I’ve been eyeing up to do something about this film for a little while, and whilst i enjoy mocking those derive all their ideas about the Soviet Union from the likes of Beck and said film. I’ve decided to calm down enough now, to do a proper critique of this movie, which for the time being can be located here.
Here’s the thing. Yes i believe that my and subsequent generations should be taught about what actually happened in the Soviet Union, including all it’s crimes much more than what is taught at present. The truth in short! A truth about the Sovet Union which according to multiple reports seems no longer to be taught in modern Russia, if ever it was taught at all. Seeing as educational textbooks according to this report are downplaying the crimes of Stalin, is it any wonder Stalin in one public poll was deemed the third greatest Russian in all of history (that he was actually an ethnic Georgian didn’t seem to matter to them too much) and for much of the time he was leading it? Worse still if this article from the Daily Telegraph is to be believed, Textbooks are teaching that the crimes were “justified”. These textbooks are also “Anti-semitic”. In light of these reports again it is my belief that a teaching of the crimes of Stalin and his magnates must be much more paramount than it already is. not being taught in the west. They are! And there is plenty of good literature on the Subject. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s “Stalin: The court of the Red Tsar” and Robert Service’s “revolutionary ‘triptych'” of biographies on Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky, which i am currently reading are good places to start if you would like to learn more.
The very fact of the literature i’ve just recommended is reason enough i think why conspiricy theories such as the following from Glenn Beck cannot be supported. He states:
“Here’s another story of genocide that for some reason history has erased”
And in the process of me writing this critique, i would like to wish to refute another idea, courtesy of Edvins Snore, the film’s director (Seeing as i’ve already refuted some of the claims made in this film in my Beck Critique, i need not really bring up said points here except only to offer some fresh insight).
In the Nazi Germany, these groups [victims] were also defined by ethnicity, the Jews, for example, and in the soviet union, they defined them by social origin. But the idea was the same. (Typo’s corrected)
As we shall see, that is not the case, and seeing as the event “history has erased” according to Beck’s conspiricy theory is the Holodomor. let’s begin by talking about that shall we?
First, a brief backdrop of economic history of the USSR in the 1920’s is needed. In 1921 Russia’s economy was in a state of heavy ruin due to the nation’s involvement in WW1, then there was the russian Civil War in which the new govt of Lenin put in place a system of so-called “War Communist” economics which he at the time justified on the grounds it was helping to beat the White Army. In practice it meant the nationalization of factories and food being taken from countryside peasants in order to feed townsfolk, city dwellers and ultimately supplying of the Red Army (what came to be known as “Prodrazvyorstka”).
Unsurprisingly you might say these policies didn’t exactly go down too well populace at large. Indeed a direct result of “War Communism” was a growing discontent, especially among the peasantry. Some Rural peasants even went to the task of burning their crops and destroying their livestock rather than handing them over to the state. There were a multitude of left wing uprisings against the Bolsheviks at this time and perhaps the “Kronstadt rebellion” being the most famous example. (I guess we also must mention that a major famine in 1921-22 caused by Prodrazvyorstka plus drought, in which an estimated 5 million died of Hunger, did not help Lenin-peasant relations either).
Is it a surprise Lenin as a result distanced himself from these war communist policies? In an article on Food tax dated to 21st April 1921 titled ‘O prodovol’stvennom naloge’, (PSS, Vol 43, pp-218-20), he said that “War communism” was forced upon the Bolsheviks “by war and ruin”, he continued that War communism “was not, nor could it be, a policy that corresponded to the economic tasks of the proletariat. It was a temporary measure.”
He stuck to this line in the 10th congress, stating:
“it is an unquestionable fact that we went further than was theoretically and politically necessary, and this should not be concealed in our agitation and propaganda.”
And in a speech as reported by Izvestia on 19th october 1921 Lenin said that the war communist policies were “a mistake,” and “in complete contradiction to all we wrote concerning the transition from capitalism to socialism.” To attempt to remedy the economic and political situation, Lenin instituted a little something called the NEP (which was promulgated by decree on 21st March 1921), a sort of quasi-capitalist compromise. In Lenin’s words:
The real nature of the New Economic Policy is thisÃ¢â‚¬â€firstly, the proletarian state has given small producers freedom to trade ; and secondly, in respect of the means of production in large-scale industry, the proletarian state is applying a number of the principles of what in capitalist economics is called “state capitalism ‘.
Although the banks, and large industries were still owned by the state. limited private enterprise, especially in the Agricultural sector was allowed, A farmer’s surplus produce for example could be kept and/or sold after taxation (the Soviet govt taking a small amount of the surplus [“Procurement”]) which the effect being the creation of a sort of profit incentive which in turn created the incentive to produce more foodstuffs, which the farmers duly did. As a result Agricultural production rose to pre-War levels. And this quite simply is the reason why there is no major famine during the NEP years.
In spite of any relative success Lenin’s NEP might have had, it did not pursue any real policy of industrialization. This, plus isolationism meant economic growth compared to the growth of the capitalist west was comparitively sluggish. Although the NEP did produce a moderate growth (and had it remained in place it would perhaps have most likely continued to do so) the Gap between the USSR and the most advanced Capitalist nations was growing wider, worse for the leaders so was the gap in Technology (something which was felt to be a major vehicle for socialist progress).
“Stalin and his associates were concerned about the Soviet regime’s persistant failure” – Robert Service, “Stalin: A Biography”, p256.
The profit incentive generated was also responsible for something else too which also deeply annoyed Stalin in the Mid 1920’s (Aside from the “NEP men” who profited much but produced little for example). As the keeping of Grain Surplus materialised itself more in the farmer’s mindset, so they kept more and more of their Grain surplus they were producing to the point where Grain supplies to the state actually fell, this became “critical” to the state by the end of 1927. On 6 January 1928 the Secretariat sent out a secret directive threatening to sack local party leaders who failed to apply ‘tough punishments’ for those who were now said to be “hoarding grain” (see “RGASPI, f. 17, op. 3, d. 667, p10-12.”)
Stalin let his feelings show about this in a letter to Sergei Syrtsov and the Siberian Party leadership:
“We hold that this is a road to panic, to the raising of prices– the worst form of barter when it is clearly impossible to meet the needs of a countryside full of peasants with marketable grain stocks: it strengthens the capacity of the powerful stratum of the countryside to rest … The peasant will not hand over his tax on the basis of a pravda editorial – compulsory schedules are crucial for him” – Quoted in Robert Service, “ibid”, p253. Also see J. Hughes, “Stalin, Siberia and the Crisis of the NEP”, p129.
What were these “compulsory schedules”? well it was what Stalin was to do of course, the collectivisation of agriculture but that’s one part of what he did. Stalin also favoured a policy of rapid industrialisation in the name of ‘modernity’ which he outlined in a Speech Delivered at the First All-Union Conference of Leading Personnel of Socialist Industry on February 4, 1931. Stating:
“[we must] develop a genuine Bolshevik tempo in building up its socialist economy. There is no other way. […] We are 50 or 100 years behind the advanced [capitalist] countries. We must make good this distance in 10 years. Either we do it, or we shall go under.”
Here’s where it all ties in, as i have already said there was not much in the way of a major famine during the NEP years. Indeed it was after the beginning of the implementation of Stalin’s first five year plans, specificaly the implementation of rapid industrialisation and especially following the initial wave of collectivization: as formation of kolkhozes expanded, do we see the food crisis in the USSR, as this document pack from the Russian archives (pdf) bears out to an extent. Here are just a handful of the documents contained within:
Excerpt from the summary number 1 of the Information department of the OGPU [Joint Main Political Directorate]of letters of peasants received by the editors of Krestyanskaya Gazeta [The Peasant’s Gazette] in the beginning of 1929 regarding shortage of bread in villages. Verified copy of the original document. March 26th, 1929. Provided by the Central Archive of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.
Fond 2, Record Series 7, File 543, Pages 85 – 100.
“Between January 1st and March 15, 1929 the editors of Krestyanskaya Gazeta [The Peasant’s Gazette] have received 276 letters that described shortages of food in villages, mainly complaints about shortage of bread and high prices of bread.
Novgorod territory of the Russian Federation, city of Staraya Russa.
In Staraya Russa, Volotovsk, Belebelkovsk, and other districts famine is setting in. 40% of peasants have no bread and by July 1st the number will reach 80%. Currently, the market price of flour is 11 roubles 50 copecks per pood [16 kilograms], fodder oats – 4 roubles. Peasants have slaughtered all smaller farm animals, and now are selling their last remaining cows, selling them to obtain bread. Peasants of the Volotovsk district are abandoning their homesteads and migrating, just to avoid death by starvation.
Pskov territory, village of Zales’e.
This year we had such terrible famine and 100% of the crops have been destroyed. We are left without any bread. At the moment, we have sold everything of value and now are selling our last farm animals, so we can buy bread from speculators at 9-10 roubles per pood [‘¦] as our children are crying at home, left there without a slice of bread. If this continues, by spring we will finish everything and then will die of famine.
Kaluga Territory, Pyatovsk
district, village of Nikolaevka.
We have fought for freedom and now have to travel to Moscow to buy baked bread as if we don’t know how bake bread locally. Our grain crops have failed 100%, potatoes are also all rotten, and we can’t earn anything. We are now given food assistance of 5 pounds of bread [2.2 kilograms] per month for every dependent. They feed criminals in prisons better, and what crime have we committed? [‘¦] You say [in the newspaper] that we have exceeded the pre-war [the 1918-1922 Civil war] quality of life, but when we go to the cooperative shop to buy some chintz [cheap cotton fabric], there is none, only buttons and needles, and even that is [rationed and sold only] by point-books [governmentissued coupons].
December 20th, 1929. Statement of the refugees from the Leninsk village of the Podkolino area to the Buzluk district Executive committee of Middle Volga Region [of the Russian Federation] regarding famine among the villagers. Provided by the Russian State Archive of the Economy.
Fond 8043, Record Series 11, File 16, Page 37 (v.)
“To the Buzluk District Executive Committee.
From the migrant citizens of the Leninsk settlement of the Podkolino village Petition.
We, the abovementioned citizens are asking you not to allow us to die of starvation, since we don’t have any bread at this time, as well as other provisions, nor do we have any animals – can’t slaughter [any]. Our famine happened because we provided to the State seed grain of high quality, which, as you know, shouldn’t be used for daily consumption, and so we turned it all to the State, but we were not compensated in kind, as we had contractual obligations and our seed grain was counted against our debt [of regular grain]. Please, do not let us die – and so we sign:
Baranov, Danilov, Birinov, Petrov, Kulichenko, Smorodin.
December 20th, 1929. This copy from a copy has been verified:
Head of the Secret Department of the Regional Executive Committee – Mavlutov
[Signed and Stamped]”
Memorandum of the territorial representative of the OGPU [Joint Main Political Directorate] for Lower Volga Region regarding food shortage in Stalingrad Region. Original document. January 28th, 1930. Provided by the Central Archive of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.
Fond 2, Record Series 8, File 778, Pages 394-398.
“According to very much fractional data collected by the Information department of the territorial agency of the OGPU [Joint Main Political Directorate] in a number of districts of Stalingrad region there is a worsening of food shortage, which now affect wider and wider circles of poor villagers, hired labourers and the village intelligentsia. This increase of food shortages is mainly due to failure of grain crops, noted in certain districts, as well as the 50% reduction of this year’s harvest [‘¦] Cases of whole families subsiding entirely on bread surrogates are noted, cases of famine-related hydropsy [oedema] are observed in children and adults. […] The local authorities are not taking sufficiently drastic measures to reduce the gravity of this food crisis. [Currently,] food shortages have a tendency of growing.”
Excerpt from the secret summary number 27 prepared based on data collected by April 2nd, 1930 by the Information department of the territorial representative of OGPU [Joint Main Political Directorate] of the USSR in Middle Volga Region of the Russian Federation regarding preparatory work for the spring sowing campaign. Verified copy of the original document. April 3rd, 1930. Provided by the Central Archive of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.
Fond 2, Record Series 8, File 824, Pages 60, 69 – 71, 74.
“Due to poor organization of the issue of accumulation of local food reserves, food shortages in certain communities of Syzran’ and Buguruslan areas are becoming more grave at the moment. In certain districts the number of households experiencing severe shortages of bread is significantly higher (up to 236 households). To an extent, similar situation is observed in the kolkhozes. All of this leads to panicky disposition developing among poor peasants and some of the village middle class, who are noted as saying: “they took from us all bread, and all seed grain, and now don’t offer any assistance, we’ll all have to die of starvation”.
At some constituencies, the village poor, predominantly women, in person and in groups come to the local Soviets [local authorities] and demand bread: “give us bread or we will ransack barns with the seed grain”; “haven’t had a crumb of brain in a week, already swelling [due to starvation],if you don’t give us bread, we’ll grab you by the throat, we are going to die anyway”
Excerpt from the secret summary number 1 of the Aktyubinsk district department of the OGPU [Joint Main Political Directorate] regarding appearance of signs of famine in villages, based on data collected by April 10th, 1930. Verified copy of the original document, April 11th, 1930. Provided by the Central Archive of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.
Fond 2, Record Series 8, File 747, Pages 379 – 383.
“On April 7th, 1930 [OGPU reported that] in the beginning of April  in kolkhoz “Gigant” named in honour of comrade Stalin took place a meeting of the bureau of local communist activists. On the agenda there was one question regarding the mass exodus of members from the kolkhoz, especially due to shortage of food. Collective farmers, who attended the meeting, explained their walkouts by the fear of starvation, saying “the [Communist] party activists know very well that this kolkhoz was organized mostly from poor peasants. Last year’s harvest was less than expected, yet we’ve met the [State] quota for grain procurement by 120% and [because of that] we have [only] 50% of the necessary seed grain and don’t have a single grain of wheat to consume as food. All farm animals are now kolkhoz’ property and nobody has the right to slaughter for personal use even a single ram.” That meeting of the local [Communist] party activists passed a resolution to emphatically request the district committee [of the Communist party] to initiate food distribution for the acutely malnourished members of the kolkhoz at once.”
Memorandum of the territorial representative of OGPU [Joint Main Political Directorate] of the USSR in the Middle Asia regarding the extent of starvation in Turkmenistan [Turkmen SSR]. Original document. April 6th, 1930. Provided by the Central Archive of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.
Fond 2, Record Series 8, File 810, Pages 307 – 307(v.).
“Memorandum of the deputy representative of OGPU [Joint Main Political Directorate] for the Middle Asia to the Asian Bureau of the Central committee of the All-Union Communist party (Bolsheviks), comrade Shubrikov.
Several districts of Turkmenistan reported recently that poor villagers are suffering from famine. In some of the auls [villages] there are cases of deaths of typhus due to famine, also hydropsy [oedema] due to starvation.
25 cases of famine-caused epidemic typhus with deadly outcomes have been recorded in Yartmaryk community. The outbreak of typhus is spreading [‘¦] Scurvy caused by famine has appeared in Cherkassk community.
A crowd of 150 inhabitants of auls [villages] of Mesna and Chaacha came to the USSR Border Guards base and demanded food.
In the Yalovich First aul [village] collective farmers stopped field work and came to the district Executive committee to demand that bread be handed out.
As we can see Food problems were reported as far back as 1929, and it was in 1932-33 do we see the crisis reaching peak. Also interestingly, if you read the document pack, Ukraine wasn’t even the first place to report food problems. In the year of 1932-33 famine affected not only Ukraine, but also multiple provinces of Russia: the Upper, Middle and Lower Volga regions, North Caucuses, Central Chernozem region, the Urals, Western Siberia, as well as the Republic of Kazakhstan and other regions of the USSR. Both the rural and the urban populations ended up starving. All of which due to Stalin’s economic policies. But what that document pack does not tell you is the way Ukraine was marked out for a special and much more cruel treatment than the rest of the USSR courtesy of Stalin and his govt. Even the exiled Trotsky spoke of it in 1939 when he said:
“Nowhere did the purges and repressions assume such a savage and mass character as they did in the Ukraine.”
So for this, im going to turn to an excellent book written by Timothy Snyder titled “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin” which lists “Seven crucial policies [which] were applied only, or mainly, in soviet Ukraine in late 1932 or early 1933. Each of them may seem like an anodyne administrative measure, and each of them was certainly presented as such at the time, and yet each had to kill” (p42)
“1. On 18 November 1932, peasants in Ukraine were required to return grain advances that they had previously earned by meeting grain requisition targets. This meant that the few localities where peasants had had good yields were deprived of what little surplus they earned. The party brigades and the state police were unleashed on these regions, in a feverish hunt for whatever food could be found. Because peasants were not given receipts for the grain that they did hand over, they were subject to endless searches and abuse. The Ukrainian party leadership tried to protect the seed grain, but without success.
2. Two days later on 20th November, a meat penalty was introduced. Peasants who were unable to make grain quotas were now required to to pay a special tax in meat. Peasants who still had livestock were now forced to surrender it to the state. Cattle and swine had been a last reserve against starvation. As a peasant girl remembered, “whoever had a cow didn’t starve.” A cow gives milk. and as a last resort it can be slaughtered. Another peasant girl remembered that the familys one pig was seized, and then the family’s one cow. She held it’s horns as it was led away. This was, perhaps, the attachment that teenaged girls on farms feel for their animals. But it was also desperation. Even after the meat penalty was paid, peasants still had to fulfill the original grain quota. lf they could not do this under the threat of losing their animals. they certainly could not do so afterward. They starved.
3. Eight days later on 28th november 1932 Eight days later, on 28 November 193 2, Soviet authorities introduced the ” blacklist.” According to this new regulation, collective farms that failed to meet grain targets were required, immediately, to surrender fifteen times the amount of grain that was normally due in a whole month. ln practice this meant, again, the arrival of hordes of party activists and police, with the mission and the legal right to take everything. No village could meet the multiplied quota, and so whole communities lost all of the food that they had. Communities on the black list had no right to trade, or to receive deliveries of any kind from the rest of the country. They were cut off from food or indeed any other sort of supply from anywhere else. The black-listed communities in Soviet Ukraine, sometimes selected from as far away as Moscow, became zones of death
4. On 5 december 1932, Stalin’s handpicked security chief for Ukraine presented the justification for terrorizing Ukrainian party officials to collect the grain. Vsevolod Balytskyi had spoken with Stalin personally in Moscow on 15 and 24 november. The Famine in Ukraine was to be understood, according to Balytskyi, as the result of a plot of Ukrainian nationalistsÃ¢â‚¬â€in particular, of exiles with connections to Poland. Thus anyone who failed to do his part in requisitions was a traitor to the state.
Yet this policy line had still deeper implications. The connection of Ukrainian nationalism to Ukrainian famine authorized the punishment of those who had taken part in earlier Soviet policies to support the development of the Ukrainian nation. Stalin believed that the national question was in essence a peasant question. and as he undid Lenin’s compromise with the peasants he also found himself undoing Lenin’s compromise with the nations. On 14 December Moscow authorized the deportation of local Ukrainian communists to concentration camps, on the logic that they had abused Soviet policies in order to spread Ukrainian nationalism, thus allowing nationalists to sabotage the grain collection. Balytskyithen claimed to have unmasked a “Ukrainian Military Organization” as as well as Polish rebel groups. He would report, in January 1933, the discovery of more than a thousand illegal organizations and. in February, the plans of Polish and Ukrainian nationalists to overthrow Soviet rule in Ukraine.
The justifications were fabricated, but the policy had consequences. Poland had withdrawn its agents from Ukraine, and had given up any hope of exploiting the disaster of collectivization. The Polish government, attempting to be loyal to the Soviet-Polish nonaggression pact signed in July 1932, declined even to draw international attention to the worsening Soviet famine. Yet Balytsky’s policy, though it rode the coattails of phantoms, generated local obedience to Moscow’s policy. The mass arrests and mass deportations he ordered sent a very clear message: anyone who defended the peasants would be condemned as an enemy. In these crucial weeks of late December, as the death toll in Soviet Ukraine rose into the hundreds of thousands, Ukrainian activists and administrators knew better than to resist the party line. If they did not carry out requisitions, they would find themselves (in the best case) in the Gulag.
5. On 21 december 1932, Stalin (through Kaganovich) affirmed the annual grain requisition quota for Soviet Ukraine, to be reached by January 1933. On 27 November the Soviet politburo had assigned Ukraine a full third of the remaining collections for the entire Soviet Union, now hundreds of thousands of deaths later, Stalin sent Kaganovich to hold the whip hand over the Ukrainian party leadership in Kharkiv. Right after Kaganovich arrived on the evening of 20 December, the Ukrainian politburo was ordered to convene. Sitting until four o’ clock the next morning, it resolved that requisition targets were to be met. This was a death sentence for about three million people . As everyone in that room knew in those early morning hours, grain could not be collected from an already starving population without the most horrific of consequences. A simple respite from requisitions for three months would not have harmed the soviet economy, and would have saved most of those three million lives. Yet Stalin and Kaganovich insisted on exactly the contrary. The state would fight “ferociously,” as Kaganovich put it, to fulfill the plan.
Having achieved his misson in Kharkiv, Kaganovich then traveled through Soviet Ukraine, demanding “100 percent” fulfillment of the plan and sentencing local officials and ordering deportations of families as he went. He returned to Kharkiv on 29 december 1932 to remind Ukrainian party leaders that the seed grain was also to be collected.
6. As starvation raged throughout Ukraine in the first weeks of 1933. Stalin sealed the borders of the republic so that peasants could not flee, and closed the cities so that peasants could not beg. As of 14 January 1933 Soviet citizens had to carry internal passports in order to reside in cities legally. Peasants were not to receive them. On 22 January 1933 Balytskyi warned Moscow that Ukrainian peasants were fleeing the republic, and Stalin and Molotov ordered the state police to prevent their flight. The next day the sale of long-distance rail tickets to peasants was banned. Stalin’s justification was that the peasant refugees were not in fact begging bread but, rather, engaging in a “counterrevolutionary plot,” by serving as living propaganda for Poland and other capitalist states that wished to discredit the collective farm. By the end of Feburary 1933 some 190,000 peasants had been caught and sent back to their home villages to starve.
Stalin had his “fortress” in Ukraine, but it was a stronghold that resembled a giant starvation camp. with watchtowers, sealed borders, pointless and painful labor, and endless and predictable death.
7. Even after the annual requisition target for 1932 was met in late January 1933, collection of grain continued. Requisitions went forward in February and March, as party members sought grain for the spring sowing. At the end of December 1932, Stalin had approved Kaganovichs proposal that the seed grain for the spring be seized to make the annual target. This left the collective farms with nothing to plant for the coming fall, Seed grain for the spring sowing might have been drawn from the trainloads bound at that very moment for export, or taken from the three million tons that the Soviet Union had stored as a reserve. Instead it was seized from what little the peasants in Soviet Ukraine still had. This was very often the last bit of food that peasants needed to survive until the spring harvest. Some 37,392 people were arrested in Soviet Ukrainian villages that month, of them presumably trying to save their families from starvation. This final collection was murder, even if those who executed it very often believed that they were doing the right thing. As one activist remembered, that spring he “saw people dying from hunger. I saw women and children with distended bellies, turning blue, still breathing but with vacant, lifeless eyes.” Yet he “saw all this and did not go out of my mind or commit suicide.” He had faith: “As before, I believed because I wanted to believe.” Other activists, no doubt, were less faithful and more fearful. Every level of the Ukrainian party had been purged in the previous year; in January 1953, Stalin sent in his own men to control it’s heights. Those communists who no longer expressed their faith formed a “wall of silence” that doomed those it surrounded. They had learned to resist was to be purged, and to be purged was to share the fate of those whose deaths they were now bringing about.” – Snyder, “ibid”, p42-46.
Okay, so what about the numbers that perished of Famine not just only in the Ukraine, but of all of experienced famine during this time? Soviet officials who in “private conversations” at the time most often suggested a figure of “5.5 million dead from hunger” (Snyder, “ibid”, p53.) More recently, a demographic calculation carried out by the authorities of the now independant Ukraine government provided a figure of “3.89 million” in the Ukraine alone (“ibid”, p53.) The truth concerning the number of victims in the Ukraine according to Snyder is somewhere between that 3.89 million estimate and a 2.5 million estimate which was deemed “too close to the recorded figure of excess deaths, which is about 2.4 million”, a “substantially low” figure “since many deaths were not recorded” (ibid, “p53”.) Snyder gives us his own estimate of “3.3 million” Ukrainians (ibid, “p53”) This document heightens up what could be deemed a reasonable estimate, up to 4-5 million dead.
Whatever the precise number of dead may be, namely because the exact number of deaths is hard to determine, due to a lack of records and incomplete data. According to registry offices data, in 1931 for example, before the famine, 514.7 thousand deaths in Ukraine were recorded. In 1932, the mortality rate rose to 668.2 thousand. In 1933, the officially registered deaths amounted to 1850.3 thousand. (A.V Shubin, “10 mifov sovetskoi strany. (10 myths of the Soviet state)”, p198.) Thus, if we consider the mortality rate in 1931 as a “background rate”, the number of victims of the 1932 – 1933 famine in Ukraine would end up being around 1.4891 million. (Shubin, “ibid”) Not a very high number is it? Little wonder historians consider these figures far from complete.
This brings the figure of “7 million Ukrainians alone”, as quoted in the film into context. Assuming the population of the Ukrainian SSR during 1932-34 was roughly 30 million, a 5 million loss would represent a loss of just about 17% of the total population (A 7 million loss would equal a 23-24% loss here). In fact a “7 million” figure would seem to me, to more accurately describe the total losses of all the famine affected regions of the USSR. although depending on calculations, the total number could vary between 6-8 million. It should be pointed most reasonable estimates come within appx 3.5 – 5 million famine victims in the Ukraine and 7-8 million famine victims in total. And the actions in the Ukraine were specific enough to be counted as Genocidal.
Note that none of what i said invalidates too much the Soviet Story’s treatment of the Holodomor. What i’ve done here is to give it a little bit of a larger context. I would say the treatment for the most part is valid, but lacks originality.
But the Holodomor is not the main thrust of the movie, nor is it the thing i am truly interested in about. but rather the superficial Nazi-Soviet comparisons this movie makes. The critiquing of which will form the main body of this work. We’re only 11 mins into the movie, but i would like to address the point of Marx believing in a “dictatorship of the Proletariat” which is brought up, because out of alkl Marx’s ideas, this one arguably is the one most woefully misunderstood.
When Marx uses that phrase, he doesn’t mean an actual physical dictatorship but is referring to how society is structured through the concept of the “Base” and the “Superstructure” and the interplay between the two. According to Marx, we live now in something called “the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (again not a physical dictatorship)” as the social structure is apparantly mainly geared to support them and their interests and it is the bourgeoisie that really run the political structure for their own benefit only. All Marx is saying is that a Worker’s democracy that is run for the workers will change that and the base and the Superstructure will be set in accordance with worker’s needs and not capitalists. What Marx was striving for in the dictatorship of the Proletariat was in fact a radical democracy. Marx and Engels were democracts. And his views on the masses and revolution could be summarised from a single sentence uttered in an interview to the Chicago Tribune,
“No revolution can be made by a party, but By a Nation.”
In other words the great masses, and not human leaders, will lead to the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist state. Lenin disagreed with Marx on this critical point. “The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop only trade union consciousness”, wrote Lenin in What is to be done? (1902). “The theory of socialism, however,” was developed by “educated representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals.”
Revolution according to Lenin required an elite leading it, not the masses. And here we can see the difference most clearly between Lenin and Marx. There is a good reason why Lenin’s ideas are designated “Marxist-Leninist” rather than singularly “Marxist”, and that reason is that he and the subsequent Soviet leaders’ approaches to interpreting the works of Marx and Engels were rather selective or utilitarian at most. They were still Marxist inspired self styled socialist dictators so don’t get me wrong but a good example of Stalin’s hypocrisy for example can be found in 1934 when in the July of that year Stalin decided to find it “inappropriate” to publish Engels’s article “The foreign policy of Russian Tsarism” in the “Bolshevik” magazine, and yet in August of the same year he claimed Engels was his “teacher”. There is no reason to suggest either Marx or Engels had they lived long enough would have supported the crimes of the Soviet Union (save for those silly quotemines that will soon come up). It should be telling enough that Karl Kautsky, the German editor of Marx’s works, opposed the Soviet Union, stating:
“The Bolsheviki under Lenin’s leadership, however, succeeded in capturing control of the armed forces in Petrograd and later in Moscow and thus laid the foundation for a new dictatorship in place of the old Czarist dictatorship.”
And another thing to note, under Marxist theory, not only is the USSR not a Communist state but also the very idea of a Communist state is an oxymoron. Communism is a stateless ideology as is evident from the words of Engels!
“[Under socialism] the proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production in the first instance into state property. But, in doing this, it abolishes itself as proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, abolishes also the state as state. Society thus far, based upon class antagonisms, had need of the state, that is, of an organisation of the particular class, which was pro tempore the exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited classes in the condition of oppression corresponding with the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom, wage-labour). The state was the official representative of society as a whole; the gathering of it together into a visible embodiment. But it was this only in so far as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for the time being, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, the feudal lords; in our own time, the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a state, is no longer necessary. The first act by virtue of which the state really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society, the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society, this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not “abolished”. It dies out..” – Friedrich Engels, “Anti-DÃƒÂ¼hring (1877), Part III: Socialism“
And this thing about Marx wanting a new man, where the Soviet Story get’s that idea from, im not sure, although the Soviet Union did! However the comparison made between both regimes (Nazi and Soviet) ambitions of wanting a” new man” is slightly superficial, and i find the idea put forth that the “New man” of the USSR was based on false sociology wheras Nazi’s “New man” was based on false biology to be slightly relativistic. Actually the Nazis went further than what the USSR ever did, basing their “New man” on both false biology and false sociology!
“Unlike the Soviet Experiment in engineering souls, the Nazis went a stage further in seeking to engineer bodies as well as minds, although the inhuman characteristics both regimes sought to incalcate, especially on the young, were often hard to distinguish” – Michael Burleigh, “The Third Reich: A new History”, p6.
14 mins into the film and we come now to the curious claim that “only socialists publicaly advocated genocide in the 19th and 20th centuries” courtesy of George Watson. I find that claim a little bit odd, seeing as for one example, a certain “Lothar von Trotha” more than proclaim he was going to carry out a genocide to the Herero and namaqua peoples, he actualy carried one out (and isnt that more important?). if you want more details. See “The Kaiser’s Holocaust. Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism” by David Olusoga and Casper W Erichsen.
Oh, and perhaps Watson doesn’t know that the Kaiser, after his abdication too advocated genocide, namely a genocide of the Jews (although perhaps not so much in public).
“In the bitterness of exile Kaiser Wilhelm II made the final dreadful leap into the anti-semitism of extermination. ‘The hebrew race’, he wrote in english to an american friend ‘are my most inveterate enemies at home and abroad; they remain what they are and always were: the forgers of lies and the masterminds governing unrest, revolution, upheaval by spreading infamy with the help of their poisoned, caustic, satyrical [sic] spirit. If the world wakes up it should mete out to them the punishment in store for them, which they deserve.’ On 2 dec 1919, he wrote “Manu Proprio” to General August von Mackensen, referring to his own abdication; ‘The deepest, most disguisting shame ever perpetrated by a people in history, the Germans have ever done onto themselves. Egged on and misled by the Tribe of Juda whom they hated, who were guests among them! That was their thanks! Let no German ever forget this, nor rest until these parasites have been destroyed and exterminated [vertilgt und ausgerottet] from German soil! This poisonous mushroom on the German Oak tree’. He called for a ‘regular international all-worlds progrom ÃƒÂ la Russe’ as ‘the best cure’. ‘Jews and mosquitoes’ were ‘a nuisence that humanity must get rid of in some way or other,’ he proclaimed, and added again in his own hand: ‘i believe the best would be Gas!'” – John C. G. RÃƒÂ¶hl, “The Kaiser and his court: Wilhelm II and the government of Germany”, p210-211.
And never have i heard that the Kaiser was a socialist, if he were to claim more broadly that only socialists advocated genocide, well as we have seen that’s sheer nonsense
Straight after that, and a slide titled “Why killing is essential”, “George Watson” continues his nonsense, by making a complete hash of an article Engels wrote titled the “Magyar Struggle“. Engels is not calling for a genocide or for the extermination of anyone. he is just relating the situation as it is occurring in the tumultuous times of 1848 and the aggressors and perpetrators are the capitalist counter-revolutionary forces themselves. He is merely saying, “watch out; look what’s likely to happen”. More importantly he is not making the prediction as a threat as Hitler did. He is describing a situation ALREADY in progress. And by ‘reactionary people’ he does not mean some kind of coherent ‘race’ but only those that push for the unnatural formation of a pan-Slav state, a “Slav Sonderbund” as he calls it. A manufactured false community and idea that has no historic bearing among its many diversified components.
“Pan-Slavism means the union of all the small Slav nations and nationalities of Austria, and secondarily of Turkey, for struggle against the Austrian Germans, the Magyars and, eventually, against the Turks”
The Racial trash quote? Well remember what i said about usage of the word “race” in the 19th century in this thread. And besides which, it would have been the capitalist nations who would have put these peoples “in the trash can (if we really must be using this sort of rhetoric)”
15 mins in and we cross to “Pierre Rigoulot” who, without showing any quotes whatsoever to back his claims, tells us “Marx believed Poland had no reason to exist”. I take it im expected to believe this to be true simply because it is being said out loud right? Well either way, it is, as should be expected from these types of films, a lie! Both Marx and Engels were very much in favour of an independant poland. This by Engels sums it up best i think:
“Allow me, dear friends, to speak here today as an exception in my capacity as a German. For we German democrats have a special interest in the liberation of Poland. It was German princes who derived great advantages from the division of Poland and it is German soldiers who are still holding down Galicia and Posen. The responsibility for removing this disgrace from our nation rests on us Germans, on us German. democrats above all. A nation cannot become free and at the same time continue to oppress other nations. The liberation of Germany cannot therefore take place without the liberation of Poland from German oppression. And because of this, Poland and Germany have a common interest, and because of this, Polish and German democrats can work together for the liberation of both nations.” – Engels, “On Poland; from a speech at the International Meeting held in London on November 29th ,1847 to mark the 17th Anniversary of the Polish Uprising of 1830“
So if they really opposed Polish independance, they sure were taking rather odd positions for it weren’t they? What directly follows next is arguably the film’s most infamous quotemine, and the direct inspiration for the title of Beck’s documentary.
“The classes and the races too weak to master the new conditions of life must give way’¦ They must perish in the revolutionary holocaust.”
Both segments i have already dealt with in the Beck critique! but i bring it up again because what i wrote there refutes the claim followed afterwards by George Watson that “Marx began it … he was the ancestor of modern political genocide”. And seeing as no other genuine Marx/Engels quotes are brought out, i have come to the conclusion that Marx did not begin modern political genocide.
As to anyone advocating Genocide before Marx and Engels, Well it isn’t too hard to turn Andrew Jackson into more of a monster by i guess Watson’s standards is it? Here’s an example:
“My original convictions upon this subject have been confirmed by the course of events for several years, and experience is every day adding to their strength. That those tribes can not exist surrounded by our settlements and in continual contact with our citizens is certain. They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.” – Andrew Jackson, “Fifth Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1833“.
But what i will not do is claim Jackson or the Kaiser really influenced Hitler without solid evidence, to do so would be to do what Watson is doing, and that is to commit the “Genetic fallacy”
Now for the following i would like you to pay attention, as much to the Visual imagery used as well to the talking heads or what the narrator are saying, in this excerpt uploaded to youtube, 3:08 onwards (Im Skipping the Goebbels speech due to it being covered elsewhere).
we see the the well known Hitler painting “In the Beginning was the Word (taken from John 1:1)” being compared to a similar looking painting of Lenin, with the inference of “Similar imagery = similar ideology”. The title of the Hitler painting, and the actual portraryl of Hitler and Lenin as being the source of light in a darkened atmosphere obviously reveals a Messianic allegory which really ought to be yet more obvious when we compare both paintings to something else (click to enlarge)!
The painting in the middle is titled “Jesus among his Students” and was painted by the famous Dutch painter “Rembrandt” all the way back in 1634. It would be absurd to suggest Rembrandt is somehow now a Nazi/Communist! And i do not see how the adaptions of it are evidence of similar ideologies, but rather both Hitler and Lenin utilising a type of character portraryl (for their own purposes) which streches back centuries, a character portraryl which mannifested itself in various “secular” ways. Here are three radically different examples:
The next thing the film shows off, is one of these:
I guess i have to explain it right? These little badges were dished out to the more socialistic/communistic leaning “workers” as a way of “reasurring them” ie really “winning them over to the Nazi cause” on the May day bank holidays (this one in 1934 as you can see), something that the Trade Unions had been campaigning for during the Weimar republic and which the Nazis gave them in 1933. Of course the very next day, Hitler abolished the Unions. So these badges were little more than propaganda trinkets. All that is left of the youtube excerpt is the “similar posters” nonsense (What a laugh!), a quotation by Hermann Rauschning (although George Watson doesn’t cite the source) which i’ll get to, and the “Argument by name” which i shall now debunk!
The Argument by name is a very simple one to explain, the very reason why they called themselves “National Socialist”, is the same reason why trinkets like that badge was produced. It was really all about winning over the masses to nationalism.
The ‘national’ part should therfore be really be obvious. Aside from it being the one element of the party name that was actualy descriptive, Hitler and Drexler by Putting the word ‘National’ into the party name was designed to attract those already nationalist like for example those who liked/supported the Conservative DNVP for example (The “German National[ist] People’s Party [So were they really a party for the people?].
The ‘German workers’ part was the original title of Drexler’s party who had a fear of eastern europeans [in paticular czechs] coming in and taking the ‘German jobs’. His preference was wanting german workers in German jobs over foreign workers
“In march 1918 he [Drexler] set up a commitiee of independant workmen with an anti-semitic and anti-foreigner emphasis. This was formalized in january 1919 as the German workers party” – James Taylor and Warren shaw, Penguin dictionary of the third reich, p79.
“All they really wanted said Drexler, was “to be ruled by Germans” – John Toland, “Adolf Hitler” p86.
Again, Very simple, So this part of the name came from the plain Right wing Xenophobia Drexler had!
Now onto the juicy bit, You must understand the word ‘socialist’ had great popular appeal in the late 19th century, and well into the early 20th century especialy in Germany. and get this the conservative parties at the time ALSO ADOPTED IT to try and tap into that appeal. Certainly from 1878 (Interestingly the same year as the “Anti-Socialist” legislation) Onwards, It was the Conservatives who were the ones founding anti-semitic political parties based on race and using anti-semitism in party platforms. That was really their main (though not the only) plank. Now here’s the really juicy irony, In Germany, it was these very Conservative political parties which sought to disenfrahise or in some other way to victimize Jews, were the ones who described themselves from the first as ‘social’ or ‘socialist’. Hitler’s party, in step with this Conservative tradition, would later call itself “national Socialist”.
there was for example, Adolf Stocker’s “Christian Social(ist) workers party”. Which…
“in a working alliance with the Conservative Party, aimed at reaching the workers [even] through anti-capitalistic and anti-Semitic slogans. Stocker, who had a decisive influence upon German Conservativism of the late nineteenth century, upon the Kaiser as well as Friedrich Naumann, also was one of the main precursors of National Socialism. The affinity between the new conservatism of the twentieth century and National Socialism, insofar as it existed, was already foreshadowed in him.” – Klemens von Klemperer, “Germany’s New Conservatism” p58.
“In particular they identified the Jewish influence as the source of Germany’s economic woes, political unrest, and moral decline. The remedies they proposed included the exclusion of Jews from positions of public authority (such as teaching and judicial posts) within what they defined as “the Christian state”; strict laws against usury; [as that was a traditional Christian value] protection of classes allegedly oppressed by Jewish middlemen; restrictions on the stock exchange; and heavier taxes on the profits from what they called “mobile capital.” [We have to remember that this is not an attempt at socialism but rather the rationale behind this “program” was to remove the Jews and just the Jews, from economic society] With this program, of course, Conservative anti-Semites joined a chorus of other Germans and Europeans who denounced the “Golden International.” – James Retallack, “Anti-Semitism, Conservative propaganda and Regional Politics in Late Nineteenth Century Germany”. German Studies Review, Vol. 11, no.3 (Oct 1988), pp. 377 -403.
And just to be sure of what we’re dealing with:
“For in the service of their socio-economic goals Hammerstein and Stocker also argued for a more active style of Conservative politics. They believed that in some new commitment to Christian, social, and “popular” goals lay the key to giving Conservatism a stamp of popularity (Volkstiiinlichkeit).” – Retallack, Ibid.
So as you can see, there was a tradition of the political Right using the word ‘socialist’ in order to attempt to steal some of the populism that the term evoked at the time. And the name was chosen because Drexler and Hitler wanted to appeal to a wider audience.
“Drexler’s party sought in the longer term to win the working class over from Marxism and enlist it in the pan-German cause. The fledgling party was in fact another creation of the hyperactive Thule Society. There was nothing unusual about Drexler or his tiny party in the FAR-RIGHT hothouse of Munich after the defeat of the revolution.” – Richard Evans,”The Coming of the Third Reich”, p170.
So the whole “Argument by name” is a very silly argument indeed, as is the poster argument (see here for a proper refutation of it), especially when you realise that some of the Soviet examples seen actually date from after the war! So who is copying who?
“My happiness depends on your successes” is dated to 1947 .
“We demand peace!” is dated to 1950.
“Be observant when standing sentinel” is dated to 1953.
“Peace.Socialism. Democracy” is dated to 1970.
“The Lenin’s party, a vanguard of communistic building” is dated to 1981.
This leaves us left with Rauschning, and this quote courtesy of George Watson:
“I have learned a great deal from Marxism, as I do not hesitate to admit, … I don’t mean their tire-some social doctrine or the materialist conception of history, or their absurd ‘marginal utility’ theories and so on. But I have learned from their methods. The difference between them and myself is that I have really put into practice what these peddlers and penpushers have timidly begun. The whole of National Socialism is based on it.”
Unfortunately for Watson, there is no evidence Hitler uttered those words. The book where he got it from (and actually i gave the full quote here), “The Voice of destruction”, or “Hitler speaks” depending on translation, like the Hitler diaries is now known to be fraudulent and has been exposed by Wolfgang HÃƒÂ¤nel. See his “Hermann Rauschnings ‘GesprÃƒÂ¤che mit Hitler’: Eine GeschichtsfÃƒÂ¤lschung” for more details (This 1985 newspaper article gives a brief synopsis of the book’s contents)
There are a few others that question the authenticity of the so called conversations, See Eckhard Jesse, “Herman Rauschning – Der fragwÃƒÂ¼rdige Kronzeuge,” in Ronald Smelser et al (eds.), Die braune Elite II: 21 weitere biographische skizzen, p201-202. And also see Fritz Tobas, “Auch FÃƒÂ¤lschungen haben lange beine: Des senatprÃƒÂ¤sidenten Rauschnings ‘GesprÃƒÂ¤che mit Hitler’,” in K, Corino (ed), GefÃƒÂ¤lscht: Betrug in Literatur, Kunst, musik Wissenschaft und politik.”.
And before all of that, Eberhard JÃƒÂ¤ckel in 1969 in his “Hitler’s Worldview: A Blueprint for Power (p15-17)” mde the point that the Hitler presented by Rauschning’s conversations was so one-dimensional, mainly as an opputunist, that it makes it look like his Anti-semitism ended up having nothing to do with the Holocaust!
Ian Kershaw in the Introduction to his book “Hubris” sums up this source best:
“I have on no single occasion cited Hermann Rauschning’s Hitler Speaks, a work now regarded to have so little authenticity that it is best to disregard it altogether.”
And im going to use the end of that youtube excerpt as a stopping point. This post is already quite long, and we’re only 20 mins into the movie. And if you want me to continue, there is plenty more stuff to cover!