Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reds

This coming weekend the European Parliament would like us all to wear black ribbons, having voted in 2008 to designate the 23rd of August a European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. A vote supported by three of the four Welsh members of that institution: Jonathan Evans, Glenys Kinnock and Eluned Morgan.  This is part and parcel of the Prague Declaration which amongst other things envisages the "adjustment and overhaul of European history textbooks so that children could learn and be warned about Communism and its crimes..."

I wonder how much progress has been made in overhauling the textbooks used in Welsh schools?  Surely pupils need to be warned about Communists like the half-Radnorian Arthur Horner, Will Paynter and Dai Francis, men who led the Welsh miners in their misguided struggle against our benevolent coal owners.

The work of Welsh writers tainted with Communism like Gwyn Alf Williams, Raymond Williams and Lewis Jones needs to be closely vetted and all those monuments to the Stalinists of the International Brigades should be demolished.  Instead we could perhaps erect a monument of shame to the 15000+ misguided souls in Rhondda East, who came within 900 votes of ousting the Labour candidate in the 1945 election.  Particular attention should also be paid to re-educating Welsh politicians who make occasional glowing references to half-remembered troublemakers like Paul Robeson or Annie Powell.

Enough of the sarcasm.  What we have here is an attempt to enforce a particular and contentious view of 20C history on the younger generation.  While many authors claim 20-40-90 million fell victim to the purges, less sensationally others say that the archives in Moscow suggest that the figure was less than 2 million.  Still shocking but in the same ball park or even less than the victims of the British Empire and America and its allies - who seemingly don't merit a black ribbon day.

It was once generally accepted that the famine associated with collectivisation was nothing to do with genocide or Great Russian chauvinism, It was even admitted that it made possible the rapid industrialisation which eventually saved Europe from Hitler.  The genocide theory was just a fringe idea cultivated in emigre circles in North America.  Today it's mainstream and academics with opposing ideas are shunned.  And so it goes on, with a re-writing of history regarding the Molotov-Ribbentropp pact and culminating in the Doctors' plot - a genocide which never actually happened, but something of a clincher for those who want to demonstrate the moral equivalence of  Stalinism and Nazism.

I wonder how those proposed revised textbooks will go about explaining to Welsh schoolchildren the Red Army's overwhelming contribution to the defeat of Nazism and how Generalplan Ost, today a footnote in history, was once a blueprint for the elimination of the very nations which are loudest in their condemnation of Communism?  What they must do, of course, is convince the hoi polloi that only Wall Street and the City of London can protect democracy, free speech and a law based society.  Any truck with socialism will inevitably lead to a Stalinist dystopia.

Note1
Funnily enough while Communism is roundly condemned, with laws being passed in some EU countries to jail those who argue that its crimes have been exaggerated, all over Eastern Europe pro-Nazis are being rehabilitated and public monuments erected in their honour.  If you want to learn more see this website for example.

Note2
As the wartime generation kicks the bucket, the history of those times becomes, more and more, the preserve of the public-school-academics, right-wing nationalists and American neo-conservative and neo-liberal warmongers.  Those with an opposing viewpoint are hardly likely to be invited to make documentaries for BBC2 - certainly not the likes of one Grover Furr, who holds that the Old Bolsheviks were guilty as charged and that Khrushchev's 1956 speech attacking Stalin was a tissue of lies. His website is here for anyone interest in such controversial viewpoints.

2 comments:

Bill Krouwel said...

Perhaps those who had to live under Communist rule have a depth of experience which eludes those of us in the generally benign rural borders of Wales and England? Perhaps their experience is what led to a call for black ribbon day?

Did the British Empire kill 2 million of its own citizens (service-people excepted) between 1917 and 1989?

radnorian said...

Bill - sorry that I haven't moderated this comment before now. The system that alerts me to new comments on older posts hasn't worked.

Your figure of two million seems to coincide with the latest research on the subject, a large proportion during yezhovchina years of 1936-7. Certainly it seems much closer to reality than some of the extreme figures put forward by the proponents of this black ribbon day, which are usually in the scores of millions.

I think you would have been on safer ground if you had said citizens of Britain rather than the British Empire. Certainly well short of 2 million, if you exclude the Bengal famine, but a sizeable number including the Iraq rebellion of 1920, the Malaysian emergency, Mau-Mau and the like.

Then let's not forget the excess deaths in the old Soviet Union during the post-communist 1990s - estimates between 3 and 5 million.

Perhaps the old, the unskilled, the victims of the asset-strippers and the gangsters would have a different perspective to those we usually hear from?