Stalin’s Russia Remembered

This review of The Whisperers keeps alive the memory that Putin seems to want silenced. But just as we cannot forget what neo-paganism achieved through Hitler’s Holocaust, so we cannot forget what atheism achieved through Stalin’s savagery. We must not forget that we also can kill and be killed. These were human beings at both ends of the weapons.

 What we sat outside of during the 20th century can make a conscious mind tremble. That we won’t experience it in the 21st becomes less and less certain.

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11 Responses

  1. Robert,

    Do you truly believe that Hitler was a Christian in spite of his practices and even proclamations. I thought it was widely known that he was radically superstitious and pagan in his private world.

    It also seems obvious to me on the face of things that Hitler was an amazingly charismatic and angry person who expressed the rage of a people who were perfectly willing to let him manipulate their religous structures for propoganda purposes.

    Many Luthernan pastors and Catholic priests failed to see through and resist Hitler. My dear mother was a member of the Hitler youth, which was, for her, like being a girl scout.

    To argue that because Hitler was able to befuddle and confuse an angry people by playing with their national symbols (religious and otherwise) he therefore actually was what one subset of those symbols represented (i.e a Christian, whether Catholic or Protestant) is a bit, well, gullible.

    To put things a bit starkly: “Why are you ready to accept the religious element of Hitler’s propoganda at face value even after all this time?”

  2. Mek:

    You say: “Well, it often was. That’s a matter of fact; viz. the the Saxon Wars of Charlemagne, the Crusades, French Wars of Religion, the Thirty Years War, the oppression of the Cathars, the Inquisition, the English Civil War (partly-religiously motivated) and so on”

    Then later you say:
    “it’s my contention that Marxism and its later degenerated variety of Stalinism were political movements first and foremost”

    it would seem to me that in both cases people with power are using the structures and resources available to secure themselves in power and, when possible to expand their power base.

    In the case of the Tsar’s, they used religion – because it was there. In the case of Stalin, he used Marxism, atheism, etc. because it was there.

    If, then, we are going to argue about what causes despotic tyrnannies, we might have to look somewhere other than external social structures and even abstract philosophies. It seems that we have an insatiable appetite for power and we’ll corrupt anything to gain that power.

    If that’s the case, then the philosophy or political theory that is true will have to clearly express that reality. And the theory that works best will have to do something – however little is possible – about it.

  3. But just as we cannot forget what neo-paganism achieved through Hitler’s Holocaust…

    A curious neo-paganism indeed, but anyway…

    …so we cannot forget what atheism achieved through Stalin’s savagery.

    I often read this from Christians, but I’ve yet to come across any reputable historian of that period who supports this view. In my graduate studies of Soviet history, I never once came across it.

    Perhaps you can refer a source?

  4. Mek1980, you are quite right with your concluding sentence, that if Stalin had killed in the name of atheism that would not make atheism incorrect. I would disagree with your statement that he did not kill in the name of atheism. It is my understanding, and I’m subject to correction on this, that Stalin was an outspoken atheist and that one of his main motivations for his purges was to cleanse Russia of the religious problem.

    I’d have to disagree with that one; the historical Marxist connection with Atheism is a complex one, born out of state religions being used as tools of reactionary oppression (I’m not from the Marxist Left; I’m a syndicalist, the Old, pre-Marx Left… More in the mould of the Diggers or Levellers, but I have read a certain amount about Marxism). The prime mover, so to speak, in the association between Marxism and Atheism is, as I said, that Right-wing oppressive governments, such as the Tsar’s, allied themselves with various religions which used organised religion to keep the working classes “in their place”. Therein lies the history of the conflict, basically; both Marxism and the churches were battling for hearts and minds, each seeing the other as a power structure with which it was in competition. On balance, it was more to do with attempting to wipe out an oppositing political force associated with the old regime than their being churches per se.

    As a Christian, I have heard endless accusations about religion (all religion, but especially Christianity) being the source and cause of oppression and violence through western history.

    Well, it often was. That’s a matter of fact; viz. the the Saxon Wars of Charlemagne, the Crusades, French Wars of Religion, the Thirty Years War, the oppression of the Cathars, the Inquisition, the English Civil War (partly-religiously motivated) and so on.

    I would simply point out that atheists killed an awful lot of people in the 20th century, and I would argue that they did it in the name of atheism.

    I’m sure. However, it’s my contention that Marxism and its later degenerated variety of Stalinism were political movements first and foremost; note that Stalin persecuted everyone as and when he felt like it, without favouring anyone; had it been a commitment to abolishing religion alone, it’s doubtful that he would have sent so many Communists to the camps, or have engineered Holodomor, or have had Trotsky killed. Poor old Lev, got an ice pick to the head. </bad poetry>

    That this does not disprove atheism is every bit as true as the fact that hypocrites who killed in the name of God does not disprove theism.

    I’m with you on that one; morality-based arguments, when substituted for logical or factually-based ones, do nothing and mean nothing. The truth of a proposition does not rest on its moral content or lack thereof; some Creationists attempt to argue against evolution, for example, by claiming that it would lead to undesirable social consequences. My response is first, Nuh-uh, and second, even if true, so what? This is not to deride the argument from evil, which is actually a logical argument based on incompatible properties.

    What remains open to discussion is why an atheist or a Christian would not kill given a compelling reason.

    I’m not entirely certain what you mean here.

  5. I completely agree regarding Orwell and find yet another disappointment with my (public) education which did not include his writings.

    One quick thought on your comment about our poor treatment of the Indians (with which I agree)…I found it most interesting as I read out loud to my family during the recent holiday about the first Thanksgiving about how the Pilgrims (mainly Puritans plus others from the voyage) made a highly respectful and successful compact of mutual aid and assistance with the Indians of their region which lasted for decades (despite the fact that not all the tribes in the region were friendly). Their compact became a great model for many others made thereafter. And so utterly unlike the folks at the Jamestown colony at about the same time.

    Today’s political (in)correctness mocks and abhors the Puritans, relegating them to historical insignificance and to a term of modern disgust (“puritanical”)…and yet THEY were the people who embraced the natives with respect and gave us an example to follow…oh, that we later, more “enlightened” Americans, had done so, not only in respect to our relations with American Indians, but also in respect to one another and to the Lord who created us. (See “The Valley of Vision” book.)

    Three cheers for the Puritans and Chief Massasoit, and most of all, for God’s providence!

    (For fascinating history regarding Thanksgiving [actually, American history from Columbus through Washington’s election as President], see the book “The Light and the Glory” by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. Lots of primary source material.)

  6. Litoralise,

    Thanks for the reference to Orwell, especially to the introduction. His insights into the political implications of language are vital and distressingly necessary in this age. He needs to be read and to be part of the international conscience.

  7. Ken

    Thanks for the response. I was also disturbed by the claim and that’s why I wrote “seems to want silenced.” I hope you are right and that the memory of the Russian people is not “cleansed.”

    Just as I hope we never forget how evil slavery was and how poorly we have treated the “American Indians.”

  8. Mek1980, you are quite right with your concluding sentence, that if Stalin had killed in the name of atheism that would not make atheism incorrect. I would disagree with your statement that he did not kill in the name of atheism. It is my understanding, and I’m subject to correction on this, that Stalin was an outspoken atheist and that one of his main motivations for his purges was to cleanse Russia of the religious problem.

    It seems to me this is a rather explicit historical issue with profound philosophical roots.

    As a Christian, I have heard endless accusations about religion (all religion, but especially Christianity) being the source and cause of oppression and violence through western history. I would simply point out that atheists killed an awful lot of people in the 20th century, and I would argue that they did it in the name of atheism.

    That this does not disprove atheism is every bit as true as the fact that hypocrites who killed in the name of God does not disprove theism.

    What remains open to discussion is why an atheist or a Christian would not kill given a compelling reason.

  9. On this note, I highly recommend “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. I just read it this weekend, including the introduction written by Orwell which most publishers do not include. This book was expressly written to be critical of Stalin’s Soviet version of socialism/communism, even though Orwell continued to be committed to democratic socialism. In fact, many of the things he writes about regarding free speech and social discourse are very relevant to today’s climate regarding Iraq. I found it not only well written, but very thought-provoking, despite my disagreements with Orwell politically. I think it is because Orwell also had some keen insight into the truth of human nature and politics and the audacity to proclaim it in a disarmingly creative and provocative manner.

  10. If Putin wanted to silence commemoration of the victims of Stalin why is he attending the public ceremonies, monument layings, etc., going on in Russia at the moment?

  11. Darwin’s beard, but I’m fed up with this one.

    Stalin killed in the name of Stalinism and his pretended Communism. He did not kill in the name of Atheism.

    And even if he had, that would not make Atheism incorrect.

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