On equating Stalin and Hitler

Naughty, naughty, says Jonathan Steele.

But the issue matters as it marks an unpleasant effort by many Baltic and central European politicians to equate Stalinism and Nazism or claim Stalinism was worse.

No, no, mustn\’t do that.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact certainly showed Stalin to be as cynical as Hitler. But to jump from that to equate the two men\’s record or ideology does not accord with reality.

No, really, mustn\’t do that.

Snyder lists the number of European Jews murdered under German auspices at 5.7 million, German starvation of Soviet citizens at about 4 million and mass reprisal killings against civilians, mainly for actual or suspected partisan activity, as at least 750,000. Stalin killed about 5.5 million Soviet citizens by starvation and had about 700,000 people shot in the prewar Great Terror.

No equality of evil there at all.

In part concerned by the continuing strength of former Communist parties in the region, they use the Nazi-Soviet \”equation\” as a device to smear any party of the left.

You see, to claim that both were murderous thugs, happy to kill people for their vision of a perfect State, would cast doubt upon the left, those who would create the perfect State.

Steele, just bugger off now, there\’s a good lad.

To kill someone for their class origins is just as bad as killing someone for their religious or ethnic origins. You\’re killing someone, d\’ye see? That Uncle Joe did it in the name of the proletariat while Hitler did it for some other reason he\’d made up does not make Joe less evil, sorry, it just doesn\’t.

19 comments on “On equating Stalin and Hitler

  1. Quite. And he also seems to have jiggered the numbers. Were all Stalin’s deaths in just two categories i.e. the Great Terror and imposed famines? Did the Red Army never indulge in “mass reprisal killings “, for example?

  2. Agreed Dearieme.

    Are we not also to include the mass deportations of Chechyns, Crimean Tartars, Volga Germans, Balts Kulaks, etc, etc, to Central Asia where the death rates approached 25% or the millions sent to labour camps there to be worked to death?

  3. “The EU must not give succour to self-interested revisionists who equate Stalinism and Nazism in an effort to smear the left”

    They aren’t doing to smear the left. They’re doing it to try to stop the left from soft-soaping the horrible crimes of some lefty-approved forms of totalitarianism.

  4. British Labour had real and continuing connections with Soviet Russia only recently abandoning its Communist prescription , clause 4 . They are not often associated with Stalin’s slaughter though or the class cleansing of the Kulaks , this despite the only recently dead academic tradition of asserting an equivalence between the US and USSR..

    There is no remotely comparable association between Conservatives and Nazis little philosophical common ground and as for formal connections ;none .Nonetheless the constant implication is that Nazism is somehow an extension of any Conservative disagreement with the Liberal Establishment especially related to concern for the National interest immigration and so on. The bias is often expressed in the choice of focus in academic courses .History has been replaced with a subject called “Nazi Germany “ and the whole edifice requires several dominant fictions to work

    1 That Hitler was uniquely evil
    2 That Conservatives are really Nazis
    3 Stalin did not exist and if he did he had nothing to do with the British Left

    It interesting that it is the Eastern Europeans who have real histories they want recognised are starting to threaten this cultural bias . Perhaps we will soon have courses such as “ The Evil of Communism and list its Links with British Socialism “ ..to go with the ubiquitous “Nazi Germany “ Why not ?

  5. And it is still not fully understood that

    Na-Zi

    stands for NAtional SOcialism.

    In any case, the strange alignment of left v. right is wholly inaccurate. More like EXTREMES v. MODERATES (or the centre, if you prefer.

    Alan Douglas

  6. Sadly, this sort of moral equivalence has already become socially acceptable. Towhit: T-shirts bearing Che, Joe and Mao, the Hammer & Sickle, the Chinese Star etc are all perfectly acceptable attire. Hitler’s image or the swastika are clearly NOT. The moral equivalence is quite literally nauseating.

    We appear to have lost this battle already.
    The wording says it all: “The EU must not give succour to self-interested revisionists who equate Stalinism and Nazism in an effort to smear the left”.

    So now we’re saying that people who equate atrocities perpetrated by communist dictatorships with atrocities perpetrated by fascist dictatorships are “self-interested revisionists” who seek to “smear the left”?

    I really, REALLY want to slap someone about now.

  7. Small point Alan. The highlighting should appear:

    NAtional soZIalismus,

    which does, as you point out, translate literally as: National Socialism

  8. I think at the outset they called themselves the National Socialist Workers Party.

    Solzhenitsyn always claimed that Stalin and Beria had tens of millions killed in the purges, but he also accused Lenin of the first major establishment of the gulags.

    But the single most important common factor linking these two regimes, was the fact that in the light of human nature, they were unstable. They could only be made to appear to work through the imposition of fear and oppression, and purges. They needed wars abroad, and show-trials at home. But don’t most organised crime gangs operate the same way, all over the world?

  9. It seems fairly clear on reading this article that Jonathan Steele merits being kicked in the balls, vigorously and repeatedly over a period of many days.

  10. Seems to me that the reason the left are trying to stifle comparisons is precisely because more people on “the right” are making those comparisons; i.e. that the great dictatorships of the C20 are much the same and only differ in the detail. The strategy of holding Hitler out there as a special case of evil, and as a “right winger”, is collapsing. The left are on the defensive here, and that is an encouraging sign.

  11. It also bears mentioning that much of the USSR-
    loving left (here in the U.S.) quite approved of Hitler until he offended by invading Russia; until then, they were part of the “peace” movement.

  12. Steele: “Soviet policy evolved after Stalin’s death so that political activity, let alone ordinary family life, in the two decades under Brezhnev was not subject to arbitrary terror.”

    That person is an abominable ignoramus. Are we *not* supposed to call it “arbitrary terror” because Brezhnev and Andropov, after lengthy discussion, decided not to murder Solzhenitsyn, for instance?

    What an asshole.

  13. My mother had a good friend from Lithuania, who was just old enough to experience life under occupation by the Nazis and the Soviets both. This friend remarked that, unless you were Jewish, and/or involved in Resistance activities, the Nazis pretty much left you alone. The Soviets, however, went after pretty much everyone for any reason – if you were educated, from the minor nobility, were religious, were well-to-do, worked in a bank, or at a newspaper/magazine, had held any position in a civilian government or in a military capacity … the list went on, and on.

  14. Also we shouldn’t let them limit the field to Stalin and Hitler. Let us not lose sight of the industrial scale slaughter brought about by Mao, the Khmer Rouge, Kim Il Sung.

    “Che” didn’t ever achieve their attrition rates, but he certainly relished every chance he got to execute people himself.

  15. It amuses me just how biased these comments are. Of course Hitler wasn’t really a conservative, but Stalin wasn’t really a socialist either. The “Communist” USSR had it’s own elite (KGB, party workers etc) and in many ways just represented capitalism repackaged in a less practical and more oppressive form.

    Those who believe that authoritarianism is somehow linked to leftism are sorely mistaken. socialism is purely an economic standpoint, it can be just as liberal or authoritarian anything else. The problems come when the state is given power over non economic factors, which inevitably leads to oppression, ethnic cleansing and all the rest of it.

    The fact that bitterly disappoints me as a democratic socialist is that leftists still cling on to figures like Lenin and Stalin who were essentially despots. They are not the heroes of the left, they have if anything put its progress back a century or so. Meanwhile, the right has long since mostly distanced itself (rightly) from the spectre of fascism.

  16. The fact that the Nazis called themselves ‘socialist’ has no more bearing on what they really were than the inclusion of the word ‘democratic’ in the full name of the Deocratic Republic of North Korea has for its status as a democracy.

  17. The question of whether John mcgovern is ignorant or evil hinges on whether or not he knows what “economic factors” are.

    A factor is economic if and only if it is related in some way to human decision-making. If he knows that, then he is evil. If he doesn’t know that, he is ignorant.

  18. Pingback: Well, actually Seumas

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