The Gulag was Stalin, Not Soviet

This past week I finished reading the book Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize winning effort. I found this book compelling with its first-hand accounts of the brutal and deadly conditions some 8 million Soviet citizens experienced as they passed through the Gulag system over the decades. And I found no problem with the book except for a couple of points.

First, she equates the concentration camps of Lenin and Trotsky to what the phenomenon later became under Stalin. Camps were in existence during the Russian Revolution, and Lenin did express the thought that maybe kulaks (rich, land owning peasants) and former White Army officers could use a good lesson in hard, manual labor. But those early concentration camps are nothing like the true Gulags under Stalin. Applebaum even relates this fact in the introductory portion of the book. But she should have realized that Stalin is the real monster here, not Lenin and Trotsky.

Second, Applebaum asks why so many memorialize and lionize the old Soviet system with the Gulags as part of its history. She even condemns Russia’s experiment in a radical leftist ideology with the belief that the Gulag was inherent in the Communist system. She further equates the Gulag system with the German death-camps of the Nazi’s. Some far leftists will wear a hammer and sickle t-shirt, but no one would almost never, where a shirt with a swastika on it, she argues.

Now I admit that the two can be equated, and, in my opinion, they both possessed the same level of brutality which I cannot believe ever took place in as late of a period as the 20th century. But the goal of exterminating the Jews and other minority groups in the 30’s and 40’s was a major tenet of the Nazi ideology. The Gulag system was just a deformed system of punishment used by a totalitarian government. The Soviets did not want any group of people to suffer and die in Gulags. It was just the form of punishment Stalin desired as a result of his uncontrollable paranoia and its brutal crackdowns. In the introduction Applebaum even covers the fact that labor camps for criminals were a part of Czarist Russia. It seems that the concentration camp, not the suffering, was Russian, not Soviet. And a strict form of genocide was not a truly cut out goal of the Gulag system.

In conclusion, after reading this book my belief that Stalin was one of history’s greatest monsters is confirmed, and I still refuse to express my belief in a Marxist system with Stalin’s words or image. But on the other hand, I have no problem with the use of Lenin, Marx and Engels, and the hammer and sickle emblem. They are not inherently related to the. Marx never wrote, “There is a specter haunting Europe, and let there be Gulags.”

I still recommend this book.

6 New STL Images!

Sorry that it’s a day late (capitalism is killing me), but here are 6 new propaganda images for spreading revolution wherever one sees fit.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/TUomKrYbsYCMEWC59

5 New STL Images!

Five new pics for propaganda use (a day late). Thanks!!!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/TUomKrYbsYCMEWC59

“AP Explains: Venezuela’s humanitarian aid standoff”: Where’s the sanctions part?

From the AP: https://apnews.com/6c66de0a22944b58b276d43eef91c093

The suffering of the Venezuelan people is heartbreaking. But:

A) This is not a result of a failing socialist system but rather an economic strangling committed by the U.S. and the International community, who are in our pocket, through strong sanctions, and,

B) If Maduro lets in the U.S. aid, it would be seen as a gift from Guaido which would strengthen him immensely. And Guaido would be a U.S. puppet.

The only thing that should solve this is the delivery of aid by Russia or China. Where are they at?

Communism: Learning from the Past and Present

As I have put forth in my previous posts, a socialist government is the best political system to be realized today in the interests of the 99%. But if we are going to move towards having the power taken back from the rich and given to its rightful owners, the workers, we must avoid making the mistakes made by Communist countries today and in the past.

One of the most dangerous actions taken by the radical leftist governments of the past is that they tried to realize unrealistic goals too soon. E.g., China had its “Great Leap Forward,” the Soviets under Stalin always put forth these “5 Year Plans” that hurt the Russian people at the hands of Stalin’s vain attempts at greatness, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed over a million of their countrymen partially due to economic reforms. And these often just occurred to catch up with capitalist countries in the areas of industry, science, military, and infrastructurevtoo fast. Foolish.

The are two reasons why this is true, namely:

  1. Revolutionaries have no idea how to run a country. This often leads to unspeakable hardships and suffering for the reasons mentioned above in the pursuit of grand ideals.
  2. The three countries outlined above, i.e., Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia, were ruled under brutal dictators, or very small groups of leaders, who ran authoritarian governments. They involved purges, gulags, and mass murders of so-called “enemies of the people.” And these things are still taking place in North Korea under the rule of the Kim family and their latest criminal, thug leader, Kim Jong Un.

But in terms of the socialist experiment in Cuba, we could learn a lot of positive things from them. The U.S. capitalist media would have you believe that the Castros are no different than Stalin or Un, but what they don’t report are the great strides towards equality taking place in the small island country. E.g., they have redistributed land to the peasants through land reform. Once the Cuban peasants were slaves to rich plantation owners, but as a result of the revolution, the land owned by the corporations and plantation owners has now been divided amongst the people who work the land. And that is just one example of the successful reforms. They have also gotten away from just being a sugar-dominated economy and even become a powerhouse in the research and development of new medicines that are often purchased, yes, by the U.S. government.

Yet this has succeeded by not having some grand goal of building a developing country into a society where they are immediately just as technologically advanced as  the U.S. These are examples of how ideas and policies could be learned from a socialist society to be translated instilled in a more equal America.

So in conclusion, the brutality of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge is due to harsh authoritarian governments, not an attempted realization of a fully socialist society. These dictatorships had vain rulers trying to advance mostly Third-World countries into global players too fast. Yet we can look to somewhere like Cuba for positive ideas to enact here in the U.S. in pursuit of a more egalitarian society.

Nemtsov’s Murder

921df2e9-b52a-4e31-b952-5ab7464dad16-2060x1236According to the Times, Boris Nemtsov, a prominent Russian opposition leader and former first deputy prime minister, was shot dead while crossing a Moscow bridge Friday night near the shadows of the Kremlin and the onion domes St. Basil’s Cathedral. This was the most high-profile “assassination” (the word used by France’s President Francois Hollande) since before the Putin years.

A well-known leader of the anti-Putin opposition, he was supposed to lead a rally tomorrow against the Russian involvement in the Ukraine and was even wanting to publish research on Kremlin corruption regarding the conflict in a pamphlet to be called “Putin and the War.” He was a direct threat to the Russian power-structure.

So who is behind the murder of Nemtsov? Well, here’s the possible theories from the Russian authorities:

1) Fellow members of the opposition had killed Mr. Nemtsov to create a martyr, a “sacrificial victim” to rally new and existing supporters to the opposition’s side.

2) Islamic extremists had killed Mr. Nemtsov over his position on the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris.

3) Life News, a television station with close ties to the Russian security services, quoted a source as suggesting that Mr. Nemtsov was murdered in revenge for having caused a woman to have an abortion.

4) Ramzan Kadyrov, the Putin-backed leader of Chechnya said on Instagram,“There’s no doubt that Nemtsov’s killing was organized by Western special services, trying by any means to create internal conflict in Russia.” 

All four are interesting but they either blame the opposition, smear Nemtsov’s reputation, are absurd, or cover all three. Either way, it is all just Soviet-era smoke-screening (Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said the president would personally lead the investigation.)

With the facts I have it seems that this is a job by someone with strong ties, either monetary or power-related, to Putin’s government. I think the four different motives for the crime investigating bodies are ridiculous. And we must remember, too, that there have been more than a few murders of opposition leaders under Putin’s reign. Here is a large list and quotes from an AP article just on this subject to wrap this post up:

ANNA POLITKOVSKAYA

Renowned journalist Anna Politkovskaya, 48, was fatally shot in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in October 2006. Her work in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper was sharply critical of Kremlin policies in Chechnya and of human rights violations there.

Last year, a court convicted five men, most of them Chechens, of involvement in the murder. However, Russia’s Investigative Committee has said it is still trying to determine who ordered the killing.

ALEXANDER LITVINENKO

Former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, 44, became sick after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 at a London hotel in November 2006 and died three weeks later. Litvinenko had fallen out with the Russian government and became a strong critic of the Kremlin, obtaining political asylum after coming to Britain in 2000.

Two weeks before he was poisoned, Litvinenko blamed Putin for the murder of Politkovskaya. Before he died, he signed a statement blaming Putin for his poisoning.

British police have named two Russian men, former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, as prime suspects. They deny involvement, and Russia refused to extradite them. An inquiry in Britain is now examining the circumstances of Litvinenko’s death.

STANISLAV MARKELOV

Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer, was shot after leaving a news conference less than half a mile from the Kremlin in January 2009. Markelov, 34, was appealing the early release of Yuri Budanov, a Russian military officer convicted of killing a young Chechen woman. A journalist walking with Markelov, Anastasia Baburova, also died in the attack. A Russian nationalist extremist was sentenced to life in prison for the killings.

NATALYA ESTEMIROVA

Human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, 50, was abducted in Chechnya in July 2009 and found shot dead the same day. One of Chechnya’s best known rights activists, Estemirova headed the Memorial group’s Chechen branch and exposed alleged abuses by the forces of Kremlin-backed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

Russian investigators said in 2010 that two brothers who were members of an Islamic militant group killed Estemirova, who had implicated them in kidnappings of Chechen civilians. Memorial said DNA evidence showed that the two men – one of whom was killed in 2009 and the other granted asylum in France – didn’t commit the crime.

BORIS NEMTSOV

Boris Nemtsov, 55, who served as a deputy prime minister in the 1990s and became a prominent opposition figure under Putin, was gunned down in Moscow on Friday night. The killing came a few hours after he denounced Putin’s “mad, aggressive” policies and the day before he was to help lead a rally protesting Russia’s actions in the Ukraine crisis and the economic crisis at home.

Russia’s top investigative body said it is looking into several possible motives including an attempt to destabilize the state, Islamic extremism, the conflict in Ukraine and his personal life.

 

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Have to Admit, Sometimes Russia is Painfully Correct

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, had some comments for the United States government regarding Syria and the Islamic State that deserve acknowledgement.  While the future of this situation can be debated, the past cannot.  And the truth sometimes hurts.
“I think Western politicians are already realising the growing and fast-spreading threat of terrorism,” Lavrov said, referring to Islamic State advances in Syria and Iraq.
“And they will soon have to choose what is more important, a [Syrian] regime change to satisfy personal antipathies, risking deterioration of the situation beyond any control, or finding pragmatic ways to unite efforts against the common threat.”

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov

In comments likely to irritate Washington, Lavrov said the US had made the same mistake with Islamic State as it had with al-Qaeda, which emerged in the 1980s when US-backed Islamist insurgents were fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. (Emphasis added)
“At the start the Americans and some Europeans rather welcomed [Islamic State] on the basis it was fighting against Bashar al-Assad. They welcomed it as they welcomed the mujahideen who later created al-Qaeda, and then al-Qaeda struck like a boomerang on September 11, 2001,” Lavrov said.
“The same thing is happening now.”
We have to accept, for the moment, there is no perfect solution from the U.S. government’s perspective where both the Syrian regime and the Islamic State can be ousted from the situation immediately.  At this point, the best case scenario is to only have to deal with one or the other while trying to push for the quelling of one.
And the lesser of two evils is without a doubt the Assad regime in Syria.  This, of course, means working as a partner with Russia in order to exert as much pressure as possible on Assad to hope for eventual regime change while making sure the Syrian government is stabilized enough to fight the Islamic State.
In fact, hindsight being 20/20, one has to wonder if working with Russia from the beginning on Syria would have been the better solution for the Syrian people.  While living under Assad has certainly been no picnic, it’s very likely the casualties from the fighting, now closing in on 200,000, would have been significantly less had a heavy UN peacekeeping presence been placed in the country when the violence broke out.  And in order to have done this, the U.S. would have had to accept not initially ousting Assad, with the hope change could have come later and more peacefully.
We’ll never know whether that solution would have turned out better.  One thing, however, is clear: not choosing that path has been an absolute disaster.

Embarrassingly Stupid Attack by Boehner’s Gov Page on Obama’s Foreign Policy

John Boehner’s government page decided to continue the attacks on President Obama’s alleged foreign policy failures by using a curious strategy: showing how much of an idiot Boehner, himself, is on foreign policy.

Let’s address the lunacy included in the post:

When Libya became leaderless, America infamously led from behind – then our posts in Benghazi were attacked.

I’m assuming Boehner wanted an American invasion to sort things out in Libya, which I’m sure would have been wildly popular among the voters (not really).  If only we had invaded to install a leader the U.S. liked and approved, everything would have been peaceful forever, just like in Iraq (not really).  The post also fails to mention the reason Libya became leaderless was because of Obama approving airstrikes that helped oust Gaddafi.  As for Benghazi, I’ll get to that.BO

The reset button with Russia was an embarrassing failure, underscored when a hot mic caught President Obama’s assurances to Vladimir Putin that he’d have “more flexibility” after the 2012 election. In Syria, the president didn’t bother to enforce the red line he established, and then turned to Russia for a political lifeline. Emboldened, Putin muscled his way into Ukraine.

First off, concerning Russia, the “flexibility” statement was technically made to Medvedev, not Putin.  Splitting hairs a bit but factually inaccurate.

Secondly, the Cold War ended a couple decades ago, a fact that the warfare queens on the right still ignore much of the time.  The statement was regarding missile defense and taking steps away from that whole “mutually assured destruction” thing, something we should all crave from our leaders.

Thirdly, Boehner chooses to completely ignore something else that probably emboldened the Russians even more: the feeble reaction of the U.S. government to Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  Why would he not include that?  Maybe because it happened three months before Obama was elected president and five months before he took the Oath of Office.

Then there is Syria.  I’m assuming Boehner is ignoring the explosive Seymour Hersh article detailing why the U.S. did not attack Syria.  In fact, if he wants to prove the Hersh points wrong and show we should have attacked Syria over the use of chemical weapons, he should be calling for the release of all documents showing what the CIA was doing in Benghazi prior to the attack.

The post also fails to point out the Syrian regime did give up its chemical weapons under threat of increased international intervention.

Then President Obama set five elite terrorist commanders free from U.S. custody.

Zero mention of getting a tortured American home for this exchange.  Zero mention of the Afghanistan war coming to an end and trading prisoners at the end of wars.  Zero mention they were released to the custody of Qatar, not immediately set free.  And if these five were so “elite”, why not ask for them to be put on trial to show how provable their elite abilities are in a court of law?

Then there is the point of ISIS gaining ground in Iraq.  The criticism of the decision by the Bush administration to invade Iraq on false pretenses is obviously ignored here but something else should be asked.  What exactly was being done about the Shiite death squads and brutal suppression of the Sunnis in Iraq by the previous administration after the invasion?  It’s as if that has nothing to do with what is happening now.

Sometimes, it’s just amazing what ridiculous claims the right will make.

Economic Globalization and Impunity

When the Ukrainian crisis evolved into what we now know is the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russians, and beyond, something became apparent in others and my own mind: economic globalization allows nations to do whatever they want as long the ones who oppose them have significant economic ties with them.And the real problem is that everybody has and increasing amount of trade-ties with everyone else.

The annexation of Crimea is an international crime and when Russia took a hard-line regarding it, what was done? We promised stiff sanctions if such aggression continued but nothing materialized.

Why?

For when the U.S. looked to Western powers to backup their proposed sanctions against the Russian Federations nothing was done for Western Europe, and mainly Germany (the leader of the Euro-Zone), depends too much on Russian natural gas imports. Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin just had to hint at rising gas export prices or stopping them altogether and Western Europe folded.

Some Republicans, in some sort of delusion, proposed that we begin exporting American natural gas to Germany and other Euro-Zone nations to supplement Russian imports, but experts explained that such a plan would take decades.

So what happened to push back Russian interference in Eastern Ukraine was diplomacy and the situation has now been toned down with amassed Russian forces moving back from the Ukrainian/Russian border. But what if diplomacy did not work and sanctions were our only resort barring World War III?

In an increasingly economically globalizing world, sanctions may become innocuous in the future at the risk of imposing nations risking economic catastrophe in their own country.

I’m interested in hearing your opinion on this matter in terms of what can be added to my analysis and some way that economic globalization can become less of a hindrance to action against breakers of international law.

 

 

Putin A Neocon?

leadA interesting piece in The Atlantic pointing out the eery similarities between Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s political ideology beside that of American Neocons. Worth a read.

Read Here.

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