Popular Justice and Rule of Law

Chris, London 100423.2040 at compuserve.com
Sat Feb 24 00:37:42 MST 1996


It is interesting, though, to compare the tactics of the Zapatistas in
Mexico with those of the Shining Path in Peru.

Chris B:

I welcome this question and I would suggest it is a more productive
line of debate than one in which subscribers feel they are under
pressure totally to support of totally to denigrate a particular
armed movement.

The original post from Godena this year about the "Armed Strike" could
have been an interesting comparison with how the Zapatistas have attempted
to use arms to protect and promote democratic activity.

I am prepared to believe that combatants in both organisations show a
high degree of courage in situations of considerable poverty and oppression,
but Zapatista ideas are presented to leftists in North America with more
subtlety and humour and are much more acceptable.

The rest of Jerry's para IMO is a very legitimate challenge, even though
I do not accept Jerry's apparently overwhelmingly negative view of the PCP.


In the case of the USSR, China, and Kampuchea ... the events were not
spontaneous acts of rage, but were carefully orchestrated actions by the
state and the party.

Chris B:

Now this is a line of demarcation between me and Jerry.

While I believe there
was substantial loss of life in all three countries, for which Communists were
responsible, I do not accept that it was *all* orchestrated.

a) each historical circumstance was different and must be analysed in its own
right. Eg collecitivization was done in China with little loss of
life; the movement to the communises, coupled with the "Great Leap Forward"
led to a great loss of life in the famine years.

b) there was a dynamic to events which was to some extent beyond the
consciousness of any one individual. To ascribe events just to one
individual is an idealist approach to history.

Let me quote the concluding two paragraphs, (split up to be more readable)
of another section of "Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives", Getty and Manning

This is from the article by Lynne Viola - "The Second Coming:
Class Enemies in the Soviet Countryside 1927-35"

>>>The patterns of victimization at work in this period were neither
all-inclusive nor absolute. Although members of all three categories of
analysis were highly visible among the victims of repression, not all
members of those categories were repressed.

Therefore, the question of a triggering mechanism behind the
repression comes to the fore. Why were some individuals repressed,
while others were left in peace? The answer to this question surely
remains hidden in local sources. However a range of possibilities
presents itself, including motives of revenge and jealousy, local
power struggles, ideological commitments, and the specific
economic conditions of particular collective farms.

It could also be argued that the search for enemies, and the thinning
out of the number of authentic class aliens (i.e. *byvshie liudi* and
critics), especially after 1932, may have made it inevitable that
outsiders and marginal people, as the most vulnerable inhabitants
of the village, would be served up as scapegoats.

If so, this dynamic resembles similar dynamics at work in the early
modern European witch-crazes when local investigators ended up scraping
the bottom of the barrel in search of witches because this was their job
and because they believed. In such cases, the most vulnerable were the
most likely to be victimized.

Although the dynamics of repression in the Soviet countryside may have been
shaped in part by a traditional rural political culture, the scope and
actual forms of repression were determined ultimately by the policies and
broader political culture of the times. The country was at war with itself
during the period of wholesale collectivization, and to a great extent,
had been in endless turmoil from the time of the Revolution, with only
a short interval of peace during the 1920's.

The general political culture was shaped by intolerance, maximalism,
voluntarism, a thirst for revenge against real and perceived
enemies, and a blind spot to individual tragedy.

The Revolution of the First Five-Year Plan accelerated and compressed
the driving forces of the general political culture. The enthusiasm of
the period was largely exhausted by 1931.

The aftermath of the First Five-Year Plan brought with it a paranoid,
martial spirit and profound economic crisis. The trauma of collectivization,
the desperation of hunger, and the violence of the times, served to
brutalize and, perhaps, to atomize the rural populace, leading to a siege
mentality and endemic paranois among official and peasants alike.

Traditional and rural political culture, which in normal times may have been
merely oppressive, became repressive in this context. The policies of
repression came from above; the snowballing of the repression,
however, occurred within a context of habitual *proizvol*, an
economy of scarcity, a traditional culture run riot, and the sustained
violence of the times.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

It may be thought that these concluding remarks are rather general, but the
article has 166 references of a highly specific nature. Obviously the
whole article has to be read if its scholarship is to be evaluated, but the
point I want to make, is that these conclusions do not appear to me to
be self-evidently wrong from a marxist perspective. Nor by any means
do they let the leadership of the Party off the hook.

Such a reexamination of history may not suit the political purposes of Carlos
for example, who specifically argued against my suggestion that Stalin
should be put on trial again to determine more accurately his degree of guilt,
and who has said he is uninterested in re-evaluation of the loss life in
the Soviet Union (even if it confirms a figure of the order of magnitude of
5 million in the Thirties).  Essentially Carlos's position is that
tragedies will never occur again provided we subscribe to a concept
in his mind called "opposition to Stalinism".

I find that an unconvincing remedy.

I would be interested in the general direction in which Jerry sees the
remedy lying.


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