The West's Deal With the Devil
by Eric Margolis
by Eric Margolis
BANFF — This seems to be a month of historic guilt. Germany just opened a new memorial to Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. Armenians demand Turkey admit Ottoman-era massacres were genocide. Japan is being blasted anew for denying wartime atrocities. Spain is again racked by memories of crimes committee during its bloody civil war.
Yet the greatest crime in modern history, and bloodiest genocide, has almost vanished from our collective memory. Last week marked the 70th anniversary of the Great Terror in the Soviet Union in which tens of millions were murdered or imprisoned.
Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, at least commemorated for the first time what he termed "colossal" Soviet crimes by attending a memorial last week for its victims. The site was a killing ground south of Moscow where the secret police shot over 20,000 victims.
It was interesting watching Putin, former head of the FSB security service, denouncing crimes of its direct predecessors, KGB and NKVD. The same Putin who recently called the Soviet Union's collapse a "tragedy." Still, we applaud his long-overdue recognition of Communist-era crimes. Putin has at least broken Russia's shameful official silence.
The Soviet terror began in the 1920's when Lenin ordered the extermination of Cossacks and opponents of the Bolsheviks. Next came Catholics of White Russia, and resisters to communism in the Baltic states and Moldova. Stalin then ordered liquidation of 2 million small farmers, known as "Kulaks."
In 1932—33, Stalin unleashed genocide against Ukraine's independent-minded farmers. Six to seven million Ukrainians were shot or purposely starved to death. Starving Ukrainians even resorted to cannibalism. The man who directed this genocide, Lazar Kaganovitch, the Soviet Eichmann — was made Hero of the Soviet Union and died peacefully in Moscow in 1991.
When Communist Party bureaucrats delayed Stalin's plans to transform the Soviet Union from a backwards rural society into a modern industrial powerhouse, "Koba," as he was called, had NKVD shoot 700,000 party members. Thereafter, his orders were promptly obeyed. Almost all the party and military hierarchy were executed during the Great Purges of 1937—38, which culminated in the notorious Moscow Show Trials that received worldwide attention.
From 1934—1941 alone, some 7 million victims were sent to the system of concentration camps known as the "gulag," including one million Poles, hundreds of thousands Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians, and half the entire Muslim Chechen and Ingush people. Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Bashkirs, Kalmyks followed. Stalin's gulag did not need gas chambers: cold, disease and overwork killed 30% of inmates yearly.
To this day, Russian and foreign historians are unsure of the full number of Lenin and Stalin's victims. Estimates range from 20—40 million total deaths from 1922 to 1953 — and this awesome figure does not include deaths in World War II.
Stalin committed his worst crimes well before Hitler's major atrocities got under way. His concentration camps were opened and filled with inmates by the early 1930's.
We have forgotten that Germany alone did not spark World War II, as most people believe. Germany and the USSR jointly invaded Poland in 1939; Stalin then attacked neutral Finland. Two years later, Britain and the USSR invaded neutral Iran, an aggression as lawless and brazen as the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland. History indeed remains the propaganda of the victors.
If we keep hectoring Germany and Japan to admit guilt for events of the 1940's, is it not time the United States, Britain, and Canada admit their own culpability in allying themselves to Stalin, a monster who killed over four times the number of Hitler's victims?
After all, Stalin's concentration camps were up and running a decade ahead of Germany's. The murder of millions of Ukrainians and White Russians took place before the world's gaze, 6—7 years before World War II.
The foolish Roosevelt, who hailed Stalin as "Uncle Joe," and the cannier Churchill both knew they were allied to the biggest mass murderer since Genghis Khan. They used a larger devil to fight a smaller, less dangerous one — then paid his price by handing over half of Europe to Moscow. Remember this when today's warmongers wax poetic about the glories of World War II — and call for WWIII.
Western powers should practice what they piously preach to Germany, Japan and, lately, Turkey, by at least apologizing for their sordid deal with Stalin. Which was every bit as immoral as if they had made a deal with Hitler, as Stalin long feared they would, to destroy the Soviet Union.
November 7, 2007
Copyright © 2007 Eric Margolis