Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stalinism and its critics

Because Michael Kuznetsov’s note is so long, I’ll post my comment first. Michael seems to be saying something about me that one of Professor Kowalski’s colleagues said; so my response to her on December 14, 2008 may suit the present purpose. About some of the other issues Michael refers to in his note, perhaps I’ll take them up later on:

Susan H:

Why do you want to know who I am? That smacks of an ad hominem presupposition. I have my own presupposition based on countless debates with Leftists and have encountered the view: Tell me who you are and I’ll tell you what you think. There are some exceptions, but most try to make things personal. They have no arguments and don’t seem to know how to debate. They don’t know the rules of logic nor the requirements of a formal argument. They like to curse and insult me, but the don’t like to debate.

I have studied so much during my long life I would object to any particular pigeon hole you might try to put me into. I was a little amused that while wanting to know who I was, you were upset with Ludwik for telling me who you were.

Ah, this time you use the word “objective.” Last time you used the word “impartial.” Impartiality implies the treating of two combatants as equals. It neglects the concept of the “enemy.” When one fights a war, one must not, if one is to be effective, treat one’s enemy the same as one’s comrades. That’s merely common sense. I’m sure even people in hunter-gatherer societies knew that.

As to “objectivity,” perhaps here we enter the realm of hermeneutics. R. G. Collingwood in his The Idea of History sought, among other things, to determine how closely an historian should be able to approach absolute objectivity. One must recognize that it is impossible for anyone to achieve absolute objectivity about anything. One always brings something to the table, usually lots of things. He referred to them as “constellations of presuppositions.” We all have them. What he ended up with was that the historian should own up to his presuppositions and then as far as possible attempt to ignore them. He should attempt to write his history as though he were living in the time or place of his subject.

Now as to the matter of being “objective” about Communism, that is a subject I have studied at length, not recently I must admit. Back in the 50s a classmate attempted to recruit me to that point of view. I was working my way through college out of the Teamsters Union and he worked for the Longshoreman in the Los Angeles Harbor. He couldn’t debate me or analyze the subjects all that well so he brought me book after book. He had a Communist guru whom I never met, an old timer in the Longshoreman’s Union whom my friend admired. He wanted to get us together to debate the various issues; which I was amenable to, but his guru declined. Back in those days I was a Leftist. I read Das Kapital. I read other writings of Marx and Engels and all the writings of Lenin I could get my hands on. I recall a rather thick volume simply entitled Dialectical Materialism which my friend described as the scholarly synthesis of Communism. I read a 2 volume history of the Cold War by a Communist Scholar. I read histories of the Chinese Civil War and the Cuban invasion, and books I can’t bring to mind at this time. At some point I encountered a former Communist who said he no longer held to those beliefs. He wanted me to have his library. It was heavy into writings by and about American Communists. I read about Big Bill Haywood and the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), for example.

At that time, in the 50s and the early 60s, I was probably not objective about Communism. I never joined the party but I was in sympathy with its ideas. I was studying a lot of other subjects, but at some point I began approaching “objectivity” about Leftism and Communism. I expanded my reading in a number of different ways. Also there was the rather conclusive evidence of the Soviet atrocities that caused many in Europe, especially intellectuals in France to turn away from Communism. I could identify with the writings of Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut about French Philosophy of the Sixties, for example, and Judt’s writing about the embrace of Communism in France after WWII and then their subsequent disillusionment. I was also interested in the work of French intellectuals who were seeking alternatives to Communism. My approach toward “objectivity” moved me away from Leftism. Like the French, I examined my nations history and found what was good in it.

It is interesting that Francis Fukuyama in his The End of History and the Last Man could assume that Liberal Democracy had conclusively defeated the only rivals to its existence, namely Communism and Fascism. Since the writing of his book in 1992, Islamism has been viewed by many as a serious threat to Liberal Democracy, but not by Fukuyama.

Okay, back to the matter of “objectivity.” Since I studied Communism, Leftist writings, etc over many years, to argue that I am no longer “objective,” as though I was a tyro about the matter, would be misleading. I passed through many phases and believe my view of Leftism and Communism is more informed now that at any time in the past. Typically, modern Leftists and Marxians haven’t studied these matters as much as I have. I have drawn conclusions about Leftism and Communism based upon evidence. What I have encountered in debates with Leftists is that they do not base arguments upon evidence. They have an “agenda” and ignore evidence and logical argumentation. If you accept their partisan views then you are right. If you do not accept them you are wrong. Evidence and logical argumentation don’t enter into the matter.

[So ends my note back on December 14, 2008]

In reading Michael Kuznetsov, I am reminded of Susan H and Douglas Furr, which I suspect he would take as a compliment. I had not said anything of this nature to Michael until he advanced a Susan H-type criticism.

I should add that sometimes, even though I am quite convinced that I have studied a Leftist’s position, and that I won’t learn anything new by reading one of his books, if the person is significant enough, then I will read him more closely. For example, though I had heard Noam Chomsky speak on a number of occasions and read several of his article, I had not read one of his books until recently, and so I did and posted my comments on this blog.

I have disagreed in the same manner with Edward Said. Not only was he Leftist in orientation but he was misreading the nature of Islamism, fancying the Islamist depredations were revolutions of the sort of Frantz Fanon referred to in his The Wretched of the Earth. I found Said more interesting than Chomsky, but wrong nonetheless and when I began voicing my criticism (this was in a discussion group and not on this blog), his admirers had nothing rational to say in response. They either didn’t have the ability to understand the issues or they had no competence in formal debate. They resorted to that old Leftist standby: insult, and that was the end of it.


Michael Kuznetsov has the following comments in regard to "RE: Stalinism in the 30s.":

Mr Helm and Prof. Kowalski,
or rather:
Dear Lawrence and Ludwik,

I am strongly convinced that you both are wise and shrewd, highly educated, absolutely honest, profoundly sincere, and what is most essential -- you both are exceptionally polite two old gentlemen.

I value the lucky opportunity to exchange opinions with you both here.
And I respect your views, believe me, although I disagree with some of them.

While you, Lawrence, seem to have been standing always on the ideological platform that you stand upon now -- you, Ludwik, according to your own words elsewhere, have undergone a kind of transformation of your political views. Namely: from your juvenile adoration of Stalin to the hatred of him later on (correct me if I am wrong).

My own political views transformation went in the opposite direction.

In the 1980s I did rabidly hate the "bloody maniac" Stalin, I was fascinated with Gorbachev's reform, and I considered America to be the only shining beacon of Liberty and Democracy in the world.
I know it for sure that the overwhelming majority of the Russians used to think alike at the time.

So, I was and have been well aware of all the anti-Stalin literature, and I did fully agree with all of its contents at the time of Gorbachev's "Perestroika". Especially because there was published NO OTHER literature in those years, except anti-Stalinist.

The situation began to change dramatically when NATO had approached our borders, instead of the reciprocal dissolution of itself, as we naively expected.

The culmination came just ten years ago, in 1999, when NATO was bombing Serbia. In the famous words of Prince Talleyrand, it was worse than a crime, it was a mistake.

To spill our brotherly Serbian blood, to kill our brotherly Serbian children was a deadly blunder on the Clinton's side.

The TV live reportages that we watched at those hectic times, featuring Serbian babies' little heads torn away by NATO bombs, as well as pieces of Serbian children's mutilated bodies scattered around on the ground lying in the blood and dirt, or dangling from the trees, all those horrible pictures shown on our TV screens will remain as a never-healing wound in our Russian national memory.

Imagine that your sister were robbed and raped by a gang of 19 thugs, while you were unable anyhow to defend her, say, because of your being laid in hospital.
How many years do you think it might take for you to forget and to forgive the bloody crime?

You know who appointed Putin President?
Formally, yes, Yeltsin did.
But actually it was Clinton's deadly blunder in Serbia that compelled Yeltsin to choose a "strong man" as his successor.

Every time that we hear the word "NATO" we do immedialy recall the appaling TV scenes of the blooded little bodies of the killed Serbian children, interchanged with the pictures of the ever smiling Mr Solana who was reporting every day at press conferences about the NATO successful air strikes on Belgrade.

Really, it is unforgettable and unforgivable, too.

I regret to say this, but I do not think that the relations between Russia and America might have any prospects of the return to the previous phase of our adoration of America, any time in the future.
Especially after the terrible bombings of Serbia.


The main difference between us, Lawrence, lies in our different approach to the historical research.
As it seems to me, you do not seek for all the facts, because you have already found the truth, as you think.
No offence meant and none taken, I hope.

This conclusion of mine supervenes on your clear refusal to examine anything that does not coincide entirely with your long established views.
Am I not right?

While I prefer to examine the both sides arguments. All the "pro" and "contra".


My strong belief is that the ideology per se did not play any significant role in our daily life in the USSR.

We did not read Marx or Lenin before we start doing anything, believe me :-)

All I can remember about "Marxism-Leninism" is this:
"... Socialist system is the abolition of the power of money and the profit motive and of the possibility for any individual or group of individuals to gain surplus value from the work of others. This and this alone is the true foundation of Socialism".

And this postulate coincides very well with our Russian Orthodox Christian mindset.

Collectivism and Equity constitute the core of the Russian Soul without any reference to Communism as a doctrine.

So, in this regard, nothing has changed since the dissolution of the USSR.
We remain Russians as we have always been.

Unlike the Westerners, who have been individualistic personalities like separate grains of sand, we are one common solid piece.
We feel like this and we act accordingly.

You can pour the sand (a Western nation) into any bottle (ideology) and the sand will take the shape of the latter.

The Russian "stone" of a nation cannot be poured into a "bottle" of ideology. You can only try to put us into a "sack" of ideology, but our shape would remain nevertheless intact inside the "sack."

The Westerners seem to be rather docile and prone to changes imposed on them by various doctrines.
We Russians do not change, because mentally we are the same as we used to be hundreds years ago.

Lawrence, you read "War and Peace" by Tolstoy. Did you notice that the Russian soldiers' behaviour during the Napoleonic invasion in 1812 was absolutely the same as that of the Red Army soldiers during the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany in 1941-1945?

Be it "communism", "socialism", "capitalism", or whatever other "-ism", notwithstanding, we remain always the same Russians. This is the clue to the understanding of Holy Russia.

For example, some decades ago in the West, as far as I know, any public manifestation of sodomy was regarded unacceptable.
Now, the heinous "gay parades" have become a "norm" even in the ever puritanic London.

The real masters of Berlin have become also the dirty fags (homosexuals) who have been held their disgusting "parades" right in the center of the capital city of Berlin.

A nation which has sunk in such abomination has no right to teach anyone any longer.

In the summer of 2006 a group of heinous fags (by the way some of them arrived even from Berlin) made an abortive attempt to organize such a "parade" in the center of Moscow.

You know what? Their detestable homosexual "parade" managed to last for only 72 seconds!

Take notice: it lasted 72 seconds -- not minutes! -- and then the common Russian people in the street –- the common passersby -- instantly knocked all of the dirty fags down on the pavement and began the heavily kicking of the repulsive homosexuals, until the police arrived and arrested the dirty fags for the attempt to outrage the public morality in the sacred streets of our Moscow, the capital of Holy Russia.

The West may freely continue to be sinking in its sins, it is your full right.
But don't try to lecture us or to change our way of life.

Almost forgot:
What connection with Stalin has all that what I said above?
Direct connection!

1. Stalin could by no means rule so successfully for so many years without full people's support of his actions.

2. To understand Stalin's actions you should first understand the Russians.

3. The matter is that we, the Westerners and the Russians have been "playing different games". Suppose, you play poker, while we Russians play chess (or vice versa). You've been trying to regard us from the poker player's point of view. But this is a futile attempt.

4. You should try to look at us with our Russian eyes, and everything will be understood.

That is that!
So help us God!

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