Stalin, Mao, Castro and all that!

Chris Burford cburford at
Sun Jul 9 09:10:52 MDT 1995

Subject: Stalin, Mao, Castro and all that!

Hello Chris [S]

There are very few fools in my opinion on this list, and you are
certainly not one of them. It helps a lot to have some
non-marxists such as yourself on the list and recently I bought a
book by Hayek because I thought if you rate him highly there must
be something in him. (Getting round to reading it is another matter :)

Although some members of the list still do write in terms of
championing individuals, and it is hard to divorce our attitudes
to individuals from ideas, I was surprised you reacted so strongly.

I don't agree with your assumption that moral outrage is a
core component of marxism, although it often motivates the
non-marxist left, and the marxists will often align with it when

Rather some of us are saying that to avoid repeating history we have
to understand it.

You grant

one cannot abstract such individuals from their
historical circumstances--which often dictated various means of achieving
certain ends that in the final analysis, only undermined the end itself.

To expect Castro to have the same understanding of homosexuality in the
seventies as some of us may have in the 90's is ahistorical. Further to
assume that even if he did have the understanding we consider to be
correct now, that he would have known how to translate it into an
administrative structure acrosss the country. Further to assume that
we are at a moral pinnacle in knowing about these problems. 10 years
ago no one knew about child sex abuse. Should Freud be denounced for

Concerning China, I have not read anyone defending the Cultural Revolution
although I think that as things started to go wrong in China in the mid
fifties one of the motivations was to find any way to avoid repeating the
Soviet and "Stalinist" structure of society that was fast being established.

Once any society starts to imprison people without a code of inspection,
tragedies and worse can occur. 20,000 are said to have died in concentration
camps run by the British. A fact not widely publicised.

When you think
of Kennedy, and I guess a number of subcribers to this list may have some
warm feelings about Kennedy, should we have a sense of outrage that
he took the decision to send US troops to Vietnam which resulted in the
Me Lai massacre (sp?) If history had been a little different he might
have been put on trial rather than say, Honecker.

No body talks about Kennedy as a war criminal, because close up to the
facts you can see the dynamic of history to which Kennedy contributed but
did not control. We have to see Kennedy, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Hitler
as part of history. Hayek too should be evaluated, like Smith and Locke,
and I have no doubt that your forthcoming book on Ayn Rand will add
to serious scholarship, even if it does not start a mass movement.

I may have to differ with you about moral outrage being an obligatory
component of Marxism. Perhaps you did not quite say that?


Chris B.

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