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Subject: Gradiations of Atrocity rss

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Matt Thrower
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There is a long and ignoble tradition amongst European left-wingers which attempts to make those crimes against humanity committed by Stalin and his cronies appear in some way less odious than those committed by Hitler and the Nazis. The justification usually given is either that Communism (unlike Nazism) is based on trying to make a fairer and better society even though the attempt went horribly wrong, or that selecting people to torture and murder on the basis of their politics is somehow more acceptable than selecting people to torture and murder on the basis of their race.

In spite of being a left-winger myself, whenever I come across this attitude I find myself sick to the pit of my stomach. Mass murder on the scale of millions is a crime beyond description, in my opinion, and trying to split hairs to erect a feeble justification in the name of ideology is beneath contempt.

This got me thinking about some pretty grim things, though. Most people will agree that the scale of a crime is a partial indicator of it's seriousness: you commit more of the same sin, you deserve greater punishment. And yet it seems to me that, based on my assessment of the two great butchers of the 20th century, there must be a point at which this becomes irrelevant. But on the other hand, actually trying to put some numbers to it seems too inhumane to even try.

What's the point? I'm not sure. I thought there were some interesting issues in terms of both politics and crime and punishment here to raise for discussion. Is there a point at which scale ceases to matter? Should it matter in the first place? Does anyone want to try and defend Stalin?
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chiddler wrote:


I don't think motive should be ignored when comparing them

I do not think motive should be ignored in general, but here motive is dwarfed by atrocity - in effect, their motives and ideologies do not matter much, they gave in to the monster.
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I generally agree with chiddler.

Both were monsters. One (according to Wikipedia) responsible for the death of over 700.000 people, the other for over 6 million.

What makes the nazi genocide more gruesome is that they made an industry out of death: recycling the luggage en confisquating valuables, pulling golden teeth from the dead, shave hair as industrial resource etc.
People were not killed for being a threat to the regime, but because they were regarded as vermin and along the way the nazis tried to figure out how to squeeze as much money as possible out of the victims and how to kill as many as possible as cheap & fast as possible.

However, I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that after WW2, the survivors returned with their horror stories. While under Stalin, it remained some sort of internal affair from which few stories leak abroad. How many people knew about concentration camps during the war?

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Ken
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_Kael_ wrote:
I generally agree with chiddler.

Both were monsters. One (according to Wikipedia) responsible for the death of over 700.000 people, the other for over 6 million.


700,000 and 6 million? I believe it's more like 6 million Jews alone (Hitler) and around 20 million plus citizens of the USSR (Stalin).

Both were monsters, and neither's crimes are any worse than the other's.
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I'm no expert, just quoting from the wiki page. Like:
wikipedia wrote:
Some experts believe the evidence released from the Soviet archives is understated, incomplete or unreliable.[46][48][49][50] For example, Robert Conquest suggests that the probable figure for executions during the years of the Great Purge is not 681,692, but some two and a half times as high.

...Totalling 1.4 million if he's right.

Were does the 20 million come from?
 
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Your number totals executions. I think 20M comes from total deaths in the Gulag which, while not formal executions were deaths none-the-less.

I'll rescind that as I've found no numbers to back it up.
 
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Ken
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Displacement of populations, ethnic cleansing, religious persecution.

Stalin didn't line everyone up against a wall and shoot them (though he did that a lot). But if you went to Siberia under him, the odds were pretty good you didn't come out.
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I don't think you being a left-winger matters when it comes to being sickened by murder on the scale of millions of people.

Part of the reason Americans (in particular) seem to ignore Stalin's horrendous crimes (between 32-64 million "unnatural" deaths depending on the source) or the even more insane number from Mao's reign of terror is simple... we weren't in those wars like we were in WWII.

Post WWII in America saw a rise in affection for socialistic and communistic ideology, primarily in the university system and the entertainment sector. The unspeakable toll of misery and death transpiring was either ignored pointedly or the new Leftists were merely ignorant because Stalin, Mao and their machines controlled access to the horrendous truth.

There is a cultural ignorance now, in this century, in America, that fails to even address these horrors in history classes. People just don't know and for the most part I am convinced that the mindset of education in America is to not let them know. It's more expedient to teach American children that American's are evil because of what they did to Native Americans and frankly, kids aren't even taught clearly that it was European attitudes and culture that dominated in America that early in our history.

My older children were in high school in the 90's and they knew nothing, not even a mention, of Mao's mass murders or Stalin's. They knew quite a bit about trading infected blankets to Native Americans though and The Trail of Tears.

I had to go buy books and assign them to my own kids so they could get a grasp on what really happened in WWII with Hitler and in post WWII Russia and China. The vast majority of European and Americans (in my opinion) just don't know these things because they are purposely ignored in education.

One other thing... my home was a unique setting for my older kids because my dad lived with us and helped me raise them. He is a WWII vet and was a China Marine in post WWII China when the USA was supporting Chiang Kai-shek against Mao and the CPC. So they had a living artifact of insight and experience at their own dinner table to learn from.
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DWTripp wrote:
There is a cultural ignorance now, in this century, in America, that fails to even address these horrors in history classes.


I think it'd be nice if they got to teach history in history classes. Note just a random assemblage of dates and names that can correspond to bubbles on a sheet of paper you need a #2 pencil to fill out.
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CrankyPants wrote:
Your number totals executions. I think 20M comes from total deaths in the Gulag which, while not formal executions were deaths none-the-less.

I'll rescind that as I've found no numbers to back it up.


There's a wealth of sources, actually. Hit this link and you'll get a very long list.

If you average the "small" numbers with the "big" numbers, you get close to 20 million. And the "small" numbers are around 10 million.

Stalin was a evil, evil man.
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@ perfalbion

I don't want to argue over it, but counting that way it seems the nazi death count is also higher. Still I see no source mentioned.(EDIT: crossposted. You added "Matthew White's Homepage", lol)
My guess is the 20 milion is based on Stalin's entire reign while the Wiki page I quoted was 'only' about the Great Purge?

DWTripp wrote:
Post WWII in America saw a rise in affection for socialistic and communistic ideology.
AFAIK nowhere in socialist or communist ideology it's stated that entire population groups should be exterminated. Which is, (again AFAIK) part of the Nazi ideology. So in my uninformed opinion, the death toll is due to the wrongful implementation of the ideology, where the holocaust deathtoll is due to a succesful implementation of that ideology.
Still, you can argue that soc. & comm. are no realistic ideologies and not possible for humans to implement, as regreattably shown in history, but that's not the same thing.

DWTripp wrote:
One other thing... my home was a unique setting for my older kids because my dad lived with us and helped me raise them. He is a WWII vet and was a China Marine in post WWII China when the USA was supporting Chiang Kai-shek against Mao and the CPC. So they had a living artifact of insight and experience at their own dinner table to learn from.
That's cool!
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There was a very interesting display at a concentration camp that we visited in 2001 in former Eastern Germany. (Sorry, can't remember which one, but it wasn't too far from Berlin.)

When the Soviets moved in in 1945, they continued the camp almost intact for their political prisoners.

Another Stalin achievement was the mass starvation by posting armed guards at borders and not allowing starving peasants to leave to get food. Was it Ukraine?


Here's a question that meets the topic header.

When one hears someone was tortured before being killed it seems worse than just being killed. Why?

They are dead either way. If you don't believe that anything continues after death, there's no lasting psychic damage, so standing in the present looking back, why is being tortured first worst?

(Don't get me wrong, it bothers me, too, but it also bothers me that I can't figure out why.)
 
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Matt Thrower
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DWTripp wrote:
It's more expedient to teach American children that American's are evil because of what they did to Native Americans and frankly, kids aren't even taught clearly that it was European attitudes and culture that dominated in America that early in our history.


Predictably I don't agree with much of this. I can agree that early in American history, European attitudes prevailed but I don't really see how that somehow reduces the value of the harm inflicted on Native Americans by white settlers.

It's an interesting point though. One thing that does puzzle me is why children can't learn more balanced versions of history at school. History is loaded with political interpretations of course, but that doesn't mean that teachers are unable to spin a more balanced line to school-age kids. I don't know much about US history and what happened to the Native Americans and whether they perceive colonialism as at all beneficial but I can quote from the equivalent UK example of empire. Yes, terrible crimes were perpetrated in the name of empire. But it also left behind a legacy of engineering and democratic infrastructure that many people in ex-colonial countries value. The harm probably outweighed the good done, but that doesn't mean that kids shouldn't learn about both sides - simply add the proviso that that damage outweighed the development. And yet a lot of kids in school here will - just as you described - only hear about the bad bits.

To get back on track, I read some historian claiming that the tendency to sweep the horrors of Stalinism under the carpet in Europe and the US had more to do with the lasting effects of having been allied with the Soviets during the war than it did with ideology. The necessary post-war propaganda having made it seem that they Russians were all sweetness and light, and the governments of later days being unwilling to admit that in fact they knew very well the Soviets were perpetrating brutality on a mass scale and deliberately didn't pass this on to the populace.
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qzhdad wrote:

They are dead either way. If you don't believe that anything continues after death, there's no lasting psychic damage, so standing in the present looking back, why is being tortured first worst?

(Don't get me wrong, it bothers me, too, but it also bothers me that I can't figure out why.)


I think it is because often times -- either correct or not -- we assume the torturer gets pleasure out of witnessing the pain of the victim (most likely true, because why wouldn't they just kill them)?

There is a world of difference between killing someone immediately and perhaps painlessly versus revelling in watching them suffer.
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_Kael_ wrote:
I don't want to argue over it, but counting that way it seems the nazi death count is also higher. Still I see no source mentioned. My guess is the 20 milion is based on Stalin's entire reign while the Wiki page I quoted was 'only' about the Great Purge?


The Nazi death count is higher. That's why my post pointed out that the 6 million is only the Jews killed by that regime. I believe estimates run 6-12 million for others executed under that regime (gypsies, people with certain congenital birth defects, Slavs, etc.).

Quote:
AFAIK nowhere in socialist or communist ideology it's stated that entire population groups should be exterminiated.


Both Lenin and Stalin were incredibly fearful of any group with common ties that might challenge Boshevik supremacy in the USSR. This extended to religious groups (notably Jews, again, but also the Orthodox church), ethnic groups (the Chechen conflict has its roots here), formerly independent nations that became a part of the USSR, etc. While socialist ideology may not explicitly call for "dealing with them," both Lenin and Stalin did. Neither nicely, Stalin far more brutally.
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perfalbion wrote:
Displacement of populations, ethnic cleansing, religious persecution.

Stalin didn't line everyone up against a wall and shoot them (though he did that a lot). But if you went to Siberia under him, the odds were pretty good you didn't come out.


The level of atrocity gets to the point where its impossible to deal with it in a rational manner. Look at the hundreds of thousands of Poles who died in the Warsaw Uprising, does Hitler get the blame or Stalin?
 
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qzhdad wrote:
When one hears someone was tortured before being killed it seems worse than just being killed. Why?


Because it is implies that you are more evil to purposefully mistreat someone for the purpose of causing them pain before you kill them.
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BFoy wrote:
The level of atrocity gets to the point where its impossible to deal with it in a rational manner. Look at the hundreds of thousands of Poles who died in the Warsaw Uprising, does Hitler get the blame or Stalin?


In my book? Both. But I'm not sure I get a vote, just an opinion.
 
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perfalbion wrote:
_Kael wrote:
AFAIK nowhere in socialist or communist ideology it's stated that entire population groups should be exterminated.

Both Lenin and Stalin were incredibly fearful of any group with common ties that might challenge Boshevik supremacy in the USSR. This extended to religious groups (notably Jews, again, but also the Orthodox church), ethnic groups (the Chechen conflict has its roots here), formerly independent nations that became a part of the USSR, etc. While socialist ideology may not explicitly call for "dealing with them," both Lenin and Stalin did. Neither nicely, Stalin far more brutally.

Which underlines my point:
the death toll in the Soviet Union is due to the wrongful implementation of the communist ideology,
where the holocaust deathtoll is due to a succesful implementation of the nazi ideology.
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_Kael_ wrote:
Which underlines my point:
the death toll in the Soviet Union is due to the wrongful implementation of the communist ideology,


No, it's not. When you're sent to Siberia in October without winter clothes, sufficient food, or firewood, they don't mean for you to return. When you're put in a Gulag to mine salt or coal and there's no protective gear, you're worked 16 or so hours a day, the food's insufficient, etc. there's no intent to reeducate you and return you to society.

I'd suggest doing a bit of reading. Stalin's policies were designed to make people die. It wasn't a flawed implementation of anything.

Quote:
where the holocaust deathtoll is due to a succesful implementation of the nazi ideology.


Why does the ideology matter? A man in charge of a nation used the power of that nation to make millions die. That Hitler wrote a book about it first doesn't make what he did worse. Mao has similar issues relating to the Chinese revolution, the Great Leap forward, etc. Pol Pot in Cambodia the same.

When your thinking makes it OK to extinguish millions, I really don't care what the ideology is. It's just a mask for sadism and murder.
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qzhdad wrote:
When one hears someone was tortured before being killed it seems worse than just being killed. Why?

Cause human suffering is bad if you identify as human.

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perfalbion wrote:
When your thinking makes it OK to extinguish millions, I really don't care what the ideology is. It's just a mask for sadism and murder.

We agree on that part.

Basically I'm derailing your thread. Sorry. The point I'm making is, on several spots I see "Communism is responsible for the death of..."
It's not the ideology's fault. It's Stalin's fault. And his cronies. It's his policies, not the ideology.

To bring in DWTripp's Indians: it would be just as strange to blame the Indian death toll on democracy.
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perfalbion wrote:
BFoy wrote:
The level of atrocity gets to the point where its impossible to deal with it in a rational manner. Look at the hundreds of thousands of Poles who died in the Warsaw Uprising, does Hitler get the blame or Stalin?


In my book? Both. But I'm not sure I get a vote, just an opinion.


Yes but how would you go about quantifying that?

 
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BFoy wrote:
Yes but how would you go about quantifying that?


I think you're asking me why I'd hold the opinion I do, but your question is a bit clunky so if you're not, please ask again.

I believe we've a positive moral duty to prevent murder when we've the power to do so. The Russians knew that the revolt in Warsaw was planned, that the revolt was to be timed to tie down German troops as the Red Army advanced, and that the resistance would require assistance or they'd be slaughtered eventually. Rather than striking for Warsaw, they sat and waited and let the Germans and the ghetto residents kill each other based on orders that the commanding generals received. Since they could have acted, had the power to at least lessen the death toll, and failed to those that issued those orders are complicit in the crimes committed.

Is that what you were looking for?
 
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_Kael_ wrote:
Basically I'm derailing your thread. Sorry. The point I'm making is, on several spots I see "Communism is responsible for the death of..."
It's not the ideology's fault. It's Stalin's fault. And his cronies. It's his policies, not the ideology.


Well, I don't subscribe to the suggestion in the OP, which is why I didn't reply to it. I think people who want to whitewash what went on are voluntarily blinding themselves to history, which is just about always dangerous.

Regardless, the Communist ideology (and in particular the form of socialism practiced in the USSR) created a state apparatus that was designed to allow such activities and keep them quiet. The ideology is at least partially to blame because it did not provide any form of transparency or accountability for these types of actions.

Quote:
To bring in DWTripp's Indians: it would be just as strange to blame the Indian death toll on democracy.


Change the ideology from "democracy" to "Eurocentrism" and I think you're closer to the point. The Indian atrocities, many horrible acts in Africa, India, and parts of Asia were all committed because white, Christian people "knew what was better" for the local populace and had not only the right, but the destiny to bring their form of governance and freedom to the world.

We use ideology to justify what we do. It can be an uplifting and unifying tool or it can be a mask for other things. Sometimes, it can be both at once.
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