Posted by: mydarkestplaces | July 4, 2013

Stalinist Perspective on the Fourth of July

1937 saw the expulsion of many veterans of the NKVD (that is to say the Soviet Secret Police), including Yagoda – the man who initially led the NKVD – and his staff for “breaches of soviet legality.” (Conquest, The Great Terror, 341)

We’ll leave behind, for the purposes of this post, the incongruity of Stalin and Co. accusing anyone of breaching Soviet legality and touch on the fact Yagoda, and many of his senior staffers, had started as Stalin’s henchmen. While they weren’t the first to enforce famine or send people to prison camps – and obviously they weren’t the last – they had almost always toed the line for Stalin. It wasn’t until Yagoda started being privately and publicly skeptical of Stalin’s actions that his name came up to be shipped out.

Reading what happened in the Great Purges of 1937 and ’38 has been interesting because, while they absolutely affected every person and family in the the USSR – a lot of research particularly in the first half of Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, focuses on how the purges affected the power classes. However, as Conquest will say – as any Sovietologist will say, really – while the purges were focused on Party leadership, the state policies that governed the rest of the country were equally heinous.

State enforced famine, millions of men, women and children deported to prisons and camps as punishment for asking for more [insert your noun of choice]. Millions killed because they “might” be a threat to Stalin and/or the State – or because they didn’t see Stalin and the State as synonymous. It is sad just how accurate the phrase, “beatings will continue until morale improves” was in the Soviet Union – particularly during the Stalinist years.

In light of this – in light of the absurdly hysterical posturing by Stalin; in light of the unmitigated terror experienced by Russians and other denizens of the USSR from 1925 to 1953 (and, yes, beyond) – instead of complaining about all the areas of opportunity the United States has, instead of complaining about this party, that party, or that other party, just be thankful for all the things we don’t have to be worried about. There are, for sure, a lot of things I think we would all change about this country – not that they’re the same things from person to person, but there are a lot of things. Let’s just be grateful we can grouse and complain about the things we would want to change and this party, that party, or the other party.

Happy Fourth of July, friends. Be grateful, everyday but today especially, that we can bitch and complain to our heart’s content. Stalin is no longer in power (or alive, for that matter) and the USSR has long since disintegrated, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still far too many countries out there where people are punished – severely – or even killed for speaking up and out.

We have it so good here. Let’s remember that.

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