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April 03, 2006

Competition Time!

Zsuzsanna Clark (yes, the Mrs.) has a piece at The First Post this morning. (Found by Ollie Kamm)

My sympathies however, are elsewhere. When White Russians, such as the Belinskys, were in their palaces and country houses, the majority of Russians lived in abject poverty. The horror of the gulag should not make us forget that Tsarist Russia was a brutal police state, one which carried out regular pogroms of Jews, assassinated political opponents and exercised strict press censorship.

For many ordinary Russians, Communism meant an improvement. The Bolsheviks introduced education and healthcare for all, gave land to the peasants and granted women the legal and labour status of men.

The film industry's obsession with "Whites" means that we seldom get to hear the stories of those who benefited from the revolution. I was born and brought up in Hungary, a country which, like Russia, had been run by a reactionary, aristocratic elite. Before the Second World War, secondary education in Hungary was the preserve of the wealthy; under Communism, those who had missed out, like my parents, were given a second chance to resume their studies as adults.

No one will deny that crimes were committed under Communism. But ordinary people got rather more back from the "Reds", than they ever did when the film industry's beloved "Whites" ran the show.

So, a competition. What is the worst, most appalling or muddleheaded, apologia for communism out there? I think the Mrs. is a strong contender with "gave land to the peasants" what with collectivisation. But your view? Extra points for people mouthing such idiocies after the publication of either Gulag Archipelago or Conquest’s The Great Terror.

BTW, the Mr. cannot be used as an entry. Too easy.

Harry’s Place is also running an associated competition.

Some nice stuff on Zsuzsanna from Pesticide. And, of course, her immortal Guardian article.

April 3, 2006 in Idiotarians | Permalink


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Old Milne - the one who can't spell his own Christian name:

"For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment. "


Posted by: The Pedant-General | Apr 3, 2006 4:09:12 PM

Yep, and the Nazis too of course. It's just that some of us don't much care for the ideals espoused by either mob, whether genuinely or not. Nor do we admire the results of their commitment.

Posted by: dearieme | Apr 4, 2006 12:19:23 AM

I heard Swedish communist Johan Ehrenberg defend DDR on the grounds that the women there had more orgasms/week than women in BRD. But I can't find it in print.

Posted by: Anders Starmark | Apr 4, 2006 8:01:25 AM

Yeah Hitler built great roads, but uh So What

There is no excuse for destroying people just because you have the power to do so, and there are no mitigating circumstances that make it acceptable.

Now Hungary is a capitalist country it is growing rapidly, trying to make up for lost time. If it were never communist, maybe it could have been as rich as its Western neighbours by now.

Posted by: EU Serf | Apr 4, 2006 10:29:42 AM

I have a very old (and lefty) friend who holidays regularly in Cuba. Apparently the Cuban health and education systems are superb. Food? Well, not really fair to judge, but the people are wonderful. He can't understand why I become so enraged whenever we discuss his jaunts. It must have been the same with the USSR in the 30s, except there is even less excuse for wilful ignorance now.

Posted by: Umbongo | Apr 4, 2006 12:58:50 PM

A lot of people use the "but the people are wonderful" line when defending an odious regime. I've always wondered what the hell that had to do with anything.

Perhaps that's what made me appreciate and quote on my blog the line from Colin Thubron's Among the Russians, made early on in his trip after meeting an ordinary Russian by the roadside:

I never again equated the Russian system with its people.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Apr 4, 2006 2:40:38 PM

What about ... people were able to put their children through school... ? That's the most recent one I have come across.

As if it's not possible nowadays. Yes, the current poor might find it a bit difficult but so did their equivalents back then. And with everything. Yes, there were poor and a few others who were better off.

As for the Hungarian person - I think they sometimes fail to realise that it was a tad different within the USSR from what it was in say, Hungary, Bulgaria or Czechoslovakia. I remember my father returning from a holiday in Bulgaria (only happened once in his lifetime to be outside of the USSR) - wow! That was just awesome, this jacket I got elevated me to the very elite of my class...

In turn within the USSR we (Estonia) were considered as almost western - go figure! I remember stories of people travelling to what was then called the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic from some godforsaken place in the middle of the Soviet Empire just to watch terrestrial TV programmes from Finland (northern Estonia being the only place where one could do that in the USSR) to get a glimpse of the lavish lifestyle in Estonia...

Anything that can be looked upon as a positive thing under normal circumstances takes on a completely different meaning in the context of communism with a USSR twist - I'd rather not put my child through school for her to end up brainwashed. And so on.

Been there, done that. Thanks very much.

Posted by: Mel | Apr 9, 2006 4:29:16 PM