained pride.

    The people of the home front were sick with a chronic psychosis. They were filled with an unshakable conviction that the day of victory, the day marking the end of the war, would be like a fairy story, would not only bring deliverance from all the fevered night-mares of wartime, but would bring something bigger and better than had existed before the war. This mass psychosis which marked the final phase of the war was visible in the eyes of every man and every woman. Clenching their teeth, they advanced to the victory like a runner making his final spurt: a last dash to breast the tape and then drop exhausted. Then all would be well. Then there would be a pleas-ant rest, the well-earned reward for all the arduous labor, the sweat and the blood.

    I closed my eyes so as not to see the man on the platform. The voice swelled in the silence grew even stronger, rose in a triumphant shout: “Today, after bitter and bloody struggles, our troops have conquered the heart of Hitler-Germany, the city of Berlin.”

    The entire hall rose as one man. The thunder of the applause shook the marble columns. These walls had surely never heard anything like it before. We clapped till our hands smarted, and we looked one another in the eyes. During the ordinary applause of official ceremonies Soviet people avoid one another’s eyes. But today we had nothing to be ashamed of; today we could give free rein to our true feelings.

    I looked around. This was no highly organized ovation in honor of the Party and government leaders, when each participant would watch out of the corner of his eye to see whether his neighbor was clapping hard enough, and secretly waited for the chairman of the Presidium, the conductor of this show, to stop clapping, thus officially bringing the ovation to an end. This was a genuinely spontaneous demonstration. For the first time in my life I did not feel ashamed of clapping; I was taking part in an honest and passion-ate expression of feeling. The Russian people were thanking the Russian soldiers for fighting so hard and well, for shedding their blood.

    From a long distance the words reached my ears: “To celebrate the victory over Berlin I order, today, 2 May 1945, at 22 hours Moscow time, a salute of twenty guns from two hundred and twenty cannon, in the city of Moscow, and in the heroic cities of Stalingrad, Lenin-grad, and Odessa.”

    We left the hall and went out into Sverdlov Square. The crimson of the sunset had not yet faded on the horizon. The sky was bright over the victorious city sunk in the dusk. The house roofs emerged in marvelous silhouettes against the darkening azure. The May evenings in Moscow are wonderful at any time. But in the light of victory salutes, under the nimbus of military glory, they are fabulous.

    Somewhere far to the west another city, a vanquished city, was lying in total darkness; its inhabitants had no feeling of joy that day. The ruins that once had been habitations were still smoking; bodies were still lying in the street, the bodies of men who yesterday had had no thought of death. The survivors huddled trembling in their locked rooms, without light or heat, starting fearfully at every sound outside the door. For them the future was heavy with the chill of the grave. Yet they hardly even thought of the future. They were still unable to measure all the depth of the abyss into which human arrogance had plunged them.

    The fire of the last salute died away. In the ensuing stillness the closing words of the order of the day rang in my ears: “Glory and honor to the heroes who have fallen in the struggle for the freedom and independence of our native land.”

    ’May the blood you have shed not have flowed in vain,’ I mentally added.

    Everybody in Moscow knows the monument to Minin and Pozharsky. The bronze figures of these Russian patriots have stood on the Red Square, close to the Kremlin wall, for many years. (Two heroes of the ’Troubles Times’ at the beginning of the seventeenth century, who organized and led the force that freed Moscow from Polish troops, 1612 - Tr.). The dreary rains of autumn wash them, the harsh December winds comb their beards with prickly snow, and the spring sun caresses them. The years pass over them like clouds across the sky. Tsars and dictators come and go behind the walls of the Kremlin, but Minin and Pozharsky stand inviolably in their place.

    Surreptitiously crossing themselves, the old women of Moscow whisper the story from mouth to mouth that sometimes the bronze giants let their eyelids droop and close their cold eyes in order not to see what is happening all around them.

    Yet once, just once in all the long years, they expanded their lungs to the full, they drew themselves up to their full height, looked each other joyfully in the eyes, embraced and kissed each other fraternally. The old women swear that on this occasion the cold bronze shed hot tears. And why shouldn’t they, these men of the Russian soil? I can well believe it, and every Russian who was in Moscow on that sunny morning of 9 May 1945, will confirm it.

    For some days rumors had been running through Moscow that the Western Allies and representatives of the German Supreme Command were engaged in secret negotiations. Nobody knew anything exactly, but the uneasiness increased, the atmosphere of strained expectation came to a climax.

    The true circumstances of the capitulation were not made known in the Soviet Union. It took place at the staff headquarters of General Eisenhower, a small schoolhouse close to Rheims, in France, on 7 May 1945, at 14. 41 hours Central European time. On the German side it was signed by Colonel-General Jodl, chief of the German General Staff, on the Allied side by General Elsenhower’s Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General W. Bedell Smith, and on the Soviet side by General Sussloparov.

    The final capitulation document was signed on 8 May at 12. 01 hours Central European time in the Berlin suburb of Karlshorst, and was officially announced at once. In the Soviet Union Stalin himself announced the news of the capitulation in a broadcast on the night of 8 /9 May.

    On the morning of May 9, as I lay in bed, I was struck by an earthquake. Someone was shaking me madly by the shoulder. Even before he spoke I read the news in Belyavsky’s dilated, jubilant eyes. I dressed feverishly, buttoned up my tunic with trembling fingers. He urged me to hurry still more, and I did; though I didn’t really know why. I still had my boots to polish; on such a day they must be as dazzling as the sun. And I must put on a clean collar, and polish my buttons with the sleeve of my greatcoat.

    Never before had I felt such an urge to make a military uniform absolutely brilliant. I automatically slipped the strap of my swordbelt under my greatcoat epaulettes, though swordbelts were worn over the greatcoat only on parade and during guard duty. There wasn’t to be a parade today! But let anyone try pulling me up today for violating the regulations! We dashed downstairs. We longed to be among the people, in the midst of the joy, the triumph, and the jubilation.

    The college was buzzing like a disturbed beehive. All the students fell in the yard, by faculties, to hear the order of the day issued by the commander-in-chief. The sun shone in the sky. And the orders sparkled on the officers’ breasts. Trumpets blared. Two adjutants with drawn swords marched in front of the crimson silk flapping in the wind, its golden tassels swinging; the standard-bearer and the adjutants were all ’Heroes of the Soviet Union’. The Head of the college read out Stalin’s order of the day, which marked the end of the Russian people’s heroic four-year struggle against Hitler-Germany.

    Then the head of the Western Faculty, Colonel Jachno, spoke to us. But his remarks seemed feeble and hackneyed. They could not express all the greatness of this moment that we had waited for so long, that we had paid so dearly for. We all wanted to get out into the streets, among the people, where the joy of victory was unconstrained, exuberant. Without waiting for breakfast a number of us hastened to the city center.

    On the way we turned into an ’Americana’ to drink a glass of beer at the bar. Only recently had it become possible to buy beer again in Moscow, at sixteen rubles a glass. One day’s officer’s pay for a pint of beer! Several of us hadn’t enough money in our pockets to pay for a glass; our comrades helped us out.

    “You’re better off at the front than at home,” one of us remarked. “You have got something to drink, at least, at the front.”

    “Don’t worry! Soon we’ll have everything!” another assured him.

    “We’ve already got beer. Before many months have passed we shall be living like in a fairy-tale. We haven’t fought for nothing. You wait, you’ll soon see!”

    His tones expressed an unshakable belief in the miracle that would shortly occur; you would have thought he already knew a present was waiting for him, only it mustn’t be mentioned at the moment. If any of us had expressed any doubt, he would have called him a traitor to his face. He wouldn’t have known why or how it was treachery, but he would have been perfectly sure the man was a traitor.

    We didn’t talk much about such things, and the papers, too, did not write about them in so many words, though they made obvious hints. This mysterious and intangible something was in the air, we drew it in greedily into our lungs, and it intoxicated us. The name of that intoxicating feeling was hope. We were hoping for something. And that something was so drastic was perceived as so unattainable, that we could not bring ourselves to speak about it or even hardly to think of it.

    What were we hoping for? The past would not return and the dead would not live again. Perhaps we were glad that we would be re-turning to the peaceful existence of the pre-war years? Hardly! Our great joy that day arose from the fact that we stood at a frontier, a frontier that marked the end of the darkest period of our life, and the beginning of a new, still unknown period. And every one of us was hoping that this new period would fulfill the promise of the rainbow after the storm, would be bright, sunny, and happy. If anybody had asked us what we really expected, the majority would have expressed our common feeling very simply: “To hell with all that was before the war!” And every one of us knew exactly what had been before the war.

    I have witnessed many Moscow celebrations and parades. The strongest impression one got from them was that the people would much rather have really made merry and enjoyed themselves than be forced to demonstrate their merriment and joy. They were simply puppet shows, and one could not rid oneself of a loathsome feeling of hypocrisy. Most of the people tried to avoid thinking that the main reason for their presence at the celebration was the haunting desire not to be put on the list, not to give offense by being absent.

    That day the feeling was quite different. There was no organized demonstration, nor was it necessary. The streets of Moscow were packed with people, everywhere: on the sidewalks, in the roads, at the windows, on the roofs. In the center the streets were so crowded that wheeled traffic came to a standstill. All the population of Moscow had taken to its feet.

    As we walked along, a group of girls in bright spring clothes came towards us, happy and excited. They had flowers in their hands. In wartime Moscow flowers had been as rare as they are at the North Pole. Measured by European standards, they were more precious than a bunch of black orchids, or roses in January. Just in front of us several flying officers were talking together animatedly; they were obviously members of the Moscow garrison. One of them was in civilian clothes; his right sleeve was empty.

    The left breast of his jacket was studded with orders and above the breast pocket shone two five-cornered gold stars: the stars of a ’Hero of the Soviet Union’. One of the girls, her eyes glittering like stars, rushed up to the airmen as though she had been looking for them for a long time. She kissed one, two, all the whole lot of them. She kissed them heartily, and they seemed embarrassed. But why? Proud and happy, in the sight of all Moscow, she was kissing the men who had risked their lives to defend the Moscow sky.

    She thrust her flowers into the wounded man’s hand, and he awkwardly pressed them to his chest. The tender petals caressed the cold metal of the orders. The girl was particularly warm in her embrace of him, and did not want to release him. They said not a word to each other. Their feelings, ardent human feelings, were more eloquent than words.

    We saw an old woman in a white kerchief, peering about her uncertainly, as though looking for someone in this seething torrent of human beings. Obviously she was not accustomed to the bustle of the city. Just a homely, Russian mother. We had come across thousands of such mothers as we entered the villages evacuated by the re-treating Germans. And hardly had we taken one step across the thresholds of their cottages when we were calling them ’mother’. Without a word they thrust a hunk of bread into our greatcoat pockets and surreptitiously signed the cross over us as we turned away

    Two elderly soldiers in ragged front-line uniforms were leaning against a house-wall. Their faces were unshaven and bristly; wretched packs hung over their shoulders. You could see they had either come straight from the front or were on their way back to it. But they were in no hurry; today they had no reason to fear the military police patrols.

    They warmed themselves peacefully in the sun and stared blankly at the people, who seemed to have lost their senses. The two men calmly rolled themselves cigarettes from their favorite homegrown tobacco and a strip of newspaper, just as if they were at the front. What more does a soldier need than a piece of bread in his pack, a small packet of tobacco in his pocket, and the sun shining?

    The old woman in the kerchief pushed uncertainly through the crowd, and went up to the two soldiers. She spoke to them in an agitated voice and tried to pull them by the sleeve. The soldiers looked at each other. Of course they must do as she asked: she was a mother.

    How many sons had she given for the sake of this sunny morning? The sons who were to have been her support and comfort in her old age had been taken from her. All through the war she had held on to an expensive bottle of vodka, not exchanging it even for bread. She had suffered hunger and cold, but that bottle of vodka was sacred. Her son Kolya had fallen at Poltava; Peter the sailor had gone down in a sea-fight; her happy-go-lucky Grishka had vanished without trace. But now her heart was no longer suffering in its loneliness. She had gone into the street to find her sons, to invite the first soldiers she met to celebrate the victory with her. Today the bottle of living water would be brought out. These two men should know the heart of an old mother, the mother they had sung so often in their soldiers’ songs.

    Comintern Square. Outside the American embassy, between the Hotel Metropole and the block of the Moscow University, there was the same solid mass of human beings as everywhere else. Women were gazing curiously out of the open Embassy windows; they were wearing clothes so brightly colored that they could never have been mistaken for Moscow inhabitants. Cameras were clicking. The embassy was calm and silent. Old Glory fluttered sluggishly in the gentle breeze.

    The people in the square stared up inquisitively, as though they expected the American ambassador to step on to a balcony and speak to them at any moment. The crowd eddied round the building like water streaming over shallows. But the ambassador had gone to the Kremlin. What had he to do with this gray, impersonal mass? And besides, it’s hardly politic for a diplomat to speak to the people over the heads of their government.

    The consulate automobile made its way slowly through the mass of people. Then an American officer in cream-colored trousers and green tunic attempted to get to the embassy. If he did not know of the Russian habit of tossing people into the air, he must have been rather alarmed when he went flying up. Up he soared into the sky, then dropped gently into many outstretched hands and went up once more. Thus he was carried above the people’s heads, thrown up again and again by dozens of hands, till he reached the embassy. He pulled down his wrinkled tunic and went up the steps, cap in hand, smiling with embarrassment and obviously not knowing whether to say “Okay!” or “Goddamn!”

    The sun shone down graciously on jubilating Moscow. People embraced and kissed one another in the street. Strangers invited one another into their homes. Everything was set on the table, the pockets were unloaded. Life had been difficult, but now it was all over. We had held out and won. Now an end had been put to the bloody battles, to all the difficulties and privations. The leader would thank the people for their faithful service to the fatherland. The leader would not forget!

    The psychiatrists are well acquainted with the phenomena of psychosis. But in its mass aspect it remains unexplained. Yet any one who was in Moscow on 9 May 1945, and who had gone through what every Russian had gone through during the years of the war, knows exactly what mass psychosis is. I have seen and experienced it only once in my life, and I am not likely to experience anything like it again. It was the discharge of a nervous-system accumulator, the discharge of a force that had been accumulating for years. Many did not understand it, but all felt it.

    During the last years of my studies at the Industry Institute, examination time was a difficult period for all the students. Later, at the front, I seldom saw any man really worked up before going into battle. But I do remember that while waiting outside the door of the examination hall the students suffered nervous convulsions. At the front a man can only lose his life. During examinations we risked losing hope. For the soul of man that is a much more important matter. During the actual examination I myself was superficially calm and never felt any great excitement. But after it was over I lay on my bed for days without moving, as though I were paralyzed.

    So was it that day in Moscow. A prolonged and complex psychic process in the soul of the nation was finding vent at last. The outbreak of war had initiated the process. The people regarded it with relief, as an opportunity to free themselves of the hated conditions of the existing regime. The curve of this feeling of relief gradually flattened as the people realized that their hopes had been disappointed. This was followed by a period of comparative stability, when the people were aware of only one thing: the vanity of all hope. Then the process of charging the human accumulators began.

    Simultaneously with the growth of a negative attitude towards the external factor of the war a new hope was sown and began to strike root - the hope that a better future could be achieved by their own power, once the foreign enemy was defeated. At that point the external factor became their enemy. Driven by their hate for the enemy and by their growing hope of a better future after the war, the people went through unimaginable difficulties.

    The Russians smashed the Germans out of their desire for vengeance, vengeance for the unfulfilled hopes, the shattered wishful thinking. But still stronger burned the guiding star of a new hope. They would never have fought in defense of the fatherland they had known before the war. And at first they had no desire to fight, they hoped the Germans would bring them to the Promised Land. But then they turned and fought because they thought they saw the Promised Land on the other side.

    On 9 May 1945 the charge of the people’s psychic accumulator had reached its culminating point, the overcharge was causing sparks to fly. And now came the discharge. No wonder Moscow lived as though governed by electric impulses, no wonder strangers embraced us and kissed us simply because we wore uniform, no wonder men wept openly in the street.

    Outside the History Museum I ran into Lieutenant Valentina Grinchuk. A smile was playing on her face, as though she could not understand this entire bustle and excitement. She had found her way infallibly through the darkness of the forests in her partisan days, but here she was like a little child, lost in the primeval forest of human elements. She did not even notice the admiring looks of the men who turned to stare after her.

    “Well, Valia, congratulations on the victory,” I said, as I had said already a dozen times that day. I looked into her violet-blue eyes, took her by the chin as though she were a child, and raised her head. Those blue eyes shone at me earnestly and a little sadly.

    “Congratulations on victory, Valia.” I bent down and kissed her on the lips. She did not resist; she only looked helplessly with her dilated eyes, staring into the distance. Beneath the hard leather of her belt I felt her delicate, girlish figure.

    (You seem so very tiny today, Valia. What’s up? Why, you have more right to enjoy this day than anyone else. Open your blue eyes still wider, you child with orders on your breast and wounds on your girlish body. Fix this day in your memory for all your life, this day for which you have sacrificed your youth.).

    She and I spent a long time wandering through the city, right along Gorky Street, past the Bolshoi Theatre, along the embankment below the Kremlin wall. One would have liked to absorb all the spirit of the victory-drunk metropolis that day. One would have liked to soar high above the world and thus observe all that was happening below, to memorize for ever this day in all its unique greatness and exaltation. For not to everyone was Fate so kind as to allow them to be in Moscow, to be in the center of those vast events.

    Valia and I walked in silence; each sunk in his or her thoughts. If there can be such a thing as perfect happiness in this world, then I was perfectly happy that day. Humanity’s golden dream of peace all over the world came down to earth, that sunny day of 9 May. The evil forces had been routed. The majestic hymns of the victorious powers were sounding over the world. They proclaimed freedom to the peoples. Freedom from anxiety for their own lives, freedom from the race-hatred of Nazism, from the class-enmity of communism, freedom from fear for one’s freedom. Were not the words of the Atlantic Charter eloquent in their sublimity?

    Our leaders had turned their backs on the doctrine that it was impossible for the capitalist and the communist systems to coexist. With the blood of their soldiers the western democracies had won the indissoluble friendship of the peoples of our lands. The mutual relations of peoples and nations, of states and governments, had been forged in the fires of war. Such historical cataclysms sweep political systems and states from the face of the earth, change the political map of the world. The war, which had now ended, must lead inevitably to a fundamental change in the Soviet system. With good reason had the Party and the government given the people clearly to understand that, during the last years of the war?

    I glanced down at Valia out of the corner of my eye.

    “Why are you so quiet, Valia?” I asked. “What are you dreaming about?”

    “Oh, nothing,” she replied. “I just feel a bit down, somehow. So long as the war was on one simply went on fighting. If you ever stopped to think about it, you only hoped that it might soon be ended. That end seemed so splendid, but now it’s all so ordinary. And this day will pass, and once more....”

    She did not finish her remark, but I knew what she was thinking. I suddenly felt sorry for her. Without doubt she was thinking of the straw-thatched roofs of her forest village, the crane over the well, and the little barefoot girl with water-buckets in her hands. In her own soul she was pondering on the question that now confronted every one of us. She was afraid the hope that had kept us going all through the years of the war might vanish, and that then once more....

    Through the dusk that was falling over the city the aluminum balloons of the barrage swam slowly into the sky. They were rising for the last time, to take part in the last victory salute. Searchlight batteries were posted all round the Kremlin; young girls in field-gray military greatcoats efficiently controlled the mechanism of those gigantic electric eyes. Today their beams would grope across the sky of Moscow for the last time.

    I said goodbye to Valia and joined another group of officers from our college. We made our way slowly to the Red Square. Soon now the guns would be firing their salutes, and the Red Square afforded the best view. No official demonstration had ever drawn such an enormous crowd outside the Kremlin walls. It was impossible to do anything but let the torrent take charge and carry one away as it wished.

    Amid this human ferment the Kremlin stood silent and lifeless, like a legendary castle fallen into an enchanted sleep. The granite block of the Lenin Mausoleum rose above the heads of the crowd. The leaders and minor leaders stand on that platform on days of parades and demonstrations and smile amiably from a safe distance behind the bayonets of the armed Narcomvnudel guards. Now the granite platform was empty. And the bayonets were absent. That day the solely to the people.

    Hundreds of thousands of heads. Since early morning people had filled the Red Square, waiting and staring as though they were expecting something. But the powerful loudspeakers, which were ranged in numerous batteries round the square, were silent. More and more people poured into that vast open space. What was drawing them there?

    The Kremlin remained silent in its sleep. The silvery firs stood on guard along the ancient walls. The pointed pinnacles of the towers pierced the darkened sky. The ruby-red stars gleamed high above, on the invisible points of the towers.

    When I was a child we used to be told that the red five-pointed star was the symbol of communism. The symbol of the blood that had been shed by the proletariat of all five continents. Truly, much blood had flowed on account of those ruby-red stars on the Kremlin.

    The earth began to thunder under our feet. Above the black out-line of the Kremlin the sky turned crimson with gunfire. Lightning from hundreds of cannon illuminated the battlemented walls, the pinnacled towers, the black cube of the mausoleum, the sea of human heads turned upward. Hundreds of lines of fire drilled into the sky above the victorious city, driving away the darkness of the night.

    The fire streamed higher and higher, hung motionless in the zenith for a moment, then burst downward in sparkling, multicolored little stars. The stars shivered sank slowly earthward, then fell faster, ever faster, to die in their flight. Hardly had the last sparkles faded when the air was shattered with the rolling thunder of a salvo. The first salute to final victory! The last seconds of a glorious epoch.

    Open your eyes, open your hearts, and fix those seconds forever. The earth drummed again, the crimson fire of the victory salute lit up the walls of the Kremlin, the sky, and the soul of the people. Once more the fire shot into heaven, once more the little stars shone out like rays of hope, and faded. This was victory captured in a point of light. You saw the victory; you felt its breath on your face.

    The fountain set upon the historic place of execution in the Red Square began to play, to gush in a vehement rainbow. As the fountain sent the water running over the square it splashed in little streams under our boots. The arrows of the searchlights quivered and danced. The ancient cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed was thrown up somberly in the flaming salutes. A boundless sea of men and women surged under the Kremlin walls.

    From the mist of the past another Red Square emerged in my memory.

    The morning of 7 November 1941 was leaden and dull. A flurry of falling snow blurred the face of Moscow. The Kremlin was feeling a draught. The enemy was at the gates! Moscow was threatened! The crenellations and pinnacles of the Kremlin walls showed gloomily in wintry twilight. The cupolas of the Kremlin churches were obscured under palls of snow. Cold and raw was the Red Square that day.

    In full field equipment the troops marched past the granite mausoleum. A man in a soldier’s greatcoat, standing on the platform, stretched out his hand to the troops as if he were a beggar. With outstretched arm the man greeted the divisions that were to march from the Red Square straight to the fight at the gates of Moscow. My ears still hear the words of the marching song of those days:

    “For my Moscow, for the dear city...” We kept our oath of allegiance, leader! Now it is your turn.

    But now, on that day in May, the Kremlin was silent. The crimson stars on its towers glowed like blood. Nobody knew what the men in the Kremlin were thinking. Hand in hand with the people they had won the victory. Would they not be stretching out their hands to the people’s throats again tomorrow?

    Not far from us two elderly workmen were standing, rather unsteady on their feet. They were wearing caps with broken peaks; their white shirts were open at the collar. Because they found it difficult to keep their feet they supported each other. Probably they had been drinking beer on an empty stomach.

    “Come home, Stepan,” said one of them, a man with reddish, tobacco-stained whiskers.

    “Home? I’m not going home,” the other protested.

    “What d’you want to hang about here for? The midnight mass is ended. Come along!”

    “Wait a bit, Ivan... There’s sure to be a decree.”

    “You’ve already got your decree: don’t oversleep your knocking-on time in the morning.”

    “But I tell you there’s sure to be another decree. Do you or don’t you know what a decree is? As soon as twelve strikes a decree will be issued. It will shine out in the sky like a star.... Where’s the star?” He swayed as he stared upward.

    “There’s your star.” His companion pointed to the red star on a Kremlin tower. “Come alone, do!”

    “There’s something wanting;” one of my companions turned to me. “It’s twelve o’clock, but the people are still hanging about, showing no signs of going. They know quite well there’s nothing more to be seen, yet they’re still waiting.”

    “Shall we go?” I asked.

    “No, let’s wait a little longer.” He hesitated. “There may be some-thing yet.”

    We wandered aimlessly about the square for a long time. The people looked at one another, looked about them, and went on waiting for the belated wonder. At last, when the hands on the clock tower above the Spasskaya Gate drew near to one o’clock, they began to stream away to the Underground station. The trains would stop at 1a. m. They must get home, so as not to be late next morning.

    “Pity the day’s gone so quick!” my companion said. “There was obviously something lacking.”

    We took the Underground. Opposite us sat an elderly woman in a threadbare military uniform. She looked as though she had come straight from the front. Her eyes were closed with fatigue, and she swayed to the movement of the train. At the next stop a lieutenant got in. All the seats were already occupied, so he glanced at the epaulettes of the seated military people.

    In Moscow the regulation is strictly observed that the junior in rank gives up his seat to a superior officer. The lieutenant’s eyes rested on the sleeping woman in front-line uniform. He stepped across and ordered her brusquely: “Get up!” She opened her eyes in bewilderment and sprang up automatically. The lieutenant roughly pushed her aside and sat down in her seat.

    “There’s your reward to the victor,” my companion remarked. “Get up and give your place to someone else.”

    May-time in Moscow is rarely accompanied with such filthy weather as we experienced on 24 May 1945. A fine veil of rain had hung about the city since early morning. Vainly did we stare up at the sky in the hope that the clouds were breaking. It was as though the celestial powers were deliberately out to ruin our festive spirit. For it was a day set apart for a great celebration: by special order of the day issued by the commander-in-chief, a great victory parade was to be held in the Red Square. A review of the best of the best.

    The parade had been long and carefully prepared. Soldiers and officers who had distinguished themselves in the war had been recalled to Moscow during April. The choice fell chiefly on those who had most distinctions, orders, and medals to wear on their chests. On arrival in Moscow they were allocated to special units, and were issued with new dress uniforms, such as we had seen hitherto only in pictures. Special training for the parade went on for more than a month. The people of Moscow were lost in conjecture as to why these fine companies and battalions of men hung about with decorations from head to foot were marching in full dress uniform through the Moscow streets while desperate battles were still going on at the front.

    Those of us students who were selected to take part in the parade wore through more than one pair of soles as the result of our daily four-hour exercises on the parade ground. We were drilled very strictly, for military exercises were not regarded as of much importance in the college, and so normally they were neglected. Now we were forced to acquire the infantry knowledge that we lacked. In preparation for the parade we polished our buttons and buckles till they dazzled, and tried on our new uniforms again and again.

    And now this endless steady drizzle was falling. We knew that if the weather were unfavorable the civilian demonstration would not be held only the military parade. Soldiers are used to being wet to the skin.

    In the Red Square, the gigantic crimson banners on the buildings of the All-Union Executive Committee and the History Museum hung in heavy folds. In broad daylight the square looked very different from its aspect at night under the gunfire of the salutes. Sober and plain. As if the road did not end but only had it’s beginning here. A gray road into a gray future.

    Eyes right! There, on the platform of the mausoleum, stood the leader, our sorrow and our glory. In honor of the victory, today he had abandoned the modesty of his usual parade uniform and was decked in the brilliant uniform of a generalissimo. When Joseph Vissarionovich signed the order conferring the rank of generalissimo of the Soviet Union on Comrade Stalin, he must have smiled wryly at the thought of his colleagues, Franco and Chiang Kai-shek.

    The picked regiment of the People’s Commissariat headed the parade for Defense and the Moscow garrison. It was followed by the picked regiment of the First Ukrainian Army, which had always been flung in where the main battle was to be fought, and which had stormed into Berlin.

    The picked regiments of victory and glory marched past: tankmen in blue overalls and leather helmets, cossack cavalry units in long Caucasian cloaks with red and blue hoods; airmen with golden wing-badges. The glorious infantry marched past in an endless gray-green band, men of various complexions, various tongues. Now they all had one thing in common: on the chest of each one burned the tokens of intrepidity and heroism, the orders and medals of the great patriotic war, the proofs of faithful war-service to the fatherland.

    At the head of each picked regiment marched the outstanding generals from the various fronts. Gray-blue uniforms, silver belts and swordbelts, lacquered boots. Gold on their buttons, their caps, their orders. The stars glittered, the medals gleamed. They were transformed, were those once so modest proletarian generals.

    Amplified through batteries of loudspeakers, the greetings of the party and government leaders thundered over the Red Square to the victorious army.

    One after another the captured banners of the German divisions, the standards of the S. S. storm troopers, were thrown down at the foot of the mausoleum. Symbols of departed glory, once proudly fluttering over Europe; they lay in a formless, pitiable heap at the foot of the Kremlin wall.

    Despite the rain, despite our soaked uniforms, we felt light and joyful at heart. This was the last solemn act of the great struggle. We had sacrificed so much for this day: flourishing towns and villages, millions and millions of human lives. The bloody wounds that those in search of ’living-space’ had inflicted on us would be gaping for long yet. For many years to come the husbandman’s plough would go on turning up alien bones from the Russian earth, and for many years to come would the burnt-out hulls of tanks go on rusting in the midst of cornfields.

    But all this lay behind us. We had emerged from the struggle as heroes and victors. Through hard work we would heal the wounds, we would begin a peaceful and happy life. We would begin a new life, and all would be better than before the war. There was much that we forgot in our consciousness of victory, as we looked hopefully to the future.

    An old, sturdy sergeant marched along with a weighty step.

    A real rock of a man. Thick whiskers, like those shown in the picture of the old-time Zaporozhe cossack camp; sunburnt face, heavily lined. Rows of orders and distinctions glittered across his chest.

    All his life he had flourished the hammer and sickle, but he had never been able to endure their representation on a red ground with all the trimmings of communist fripperies. Nonetheless, today he threw out his chest, with its many orders bearing these symbols.

    At the front the sergeant had had less regard for his head than for his luxuriant whiskers. During the years of collectivization he had shortened them considerably, in order not to be taken for a kulak. In those days things had been worse than they ever were at the front. In those days nobody knew whether and when fate would knock at their door. But now a free wind seemed to be blowing. You could even grow your whiskers long again.

    During the war many quite young soldiers and officers had let their beards and whiskers grow. Before the war such liberties had been risky. A small beard was regarded as Trotskyist, a thick beard indicated a kulak, a long beard a priest. Then there were merchants’ beards, archbishops’ beards, and generals’ beards. The position was just as bad in regard to mustaches. A small mustache was regarded as ’white-guard’, a bigger one suggested a Tsarist policeman. Over such superficial social distinctions one might find oneself behind bars! But today the old sergeant didn’t know whether to be more proud of his orders or his whiskers.

    There had been great changes during the war years. Before the war, would anyone have dared even to mention the George Crosses of the Tsarist days? The chevaliers of the Cross of St. George had thrown their medals away, or buried them deep in the earth. But today the old sergeant marched across the Red Square, past the Kremlin walls, with four George Crosses hanging on his chest beside the Soviet orders. After that, let anyone tell me that the Soviet regime had not made any revolution, that the collective farms might not be abolished tomorrow! And weren’t the churches open again, weren’t the bells ringing from their belfries?

    Before the war hundreds of thousands of priests had been liquidated as propagators of ’opium for the people’. Of those few that were left in freedom the Soviet people knew only one thing with certainty: they were agents of the Narcomvnudel. Every week, under cover of darkness, they slipped through the doors of the Narcomvnudel with reports on their flocks.

    But now religious freedom was proclaimed. A clerical training college had been opened in Moscow, and a Special Committee for Religious Affairs had been set up under the Council of People’s Commissars of the U. S. S. R., with Comrade Karpov in charge. The church had been harnessed to the service of the State. It was wiser now, and would obey.

    Only one thing astonished us in all this comedy. The newly opened churches were filled with people. Church weddings had become quite fashionable, especially in the country. Despite everything, it had not been possible to cut religion out of the people’s souls. Even I often felt a hankering to enter the open church doors. But as a student in a Kremlin college I knew certain things only too well. I could not risk the possibility that later the head of the college would hand me a photograph taken of me in the church, with the observation: “You appear to have forgotten that students of the college are strictly forbidden to let themselves be photographed anywhere else but in the college’s special photo-studio.” That was the kind of false step that often served as a ground for expulsion from the college.

    Now, from time to time, church bells, miraculously saved from destruction, sounded over Moscow. Priests were hurriedly brought back from Siberia, straight from forced labor to the altar. Before the calluses had vanished from their hands they were offering up prayers for victory and asking heaven to grant the leader health. The people listened with unconcealed joy to the bells. But nobody had any doubt that the new priests were in close contact with the Narcomvnudel.

    The Narcomvnudel never forgets its old clients. When they have done their eight or ten years in a punitive camp, on their discharge the majority of its prisoners are invited to serve it as informers. “Justify the trust we are putting in you, in giving you back your freedom,” is the way it is put. In reactionary countries, when a prisoner has served his time he is left to his own devices. But we show greater thought for the man. Freedom is granted him as an act of grace, which he must be thankful for, working to justify the ’trust’.

    Innumerable orders glittered on the Red Square. Many new decorations had been created during the war years. Even they had made their evolution backward. The rank-and-file Glory medals instituted in 1944, and the medal for ’Participation in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945,’ were a direct borrowing from the black and orange ribbons of the Tsarist George Cross.

    New orders, the Ushakov and the Nakhimov, were instituted for admirals and captains in the navy, and medals similarly named for the sailors. The army generals were adorned with Suvorov and Kutuzov orders, the higher officers with the Alexander Nevsky and Bogdan Khmielnitzky orders. But the most widely distributed of all was the Order of the Patriotic War. Not just any war, but the Patriotic War! And for marshals there was a special Victory order, made of gold, platinum, and diamonds, and worth 200, 000 gold rubles.

    Though they remained five-pointed, the stars of these orders were very similar to those issued by Katherine II. And there were Guards regiments again, Guards standards, and Guards distinctions. But in pre-war days? God protects a man from letting the word ’Guards’ slip out!

    The impersonal greeting, ’Good day, Comrade Colonel,’ had been replaced by the official ’Zdravia Zhelayu’ (I wish you health). And the gold epaulettes? In past days the worst charge an investigating officer of the Narcomvnudel could have made against anyone would have been to designate him a ’wearer of gold epaulettes’. The generals, marching along on parade just like the portraits of former Tsarist generals, had mottled silver belts. The ’International’ had been superseded by the new ’Hymn of the Soviet Union’. Even the slogan ’Proletarians of all countries, unite!’ had vanished from the front page of Pravda.

    According to a recent decree of the U. S. S. R. Supreme Soviet, on retirement generals were to receive a piece of land for life tenure, and interest-free loans for the erection of their country houses. There we have the aristocracy of socialism! The only snag to all these blessings was the circumstance that so many of the Soviet generals ended their careers in the Narcomvnudel.

    The people simply went dizzy with all these innovations.

    The victorious army marched in parade step across the Red Square. The drumming of their feet found an echo in my breast. To me, today, the army meant not simply military service: in the army I had first found my fatherland. Before the war I had lived in an illusory world of new concepts: communism, socialism, Soviet farms, collective farms. The papers had given me astronomical figures, fine words and slogans, talk of tractors and factories, new houses and construction works. Nonetheless, like everybody else, in my own life I had experienced inhuman difficulties and privations, though I justified them all by reference to the necessities of ’the great upheaval’.

    But when the war broke out I saw all the wretched impotence of the world in which the Soviet man lived hypnotized by propaganda. Yet as it went on I recognized something greater, I recognized the nation. I felt for the first time that I was a member of the nation, and not merely a unit in a Marxist classification. I was not the only one to realize that: millions shared it. It did not come to us as the result of the new maneuvers of Kremlin policy, suddenly switched over to emphasis on the national, fatherland aspect. That maneuver was rather simply a consequence, a forced way out of the situation that had been created.

    The war stirred the country to its innermost depths, brought to the surface things that hitherto had been concealed in those depths. All the artificial trimmings were pushed into the background, and the true power, man, was restored to the foreground. The man as he really is. In blood and agony is man born; in blood and agony men learn to know one another.

    In the light of real life, among living men, all the theories of dialectical materialism faded and were put in the shade. I realized that all that for which we had made incredible sacrifices over twenty-five years was, if not the product of an experimenter’s delirious fantasy, at any rate only an experiment that called for great improvement. Now as I marched across the Red Square I still saw no way out. But I was thoroughly convinced of the falsity of that which we had lived for in pre-war days.

    The victory parade thundered across the Red square. Dashing soldiers in blue overalls stuck their heads out of the open turrets of the heavy tanks. Proud of their gold epaulettes and their George ribbons, they signaled with their red flags, saluting the Kremlin walls and their leader.

    Generalissimo, today we greet you and congratulate you on the victory! Just as you greet and congratulate us.

    Yet we remind you: do you think of the summer of 1941? Do you remember how you suddenly struck up a new tune? ’Dear brothers and sisters, citizens and citizenesses...’ you said. We could hardly believe our ears. For twenty-five years you had set brother against sister, sister against brother. Until that summer of 1941 the word ’citizen’ was commonly used only by the investigating official sitting behind his desk in the Narcomvnudel, using it as a form of address to an alien, enemy element.

    Where had your communists, your commissars, political functionaries and other ’comrades’ got to then? You were right in calling us ’citizens and citizenesses’. We were not your comrades! When you felt the rope round your neck you called to the people for help. And we came. We died, but we fought. We hungered, but we labored. And we conquered. Yes, we conquered, and not Generalissimo Stalin and his communist party.

    But today, in honor of the victory, I shout a thunderous, triple cheer. And may the walls of the Kremlin tremble!

    Thus victory came. And whenever my thoughts turn to that V-day I recall the thrill in my heart, the feeling that rose in my throat. The victor raised his head and sang his victory-song. And he rejoiced at the road that lay open before him, the road into the future.

    #anticommunisme #histoire #Berlin #occupation #guerre_froide

  • Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” Photographs in the Farm Security Administration Collection: An Overview (Library of Congress)

    The photograph that has become known as “Migrant Mother” is one of a series of photographs that Dorothea Lange made of Florence Owens Thompson and her children in February or March of 1936 in Nipomo, California. Lange was concluding a month’s trip photographing migratory farm labor around the state for what was then the Resettlement Administration. In 1960, Lange gave this account of the experience:

    I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it. (From: Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).

    The images were made using a Graflex camera. The original negatives are 4x5" film. It is not possible to determine on the basis of the negative numbers (which were assigned later at the Resettlement Administration) the order in which the photographs were taken.

    There are no known restrictions on the use of Lange’s “Migrant Mother” images. A rights statement for the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information black-and-white negatives is available online at:

    The Story of the “Migrant Mother” | Antiques Roadshow | PBS

    There are few images as deeply ingrained in the national consciousness as Migrant Mother. Yet for decades, no one knew what had become of this woman and her family. No one even knew her name: Lange never asked, and by the time the photo appeared in a local newspaper, the woman and her family had moved on to the next town.

    Finally, in 1978, a reporter from the Modesto Bee found the Migrant Mother, tracking her down to a trailer park outside Modesto, California. Her name was Florence Owens Thompson; she was 75 years old. Lange had promised Thompson that her name would never be published — Thompson wanted to spare her children the embarrassment — but once she was discovered, she revealed her name and told her story.

    Thompson was born Florence Leona Christie, a Cherokee, in a teepee in Indian Territory, Oklahoma, in 1903. She married at 17, then moved to California for farm- and millwork. When she was 28 years old and pregnant with her sixth child, her husband died of tuberculosis. Thereafter Thompson worked odd jobs of all kinds to keep her children fed. For most of the 1930s, she was an itinerant farmhand, picking whatever was in season.

    During cotton harvests, as she described in interviews, she would put her babies in bags and carry them along with her as she worked down the rows. She earned 50 cents per hundred pounds picked and says she “generally picked around 450, 500 [pounds a day]. I didn’t even weigh a hundred pounds.” For a while, she and her children lived under a bridge. “When Steinbeck wrote in The Grapes of Wrath about those people living under the bridge at Bakersfield — at one time we lived under that bridge. It was the same story. Didn’t even have a tent then, just a ratty old quilt.”
    Dorothea Lange sitting on top of a car with her camera, ca. 1936.

    One day in 1936, while driving from Los Angeles to Watsonville, Thompson’s car broke down. She managed to get the car towed into the Nipomo pea-pickers camp, had it repaired, and was just about to leave when Dorothea Lange appeared. Thompson was not eager to have her family photographed and exhibited as specimens of poverty, but there were people starving in that camp, one of Thompson’s daughters later recalled, and Lange convinced her that the image would educate the public about the plight of hardworking but poor people like herself. Within days, the photo was being published in papers across the country — an instant classic of American photography. In the years to follow, the Thompson family kept their identities to themselves, but the photograph was a continual subject of conversation. “It always stayed with her,” said Katherine Thompson McIntosh of her mother. “She always wanted a better life, you know.”

    Thompson moved to Modesto in 1945 and went to work in a hospital there. She had one of the most famous faces in the United States, yet, to keep her family together, she had to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week. “I worked in hospitals,” Thompson told NBC in 1979, “I tended bar, I worked in the field, so I done a little bit of everything to make a living for my kids.” Thompson profited nothing from Migrant Mother. “I can’t get a penny out of it,” she once said, but she wasn’t exactly bitter. She had posed for the photo to help others, not herself, yet the disparity between her high profile and low status couldn’t help but bother her.

    Meanwhile, Migrant Mother made Dorothea Lange’s reputation, helped earn her a Guggenheim fellowship, and conferred fame and a permanent place in the canon of American photographers. Lange certainly deserved her success; she had an eye, talent, training, and drive. Yet it seems unjust that Migrant Mother, one of the most successful photographs in American history, should have helped so many, but done nothing for the woman whose face and body were able to express so much. Thompson was a model; she was posing, and she knew why. She was to represent the very Figure of Poverty. So she organized her posture and set her expression just so for Lange’s camera. And that is a talent, too. Thompson and Lange, for an instant in 1936, were collaborators. Yet the gulf between their fortunes, already colossal, would only grow wider as years passed.

    The Thompson clan, which eventually grew to 10 children, worked their way into the middle class, but Florence Thompson never felt comfortable in a conventional home. Even after her children bought her a house, she chose to live in a trailer. “I need to have wheels under me,” she said.

    In 1983, Thompson had a stroke. Her children, unable to pay the hospital, used her identity as the Migrant Mother to raise $15,000 in donations. The money helped to defray Thompson’s medical bills, but Thompson herself gained nothing. She died soon after her stroke.

    A few years earlier, a reporter had asked Thompson about the life she eked out for her family. She spoke plainly, with no sentimentality. “We just existed,” she said. “Anyway, we lived. We survived, let’s put it that way.” During the Great Depression, that was never a guarantee. “We never had a lot,” said McIntosh, her daughter, “but she always made sure we had something. She didn’t eat sometimes, but she made sure us children ate.”

    #USA #photographie #crise #histoire

  • Why is my baby crying? You asked Google – here’s the answer

    Your baby will be well fed, their nappy with be box fresh, they’ve already done an almighty burp, they had an hour nap just half an hour ago, their clothes are loose, the room is mild, you’re rocking them, singing, walking up and down like a beleaguered sentry … and yet still they cry.


  • Denied land, Indian women stake claims in collectives

    Fed up with local officials denying their demand for land, 40 women decided to form a collective and simply start farming a plot near their village of Pallur, in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu.

    “We have worked as farm laborers most of our lives - why can’t we own land?” asked Shakila Kalaiselvan, leader of the women’s collective.

    Members of the group faced additional discrimination due to their gender. Despite laws granting equal inheritance rights, women own just 13 percent of land in India although they do about two-thirds of all farm work.

    A year ago, they took over an unused 2.5-acre (1 hectare) plot, which was dry and overgrown with weeds. Even though it was common land owned by the state, they faced strong resistance as they cleared it to grow beans, corn and millet.

    “The higher-caste men opposed it, but we did not give in,” Kalaiselvan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We should have at least 40 acres for 40 women, but this is a start. We can be independent, earn the respect of the community.”

    #Femmes #Inde #foncier #Dalit #discrimination #caste

  • Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Mask of Anarchy”

    The Cremation of Percy Bysshe Shelley, oil on canvas, Louis Édouard Fournier (1857-1917)

    Peterloo Massacre

    Friedrich Engels - Deutsche Zustaende

    Brief II, The Northern Star Nr. 417 vom 8. November 1845
    Die Niederschlagung der Französischen Revolution wurde gefeiert durch die Niedermetzelung von Republikanern im Süden Frankreichs, durch das Auflodern der Scheiterhaufen der Inquisition und die Wiederherstellung des heimischen Despotismus in Spanien und Italien sowie durch die Maulkorbgesetze und „Peterloo“ in England. Wir werden nun sehen, daß die Ereignisse in Deutschland einen ähnlichen Verlauf nahmen.

    Das Königreich Preußen war der erste unter allen deutschen Staaten, der Napoleon den Krieg erklärt hatte. Es wurde damals regiert von Friedrich Wilhelm III., mit dem Spitznamen „der Gerechte“,
    er kannte nur zwei Gefühle - Furcht und feldwebelhafte Anmaßung. Während der ersten Hälfte seiner Herrschaft war sein vorherrschender Geisteszustand die Furcht vor Napoleon, der ihn mit der Großmut der Verachtung behandelte, indem er ihm die Hälfte seines Königreichs zurückgab, die zu behalten er nicht der Mühe für wert hielt.

    Es war diese Furcht, die ihn antrieb, einer Partei von Halb-und-halb-Reformern - Hardenberg, Stein, Schön, Schamhorst etc. - zu gestatten, an seiner Stelle zu regieren, die eine liberalere Gemeindeorganisation einführten, die Erbuntertänigkeit abschafften, die feudalen Dienste in Rente oder in eine fixe Summe mit fünfundzwanzigjähriger Tilgung verwandelten und vor allem die militärische Organisation einführten, die dem Volk gewaltige Macht verschafft und früher oder später gegen die Regierung gebraucht werden wird.

    The Mask of Anarchy:
    Written on the Occasion of the Massacre at Manchester
    By Percy Bysshe Shelley

    As I lay asleep in Italy
    There came a voice from over the Sea,
    And with great power it forth led me
    To walk in the visions of Poesy.

    I met Murder on the way—
    He had a mask like Castlereagh—
    Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
    Seven blood-hounds followed him:

    All were fat; and well they might
    Be in admirable plight,
    For one by one, and two by two,
    He tossed them human hearts to chew

    Which from his wide cloak he drew.
    Next came Fraud, and he had on,
    Like Eldon, an ermined gown;
    His big tears, for he wept well,
    Turned to mill-stones as they fell.

    And the little children, who
    Round his feet played to and fro,
    Thinking every tear a gem,
    Had their brains knocked out by them.

    Clothed with the Bible, as with light,
    And the shadows of the night,
    Like Sidmouth, next, Hypocrisy
    On a crocodile rode by.

    And many more Destructions played
    In this ghastly masquerade,
    All disguised, even to the eyes,
    Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, or spies.

    Last came Anarchy: he rode
    On a white horse, splashed with blood;
    He was pale even to the lips,
    Like Death in the Apocalypse.

    And he wore a kingly crown;
    And in his grasp a sceptre shone;
    On his brow this mark I saw—

    With a pace stately and fast,
    Over English land he passed,
    Trampling to a mire of blood
    The adoring multitude.

    And a mighty troop around,
    With their trampling shook the ground,
    Waving each a bloody sword,
    For the service of their Lord.

    And with glorious triumph, they
    Rode through England proud and gay,
    Drunk as with intoxication
    Of the wine of desolation.

    O’er fields and towns, from sea to sea,
    Passed the Pageant swift and free,
    Tearing up, and trampling down;
    Till they came to London town.

    And each dweller, panic-stricken,
    Felt his heart with terror sicken
    Hearing the tempestuous cry
    Of the triumph of Anarchy.

    For with pomp to meet him came,
    Clothed in arms like blood and flame,
    The hired murderers, who did sing
    `Thou art God, and Law, and King.

    We have waited, weak and lone
    For thy coming, Mighty One!
    Our purses are empty, our swords are cold,
    Give us glory, and blood, and gold.’

    Lawyers and priests, a motley crowd,
    To the earth their pale brows bowed;
    Like a bad prayer not over loud,
    Whispering — `Thou art Law and God.’ —

    Then all cried with one accord,
    `Thou art King, and God, and Lord;
    Anarchy, to thee we bow,
    Be thy name made holy now!’

    And Anarchy, the Skeleton,
    Bowed and grinned to every one,
    As well as if his education
    Had cost ten millions to the nation.

    For he knew the Palaces
    Of our Kings were rightly his;
    His the sceptre, crown, and globe,
    And the gold-inwoven robe.

    So he sent his slaves before
    To seize upon the Bank and Tower,
    And was proceeding with intent
    To meet his pensioned Parliament

    When one fled past, a maniac maid,
    And her name was Hope, she said:
    But she looked more like Despair,
    And she cried out in the air:

    `My father Time is weak and gray
    With waiting for a better day;
    See how idiot-like he stands,
    Fumbling with his palsied hands!

    `He has had child after child,
    And the dust of death is piled
    Over every one but me—
    Misery, oh, Misery!’

    Then she lay down in the street,
    Right before the horses’ feet,
    Expecting, with a patient eye,
    Murder, Fraud, and Anarchy.

    When between her and her foes
    A mist, a light, an image rose,
    Small at first, and weak, and frail
    Like the vapour of a vale:

    Till as clouds grow on the blast,
    Like tower-crowned giants striding fast,
    And glare with lightnings as they fly,
    And speak in thunder to the sky,

    It grew — a Shape arrayed in mail
    Brighter than the viper’s scale,
    And upborne on wings whose grain
    Was as the light of sunny rain.

    On its helm, seen far away,
    A planet, like the Morning’s, lay;
    And those plumes its light rained through
    Like a shower of crimson dew.

    With step as soft as wind it passed
    O’er the heads of men — so fast
    That they knew the presence there,
    And looked, — but all was empty air.

    As flowers beneath May’s footstep waken,
    As stars from Night’s loose hair are shaken,
    As waves arise when loud winds call,
    Thoughts sprung where’er that step did fall.

    And the prostrate multitude
    Looked — and ankle-deep in blood,
    Hope, that maiden most serene,
    Was walking with a quiet mien:

    And Anarchy, the ghastly birth,
    Lay dead earth upon the earth;
    The Horse of Death tameless as wind
    Fled, and with his hoofs did grind
    To dust the murderers thronged behind.

    A rushing light of clouds and splendour,
    A sense awakening and yet tender
    Was heard and felt — and at its close
    These words of joy and fear arose

    As if their own indignant Earth
    Which gave the sons of England birth
    Had felt their blood upon her brow,
    And shuddering with a mother’s throe

    Had turnèd every drop of blood
    By which her face had been bedewed
    To an accent unwithstood,—
    As if her heart had cried aloud:

    `Men of England, heirs of Glory,
    Heroes of unwritten story,
    Nurslings of one mighty Mother,
    Hopes of her, and one another;

    `Rise like Lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number,
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you —
    Ye are many — they are few.

    `What is Freedom? — ye can tell
    That which slavery is, too well —
    For its very name has grown
    To an echo of your own.<

    `’Tis to work and have such pay
    As just keeps life from day to day
    In your limbs, as in a cell
    For the tyrants’ use to dwell,

    `So that ye for them are made
    Loom, and plough, and sword, and spade,
    With or without your own will bent
    To their defence and nourishment.

    `’Tis to see your children weak
    With their mothers pine and peak,
    When the winter winds are bleak,—
    They are dying whilst I speak.

    `’Tis to hunger for such diet
    As the rich man in his riot
    Casts to the fat dogs that lie
    Surfeiting beneath his eye;

    `’Tis to let the Ghost of Gold
    Take from Toil a thousandfold
    More than e’er its substance could
    In the tyrannies of old.

    `Paper coin — that forgery
    Of the title-deeds, which ye
    Hold to something of the worth
    Of the inheritance of Earth.

    `’Tis to be a slave in soul
    And to hold no strong control
    Over your own wills, but be
    All that others make of ye.

    `And at length when ye complain
    With a murmur weak and vain
    ’Tis to see the Tyrant’s crew
    Ride over your wives and you—
    Blood is on the grass like dew.

    `Then it is to feel revenge
    Fiercely thirsting to exchange
    Blood for blood — and wrong for wrong —
    Do not thus when ye are strong.

    `Birds find rest, in narrow nest
    When weary of their wingèd quest;
    Beasts find fare, in woody lair
    When storm and snow are in the air,

    `Asses, swine, have litter spread
    And with fitting food are fed;
    All things have a home but one—
    Thou, Oh, Englishman, hast none!

    `This is Slavery — savage men,
    Or wild beasts within a den
    Would endure not as ye do—
    But such ills they never knew.

    `What art thou Freedom? O! could slaves
    Answer from their living graves
    This demand — tyrants would flee
    Like a dream’s dim imagery:

    `Thou art not, as impostors say,
    A shadow soon to pass away,
    A superstition, and a name
    Echoing from the cave of Fame.

    `For the labourer thou art bread,
    And a comely table spread
    From his daily labour come
    In a neat and happy home.

    `Thou art clothes, and fire, and food
    For the trampled multitude—
    No — in countries that are free
    Such starvation cannot be
    As in England now we see.

    `To the rich thou art a check,
    When his foot is on the neck
    Of his victim, thou dost make
    That he treads upon a snake.

    `Thou art Justice — ne’er for gold
    May thy righteous laws be sold
    As laws are in England — thou
    Shield’st alike the high and low.

    `Thou art Wisdom — Freemen never
    Dream that God will damn for ever
    All who think those things untrue
    Of which Priests make such ado.

    `Thou art Peace — never by thee
    Would blood and treasure wasted be
    As tyrants wasted them, when all
    Leagued to quench thy flame in Gaul.

    `What if English toil and blood
    Was poured forth, even as a flood?
    It availed, Oh, Liberty,
    To dim, but not extinguish thee.

    `Thou art Love — the rich have kissed
    Thy feet, and like him following Christ,
    Give their substance to the free
    And through the rough world follow thee,

    `Or turn their wealth to arms, and make
    War for thy belovèd sake
    On wealth, and war, and fraud—whence they
    Drew the power which is their prey.

    `Science, Poetry, and Thought
    Are thy lamps; they make the lot
    Of the dwellers in a cot
    So serene, they curse it not.

    `Spirit, Patience, Gentleness,
    All that can adorn and bless
    Art thou — let deeds, not words, express
    Thine exceeding loveliness.

    `Let a great Assembly be
    Of the fearless and the free
    On some spot of English ground
    Where the plains stretch wide around.

    `Let the blue sky overhead,
    The green earth on which ye tread,
    All that must eternal be
    Witness the solemnity.

    `From the corners uttermost
    Of the bonds of English coast;
    From every hut, village, and town
    Where those who live and suffer moan
    For others’ misery or their own.2

    `From the workhouse and the prison
    Where pale as corpses newly risen,
    Women, children, young and old
    Groan for pain, and weep for cold—

    `From the haunts of daily life
    Where is waged the daily strife
    With common wants and common cares
    Which sows the human heart with tares—

    `Lastly from the palaces
    Where the murmur of distress
    Echoes, like the distant sound
    Of a wind alive around

    `Those prison halls of wealth and fashion,
    Where some few feel such compassion
    For those who groan, and toil, and wail
    As must make their brethren pale—

    `Ye who suffer woes untold,
    Or to feel, or to behold
    Your lost country bought and sold
    With a price of blood and gold—

    `Let a vast assembly be,
    And with great solemnity
    Declare with measured words that ye
    Are, as God has made ye, free—

    `Be your strong and simple words
    Keen to wound as sharpened swords,
    And wide as targes let them be,
    With their shade to cover ye.

    `Let the tyrants pour around
    With a quick and startling sound,
    Like the loosening of a sea,
    Troops of armed emblazonry.

    `Let the charged artillery drive
    Till the dead air seems alive
    With the clash of clanging wheels,
    And the tramp of horses’ heels.

    `Let the fixèd bayonet
    Gleam with sharp desire to wet
    Its bright point in English blood
    Looking keen as one for food.

    `Let the horsemen’s scimitars
    Wheel and flash, like sphereless stars
    Thirsting to eclipse their burning
    In a sea of death and mourning.

    `Stand ye calm and resolute,
    Like a forest close and mute,
    With folded arms and looks which are
    Weapons of unvanquished war,

    `And let Panic, who outspeeds
    The career of armèd steeds
    Pass, a disregarded shade
    Through your phalanx undismayed.

    `Let the laws of your own land,
    Good or ill, between ye stand
    Hand to hand, and foot to foot,
    Arbiters of the dispute,

    `The old laws of England — they
    Whose reverend heads with age are gray,
    Children of a wiser day;
    And whose solemn voice must be
    Thine own echo — Liberty!

    `On those who first should violate
    Such sacred heralds in their state
    Rest the blood that must ensue,
    And it will not rest on you.

    `And if then the tyrants dare
    Let them ride among you there,
    Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew,—
    What they like, that let them do.

    `With folded arms and steady eyes,
    And little fear, and less surprise,
    Look upon them as they slay
    Till their rage has died away.

    `Then they will return with shame
    To the place from which they came,
    And the blood thus shed will speak
    In hot blushes on their cheek.

    `Every woman in the land
    Will point at them as they stand—
    They will hardly dare to greet
    Their acquaintance in the street.

    `And the bold, true warriors
    Who have hugged Danger in wars
    Will turn to those who would be free,
    Ashamed of such base company.

    `And that slaughter to the Nation
    Shall steam up like inspiration,
    Eloquent, oracular;
    A volcano heard afar.

    `And these words shall then become
    Like Oppression’s thundered doom
    Ringing through each heart and brain,
    Heard again — again — again—

    `Rise like Lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number—
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you—
    Ye are many — they are few.’

    1. The following stanza is found in the Wise MS. and in Mary Shelley’s edition of 1839, but is wanting in the Hunt MS. and in the first edition of 1832:—

    ’Horses, oxen, have a home,
    When from daily toil they come;
    Household dogs, when the wind roars,
    Find a home within warm doors.’

    2. The following stanza is found (cancelled) at this place in the Wise MS.:—

    ’From the cities where from caves,
    Like the dead from putrid graves,
    Troops of starvelings gliding come,
    Living Tenants of a tomb.’

    Percy Bysshe Shelley 4. August 1792 in Field Place, Sussex; † 8. Juli 1822 im Meer bei Viareggio in der italienischen Provinz Toskana)

    Seine Schriften blieben politisch nicht unwirksam, sie hatten etwa Einfluss auf die Chartisten. Eleanor Marx, die jüngste Tochter von Karl Marx, stellte die Bedeutung Shelleys für die Arbeiterbewegung mit den Worten heraus: „Ich habe meinen Vater und Engels wieder und wieder darüber sprechen hören, und ich habe dasselbe von den vielen Chartisten gehört, die ich glücklicherweise als Kind kennenlernen durfte.“ Sie hatten außerdem Einfluss auf einen politisch verstandenen Vegetarismus: In den Notes zu Queen Mab begründete er seine Forderung nach einem vegetarischen „Zustand der Gesellschaft, in der alle Energien des Menschen in die Schaffung gänzlichen Glücks gelenkt werden sollen“.
    Jeremy Corbyn rezitierte am 27. Juni 2017 in seiner Ansprache beim Glastonbury Festival aus Shelleys Gedicht Mask Of Anarchy:

    “Rise like Lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number—
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you—
    Ye are many—they are few.”

    und ermutigte die anwesenden jungen Leute, ihre gemeinsame Macht zu erkennen, durch die sie die Welt verändern könnten.

    #poésie #royaume_uni #Frankenstein #romatisme #anarchisme

  • Inside X, Google’s Moonshot Factory |The Atlantic (novembre 2017)

    (…) The decline in U.S. productivity growth since the 1970s puzzles economists; potential explanations range from an aging workforce to the rise of new monopolies. But John Fernald, an economist at the Federal Reserve, says we can’t rule out a drought of breakthrough inventions. He points out that the notable exception to the post-1970 decline in productivity occurred from 1995 to 2004, when businesses throughout the economy finally figured out information technology and the internet. “It’s possible that productivity took off, and then slowed down, because we picked all the low-hanging fruit from the information-technology wave,” Fernald told me.

    The U.S. economy continues to reap the benefits of IT breakthroughs, some of which are now almost 50 years old. But where will the next brilliant technology shock come from? As total federal R&D spending has declined—from nearly 12 percent of the budget in the 1960s to 4 percent today—some analysts have argued that corporate America has picked up the slack. But public companies don’t really invest in experimental research; their R&D is much more D than R. A 2015 study from Duke University found that since 1980, there has been a “shift away from scientific research by large corporations”—the triumph of short-term innovation over long-term invention.

    The decline of scientific research in America has serious implications. In 2015, MIT published a devastating report on the landmark scientific achievements of the previous year, including the first spacecraft landing on a comet, the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, and the creation of the world’s fastest supercomputer. None of these was an American-led accomplishment. The first two were the products of a 10-year European-led consortium. The supercomputer was built in China.

    As the MIT researchers pointed out, many of the commercial breakthroughs of the past few years have depended on inventions that occurred decades ago, and most of those were the results of government investment. From 2012 to 2016, the U.S. was the world’s leading oil producer. This was largely thanks to hydraulic fracturing experiments, or fracking, which emerged from federally funded research into drilling technology after the 1970s oil crisis. The recent surge in new cancer drugs and therapies can be traced back to the War on Cancer announced in 1971. But the report pointed to more than a dozen research areas where the United States is falling behind, including robotics, batteries, and synthetic biology. “As competitive pressures have increased, basic research has essentially disappeared from U.S. companies,” the authors wrote.

    It is in danger of disappearing from the federal government as well. The White House budget this year proposed cutting funding for the National Institutes of Health, the crown jewel of U.S. biomedical research, by $5.8 billion, or 18 percent. It proposed slashing funding for disease research, wiping out federal climate-change science, and eliminating the Energy Department’s celebrated research division, arpa-e.

    The Trump administration’s thesis seems to be that the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive technology. But this view is ahistorical. Almost every ingredient of the internet age came from government-funded scientists or research labs purposefully detached from the vagaries of the free market. The transistor, the fundamental unit of electronics hardware, was invented at Bell Labs, inside a government-sanctioned monopoly. The first model of the internet was developed at the government’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, now called darpa. In the 1970s, several of the agency’s scientists took their vision of computers connected through a worldwide network to Xerox parc.

    “There is still a huge misconception today that big leaps in technology come from companies racing to make money, but they do not,” says Jon Gertner, the author of The Idea Factory, a history of Bell Labs. “Companies are really good at combining existing breakthroughs in ways that consumers like. But the breakthroughs come from patient and curious scientists, not the rush to market.” In this regard, X’s methodical approach to invention, while it might invite sneering from judgmental critics and profit-hungry investors, is one of its most admirable qualities. Its pace and its patience are of another era.

    #innovation #États-Unis #Google_X #Internet #histoire

  • A decade of G7 central bank collusion - and counting... - Thoughts - Nomi Prins

    Since late 2007, the Federal Reserve has embarked on grand-scale collusion with other G-7 central banks to manufacture a massive amount of money. The scope and degree of this collusion are historically unprecedented and by admission of the perpetrators, unconventional in approach, and - depending on the speech - ineffective.

    Central bank efforts to provide liquidity to the private banking system have been delivered amidst a plethora of grandiose phrases like “unlimited” and “by all means necessary.” Central bankers have played a game with no defined goalposts, no clock rundown, no max scores, and no true end in sight.

    At the Fed’s instigation, central bankers built policy on the fly. Their science experiment morphed into something even Dr. Frankenstein couldn’t have imagined. Confidence in the Fed and the U.S. dollar (as well as in other major central banks globally) has dropped considerably, even as this exercise remains in motion, and even though central bankers have tactiltly admitted that their money creation scheme was largely a bust, though not in any one official statement.

    Cracks in the Facade