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The Great Terror

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Robert Tulip

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The Great Terror

The Great Terror

Partly inspired by reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, with its window on the Russian soul, I have just read The Great Terror – A Reassessment, by Robert Conquest. In the 1930s, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin organised massive arbitrary purges that killed millions of people. As well as direct and deliberate mass murder through shooting of innocent people, Stalin sent millions to death and extreme suffering in the gulag concentration camps in Siberia, totally traumatising the USSR through obscene cruelty. The history of these events has many enduring lessons for politics and psychology, and the boundaries of what is humanly possible.

Stalin’s constant paranoid focus was ensuring his total personal power and eliminating all perceived threats, regardless of guilt, using tyrannical principles such as ‘tremble and obey’ and ‘no man no problem’. Any hint of dissent led to immediate arrest and murder. He successfully deceived the world with massive show trials where former communist leaders confessed to imaginary crimes of sabotage, conspiracy and treason as a result of extreme torture. He murdered the former leaderships of the Communist Party, the railways, the military, engineers, academics and numerous other sectors of society, to such an extent that it is astonishing that Russia was able to defeat Hitler in the Second World War.

His opponents such as Leon Trotsky imagined that publicising the gruesome events of the great terror would help to stop them. They totally underestimated Stalin’s ruthless and single-minded focus on his personal power, and his willingness to ignore all moral scruples to eliminate the possibility of dissent, and overestimated the power of language compared to organisation. For example, Stalin organised the murder of Kirov, the communist leader in Leningrad, and then proceeded to concoct a massive conspiracy theory in order to blame and murder thousands of people for his own crime. The audacity is breathtaking, with his lies just swallowed by numerous Western observers, as well as by Soviet people who had no access to the facts.

There are major lessons in this book for politics today. Putin’s war in Ukraine continues Stalin’s principle of the domination of society by the secret police. There is also an interesting lesson for climate policy, which is benighted by a similar scale of delusion as Stalin’s Russia. People imagine that providing information about evil systems can help to overcome them, without realizing that information alone has a minimal role, in the absence of clear strategic vision and coordinated practical organisation. Action without accurate vision is useless. Global warming can only be slowed by action to brighten the planet, not by emission reduction, but this is not generally understood. All the information about how bad things are makes no difference until it is placed in the context of how to implement geoengineering programs to brighten the planet. The economic and social power of emitters is so great, like the power of Stalin, that activism to oppose them is brushed aside as a minor irritant like a flea on an elephant.

In the Soviet context the overwhelming weight of ideology and terror completely prevented Stalin’s opponents from organising against him. His communist opponents found that their personal loyalty to the revolution meant they still saw Stalin as the representative of progress. Despite his constant wanton criminal betrayal of this ideology, through idiotic and destructive cruelty such as the purges and the forced collectivisation of agriculture, Stalin was able to maintain the façade of being on the right side of history, through massive propaganda and oppression.

Communism has the seductive appeal of social justice, being for the poor and against the rich. This simple morality was enough for Stalin to deceive the public on massive scale. The arbitrary application and scale of terror frightened the Soviet populace into a meek submission that continues to damage and traumatise Russian culture and that of its neighbouring countries, with ripple effects around the world. What Lenin had called “useful idiots” in the West swallowed and shat out Stalin’s lies, including by believing the fake confessions at the show trials. That promotion of doubt meant there was far more international sympathy for Stalin’s evil regime than it deserved.

The principles of Stalinism continue to exercise a baleful influence on politics today. Notably in climate activism, Stalin’s key principle that unity is more important than truth serves to undermine the prospect of effective results. Efforts to build a united front of progressive forces to capture state power and implement supposedly correct policies are the basis of current green left ideology, and have a genetic causal evolutionary line back to Stalin. Efforts to cut emissions are condemned to inevitable failure for much the same reason that the USSR fell, that they are built on mass delusion. By refusing open debate, the Stalinist model generates an oppressive culture in which myths dominate over reason. Eventually the rigid closed nature of the belief system leads it to topple and collapse. That is exactly what is happening today with the false belief that decarbonising the world economy could prevent dangerous warming.

Robert Conquest is utterly brilliant, unrelenting and exhaustive in his explanation of Stalin’s evil. This book is a 1990 update of his original 1968 publication, drawing on extensive access to formerly secret data, validating and reassessing his earlier findings. The Great Terror is a timeless historical classic, providing the hideous name for a hideous time, exposing the truth of what happened and analysing its strategic context and implications. Stalin was a total monster, a destructive force of evil who exploited the opportunity provided by the insane communist ideology to make his personal domination the sole principle of Soviet power. His corrupt methods will continue to influence politics wherever people are unable to engage courageously to ensure leaders are transparent and accountable.
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Re: The Great Terror

Here's a recent movie about a Welsh journalist documenting and breaking the news of Stalin creating mass starvation in Ukraine in the 1930s. Story and screenplay by Andrea Chalupa.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6828390/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
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Re: The Great Terror

LanDroid wrote: Thu Oct 06, 2022 10:28 am Here's a recent movie about a Welsh journalist documenting and breaking the news of Stalin creating mass starvation in Ukraine in the 1930s. Story and screenplay by Andrea Chalupa.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6828390/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Hi LanDroid, thanks very much. I watched Mr. Jones and found it distressingly powerful. I had not heard of it before. We have it here in Australia available on state media. You can watch a slightly blurred version at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jhf5Zcvv4l8, a YouTube channel devoted to remembering Stalin's secret terror famine imposed on Ukraine.

Mr. Jones is a 2019 film about Welsh journalist and linguist Gareth Jones. In this post I tell the story of the movie and comment on it.

After working as adviser to the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Jones visits Russia in the 1930s, where he visits Ukraine and discovers Stalin’s secret terror famine, known as the Holodomor. Jones had achieved fame by interviewing Hitler and Goebbels, for which it seems he got the sack from the British government. The movie suggests he naively hoped he could also interview Comrade Stalin. It is important to note that the film is not a documentary, but rather a dramatic reconstruction. Viewers should not assume details are historically correct, although the broad thrust of the movie is faithful to the facts. It includes details that are possible and that help to explain the Holodomor story, even if evidence for them is not available.

His article about his plane trip with Hitler is at his website - https://www.garethjones.org/german_arti ... ope_10.htm

On arrival in Moscow, Jones asks journalists about what is happening. He is told to read the short story The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe, available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Masqu ... _Red_Death , which ends “Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all”, indicating the advice to read the story was direct allusion to Stalin as the Red Tsar.

https://youtu.be/Jhf5Zcvv4l8?t=4613 is a link to the scene in the movie that provides the chilling cannibal song from Ukraine that recurs through the film as a haunting chorus. Starving children sing in beautiful harmony about a man going insane due to hunger and cold and eating his children, reflecting the depth of deliberately imposed cruel suffering.

Jones meets the famed New York Times Moscow reporter Walter Duranty, who tells him grain is Stalin’s gold. Jones is mystified how the export of Soviet grain could possibly have increased so much, saying the numbers don't add up. He forms the hypothesis that this is the story no one is talking about, that Russia is stealing all the grain from Ukraine to starve its population to death through genocidal terror. Quite an unpleasant story, which events show is completely true. Naturally it is information that anyone concerned about their personal safety or tribal leftist ideology will avoid or deny.

Paul Kleb is a journalist in the film who helped Jones get to Moscow and had also helped him meet Hitler, who is murdered soon after Jones' arrival. He is apparently named as a tribute to Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov, who was apparently murdered in Moscow in 2004 for criticising Putin, according to https://newcriterion.com/blogs/dispatch ... film-11614 This link also quotes British writer Malcolm Muggeridge, who was blackballed by British newspapers after reporting the truth from Russia. Muggeridge called Duranty “the greatest liar of any journalist I have met in fifty years of journalism.” The movie ends by noting Duranty’s Pulitzer Prize for writing Stalinist propaganda has still not been revoked.

The renowned gulag historian Anne Applebaum talks about the movie with its writer and director at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4qHij88dSQ calling it the 1930s version of fake news. The conversation explains that the Pulitzer Prize committee said that if they revoked Duranty’s prize they would open an enormous can of worms, showing how contemporary assessments often massively differ from views formed once all facts are known. The syndrome of people who explain true facts being disbelieved for ideological reasons is well explained in an article about Jones at https://spartacus-educational.com/GBjonesG.htm

One vivid scene in the movie is at the Metropole Hotel in Moscow, where Jones is invited to an opium orgy hosted by Duranty, who had been close friends with the famous Satanist Alistair Crowley. Duranty appears in the nude, attacking Jones as a puritan who doesn’t drink or appreciate gorgeous girls, showing that the price of his hedonistic life in Moscow is telling lies for Stalin to the New York Times, generating willful mass delusion.

The purges are referenced by a person being arrested and claiming it must be a mistake, oblivious to the situation that innocence was no defence against Stalinist paranoia.

In a remarkable Galileo moment, Jones tells Duranty his agenda is to tell the truth, a statement that the corrupted senior correspondent greets with scorn and derision. This reminds me of how modern leftists refuse to see that cutting emissions cannot stop dangerous climate change, on purely delusional tribal grounds.

The movie has a love interest, when Jones meets a journalist working on an article on collectivisation output. She proves to be deeply conflicted by the cognitive dissonance between her pro-communist ideology and her observations of the venal cruelty of the Bolshevik regime. She explains to him that Ukraine is the source of Stalin’s gold, but journalists are not allowed there. He decides he has to go to Ukraine to see for himself.

As Jones plans his visit to the famine lands, he meets a communist official who says “our families want for nothing.” He escapes his train and communist minder, only to find a carriage full of starving people, immediately contradicting the official lies and explaining the secrecy. On discovering that all of Ukraine’s food is being sent to Moscow, he is attacked as a spy, and runs away, through bitter scenes of empty houses, dead peasants, a horse drawn dray collecting dead bodies and living infants, walking through heavy snow, and eating bark.

His mother had visited Ukraine, and he finds the house she had photographed. Starving children sing the haunting cannibal song linked above and then steal his food.

The connection to Orwell’s Animal Farm is a major theme in the movie, with its famously bitter attack on Stalin as a lying tyrant. The movie opens with Orwell typing Animal Farm. Jones meets Orwell in the film, but there is apparently no evidence this actually happened. However, it is obvious that Orwell was fully aware of Jones’ many articles about Russia, and he named the man who owned Animal Farm before the revolution after him. The first line in Animal Farm is “Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night”. Bolshevik lies about “Mr. Jones” are a main theme in the novel, much as Bolshevik lies about the real Mr. Jones misinformed so many people.

Continuing the movie, Jones is caught and jailed and brought to Moscow, where he is told that six British Vickers engineers are held as hostage to ensure he agrees there is no famine in Ukraine. In a vivid echo of the false confessions by Bukharin and others at the famous Moscow Show Trials, extracted by torture, Jones in the movie agrees to this lie, and is released, for which Duranty takes credit.

Back in London he meets Orwell, who tells him it is his duty to speak the truth. Jones faces the ‘trolley problem’ dilemma of whether to allow Stalin to kill six engineers or ten million Ukrainians. He decides to go public and take the Ukraine side, despite the inevitable personal cost to his career.

The movie shows the attraction of communist propaganda with Orwell calling on Jones to “Put it in the proper context”. The tribal idea that communists stand up for the poor against the rich has immense psychological and moral attraction, impervious to facts and logic, shown by the communist sympathies of even such a brilliant anti-communist as George Orwell in this movie.

Jones publicises the famine. He is ordered to retract by Lloyd George, and mocked by Duranty, who calls it overblown hysteria. With no employment, and shunned by the whole left wing British establishment, Jones goes home to Wales to his father’s house, and to a non-political and nondescript newspaper job.

He then manages to meet the newspaper magnate Randolph Hearst, who agrees to publish his story on the front page, exposing Stalin’s secret terror famine in Ukraine to the world. The denigration from vested interests and ideologues continues, showing that even such a massive moral and ethical problem can readily be ignored and denied and suppressed and forgotten when ideology demands.

Gareth Jones was killed in China at the age of thirty, apparently murdered at the behest of Stalin. His writings collected at https://www.garethjones.org/index.htm show prolific brilliance and courage, as a remarkable parable of what it means to speak truth to power.
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