Who, you ask? Why Trofim Denisovitch Lysenko who appeared on earth on this day in 1898. TDL was marked out for greatness, but a couple of things had to happen first: the Russian Revolution, for one and the highjacking of the Soviet regime by Stalin for another. Stalin, ah yes, Stalin. The magic never ceases. Josef Vissarianovitch was an interesting guy. He was a Marxist, and a Bolshevik, but above all and always, he was a Stalinist. When Lenin was obviously ill and dying, somebody had to take over supreme power, in order to safeguard the Workers and Peasants Revolution, and who better. Think carefully before you answer that with the name of somebody ‘better’. There is nobody, right? So, let’s get going. “Going” included doing something about the dismal state of Soviet agriculture and this is where TDL came in. He was not really well-educated, and had hardly any scientific training or knowledge. But, as a peasant’s son, he knew how to talk to peasants. And he came up with ‘ideas’ that pleased The Big Guy. Unfortunately, these ‘ideas’ had very little scientific foundation, and some were complete nonsense. But, they sounded great. And that was enough for Stalin, because if Stalin says agriculture is now OK, then it is. And if Lysenko claims he can grow crops in winter, or double or triple the harvest, then it happens. Because he told Stalin he could, and Stalin said it, thereby making it so. Does everybody understand? Lysenko had a real animus toward education and expertise, particularly in science, about which he knew little. TDL rejected Darwinism and genetics. He used his position to make things very hot, or cold, depending on which camp they wound up in, for people he didn’t like. Some modern day US politicians sound very much like Lysenko-ists. The damage done to Soviet agriculture, biology and especially genetics was tremendous. But as long as Stalin was around, Lysenkow was untoucable.
“It is what it is” people say nowadays, and in rather tiresome fashion too, it seems. Well, maybe. But not then. What fits Marxist ideology and Stalin’s needs/wants/desires/whims is. Or else. It’s all an interesting, fascinating, horrifying and sad story. And it all began today.