The Road To Hell Was Paved With Bad Intentions



Professor Bryan Caplan of the Department of Economics at George Mason University writes about the double standard in the treatment of communist atrocities relative to their Nazi counterparts. He maintains a website at which he hosts an online Museum of Communism and blogs at EconLog. Look for his book on voter irrationality next year.

Like the Nazis, the Communists murdered tens of millions. But even today, few people hold both movements in equal contempt. Citizens of the West remain largely ignorant of the crimes of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. But even those who know what happened shy away from the thesis that the two movements were morally equivalent. Why is this?

Admittedly, there are a few who still deny that the death counts were really comparable. Seumas Milne, in a recent editorial in the Guardian, manages to get the Soviet death toll down by almost a factor of ten by excluding the man-made famines of Lenin and Stalin. This is an underwhelming response, however: Is it any surprise that the Germans mass murdered in a cold, methodical way, while the Russians mass murdered in a chaotic, barbaric way?

One might also argue that the Nazis were worse because they had a higher death rate. Hitler packed the bulk of his crimes into a six year period; Lenin and Stalin together spread theirs out over thirty six. Perhaps this shows that if the Nazis had won, they would have been even worse than the Communists. But this projection is shaky. Hitler waited for six years and the cover to war to start killing millions; the Communists started killing millions almost immediately, and continued during peacetime. Hitler's peace might have been even bloodier than Stalin's peace, but it's anybody's guess.

In any case, this argument is too subtle to explain why the world judges Communism less harshly than Nazism. In my judgment, the main reason for the double standard is that, even today, people believe that the Communists had better intentions than the Nazis. Perhaps the most eloquent statement of this position comes from Joseph Davies, the pro-Stalin U.S. ambassador to the U.S.S.R.:

Both Germany and Soviet Russia are totalitarian states. Both are realistic. Both are strong and ruthless in their methods. There is one distinction, however, and that is as clear as black and white. It can be simply illustrated. If Marx, Lenin, or Stalin had been firmly grounded in the Christian faith, either Catholic or Protestant, and if by reason of that fact this communistic experiment in Russia had been projected upon this basis, it would probably be declared to be one of the greatest efforts of Christian altruism in history to translate the ideals of brotherhood and charity as preached in the gospel of Christ into a government of men... That is the difference - the communistic Soviet state could function with the Christian religion in its basic purpose to serve the brotherhood of man. It would be impossible for the Nazi state to do so.(Journal entry, July 7, 1941)

But while the argument from good intentions is probably the main reason why people think that Communism was better than Nazism, the argument is at best half-baked. The Nazis dreamed of "perfect brotherhood" too - an Aryan utopia. Even in his Final Political Testament, Hitler placed "every single person under an obligation to serve the common interest and to subordinate his own advantage to this end." And both Nazis and Communists had the same basic road map to perfect brotherhood: killing everyone unfit to be their brothers.

In short, both ideologies began with the creepy demand that human beings stop being the diverse, self-interested animals that we are, and eagerly jumped to the conclusion that a bloodbath was in order. How could their intentions be any more comparable - or any worse?

Perhaps the parallel is hard to see precisely because, even in the West, anti-capitalist propaganda has successfully dehumanized the bourgeoisie, landlords, money-lenders, and "the rich." So when we hear Communists chant "Death to the bourgeoisie," we don't feel the same way we do when we hear Nazis chant "Death to the Jews."

What is worth remembering every May Day, then, is that the people murdered by the Communists were, by and large, as blameless as the farmer who grows your food, the banker who lends you money, or the landlord who rents your apartment. Like the Jews of Europe, they were scapegoats - and anyone who genuinely had good intentions could have seen it at the time.


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Sadly it's even worse than

Sadly it's even worse than this excellent article argues. It's positively hip to wear a t shirt with Che or CCCP emblazoned across your chest these days, see how far you'd get wearing a swastika.

There are perhaps additional reasons for the disparity with which these two dreadful systems are now treated in the west.

One is that the west fought the Nazis in WWII, whereas we never got into a straight shooting war with the Soviets. Everyone grows up with books and movies in which the enemies, quite rightly, are the Nazis. Brits think of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain while Americans think of D Day. There are comparitively few films or books which posit the Soviets as the enemy, even the James Bond films had 'Smersh' as the enemy, or some big capitalist lunatic. The cold war is almost forgotten now, the fact that the Red Army imposed communism at the point of a gun is lost. How many teenagers with CCCP on their chests have even heard about the annexation of the Baltic states or the building of the Berlin Wall, or Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968 or Poland in 1980? For them even the revolutions of 1989 are ancient history.

The Nazis are studied in schools far more than the Soviet Union, and in these days of political correctness about the only people you're actually allowed to call evil are the Nazis. People will happily admit to extreme left wing views at dinner parties, whereas they'd die before admitting they voted for Mrs Thatcher. It's hip to hate Israel from a left wing perspective, it's only bad to hate the jews if you're a Nazi! When the Russian revolution is taught it's seldom pointed out that the Bolsheviks staged a coup against Kerensky's democratic government. It was a revolution against democracy, not in its name. Nine people out of ten believe the communists overthrew the Tsar - in fact they just murdered him. The Russian Civil War is hardly ever taught in schools, the idea is given that the whole of the Russian empire immediately supported the Bolsheviks, when in truth it was conquored by the Red Army.

There is a vast bulk of documentary evidence about the death camps and nazi atrocities but if you google 'gulag' you can find very few photos of the camps or piles of stricken bodies. The Nazi death camps were
in the heart of europe, while Siberia is a long way away. Any film maker can get good reviews by bravely making a film condeming the Nazis but I can't think of a Hollywood film about the gulag. No allied tanks trundled into Siberia taking photographs or handing out chocolate. Like the vast numbers of people starved or murdered by Mao, if it's not on TV it didn't happen.

During and after WWII the Soviets demonised the Nazis to justify their own tyranny, the one great accomplishment of the Soviets was victory in the Great Patriotic War and every Soviet citizen grew up bombarded by this message to a degree unthinkable in the west. Western apologists for Soviet tyranny swallowed this line too, the communists did one or two bad things, but at least they opposed the Nazis, so actually, hey, they must have been good. The Nazi-Soviet pact and the joint invasion of Poland didn't get a lot of publicity.

There were no Nuremburg trials for the men who ran and controlled the Gulag. Stalin died a hero, not a revilled mass killer. Even today in Russia there are statues of Lenin in every town square and virtually no memorials to those who died in the camps. There's a tiny one I saw in St. Petersburg, for 'those who died in the camps', but there's never been a mass reckoning. The Germans were forced to confront the evil of the regime, the Russians never were.

The Soviets propaganda was swallowed whole by the CND kids of the 50s, 60s and 80s. The Soviets said they wanted peace and so that, not the 40,000 nuclear weapons pointed in our direction, was taken to be the truth. CND held that the USA was the aggressive threat to world peace, and those kids are in power now. Everything now said about George Bush, that war mongering, stupid, evil cowboy, was once said about Ronald Reagan.

In the end it comes down to this. Left wing academics and media folk support socialism. They see the history of communism as an excess of zeal, not the inevitable result of a poisonous doctrine. They see it as an ideal which became (slightly) perverted in practise, not a curse imposed and maintained by murder and occupation. When you're implacably opposed to capitalism and the USA (although happy to live in the rich society it creates) then any enemy of it is your friend.

The left now supports Saddam Hussain and Osama Bin Laden, quite happy to march in their name, to excuse suicide bombers, to condemn any action taken against Islamist terrorists determined to destroy us. If they're capable of that then their ignoring the butchery of the Soviet Union shouldn't come as any surprise.

Think how this preference

Think how this preference manifests itself daily. Students and journalists propose various socialist-lite policies: windfall profits tax, tax on the rich, rights to jobs, etc. Basically, coerced redistribution from the rich (bastards) to the poor (noble wreches). Silly ideas done many times, with poor results. But they are given a B+, not because it's new or true, but it serves egalitarian ends, and fidelity to this cause is most important. Nazis were inegalitarian.

In NYC's trendy lower

In NYC's trendy lower Manhattan there is a KGB Bar...

http://www.kgbbar.com/

... that is very popular for drinks and such among the literary set.

At this date there is still no Gestapo Bar.

Very Good Article by Mr.

Very Good Article by Mr. Caplan:

Would like to add the following. The birthplace of Communism, Russia, was itself a very anti-semitic country. As a result, a great number of those who supported the overthrow of the Czar were Jewish. In fact, through the 1920s into the 1930s perhaps half the Russian Communists were Jews.
They, and their party were supported by recent Jewish immigrants to the United States who in the 1920s established the movie industry. Stalin, himself a closet anti-semite, began tightening the noose on Jewish Communists as the 1930s advanced, and by the beginning of the Cold War was almost as overtly anti-Semitic as Hitler. This was a source of great worry and embarrrassment to many Western Jews and their non Jewish fellow travelers.
But they had already made that emotional, quasi religious committment, and could in no way recant. Emotion trumps reason in every instance. Thus to this day the Jews, in addition to recalling the Nazi holocaust, and quietly reflecting on the prior Slavic pograms spend precious little time reflecting on the Communist tyrannies their brethren helped to install. They have, perhaps understandibly, very little regard for Slavs. But there is the added pain of knowing they aided in founding various regimes that eventually turned the tables on themselves as well.
Because the Jewish ethnics control the motion picture studios they will continue to produce movies reiterating the violent nature of the Nazi Regime. At the same time they will continue to keep the lid closed on movie making regards the even more sinister regimes to the east they helped to found, and which in turn drew daggers on them. Moscow, the capitals of Europe and Jerusalem have been grievious disappointments to the Jewish people. Their real bit of heaven on earth is among the urbanized hills of southwest California. From there they can project onto the world the sort of history they themselves, cosmopolitan Episcopalians, secular humanists and heart broken socialists the world over prefer to see.

Submitted for Your

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Submitted for Your

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