Thursday, 28 September 2017

The World According to Scientific Socialism

Depraved and Demonic

Stalin's Gulag would seem to be a most extreme example of man's inhumanity to man.  It strikes the historian or observer as inconceivable.  On, the other hand, arguably it was inevitable, given the general perversity of man coupled with a dictatorship in the grip of demonic powers.

Imagine a country filled with slave labour camps--filled in the sense of being all over the country, from Moscow through the empty steppes of the central and eastern USSR.  Beavering away were Moscovian communist bureaucrats laying down administrative rules and regulations addressing every minute aspect of camp life.  The making of rules was without end.  Prisoners were allocated food servings per day down to the precise number of grams of bread each prisoner was to receive, clothes (to last two years or longer), minimum hours of sleep, and so forth.  But, at the same time, the production targets of the labour camps were steadily increased.  So, local camp commanders and their officers cut corners on slave provisions and required longer working hours, shorter breaks and meal times, and so forth.

Anne Applebaum's Gulag comprehensively documents the demonic horror of the camps.  It is too long, too involved, and too complex to summarise adequately.  We will quote just one example:

The more inexperienced and exhausted the prisoner, the more he would suffer.  Evgeniya Ginzburg wrote a classic description to two women, both intellectuals unaccustomed to hard labour, both weakened by years in prison trying to cut down trees.  [Trees were important for timber, Ed.]
For three days, Galya and I struggled to achieve the impossible.  Poor trees, how they must have suffered at being mangled by our inexpert hands.  Half-dead ourselves, and completely unskilled, we were in not condition to tackle them.  The axe would slip and send showers of chips in our faced.  We sawed feverishly, jerkily, mentally accusing each of  other of clumsiness--we knew we could not afford the luxury of a quarrel.  Time and again the saw got stuck.  But the most terrifying moment was when the tree was at last on the point of falling, only we didn't know which way.  Once Galya got hit on the head, but the medical orderly refused even to put iodine on the cut, saying, "Aha! That's an old trick!  Trying to get exempted on the first day, are you?"
At the end of the day, the brigadier [supervisor] declared Evgeniya and Galya had achieved 18 per cent of the norm, and "paid" them for their poor showing.  "Receiving the scrap of bread which corresponded to our performance, we were led out next day literally staggering from weakness to our place of work"  Meanwhile the brigadier kept repeating that he "did not intend to throw away precious food on traitors who could not fulfil their norm".
If prisoners failed to fulfil their work quotas (all laid down in the bureaucrat's manual) their meagre food ration was reduced as a punishment.  Next day, food and sleep deprived, the likelihood they would  manage to meet their work quota was naturally less.  Countless prisoners died of exhaustion and starvation, as well as from the inevitable diseases that spread amongst the weaker, malnourished slaves.

Overlaying all this was the extreme climatic conditions in which this hard labour was to be undertaken.  In many places, the summer temperatures to well over 30 degrees centigrade.  Slaves were plagued by disease carrying mosquitoes.  But in the winter, temperatures would fall to 30 or 40 degrees below zero.
Yet another wrote that "It was dangerous to stop moving.  During head count we jumped, ran in place, and slapped our bodies to keep warm.  I perpetually kneaded my toes and curled my fingers into a fist . . . touching a metal tool with a bare hand could tear off the skin, and going to the bathroom was extremely dangerous.  A bout of diarrhoea could land you in the snow for ever."  As a result, some prisoners simply soiled their trousers: "Working next to them was unpleasant, and back in the tent, when we began to warm up, the stench was unbearable.  Those who had soiled themselves were often beaten and thrown out."  [Anne Appelbaum, Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), p. 212, 3.]
Readers, when confronted with such depravity, are likely to see this as an aberration, an extreme outlier, that does not characterize the human race.  Sadly, anyone who cannot imagine themselves being part of a regime--and working for it--which engaged in murder and depravity on a vast industrial scale, is self-deceived.  After all, Stalin and his coterie were simply attempted rationally to bring into existence the world according to Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.  They were ruling the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, after all.  And there are plenty of apologists for that world throughout the West.

As the Scripture says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"  [Jeremiah 17:10]

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