– The Gulag Archipelago, Vol 1, Part 1, Chapter 4 – The Bluecaps, p146/47
“What prompted them all to slip into harness and pursue so zealously not truth but totals of the processed and condemned? Because it was most comfortable for them not to be different from the others. And because these totals meant an easy life, supplementary pay, awards and decorations, promotions in rank, and the expansion and prosperity of the Organs themselves. If they ran up high totals, they could loaf when they felt like it, or do poor work or go out and enjoy themselves at night. And that is just what they did. Low totals led to their being kicked out, to the loss of their feedbag. For Stalin could never be convinced that in any district, or city, or military unit, he might suddenly cease to have enemies.
That was why they felt no mercy, but, instead, an explosion of resentment and rage toward those maliciously stubborn prisoners who opposed being fitted into the totals, who would not capitulate to sleeplessness or the punishment cell or hunger. By refusing to confess they menaced the interrogator’s personal standing. It was as though they wanted to bring him down. In such circumstances, all measures were justified! If it’s to be war, then war it will be! We’ll ram the tube down your throat – swallow that saltwater!
Excluded by the nature of their work and by deliberate choice from the higher sphere of human existence, the servitors of the Blue Institution lived in their lower sphere with all the greater intensity and avidity. And there they were possessed and directed by the two strongest instincts of the lower sphere, other than hunger and sex: greed for power and greed for gain. (Particularly for power. In recent decades it has turned out to be more important than money.)
Power is a poison well known for thousands of years. If only no one were ever to acquire material power over others! But to the human being who has faith in some force that holds dominion over all of us, and who is therefore conscious of his own limitations, power is not necessarily fatal. For those, however, who are unaware of any higher sphere, it is a deadly poison. For them, there is no antidote.
Remember what Tolstoi said about power? Ivan Ilyich had accepted an official position which gave him authority to destroy any person he wanted to! All without exception were in his hands, and anyone, even the most important, could be brought before him as an accused. (And that is just where our blueboys are! There is nothing to add to the description.) The consciousness of this power (and “the possibilities of using it mercifully”- so Tolstoi qualifies the situation, but this does not in any way apply to our boys) constituted for Ivan Ilyich the chief interest and attraction of the service.
But attraction is not the right word-it is intoxication! After all, it is intoxicating.”