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Of Myths and Monsters
Those who impugn campaigns of vilification based on deception, soon find themselves caught in the same web, discredited themselves. It has always been so. Those who rush to the defense of the unfairly accused, join the ranks of the unfairly accused. Machiavells, and those with their eye of the main chance, including left-wing radicals who eschew any cause that has even the faintest taint of being associated with anyone who has been discredited, no matter how unfairly, clam up, or worse, add their voices to the chorus of accusers, to put as much distance between themselves and the unfairly accused as they can. (
So said Stephen Gowans in a posting from October 2002 entitled “Turning a lie into a received truth.” In Newsletter #19, also from October 2002, I took what I assumed would be a very unpopular stance by championing someone who has definitely been the target of a campaign of vilification — a campaign that has endured for decades. For those who missed that missive the first time around, here it is again. (
[On March 5, 1953, Joseph Stalin died under conditions that “to this day are shrouded in mystery.” Stalin, as I noted, had “held the rampant imperialism of the West largely in check for eight years following World War II.” In August 1953, just five months after his death, the U.S. directed a bloody coup in Iran.]
And so began an endless series of bloody coups, rigged elections, and assassinations — all aimed at bringing all of the world under the control of the West, even while Western leaders justified their actions with claims that it was the Soviet Union that had its sights set on world domination. Strangely though, Time had earlier admitted, in yet another Man of the Year offering (1942), that Stalin was “concentrat[ing] on building socialism in one state,” and wanted “no new territories except at points needed to make Russia impregnable against invasion.” (
It is also interesting to note that, even in the midst of demonizing Stalin in an earlier Man of the Year offering (1939), Time begrudgingly admitted that after twelve years of his rule, “There were accounts of big dams built, large factories going up, widespread industrialization, big collective-farming projects. Five-Year plans were announced. Free schools and hospitals were erected everywhere. Illiteracy was on the way to being wiped out. There was no persecution of minorities as such. A universal eight-hour and then a seven-hour day prevailed. There were free hospitalization, free workers’ summer colonies, etc.” (
That same MOY article also made a passing reference to “Soviet Russia’s meticulously fostered reputation of a peace-loving, treaty-abiding nation,” and noted that “Soviet Russia had definitely gained some measure of respect for its apparent righteousness in foreign affairs. It had supported against reactionary attacks popular governments in Hungary, Austria, China, Spain.”
… It should go without saying that the excerpts from Time’s two profiles of Stalin sound nothing like the dreaded “Stalinism” that we all love to hate. Instead, we find a peace-loving, treaty-abiding nation that consistently sides with the people to oppose fascist regimes, that offers free, quality education and healthcare for all, that has guaranteed worker protections, and that is known for racial tolerance.
Compare that with what we have now: a war mongering, outlaw nation that consistently backs brutal, fascistic regimes against the will of the people, that barely bothers to fund public education and that offers medical care only to those who can afford the exorbitant fees charged for such services, that has declared war on labor by invoking the Taft-Hartley Act under entirely contrived circumstances, and that could, shall we say, use a little work in the area of racial tolerance.
Now bear with me here, because I’m just thinking out loud, but it seems to me that ‘Stalinism,’ even as presented through the biased eyes of Time, would be a vast improvement over this fabulously ‘free’ and ‘democratic’ system that we now have. And it seems kind of funny to me, quite frankly, that we have all been taught to so thoroughly and universally despise the one man on the world stage who could honestly take credit for doing what the U.S. likes to pompously boast of: defeating the fascist powers of Europe.
Any reasonably honest reading of history reveals that it was the Red Army that crushed the Nazi war machine, with only nominal ‘help’ from the West coming late in the fourth quarter. And it was Joseph Stalin who commanded that Red Army. According to Time, Stalin put in sixteen-hour days personally directing the war effort, while living in a modest three-room apartment.
This may not be a ‘politically correct’ statement, but the world owes an incalculable debt of gratitude to Joseph Stalin for slaying the fascist beat — or at least sending it underground until, in case you haven’t noticed yet, it recently resurfaced.
Those are the types of comments that I usually anticipate will not sit well with most readers. The name “Stalin,” after all, is used interchangeably with the name “Hitler,” just as the term “Stalinism” is frequently substituted for “Nazism” or “Fascism.” In modern history, the two World War II leaders stand head-and-shoulders above the crowd as the most evil, the most hated, the most loathsome, the most indefensible of historical figures.
On an almost daily basis, I read otherwise commendable newspaper articles and Internet postings that are marred by the author’s conditioned response of always equating Stalin with Hitler. In fact, Stalin seems to be well on his way to surpassing Hitler and becoming the single most despised figure of the twentieth century.
On November 23, 2002, the Los Angeles Times ran an article (buried in the entertainment section) entitled “What’s Behind This Ugly Hitler-Fest?” In the piece, the authors denounce what they refer to as “a crop of disturbing new movies that attempt to exploit the media-genic Fuhrer.”
Aim is taken at the movie Max, which is characterized as presenting Hitler through the prism of the “rejected artist syndrome,” and at a recent CBS miniseries that portrays Hitler as suffering from “abused child syndrome.” The authors conclude that “announcements from the movie industry show [that] those who shape popular culture are at the crossroads [writer David] Irving reached in the 1970s.”
That crossroads was reached by Irving when he realized “that the time had come to make a case for Hitler. Irving argued that in the court of history, Hitler had had too many prosecutors and no serious defenders.” The authors of the Times piece believe that Hollywood is now rising up to rectify that situation, ever so subtly beginning to reshape the consensus view of Adolf Hitler.
Joseph Stalin is enjoying no such renaissance. Nowhere in America can a sympathetic portrayal of the Soviet leader be found. And again I must say that I find that a little odd, considering that Stalin was, as commander of the Red Army, the man who saved the world from an overt fascist takeover in the 1940s.
Much has been written in the last couple of years, by myself and others, of the parallels between the Hitler regime and the Bush regime. George Bush’s Supreme Court appointment has been compared to Adolph Hitler’s quasi-legal ascent to power; the September 11 attacks have been equated with the Reichstag fire; the repressive PATRIOT ACT has drawn comparisons to Nazi Germany’s ‘enabling’ laws; the ‘preemptive’ strike on Iraq has been said to mirror the invasion of Poland; and the looting of Baghdad’s banks and national and historical treasures seems to owe much to the model provided by the Nazis.
But one parallel that I haven’t seen mentioned – and I could be wrong here, since I’m still getting caught up on things – is the one between the fall of Baghdad in April 2003 and the fall of, say, Paris in June 1940. For those who have forgotten, Paris fell without a fight after being declared an “open city.” German troops rolled right in unopposed by any organized forces. Sound familiar?
In fact, pretty much all of Western Europe, and parts of Eastern Europe, fell without a fight. Resistance groups like Tito’s ‘Partisans’ in Yugoslavia and the French Resistance fought valiantly against the occupation forces, to be sure, but the official military structures of the European nations did almost nothing to oppose the imposition of the Nazi puppet governments.
And why was that? Because much of World War II was fought, quite covertly, long before any front lines were formed or any shots were fired. Europe had been sold out — by the Lavals, by the Quislings, by others far too numerous to mention — and was just waiting to be rolled over. The change in government had essentially already been made; the people just hadn’t been informed yet (and when they were, many of them chose to take up arms with grassroots resistance movements).
That is how fascists tend to fight wars. They like to do their dirty work behind the scenes. They like to ensure that when it comes time to actually fight an overt war on the public stage, the deck has been so thoroughly stacked, through subterfuge, that the ‘enemy,’ for all intents and purposes, no longer actually exists.
And so it was that the Nazi war machine rolled easily through most of Europe, virtually unopposed in its initial occupations, yet continuously hampered by ‘pockets of resistance’ throughout its occupied empire (not unlike the scenario that has played out in both Afghanistan and Iraq). Conventional wisdom held that the Germans would roll just as easily through the Soviet Union.
And why not? Western intelligence operatives had made their initial penetrations into the fledgling Soviet Union in 1917, just after the revolution. They had been at work for a quarter-century before the first Nazi tanks rolled into Soviet territory. Many of these Soviet ‘assets,’ particularly among the so-called ‘White Russian’ community, would later ‘defect’ to the West bearing tales of terror and repression. The massive intelligence apparatus run by Reinhold Gehlen, who coordinated Nazi Germany’s Eastern operations, had been hard at work as well, paving the way for the massive June 22, 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union.
But something very strange and unexpected happened: the Red Army did not follow the lead of Europe’s armies and roll over for the Nazis. They fought back long and hard, at a cost of millions of lives, and ultimately prevailed. Why did that happen? Why did the Soviet Union defy expectations by not just resisting, but defeating the Nazi aggressors?
We’ll get to that, but first let’s take a look at a response that I got to my initial pro-Stalin diatribe. This is the type of response that I anticipated receiving, and was surprised that it took over a week for this one, lonely, solitary response to arrive:
[This] is indeed one of those e-mails that you predicted would come to you in opposition to your comments on Stalin. Funny thing happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union: the archives opened up. Josef Vissarionovich didn’t do such a fantastic job after all, (although this was known before as well) there was indeed massive repression (much more than our own current prison complex), strict censorship, many executions, shortages of food and several famines took place, 1932-33 was the big one. A lot of people suffered and millions of people died early and nasty deaths. Stalin’s actual command during WWII was not as wonderful as it might’ve been. He missed a number of warnings of the coming German invasion and he weakened the Red Army by purging its lead officers, among other things. Racial problems and ethnic tensions remained although diminished and driven underground.
Now I have nothing against this particular respondent. He has written before and he is, as near as I can tell, a good egg. But I believe that he is mistaken about a number of things. What he has essentially done here is to catalogue the “received truths” about Joseph Stalin, which is what I was hoping someone would do, so I am thankful that someone did, thereby saving me the trouble of having to write it up myself so that I could then provide a rebuttal.
Let’s begin with the notion that “Stalin’s actual command during WWII was not as wonderful as it might’ve been. He missed a number of warnings of the coming German invasion and he weakened the Red Army by purging its lead officers, among other things.”
Conventional wisdom and Western historians say that Stalin’s lack of military leadership skills did indeed weaken the Red Army and undermine the country’s military preparedness, but a rational reading of history indicates otherwise.
If Stalin had in fact purged the Red Army of its best officers, if he had “betrayed the revolution” by purging all the party loyalists, then the conquest of the USSR would have proven to be the easy victory that it was scheduled to be. Instead, it was precisely because the Soviet Union did what the European nations failed to do – purged their army of fascist ‘fifth columnists’ prepared to sell out the Russian people – that the Red Army triumphed rather than sitting the war out.
Without the purges, the Red Army would have fallen apart, as previous foes of the Nazi war machine had done, unable to withstand the Nazi blitzkrieg. Were the purges brutal? Probably so. Were there excesses? Undoubtedly. But would the outcome of World War II, and the last sixty years of human history, have been much different without them? Undeniably.
As Party official Georgi Malenkov noted: “In the light of the war and its results, we perceive in all its magnitude the importance of that implacable struggle which over a period of many years our Party waged against every brand of enemy of Marxism-Leninism … the Party in good time destroyed all possibility of the appearance of a ‘fifth column’ in the U.S.S.R., and prepared the country politically for active defence. It will be easily understood that if this had not been done in time, we should, during the war, have found ourselves under fire from the front and the rear, and might have lost the war.”
So the purges achieved the desired result, but were they necessary, or was there another option? I don’t have an answer for that, but I do know this: Western intelligence agencies are remarkably skilled, now as then, at structuring the game so that it is a no-win situation for the opponent.
Imagine that you are Jacobo Arbenz in the 1950s, or Fidel Castro in the 1960s, or Joseph Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s, or, skipping ahead, Hugo Chavez in the present day. You’re trying to get a fledgling administration off the ground and you’ve got a big problem: the institutions of your country are littered with assets controlled by Western intelligence agencies.
The CIA, for instance, has moved into town and set up shop under various assumed names to operate an ‘opposition’ press, which daily agitates against the sitting government with heavy doses of manufactured ‘black’ propaganda. If you take any action against these operations, you will be vilified via the entire Western media establishment for brutally censoring the opposition press and crushing free speech. If you do nothing, the problem will continue to fester and grow. What do you do?
The political and military infrastructure of your country is seeded with Quislings, installed by the Western puppet regime that previously ruled your land, but if you take any action against these operatives you will be vilified via the entire Western media establishment for brutally repressing the political opposition — thus ‘proving’ to all the world that you are indeed the monstrous tyrant that Washington claims you to be. If you do nothing, you leave yourself and your administration vulnerable to coups, assassination plots, election rigging, propaganda campaigns, and all manner of other covert shenanigans. What do you do?
Washington has left you only two choices: do nothing and allow the covert machinations to run their course, or take action and provide Uncle Sam with a manufactured justification for waging overt warfare against you. Those are your options. Which do you choose?
Fidel Castro, faced with a group of phony journalists who were openly collaborating with CIA assets to undermine the Cuban government, recently chose the latter option, arresting and imprisoning some six dozen of them. He has been roundly vilified in all avenues of the Western media for doing so, including by brazenly phony leftists like our old friend Marc Cooper.
Here is how Cooper described the situation in a recent LA Weekly offering (
A month ago, as the war in Iraq was breaking out, Cuban police arrested nearly 80 dissidents on charges of receiving money from and collaborating with U.S. diplomats to undermine Cuba’s government. The Bush administration’s top diplomat in Cuba, James Cason, has indeed been quite assertive. Publicly challenging Castro, he made a point of visiting the homes of many of these dissidents and had also brought many of them to his own residence … Within a few weeks of their arrest, all six dozen had been given prison sentences of six to 28 years … Among those condemned are self-styled independent journalists and librarians. I know some of these people, and some are rather pathetic. Others are quite courageous. Hector Palacios, who got a 25-year term, was a leader of the Varela Project — a completely public campaign calling for free elections that was signed on to by thousands of Cubans … Spin this any way you please, but in the end these people are being jailed not for anything they have done — but rather for things they have said. Or read.
No, Marc, I think it was actually for conspiring with foreign agents to further their efforts to topple the Cuban government, which I believe would be classified as a treasonous offense, and which I am pretty sure would result in incarceration, if not execution, in just about any nation on this planet.
What Cooper forgets to mention, of course, although he is well aware of it, is that the U.S. doesn’t actually have any “diplomats” in Cuba. U.S. embassies in ‘unfriendly’ nations are not staffed with diplomats. They are staffed with intelligence operatives. The embassies serve as the CIA’s station in the host country, and the head of the ‘diplomatic mission,’ whatever his title may be, is most likely the CIA station chief for that country.
In fact, U.S. embassies in friendly countries aren’t really staffed with diplomats either. The reality is that one of the primary functions of the U.S. State Department is to provide diplomatic cover for intelligence operations. The State Department and the CIA are, in essence, opposite sides of the same coin. Never was that more clearly illustrated than during the eight years of the Eisenhower administration when the brothers Dulles ran and closely coordinated both entities, John Foster at State and little brother Allen at the CIA.
The position of Secretary of State is, by the way, a military/intelligence post, not a diplomatic one — in case you have ever wondered why former generals like Al Haig and Colin Powell are appointed as the nation’s chief ‘diplomat.’ Or why Secretaries of State like John Foster Dulles, Henry Kissinger and James Baker have wielded such extraordinary power.
Sorry to have to break the news to those who are still clinging to the belief that Colin Powell is a voice of reason in the Bush cabal, but you aren’t going to find too many heroes riding to the rescue bearing the title of Secretary of State. And by the way, Powell isn’t just a member of the Bush administration; he’s a member of the Bush family. I guess that’s why the Bush team trusts the Powells to run both the State Department and the FCC. (
We seem to have, as usual, veered somewhat off course here. So let’s get back to Cuba, and the fact that a group of “self-styled” journalists were, apparently rather openly, working with an “assertive” … uhmm … American “diplomat” to “undermine Cuba’s government.”
That is exactly the kind of situation that you would find yourself in, repeatedly, if you were our hypothetical world leader. So what would you do? Ignore the brazen acts of sedition? Not a wise choice. Take action? Only if you want to move yourself up a few notches on the preemptive strike list.
I noticed something interesting about Cooper’s rant, by the way – other than the not-too-surprising revelation that he knows some of the Cuban operatives – which is that he included a very nice example of the sort of logical inconsistencies that you will find routinely sprinkled throughout rants of this type, and that are always accepted without comment by the media at large.
Marc Cooper would like you to believe that Fidel Castro is a brutally repressive, iron-fisted dictator who tolerates no dissent and no questioning of his authority. That is what virtually all commentators, whether from the ‘left’ or the ‘right,’ would like you to believe. They will tell you, for as long as you can stand to listen, how the Cuban people are terrorized into silence, afraid to speak of the horrors visited upon them, afraid that speaking out, in any manner, will only worsen their lot in life. That is what Marc Cooper and his media brethren want you to believe.
But here is the part that doesn’t make sense: Cooper has written that one of those arrested and convicted was a leader of a “completely public campaign calling for free elections that was signed on to by thousands of Cubans.” You don’t say? Thousands of Cubans, living in a brutal police state, where a single unguarded comment can bring an unwelcome knock on the door late at night, publicly signed their names to a campaign challenging the legitimacy of the Cuban government? And they weren’t rounded up and executed? They aren’t rotting away in a concentration camp? How could that be?
Cooper doesn’t bother to explain, nor do any of the other Cuba bashers in the Western media who make such claims. ‘Journalists’ will frequently claim to have gone to Cuba and to have had unguarded conversations with the Cuban people, in which said people candidly revealed their true thoughts about the reign of Fidel Castro. That always makes for good copy, but the truth of the matter is that in a real totalitarian state, people learn rather quickly not to talk to someone claiming to be a journalist, not to talk candidly to anyone asking too many questions, for one can never be sure that anyone is really who he claims to be.
We know then from the inherent contradictions that many of the claims made about Fidel Castro’s Cuba are not true. We also know that Castro has for decades now been blamed for economic conditions that are almost entirely of our own making. We know that he has been targeted for assassination on countless occasions. We know that the U.S. has, for decades, cultivated a rabidly fascistic Cuban exile community that is regarded by many as the world’s number one terrorist organization. We know that Cuba’s crops and livestock have been targeted with biological and chemical agents, in efforts to starve the people and foment a revolt. We know that an invasion of the island using a proxy army was planned and carried out, albeit ineptly. We know that Castro’s diversion of funds from social programs to the military has been a necessary, though quite unfortunate, response to direct and repeated U.S. provocations. We know that Cuban industry has been repeatedly sabotaged for forty years now. And we know that, despite all the obstacles placed in the way, Castro has raised the standard of living for the vast majority of Cubans, who enjoy longer life expectancies, much higher literacy rates, and vastly improved healthcare and education services.
It is not Castro’s Cuba though that is the focus of this rant; it is Stalin’s Soviet Union, which squared off against the covert tactics of the West long before Castro did. So let us now return to my e-mail correspondent and the majority view of Stalin. I have already addressed the notion that his dubious military command weakened the Red Army. Now let’s take a look at some of the other “received truths” about Stalin.
1) “Funny thing happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union: the archives opened up.”
I suppose they did. But another funny thing happened as well: when those archives opened up, a whole bunch of fraudulent, falsified documents popped out of them. That was probably due to the fact that control of those archives, after Stalin’s death, passed to those who had assassinated the Soviet leader and had a vested interest in vilifying him.
I indicated in my previous Stalin rant that the circumstances under which he died are “shrouded in mystery.” A new book has shed some light on that mystery, according to a recent offering from the New York Times (Michael Wines “New Study Supports Idea Stalin Was Poisoned,” March 5, 2003):
Fifty years after Stalin died, felled by a brain hemorrhage at his dacha, an exhaustive study of long-secret Soviet records lends new weight to an old theory that he was actually poisoned, perhaps to avert a looming war with the United States … Relying on a previously secret account by doctors of Stalin’s final days, its authors suggest that he may have been poisoned with warfarin … during a final dinner with four members of his Politburo … Stalin suffered extensive stomach hemorrhaging during his death throes … significant references to stomach bleeding were excised from the 20-page official medical record, which was not issued until June 1953, more than three months after his death on March 5 that year.
This book appears to be largely disinformational, intended to downplay the notion that Stalin was poisoned even while acknowledging that the available evidence indicates that he was. The authors -Vladimir Naumov and Jonathan Brent – claim “that a cerebral hemorrhage is still the most straightforward explanation for Stalin’s death,” while “poisoning remains for now a matter of speculation.” This despite the fact that the authors admit that, “at the least — Stalin’s Politburo colleagues denied him medical help in the first few hours of his illness, when it might have been effective.” The authors also acknowledge that the official report on Stalin’s death was deliberately altered to create the impression that medical help was sought immediately, when in fact it was deliberately withheld.
As a second line of defense, the book’s authors attempt to place blame for the assassination, if in fact it was an assassination, on Lavrenti P. Beria, chief of the Soviet secret police. Beria was one of the four senior Politburo members present at Stalin’s last dinner. The others were “Georgi M. Malenkov, Stalin’s immediate successor; Nikita S. Khrushchev, who eventually rose to the top spot; and Nikolai Bulganin.”
The choice of Beria as the prime suspect is a convenient one, to say the least; Beria was himself executed just months after Stalin’s untimely demise. So even if Stalin was assassinated, you see, justice was served, so there’s really nothing to be concerned about. And besides, as the authors throw in as their third line of defense, it was actually a good thing that he was assassinated, if he was, since it spared the world the devastation of the imminent war that Stalin was preparing to launch against the U.S.
Nice story … but I’m not buying it. And neither, for that matter, are the majority of the Russian people. Despite the massive vilification campaign, a recent “poll of 1,600 adults by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center, released today on the eve of the 50th anniversary of his death, shows that more than half of all respondents believe Stalin’s role in Russian history was positive, while only a third disagreed.”
It stands to reason that that is because a lot of Russian people are old enough to know that their own memories, or their parents’ or grandparents’ memories, don’t jibe with the official reality.
As for suspects, Nikita Khrushchev seems a far more likely one than Beria. Khrushchev certainly gained much more from the assassination than did Beria. And the authors acknowledge that “Krushchev’s own account of Stalin’s death, in his memoirs, [is] an almost cartoonish distortion of the truth.” Nevertheless, the man who gained the most, and who brazenly lied about the assassination, is dismissed as a suspect. Go figure.
The authors, by the way, describe Beria as “for 15 years [Stalin’s] despised minister of internal security.” That is another one of those logical inconsistencies that I was talking about earlier. As is perfectly obvious to anyone, the most important figure in any thuggish police state, other then the dictator himself, is arguably the chief of internal security. He’s the guy in charge of dealing with any dissenters in the crowd. He’s the guy entrusted to maintain internal stability. So why in the world would a merciless tyrant like Joseph Stalin, purger extraordinaire that he was, allow a guy that he despised and distrusted to hold such a position for 15 years? And why did that guy wind up dead just months after Stalin died?
Another questionable theory that the authors advance is the one that says that if Stalin was assassinated, by the guy who was killed shortly afterwards, then it was done for the noble cause of averting a looming war with the United States. But what Stalin was actually preparing to do, as the authors are well aware, was to launch a defensive war, so to speak, against the covert war that he believed was being waged against his regime.
Stalin had become convinced, as the book acknowledges, that his administration had been infiltrated by actors who were plotting against him. He had reportedly determined that it was time to once again conduct a purge, and had ordered prison facilities built.
The new book apparently makes repeated references to “the Doctor’s Plot, a supposed collusion in the late 1940’s by Kremlin doctors to kill top Communist leaders.” The authors dismiss the plot as “a fabrication by Kremlin officials, acting largely on Stalin’s orders.”
The book contends that “Stalin disclosed the plot to a stunned Soviet populace in January 1953.” Here’s what happened next:
On March 1, 1953, two weeks after [four new prison] camps were ordered built and two weeks before the accused doctors were to go on trial, Stalin collapsed at Blizhnaya, a north Moscow dacha, after the all-night dinner with his four Politburo comrades …
Less than a month later, the doctors previously accused of trying to kill him were abruptly exonerated and the case against them was deemed an invention of the secret police … By year’s end, Beria faced a firing squad, and Khrushchev had tempered Soviet hostility toward the United States.
So if I have this right, this is basically what happened: Stalin was convinced that there were elements within his administration, likely working in collusion with Western interests, who were plotting against him, and just days before evidence of that plot was to be aired at trial, Stalin just happened to die. Immediately thereafter, all charges were quickly dropped against all the accused conspirators. The brave soul who felled the beast, if he was in fact assassinated, was rewarded by being sent before a firing squad. One of the men who had denied medical treatment to the fallen leader, and then lied repeatedly about it, and then arranged for Beria’s execution, rose up to assume Stalin’s throne. This same man quickly “tempered Soviet hostility,” which really means that he began working with the very same Western interests that Stalin had so feared. From the time of Stalin’s death, the new breed of Soviet leaders began covertly converting the Soviet Union to a capitalist system, while they and their Washington counterparts continued for forty more years to pretend as though the two nations were still ideological rivals. However, no one should conclude from any of that there ever was any actual plot to do away with Stalin.
In the minutes of a meeting of top Party officials from December 1952, just three months before his death, Stalin is quoted as saying: “Here, look at you — blind men, kittens. You don’t see the enemy. What will you do without me?” The problem though wasn’t that they couldn’t see the enemy. And they knew exactly what they would do once Stalin was no longer around.
2) “Racial problems and ethnic tensions remained although diminished and driven underground.”
Probably so. As far as I know, no one has the power to make decades, even centuries, of racial and ethnic tensions simply disappear overnight. If such tensions had merely been “diminished and driven underground,” that certainly showed that Soviet society was moving in the right direction, and that vast improvements had been made.
It is not a perfect world that we live in and no one yet has offered us any perfect models to choose from. Nearly a century-and-a-half have passed in this country since the Civil War was fought, allegedly to free the slaves, but the problem of racial tensions has certainly not been ‘solved,’ but merely “diminished and driven underground.” Stalin accomplished considerably more in much less time, and he had scores of rival ethnic groups to contend with.
3) “shortages of food and several famines took place, 1932-33 was the big one. A lot of people suffered and millions of people died early and nasty deaths.”
Indeed they did, and conventional wisdom tells us that Joseph Stalin was to blame. During his reign, three consecutive “Five Year Plans” were launched with the intention of rapidly industrializing the nation. The plans were wildly successful in achieving the goal of converting a largely agricultural society into a self-sufficient, industrialized nation.
These plans were a response to World War I, the first massive invasion of Russian territory. Stalin recognized that another invasion was coming and that the only way to defend the Soviet Union was to rapidly create an infrastructure that could support a modern, mechanized army.
He also recognized that the Soviet Union needed to become self-sufficient, and by the dawn of World War II that goal had been attained: the Soviet Union did not need any imports or exports to survive. But just as with Castro in Cuba, Stalin didn’t set out to isolate the Soviet Union from the Western world; he reacted to the fact that the Western world had already isolated, and targeted, the Soviet Union.
In the rush to industrialize, agriculture and food production inevitably suffered. So Stalin must certainly shoulder some of the blame for the famines of the 1920s and 1930s. But Soviet leaders consistently maintained that Western operatives repeatedly sabotaged food production. And there is little reason to doubt such claims. That has, after all, been the modus operandi of the West for quite some time, and continues to be to this day. The Iraqi people, for example, were starved for a full decade prior to the recent U.S. occupation.
Since I just provided that nice segue onto the topic of Iraq, I have to comment here on the chatter about the elusive ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction.’ It is pretty clear by now that such weapons don’t actually exist, and that maybe, you know, Bush received some faulty intelligence or something, or maybe he even lied a little bit, but it really doesn’t matter because there were other justifications for going to war, and the outcome clearly vindicated the U.S. stance.
The problem is that the WMDs do matter. Very much so. For you see, according to international law, there is one and only one justification for taking military action against a sovereign nation, just as, throughout the ‘civilized’ world, there is one and only one justification for willfully taking a human life: self defense against an imminent threat.
There is no other valid justification for waging war. And if there were no ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction,’ then Iraq certainly didn’t pose an imminent threat to the United States. It didn’t pose any sort of threat at all. And that leads to the inescapable conclusion that those who planned and carried out the invasion of Iraq are war criminals … but here I have, as usual, digressed.
Returning to the subject at hand, I guess the question that needs to be asked here is: who was ultimately to blame for the tragic loss of human life due to starvation? Was it the leaders who, with an eye to ensuring the continued security of the sovereign Soviet state, chose to industrialize and militarize the nation, thus enabling the USSR to defeat the Axis powers? Or was it the leaders who forced the Soviet state to adopt a defensive posture, and then repeatedly sabotaged that nation’s agriculture and industry? There seems to be no shortage of blame to toss around.
4) “there was indeed massive repression (much more than our own current prison complex), strict censorship.”
Perhaps, but as I noted earlier, the majority of the Russian people don’t remember things that way. They remember a leader who took necessary actions to insure the security of the state. What is portrayed as repression and censorship isn’t necessarily so.
In an ideal world, there would be absolute freedom of the press and absolute freedom of political expression. But we live in a world where the deck is stacked, and a utopian society cannot be created in a hostile environment. So where does the answer lie?
5) “many executions”
Ahhh, yes, the executions. Millions of them, if I’m not mistaken. Except that, as near as I can tell, there is scant evidence to support that charge. Not so in Nazi Germany, where the victims’ bodies were found stacked like firewood. But where are all the mass graves in the former Soviet Union?
A recent offering from the Los Angeles Times proves illuminating. The title of the frontpage piece, “Skeletons of History in Russian Graves” (John Daniszewski, November 18, 2002), implied that evidence of mass murders was readily available, but a careful reading of the text of the article reveals a different story.
The article concerns the activities of “a small team investigating what it says is a newly discovered Stalinist killing field outside St. Petersburg.” The group, a non-governmental organization known as Memorial, claims that the Soviet state sponsored the “killing of tens of millions of Soviet citizens from the earliest days of the Bolsheviks until the death of Josef Stalin in 1953, and some even later.” In St. Petersburg, according to Memorial, victims from Kresty Prison and from the local NKVD headquarters were loaded into vehicles in the dead of night, driven out into the woods, and then summarily executed.
Now you would think that if tens of millions were executed in the USSR, a city like St. Petersburg, being one of the largest and most strategic population centers, would have supplied a good number of those victims. So you would expect that the primary killing grounds for that city would yield an unfathomable number of corpses. But you would be mistaken.
According to the Times, Memorial has concluded, “now that more than 50 graves have been found … [that] there can be little doubt that this was the NKVD’s main graveyard in St. Petersburg during the 1937-38 period known as the Great Terror.” And it only took Memorial “14 years of deduction, investigation and detective work … to find the first remains.”
It’s kind of funny, but I seem to remember that a guy named George Bush ordered about 50 executions in the state of Texas during the 1997-98 period, but I don’t recall anyone referring to that as the Great Terror. And everyone knows where those bodies are buried.
Anyway, Memorial “presumes” that there are actually “many layers below, but it says it is not interested in disturbing the dead by doing a complete excavation.” Of course not. Why would you want to get an accurate count when you can just presume? And besides, Memorial already knows how many victims there were. They have devised an accurate system for estimating the death toll: they just make it up.
For the site in the forest near Toksovo, Memorial has arbitrarily arrived at a figure of 32,000. That is, I should note, only about 640 times the actual number of bodies that have been recovered. And here is how Memorial deduced that figure: “Memorial’s estimate of 32,000 victims in Toksovo is based on subtraction. About 40,000 people in what was then Leningrad and its surrounding region were killed in the Great Terror, but the one known grave of the victims is believed to hold only about 8,000.”
It’s interesting to note that the other known grave site is “believed to hold” 8,000 corpses, just as the Toksovo site is “presumed” to hold another 32,000. In fact though, there is precious little evidence that either site holds anywhere near that many victims. There is little evidence to indicate that there are any substantial mass graves in the vicinity of one of the largest population centers in the FSU.
So the question remains: where are the tens of millions of bodies of the victims killed during the Great Terror? They shouldn’t be all that difficult to locate — what with the archives having been opened up and all.
Anyone who thinks that the fascist beast ruling America can be slain merely by cutting off its head is woefully misinformed. Even Marc Cooper is honest enough to admit that. Near the end of one of his recent disinformation-filled rants, he wrote: “Unfortunately, you don’t change the entire body politic of America by merely changing a president.” (
No, you certainly do not. Never before in recorded history has a country been as thoroughly infested with homegrown ‘fifth-columnists.’ They are everywhere. Their voices are called upon to shape public opinion on every conceivable topic. One has only to pick up any daily newspaper and read through it, or turn on any cable news program, or tune into any talk radio program, to see how completely information, and public opinion, is controlled in this country.
You cannot bring about any kind of serious political change in this country without first bringing about a radical change in public opinion, and you cannot bring about a change in public opinion until you break the state’s monopoly control of information — information disseminated through the media, academia, the church, and every other institution of any significance in this country.
You cannot affect significant change in this country, in other words, without purging the elements that seek to maintain the status quo at any cost. The good news is that we already have plenty of prison cells for the guilty parties. All we have to do is let out all the non-violent offenders who are currently occupying those cells, and we’ll be good to go.
But don’t look to anyone else to get the job done. What figure is there on the world stage today who will stand up to the fascist beast? Don’t pin your hopes on poseurs like Shroeder, Chretian, Chirac or Putin. For my money, what the world needs today, more so than ever, is a man of sufficient stature to fill the shoes of Joseph Stalin.
[For those interested in alternative views of Stalin, ‘Stalinism,’ and the post-Stalin period, here are three books that cover those very topics. All are available as free downloads. You probably will not, and should not, agree with everything that these authors have to say, but it will cost you nothing but time to hear them out. And you have spent your entire life hearing the other side of the story:
1. Ludo Martens  Another View of Stalin
2. Anna Louise Strong  The Stalin Era
3. W.B. Bland, for the Communist League (UK)  The Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union]