April 2012

I have in my hands a lovely thick book (800+ pages) by a non-Marxist historian – Geoffrey Roberts – called Stalin’s Wars. I can’t wait to sink into it over the next few days while in the bush. To whet one’s appetite, Roberts states his main theses:

First, that Stalin was a very effective and highly successful war leader. He made many mistakes and pursued brutal policies that resulted in the deaths of millions of people but without his leadership the war against Nazi Germany would probably have been lost. Churchill, Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt – they were all replaceable as warlords, but not Stalin. In the context of the horrific war on the Eastern front, Stalin was indispensable to the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. Second, that Stalin worked hard to make the Grand Alliance a success and wanted to see it continue after the war. While his policies and actions undoubtedly contributed to the outbreak of the cold war, his intentions were otherwise, and he strove in the late 1940s and early 1950s to revive détente with the west. Third, that Stalin’s postwar domestic regime was very different to the Soviet system of the prewar years. It was less repressive, more nationalistic, and not so dependent on Stalin’s will and whimsy for its everyday functioning. It was a system in transition to the relatively more relaxed social and political order of post-Stalin times.

Plenty to chew on, even with its mix of thorough debunking of some stereotypes and the perpetuation of others.

To resume an earlier post on ‘The Music Album Musical Bum of the Bible’ … three further items.

First, given that the crucial word inspirare means to ‘blow upon’, it does make one wonder what the semantic cluster around θεόπνευστος (theopneustos) in 2 Timothy 3:16 might be.

Second, when Moses spies God’s arse through the crack in the rocks in Exodus 33:18-23, what are the implications? Augustine offers an intriguing interpretation. ‘Posteriora ujus quae sunt?’ He asks. That is, ‘what do his buttocks mean?’ He concludes that God’s face represents his divinity, and that his arse signifies the word made flesh. For our venerable church father, Christ is nothing less than the arse of God. In other words, mooning is itself a revelation.

Third, in Dante’s Inferno, what is the lowest point of hell? As Dante is led by Virgil through a vast bowel (ever notice how hell is modelled on a massive gut?), they finally reach Satan himself. He is frozen in ice and cannot move, except for flapping his wings to spread an awful, unbearable stench. The two intrepid explorers, with Virgil carrying Dante, climb down Satan’s back. Finally they reach Satan’s arse and Virgil turns in great strain to climb upwards. Alarmed, Dante wonders if they are going back to hell. No, says Virgil, that was the arse-end of the universe, the source of all that stink. We’re on our way out. In other words, the real punishment of hell is to endure the eternal ‘Dutch oven’ of Satan’s farts.

Of course, the juxtaposition of the second and third points raises an interesting hermeneutical conundrum.


A poem for spring:

Summer has come in -

Sing loudly! Cuckoo.

Seed grows and meadow blooms

And the wood is in leaf.

Sing! Cuckoo.

The ewe bleats after the lamb,

The cow lows after her calf,

The bullock leaps and the buck farts.

Sing merrily! Cuckoo.

(from Valerie Allen, On Farting)

Nothing like the excitement of spring and mating season …

This week not a few people watched Rupert Murdoch’s much anticipated grilling at the Leveson Inquiry. That inquiry is of course exploring the relations between the press (mainly Murdoch’s outfit) and the police and politicians. And not a few people are enjoying the slow disintegration of News Empire. But what pisses me off is the way many express shock and horror that a powerful multinational business outfit should influence politicians. Isn’t this just business as usual?

In order to deal with environmental destruction, perhaps we need a firmer approach, apropos comrade Lenin:

In a statement signed by Comrades Belenky, Ivanichev and Gabalin it has been established that by order of the Manager of the Sanatorium, Comrade Vever, a perfectly sound fir-tree was cut down in the sanatorium’s park on June 14, 1920.

For causing damage to Soviet property I order Comrade Vever, Manager of the Sanatorium at the Soviet Gorki Estate, to be placed under arrest for 1 month.

Instruct Comrade Belenky to bring this decision to the notice of Comrade Vever and his assistants, who are to sign that it has been announced to them and that any further similar offence will incur punishment for all workers and office staff, and not the manager alone.I instruct the Uyezd Executive Committee to report to me what date they have fixed for the arrest and how the sentence has been carried out.

V. Ulyanov (Lenin)

Chairman, Council of Labour and Defence


Collected Works, volume 42, pp. 196-7

If a month in prison is appropriate for cutting down a healthy tree – as soviet property – then imagine the appropriate penalty for emptying an oil tanker, or indeed systemic corporate pollution.

Note where the three flowers have chosen to grow.

I have already scheduled this item for the agenda at the next strata meeting over here, since I like the thought of nine apartments agreeing to setting up a similar gathering of the gang. Should be a cinch, especially since I managed to wrangle the all-important secretary position. Is not the secretary the most important member of the party? (ht sk)

From a French medieval tale/tail:

Two peasants are on the road and find a place to rest for the night with a married couple. One of the peasants falls ill during the night, so his friend, Rogier, gets up to find him some gruel. But Rogier returns to the wrong bed, where the wife’s bare arse sticks out from under the bed covers. He mistakes it for the head of his friend. Since it is dark, Rogier decides to put his finger to the hole (le trau) to see if it is hairy, since his friend has a beard. It is indeed hairy. Rogier now sticks his nose in the hole, thinking his friend has fainted and wanting to revive him with a kiss. ‘While he kisses the opening, a strong wind blasts forth from her fundament, gusting so noisily that he thinks that the companion is blowing on the gruel’. Rogier complains about his friend’s bad breath and lack of cooperation, but the wife farts away in blissful oblivion until, in complete exasperation, he pours the gruel over her bum.

From Valerie Allen, On Farting, pp. 54-5.

From my semi-nomadic existence: ‘Six Places to Visit in Red Petrograd’ is over at Aussie Travel Advice , while ‘The Hansa Run’ is on Voyages on the Left.


By this time of the evening I am in a comfy chair reading, looking out over the harbour, getting up to grab some second-hand binoculars acquired at the Berlin flee-markets to check out the name and structure and crew of the latest ship leaving or entering the harbour (that’s a navigation tower in the centre).

A lesser known aspect of the Russian Revolution is the flourishing of … nudism. After the revolution, the famous actress, Ida Rubenstein, played naked on stage. The poet Goldschmidt would appear naked on the streets. A movement called ‘Down with shame’ would walk the streets in Soviet cities, catch trams, go about their daily lives wearing nothing but a red sash over their shoulders. A White Army newspaper joked in 1919 that the price of suits must have skyrocketed, since so many people were going around naked. At international nudist conferences in the 1920s, the Soviet delegates far outnumbered those from other countries. Over the summers, rivers, beaches and lakes witnessed millions of old people, children, families, singles in the prime of their life gathered to play games, picnic or enjoy the sun – all naked.

How did it begin? It appears that during his long exile before the Revolution, Lenin visited a nudist beach in Austria and was favourably impressed. It was not so much the naked bodies everywhere, but the emphasis on healthy living. Given that Lenin was – as many noted – a muscular man with a love of outdoor activities, nudism was a natural extension of that passion. Soon enough both he and Krupskaya were regularly tossing their clothes in a corner and diving into the nearest river, lake or sea completely starkers. I’m not sure whether they also hiked and rode their bicycles naked (ice-skating might be a little tricky), but in this light one of Lenin’s favoured phrases, ‘tearing off the fig-leaf’, takes on a whole new meaning.

As do regular observations in the letters concerning swimming. For instance, Krupskaya writes about their stay at Pornic in France in the summer of 1910, ‘He went sea-bathing a lot, cycled a good deal – he loved the sea and the sea breezes – chatted gaily with the Kostitsins on everything under the sun’. Of course, one can enjoy the breeze much more when naked, even while chatting away with all and sundry. It mattered not where they were, for they would swim naked – in Longjumeau or in Pornic on the French coast, or in Stjernsund in Sweden, or in swimming pools in Munich, or in Poronino or in the Vistula River in Krakow. Nor were they alone, for other Bolsheviks were also given to stripping down whenever possible, among them Anatoly Lunacharsky, Nikolai Bukharin, Alexander Bogdanov.

After his return to Russia in 1917, Lenin bemoaned the fact that people still gathered in summer and swam in costumes, so he asked why they couldn’t do so without clothes: ‘We have much work to do for new forms of life, simplified and free’, he observed.

Why? As one of those early communist nudists observed, ‘In nudity class distinctions disappear. Workers, peasants, office workers are suddenly just people’. An image of a classless society, perhaps.

Lenin addressing a nudist convention in the Kremlin.

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