Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Nye Bevan praised Russia as millions died under Stalin

Bevan remains the star turn in Labour's hagiography, yet this distasteful man who said that Conservatives were 'lower than vermin' was also willing to turn a blind eye to Stalin's genocides, gulags, torture regime and murderous and repressive tyranny for the sake of his twisted and totalitarian ideology. The Russian famine of 1932/33 killed somewhere between six and eight million people - many of them Ukrainians, in a policy measure depriving them of assistance to further Stalin's goal of the extermination of an entire people.

You'd think any decent politician would have condemned Russia to the rafters from the floor of the house - but not Bevan. Hansard from 1933 reports a debate on measures to restrict trade with Russia following an incident in which two British engineers had been arrested by Stalin's OGPU; the many Russians who had met them were all summarily shot. Bevan replied;
I believe that the main architect of the troubles which will come in the future will be the Foreign Secretary and his chauvinistic and jingoistic followers in the House of Commons who for years have sought an opportunity of declaring war against 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. The dictatorship which has existed would have been relaxed had it not been for opposition from without. When you have a classless society you can abolish dictatorships, because it will not then be necessary to rest privilege upon the shoulders of an oppressed people.
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' was of course Stalin's Russia.

There is a rich vein of material here; more to come.

18 comments:

The Great Simpleton said...

I've thought for a long time that the reason the left make so much noise about Hitler is that they can't cope with the cognitive dissonance of what happened in Russia at the same time.

Not that they are wrong on Hitler, just that they won't accept that Stalin et al were just as bad.

Sean Lynch said...

It just proves what a traitorous communist rat Nye Bastard was, he would have had the hammer and sickle flying over us and if he was in power during the cold war would have surrendered gleefully to Russia.
I've said it many times, Labour are communists, thats what they want and believe in, global totalitarian communism.

Blognor Regis said...

"Yes but they meant well."

The magic excuser.

Anonymous said...

@Blognor Regis

I really wish you were joking but you can't imagine the number of times I've heard that excuse.

Blognor Regis said...

I know. Often. I've seen threads on the likes of Harry's Place about Italian MEPs from "dreadful" parties but Hungarian ex-communists are just spiffing because, well, you know, they meant well. A watered down version of same can be seen in the comment here.

Anonymous said...

I once turned the "They meant well" around and pointed out to a lefty that the Nazis meant well too.

He didn't get it. He actually argued that the Nazis were motivated simply by evil and the desire to do wickedness. When the Nazis did evil, it was because they were evil. When the Communists did (and continue to do) evil, it's because they meant well.

I've heard other leftists say, in all seriousness, that the crimes of Stalin, Pol Pot and all their other murderous fellow travellers wouldn't have happened if reactionary elements hadn't opposed them. Since the left wants the best for everyone, anyone who opposes the left necessarily wants the worst for everyone. That being so, is it really wrong to liquidate the vile reactionary misanthropes?

Against that kind of blind partisan devotion to a Marxist creed that was outdated 150 years, how can you achieve anything? The left means well, so any crime, no matter how grotesque, can be excused.

Raedwald said...

Absolutely spot on with 'meant well'.

I pointed out in a comment on a post below that 'vermin' was the term used by the Nazis towards the Jews, and was perhaps an itsy bit Fascistic. The response from a gulag-defender was;

'And before you start waving Bevan's lower than vermin quote around perhaps you should understand the context in which it was said - he made it perfectly clear that it was because of his anger at first class people being kept in semi starvation during the 20s - so perhaps a little anger was justified on the part of an MP who represent a mining seat.'

In other words, it was fine, because Bevan meant well.

tory boys never grow up said...

What puerile garbage. Fresh from calling Bevan a fascist you are now accusing him of supporting Stalinism. And again you seem to be indulging in the same technique of taking a single event/quotation out of context and then twisting it to supposedly verify whichever weak political point of view you wish to put forward. Such a methodology may be appropriate to kindergarten politics, but when it strays into interpreting history and evaluatiing a major political figure it becomes even more distasteful. It is also pretty much a waste of time since the only people it will convince are fools and those who already agree with you.

I somehow doubt you will listen but perhaps you should note a few points:

1. Bevan may well not have known about the Ukrainian famine at the time of the debate in which he spoke. It is noteworthy that no references were made about it during the debate. News about the famine was only just starting to come out from the reports by Muggeridge and Jones at about the same time, and these were often self censored by the newspapers concerned. The FO know all about what was happening (as revealed when documents were subsequently released) - but chose to say nothing (perhaps I could throw around a few wild accusations on this?).

2. Bevan made it very clear later on that he was wrong (big people can admit they are wrong) in his initial views about the Soviet Union - examples are legion but perhaps you (and Sean Lynch) should have a look at his foreword to The Curtain Falls (ed Denis Healey in 1951 when he said "the Communist Party is the sworn and inveterate enemy of Socialist and democratic parties. When it associates with them it does so as a preliminary to destroying them". He also was supportive of many of the sternest opponents of the Soviet Union while he was editor of Tribune - giving free rein to the likes of George Orwell is hardly the act of a closet Stalinist. One of his biggest criticisms of Suez was that it let the Soviet Union off the hook over the invasion of Hungary.

3. Many on the Left are all to aware of the evils of Stalinism - and it is noteworthy that many who played a critical role in highlighting its deficiencies were on the Left e.g. Muggeridge, Koestler and Orwell - and there are modern equivalents as well (e.g Hitchens, Amis, Nick Cohen) who are prepared to stand up and shout when the Left's ideals become distorted in practice. Perhaps you should ask where are these self cleansing tendencies on the political right - if you look closely the racist and fascist tendencies are never too far from the surface in the Conservative Party.

4. Bevan did not say that Conservatives as individuals were lower than vermin - he attached that label to "the Tory Party" which is something different - and given that Bevan was well known for having a wide social circle I somehow doubt that he meant to apply it so personally. I think that you will find that you frequently attach far worse labels to the Labour Party - can we assume that you intend to offend that entire cohort of mankind?

5. As for being a gulag defender - I am not, and you have no idea as to how offensive that comment is.

Raedwald said...

TB - I am demonstrating that Bevan was receptive to totalitarian political solutions throughout his career; that he later found it politically expedient to distance himself from the Soviets is neither here nor there. I don't believe Bevan had a conscience - I think he was a political manipulator who hid his true radicalism under whatever convenient cloak could cover it.

Yes, it was those on the 'right' of the Labour Party that weakened the totalitarian tendencies of Bevan and his Labour allies - including, at the time, Oswald Mosley - but as his speeches to the Commons demonstrate (and I will feature more of them) his latent totalitarianism shines through. Bevan wanted to establish a Socialist State that would destroy a thousand years of English society and culture; he fermented class war and class hatred, he was an illiberal central Statist. I loathe his memory.

And when Ed Balls states he wants to mimic this totalitarian old freak, what are we supposed to imagine?

Anonymous said...

Tory boys never grow up? Oh, the irony... It burns.

Anonymous said...

if you look closely the racist and fascist tendencies are never too far from the surface in the Conservative Party.

Which is why the BNP traditionally do well in Conservative areas. Except that the BNP have never done well in traditionally Conservative areas. Have they, TBNGU? The natural constituency for the BNP is actually Labour Party voters. Isn't it, TBNGU?

Still, you're on the left. We can't expect honesty or objectivity from you.

Anonymous said...

if you look closely the racist and fascist tendencies are never too far from the surface in the Conservative Party.

Which is why the British fascist movement was founded by Conservative politican Oswald Mosley.

Except that Mosley was Labour through and through.

tory boys never grow up said...

"I am demonstrating that Bevan was receptive to totalitarian political solutions throughout his career"

No you are not - you are just making a bald assertion to support your predujice. You will need a much more extansive and balanced case to demonstrate such an assertion - and you have already started off by stating your predujices. Any history teacher would definitely send back such garbage as has been produced to date. As a matter of interest when was the last time you changed your view on anything?

If you read anything Bevan wrote or said (In Place of Fear is as good a place to start as any) you will see the emphasis he placed on democracy as part of his political creed of Democratic Socialism - and he was scathing of those on the far left who forgot this. You need to develop a much wider understanding of the man before you reach such ridiculous conclusions.


Of course democratic socialists see a role for the State and collective provision - but that does not necessarily make us totalitarian, Stalinist or Fascist. I think you will find that those who can only envisage that there is one correct way to run the world are more likely candidates to be totalitarians. Perhaps Mrs Thatcher's statement about their being no alternative could be seen as the most totalitarian statement ever by a democratically elected Prime Minister?

You are also incorrect that those most opposed to totalitarianism within the Labour Party are on the right of the Party - they are not and can be found all over the spectrum as can those who have more totalitarian tendencies.

Raedwald said...

TB - I'm not writing an academic paper. This is a blog. There's a difference.

tory boys never grow up said...

Anon !7:35 - I was talking about the Conservative Party - not Conservative areas. Not the same thing I'm afraid - very few people join political parties nowadays I'm afraid.

Anon 17:37 - Wrong I'm afraid - Mosley was first elected as Tory MP and then twice relected as as Independent before joing the Labour Party - to say nothing of his family coonections and mistresses which were also pretty Tory.

Edward Spalton said...

I followed my father into our family milling and corn merchant's business. He told me about the unusual, out-of-season arrivals of grain from Russia in the Thirties which alerted him that something was up.

He and friends soon worked out that the seed corn for the following year must have been confiscated. If he, a provincial corn merchant, could work that out, I am sure Bevan was a great deal better informed.
(Stalin regarded this as a "win/win" because it provided foreign exchange to help industrialisation and murdered some millions of stroppy peasants)

However, Bevan did change his mind and became a passionate advocate of the British nuclear deterrent against communism.

The historian of Stalin's Great Terror, Robert Conquest, was also a communist in his youth. He was also a good hand at light verse. He summarised the results of his researches as a limerick -

There was an old Marxist called Lenin,
Who did one or two million men in.
That's a lot to have done in,
But where he did one in,
That old Marxist Stalin did ten in.

And yes, I recently joined a correspondence in our local paper where left wing people wrote that Stalin's holocaust was somehow nicer than Hitler's more or less "because he meant well". There is a total moral blindspot here, at least as culpable as denial of the Nazi holocaust.

calgacus said...

I doubt Bevan would have defended Soviet Russia if he'd known what was really going on there.

Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were not democratic socialists just because they ran nationalised industries any more than Pinochet was a democratic conservative just because he had a Thatcherite economic policy.

The Dalai Llama in his autobiography wrote that Mao and the Chinese communist leadership were not Marxists or socialists but extreme nationalists posing as socialists.

The same holds true for Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.

Stalin ran a nationalistic Russian empire, opposed 'uranilovka' or 'levelling' , ensuring there were strict hierarchies of pay and status among all people in the Soviet Union and had democratic socialists sent to the gulags along with all the other dissidents.

Claiming to be a socialist does not make you a socialist any more than a dictator claiming to be a democracy makes them an actual democrat.

Real socialism is about basic minimum levels of equality - and you can't have economic or social equality without politicaland civil equality, or vice versa.

Anonymous said...

Any news about A defector's unexplainable disappearance?