Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Death Blow to Moral Chaos"

Nature it selfe cannot erre: and as men abound in copiousnesse of language; so they become more wise or more mad than ordinary.
                                                      Thomas Hobbes

The Communists in close rivalry with the Nazis for brutality and duplicity have been far superior to the Nazis in one crucial regard; the ability to cover up or rationalize their crimes and depredations.  In part this was due to the fact that Stalin with the help of the Western powers – Lend Lease, Studebaker trucks and a Western front – defeated Hitler.   Stalin won and winners usually get to write the script and exert control over the storyline.  In 1945 with the collapse of the Nazi regime, Auschwitz and Buchenwald became suddenly and spectacularly the horror story of the century. Upon the vanquished Germans fell the responsibility for the holocaust and the horrible collective guilt. “Genocide” entered the moral and legal vocabulary of the twentieth century, a neologism that met the need to underscore both the moral and physical magnitude of what the Germans had done to the European Jews.   Hitler was immediately and forever stamped with odium and all the appropriate markings of a sadistic monster.  Stalin’s mass murders, his Gulag, his Terror Famine in Ukraine, the forced deportations of entire peoples, and the Katyn Wood massacre he ordered, however, were ignored or lied about for decades.  Only much later long after Stalin was dead, did his atrocities begin to bear wide spread scrutiny and invite comparisons.  Those who attempted to bring the history of these comparable barbarities to light were attacked by the Left – by illustrious philosophers such as Jean Paul Sartre – as reactionaries and crypto-Fascists or dismissed as cranks. “An anti-Communist is a dog, I don’t change my views on this, I never shall” was Sartre’s response to those who might mention Stalin’s Hitler-like practices.  [Quoted from Hilton Kramer, “The Flowers on Sartre’s Grave”] And he never did.  Until he died in 1980 the bourgeoisie-loathing, café-lounging Paris scribbler exclusively reserved his admiration and support for the Gulag-humanitarians, first Stalin, then Mao and Castro.  
Also, the Communists, unlike the Nazis, were generously assisted in their efforts at self-sanitization by prestigious adulators from afar.   Off to Moscow they dutifully trekked for a peek at the promise land in the making and a friendly chat in the Kremlin with the yellow-eyed, pipe smoking man in the grey tunic. “Uncle Joe”, as he was to FDR had divined the blueprint.  Back they came deeply impressed – from FDR’s Vice President Henry Wallace to George Bernard Shaw to H.G. Wells. Socialism, central economic planning and egalitarianism were in in place and successful: they seemed to be working pretty well for the Russians. 
When the bright sheen wore off of the USSR after a time there were new Communist utopias under construction to visit and to enthuse over – China, Cuba and North Vietnam.  Hewlett Johnson, the Dean of Canterbury made three trips to Mao’s China from 1952 to 1959.  Johnson was touring just when Mao was launching his forced collectivization of the Chinese peasantry in imitation of Stalin’s efforts in the 1930s.  His impressions were recorded in The Upsurge of China published in 1961 just at the time when Mao’s Great Leap Forward was plunging China into a horrific famine. With what he saw in China he could not have been more enthralled and could not have been more extravagant in his praise.  Communism, Chinese style, was the way of the future, morally far superior in its organization and operation. “The new socialism and communism in China,” enthused Johnson, “provides a new moral basis for society.  It has struck a death blow to a moral chaos that reigns in the existence of many sovereign states, each restricted by any moral law curtailing its absolute sovereignty.” [Hewlett Johnson, The Upsurge of China, New World Press, 1961, 366] “Death blow to a moral chaos” – one can only speculate on the mental moorings that would produce this metaphor.  The “death blow” that Mao’s new China was striking was not to whatever "moral chaos" the good Dean seemed to dredge out of his imagination, but to millions of its peasants, deliberately starved by the government.
 Worshipful clerics, journalists, professors and intellectuals have remained a staple of Communist apologetics throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.  A master at special pleading for Communist despots, quite late in the twentieth century when much of the world possessed a fairly firm grasp about how lethal Peoples’ Republics had been for their residents, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky sought in his After the Cataclysm to air brush out of consideration Pol Pot’s mass murder in Cambodia.  “In the first place, is it proper to attribute deaths from famine and disease to the Cambodian authorities?"  Chomsky has always been consistent in holding up the most rigorous standards of responsibility to his own government and delineating with exactitude their particular inequities, but for one of the most brutal dictatorships of modern times he prefers to be generous and forgiving.

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