Thursday, February 19, 2009

Re: The Russians still love Stalin

Michael Kuznetsov left the following message: Mr Helm:

Thank you very much for your comments, which I believe to be rather favourable toward my web site.

It's a pleasure to encounter so wise and experienced person like you.

One question, though: Do your words "I read your web site" mean that you have not seen the pictures thereupon?

I am asking because I heard that some people would disable their internet browser function which shows pictures, and thus they can read the text only.

In case if you may be interested in another web site of mine, here it is:
http://www.great-victory1945.ru

Michael

Then Michael left a second message:

Mr Helm:

Thank you very much for your comments, which I believe to be rather favourable toward my web site.

It's a pleasure to encounter so wise and experienced person like you.

One question, though: Do your words "I read your web site" mean that you have not seen the pictures thereupon?

I am asking because I heard that some people would disable their internet browser function which shows pictures, and thus they can read the text only.

I must admit also that I feel rather intrigued with this phrase of yours:
"I mention him here because he commented on one of my notes, and when I read his web site I saw that he represented the point of view I referred to."
What exactly did you mean, please?

In case if you may be interested in another web site of mine, here its URL:
http://www.great-victory1945.ru

Warmest regards from Russia!

Michael

COMMENT:

Yes, I looked at the photos as well, and was very impressed by them. I looked at and read everything from the first site you sent me. I also read the material on www.great-victory1945.ru but not yet all of the sub-sites. I believed your point of view existed, as I wrote elsewhere, and consider it valuable to see it so eloquently delineated on your web sites.

What I meant in regard to “the point of view I referred to” had to do with an earlier discussion, or rather an earlier prejudice I was challenging, namely that all the common people in China and Russia longed to be “free” in the Sharansky sense. That is, they longed to embrace Liberal Democracy. You would need to read some of my earlier discussions of Francis Fukuyama and others to fully understand why this is a matter of interest to me. It represents a subject that is outside your own interests as portrayed on your web sites, namely, it begins by challenging Marx’s disagreement with Hegel. The Russian/French philosopher Kojeve is largely responsible for this disagreement. Kojeve argued that Hegel was right after all and that “Capitalism” was the true “end of history.” Fukuyama developed this argument further, recognizing that Capitalism has metamorphosed into what is today called “Liberal Democracy.”

Fukuyama didn’t argue as Sharansky did. Fukuyama believed that Liberal Democracy in the Hegelian sense was historically inevitable. What he thinks about Sharansky I don’t know, but I don’t think Sharansky is being realistic in arguing that all people long to be “free,” and that only “democracy” will provide that freedom. I argued that majorities in both China and Russia were happy with the progress and current circumstances in those nations. Not that everything was perfect, but the majorities had confidence that leadership was moving them in a positive, acceptable, direction.

So when I described your sites as representing “the point of view I referred to,” I meant the point of view of a Russian who did have confidence in Russian leadership and was happy with the direction Russia was moving both domestically and internationally.

But I didn’t mean to imply that I agreed with everything you wrote. Neither do I now intend to say that I disagree with everything you wrote. There could be months and months of discussion and debate that could arise out of what you wrote and I saw the task as daunting, but I will just put my foot in the water, so to speak, and generalize about a few things of interest to me at the moment:

I am a former U.S. Marine and very much agree with your attitude about the necessity of a strong military. No nation can continue to exist unless there are young men willing to risk their lives in defense of their nation. I have debated this issue at great length in several discussion groups with “Leftists” and “Anti-War Pacifists.” If a nation becomes so rich and so given to self-indulgence and luxury that its young men are no longer willing to risk their lives in defense of it, then its days are numbered, and it seems to me we have moved in that direction here in the U.S. Also, it seems to me that this may be a strong tendency in all Liberal Democracies. What can be said about this tendency in the U.S. can be said with greater emphasis about Western Europe. I think now of Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power in which, if memory serves me, he coined a phrase, something like, “America is from Mars and Europe is from Venus,” meaning America is now the warlike element in the West while Western Europe has embraced, or is strongly inclined toward pacifism.

Also, I read what you wrote about being an Orthodox Christian and I am reminded of Samuel P. Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations. In it he assumes some common delineations of “Civilizations,” one of which is the “Orthodox.” Another of his “Civilizations” is the “West.” Huntington emphasizes religion as an important element in these two civilizations and believes that the differences are too great for them ever to exist utterly amicably. I have a problem with that idea, just as I have a problem with the distinction he draws between “Orthodox,” “West” and “Latin America.” All three of these “Civilizations” are Christian at heart. That is, they grew out of Christianity; so why can’t the common ground be made to over-ride the differences? “By this shall they know that you are my disciples, that ye have love one for another.”

While Marx termed religion the “opiate of the masses,” he accepted the Christian goals and thought his Communism could better achieve them than Christianity has. The same sort of argument is at the heart of Secularism in the West. I think here of Marcel Gauchet’s The Disenchantment of the World, A Political History of Religion. Gauchet, an atheist, argues that the west indeed grew out of Christianity, most prominently Protestant Christianity, and its Christian goals for human material well-being are admirable, but Secular Society can do the job better than Christianity; so the latter is no longer required. I don’t know to what extent Orthodox Christianity has made a resurgence in Russia after all the years of being disapproved of by Communist governments, but I do know that Christianity seems to have lost ground in Western Europe in direct relation to the ground Welfare-Statism has gained ground.

In another place I take you to be saying that yes there were injustices done during the Stalinist period, but the survival of Russia against the West and later against Nazi German took precedence. That reminds me of another subject that I’ve debated from time to time: was Truman justified in dropping atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I have read a considerable amount on that matter. The Japanese fought hard against the Marines on island after island. Truman had that as his pattern and it truly seemed to him and his advisors that Japan would fight even harder to defend its main islands, and if dropping the bombs would save the lives of American Soldiers (varying estimates of how many American lives would be saved were bandied about, but the number was believed to be large), then it was the right thing to do. Since that time, it has been argued by many that if we had drawn the matter out diplomatically, without dropping the bombs, Japan would eventually have surrendered. You seem to be advancing a similar argument in regard to the treatment of “dissidents” during the Stalinist period: Many have written about injustices, about individuals who were clearly not dissidents but were punished none-the-less, almost as though the operative principle were “when in doubt, send them off to Siberia.” Your argument, arguing “necessity” would, it seems to me, have to account for all the injustices.

I have argued that Truman was right and the bombs should have been dropped. Documents from Japan have emerged in recent years and it wasn’t until the second bomb was dropped that Hirohito made the decision to capitulate. There was a strong militant element in Japan that was willing to defend the Japanese Islands just as Truman’s advisors predicted they would. It is doubtful that Hirohito would have been able to force through a capitulation unless the bombs had been dropped. Could that same sort of argument be made to justify the ruthless treatment of “dissidents” during the Stalinist period? A sometime reader of this blog, Professor Ludwik Kowalski, wrote Hell On Earth, Brutality and Violence During the Stalinist Regime. Professor Kowalski’s father was an engineer who died in a Siberian Gulag. I am quite sure he would argue that such ruthless treatment during the Stalinist period was not justified.

1 comment:

Michael Kuznetsov said...

Mr Helm,

I regard our exchange of opinions very useful and helpful.
Your extensive comments are most valuable for me to better understand many things.
Thank you very much!
And what is more, I am glad to see that our views coincide in so many points.
Yet, not entirely, of course. Which is absolutely natural.
I will gladly continue our most interesting conversation in the nearest future, God permitting.

Sincere regards from Russia,

Michael