Stalin’s five-year-plan for atheism

Eighty years ago on this day, May 22, 1932, Josef Stalin began his program to eliminate the very memory of the name of God in the Soviet Union within 5 years.  The following account of Stalin’s “atheistic five-year plan” is from a Russian site and is clumsily translated into English, so I’ll edit it slightly:

On Tuesday, there will be 80 years since the Soviet government issued a decree on “atheistic five-year plan.”

Stalin set a goal: the name of God should be forgotten on the territory of the whole country [by] May 1, 1937, the article posted by the Foma website says.

Over 5 million militant atheists were living in the country then. Anti-religious universities – special educational establishments for training people for decisive attack against religion – were organized.

According to the plan on religion liquidation, all churches and prayer houses should have been closed [in] 1932-1933, all religious traditions implanted by literature and family [in] 1933-1934.   It was planned that the country, and firstly, youth would be grasped by total anti-religious propaganda [in] 1934-1935; the last clerics were to be eliminated [in]1935-1936; the very memory about God should have been disappeared from life to 1937.

However, the 1937 census in which  a question about religion was included on Stalin’s instruction puzzled Bolsheviks: 84% of 30 million illiterate USSR citizens aged over 16 said they were believers; the same was reported by 45% of 68.5 million literate citizens.

via Interfax-Religion.

HT:  John Couretas and Joe Carter

The insanity charge

Kyle-Anne Shiver notes another trend in today’s political rhetoric from the left:  Accusing those they disagree with of being insane.  We have Jon Stewart’s upcoming “Restoring Sanity” rally, the NPR exec who said before she fired him that  Juan Williams should just confide his fear of Muslims to his psychiatrist, the psychoanalyzing of the President about  lizard-brained voters, and all kinds of comments about tea-party populists.  She notes:

The Soviets were infamous for declaring any vocal dissident “insane,” putting them in psychiatric “hospitals,” turning the shock therapy machines to full voltage, and throwing away the keys.

via Pajamas Media » Dems Playing Soviet-Style Insanity Card.

When I was in Estonia, I met a poet who had just been released from a mental institution where he had been consigned for writing a poem critical of communism.   Under Marxist theory, art and literature reflect the economic superstructure of the society.  Under a socialist society, a poet who do does not reflect the reality of socialism must therefore be disconnected from reality.  Therefore, insane.

It isn’t that the culture czars were simply trying to shut up a critic.  They really did think he was insane, according to their worldview and their definition of insanity.  (We even had that here in a comment in our discussion of the president’s remark about his opponents not being rational or “scientific” because when they are afraid a different part of the brain takes over.  The commenter argued essentially that  conservatives really ARE irrational.)

I’m not saying that these silly political slams are equivalent to the Soviet persecution of artists. Just that this is dangerous rhetoric to be throwing around.

The idealism that kills

Paul Hollander is a Harvard scholar on Eastern Europe and Russia and is himself a refugee from communism, having escaped from Hungary during the Soviet suppression of that country’s freedom movement. He discusses why we today still vilify the Nazis while giving the communists more of a break.

The different moral responses to Nazism and communism in the West can be interpreted as a result of the perception of communist atrocities as byproducts of noble intentions that were hard to realize without resorting to harsh measures. The Nazi outrages, by contrast, are perceived as unmitigated evil lacking in any lofty justification and unsupported by an attractive ideology. There is far more physical evidence and information about the Nazi mass murders, and Nazi methods of extermination were highly premeditated and repugnant, whereas many victims of communist systems died because of lethal living conditions in their places of detention. Most of the victims of communism were not killed by advanced industrial techniques.

Communist systems ranged from tiny Albania to gigantic China; from highly industrialized Eastern European countries to underdeveloped African ones. While divergent in many respects, they had in common a reliance on Marxism-Leninism as their source of legitimacy, the one-party system, control over the economy and media, and the presence of a huge political police force. They also shared an ostensible commitment to creating a morally superior human being — the socialist or communist man.

Political violence under communism had an idealistic origin and a cleansing, purifying objective. Those persecuted and killed were defined as politically and morally corrupt and a danger to a superior social system. The Marxist doctrine of class struggle provided ideological support for mass murder. People were persecuted not for what they did but for belonging to social categories that made them suspect.

In the aftermath of the fall of Soviet communism, many Western intellectuals remain convinced that capitalism is the root of all evil. There has been a long tradition of such animosity among Western intellectuals who gave the benefit of doubt or outright sympathy to political systems that denounced the profit motive and proclaimed their commitment to create a more humane and egalitarian society, and unselfish human beings. The failure of communist systems to improve human nature doesn't mean that all such attempts are doomed, but improvements will be modest and are unlikely to be attained by coercion. . . .

The failure of Soviet communism confirms that humans motivated by lofty ideals are capable of inflicting great suffering with a clear conscience. But communism's collapse also suggests that under certain conditions people can tell the difference between right and wrong. The embrace and rejection of communism correspond to the spectrum of attitudes ranging from deluded and destructive idealism to the realization that human nature precludes utopian social arrangements and that the careful balancing of ends and means is the essential precondition of creating and preserving a decent society.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X