December 4: Bucky Barnes the Bolshevik. Tell me more. (for sineala
MY TWO OBSESSIONS, LINKED TOGETHER IN ONE. YES.
My thinking is this: while Hydra might be happy to create a hollow human shell, the Bolsheviks would never go for it. You don’t brainwash someone to leave their brain empty; you brainwash them to fill their mind up with other (from the Bolshevik point of view, better
And the Bolsheviks didn't merely want to remake government: they wanted to remake human nature, too, to create the New Soviet Man. (For all that the Bolsheviks talked about gender equality, at least in the early years, they tended to focus on men.)
The New Soviet Man would be a heroic creature, an entirely different breed from the pathetic specimens created by bourgeois society. He would look like a Socialist Realist statue come to life, strong, tall, physically courageous, bursting with energy. But he would be smart, too, well-educated about Marxist doctrine, always up for a rousing chat about Leninism.
Selflessly loyal to the party, naturally, in that particularly Bolshevik way: full of partiinost,
which is "partyness," most literally, or "party-mindedness." A loyal party-minded Bolshevik is willing to sacrifice everything and everyone to the party, because the party is the vanguard of History, spearheading the charge toward a Communist heaven-on-earth. No sacrifice is too great: all suffering will be redeemed when this paradise arrives.
(Stalin liked to arrest Politburo members' wives or children or brothers to test their partiinost. A good Bolshevik bows his head and says "Let the Party's will be done." Partly out of ideological fervor, and partly because otherwise Stalin will just arrest the whole family, placing personal love above party loyalty being a clear sign of moral rot.)
And anyway, the New Soviet Man doesn't suffer much. He's a happy, optimistic fellow, full of good fellowship towards his partners in the fight against socialism, and just as full of ruthlessness toward enemies. His whole life is subordinated to the struggle for Communism, and with the glowing vision of a beautiful future forever before his eyes, who could help being happy?
The Bolsheviks believed they could create this paragon. They subscribed to the idea that humans are born tabula rasa. People are bad now because they've been raised in bourgeois society. Raise them in socialism, and how could they help but become better?
And then providence (or, as the Bolsheviks might prefer, History) plopped the perfect test case in their laps. He already looks like a Social Realist statue (barring the arm thing, but whatever, they'll build him a new one. Do we know for sure he lost it in the fall? Maybe he lost it later on, during a Soviet mission.). And he's sharp as a tack. And
he doesn't have any nasty bourgeois memories to gum up his mind.
(And he came back to life after they thawed him out. Stalin will be more than interested in that
! Stalin was always super interested in longevity research, and if Zola's supersoldier program was anything but a massive failure, Stalin absolutely would have signed himself up in the hopes of living FOREVER. He probably would have handed Zola an entire gulag full of test subjects if he got the chance. I need to consider the timeline for when Zola could have visited the Soviet Union...)
In short, this amnesiac supersoldier is the perfect raw material for the New Soviet Man.
Even more perfect than they realize, because Bucky already had most of the qualities they wanted: physical courage and good fellowship and ruthlessness toward enemies (think of the scene near the beginning of The First Avenger
where he chucks the bully off Steve. This is not a man who has qualms about using his physical strength against people who he thinks deserve it), and of course loyalty.
Admittedly, his loyalty is personal loyalty to specific people, not partiinost (“I’m following the skinny kid from Brooklyn”: words to make a good Bolshevik gag.) But it's easy to mistake one for the other – especially when your experiment is riding on your ability to create partiinost. Probably even the Winter Soldier thought he was a beacon of partiinost.
And, of course, having taken so many pains to teach him Marxist-Leninism, they probably used the chair as little as possible. Why wipe that out? Especially as it became clearer that Zola's experiments were a dead failure, and the Winter Soldier was the only supersoldier the Soviet Union was going to get.
The Winter Soldier probably took the fall of the Soviet Union very hard. At least until Pierce burned the knowledge out of his head.
What use was a good Bolshevik to Pierce, after all? Pierce had to scorch the Soldier’s memories away with the chair – so he’s not the Soldier anymore, just the Asset.
But the Asset’s not nearly as useful without any memories. Sullen, silent, easily confused, unpredictably violent. It disappoints Pierce: he put so much trouble into getting his hands on the Soldier, only to have to wreck him like this. But what was he supposed to do? Send him on missions “for the good of the party”? Like he has time to waste mouthing that Bolshevik mumbo-jumbo.