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The Magistrate

(95,244 posts)
7. It Will Do To Be Going On, Comrade
Tue Oct 14, 2014, 02:17 PM
Oct 2014

Past a point, further adjectives just get in the way of accuracy.

Save for Czechoslovakia, I cannot think of a single east European nationalist movement in the inter-war period which was not also fascist and anti-semitic.

In the Ukraine, things took on a particular virulence.

In the late Czarist period, anti-semitism had been deliberately fomented by the secret police as a measure against leftist radicalism, and as the Jews of Russia were concentrated in Ukraine, it struck particularly deep there. A great many people were thoroughly convinced Jew and Bolshevik were synonymous terms, and had learned it young from their elders. A brief period of independence after the Great War was quashed with extraordinary violence a great many Ukrainians regarded as conquest by Russian Bolsheviks. Not long after this came the extraordinary starvation of several millions of Ukrainians, mostly rural people, as a deliberate policy of the Communist government in Moscow. Things like this leave scars, and upset and unbalance minds. Hate of Russia and of Communism, for a good many people there, was just another way to say hate for Jews, and the prospect of fighting Russia and Communism with any success was only opened by the growing power of Hitler in Germany.

People caught in the middle of a fight between Hitler and Stalin cannot honestly be said to have any clean choices for action; there, to oppose one monster is necessarily to align with another. There is certainly good reason for Nazism to have become our culture's symbol of absolute evil, but part of that identity owes to the fact that we in the West aligned with Stalin against Hitler ourselves, and so for all the power of Anti-Communism here, have still to justify that alignment, and can only do it by blinking a little at just how bad Stalin was. He killed far more people than Hitler, and did so just as torturously and cruelly; granted, he had more time and a larger pool of people available for most of it. But it would be quite easy to make a case for Stalin being 'worse' than Hitler, by both objective and emotional measures. Many people, in that place and in those days, made horrible, even evil choices, that they ought not to have made, but people ought not to be put in a position where just about every choice they can possibly make is foul and likely evil, and people's minds ought not to be systematically debauched with hate inculcated for political advantage, either.

Bandera, and his supporters, sold themselves to a devil, and did evil. I hold no brief for them, and what the Soviets did to them does not bother me. But it remains true that they sold themselves to a devil to fight a devil, and that both the devils involved plumbed the deepest pits of mass cruelty. No one is clean in this, and brandishing it from either side, as if the current events are a replay of the Civil War, or the Great Patriotic War, is profoundly wrong and deeply dishonest.

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