Friday, January 2, 2009

The Embrace of Stalinism

A reader sent me the following:

This is an article or an assessment by Arseny Roginsky, the founder of “Memorial,” the largest Human Rights organization in Russia. It is about what it’s title indicates, about the “embrace of Stalinism” in Russia.

Over here, I am most sensitive to revisionist histories being written about Stalinism -- but about Russia, Roginsky says, “There are . . . hundreds of crucial volumes of documents, scholarly articles and monographs on Stalinism. The achievements of these historians and archivists is unquestionable. But if they do have any influence on the mass consciousness, it is too weak. The means of disseminating the information have not been there, and not in recent years has the political will. . . .”

I am not absolutely sure I am reading the above paragraph correctly, but I believe it is saying that these writers are not engaged in revisionism. They are doing good honest work, but elsewhere in Russian society, and that is what the bulk of the article is about, various agencies are busy promoting and honoring Stalin and Stalinism. The assessment is rather clinical, but interesting nonetheless.

Less clinical and more interesting is a discussion between Roginsky and Sergei Kovalev, who headed Russia’s Human Rights Commission under Yeltsin: The interview, if I am reading the page correctly, is entitled “Return of the Czar.” No date for the discussion if provided, but the second Chechen war seems to be going on which would put it at 1999 or 2000. Here we have two of the big names in Russian “Human Rights,” and I take that term to imply a belief in democracy. They voice opposition to another iron curtain and to “Nationalism,” the latter I take to mean autocratic nationalism . I was interested to read of Roginsky’s optimism: “Today there are young people who have learned foreign languages, and they are persistent about learning foreign languages. They don’t want to go to war, they want to do science, business, you name it.”

Kovalev wasn’t impressed with Putin. “He wants to say that we need censorship. That’s it. He won’t succeed. Although I’m an anti-patriot, I still feel bad that such a fool becomes the head of government in my country. He’s nothing. He doesn’t even understand what he is saying. And that Chubais, who is clever, supports this fool This is where a danger lies for the society. That clever, talented and capable people think that it is possible to support a fool for some pragmatic illusions.”


I find it interesting, but at the same time depressing that those interested in human rights in Russia are eager for the Russian people to understand and admit the evil that was done during the Stalinist period; while over here we have home-grown Leftists who are eager to convince Americans that beginning with the Cold War period, we Americans were the cause of all the Stalinist crimes. Our “critics” take a position opposing and giving the lie to Russia’s “critics.” Stalinists and Americans can’t be guilty of the same crimes.

If you are confused about how some American Leftists could develop such ludicrous arguments, read or listen to that preeminent voice of Anti-Americanism, Noam Chomsky and he will enlighten you. Were Stalinist-type purges engaged in after we gave up and left Vietnam? Well, sure, but that was our fault because we went over there and confused all those people. We made them mad. What else were they to do? More were killed in Vietnam and Cambodia after we left than during the entire war, but that was our fault. We were the devil that made them have all those plurges.

A more reasonable person would note the pattern: 1) first the Stalinists come into power and 2) then they purge their nation of all actual and potential opposition. That pattern is intrinsic in Stalinism. It isn’t caused by the United States. We went to war in Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere to oppose Stalinism not to cause it. The USSR and all those who supported and believed in Stalinism caused Stalinism, not us. Why so many people still love and appreciate Chomsky, who says the opposite of this, is odious and causes me to despair.

I can excuse Russia, which historically had little experience with democracy, more than I can the U.S., for embracing Stalinism. Russians never had the vote. They were never asked their opinion. They were told what to think and what to do. They were in the same position as Germans during their Nazi period. But what excuse do Americans have? Yes, we have fraudsters like Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill presenting agitprop arguments that would make Goebbels envious, but they don’t have the level of control of the media or of publishing houses that the Stalinists did. So why do so many Americans fall for their anti-American hatred and their fallacy-filled arguments?

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