The Captive Mind

In the final two chapters of the Captive Mind, Milosz first examines man and why he is the enemy of the New Faith.  He explores the social classes and expresses why each one could possibly represent a threat to Soviet system, the proliferation of the black market to do the failures of Central Planning, and the similarities between the Church and the communism.  As for the classes, Milosz emphasizes the threat the petite bourgeoisie and the peasants represent towards Soviet communism.  I think that be makes a strong point in describe the peasants, who only recently freed from serfdom, now own land and refuse to enter collectivization as this appears to be a return to serfdom.  The peasants thus become an enemy of the state because they refuse to surrender what they had only recently acquired through centuries of hardship.  Thus peasants become enemies of the state of kulaks and are shipped to Siberia.  The petite bourgeoisie are dangerous because they represent independent firms not yet owned and controlled by the central plan and the seeds of capitalism.  These people are also active in the black market where the trade goods and services with one another that the state cannot supply.  Here Milosz makes a great point that has been further emphasized and explored by Slavenka Drakulic – that the Soviet system is unable to provide basic consumer goods to the population and that this failure more than anything reveals why Soviet communism failed.

The final chapter examines the Baltic States and the fear created by the Soviets.  Milosz makes the argument that the Baltic’s are different historically, linguistically, and politically from Russia and that the implementation of the Soviet system is inherently alien.  Because the system is alien in every way to life in the Baltic’s, it is forced to rule through fear and death.  Here is Milosz’s take on the rule by fear which I fully agree with.  “Fear is well known as a cement in societies.  In a liberal capitalist economy fear of lack of money, fear of losing one’s job, fear of slipping down the social ladder all spur the individual to greater effort.  But what exists in the Imperium is naked fear.  In a capitalist city with a population of one hundred thousand people, some ten thousand . . . are haunted by fear of unemployment. . . But if all one hundred thousand people live in daily fear, they give off a collective aura that hangs over the city like a heavy cloud.” (239)  I think that this quote fairly well sums up Milosz’s though process.  Though the West is not perfect and capitalism can be indifferent and callous to those on the bottom of society, the majority still have the opportunity to do, say, think, and write what they want without fear of reprisal from the state.  Under Soviet communism, only those in the upper echelons of society can live comfortably, but they are still subject to the center.  They can not deviate from the party line and must always be prepared to that they will be made an example.  This type of system rewards cunning and backstabbing rather than honesty creating a society of fear that trudges forward daily without progress.

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