The Punishment Of Dissent

Through the prism of Nikolai Bukharin, writer Matt Treacy views the treatment of dissent by tyranny. Matt Treacy blogs @ Brocaire Books.

Nikolai Bukharin was an interesting chap. He was a “foundational Bolshevik” as some might refer to latter day republican “dissenters” as “foundational Provos,” as if that was a bad thing. If that is not bad enough then they will drop the penny as informers.

Like many revolutionaries Bukharin made moral compromises that do not always reflect well upon him. He sided with Stalin initially but became appalled by the burgeoning terror and the huge loss of life in the artificial famines.

He professed allegiance to Stalin to the very end, but many historians believe that he was being duplicitous for whatever reason. Many of us have been. Stalin toyed with him, and at one stage apparently stood laughing at him with Beria and the other scum while poor Nikolai attempted to attract their attention by waving at them in the podium during the May Day march.

The lesson of that is, do not attempt to kowtow to tyrants. They only have contempt for people who fawn on them, and that includes those who think they are in the “core group.”

So one day, after years of dodging and dealing they came to take Bukharin away. Historians are conflicted about whether he was tortured but evidence from the archives show that the interrogators were instructed that “beatings permitted.” Well, anyone who has ever been beaten up would not consider that anything to be happy about.

So, eventually he confessed to all sorts of nonsensical allegations and they had a trial. Then he retracted, and then made a ludicrous confession to being a fascist. The best interpretation of it is that he did it to save his family. It didn’t succeed. They sent them to the gulag. Another reason not to compromise with tyrants.

The lesson of all of this is that internal dissenters are always looked upon as worse than any external enemy. The reason being that they remind the tyrant of how far they have distanced themselves from the original objectives they professed to believe in. Above all they cannot tolerate that.

Most of all they cannot tolerate anyone who points out that the Emperor does not have clothes. The lesson of Bukharin is, never compromise.


  1. Matt,

    "The lesson of Bukharin is, never compromise."

    The permanency of 'never' necessarily excludes any possibility of pragmatic and occasional enlightened self-interest ... or that of sometimes necessary self-preservation. 'Never' abnegates those considerations which essentially constitutes compromise. 'Never compromise' is of itself and like much of your piece a non sequitur.

    The prism you invite us to view things through Matt, when considered from other perspectives, is very much like that of an infant ... that of an infant who is stuck in (or who has regressed to) the developmental phase of the "terrible two's".

    (The same underpinnings as those of an autocrat. The same psychological forces that shape the fascist's behaviour and thinking).

  2. Anyone who has been in a minority within a political party and refused to bend to the will of the leadership will be familiar with Matt Treacy point about being looked upon as worse than any external enemy. As he writes the reason being is because they remind the leadership/leader and their cronies of how far they have distanced themselves from the party's original aims.

    He is spot on when he writes they cannot tolerate anyone who points out that the Emperor does not have clothes.

    Matt, this is about as good an analysis of such folk I have read. (i'm generalising here not having a pop at a single individual)