What I learned on Twitter this weekend
by Thomas R. Eddlem
I’ve only been chairman of the Massachusetts Libertarian Party for a little over a month, but I was surprised to find on Twitter this past weekend that Stalin was more than 1,000 years old when he died. My source for this information was the Russian Libertarian Party, which tweeted this weekend that Stalin “created” the 1,000-year-old Russian Orthodox Patriarchate.
Now, my undergraduate degree was from Stonehill College, and it included a minor in history. So I blame my Stonehill professors — particularly my “Modern Soviet Union” professor George Gallant — for not informing me of Stalin’s incredible longevity.
I always knew Stalin was a villain, but this positively elevates him to the level of a Marvel Comics super-villain.
And I couldn’t help but ask them how old they thought Stalin was when this ancient supervillain died a rather pedestrian death in 1953. They didn’t answer my question, but did note that Stalin suppressed the very church he created.
Their view is that while the first century Christian church of several thousand members survived 300 years of persecution from the Romans, the Russian Orthodox Church of nearly 100 million communicants was stamped out completely by 20 years of persecution from Stalin. Bishops, priests, communicants, every one of them renounced the faith they and the faith which their ancestors 50 generations prior had espoused.
Presumably, they left the Russian Orthodox Communion because they knew it was founded by a millenarian super-villain.
Also, as you can see from the above tweet, my new Russian Libertarian Party friends were quick to remind me in their tweet that they are Russians, and they know Russian history much better than me.
And that’s hard to argue, especially considering the defective instruction of my Stonehill College professors, who neglected to inform me of the spontaneous apostasy of some 100 million Christians in Russia during the 1920s and 1930s.
But, unfortunately, they kept tweeting.
The above may have been Stalin’s greatest superpower: Conjuring a church de novo that instantly attracted nearly 100 million adherents, dozens of bishops and tens of thousands of priests (without even a seminary!), a power exercised less than 10 years before the millenarian supervillain met his mortal demise.
This historical fact also went unremarked by my undergraduate instruction in the 1980s. And perhaps no one would criticize me for acknowledging that it’s an assertion of history not worth disputing with my new Russian friends.
However, the interesting thing about their Wikipedia link is that the same website acknowledges that the new patriarchs named by Stalin were also bishops under the pre-October Revolution Russian Orthodox Church. So if Stalin did conjure up a new church from whole cloth (despite his atheistic tendencies), the Russian Libertarian Party did a pretty bad job in documenting it.
But even accepting their historical claims, as I must from their indisputably advantageous position, I have two things to say about the Russian Libertarian Party.
First, I do applaud — very seriously — the Russian Libertarian Party when they criticize their own government, the most corrupt in Europe (despite Zelensky’s significant effort to raise his corruption game), which is headed by an old KGB thug. When they do this, they do libertarianism at its best. There’s only one country’s policies a person can impact in any significant way, and it’s the policy of the government you’re living under. And in Russia, criticizing your government usually takes more courage than it does in the United States. Whenever the Russian Libertarian Party criticizes its own government, my first breath is always “bravo!”
Russian Libertarians (both party members and small “L” libertarians) should do almost everything in their power to get their government to stop its aggression against Ukraine. Likewise, we in the United States do everything in our power to stop US meddling in the Russo-Ukraine war.
Second, where the Russian Libertarian Party goes wrong, and becomes very un-libertarian, is when they justify the government suppression of a religious sect, the majority religious sect in their country which they openly acknowledge has a fairly recent history of being suppressed.
Religious freedom is not a concept to be dispensed with every time there is a war. Sure, some tweeters (Are they called “tweeters” or “twits”? I’m not sure) have recently told the Massachusetts Libertarian Party Twitter page that war means you get to jettison constitutional liberties, like Zelensky nationalizing unfriendly media and abolishing opposition parties.
You know, just like Roosevelt nationalized the Republican Chicago Tribune and abolished the Republican Party during World War II. (Damn. That’s another series of historical facts my Stonehill professors neglected to teach me in my path toward a history minor back in 1987.)
The narrative out of the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy (i.e., the CIA) is that Ukraine government should be supported at all costs and in every way, and negative information about what is in fact the second most corrupt government in Europe should be always rebuked with charges of being “Russian propaganda.”
Being a libertarian means you oppose all states, and that we have the luxury of nuance. We can oppose the governments of Russia (the most corrupt government in Europe), and Ukraine (the second most corrupt government in Europe) and the United States (the deadliest government in the world), all at the same time, and all for their specific attacks on freedoms.
But someone aping state propaganda makes no such distinctions, and must defend the indefensible of state attacks on civil and human rights liberties. When defending the Ukrainian government is the narrative that trumps all, it doesn’t matter who their government hurts, or whose freedom they take. They can take any freedom — the press, political opposition or religious freedom — in the pretended name of protecting “freedom.”
Being a libertarian in the United States means you get called a “Russian propagandist” for opposing foreign aid to Ukraine, an anti-Semite for opposing aid to Israel, an Islamophobe for opposing aid to Egypt and Iraq, and a racist for opposing foreign aid to Africa.
So be it. We can take it.
We will continue to take it.
We oppose war, along with all the provocations that lead up to it. And we oppose the US government’s foreign policy, the most violent foreign policy of any government in the world during the 21th century.
This is something I’d think the Libertarian Party of Russia, the country of the most violent foreign policy of the 20th century, would understand.
And I would add this:
Shit, I really didn’t know Stalin was a 1,000-year-old super-villain.
I’m so glad he’s still dead.