May 10, 2005

Who was worse, Stalin or Hitler? Six of One, Half Dozen of Another

The difference between Stalin and Hitler? Hitler lost. WaTimes:

Amid all the chitchat, commentary and controversy over this week's celebrations marking the end of World War II, there is a question that has never been far from the surface, though it has rarely broken through: Which was really worse -- communism or Nazism?

One answer, a sensible one at that, is that both systems were so degraded, disgusting and unpalatable that it is impossible to establish a hierarchy of value in which one could possibly stand higher, or lower, than the other. When you've reached the deepest pit in Hell there's nowhere lower to go.

Unfortunately, though, that conclusion is often lost in a quagmire of ignorance and historical distortion. Not because anyone this side of decency really doubts the horrors of Nazism. But, sadly, because there are still large numbers of people (and judge for yourself which side of decency they stand) who still refuse to face up to the horrors of communism.

Take veteran Guardian columnist Jonathan Steele, writing in that paper just last week. In an irony that would certainly escape him, he makes it clear that one purpose of his polemic is to combat the "denial" in the West about the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Hitler. In attempting to foreclose on the argument that "Nazism and communism were somehow two sides of the same evil coin" he reaches a crescendo with the following, extraordinary statement: "Mass terror and purges," he says, "were not intrinsic to Soviet rule, as was clear after Stalin's death."

True, but if you are to use this comparison then one would need to call 'Nazism' a particular manifestation of fascism. Hitler is to fascism what Stalin is to communism.

Yet, no one says, "Hey, those fascists weren't really all that bad. It was Hitler that perverted fascism." See how this works? As if any paper would stand up and call Mussolini a reformer, Franco an anti-Hitlerite, or Juan Peron an idealist.

Soviet mass terror, by contrast, was a feature of the regime right from the beginning. Lenin's core principle of Red Terror was applied in the slaughter of up to half a million class enemies in the very first years of Soviet rule. And that is before we add in the millions of victims of a civil war which was the direct result of communist despotism.

In Lenin's own words, the new Soviet system was "a special system of organized violence against a certain class." The use of terror against class and ideological enemies was thus a central, defining part of the communist system.

Lenin's Commissar for Justice Issac Steinberg well remembers in his memoirs a telling conversation with Lenin in which he (bravely) expressed reservations about the scale of that terror. "Then why do we bother with a commissariat of Justice?" he asked Lenin. "Let's call it frankly the commissariat for Social Extermination and be done with it!" Lenin jumped at the idea. "Well put," he said. "That's exactly what it should be...but we can't say that."

The full death toll, most of it accumulated in peace time, at the hands of Lenin and his political and ideological successor, Stalin, is estimated by the best authorities at somewhere between 25 million and 30 million people. Not bad in a system for which mass terror and purges were not "intrinsic" parts. In what passes for Steele's argument, he suggests the scaling down of the terror after Stalin's death is evidence the system was not inherently terroristic. Does it not occur to him that there was no one left to kill?

And why do people still engage in this debate?
But by far the most significant category is made up by people who have a deep ideological need to save the reputation of the one by showing up its "better" qualities in comparison with the other. Neo-Nazis have thus long sought to stress the crimes of Stalin while diminishing or denying entirely the crimes of Hitler. It serves their perverted aims to do so. The old, Western Left has participated in exactly the same kind of enterprise in reverse. The difference is, of course, that they continue to get away with it, avoiding the contempt that both groups, not just one, so richly deserve.
Parenthetically I was at a May Day rally in Moscow once. The crowd was maybe 100,000 strong. There were pictures of Stalin everywhere.

One of the main speakers was an American from the CPUSA. Had he been 5 feet closer I would have punched that SOB right in the mouth. The utter drivel coming out of his mouth about how Russians were so much better off under the Soviet Union and how they enjoyed such a higher standard of living than Americans.

Being a Leftist is a lot like being a member of a cult. But at least in a cult they need to make you eat low-protein gruel to lower your resistance to suggestion. Leftist seem willing and able to buy into the ideological nonsense of their own free will.

Hmmm, I take that back. Maybe kashi (mush) and shi (cabbage soup) were Communist inventions to get the masses on board with the Fearless Leader's glorious seven year plan?

Hat tip: Kevin Aylward

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 09:06 AM | Comments |