The “Four Stories Worth Reading” post highlighted four short stories featuring Comrade Joseph Stalin. Although roughly, very roughly, based on the historic figure, a political leader who sent perhaps as many as fifty million people to their deaths, the Comrade Stalin of these stories is a somewhat different person. Duh! By definition, fiction is untrue. Which means that it’s about as factually reliable as much of our news media.
By the way, the fifty-million figure cited above is an approximation. Estimates run as high as a hundred million. Also, the fifty-million figure does not include the additional tens of millions of people who died in China as an indirect result of Soviet actions following the establishment of the PRC, nor does it include, as far as I’m aware, the twenty million—ten military and ten civilian—deaths due to World War II.
Several biographies, both academic and popular, of Stalin are available. I haven’t reviewed this literature in a while, but the more current ones are likely to be more complete than the anything published before the fall of the Soviet Union. That fall opened up the Soviet archives and allowed the living to tell what they knew. Hitherto unavailable information and artifacts flooded out. Blood-stained “confessions,” for example.
This material makes the content of Nikita Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” look like the transcript of a Sunday-school outing. It was the “Secret Speech” that first widely exposed the underside of Stalin’s regime, the underside of communism. Needless to say, the speech caused something of a psychological and political tidal wave throughout the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. Please understand that Khrushchev and the rest of the then Soviet leadership had been there throughout the very worst of the famines, purges, deportations, executions, and genocides. They were Stalin’s surviving colleagues.
Thanks to the opening of the Soviet archives, the trickle became a flood. The media and universities in the United States could no longer deny or sweep away the previous spatterings of information emerging from behind the Iron Curtain as the rantings of crybaby émigrés and the disaffected.
Now that the Soviet Union no longer exists as such, American media and universities, largely, continue their silence where they can, repeat their excuses, sugar-coat that history, or throw up diversion after diversion, as appropriate.
Similarly, anything published before the fall of the Soviet Union is likely to be hampered by certain “gaps,” both in the source information and in the attitudes of those doing the writing. For one good example of such journalism, I offer the work of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Walter Duranty of the New York Times. He was not and is not alone.
Much of this reading is profoundly depressing. The content itself is disturbing, and its implications for our current situation are even more unsettling, if they are considered seriously.
What is even more distressing is the fact that much of American journalism and vast swaths of American “scholarship” have idolized and continue to idolize Lenin and Stalin and the Soviet Union. In too many places, academia is thoroughly authoritarian and either outright Marxist or neo-Marxist. I’m not going to recite examples here. Suffice it to say that you don’t have to dig very deep to find them.
During World War II, Roosevelt and Churchill nicknamed Joseph Stalin “Uncle Joe.” Stalin, however, was not the good old “Uncle Joe” of American wartime propaganda. Similarly papered over again and again was Stalin’s indirect role in the emergence of the Nazi death camps and his direct role in the outbreak of World War II.
By way of wrapping this up, two books need to be mentioned. Both of them are by Milovan Djilas. They are The New Class, which examines the rise the communism and the place of communists/socialists in contemporary Western class structure. Among other things, The New Class asks and answers several core questions. What constitutes the ownership of property? Who actually owns what? Who owned it before, and who owns it these days. What does de facto ownership allow?
I’ll give you a hint. It is not without good reason that the term “political class” has emerged.
The New Class ought to be required reading, but, of course, given its challenging content, it isn’t.
The second of the two books is Conversations with Stalin. It is a memoir of Djilas’s diplomatic contacts with Stalin. The book provides us a peek behind the curtain.
At this unhappy juncture it is reasonable to ask, what political sleight of hand enabled dictators such as Stalin, Hitler, and Mao to commit mass slaughter? For that matter, what allows our universities to slide deeper and deeper into authoritarianism? What ideological mechanism is transforming analysis and commentary into so-called hate speech? What is crippling our cultural and political discourse?
Unfortunately, that is a question that will have to wait for another time.
However, here’s a hint: demographic and class categorization, in short, Balkanization.
If you missed the “Four Short Stories Worth Reading” post, click right <HERE>.