Stalinism, Famines and Communism


Class Conscious
Jan 5, 2022
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We are interested in uniquely Stalinist evil, not in events which have their parallels in many countries and thus cannot be considered uniquely Stalinist. Unfortunately , famines in which millions of people die are not unique to the USSR in the Stalin era. Not only was there one in Soviet Russia (in 1921–22) prior to Stalin’s accession to supreme power, but major famines were widespread throughout the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for example in the British empire (India and Ireland), China, Russia and elsewhere. Furthermore, the world-wide death of millions of people in recent decades which could have been prevented by simple public health measures or cured by application of modern medicine, but was not, might be considered by some as mass manslaughte r—or mass death by criminal negligence—by the leaders of the G8 (who could have prevented these deaths but did not do so). The present author is sympathetic to the idea that the leaders of the British Empire in the past (India and Ireland) and of the G8 in recent years are guilty of mass manslaughter or mass deaths from criminal negligence because of their not taking obvious measures to reduce mass deaths. However, if they are not condemned for this, it is not clear why—except on a very doubtful historical account of Stalin’s knowledge and intentions in 1932–33—Stalin should be convicted for the famine deaths of 1931–34 or of the other Stalin-era famines. Conquest has argued that the ‘only conceivabl e defence’ for Stalin and his associates is that they did not know about the famine.92 This ignores another possible defence—that their behaviour was no worse than that of many rulers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
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