Liberty Under the Soviets

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Mencius Moldbug couldn’t think of a better way to demonstrate the profound and utter phoniness, the shameless and thoroughly criminal hypocrisy, of the American obsession with civil liberties, than to visit his friendly local library and request a copy of Liberty Under the Soviets (1927) — available nowhere online, apparently — by Roger N. Baldwin, founder of the ACLU. An excerpt:

My own prejudices are amply conveyed by the title of this book. Though over half of it is devoted to a description of the controls by the Soviet state, I have chosen to call it Liberty Under the Soviets because I see as far more significant the basic economic freedoms of workers and peasants and the abolition of privileged classes based on wealth; and only less important, the release of the non-Russian minorities to develop their national cultures, the new freedom of women, the revolution in education — and, if one counts it as significant, liberty for religion — and anti-religion.

Against all these liberties stand the facts of universal censorship of all means of communication and the complete suppression of any organized opposition to the dictatorship or its program. No civil liberty as we understand it in the West exists in Russia for opponents of the regime — no organized freedom of speech or assemblage, or of the press. No political liberty is permitted. The Communist Party enjoys an exclusive monopoly.

Nevertheless I emphasize by title and the arrangement of this book the outstanding relation, as I see it, between the dictatorship’s controls and the new liberties. For although I am an advocate of unrestricted civil liberty as a means to effecting even revolutionary changes in society with a minimum of violence, I know that such liberty is always dependent on the possession of economic power. Economic liberty underlies all others. In any society civil liberties are freely exercised only by classes with economic power — or if by other classes, only at times when the controlling class is too secure to fear opposition.

In Soviet Russia, despite the rigid controls and suppression of opposition, the regime is dominated by the economic needs of workers and peasants. Their economic power, even when unorganized, is the force behind it. Their liberties won by the Revolution are the ultimate dictators of Soviet policy. In this lies the chief justification for the hope that, with the increasing share by the masses in all activities of life, the rigors of centralized dictatorship will be lessened and the creative forces given free rein. Peasants and workers are keenly aware of their new liberties won by the Revolution. Anywhere you can hear voiced their belief that, whatever their criticism and discontent, that they are “free.” And they constitute over ninety percent of the Russian people.

Baldwin’s later, shorter piece, Freedom in the USA and the USSR, is online, and it’s quite brazenly pro-Communist. What’s shocking is how the ACLU maintained a reputation as merely liberal and not at all Communist.


  1. Moldbug grew up communist. He probably inherited the book from his parents’ library.

  2. Dan Kurt says:

    Read it or download it here.

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