What’s so special about today, I hear you ask. Well, look at the calendar, check the date, and then you’ll know.
For today is 8 March, the official No Wife Beating Day in Russia, which for no persuasive reason we too have begun to celebrate.
First we had Mothering Sunday, a religious holiday Western Christians celebrate on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Yet, as progress advanced, our delicate sensibilities could no longer accommodate any Christian festivals other than Christmas Shopping (just 292 days left, I’ll have you know).
Hence, under the cool influence of the US, Mothering Sunday was largely replaced by Mother’s Day, a holiday with no religious overtones whatsoever.
Now that secular but otherwise unobjectionable holiday has been supplemented by International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated by all progressive mankind on 8 March. Our delicate sensibilities aren’t offended at all.
Actually, though the portion of mankind that celebrates 8 March calls itself progressive, it isn’t really entitled to this modifier – unless one accepts a propensity for murdering millions as an essential aspect of progress.
For 8 March is a communist event, declared a national holiday by the Bolsheviks in 1917, immediately after they seized power and started killing people on a scale never before seen in history. A few wires were expertly pulled after the war, and IWD also got enshrined in Soviet satellites.
Outside the Soviet bloc, 8 March went uncelebrated, unrecognised and, until recently, unknown. I remember back in 1974, when I worked at NASA, visiting Soviet astronauts made a big show of wishing female American employees a happy 8 March, eliciting only the stock Texan response of “Say what?”
The event was big in the Soviet Union, with millions of men giving millions of women bunches of mimosa, boxes of chocolates, bottles of scent – and, more important, refraining from giving them a black eye, a practice rather more widespread in Russia than in the West.
But not on 8 March. That was the day when men scoured their conscience clean by being effusively lovey-dovey – so that they could resume abusing women the very next day.
For Russia was then, and still remains, out of reach for fashionable ideas about women’s equality or indeed humanity. As the Russian proverb goes, “A chicken isn’t a bird, a wench isn’t a person.”
Much as one may be derisory about feminism, it’s hard to justify the antediluvian abuse, often physical, that’s par for the course in Russia, especially outside central Moscow or Petersburg. Proponents of the plus ça change view of history would be well-advised to read Dostoyevsky on this subject.
In A Writer’s Diary Dostoyevsky describes in terrifying detail the characteristic savagery of a peasant taking a belt or a stick to his trussed-up wife, lashing at her, ignoring her pleas for mercy until, pounded into a bloody pulp, she stops pleading or indeed moving. However, according to the patriotic writer, this in no way contradicted the brute’s inner spirituality, so superior to Western materialistic legalism.
(A senior Russian official recently put that artistic insight on a scientific footing by explaining that the Russians possess an extra gene of spirituality.)
The Russian village still has the same roads (typically none) as at the time that was written, and the same way of treating womenfolk – but not on 8 March. On that day the Soviets were house-trained to express their solidarity with the oppressed women of the world, or rather specifically of the capitalist world.
As a conservative, I have my cockles warmed by the traditionalist way in which the Russians lovingly maintain Soviet traditions, including the odd bit of murder by the state, albeit so far on a smaller scale. Why we have adopted some of them, at a time when communism has supposedly collapsed, is rather harder to explain.
But why stop here? Many Britons, especially those of the Labour persuasion, already celebrate May Day, with red flags flying to symbolise the workers’ blood spilled by ghastly capitalists. Why not spread the festivities more widely?
The Russians also celebrate 7 November, on which day in 1917 the Bolsheviks introduced social justice expressed in mass murder and universal slavery.
I say we’ve been ignoring this glorious event far too long, even though it’s now coyly called Reconciliation and Agreement Day. And neither do we celebrate Red Army Day on 23 February – another shameful omission.
But at least we seem to be warming up to 8 March, an important communist event. At least we’re moving in the right direction.
In case you plan to accelerate down that road, here are some unmissable dates for your calendar. Lenin was born on 22 April, Stalin on 18 December, the Soviet Union was formed on 30 December.
And today, on 8 March, Penelope has nothing to fear from me.