[Marxism] Getting Over State Socialism's Crimes

Roger Raven rogergen at tpg.com.au
Sat Feb 3 05:45:15 MST 2007

Indeed, my point is that a sense of proportion is sorely needed, but is sorely lacking.   Entrenched and dogmatic opinions - the politics of remembering - completely dominate discussion of these matters.     The result is a left obsessed with the issue, and a right determined to exaggerate it to infinity and exploit it forever.   Socialists should acknowledge the crime, attempt to minimise the risk of it ever happening again, but recognise that whatever betide, socialism is in fact much less violent.

GULAG for instance was Solzhenitsyn's size probably between 1936 and 1954 - 18 years.   Yet the USSR was around for 70 years.   I will repeat the point I made - which you will have read - literally hundred of thousands of people in the former USSR have been dying unnecessarily every year since 1991.  My view is that for them the issue was and is not academic; you of course have every right to disagree with me.

Contrast that with what has been described as the politics of forgetting - the Belgian Congo, for instance, just one crime of capitalism.   Leopold II, King of the Belgians is chiefly remembered as the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free State, a private project undertaken by the King to extract rubber and ivory, which relied on slavery and is held responsible for the deaths of between 3 to 10 million.   Many historians consider the atrocities to have constituted a genocide.   The conditions would certainly have been more brutal than anything in the Gulag.   Just remember, too, people were released from the Gulag; they weren't released from slavery.

Among many other great crimes of capitalism are the issue of famine in British India arising from colonialism, or the consequences of the British East India Company's monopoly on the growing of opium and forcible export to China.   However, the above will suffice.

I trust that in future discussion of these matters you'll recall to mind such things as the Congo Free State, and premature death in the Former Soviet Union.

-- Original Message ----- 
  From: Sayan Bhattacharyya 
  To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition 
  Sent: Saturday, February 03, 2007 10:36 AM
  Subject: Re: [Marxism] Getting Over State Socialism's Crimes

  On 2/2/07, Roger Raven <rogergen at tpg.com.au> wrote:

  > Imperial America has its own pseudo-liberal Gulag.   The United States leads the world in putting criminals in jail - according to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College, London, the United States detains 714 prisoners per 100,000 people. That amounts to two million prisoners, most held in appalling and degrading conditions.

  While no doubt degrading, surely it's a wild exaggeration to compare
  conditions in US prisons with those in the Gulag. A sense of
  proportion is sorely needed.

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