Moral outrage and honest learning

In my defenses of various historical events pertaining to communism – Mao’s China, the Russian Revolution – I unsurprisingly encounter the usual banal opposition.  At least some non-communists are willing to learn, to journey with me into the historical work and debates surrounding these events.  I’ll of course reference historians like R.W. Davies, J. Arch Getty, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Mobo Gao, and others.

But what infuriates me is when people aren’t really interested in learning at all.  They just know that Mao killed absurd numbers of people, and any attempt to argue otherwise is met with indignant scoffing, as if Holocaust denial and serious analysis of the history of the 20th century communist movement were at all comparable (of course, liberals are at pains to push fascism and communism together under the vague and ineffectual term “totalitarianism”).  They somehow feel proud of themselves for resisting actual history and upholding their mythology.

Of course, those who are opposed to communism would try to dodge the successes of the movement, but what is actually much more infuriating is the attitude betrayed by the fact that by the same token, they have little interest in a serious analysis of the failures of the movement so far.  In this way, even their “moral” outrage is disingenuous, for instead honestly investigating what failures occurred and why (such as the human disaster during agricultural collectivization in Stalin’s USSR) so that we can avoid them in the future, they just want to discredit communism.  Opposing communism is first in their mind, and “moral” outrage and claimed desire to avoid failure and suffering in the future is at best secondary or at worst completely feigned.

As a communist, I want to take a nuanced look at, say, the millions of deaths during soviet agricultural collectivization, not just to counter absurd comparisons of the USSR to Hitler’s Germany and ridiculously inflated death toll claims, but to learn what went wrong so it won’t happen again.  Those who reject such serious inquiry could at heart care less about saving and improving lives, but just want to crush the red menace.

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One comment

  1. PatrickSMcNally

    Mark Tauger is the leading authority on the famine of 1932-3. Strictly speaking this wasn’t actually a famine during collectivization, since collectivization was basically finished in 1931. The suspicions of kulak sabotage which urban authorities held did make it harded for them to grasp the importance of crop failure. But the latter had more to do with plant rust than with collectivization. Plant rust allowed a stalk to grow with fewer grains in it, so that the impression of a plentiful crop was created when the crop had actually been a failure. That spurned charges that someone was hiding the grain crops, when no one was.

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