I may be many things, but you certainly could not classify me as a ‘political animal’. In my lifetime, I have voted New Labour, LibDems, Conservative, and even stood (quite a few years ago) in the local council elections, for the Green Party. Thankfully, my polling was so dismal that the world was spared any kind of career in local politics. Subsequently, Real Life got in the way of such unworldly aspirations, and I remain as politically agnostic as ever.
I do, however, read extensively and continually. On average, I manage around two serious texts each month, usually on history, culture and politics. One book which began to change the way I viewed the world was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, published originally in seven parts from 1973-78. Solzhenitsyn had written the book ‘in his head’, committing it to memory whilst he was a prisoner within Stalin’s Gulag from 1945-53. As he committed the work to paper, Solzhenitsyn intentionally broke it up into seven separate parts, all hidden in separate locations, so that if the Soviet authorities found one part of it, the rest would be safe.
This book remains one of the classic texts of the 20th Century, not merely because it blows the lid off the Soviet experiment which consigned millions to the Gulags or to shallow graves, but also because of Solzhenitsyn’s profound analysis on human rights, and the anatomy of human oppression. In my opinion, it should be required reading for every student, because it takes us toward an understanding of the dynamics of oppression which is independent of the increasingly shallow and polarised party politics which we experience now in the West. In the course of reading the book, I began to see echoes of the way in which we now treat people within the constraints of a ‘democratic’ society. The DNA of oppression, and the ideological drivers for the curtailing of human freedoms float free of labels such as ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, or red or blue.
The book has inspired the name of this Blog. In the following chapters, I am going to narrate the story of a new form of oppression, evolving under the aegis of devolved Welsh politics, one where I have skin in the game, so to speak. I shall need to anonymise details throughout, but shall adhere strictly to the details of events, as they have unfolded. I leave the reader to ask him or herself whether this is the kind of culture that best serves human flourishing. Within the specific context of this Blog, the word ‘Gulag’ is not used literally, but analogically, as a proxy for particular kind of culture, driven by political ideology.
Before I expand my sphere of enquiry, this Blog takes the form of a series of chapters, dealing with a Welsh taxation debacle that, in a civilised culture, should never have happened.