Thousands of Cans and Cartons
- Against the Grain: An Autobiography by Boris Yeltsin, translated by Michael Glenny
Cape, 215 pp, £12.95, March 1990, ISBN 0 224 02749 2
Several years ago, Tariq Ali published an exquisite interview with a disillusioned veteran of the Indian Communist Party. This old comrade had been invited to Moscow by Khrushchev, and wanted a chance to express his misgivings about the treatment of Boris Pasternak. During a Bolshoi performance in which Khrushchev was showing no interest, he seized his moment. In vain. No, said the burly peasant, I want to hear no more about this author. We shall not be publishing him. Had it occurred to the party of Lenin, asked the Indian communist very silkily, that if literature was forbidden it might start to circulate in unauthorised forms? Maybe and maybe not, replied Khrushchev, but in any event the party of Lenin would not be giving it currency.
Vol. 12 No. 12 · 28 June 1990
Christopher Hitchens’s review (LRB, 24 May) of Boris Yeltsin’s ghosted apologia tells us, like Dylan Thomas’s unwanted Christmas gift, ‘everything about the mosquito except why’. Yeltsin’s voluble anti-Communism made him an instant Western media hero. A bemused BBC initially called him a ‘leftist’ (on the specious grounds that anyone opposed to the status quo must be of the Left), but now refers to him more ambiguously as a ‘radical’. Even this morning’s Fiji Times (proprietor: Rupert Murdoch) captions an aggressive portrait, ‘Democracy warrior Boris Yeltsin’. What seems to have eluded Hitchens and his colleagues, from Tavistock Square to Suva, is that far from being a democrat, Yeltsin represents the terrifying resurgence of xenophobic nationalism and anti-semitism now threatening to engulf Central and Eastern Europe. His relationship with the neo-fascist Pamyat movement in Russia is intimate, if unofficial. This is not the voice of progress and enlightenment, but that of the pogroms and fierce Slavophilia of centuries past. What should be more widely realised is that Yeltsin’s natural allies in the West are not liberal democrats or even Tories, but Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front and Franz Schönhuber’s Republican Party. L’Evénement du Jeudi (No 273) warned of these developments last January. Where are such warnings in the Anglophone press?
University of the South Pacific, Fiji