Probably not a very nice one. The left doesn't do food as well as it might.
Another justification for the USSR you hear from time to time, and one I've got rather more time for, is the geopolitical one. If you look at a lot of the places where Ruskie and Yankie proxies faced off, it was the US which tended to be on the side of the out-and-out baddies (Angola, South Africa, periodically and inconsistently the Middle East). That's not to mention the US's support for the Soviets' enemies like, you know, what's his name - beardy religious guy, into planes crashing into buildings, that kind of thing.
Posts: 12564 | From: The bus lane | Registered: May 2002
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This seems like an appropriate thread to post this Leader from today's Torygraph:
Fifty years ago today, Josef Stalin died. The political system he had created then dominated much of Europe, Asia and the Middle East; later it spread into Africa and Latin America. In the Western democracies, communist parties were influential, especially among intellectuals. The Soviet hydrogen bomb, about to be revealed, would enable Stalin to confront on equal terms the only power capable of resistance, America. A new wave of terror was sweeping the Soviet Union and its satellites, in preparation for the imminent reckoning with the capitalist West. The death of Stalin came just in time, not only for the millions languishing in the prison camps of the Gulag Archipelago and the hundreds of millions incarcerated in his empire, but also for all mankind.
Posterity has been kind to Stalin. His crimes are already sinking into oblivion, whereas his great rival, Hitler, has rightly become uniquely synonymous with radical evil. We recall the Holocaust or Shoah in countless ways, and all the nations that fought or were occupied by the Nazis commemorate their dead. Where are the memorials to Stalin's nameless victims? Historians do not even agree about their numbers; more are constantly discovered as new evidence comes to light. At a conservative estimate, Stalin was directly responsible for the deaths of some 20 million. Indirectly, the totalitarian communism of which Stalin was the chief architect has so far killed up to 100 million around the world. By comparison, the Nazis' victims numbered about 25 million.
Why is there still such an imbalance in our judgment of the two great tyrannies of the past century? In part, this has to do with Stalin's role in the victory over Hitler: the gratitude of the Western allies to "Uncle Joe" was sincere. Another factor is the uniqueness of the Holocaust, which has overshadowed all other crimes against humanity. Few consider that Stalin, too, was a racist, indeed an extreme anti-Semite. In the 1930s, he established a Jewish state, Birobidzhan, on the Chinese border. By 1953, Jews were being arrested, tried and shot throughout his empire, and it seems that he intended to deport the entire Soviet Jewish population to perish in Siberia and Kazakhstan: a fate that had already befallen many others, including the Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars and Chechens.
The most important reason for Stalin's relative impunity, however, is the intellectual double standard that was applied to Communism and Nazism throughout the 20th century, the influence of which has survived the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. Hitler's atrocities taught the Right a salutary lesson, but Stalin's crimes have not served the same purpose on the Left.
From the Bolshevik Revolution onwards, not only card-carrying Communists, but also Marxist intellectuals and other fellow travellers wilfully disregarded the evidence of repression, terror and famine. The Trotskyist Isaac Deutscher's standard biography of Stalin, which appeared in 1949, devoted only two mealy-mouthed sentences to the Gulag, and glossed over the famines. The late Christopher Hill, Master of Balliol, declared that humanity "not only in Russia but in all countries will always be in his debt". In his memoirs, the Peter Simple columnist Michael Wharton recalls that his own comment on Stalin's death ("Pity he was ever born!") shocked his BBC colleagues, to whom it was "simply blasphemous. They did not speak to me again for a fortnight, and ever afterwards avoided me.''
Even after 1953, awkward facts were still explained away or simply ignored by those who believed that Stalin's ends justified his means. His laudatory obituary in The Times was the work of E H Carr, leader writer and author of a standard history of Soviet Russia, who saw Stalin as a "genius", "the dynamic force inherent in the revolution itself". Carr told an audience in Harvard in 1967 that "the sum of human wellbeing and human opportunity is immeasurably greater in Russia today than it was 50 years ago".
The reaction to Martin Amis's recent book about Stalin, Koba the Dread, showed that attitudes to Stalin are still ambiguous. In his widely praised Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991, the historian Eric Hobsbawm denies that Stalin's Soviet Union was totalitarian and compares it with America, concluding that "the second was probably the more dangerous". The intellectuals who now denounce Bush and Blair as warmongers will support a Saddam or a Mugabe, however cruel, against America, as long as he is identified with the Left. Thus is the Cold War continued by other means.Posts: 9155 | From: salubrious Crouch End | Registered: May 2002
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Whatever the merits of the rest of it, that penultimate sentence is nonsense. Who exactly are these bearded lefties backing uncles Saddam and Bob Mugabe? Jeremy Corbyn? No, he was criticising him, as he does now, when the bogeyman was happily buying arms from Britain. Tony Benn? A consistent critic of Mugabe's racism. Ted Heath? Ms Dynamite? Fcuk off, Lord Snooty!
Posts: 2121 | From: the Underworld | Registered: May 2002
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I went to Prague for a few days recently (which I would highly recommend to anybody). We were going to visit the museum of communism, but with one thing and another it didn't happen, which was a shame cos whilst I've studied a lot of Soviet and communist history, I've never learnt anything about the imposition of communism in the eastern block. can anybody recommend any books that would cover this?
Posts: 2266 | From: the bottom of the barrel | Registered: Oct 2002
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