Well, actually Seumas

But the pretence that Soviet repression reached anything like the scale or depths of Nazi savagery – or that the postwar \”enslavement\” of eastern Europe can be equated with wartime Nazi genocide – is a mendacity that tips towards Holocaust denial. It is certainly not a mistake that could have been made by the Auschwitz survivors liberated by the Red Army in 1945.

Nor would the opposite mistake be made by those who died in their trainloads in the Gulag.

As I\’ve muttered before:

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.

We do indeed equate communism and fascism, we do indeed equate Hitler and Stalin, and Mao, Pol Pot and every other totalitarian thug who puts the population to the sword. For it\’s the putting to the sword bit that\’s wrong, not the justification for it, d\’ye see?

18 comments on “Well, actually Seumas

  1. Imagine that instead of Russia controlling eastern Europe between 1945 and 1990, nazi germany had done so. Would the Polish, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Serb and Czech nations exist today? I think not: all their people would have died as forced labourers.

    So I think we can say that Hitler was worse than Stalin, or more widely that Nazi Germany was worse than the USSR. Though I would also note that:

    1. the question’s a bit like asking whether you want to be hanged or shot

    2. It may well be that the overall bodycount for the USSR was greater; but it existed for a longer time and ruled over more people.

  2. Seamus was of course the fellow who wrote,

    For all its brutalities and failures [e.g. the deaths of tens of millions – ukliberty], communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment, captured even by critical films and books of the post-Stalin era such as Wajda’s Man of Marble and Rybakov’s Children of the Arbat. Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination.

  3. Philip,

    You are missing the larger point, which is that Seuauameus is missing the point.

    No-one is, for a second, trying to rehabilitate Hitler. What is happening, though, is that people are beginning – thank the lord – to say, “hang on: Uncle Joe wasn’t actually all that cuddly”.

    For the last 70 years, it has been entirely common place that Hitler = Boo! Evil!, but Stalin, Castro, Che Guevara etc are to be hailed.

    All that is happening is that we are correcting the second of those two propositions. That does NOT mean that Hitler is NOT evil: it just means that Stalin et al are not a nice as SM would have us believe.

    SM’s article is one massive straw man.

  4. “Imagine that instead of Russia controlling eastern Europe between 1945 and 1990, nazi germany had done so. Would the Polish, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Serb and Czech nations exist today? I think not: all their people would have died as forced labourers.”

    The problem with positing alternative histories is that it is difficult to assess them from the point of view of those to whom they would have been reality.

    The Romans were just as an unwholesome bunch of thugs as Hitler’s Nazi’s exept on a larger scale & over a much longer period, yet the Roman Empire is regarded as one of the peaks of european culture. It’s the period after its fall we call the Dark Ages.
    A post-war Nazi government would have had the same problems administering its eastern acquisitions as the Soviets did their western. Fields need to be sowed & crops gathered. Coal mined & steel smelted. Forced labour is far from being the most efficient method of doing so. Even the Soviets realised that.
    More probable would have been an eastern Europe much like the one that actually occurred. Oppressive government & little personal freedom.

  5. “For the non-German population of the East there can be no type of school above the four-grade rudimentary school. The job of these schools should be confined to the teaching of counting (no higher than up to 500), the writing of one’s name, and the teaching that God’s commandment means obedience to the Germans, honesty, industry and politeness. Reading I do not consider essential.”Mr Himmler.

    Yup, *exactly* the same as under the communists.

  6. Umm John,

    Who, exactly, is saying “exactly”?

    See my comment above.

    It is trivially obvious that to state – as we have to here – that the fact that Stalin and lefty forms of totaliarian are not as cuddly as SM et al would like to make out does not suggest for a picosecond that Hitler is in fact cuddly after all. Yet this is what SM is trying to make out. It’s a straw man.

    Yours is a similar straw man. It is also trivially true that fascism and communism are totalitarian in nature. Doesn’t mean that they are precisely the same in every way.
    SM’s entire article is straw man aimed at those who suggest

  7. Philip Hunt – “Imagine that instead of Russia controlling eastern Europe between 1945 and 1990, nazi germany had done so. Would the Polish, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Serb and Czech nations exist today? I think not: all their people would have died as forced labourers.”

    I doubt they would have. It is hard and very expensive to wipe out entire ethnic groups. If they have some value as labour I can’t think of a case where they have actually been worked to death. They are more likely to be killed where they have no value. Consider British America and Spanish America. The Spanish worked a lot to death, but enough survived for the groups as a whole to survive in many cases because they had value to the landowners. That was not true in America’s North East.

    Notice that the Czechs, who produced massive amounts of weapons for the Germans, were not worked to death.

    I think that something like Apartheid might have been tried, but that it would have faded.

  8. Do the seventy million or so Chinese ‘citizens’ dead in Red China count in this little party? All those cultural revolutions, famines, purges, and so on? Beat that, Adolph! Or say 1/3 of Cambodia’s entire population? Hiro Hito , Adolph and Bonito combined didn’t manage that

    Hey, and how about the actual threat that’s actively fighting against our way of life today? Practised slavery before and after Christendom did, but castrated the slaves and lost millions to infection? Kept and keeps its subjects in poverty amidst great mineral and trading wealth; its women lower than dogs; its children ignorant of any outside views; screws with everyone’s sexuality; and will very soon possess the Bomb in Persia or Pakistan?

    Can they play ‘Baddest BAddass Ever’ too?

  9. Friedrich Engels

    Among all the nations and sub-nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and are still capable of life — the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars. Hence they are now revolutionary. All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm.

    Such, in Austria, are the pan-Slavist Southern Slavs, who are nothing but the human trash of peoples, resulting from an extremely confused thousand years of development.

    All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm… The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward.
    (“The Magyar Struggle,” Neue Rheinische Zeitung, January 13, 1849)

    It would seem that Himmler is not alone in regarding certain east Europeans as less deserving. That’s not to defend Himmler – there’s a threshold and both parties have long passed it. But if you claim to be “Shot By Both Sides” then you will be equally outraged by both. You certainly wouldn’t quote one side in a desperate attempt to prove that one group of murdering huckers was somehow better than the other. That would be like arging about the relative merits of Donald Neilson and Peter Sutcliffe.

    Anyone decent would find them both repellent.

  10. the fact that Stalin and lefty forms of totaliarian are not as cuddly as SM et al would like to make out does not suggest for a picosecond that Hitler is in fact cuddly after all.

    The point is, the Nazis were, actually, worse than the Stalinists, and *much* worse than the USSR before or after Stalin. And that’s something worth mentioning when people try and draw a spurious equivalence between fascism and socialism.

    (there’s also an argument, commonly made by Americans but which applies far more accurately to the USSR, that it ill-behoves people in the UK to slate those who unequivocally saved our arses…)

    Tim adds: “worse than the USSR before or after Stalin.” Reread your Gulag. The very point of which was that Lenin was indeed as bad as Stalin.

  11. No, it’s clear that Stalin was much worse than Lenin. At Lenin’s death there were under 30,000 political prisoners in the gulags. Mass imprisonment of political and class “enemies” didn’t kick off until June 1929, and by 1939 there were 1.3 million.

    (even the civil war killed fewer than quarter of a million people all in, with roughly even casualties on each side)

    Relatedly, this:

    Stalin murdered millions of people to get the Soviet Union in some sort of shape to resist Hitler, millions more died in the struggle and his price was the life, liberty, and property of the people of Eastern Europe, which we were in no position to refuse him but which we gave him anyway. And then the Palestinians get stiffed with the bill for hundreds of years of European anti-semitism. Now we sit on top of this huge pile of corpses crowing about how our liberty makes us an example to the world, like lottery winners preaching enterprise to the starving.

  12. “Imagine that instead of Russia controlling eastern Europe between 1945 and 1990”

    If you are doing what if scenarios you have to ask if it would have actually lasted that long, has there ever been a Fascist government that sucessfully stayed in power for more than one generation? Franco, Pinoche etc.

    “Stalin murdered millions of people to get the Soviet Union in some sort of shape to resist Hitler”

    Wrong, it was Stalin’s murder spree of the 1930s that meant he was in such a bad position to resist Hitler to begin with.

  13. “Stalin murdered millions of people to get the Soviet Union in some sort of shape to resist Hitler”

    Huh? ‘The Nazis are coming – let’s kill millions of people and extend the police state to all areas of life and starve and imprison millions and terrorize the lot of them because the Nazis are totalitarian mass-murderers?’

    SOMEBODY’S not short of Vitamin Stupid around here.

  14. john b – “(even the civil war killed fewer than quarter of a million people all in, with roughly even casualties on each side)”

    The highest estimate I have seen for the Civil War was 27 million people. That was probably on the high side, but there is no doubt more Russians died in the Civil War than in WW1.

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