Monday, February 11, 2013
The Rehabilitation of Stalin and the Moral Responsibility of Intellectuals
The rehabilitation of Stalin has progressed from merely ignoring or denying his crimes and concentrating on his accomplishments in defeating Nazi Germany and industrializing the USSR to actively praising his repression against various internal enemy classes and especially domestic enemy nationalities. The recent celebration of the founding of the Usol'lag corrective labor camp by its former wardens is a case in point of this phenomenon. While American and European leftists have spent a great amount of time and effort to discredit the very small fringe groups that have attempted to deny, but not praise the crimes of Hitler, they have done almost nothing to oppose the political rehabilitation of Stalin. Indeed a great many of them especially in US universities have actively dismissed attempts to remember the victims of Stalin with dignity as something frivolous like Duran Duran albums and big hair and have instead portrayed communism as a "Progressive movement like Civil Rights and feminism." Indeed Stalinism was a "progressive movement" in that it sought to completely annihilate traditional peoples and their cultures in the name of modernity. Colonialism and genocide were also "progressive movements" in this sense. But, material progress at any cost is not a value I support as politically incorrect as my "reactionary" position may be. I believe that human dignity is more important. I know that I am a member of very tiny minority of people holding both a PhD and a US passport to think that Stalin's violent repression of his perceived enemies had no possible moral justification regardless of the Soviet government's position on segregation in the US South, but so be it. Twentieth century communism did not further civil rights or feminism for that matter in the USSR or any of the other countries where it actually ruled. Indeed the Stalin regime eliminated the civil rights of a large number of racialized ethnic groups and placed them under apartheid like restrictions. These stigmatized nationalities are still politically incorrect peoples so the US left has no problem dismissing their historical plight as having no more seriousness than Duran Duran albums and big hair. But, one can only imagine the reaction of the left if people on the right were to do the same thing to politically correct victims like the Jews under Naziism, Blacks in the US South, or women anywhere and anytime.
Posted by J. Otto Pohl at 6:08 PM
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You could devote some time to discussing the laogai. After all, it's a functioning gulag. Or North Korea. Perhaps you could advocate sanctions against China?
I could, but I can not read Chinese or Korean. So getting any type of detailed source material would be very difficult. Indeed I do have an article up from last year on the North Korean camps and the one thing that is apparent is that we know very little about them other than they are horrible. In the Soviet case we at least have a significant amount of primary source material regarding the camps so there can be no debate about their size and nature.
I could advocate sanctions against China, but given that 99% of everything in the US and most of the rest of the world is now made in China I don't ever see the imposition of sanctions realistically happening. Only those people who make their own clothes, buy no electronics, buy no plastic goods, and otherwise avoid purchasing consumer goods can effectively boycott Chinese products. The time for such a boycott would have been in the early 1980s before they drove out all the competing producers from the market.
You aren't required to read Chinese to speak up about the laogai. After all, you presumably don't think Western intellectuals need to know Russian to condemn the gulag. And you don't have Hebrew or Arabic, last heard from.
Withywindle, fair enough, although one of the reasons I post a lot on the USSR is that I do read Russian. Unfortunately, neither my library nor the two bookstores has anything as far as I can see on the laogai. I did buy a book on North Korea last year, however. If this were the universal human rights blog then both China and North Korea would be woefully underrepresented. I will plead guilty to selectively posting due to interest, lack of source material, and general human imperfection. I would be interested in reading more about Chinese and especially North Korean labor camps, however.
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