The Speech That Shocked America and Britain
The Communist system of the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The world was stunned.
Many people believe that Alexander Solzhenitsyn did more to bring down that system than any other Russian.
Few people are aware of the flood of horror and bloodshed that started after the 1917 Russian Revolution and continued until Stalin’s death in 1953.
The Communist regime caused the deaths of about 66 million people from 1917 to 1953—a period of 36 years! (That figure does not include the 31 million who died in World War II—about one-fifth of their population.) The Soviet Union was slaughtering her own people.
One prisoner by the name of Shostakovich gave this testimony: “I was remembering my friends, and all I saw was corpses, mountains of corpses. I’m not exaggerating, I mean mountains…. I’m grieving all the time.”
The Revolution began with inspiring hope. That hope was drowned in a sea of suffering and bloodshed. Russia became like a massive graveyard.
Mr. Solzhenitsyn was a victim of the brutal Communist regime. He was in the Russian prison system, the Gulag Archipelago, for eight years. After that, he was exiled in his own country for another three years—a total of 11 years in prison.
He saw that prison authorities did not have serious communist or socialist ideals. They were gangsters and thugs who had gained control of the Revolution. Stalin was the chief gangster.
Solzhenitsyn began to think about the Russian Revolution while in the Gulag. Before and after he was released, he knew that somebody had to report the truth. Who would it be? He decided it would have to be himself. It was his life that would have to be risked by writing about a prison system that reflected a Revolution gone mad.
In his autobiography, The Oak and the Calf, he said (emphasis mine throughout), “At last I was beginning to see revealed the higher and hidden meaning of that suffering for which I had been unable to find a justification, that sharp reminder from the Supreme Reason which no mere mortal can at first understand. This was why my murderous misfortunes had been sent to me—to deny me all possibility, snatch from me any chance of lying low and keeping quiet, to make me desperate enough to speak and act.”
Solzhenitsyn believes God had a hand in his suffering and in his speaking out. Certainly he revealed the evils of Russian Communism more than anybody else ever did.
His experiences made him desperate enough to speak out against what some have called the greatest tyranny ever. In the midst of that suffering, he developed character and values he would not compromise, even if death were the result.
One man of incredible character changed history. Behind this character was a strong religious morality.
“Once again, my vision and my calculations are probably faulty,” he wrote. “There are many things which I cannot see even at close quarters, many things in which the Hand of the Highest will correct me. But this casts no cloud over my feelings. It makes me happier, more secure, to think that I do not have to plan and manage everything for myself, that I am only a sword made sharp to smite the unclean forces, an enchanted sword to cleave and disperse them.
“Grant, O Lord, that I may not break as I strike! Let me not fall from Thy hand!” (ibid.).
His life was seriously threatened several times. But he continued to write books and speak out against communist rulers. Here is what George Steiner wrote in The New York Times Book Review, March 1, 1998: “To use a Shakespearian image: during the late 1960s and throughout the ’70s, Alexander Solzhenitsyn bestrode the world like a colossus. The winning of the Nobel Prize in Literature in October 1970, his expulsion from Russia in February 1974, the publication in the West of The Gulag Archipelago the same year, made him not only the world’s most famous writer, but a spiritual guide, a prophet, an exemplar unrivaled since Voltaire or Tolstoy. His every movement, his most occasional pronouncements, were the object of frenetic attention in the news media. Crowds blocked the airports at which Solzhenitsyn arrived. In the ‘free world,’ Cancer Ward and The First Circle sold by the million; in Russia and Eastern Europe, clandestine copies passed from hand to hand, keeping fiercely alive ‘hope against hope.’”
Communist leaders intensified their persecution. How did Solzhenitsyn survive all this evil? Here is what Michael Scammel wrote in his book entitled Solzhenitsyn: “Solzhenitsyn’s moral purity, his absolute refusal to compromise on fundamental issues, was his greatest asset, which gave meaning to his life and work.”
In February 1974, Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union. In 1976, he made his home in Vermont. Then in June of 1978, Harvard, America’s most prestigious educational institution, invited him to give the commencement address.
Never has such a massively murderous government as the Soviet Union been so deeply exposed by one man. And the West agreed with his conclusions. But it didn’t end there. Solzhenitsyn also exposed America and Britain! And we have rejected almost 100 percent of his severe criticism. That should have made us do some serious thinking about being biased. But it didn’t!
His Harvard speech sent shock waves throughout the West. Most of the media turned bitterly against him.
This is a chapter in our history that we desperately need to understand.
Where Is Our Courage?
This Nobel Prize winner struck at the very heart of what makes a nation great—or what causes a superpower to fall. Here is an excerpt from his Harvard speech, “A World Split Apart”: “A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.
“Political and intellectual functionaries…base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And the decline in courage, at times attaining what could be termed a lack of manhood…[means] they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.
“Must one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the first symptom of the end?”
That last line truly disturbed many people. He stated a great truth of history that has been demonstrated repeatedly, but that few men have learned. It has been proven again and again since “ancient times.” A radical decline in courage is a frightening symptom of the end of America and Britain!
He is discussing the death of our nations! But that is only a small part of the problem. History also thunders that he is right. So does Bible prophecy.
What a powerful warning Mr. Solzhenitsyn gave, if only we would heed and get to the cause of our problems.
India and Pakistan ignored our deep concerns about nuclear testing. America has suffered many such foreign-policy setbacks in recent years (see article, p. 9). Nobody fears the great American superpower anymore.
America is called the world’s only superpower. We do have the military might. But Solzhenitsyn says we lack the will to use it.
When does America act today without United Nations approval?
In this world full of tigers, a superpower can’t resign or sneak off into the night. Other nations know that if they can destroy a superpower, they become a superpower themselves.
This is a sobering thought that America should keep in mind!
Solzhenitsyn made other condemning statements about the West, but they were made over a long period of time. Mostly they were unnoticed or ignored. His speech at Harvard was different. On that hot summer day in 1978, he had the attention of America’s intellectual elite. The press was there, listening intently. A speech like that, so concentrated and focused, and with such an attentive audience, could not be ignored!
A Broken Will
Several years earlier, Solzhenitsyn said, “We see [the West] today, crawling on hands and knees, its will paralyzed.”
This Nobel Prize winner has spoken more forcefully than others. But haven’t we noticed the many other critics outside Britain and America today?
Notice this comment from The Jerusalem Post International Edition, February 21: “The Americans view themselves, correctly, as the world’s political and economic leaders, responsible for the security and well-being of the globe. But many members of the Clinton administration are plagued by self-doubt in their dealings with the pariah states and sources of terror and instability. This schizophrenia leads to confusion, both within the U.S. government and among America’s allies….
“This is not the behavior expected from the world’s only superpower.
“Since the end of the Cold War, Washington has been the undisputed capital of the world. If the Americans do not fill this leadership role, the rogue states and regional conflicts will grow out of control, and the world economic system will spiral into depression….
“In response, Israelis could decide that despite all the promises and assurances, in a prolonged crisis, the U.S. is not a reliable ally.”
This prestigious newspaper states that America is “plagued by self-doubt” and has a “schizophrenia” that leads to confusion.
There is indeed a leadership role that urgently needs to be filled in the Middle East by a strong America. But we are failing badly. Many Israelis say we are not acting like the world’s only superpower. Many of our foreign friends have already decided that we are not a “reliable ally”! That kind of thinking would disturb us mightily—if we were a real superpower! But we are too weak to be stung by such words, much less demonstrate to the world that they are wrong.
Intelligence Digest listed this as its number one worry for the start of 1998: “The erosion of American leadership.” The weaker our foreign policy, the more an anti-American tide rises around the world.
Here is what Solzhenitsyn said in The Oak and the Calf: “Unmoved by all the misfortunes and threats that hemmed us in, I knew that it was time: time to find some way of shocking the West into the realization that it could not look after its own interests, that while it raged implacably against the weak, it invariably lost, invariably surrendered to rock-hard tyrants.”
The West “invariably surrendered to rock-hard tyrants” like Saddam Hussein. And isn’t he still in power because we lacked the will to remove him in the Persian Gulf War?
That same year, 1991, America and the entire United Nations succumbed to the bullying tactics of a resurgent Germany regarding the independence of Croatia and Slovenia.
Still, America likes to nurture the illusion that we are the world’s only superpower.
“During my time in the camps, I had gotten to know the enemies of the human race quite well: they respect the big fist and nothing else; the harder you slug them, the safer you will be. (People in the West simply will not understand this…)” (ibid.).
We refuse to understand because of our weak will.
There were many mistakes made in the Vietnam War. But we rarely ever discuss why President Kennedy got us involved in the first place. The President knew we were not taking a stand against the rock-hard communist tyrants at that time the way we should. He said, “We must show some resolve to the communists.” We did just the opposite in Vietnam. And to this day we still haven’t shown them that resolve. And what’s more, we are not going to in the future.
Herbert W. Armstrong said, “America has won its last war.” I agree completely. So does Bible prophecy.
What Is the Solution?
Let’s look at a prophecy that is for this end time. Leviticus 26 is called the blessings and cursings chapter. The blessings would come upon Israel for obedience, cursings for disobedience. Israel today is primarily America and Britain. (You can prove this by reading our free booklet The United States and Britain in Prophecy.) “But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments…I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you” (Lev. 26:14, 17). It’s a dreadful condition to have God “against you.” “And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power” (vv. 18-19). If we disobey God, He has promised to break the pride of our power. That means we would be a great power in the end time, but our will would be broken. That has happened exactly as God prophesied!
And that is exactly the way Alexander Solzhenitsyn and others have described Britain and especially America today.
God often agrees with our foreign policy critics. Our weakness is directly tied to the all-powerful God! That should cause us to pause and think.
Daniel prophesied that the words of Moses, like the book of Leviticus, were for this end time (Dan. 9:13). Our broken will is just one of the curses upon us.
Daniel was written for this end time (Dan. 12:4, 9). And he says the book of Leviticus, which Moses wrote, is for the nations of Israel in this end time as well.
Most people don’t even know who the nations of Israel are today. But these prophecies indicate that God’s very elect would know and proclaim to the world who they are. It is a critical job that must be done.
Why don’t we understand God’s truth and prophecies? Daniel says it is because we won’t repent and turn from our sins. God would give us understanding if we would just repent of our sins. God commands us to turn to His righteousness. We will never understand who we are and what is happening to us until we turn to God. That includes religion also.
The whole world is deceived (Rev. 12:9). Religion most of all!
America and Britain are going to die if they don’t repent! (Ezek. 33:11). History verifies this. That is what Mr. Solzhenitsyn was saying, and God agrees with him!
“Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice” (Dan. 9:14). God is actually bringing all the evils upon us because of our sins. And the Leviticus prophecy says the problems will intensify until we repent or die!
That is what it means when it says God is “against” us!
Ezekiel is also an end-time book addressed to Israel. “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations” (Ezek. 5:8). “I, even I” am against you, God says. This repetition is to emphasize the horror of the statement.
Who could be in a more horrifying state?! God is going to punish us in the sight of all nations. If we don’t repent collectively, just sit back and watch it happen very fast.
“And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations” (v. 9). Our punishment is going to be the worst ever inflicted on any nation! (Matt. 24:21-22; Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1). It is going to happen because of all our “abominations.”
Our punishment is going to be the worst ever because our sins are the most abominable in our history!
There is a great cause behind God’s punishment. “Thus shall mine anger be accomplished, and I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted: and they shall know that I the Lord have spoken it in my zeal, when I have accomplished my fury in them” (v. 13). We are going to get to know God. We don’t know Him today because Satan is the god of this world (II Cor. 4:1-4). Mankind worships him, not the true God.
How grotesque can our deception be? Being so deeply deceived shows that we refuse to accept God’s truth. People love living in deceit!
Alexander Solzhenitsyn has a strong belief in God. In the Harvard speech, he showed that we are condemned by our own history. “The humanistic way of thinking, which had proclaimed itself our guide, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man, nor did it see any task higher than the attainment of happiness on earth. It started modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend of worshiping man and his material needs….
“Thus gaps were left open for evil, and its drafts blow freely today. Mere freedom per se does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and even adds a number of new ones.
“And yet in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility…. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims….
“The West has finally achieved the rights of man, and even excess, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer.… All the celebrated technological achievements of progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the twentieth century’s moral poverty, which no one could have imagined even as late as the nineteenth century.”
What happens when we make a foundational change in our belief about the evil in man? As we put more and more trust in man, we push our responsibility to God aside. This is a fatal flaw in our thinking which destroys nations!
“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). Because we have placed our trust in man, we are under a dreadful curse. The evidence is all around us!
As most child-rearing authorities condemn any spanking of our children, we have seen a series of murders of teens against teens in our schools. There is evil in those youthful killers, in most cases, that was not dealt with properly in love and discipline—God’s way.
Our families are upside down. “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (Isa. 3:12). This is an end-time book of prophecy (Isa. 30:8).
Mr. Solzhenitsyn questioned our “manhood.” And he was correct to do so. Women rule our families. Our boys lack strong, masculine role models. Our society is becoming more effeminate and female-dominated.
Young boys become frustrated and sometimes violent without proper family guidance, especially from their fathers. Our forefathers had a much more God-oriented family life; their faith in God was much stronger.
How much more do we have to be cursed before we learn the ugly truth about our families?
Our people care little about the morals of our leaders today. That was not the case even a few years ago. We don’t understand or even care that bad morals destroy families. It is through the family most of all that strong, godly morals should be taught!
Deceived About Human Nature
“The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals,” Solzhenitsyn continued.
“This tilt of freedom toward evil has come about gradually, but it evidently stems from a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which man—the master of the world—does not bear any evil within himself, and all the defects of life are caused by misguided social systems, which must therefore be corrected….
“Voluntary self-restraint is almost unheard of: everybody strives toward further expansion to the extreme limit of the legal frames.”
As he says, we blame the social systems rather than our own evil human nature. (Write for our booklet, Human Nature—What Is It?)
We are talking about thinking that makes or destroys individuals and nations!
Here is why. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). This is the evil in man that Solzhenitsyn discussed. The human mind “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” And yet, in America and Britain, we usually reason that human nature is good. That diabolical philosophy is destroying our nations!
Imagine what our evil minds would do with no obligations and no laws in society. As it is, there is usually no teaching of character to control our thinking. We live in a world of fantasy and illusion. As a result, our society is falling apart. The mind of man—human nature—is “desperately wicked.” We should be building God’s character by overcoming this mind—not trusting and relying on it! No nation can long endure on such a vile foundation.
Can this Nobel Prize-winner teach us about our own history?
Harvard began as a religious institution. But it certainly isn’t one today! But even if it were, most religions have succumbed to this fatal and false reasoning about human nature also.
Today we are lost in the present—rejecting the past and blind to the future! We have lost the big overview. Our nations are like the Titanic, speeding into the darkness, as we ignore the warnings from history and prophecy. Unless we heed that message, unparalleled catastrophe is certain!
Solzhenitsyn said in his speech, “It is imperative to reappraise the scale of the usual human values; its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President’s performance should be reduced to the question of how much money one makes….” What a staggering prophecy of today’s news! And remember, this speech was given 20 years ago! Most people don’t care if our leaders have depraved moral problems as long as the economy is good. Polls have demonstrated that again and again. But we fail to understand this dangerous and destructive degeneration.
How much more meaningful Solzhenitsyn’s words are today! Still, we have not heeded the warning.
Who has the power to lead us today? Where does the real authority lie? Solzhenitsyn had some strong views on that subject in his speech. “Hastiness and superficiality—these are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century, and more than anywhere else this is manifested in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press; it is contrary to its nature. The press merely picks out sensational formulas.
“Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within Western countries, exceeding that of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. Yet one would like to ask: According to what law has it been elected, and to whom is it responsible? In the Communist East, a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has voted Western journalists into their positions of power, for how long a time, and with what prerogatives?”
If we understood that we are the nations of Israel today, this problem could be better understood. As the Gentiles are prone to be led by a dictator, we naturally degenerate to little or no government.
We are not truly ruled by those people we vote into office. The press has the greatest power. But this is a symptom of a far deeper problem.
Ancient Israel—our forefathers—usually came to this same condition just before they collapsed and were conquered by an enemy.
“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 21:25). The press had the most power then too—not the elected officials. And soon, every person did what “was right in his own eyes.” There was no real leadership. And there is almost none today. It is a terrifying reality!
What is happening today in America and Britain is what happened routinely to our forefathers! We are making the same mistakes they made.
The book of Judges is a part of the former prophets. That means this is prophecy for us today! But we pay little attention to history and even less to Bible prophecy—until it is too late.
Why were our people so offended by Alexander Solzhenitsyn? Can we afford to so rudely push aside the warning of a man of such deserved stature? A man who was forced to face the ugly reality of his own land?
What Is Freedom?
Here is something else Solzhenitsyn said in that speech at Harvard: “The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.
“On the other hand, destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society has turned out to have scarce defense against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. This is all considered to be part of freedom.”
Solzhenitsyn says we have lost our balance. We vigorously defend human rights, but neglect human obligations, responsibility and character.
Are we free if we are in bondage to pornography? Or drugs? Or alcohol? Or sleazy, violent, mind-bending television and movies?
Are young people free if they have virtually no restrictions? Is it freedom to drive our cars without any stop signs or signals?
Is it freedom to desert the little children we bring into this world? If we do so, are they not destined to be in bondage to the evils of this world without parental guidance?
These are questions that are not being answered. Our “free” societies are descending into chaos and anarchy—individually and collectively.
There is no freedom without law! But whose law? Men have adopted many foolish and dangerous laws. We need a perfect law. And that is exactly what God gave us.
“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:21-25). God gave us ten perfect commandments to make us responsible. We must let the Ten Commandments show us where we are in bondage.
Most religions are in bondage because they reject God’s law and call it freedom! Men almost routinely think bondage is freedom—intellectually and spiritually!
“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (II Pet. 2:19). There are always deceived leaders who want to give us “freedom,” but actually bring us into their corruption and bondage. They want us to accept their anti-God ideas and rebellion.
Only the truth is going to set us free (John 8:32). And God’s word is truth (John 17:17).
Here is another statement made to the Harvard audience. “After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced as by a calling card by the revolting invasion of commercial advertising, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.
“All this is visible to numerous observers from all the worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model.” That is a remarkable statement. So few people realize that ancient Israel—the nation of our heritage—was chosen by God to be a model nation for the rest of the world. Israel was not a favorite people; they were chosen to be an example nation to show how wonderfully God would bless an obedient nation. But Israel always rebelled against the greatest calling any nation ever had.
Our failure today is far more horrendous. Solzhenitsyn and many others around the world abhor our example! And they should. It seems that everybody sees it but our own people!
Is it any wonder that Solzhenitsyn would be looking around for a model nation after nearly 100 million of his own people died in 36 years?
Mankind should have learned from such murderous examples that we are incapable of ruling ourselves.
Now, with our nuclear weapons, we are about to face the worst disaster in man’s history—World War III with nuclear weapons. This is the pinnacle of mankind’s achievement!
When that happens, man will finally begin to learn that only God can rule over him.
Solzhenitsyn continued, “There are telltale symptoms by which history gives warning to a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, a decline of the arts or a lack of great statesmen. Indeed, sometimes the warnings are quite explicit and concrete. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.”
This is all done under the guise of freedom. It is a deadly deception and we should know better. Unrestrained “freedom” is the most grotesque kind of bondage. Is a heroin addict free? Most of those leaders promising liberty are spiritually corrupt.
Are we a “perishing society”? The answer is a thunderous yes!
It’s time to wake up!
How could Alexander Solzhenitsyn be so right about the Communist system and so wrong about the Western system—as most Westerners reason? Are we so sure we’re right that we won’t even listen to objective criticism? Why would Solzhenitsyn even give such a speech? All it got him was ridicule and scorn. Isn’t is possible he wanted to help us save our nations from disaster?
He has suffered as few have in this modern world. And he learned some profound lessons in the process.
If we fail to listen to the warnings—especially God’s—then God is left with one only option.
All of those nuclear bombs would remain unexploded if mankind would listen to God’s words today. If they fail to listen, God is going to get their attention the only way He can!