Double genocide

Jonathan Freedland has problems with the Baltic States:

Even if the authorities were rigorous in maintaining a balance, and telling both stories honestly, I would still reject this \”double genocide\”. For the symmetry here is false. No one wants to top the persecution league table, but nor can one accept that those who were \”arrested, interrogated and imprisoned\” – to quote the Vilnius museum – suffered the same fate as those Jews who were murdered, despite the exhibit\’s attempt to equalise them under the bland umbrella term \”losses\”. The oppression of the Soviet years was terrible, but it was not genocide: to be arrested is not to be shot into a pit. They are different and to say otherwise is to rob \”genocide\”, a very specific term, of all meaning.

Part of the problem is in insisting in seeing the whole appalling tale as starting in 1939, or 1940, or ending in 1956 with Stalin\’s death.

It all actually started in 1917. There were \”Red\” revoluitions in the Baltics and yes, the bourgeoisie were shot out of hand. Then there were various attempts by the newly Soviet Russia to impose Soviet rule upon those formerly parts of the Russian Empire. In which, yes, the bourgeoisie were shot out of hand.

To the point that at times having hands which had no callouses, indicating that one was not a worker with hands, was a death sentence. As Gulag Archipelago tells us (or at least as I recall it doing so) even \”fine bones\” could be taken as evidence of an aristocratic breeding and earning you that 9 grammes.

There were invasions (variously, from Germany, Poland and that Soviet state) which moved back and forth over the lands with, each time the front changed, the supporters of the other side getting shot.

What happened in 1939/40, what went on happening under Stalin, what was still happening under Brezhnev for God\’s sake (yes, the deportations for being \”nationalist\”, something as simple as vociferously protesting that one be allowed to use one\’s own language carried on that long) were not the beginning at all. They were the continuation of something that had started only 2 decades before.

No, this most certainly does not excuse the genocide of the Jews: but nor does it excuse the deliberate and planned wiping out of the intelligentsia, the \”nation\” if you wish, of those Baltic States.

We should apportion blame equally for, as I\’ve said before, it\’s the killing of people that\’s wrong. Whether you kill them in the name of some lunatic racial or religious theory or some equally crackpot class war and internationalist one is irrelevant. You\’re still murdering people in the name of your insane political theories and you\’re just as guilty as the other bloke murdering in the name of his.

The only possible moral response to the 20th century history of those countries is a pox on all their houses.

7 thoughts on “Double genocide”

  1. Great comment from euangray:

    ” ‘To equate Soviet and Nazi crimes is dishonest and historically false’

    Indeed. One lot systematically eliminated any possible political threat, discriminated against Jews, homosexuals and people with inconvenient tendencies to independent thought, and the the other lot were German.”

  2. The main difference between the Nazis and the Soviets, was one of representativeness.

    The Soviets, were highly representative of all communists, whereas the Nazis were a very extreme form of fascist. It says something that in terms of the brutality of the two systems, that they were comparable.

    Extreme communism was Cambodia, and that killed one in three of the population.

  3. I won’t bother commenting to Guardian, but just to set the perspective: In 1940, Estonia had about 1,2 million people living in the country; they were almost all ethnic Estonians. In 1960 (and in 1990), the country had about 1,5 million people living in the country; two thirds of them were ethnic Estonians and the rest were from elsewhere in the USSR.

    Now, I looked these figures up years ago and they’re off-hand, and I don’t remember them exactly. But this is the big picture.

    So, what happened to couple of thousand Estonians? Would you call that a genocide or not? What would you call it that they were replaced by others, mostly ehtnic Russians? Of course, some of the Estonians were not killed, but living somewhere else (escaped to the West, or stayed to live in Siberia or other parts of the USSR after their forced labour convictions were over). But the USSR was a project of displacing *huge* amounts of people of various ethnic groups.

    And now the Russians are pissed off because the Estonians dared to move some bronze statue.

  4. Lefties have a huge problem accomodating their Marxist ideals with the knowledge that many of the countries that actually implemented Marxism as the handbook says turned out to be quite nasty places. As nasty in fact as countries which followed a political creed they tell themselves is the ideological opposite of their own faith.

  5. If Jonathan Freedman is a Marxist I’m a Tibetan monk. I’d guess he wants to keep the Nazis as an epitome of evil, not for us to leeeeaaavvee Staaaalin aloooone.

  6. My take on this grotesque Freedland piece here:

    Put it this way.

    Imagine that Hitler and Stalin had been captured at the end of WW2 and put on trial for their crimes.

    Hitler’s lawyers might have been able to mount some sort of defence argument based on Insanity – that he was so crazed by that in any sense that mattered he should not be regarded as legally responsible for his actions.

    Stalin surely could not claim that. The record of his iniquity and his countless justifications of it and the documentation describing it would all show that he knew exactly what he was doing and meant to to do it.

    So, yes, any normal person has to ‘equate’ Nazism and Communism and find nothing of any true significance to distinguish them.

    If anything the very nihilistic ‘rationality’ of Communism makes it even worse.

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