There's a longer post on this topic coming soon - it may well be my first after my permanent return to the UK on Sunday - but here's a teaser of the subject matter. I hope I'm not the only one who feels suspicious of the broadsheet columns, representative of a whole subgenre of revisionist history (examples here and here of works which mask a political agenda behind the supposed urgency and objectivity of their message), which labour the 'Stalin as bad as/ worse than Hitler' point, as if anyone who has ever felt the slightest of leftish inclinations stands in need of reminding about what took place in the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1953.
Two quick points. First: are such arguments ever anything other than sententious point-scoring? Amis's Koba the Dread seemed to mark the beginning of his diversion into conservative truculence, which reached its apotheosis with the (quite literally) execrable 'The Last Days of Mohammed Atta' and the stunningly ill-advised essay 'The Age of Horrorism'. Since Koba, he's been wagging his finger, most probably at CW students at Manchester University, and making claims that are either so obvious that they can only represent the need of an increasingly intellectually bereft novelist for straw targets or wrong in a manner that is so outré as to be almost avant-garde. The 'Stalin = worst' argument brings to mind Patrick Hamilton's brilliant caricature Mr. Thwaites, the aging blimp in Slaves of Solitude who believes that it is the iconoclastic verve of his rants, rather than their bullying predictability, which sends the likable protagonist Miss Roach up the wall. For young writers, it's frustrating to see well-paid public intellectuals filling column inches/ broadcast schedules with opinions which, while inching ever closer to earning the epithet 'received', are presented as the product of someone daring to say the unsayable. It would be interesting to see a contemporary columnist discussing the historical conditions that drove the Soviet Union towards Stalin in the first place; after all, there's been plenty of attempts to historicise Nazism.
Second: Russophobia seems to be a sanctioned form of racism. I don't know what the majority of the mainstream media think the 'colour' revolutions in post-Soviet states are, but I'm fairly certain that they're anything but triumphs of social democracy. Furthermore, when Russians aren't being represented as the oppressors of 'Plucky Little Georgia' or the conquistadores of Baltic hyperspace, they're painted as barely-civilised invaders disguised in Gucci and Prada. Remember this?