Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Five Controversial Things I Believe

In an effort to be provocative enough to solicit comments I have listed five things I believe below that I think are definite minority opinions in American academia and the blogosphere.

1. The Soviet Union, particularly under Stalin, practiced racial discrimination against a number of nationalities and Jews were not the worst treated group by a long shot.

2. The mass deportation of nationalities by Stalin to Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia constituted genocide by any reasonable definition of the word.

3. The mass expulsion of ethnic Germans from their homes in Central Europe at the end of World War II was a crime against humanity with no moral justification.

4. The mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 was also a crime against humanity with no moral justification.

5. American academia is rigged so people like me who believe things like I listed above can not get jobs at US universities.


Leo Tolstoy said...

On point two: I've been reading a lot of books on genocide lately, and there is no consensus on the term at this point. Under Lemkin's definition (and he did create the term), there can be no argument against the Stalinist deportations being genocide: he specifically lists forced migration. Those who currently argue for an extremely restricted definition of genocide claim that the term is acquiring too broad a definition and is losing some of its force. People on the other side claim that the term is so powerful it should be applied to as many instances as possible, using Lemkin's original definition as a guide. There are people who hold positions at every point in between.

There is definitely value in conducting this sort of debate in journals, books, and other publications. The UN definition was a compromise, and furthermore was written by states that had all committed mass killings and deportations in the recent past. Turning up at a conference and raising an objection that the term is being misused isn't helpful, though. That almost strikes me as pedantic. That phenomenon is the main reason I stopped going to conferences.

J. Otto Pohl said...

Well I realize people disagree. But, the interpretation of intent as being only the main motivating goal of the action is rather tiresome. See Statiev's latest article, I can send it to you if you do not have it. He says it was not genocide even though the Soviet government knew that massive mortality was inevitable and the deportations were deliberate. He says this because their "goal" which is how he interprets intent was assimilation not death.

This pedantic exclusion of knowingly causing events through deliberate actions from the definition of intent is bizarre. It is certainly not reasonable since Anglo-American common law does not interpret criminal intent in such a narrow and subjective manner. Greenawalt has a good article on this. Let me know if you want me to send it to you.

Leo Tolstoy said...

Yeah, send me Statiev's article. He is ignoring Lemkin's original definition, in which assimilation is identified as the most common form of genocide.

J. Otto Pohl said...


Statiev is only going by the UN treaty and using a very narrow definition of intent. I will send you the article next week.

Leo Tolstoy said...

Thanks. Yeah, I'm reading Bliev's book on the Caucasus wars, and he plays the same semantic games where he needs to to try to claim the Circassian genocide wasn't genocide. The actual discussions in the UN dealt with "intent" very briefly, and it's clear they meant a much broader sense than it has subsequently been interpreted. But genocide deniers often have nothing else to hang on to but word games.

J. Otto Pohl said...

Greenawalt is good in that he stresses intent is knowingly causing a result not merely the goal of an action.