Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The left must face up to their totalitarian blindness

I commend to you James Marson's piece in yesterday's Guardian entitled 'The left must face up to Stalin's evil'. Marson deconstructs the 'Stalin meant well' justification that many on the left still use (and which many of you identified in comments to a previous post).

Marson writes "President Viktor Yushchenko has expended much energy drawing attention to Soviet crimes in Ukraine, most notably the Holodomor, or "death by hunger" of 1932-3.... For decades a wall of silence surrounded the Holodomor – one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century, in which several million Ukrainian peasants died."

This wall of silence wasn't confined to nations behind the Iron Curtain. In two posts below, I demonstrate how Nye Bevan, the sainted hero of the left, praised Stalin's Russia in the Commons even after the facts of the Holodomor were known.

When Bevan was praising Stalin's Russia in April 1933 Gareth Jones, Lloyd-George's aide and a man of impeccable credentials, had already (in 1932) published a number of articles in nespapers including the Times following his visits to Russia describing the state of things; In October 1932, before Bevan's 'parasites' comments, he had also publicised the growing famine in two articles entitled 'Will there be Soup?'.

In March 1933, in the same month that Muggeridge had three unsigned pieces on the Holodomor published in the Manchester Guardian, Jones' famine stories broke world wide with convincing and unambiguous evidence of Stalin's brutality. Both of these were before Bevan stood up in the Commons to defend Russia in April 1933.

Whilst Stalin was starving millions of Ukrainians to death, and the whole world knew, Bevan described Russia as 'the one nation, which, despite all the difficulties, is still showing that it is possible to have a world order in which people can live with more security than we have here'.

Marson concludes his piece;
It is a bitter pill for some on the left to swallow that what Stalin did in the name of apparently laudable goals was horrific. Maybe some politicians are using the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and comparisons between Stalin and Hitler to smear the left and Russia. But to my mind, if the left, along with the Russian leadership, is still unwilling to face the horrors of Stalinism and the devastation it wrought across central and Eastern Europe, it is smearing itself.
Footnote: To read a prime example of one of the gulag-defenders that Marson refers to, see Jonathan Steele's piece in the Grauniad.

19 comments:

Blognor Regis said...

While we're at it, can I commend the film Katyn too. People tend to forget/don't know that the Soviets also invaded Poland in September 1939, taking a third of the country and murdered at least as many as the Germans did.

johnse18 said...

Another good article:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/hitler-and-the-socialist-dream-1186455.html

This is by George Watson. In his excellent book "The Lost Literature of Socialism" he gives many examples of the horrific opinions that some socialist icons expressed. For example, G.B. Shaw in the 1930s suggested that it might be necessary to get rid of whole groups of people using a "humane gas" for the greater good of socialism.

When a dinner party guest told Beatrice Webb that he had seen a lorry load of starving kulaks loaded onto a lorry in the Ukraine she simply said that this was "very poor stage management" on the Soviet's part. THe visitor should not have been allowed to see such a sight. But of course to make an omelette you have to "break a few eggs".

Anonymous said...

I think the focus on Stalin is a mistake. Most leftists are more than willing to condemn Stalin and to shift all blame for communism's failings onto his shoulder.

You see, the problem isn't communism but Stalin's interpretation of it. Stalin was a crypto-fascist. Stalin wasn't a real communist. If Lenin had lived longer, the USSR would have been a glorious utopia of liberty and equality. If Trotsky had taken over the leadership instead of Stalin, it is an historical inevitability that Soviet communism would have achieved the Marxist Ideal.

No, sir. For me, lefties condemning Stalin is like the Italian fascists who condemn Hitler while fawning over Mussolini. Condemning Stalin allows a leftist to continue pushing the same evil line that Stalin (and Lenin and Trotsky and Mao and Pol Pot and Honecker and all the other blood-soaked communists throughout history) pushed: it's a way of saying "The Ideology of Communism is fine; it was simply Stalin as an individual who was flawed".

Until the left can face up to the inherent evils of their brand of totalitarianism, having them call Stalin names is pointless. Until they recognise that communism is slavery by another name, until they understand that people's liberties cannot be taken in the name of their imagined greater good, until they understand that the demented 160 year old ramblings of a failed German clerk are not the pattern for utopia: until then, they'll continue to act and think as Stalin did, no matter what mealy-mouthed condemnations of the man himself they may offer.

Blognor Regis said...

Excellent points Anonymous.

Savonarola said...

Ryszard Kapuscinski's Imperium, little read, is a masterpiece of reportage. This book will take you inside the evil empire and report on the lives of the ten's of millions detroyed by the Lenin/Stalin plan for Utopia.

Budgie said...

Socialism in all its forms (internationalist, nationalist, Marxist, fascist, Leninist, Trotskyist, even Mugabe-ist, etc) is inherently evil. And the more socialist a country is, the worse the outcome.

The reason is not hard to find: socialism vests all power in the state. This may be intended as a temporary phase, but it soon becomes permanent.

It is exactly the most evil people that are attracted to the sort of total control available in a socialist state. Hence Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Dzerzhinsky, Mr & Mrs Goebbels, Kim Il-sung & son, and so the dreadful list goes on.

Bill Quango MP said...

great points anon

tory boys never grow up said...

Yes of course there those on the left who are blind to how totalitarianism can grow out of "socialism" need to face up to it - and many of us have. Orwell is perhaps the prime example - but there are plenty of others both in history and currently (e.g. Hitchens, Nick Cohen, Martin Amis). There were also many in the Labour Party who were actively involved in East European solidarity campaigns - e.g. I think that you will find that many in the Czechoslovakian Charter Movement had very active links with the British Left


As I have pointed out your inclusion of Bevan in this category is entirely unfair. He made his position clear on Stalinism and Communism crystal clear later on. And if you look at the chronology of the speeches made by Bevan, the context in which they were being made, what was being said in the articles you refer to, and the general trust placed on journalism about the Soviet Union at the time (shortly after the Zinoviev letter) and the ability to verify such articles - it is totally ridiculous to claim that Bevan had full knowledge of what was happening in the Soviet Union at the time - and was prepared to accept such enormous crimes because he believed Stalin was well intended. As I asked before - if the case against Bevan was as clear and strong as you make out - why was it never put to him by his opponents? You have continually failed to answer this qustion - and by calling Bevan a fascist and an apologist for Stalin you really have conducted a gross libel.

It would be equally possible to construct similar kangaroo courts for those Tories who appeased Nazi Germany - and they did so for a much longer period and on the basis of much stronger evidence.

You and your commenters however make the assumption that all "socialism" is bound to develop into fascism, Stalinism or totalitarianism. I suspect this view arises because you believe that all socialists want everyting to be owned and controlled by the state and see no place for the market mechanism (or at least Budgie does). This is not true now and never was I'm afraid - there are plenty of us who accept that the market mechanism should be the main means for allocating resources - but we also do not believe that that mechanism always works effectively or provides fair or just outcomes - hence the need for the state to regulate redistribute and make common provsion in some some areas. Most on the right will when pushed, will also agree that the state should have such roles - the difference is usually on of degree and is driven by different values, traditions and interests. Sensible political debate usually takes place around this axis - rather than throwing around ridiculous accusations of Stalinism and Fascism.

However, perhaps the same warning about facing up to blindness to totalitarianism should also be issued to the right. Totalitarianism did not start with Marx and Stalin - and I think if you look at many totalitarians Nationalism and Racism often plays a pretty large part in their thinking. In addition, most Totalitarians also tend to show a lack of tolerance and a belief that there is only one way of doing something (do I hear echoes of there is no alternative" rather than there being a range of valid alternatives which need to be decided upon democratically. I could happily point out where such tendencies exist in the modern right in the UK - but then it might be a case of the blind leading the blind!

Anonymous said...

There were also many in the Labour Party who were actively involved in East European solidarity campaigns

And there were many more who lovingly described Soviet-occupied Europe as "the Socialist countries", who see Communist dictatorship in Cuba as a positive thing and who, as in the case of Scargill and his union cronies, took money from the KGB.

It would be equally possible to construct similar kangaroo courts for those Tories who appeased Nazi Germany - and they did so for a much longer period and on the basis of much stronger evidence.

It would not be possible to do so since the Tories, at no time and at no point, ever endorsed Hitler's policies. Those Tories who supported appeasement were attempting to avoid a war against an ideology they personally found abhorrent and evil. They did so because, in the most part, they had seen first hand the slaughter of the First World War and wanted to avoid it.

Do you not see the difference between people saying "Nazism is evil but we want to avoid a war" adn people saying "Communism is fucking awesome and Stalin is basically right even if he's sometimes a bit overenthusiastic"?

Friend, by even attempting to compare such radically different situations, you are underlying your own disturbing level of ignorance and ideological blindness.

You and your commenters however make the assumption that all "socialism" is bound to develop into fascism, Stalinism or totalitarianism.

We make that assumption because, to date, there has never been a socialist state that has not developed into fascism, Stalinism or totalitarianism.

I suspect this view arises because you believe that all socialists want everyting to be owned and controlled by the state and see no place for the market mechanism (or at least Budgie does).

That's because all socialist theory maintains that the state must own the means of production. If you move away from that, you are no longer a socialist.

Anonymous said...

However, perhaps the same warning about facing up to blindness to totalitarianism should also be issued to the right.

Why? The Conservatives supported democracy and opposed totalitarianism throughout the twentieth century. Shall I recount the number of wars we fought to vanquish fascism? Shall I recount how, in 1982 when our country was attacked by a fascist dictatorship, it was the Conservative Party who rallied the country to the defence of democracy and self-determination while the Labour Party (inc. Tony Blair) stood foursquare behind Galtieri's fascists?

You need to understand that the Conservatives are not the mirror of Labour. You are a moron and therefore assume that if Labour has endorsed the evil of their fellow leftists, the Conservatives must have done likewise for those on the right. As you are ignorant of basic history, you do not understand that this is patently not the case so you build up grand and, frankly, retarded straw men - such as those claiming the Tories were actually all closet Nazis and that's why they favoured appeasement.

You're a blind because you're a cretin. You understand nothing. You do not even understand the political theories you claim to support. "Tory boys never grow up"? Go back to primary school, fool, and educate yourself instead of defecating all over this blog with your ignorance.

tory boys never grow up said...

"And there were many MORE ........."

Evidence??? I think you will find that Scargill is somewhat atypical and has now left the Labour Party.


"It would not be possible to do so since the Tories, at no time and at no point, ever endorsed Hitler's policies."

Absolute garbage - read something about the period. Many Tories supported his policies on Versailles, the League of Nations, anti - bolshevism, Spain, economic management etc.


Do you not see the difference between people saying "Nazism is evil but we want to avoid a war" adn people saying "Communism is fucking awesome and Stalin is basically right even if he's sometimes a bit overenthusiastic"?

I don't think either was said other than by perhaps a very few people said either. Most people were not aware of the facts as we are with the benefits of hindsight. Many people were deluded with the western economic system and the impact of WW1 and so were looking for alternatives without fully knowing what was going on. I tend to take the view that it is never right to allow the ends to justify the means - so both statements are wrong.


"That's because all socialist theory maintains that the state must own the means of production. If you move away from that, you are no longer a socialist."

Who gave you the right to define what socialism is - even the old Clause 4 had a much wider definition. You clearly have not read much socialist theory if that is what you believe - or even much Marxist theory for that, since much of that is wriiten to counter socialist theory. All I can say if you want to define socialism so narrowly - and I think that you may be confusing it with Marxism - then quite clearly there have never been many Socialists in the Labour Party and certainly Gordon Brown isn't one - and tarring us all with the Stalinist brush is clearly somewhat counterfactual. I think Harold Wilson got it right when he said that the Labour PArty owed more to Methodism than Maxism.

sm said...

"Why? The Conservatives supported democracy and opposed totalitarianism throughout the twentieth century"

Laughable - Spain, Appeasement of the Nazis (remember Chamberlain, Halifax etc), Colonial policy, Chile, Iran under Mossadq etc.etc.

"the Labour Party (inc. Tony Blair) stood foursquare behind Galtieri's fascists?"

Those would be the fascists that we supplied with arms up until 4 months before the conflict would they. Perhaps you also forget what Michael Foot said in Parliment after the invasion.

As for being a "moron" perhaps you should look up what a "kangaroo court means". They are wrong for Bevan as they are for Tory appeasement.


As for socialist theory - perhaps I understand there is more than one and theories can change over time in response to evidence. And where did I say that the Tories were the mirror of Labour - I don't think they are, read what I say.

tory boys never grow up said...

I missed your little libel of Jonathan Steel in the footnote - while I'm not in entire agreement with what he says in his article (i agree that Stalin and Hitler were different - but I don't think that he is right in trying to measure one evil against another - it cannot be done), to call him a gulag defender is just plain ridiculous. Have you read any of his books/articles on Russia? Do you have to smear everyone who disagrees with you?

Anonymous said...

Laughable - Spain,

I didn't see the Conservative supporting either side in that war - a civil war, by the way.

Appeasement of the Nazis (remember Chamberlain, Halifax etc),

Already addressed earlier, you cretin, and you clearly know nothing of the subject or you wouldn't have brought this up.

Colonial policy,

Labour also had a colonial policy. Labour also appointed colonial governors. Labour was not responsible for the decades-long process of decolonisation.

Chile,

The overthrow of Salvador Allende was no part of the British government. In fact, no-one has ever even suggested that Britain was involved. At the time of Allende's overthrow, the major concern of the Conservative Party was the Common Market.

Iran under Mossadq

Was overthrown by the CIA and elements in British Intelligence. If you have some proof that the Conservative Party overthrew him, I'd love to see it.

etc.etc..

Yes, every single fucking bad event that's ever taken place anywhere on the face of the earth is the fault of the Conservative Party. Yes, we get it. The Tories caused Hurricane Katrina. The Tories invented AIDS. Tony Blair was a Tory. Yes, yes, we get it.

Those would be the fascists that we supplied with arms up until 4 months before the conflict would they.

Those would be the same fascists that your party supported against British soldiers - the same fascists who murdered tens of thousands of people during the Dirty War.

Perhaps you also forget what Michael Foot said in Parliment after the invasion.

No, I remember what he said for the benefit of the microphones. I also remember what he and his party actually did during that war. I remember the speakers at Labour Party conferences who condemned our defence of democracy and self-determination as imperialism. That's what I remember.

Anonymous said...

Absolute garbage - read something about the period. Many Tories supported his policies on Versailles, the League of Nations, anti - bolshevism, Spain, economic management etc.

Prove it. Who are these "many Tories"? Where were the Conservative publications writing in praise of Hitler? Where were the Tory MPs declaiming the glory of Hitler in the house? Where, you pig-ignorant fuckfaced little cunt, were the Tories calling for the extermination of the Jews?

Well, I guess there was that evil Tory Oswald Mosley.... Oh, wait, he was actually a member of the Labour Party, wasn't he? And also a Labour MP. And predicted to be a future Labour Prime Minister.

Anonymous said...

Are SM and Tory Boys Never Grow Up the same person? It's very troubling if so, since it's obviously an attempt by a profoundly dishonest and vile individual to deceive.

tory boys never grow up said...

So appeasement never happened - so all that fuss by Churchill was just a storm in a tea cup, and the Times and the Mail never supported it. But actually despite what anon thinks I do not believe appeasement is akin to being a Nazi - just as I don't belive that Bevan was a Stalinist apologist or Nazi sympathiser. Unlike anon and Raedwall I am capable of distinguishing shades of grey as well as balck and white.

"Prove it. Who are these "many Tories"? Where were the Conservative publications writing in praise of Hitler? Where were the Tory MPs declaiming the glory of Hitler in the house? Where, you pig-ignorant fuckfaced little cunt, were the Tories calling for the extermination of the Jews?"

Read what i said - you said there were no Tories supporting the policies of Hitler - I just pointed out that many did support some of his policies - this is not the same as saying they supported or were aware of all his policies.


As for the Tories always supporting democracy and fighting fascism - it was ok not to do so in Spain because it was a civil war.


Yes I am SM as well - not an attempt to deceive - just poor typing/editing.

Budgie said...

Socialist boys never grow up said: "Who gave you the right to define what socialism is ...?"

And who gives you the right? It is an English word defined by my dictionary. That is what I use, otherwise communication is not possible.

I have lost count of the socialists I have confronted with a god-awful socialist regime who, when they finally have to face up to the reality, back-pedal and say "That's not my kind of socialism".

It never is. The definition of stupidity (or insanity) is: "doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." The problem, though, is that if people insist on putting socialism into practice repeatedly, yet expect different outcomes, it is not merely a question of their own insanity, they condemn millions to appalling misery and death.

Frankly, socialism is not just evil, it's embarrassing as well.

tory boys never grow up said...

Budgie given that your last definition of socialism did not even coincide with that in the dictionary - I think you really should give up.

So it is no longer possible to have debates about political theories mean and how they should change and evolve, instead we should rely on the dictionary definition.

OED socialism - a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Does it say all the means? Does it say how the community as a whole should own or regulate? Does it say that state ownership is the only way?

Of course the definition of Tory can change over time

OED Tory

• noun (pl. Tories) 1 a member or supporter of the British Conservative Party. 2 a member of the English political party that opposed the exclusion of James II from the succession and later gave rise to the Conservative Party. 3 US a colonist who supported the British side during the American Revolution.

— DERIVATIVES Toryism noun.

— ORIGIN originally denoting Irish peasants dispossessed by English settlers and living as robbers, and extended to other marauders, especially in the Scottish Highlands: probably from Irish toraidhe ‘outlaw, highwayman’.


But then perhaps the definition of outlaw and highway man still holds.


I think that you will find that by your definition I am not socialist since I do not believe in wholesale state ownership.