In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 13, 2022 at 12:10 am

If John Steinbeck’s 1942 novel, The Moon Is Down, were available in Russia, this would be an appropriate time for Russians to plunge into it.

Written to inspire resistance movements in occupied countries, it has appeared in at least 92 editions across the world

It tells the story of a Norwegian village occupied by Germans in World War II.

At first the invasion goes swiftly. Wehrmacht Colonel Lanser establishes his headquarters in the house of the democratically-elected Mayor Orden.

Lanser, a veteran of World War I, considers himself a man of civility and law. But in his heart he knows that “there are no peaceful people” whose freedom has forcibly violated. 

John Steinbeck. The Moon is Down. Garden City: Sun Dial Press, | Lot #94077 | Heritage Auctions

After an alderman named Alex Morden is executed for killing a German officer, the townspeople settle into “a slow, silent waiting revenge.”

Any soldier who relaxes his guard, drinks or goes out with a woman, is murdered. Sections of the railroad linking the port with the local mine are routinely sabotaged and the electricity generators are short-circuited. 

Between the winter cold and the hostility of the townspeople, the Germans become fearful and disillusioned. One night, a frustrated Lieutenant Tonder asks: “Captain, is this place conquered?”

“Of course.” 

“Conquered and we’re afraid; conquered and we’re surrounded,” replies Tonder, hysterically. “Flies conquer the flypaper. Flies capture two hundred miles of new flypaper!”

A few nights later, Tonder knocks at the door of Molly Morden. He doesn’t realize that she nurses a deep hatred of Germans for the execution of her husband, Alex. Tonder desperately wants to escape the fury and loneliness of war. Molly agrees to talk with him, but insists that he leave and return another time.

When he returns the next evening, Molly invites him in—and then kills him with a pair of scissors.


A British plane flies over the town and drops packages of dynamite, which the townspeople hurriedly collect.

Soon afterward, the Germans learn about the droppings. Colonel Lanser arrests Mayor Orden and Doctor Albert Winter. As the two await their uncertain future, Orden tries to remember the speech Socrates delivered before he was put to death:

“Do you remember in school, in the Apology? Socrates says, ‘Someone will say, ‘And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life which is likely to bring you to an untimely end?’ To him I may fairly answer, ‘There you are mistaken: a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether he is doing right or wrong.’”

Colonel Lanser enters the room and warns Orden: “If you don’t urge your people to not use the dynamite, you will be executed.”

To which Orden replies: “Nothing can change it. You will be destroyed and driven out. The people don’t like to be conquered, sir, and so they will not be. Free men cannot start a war, but once it is started, they can fight on in defeat.

“Herd men, followers of a leader, cannot do that, and so it is always the herd men who win battles and the free men who win wars. You will find that it is so, sir.”

Lanser says that even if Orden doesn’t tell the townspeople to submit, the Germans can put out the story that he did.  

“They would know,” Orden says angrily. “You don’t keep secrets. One of your men said that ‘flies have conquered the flypaper’ and now everyone knows. It’s become a song of resistance.”

Explosions begin erupting throughout the town.

As Orden is led outside—to his execution—he tells Winter, quoting Socrates: “’Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius. Will you remember to pay the debt?’”

“The debt shall be paid,” replies Winter—meaning that resistance will continue.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin attacked Ukraine with 200,000 soldiers on February 24, he had every reason to believe that his unprovoked war would be a cakewalk.

The assault opened with missiles and artillery, striking major Ukrainian cities, including its capitol, Kiev.      

Russia 'threatening Ukraine With Destruction', Kyiv Says | Conflict News - Newzpick

Ukraine vs. Russia

But on the battlefield, fierce Ukrainian resistance staggered the Russians: 

  • Kiev remained unconquered. 
  • In late August, using missile systems supplied by the United States, Ukrainian forces destroyed Russian ammunition dumps and a Russian air base in Crimea.
  • In September, Ukraine reclaimed 3,090 square miles of northeastern territory from Russian forces.
  • On September 21, with Russian forces bogged down or retreating, Putin announced the partial mobilization of 300,000 military reservists. All male citizens below 60 are now eligible to be drafted.   
  • Ukrainian forces retook the key city of Kherson in November; Russian forces, which had occupied the city since March, withdrew.  
  • On December 11, Putin’s infamous mercenary army, the Wagner militia, suffered “significant losses” after its Luhansk headquarters was hit during a Ukraine artillery strike. 

Unable to win on the battlefield, Putin has turned to terroristic bombings and drone attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure to break the will of the populace.

Defiant Ukrainians continue to hunker down in makeshift shelters against cold and hunger.

Even if he conquers Ukraine, Putin will inherit a hate-filled population thirsting for revenge at every opportunity.

And the Ukrainians—like Spartacus, who resisted the tyranny of Rome—will live on in heroic memory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: