[Marxism] Getting Over State Socialism's Crimes

Graham M. gkmilner at v-app.com.au
Sat Feb 3 05:52:49 MST 2007

Trotsky argued, in 'The Revolution Betrayed' and in essays published at
other times, that the consolidation of the Stalinist regime in the USSR was
the result of imperialist pressure on the Soviet workers' state.   So the
crimes committed by Stalin and his governing apparatus were actually crimes
attributable not to socialism but to the crippling effects of the capitalist
encirlement.   The destruction of workers' democracy, the blood purges of
the 1930s, and the Gulug can be seen as results of the political
expropriation of the working class carried out by a bureaucratic layer
'balancing' between imperialism and the Soviet proletariat.

    All the crimes that have been catalogued in this exchange are really
attributable to capitalism and/or its bureaucratic agencies governing the
workers' states.   My own personal belief is that socialists have no need to
cover over the crimes of Stalinism, as these may be understood in the
context of the global class struggle.   These are not crimes of socialism,
but crimes committed by regimes hostile to authentic socialism and
democratic rights.   Someone once aptly said that: 'The bourgeoisie has no
need to spread any lying propaganda about Stalinism, because the truth is
bad enough'.

   I am not convinced by the argument concerning longevity under Stalinism.
Other forms of totalitarianism have produced fit and healthy populations.
I'm not sure of the statistics, but I suspect that longevity during the
Third Reich in the 1930s would have marked an improvement over figures for
the Weimar republic.

                                                -Graham Milner

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Roger Raven" <rogergen at tpg.com.au>
To: "Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition"
<marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Saturday, February 03, 2007 8:45 PM
Subject: Re: [Marxism] Getting Over State Socialism's Crimes

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

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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