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Chapter 3 More Food for Thought

3.1 Rwanda

. . . A political psychologist whose book (22) analyzes genocidal situations in other countries, such as Germany and Rwanda, wrote: "Our century has taken butchery to a new level. It has drawn great minds to evil causes, and introduced nightmarish technologies of destruction. Worst of all, it has spawned legitimizing ideologies that have provided misguided inspiration to tens of millions. Unless humanity learns to tame its murderousness, the twenty-first century promises more of the same. The only hope lies in understanding the human impulse to hate, and, more important, the forces that transform that impulse into action." That is why the tendency to ignore what has happened is so dangerous.

3.2 Man-made Calamities

Is moral sensitivity of people suffcient to protect world societies from mass murderers? Probably not. What else is essential? Elimination of extreme poverty and injustice. How can this be accomplished? Many sociologists have asked this question. Karl Marx was one of them. He believed that the "proletarian dictatorship" was the answer. I suspect that the 20th century will be named after this kind of dictatorship. The idea was tried in many countries and failed. It did not create justice; it replaced old tyrants with more brutal tyrants. Lenin, Stalin and Mao are well known examples.

So where is the answer? I do not know. Is man's inhumanity to man avoidable? Perhaps not, perhaps it should be accepted as part of human nature. If this is accepted then episodes of mass murder can be compared with other calamities, like epidemics, earthquakes and wars. (The black death epidemic did kill about one third of Europe's population in the Middle Ages; the Aids epidemic is rampant today; disasters caused by global warming are predicted, etc.) But scientific understanding of epidemics has often resulted in great improvements. Likewise, constructing less vulnerable buildings, or avoiding certain locations, can minimize consequences of earthquakes. What happened in the Soviet Union should not be attributed only to Stalin's despotic inclinations; it should also be attributed to the ideology he inherited from Lenin.

We do not accept natural disasters passively; we do everything possible to prevent them, or at least to reduce their undesirable consequences. Why should man's inhumanity to man be accepted as unavoidable? Humanity is also part of nature. Most people want justice and deplore suffering. Shouldn't this be the basis for working toward elimination of man-made calamities?

3.3 Escalation of Criminality

3.3.1 A Fund Raising Operation

Stalin's “fund-raising" activities after the 1905 revolution (extortion and robbery to support Lenin's program) indicate that he was familiar with terrorism. Several years later he was accused by Georgian Mensheviks of participating in the famous 1907 armed robbery in Tifis. The sum of 300,000 rubles was stolen during a bomb attack on an escorted shipment of money to the State Bank (23). Several people were killed. A German writer, Emil Ludwig, asked Stalin about this incident during an interview in 1931. Stalin did not deny it. But he did not confirm it either. He could have said “it is a fabrication" but he ignored the question. . . .

3.3.2 Logically-justified And Legalized Terror
. . . The more I read about Stalin the more I realize how hypocritical he was. Apparently he tried to hide his personal involvement with the “dirty business" of proletarian dictatorship and pretended to be on the side of justice and morality. Many of his victims, as illustrated in (25), believed that crimes against people were perpetuated without his knowledge while in reality he was involved in the day-to-day activities of “punitive organs." His signatures appeared on numerous mass execution orders. The subordinates were also made to sign; by doing this they automatically became partners in crime. I suppose this was a deliberate policy designed to protect himself from possible accusations. Did he invent it or did he learn it while involved in organized crime? Was he the first ruler to practice it as an unoficial governmental policy?

3.3.3 Those Who Are Not With Us Are Against Us

Stalin believed that the masses must be brutally manipulated and that punitive organs were essential tools for governing. Those "who are not with us are against us" was the slogan of the day. The class struggle, he wrote, intensifies after the victory of the revolution. That believe became the basis of his internal policy. The opponents, and potential opponents, were declared guilty of so-called counterrevolutionary crimes and either eliminated immediately, or condemned to slavery in any one of numerous concentration camps. . . . .

To be executed at once. Painted by Getman."

Russia was nearly always governed by despotic rulers but its post-revolutionary history was unprecedented. What happens there today is likely to be influenced by decades of brutality, by cynicism and demoralization, by poverty, criminality, and other wounds in icted on society in the name of an ideology of class struggle.

3.4 Socialist Realism

3.4.1 Orlov Remembers

Many people remember Sakharov and Orlov, Soviet physicists who became human rights activists. . . . . Soviet people were not masters of their destiny. The owners of lands, kulaks, were liquidated. Special permission was needed to travel across the land. The Bolshevik Party controlled everything. And the party itself was controlled by one tyrannical man--Joseph the Terrible.

3.4.2 A Personal Testimony From A Friend

. . . . In another message I became aware of Kazia's 1939-1946 memoirs. They can be seen at:


Other classmates, from the Polish orphanage in Zagorsk would probably have similar stories to tell. Unfortunately, we belong to a dying generation. It is our moral obligation to share what we know. I am glad that Kazia feels the same way.

3.4.3 Cold War Propaganda?

In a discussion thread on Stalinism, at Montclair State University, one professor accused me of rekindling Cold War propaganda and of misrepresenting reality. He wrote: “Your web pages on Soviet labor camps and the number of deaths in them and in the USSR during the '30s generally are a gross distortion of reality. There has been a great deal of research on these subjects in the past 20 years. Your web pages show zero familiarity with it.... According to the NKVD archives, in every year between 1934 and 1953 more inmates were released from the hard regime camps than died there, usually 2-5 times as many.... It is revealing that you lump together Hitler, Stalin and Mao. This is a relic of Cold War disinformation. Stalin did not `kill tens of millions,' neither did Mao." . . . .

3.5 Wars Against Peasants, Nationalists and Religions

3.5.1 Two Famines

The first Soviet famine took place in 1921-1922. At that time military units were used to confiscate peasants' grain and livestock. About 5 million people starved, according to the Central Statistical Bureau of the Soviet Union (31). Lenin knew that all this was caused by the policy of war communism. Recognizing the error, he introduced New Economic Policy (NEP). He had no choice but to allow a profit-based system to develop. This brought some kind of normality, which ended five years later, when forced collectivization was imposed by Stalin.

The second large scale famine took place in 1932-1933. This famine, caused by Stalin's policy of "liquidation of kulaks as a class" was also accompanied by starvation of millions of peasants. Ukrainians refer to it as holodomor (starvation genocide). The Ukrainian Museum in New York City has a temporary exhibit (summer 2008) entitled "Holodomor." Here is how this famine is described at the museum website: "Determined to force all Ukrainian farmers onto collective farms, to crush the burgeoning national revival, and to forestall any calls for Ukraine's independence, the brutal Communist regime of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin embarked on a campaign to starve the Ukrainian people into submission." Grain was confiscated and attempts to resist were brutally crushed in what used to be called "the breadbasket of Europe." The famine resulting from collectivization was not limited to Ukraine. Cannibalism was rampant in many parts of the Soviet Union (31).

According to Wikipedia, "Modern estimates for the total number of casualties of the famine within Soviet Ukraine range between 2.2 million (demographers' estimate) and 3-3.5 million (historians' estimate) though much higher figures are often quoted by the media and cited in political debates." To what extent was the second famine due to the forced collectivization and to what extent was it a punishment for anti-Soviet and nationalistic aspirations? I think that both factors were important. The death toll from the first famine would have been higher without significant help from American Relief Administration (headed by Herbert Hoover). Capitalist help was initially welcome. But later it was characterized as a self-serving attempt to infiltrate the country with spies and saboteurs. Many of those who cooperated with Americans ended their lives in camps and prisons.

Unfavorable weather conditions might have contributed to famines. The main factors, however, were political decisions of Bolsheviks. Stalin never recognized that the policy of collectivization was an error. He simply denied the reality of the second famine. And he had a system for dealing with those who dared to disagree. Constant food shortages in the Soviet Union, and in other countries in which collectivization was introduced, confirmed that Bolshevik agrarian policy was based on a fundamental doctrinal error. It was an attempt to implement utopia by force. Note that most peasants supported Lenin's revolution because individual ownership of land, was promised to them.

3.5.2 Holodomor Exhibit

What follows was composed after visiting the above-mentioned exhibit in New York City. According to one poster, Stalin wrote (in January 1933): "As the result of fulfilling the Five-Year plan, we have managed to eliminate totally the last remains of the enemy classes from their productive base [agriculture]. We smashed kulaks and prepared the way for their annihilation." I also read a poster displaying what Molotov wrote in 1932 about massive confiscation of foodstuffs. "If we get the grain, we can impose the Soviet rule. If we do not get the grain, the Soviet rule will die. And who got the grain now? The reactionary Ukrainian farmer and the Kuban Cossack. They will not give us grain willingly. It needs to be taken." I was impressed by photographs showing consequences of grain taking { dying children, dead bodies transported like logs of wood, mass graves, etc. -- and by testimonies of survivors of holodomor.

I also saw a memorandum about death statistics from one region, written by two secret police officials (Osinin and Gubarevich) to Kasior, the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Among other details they mention 245 cases of "necrophagy and cannibalism" Kosior was in charge of collectivization in Ukraine. People like him believed that human sacrifices were worth the benefit--the superior collective farming of land. A revolution, they used to say, is not conducted by wearing white gloves. It is ironic that several years later Kosior was eliminated as an enemy of the people, together with other Stalin's faithful lieutenants.

Another thing that impressed me at the exhibit was a poster based on 115 letters received by the Central Committee of Ukrainian Communist Party. Some of them were addressed to Stalin. These "were returned from Moscow to Ukraine with orders to punish the writers as enemies of the people." One of the authors, Mykola Reva, wrote: “Dear Joseph Vasirionovich; because you are our friend, teacher and father, I had a bold idea of writing to you the whole truth ... The grain lay in the Zahotzero storehouses ... while people were dying of starvation. And at the same time you, Joseph Vasirionovich, said that people are the most valuable capital...." For writing this letter, Mykola Reva was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Another letter to Stalin, written by a party member, in the name of students of the Technical School of Chemistry and Technology (Dniepropetrovsk) also describes the worsening situation. It is clear that the authors believed that Stalin was not informed about what was going on. The letter ends “with communist greetings, I await your reply." The reply probably came in the form of arrests and long term sentences, possibly in Kolyma.

3.5.3 Bolsheviks Against Nationalism and Religion

Stalin's 1913 paper, entitled “Marxism and The National Question," written in Vienna, ends with this sentence: "Thus, the principle of international solidarity of the workers is an essential element in the solution of the national question." The author is identified as K. Stalin, where K stands for Koba, his revolutionary nickname. Stalin came to southern Poland to visit Lenin, and then traveled to Vienna to visit Bukharin. In those days, Southern Poland was part of the multinational Austrian empire. It is very likely that Lenin and Bukharin contributed significantly to Stalin's paper. After the revolution, Stalin became a commissar of nationalities. Some consequences of his "social engineering" in this capacity are well known. Unfortunately, I am not competent to deal with this "national question" component of Stalinism; let historians write about military methods used to build the multinational Soviet empire, after the Civil War. Let them also write about elimination of leaders of national movements, about deportations of Tartars and Chechenians to Kazakhstan, about the policy of Russification, and about the role of national tensions in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Note that most nationalists supported Lenin's revolution because independence from Russia was promised to them.

Another important component of Stalinism was the war against religions. Some aspects of that war, such as killing and deportation of clergy, destruction of churches, confiscation of church properties, closing of monasteries, etc., are well known. Absence of references on this topic is due to my rather limited familiarity with it. But I do remember a half-ruined church in a settlement near Moscow (where I lived with my mother); it was used to store vegetables. That church, played an important role in my life. In December 1941, when German were only two miles away, many people, including myself, were hiding in the basement. My mother, a nurse, worked in a hospital on the other side of the street. One afternoon she came to take me there; I would be more comfortable in that building than on top of raw carrots in the church. As we prepared to leave, a German bomb hit the hospital. I will never forget the resulting fire. It burned all night. About one hundred people were killed. My mother and myself would have been among them. It was a miracle, as far as we were concerned. The Soviet first offensive--pushing Germans away from the capital--started several days later. For the record, this church was in Dedenievo, about 30 miles north of Moscow.

The next two years were very hard for all Russians, but we survived. We moved to Zagorsk (now called Sergiev Posad), also north of Moscow, where a Polish orphanage and school were created for child victims of Stalinism. They were lucky to survive, after being deported, with their parents to Komi and Siberia, in 1940, when Eastern Poland was occupied by the Soviet Union. The Sergiev Posad is well known for the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergii (a Lavra is the highest rank of Orthodox monastery, and there are only four in all Russia). At that time the cathedral was used for purposes having nothing to do with religion. A bakery and a public bath, for example, were located there. The orphanage was less than one mile away; once a week we marched there to bathe. Large icons were stacked against the walls of the corridors.

3.6 Stalin Was Not Alone.

Not many people know that the publication of Solzhenitsyn's book, The Gulag Archipelago (28), was actually precipitated by the KGB. According to Orlov (26), the author wanted to publish it much later but called his lawyer in Geneva and ordered immediate publication after a hidden copy of the manuscript fell into the hands of the KGB. Orlov also tells us about a proposal made by Moscow intellectuals (in 1975), to create an international tribunal (like that of Nuremberg) to investigate the crimes described in The Gulag Archipelago.

"I thought then, and still do, that given the passage of so many years after the crimes of the 'Red Terror' -- no matter how nightmarish its methods and scale -- there should not be executions or imprisonment of those criminals who are still alive. The former leaders, the members of 'troika,' the prosecutors, the interrogators, the guards, the writers of false denunciations, the numerous theoreticians and propagandists of that terror -- let them live. But they must be publicly tried. And the atrocities must be publicly investigated, regardless of whether the criminal are living or dead."

Yes, Stalin was not alone; it would be impossible to kill millions without an effcient social structure and without numerous collaborators. Why didn't the idea of having a trial of Red Terror criminals ever materialize in Russia? Even Yeltsin, the most radical reformer, but also a child of the old regime, failed to initiate public trials in Russia.

In another section of his autobiography, Orlov describes a dilemma facing many Soviet intellectuals during the post-Stalinst period. They sympathized with those who were agitating for speedy democratic reforms but feared unpredictable negative consequences. His physicist friend, Kobzarev, for example, was afraid of "the dark instincts of the masses." Many kinds of dark forces emerged from ruins of the collapsed empire and it is remarkable that people like Kobzarev were able to anticipate them. Stalin knew about dark forces and used them skillfully to destroy the "loveliest dreams on earth." How long will it take to regenerate truly the loveliest dreams on earth in Russia?

3.7 Moral or Immoral.

3.7.1 Morality Is A Weapon In Class Struggle

Cleverness was not enough to become a supreme ruler of a large country. To succeed, Stalin also needed loyal secret police with practically unlimited resources and access to all branches of government, including the military. In addition, a new kind of morality was needed to inhibit traditional defenses against evil. According to Lenin and Stalin, morality should be subordinated to the ideology of proletarian revolution. Denying the validity of religion-based morality, they wrote: what is useful to us is moral, what is harmful to us is immoral. Morality is a weapon in class struggle. Party and Komsomol members were drilled to accept that position, and to act accordingly.

The justification was simple. The world is full of injustice and immorality. We want to replace it by a much better "scientifically designed" social structure -- communism. That is why what we do is right, by definition. Here is a good illustration. An act of torture committed by our enemy should be exposed as unspeakable barbarism. We do this to gain sympathy and support of naive people believing in "bourgeois morality." But an act of torture committed by us to punish an enemy of revolution is not immoral. It is a historical necessity. Likewise, Auschwitz elimination was considered immoral while Kolyma elimination was considered moral.

What distinguishes these two cases? It is not the methodology of killing, gas versus cold; it is the ideology which is being served. Comrade Dzerzhinsky, the first director of punitive Soviet organs, was referred to as a highly moral communist. This honor was a reward for extremely brutal handling of declared class enemies, as ordered by the party of Lenin and Stalin. Other bolsheviks, including those who were later eliminated by Stalin, were also extremely brutal; they were leaders of Red Terror, Civil War, War Communism and Collectivization campaigns. Immorality is probably older than civilizations but Hitler and Stalin elevated it to new heights (29). How long will it take to repair social structures affected by twelve years of open brutality and cynicism in Germany, and by at least fifty years in the Soviet Union? Who should be in charge of organized efforts 'of caging and taming monsters inside us'? Some of the monsters, as enumerated in (30), are:

a) Pure, amoral self-interest.

b) Sadism and the thrill of the battlefield.

c) Tribalism, which elevates the group above the individual and turns personal enmity into feuding, war and genocide.

d) Ideology, which can convince people that a struggle between groups - races for the Nazis, classes for the Marxists - is inevitable and necessary for progress.

3.7.2 We Are Not Like Other People

References to old books (in Russian) dedicated to communist morality can be found in (31). One of them (32) was dedicated to that "paragon of Bolshevik morality, Felix Dzierzhinsky." Another (33) was co-authored by a major party leader, Nikolai Bukharin. It would be interesting to compare contents of these books with what Russian communists write about revolutionary morality today. I suspect the party ideology has not changed; they would probably use terror again after gaining control of the government. Closely related to morality is the issue of convictions. To a true Bolshevik convictions are determined by the will of the party. Here is how this was explained to a friend in 1932 by an old Bolshevik, Juri Pyatakov (31):

"Since you do not believe that people's convictions can change in a short period of time, you conclude that our statements.... are insincere, that they are lies.... I agree that people who are not Bolsheviks, the category of ordinary people in general, cannot make an instant change, a turn, amputating their own convictions.... We are not like other people. We are a party who make the impossible possible.... And if the party demands it, if it is necessary or important for the party, we will be able by an act of will to expel from our brains in twenty-four hours ideas we have held for years.... Yes, I will see black where I thought I saw white, or may still see it, because for me there is no life outside the party or apart from agreement with it."

It is ironic that in 1937 Pyatakov was accused of antiparty activities and executed at once. The same happened to Bukharin in 1938. In big show trials both men confessed. Were they tortured or were they persuaded to willingly serve the party for the last time? According to (6) Bukharin begged Stalin, in a letter from prison "to allow him to either work at some cultural task in Siberia or to emigrate to America, where he would be a faithful Soviet citizen and would 'beat Trotsky and company in the snout.' If it was necessary to die, Bukharin pleaded, let it be from an overdose of morphine, not by shooting."

Was this last wish of the comrade in arms respected? Probably not. The killing machine was set up to operate with bullets, not with chemicals. I suspect that, considering the size of operations, bullets were recycled to lower the costs. A good example of communist convictions is Molotov, the second man in Stalin's inner circle. The next reflection shows how easily Molotov, another top party man, accepted that his own wife was an enemy of people.

3.8 Molotov And His Wife.

. . . This story shows how "the will of the party" was accepted by one of the leaders. Did he believe that the imprisonment of his wife was necessary or was he simply afraid of Stalin?

3.9 Ignoring The Truth

In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote "History is not studied to learn what happened in the past but to learn what behavior will be necessary in the future to fight for the existence of our people." I suppose Stalin would replace the last phrase by "ideology" and endorse the statement as legitimate. It would be interesting to find out what Hitler and Stalin really thought about each other.

. . . Who should be eager to make attempts to understand Stalinism? Those who still believe in Marxism-Leninism. Why? To be sure their ideology is worth believing. How can they advocate Marxism without an analysis of objective data from the Soviet Union and several other countries? They probably prefer not to talk about this in public because nobody wants to be called a promoter of mass murder. Do they discuss the evil empire among themselves? I doubt it. They prefer to forget about Stalin and move forward. As a result Stalinism is mostly investigated by those who disagree with it. The refusal to openly discuss Stalinism, by those who advocate it, does not help the ideology.

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