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He Called Socialism a Lie and Was Locked in a Psych Ward

Vladimir Bukovsky refused to yield to the USSR. What would he say now about the West's cave-in to gender politics?

Vladimir Bukovsky in 2006. Credit: Getty Images/Bertrand Langlois

The time of the Soviet Empire was the blackest hour in world history. I give thanks daily that the unholy thing is dead. Many contributed to its demise, from the Poles to the British to some right-minded Americans (if you have not derisively hooted Alger Hiss’s name yet today, please do so now). But arguably nobody wounded the Soviet beast so mortally as the dissidents who spoke truth from within its belly.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a big lance in the Soviet behemoth’s side, but he was just one of many. Anyone who resolved not to advance the socialist lie—to “live life with integrity,” as Solzhenitsyn put it—was a cause for great distress in the halls of ephemeral Soviet power. The Russian people do not get points for ratting out imagined kulaks anymore, and that’s because a handful of souls brimming over with the spirit of God said, “This entire system is inhuman and insane. It must stop.” And by the grace of God, it did.

To my mind, no one struck a heavier blow against the Soviets than Vladimir Bukovsky, the dissident and truth-teller who delighted—I think is the right word—in annoying the hell out of the wretched Politburo and all the fatuous committees and agencies tasked with doing the work of communism, which is, ultimately, telling lies. I say that Bukovsky struck the heaviest blow because he hit the Soviets where their offensive was the most concerted, their lies the most furious, their denials the most rehearsed. The most pernicious lie the Soviets ever devised was that socialism was the criterion of sanity, and that anyone who thought otherwise was a madman. The Central Committee—Yuri Andropov and his wormy horde—put the word out that dissidents were to be declared unfit to live in society and so must be confined to hospital beds and heavily medicated until they came to their senses and agreed with whatever the Party line happened to be on a given Thursday.

Bukovsky spent a dozen years in prison, much of that time in psychiatric wards, because the Soviet psychiatrists had chosen expediency and careerism over conscience and the Hippocratic Oath. The doctors danced to Andropov’s tune. Anyone who dared say socialism was bogus was locked away.

But Vladimir Bukovsky would not yield. He would not tell a lie. He parried the thrust of the Soviet state, its weaponized psychiatry, and its clinicalized mendacity, and in outlasting it forced his tormentors—and there were many of them—to admit that not only their sham medicine but all of Soviet propaganda was false. Bukovsky’s To Build a Castle is a document of how he defied the Soviets right from the center of their gulag archipelago. His more recent book, Judgment in Moscow, provides the extensive documentary evidence of just how far his captors were willing to go to dress up lies as “science” and use them to enforce political orthodoxy.

We in the West like to congratulate ourselves that we won the Cold War and now all is well. The old specter of lies and terror has been laid. No more prison camps, no more night arrests, no more wiretaps and intimidation.

Read the news, however, and ask yourself where we really stand.

Nowhere have the bad ways of the Soviet Union oozed up from communism’s putative grave and infected the living than in the field of so-called psychiatry. The weaponization of mental health care is very much alive and well. Fifty years ago, they put you in a padded room if you refused to say that Lenin was a hero. Today, the “doctors” chemically, and sometimes physically, castrate the young, perform mastectomies on adolescents, pump children full of hormones, and egg on the most vulnerable among us in their heartbreaking denials of biological reality—all while calling it “psychiatry” and “medical care.”

And if anyone, even the parents of a person so afflicted and abused, say, as Bukovsky once did, that it is all a lie, that it is monstrous and inhuman and insane, they are socially lobotomized, as it were, shunned and defamed as bigots, raving lunatics who must either conform to the new normal or be left behind by the same progressive juggernaut that once had millions convinced that communism was the end-all-be-all of human existence.

After the Soviet psychiatrists’ American and other Western colleagues caught wind of what was going on in Russia in the name of medical practice, they rightfully censured, although just barely, their Soviet counterparts. Americans 40 years ago still had sense enough to know that politics could not alter facts. Not being a socialist is not grounds for psychiatric imprisonment. There is no medical condition called “dissent.” It is a function of courage, not of unbalanced brain chemicals.

Would that psychiatrists in Russia, which seems to have been spared the worst of the ravages of transgender ideology, would return the favor and rebuke their American and other Western colleagues today. The places that latterly crowed about “winning the Cold War” have been hollowed out by a lie even bigger and emptier than communism. Men cannot become women. Women cannot become men. Mental health is not what a majority says it is. People who are suffering deserve help and hope, not snake oil and intimidation.

Vladimir Bukovsky is dead and so are many of the other heroic dissidents who refused to low along with the herd. But the battle they fought has been handed down to us. Someday, God willing, the transgenderism nightmare will end, and the survivors will stagger out saying, as Bukovsky did, “Why did more of you not speak up?”

Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan.

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