Today, November 7, is the 94th anniversary of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution, which they know as the October Revolution. Leave it to those dumb Commies to have an October Revolution in November (the revolutionaries switched from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian, being the last major country on earth to do so). I remember studying at Columbia in the early '70s. Lenin was God ever there. We had to read selections of his works in our Contemporary Civilization classes, not a bad idea in itself; we came to college to challenge and be challenged, and it it always beneficial to know one's enemy. But from listening to our professors you would never guess that Lenin and his system were the enemy, that they had to build a wall to keep their people in, that it was a crime to attempt to leave the Soviet Union or any of its satellite countries, or "captive nations." As long as the Soviet Union stood, November 7 was a holiday throughout the country, which was the largest nation on earth in terms of land area, spanning eleven time zones and incorporating 104 recognized national groups, most of them seething at Russian domination. The anniversary was also celebrated at Soviet installations throughout the world. In New York that meant the Soviet airline Aeroflot, the trade organization Amtorg, and above all the Soviet mission to the United Nations on East 67 Street off of Third Avenue, across the street from Park East Synagogue.
The Jews in the Soviet Union were one of the recognized nationalities. Stalin even tried to designate a territory for us, the barren wasteland of Birobidzhan near the border with North Korea. Some Jewish Communists actually settled there, but were kept from having any semblance of Jewish life, there or in any part of the Soviet Union. We were forbidden to pray, to observe our holidays and to study Hebrew, the authorities having designated Yiddish as our national language and proclaimed Hebrew the language of the Zionist fascists and imperialists. So we would gather at the mission building to demonstrate aganst Soviet oppression of its Jews. At first the police tried to confine us to the National Guard armory a block away, but we wanted to demonstrate at the mission building so the Commie pigs could hear us. After a struggle in the courts the police were forced to allow at least a small group to demonstrate across the street from the mission, that is, directly in front of Park East synagogue. In a parody of the Russian folk song "Volga Boatman," we would sing:
Russian Mission Boom
Russian Mission Boom
Russian Mission Russian Mission Russian Mission Boom,
the "Boom" expressing a hope that someone would blow up the Russian Mission. In fact, militant Jews did set off some homemade bombs at other less well guarded facilities
Another chant was:
One Two Three Four
Open Up the Iron Door
Five Six Seven Eight
Let Our People Emigrate
When we saw a Soviet yellow submarine unloading diplomats' children coming home from their special school (they wouldn't deign to send their children to America's bourgeois public schools), we would chant in their direction: Yob Tvaiyu Mat! It's a very nasty thing to say to Russian kids. It means "Fuck your mother." The Russians would complain to their ambassador to the United Nations, who would complain to the Embassy in Washington, who would complain to the U.S. State Department, whose officials weren't very happy but had to explain to the Russians that, unlike their hellhole of a country, our citizens were free to speak their minds no matter who is offended.
Hardly any of us would have thought that in 1989 young Germans would tear down the Berlin Wall overnight with chisels and their bare hands as citizens of other captive nations, supposedly contented in a Communist workers' paradise, liberated their own countries, and that by the end of 1991 the Soviet Union itself would be but a bad memory and those who miss it would be able to meet in a telephone booth. Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev once boasted that he would bury us and that our grandchildren would live under Communism. It's hard to believe that the high school students that I teach never heard of the Berlin Wall or the Cold War - to them that is something they read about in history books. We buried their system, and their children and grandchildren leave for Israel and the United States to live in freedom.
So now November 7 provides an occasion to reflect on the difference between our way of life and theirs, and on how fortunate we are to be where we are. With all its faults and troubles, and they are many, our country is still a shining city on a hill, a beacon of hope and freedom to all the world's oppressed.
GOD BLESS AMERICA!