In a significant way, ‘Bolshevism was worse than fascism,’ Shtepa says

Ukrainian protesters smash a statue of Vladimir Lenin with a sledgehammer after toppling it, in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky)

Ukrainian protesters smash a statue of Vladimir Lenin with a sledgehammer after toppling it, in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) 

2015/11/06 • Analysis & Opinion, History, Russia

Tomorrow, some will celebrate the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, and on Monday, a much smaller number will mark the anniversary of the Third Reich, a conjunction of dates that again prompts many to compare these two systems and their evils.

Vadim Shtepa, Russian philosopher, political writer

Vadim Shtepa, Russian philosopher, political writer

In a Rufabula commentary today, Russian regionalist Vadim Shtepa says that “it is useful to recall an ethnical distinction” between the two totalitarian systems of the 20th century “not of course with the goal of justifying either of these regimes” but rather because interest in both remains so high.

When the OSCE in 2009 suggested that Stalinism was like Nazism, many Russians were furious, at least in part because their government considers itself ‘the legal successor of the USSR’ and as a result, “the exclusively Soviet treatment of the events of World War II and the preceding period even intensified.”

To be sure, Russian academic historians and publicists continued to be allowed to criticize certain excesses in that period, Shtepa says, but “on the whole, [the Stalinist system] is considered… ‘an heir’ to the Enlightenment with its progressive stance, rationalism and humanism.”

“Buchenwald is in no way better than Kolyma. But without Kolyma there wouldn’t have been a Buchenwald.”

“Compared with this,” he continues, “European fascism (in the broad sense including all the rightwing anti-communism regimes of that era) is treated as ‘an absolute evil.’” Beyond question, Shtepa says, “Nazism from an ethical point of view really can be called [that] because “a regime based on the destruction of people of other nationalities from the outset was condemned, if humanity wanted to remain humanity.”

This old Soviet poster with Lenin has the Bolshevik's "The Decree on Peace" as the background

This old Soviet poster with Lenin has the Bolshevik’s “Decree on Peace” as the background

“But all the same, this absolute evil was honest. What it professed, it carried out,” Shtepa says, unlike the case with Bolshevism were there was “a gigantic gulf between its declarations and the real outcomes.”

That can be seen if one considers the three famous decrees Lenin issued immediately after coming to power in October 1917, promising the peoples of Russia (1) peace, (2) land, and (3) the right of self-determination. In all three cases, the Bolsheviks promised one thing but carried out a very different policy.

“Peace”

The Bolsheviks promised a people tired of war “’a just and democratic peace’ without annexations or reparations.” But as soon as they had power in their hands, they showed that they were not committed to peace; and in 1920 the Red Army invaded Poland. Fortunately, thanks to the Miracle on the Vistula, it was defeated and spreading the revolution by war failed.

The Bolshevik's "Decree on Land" of 1917 was gutted by the forced collectivization imposed by the regime just a short time later.

The Bolshevik’s “Decree on Land” of 1917 was gutted by the forced collectivization imposed by the regime just a short time later.

“Land”

Lenin also issued a decree promising to give land to the peasants, the Russian regionalist continues. But in fact, again, they quickly took back what they promised and drove the peoples under their control into collective farms, killing all those who resisted or even were assumed to resist this action.

“The right of self-determination”

Vladimir Lenin's work titled "On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination" could not be further from the neo-imperialism reality that the Bolsheviks implemented after they came to power.

Vladimir Lenin’s work titled “On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination” could not be further from the neo-imperialism reality that the Bolsheviks implemented after they came to power.

The third Bolshevik decree, “the declaration of the rights of the peoples of Russia” had a similar fate. It proclaimed “the equality and sovereignty of the peoples of Russia, [their] right to free self-determination up to separation and formation of independent states, the elimination of all national and national-religious preferences and restrictions, and the free development of national minorities and ethnographic groups.”

“Had this declaration been realized,” Shtepa says, “it would have meant the total overcoming of the Russian imperial tradition. However, in reality, the Bolsheviks had completely different plans which called for the restoration of the empire but on different ideological foundations.”

Lenin was forced to recognize the independent of Finland in December 1917, but he immediately armed the Finnish Red Guards in the hopes of re-uniting that country with “’the republic of the soviets.’” And he sent troops against Karelians who took the declaration of their rights seriously.

In this way, Shtepa says, “having begun with a struggle against ‘tsarist imperialism,’ the Bolsheviks ended with the restoration of a centralized empire – only in much harsher forms.” The russification of national minorities intensified, but ethnic Russians “hardly won anything as a result.”

In 1936, Lev Trotsky, already a political émigré, published his book, “The Revolution Betrayed,” in which he accused the Stalinist regime of “’bureaucratic degeneration.’” But in fact, Trotsky himself was the originator of many of that regime’s worst features, including the concentration camps.

Here, Shtepa says, is the “sharp contrast” between what the Bolsheviks promised and what they delivered, the conversion of the country into “a totalitarian dictatorship unprecedented in world history.” Not surprisingly, this frightened the Europeans, and “in essence, European fascism became reaction to the cynical lie of the communists.”

Many historians who speak of fascism as an absolute evil, Shtepa concludes, “do not see or do not want to see this cause and effect linkage. Buchenwald is in no way better than Kolyma. But without Kolyma there wouldn’t have been a Buchenwald.”

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Dagwood Bumstead

    In a speech in Zürich in 1914, Lenin said “What Ireland was for England, the Ukraine has become for Russia: exploited in the extreme, and getting nothing in return. Thus the interests of the world proletariat in general and the Russian proletariat in particular require that the Ukraine regains its independence.”
    In a similar vein, Stalin told the 10th Party Congress in 1921 “Clearly, the Ukrainian nation exists and the development of its culture is a duty of us Communists. One cannot go against history.”
    So much for Bolshevik promises. We know of their actions against the Ukraine, and those of their successors, including the demented dwarf.

    And somebody should remind the demented dwarf of the statement Stalin, his Great Hero and Shining Hero, made about the Ukrainian nation. The dwarf claims that the Ukraine is not a nation, Ukrainians not a people, Ukrainian not a language, Ukrainian culture does not exist. Does he even know that he is contradicting his hero??????

  • Niall Fraser Love

    “on the whole, [the Stalinist system] is considered… ‘an heir’ to the Enlightenment with its progressive stance, rationalism and humanism.”
    In what way was Tsarist Russia ANY of those things? Russia was a neo-feudal country, completely backwards technologically and politically. It was an absolute monarchy, with 80% of the population illiterate and the people had no rights and non-Russians where made to speak and live by Russian culture.

    • Quartermaster

      The Stalinist system was heir to none of those things, and that’s the point. Stalinism was all about maintain the Russian Empire under his version of fascism, with him at the top.