Josef Stalin

Konstantin Yuon, Parade in Red Square

Liquidation of the Kulaks

The first large-scale atrocity committed by Josef Stalin was the liquidation of the kulaks as a class. In this policy he was following his mentor and predecessor, V. I. Lenin. He and his henchmen felt they had to break the backs of the peasants, in order to collectivize the country-side, because the peasants were not of a mind to cooperate:

"From January, 1919, on, food requisitioning was organized and food-collecting detachments were set up. They encountered resistance everywhere in the rural areas, sometimes stubborn and passive, sometimes violent. The suppression of this opposition gave rise to an abundant flood of arrests during the course of the next two years, not counting those who were shot on the spot." (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, p. 32).

Who were the kulaks? Until the middle of the nineteenth century, most of Russia's country-dwellers were serfs attached to the estates of landed nobles. After liberation, they took up the marginally better status of tenant farmers. The last of the tsars conducted land-reform programs, tentative and incremental, but which resulted in what Russia had long lacked: family farmers who held the title to their own lands. Initially the country-side supported the revolution, in the eager expectation that the confiscated large estates would be given to the farmers under the system of land-tenure that they themselves preferred, namely family farms. However the Bolsheviks had other ideas. The country folk themselves visualized an ideal future something like the little house on the prairie, while the Communists were thinking of something more like, the Jetsons take up farming:

"In 1928, as part of his first Five-Year Plan, Stalin decided to reorganize agriculture along communist principles, which meant getting twenty-five million rural households to turn over their land and livestock to the state and become workers on huge collective farms. The idea was that tractors would operate in vast fields, doubling the grain yield. More milk, butter and cheese would also be produced, while peasants would live in skyscrapers in 'agro-towns' and eat in massive communal dining rooms. . .When the government issued invitations to join its rural utopia, the response was a deafening silence." (John Withington, Disaster!, p. 222).

Marxism-Leninism is premised on the mythos that class struggle is the engine which powers history, so when the Commissars went into the country-side to collectivize agriculture and were repulsed by peasants wielding pitch-forks, they invented a purported class struggle between the kulaks (rich peasants) and the poorer peasants. The vilified class of kulaks included these peasant proprietors, who hired other rural residents, however it was not well-defined and sometimes included even farm-workers who owned anything at all, like a cow. In fact the kulaks were simply those farm folk whom the totalitarian regime found necessary to murder and dispossess by the millions in order to achieve their dream of collective agriculture:

  • “And so the waves foamed and rolled. But over them all, in 1929-30, billowed and gushed the multimillion wave of dispossessed kulaks. It was immeasurably large and it could certainly not have been housed in even the highly developed network of Soviet interrogation prisons. . .Instead, it bypassed the prisons, going directly to the transit prisons and camps, onto prisoner transports, into the Gulag country. In sheer size this nonrecurring tidal wave (it was an ocean) swelled beyond the bounds of anything the penal system of even an immense state can permit itself. There was nothing to be compared with it in all Russian history. It was the forced resettlement of a whole people, an ethnic catastrophe. But yet so cleverly were the channels of the GPU-Gulag organized that the cities would have noticed nothing, had they not been stricken by a strange three-year famine — a famine that came about without drought and without war.”
  • (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, pp. 54-55).

Whereas the Communists sought out class enemies from whom to protect the country-side, in fact the rural residents knew perfectly well who their enemies were: the Commissars:

"From 1918 on, peasant revolts were already being called 'kulak' revolts, for how could the peasants revolt against the workers' and peasants' power! But how then could one explain that in every instance it was not just three peasant huts that revolted bu the whole village? Why did the masses of poor peasants not kill the insurgent 'kulaks' with those same pitchforks and axes, instead of marching with them against the machine guns?" (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, p. 303).

While landless peasants might have been somewhat readier to give collectivization a try than family farmers, in fact the country people were generally not interested, whether in Russia or in Mao's China or in Ethiopia, seeing in it nothing but a return to their grand-parents' status of serfs. They resisted, both passively and actively. Thus the determination of the Bolsheviks to break the back of the peasantry:

  • “These Bolsheviks hated the obstinate old world of the peasants: they had to be herded into collective farms, their grain forcibly collected and sold abroad to fund a manic gallop to create an instant industrial powerhouse that could produce tanks and planes. Private trade of food was stopped. Kulaks were ordered to deliver their grain and prosecuted as speculators if they did not. Gradually, the villagers themselves were forced into collectives. Anyone who resisted was a 'kulak enemy.'
  • . . .“Nothing was impossible. The resulting rural nightmare was a like a war without battles but with death on a  monumental scale.”
  • (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 37).

Josef Stalin

Before it was over, famine stalked the country-side:

"The peasants ate dogs, horses, rotten potatoes, the bark of trees, anything they could find,' observed one witness, Fedor Belov. . ." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 82).

The shell-shocked survivors in the rural zone were willing to accept collectivization.

Josef Stalin was an atheist from his seminary days, and a committed Marxist-Leninist. His attitude toward the retrograde folks who stood between the Soviet Union and socialism was simple: eliminate them: "When he [Stalin] arrested a group of Trotsky's 'specialists' and imprisoned them on a barge on the Volga, Trotsky angrily objected. The barge sank with all aboard. 'Death solves all problems,' Stalin is meant to have said. 'No man, no problem.' It was the Bolshevik way." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 33)

  • “By the summer, when Fred Beal, an American radical, visited a village near Kharkov, then capital of Ukraine, he found the inhabitants dead except one insane woman. Rats feasted in huts that had become charnel houses. . .
  • “Beal, the American, reported to the Chairman of Ukraine's Central Executive Committee (the titular President), Petrovsky, who replied: 'We know millions are dying. That is unfortunate but the glorious future of the Soviet Union will justify it.' By 1933, it is estimated that 1.1 million households, that is seven million people, lost their holdings and half of them were deported. As many as three million households were liquidated. At the start of this process in 1931, there were 13 million households collectivized out of roughly 25 million. By 1937, 18.5 million were collectivized but there were now only 19.9 million households: 5.7 million households, perhaps 15 million persons, had been deported, many of them dead.”
  • (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 84).

What became of the kulaks? They are no longer with us. Many were executed outright, many starved after their grain was forcibly requisitioned, some were moved about in the elaborate system of internal displacement Stalin perfected, some were used as slave labor, until they wore out:

"In July 1933, Kirov joined Stalin, Voroshilov, OGPU Deputy Chairman Yagoda and Berman, boss of Gulag, the labor camp system, on the ship Anokhin to celebrate the opening of a gargantuan project of socialist labor: the Baltic-White Sea Canal  or, in Bolshevik acronym, the Belo-mor, a 227-kilometer canal begun in December 1931 and completed by the Pharaonic slavery of 170,000 prisoners, of whom around 25,000 died in a year and a half." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 120).

The Communists never remembered that they had done any wrong in this large-scale depopulation of the country-side; rather, they remembered that the kulaks were evil, though their children could become good if they denounced mom and pop:

  • “The classic Pioneer hero and martyr is Pavel Morozov, a 14-year-old who, in 1932, reported on his own father for hiding grain from the state during the harsh period of farm collectivization. The boy was murdered by private farmers who opposed collectivization. He was later immortalized by the Party.”
  • (Hedrick Smith, 'The Russians,' p. 162).

The events surrounding the collectivization of the country-side: famine, civil war, mass death,— were by no means unique to Russia. Every time a country is 'liberated' by Communist revolutionaries, exactly the same process takes place: to everyone's surprise, there is a famine, and the country-side is collectivized over the dead bodies of many of its prior inhabitants. The same process played out in Ethiopia, when Communist plotters took advantage of Emperor Haile Selassie's senescence to seize power. So whose fault is that? Why, God's, of course, who else is to blame that socialism never works?


The Terror

After the liquidation of the kulaks, the next big population reduction Stalin presided over was a party purge. Reminiscent of the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution, this process saw the old Bolsheviks, the men who made the revolution, sent away to concentration camps or else executed.

  • “Stalin, now showing no emotion, ordered Yenukidze as Secretary of the Central Executive Committee to sign an emergency law that decreed the trial  of accused terrorists within ten days and immediate execution without appeal after judgment. Stalin must have drafted it himself. This 1st December Law — or rather the two directives of that night— was the equivalent of Hitler's Enabling Act because it laid the foundation for a random terror without even the pretense of a rule of law. Within three years, two million people had been sentenced to death or labor camps in its name. Mikoyan said there was no discussion and no objections.”
  • (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore, pp. 147-148).

Adoption of this 'Patriot Act' in the wake of Kirov's assassination paved the way for everything that followed. The 'show trials' they held at this time began to give pause to the American fellow-travelers who up until that time had felt sympathy for the revolution. Unlike the earlier famines and failures which they had denied, the Soviets themselves publicized these show trials, which were disquieting and alarming on a number of levels. They evolved their own bizarre vocabulary of denunciation and insult:

"His 'No Mercy' was published the next day, while Pravda shrieked: 'Crush the Loathsome Creatures! The Mad Dogs Must be Shot!'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 192).

They were continually calling people 'scum:' "'This scum must be liquidated absolutely'" (Voroshilov to Stalin, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 187). Besides this, the defendants at these trials seemed to be the most enthusiastic of all about their impending execution, causing some observers to wonder if due process was being punctiliously observed:

"The judges withdrew to consider their pre-decided verdict, returning at two-thirty to sentence all to death, at which one defendant shouted: 'Long live the cause of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin!'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 192).

Socialist legal theory does not perceive any value to the adversarial justice system of the West: "On the threshold of the classless society, we were at last capable of realizing the conflictless trial — a reflection of the absence of inner conflict in our social structure — in which not only the judge and the prosecutor but also the defense lawyers and the defendants themselves would strive collectively to achieve their common purpose." (Aleksandr I. Sozhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, p. 374). Who does this sound like today: remind you of new atheist Sam Harris with his proposal for lie detectors in the court-house panelling, to do away with those discordant claims of innocence? As is often the case, torture, by means of sleep deprivation, isolation, physical beatings, was the magic by which those arrested came to share, or at least to say they shared, their tormentors' paranoid delusions:

"A few days later, as Yezhov buzzed in and out of Stalin's office, a broken Marshal Tukhachevsky confessed that Yenukidze had recruited him in 1928, that he was a German agent in cahoots with Bukharin to seize power. Tukhachevsky's confession, which survives in the archives, is dappled with a brown spray that was found to be blood spattered by a body in motion." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 223).

Torture is that magical investigative technique that substantiated the wild claims in the European witchcraft trials, because it can prove anything at all: "Yet Beria liked to boast about his victims: 'Let me have one night with him and I'll have him confessing he's the King of England.'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, pp. 276-277).

In macabre conformance to the central economic planning then in vogue amongst leftists, political murder too was conducted to meet target and quotas: "The principle of ordering murder like industrial quotas in the Five-Year Plan was therefore natural. . .On 30 July [1937], Yezhov and his deputy Mikhail Frinovsky proposed Order No. 00447 to the Politburo: that between 5 and 15 August, the regions were to receive quotas for two categories: Category One — to be shot. Category Two — to be deported. They suggested that 72,950 should be shot and 259,450 arrested, though they missed some regions." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 228).

  • “This submissiveness was also due to ignorance of the mechanics of epidemic arrests. By and large, the Organs had no profound reasons for their choice of whom to arrest and whom not to arrest. They merely had over-all assignments, quotas for a specific number of arrests. These quotas might be filled on an orderly basis or wholly arbitrarily.”
  • (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, p. 11).

Here was one case where socialism could shine; if they missed all other production quotas, these they could meet and exceed. They went after foreigners especially: "Altogether, the latest estimates, combining the quotas and national contingents, are that 1.5 million were arrested in these operations and about 700,000 shot. 'Beat, destroy without sorting out,' Yezhov ordered his henchmen." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore,, p. 229).

Stalin himself likened his purges to those carried out by Tsar Ivan the Terrible: "'He [Stalin] seems to have constantly compared his Terror to Ivan the Terrible's massacre of the boyars. 'Who's going to remember all this riffraff in ten or twenty years' time? No one. Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of? No one.'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 231). Just as the Tsars killed their competitors, the nobles, to concentrate all power in their own hands, so Stalin sought to eliminate any potential rivals, which meant decimating the old Bolsheviks who had made the revolution: "Budyonny confronted Stalin: 'If these are the Enemy, who made the Revolution?'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 234). This power elite were still occupying positions of authority, but with the old guard out of the way, there was only Stalin left standing: "Within a year and a half, 5 of the 15 Politburo members, 98 of the 139 Central Committee members and 1,108 of the 1,966 delegates from the Seventeenth Congress had been arrested.. . .On some days, for example 12 November 1938, Stalin and Molotov signed 3,167 executions." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 232).

Although the gangster Stalin broadened the repression, the policy of state terrorism against the population actually goes back to the early years of the revolution; in fact the Cheka's serial killing sprees at the outset were even more lawless than anything that followed, when a certain measure of terror was legalized: "Terror is a method of persuasion. . .'The court must not exclude terror. It would be self-deception or deceit to promise this. . .'" (Lenin, quoted p. 353, The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn). The atheists could not abide any ideological dissent or deviation whatsoever; even harmless cranks like the people who wanted to speak Esperanto were persecuted by the Soviet regime.

This should be a familiar theme by now. Atheists like Josef Stalin cannot abide anyone even thinking differently from themselves: ". . .anyone who dared to weaken the power of the Soviet State 'in their thoughts, yes even their thoughts' would be considered an Enemy and 'we will destroy them as a clan'. . .'To the complete destruction of all Enemies, them and their kin!' at which the magnates gave 'approving exclamations: To the great Stalin!'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 244). Evidence was not so much wanted, just local talent eager for a chance to feel powerful:

"A less reliable way was to harness a local tool such as Polia Nikolaenko, the 'heroic denunciatrix of Kiev,' championed by Stalin. The specialty of this terrifying crone, responsible for the deaths of as many as 8,000 people, was to stand up at meetings and shriek accusations: Khrushchev saw how she 'pointed her finger and said, "I don't know that man over there but I can tell by the look in his eyes that he's an Enemy of the People."'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 248).

Josef Stalin governed by recasting the inevitable conflicts of interest that appear in every society as outright war, to the death, between the good folks and diabolical traitors lurking within. Society thereupon obediently geared up on a war footing to defeat these insidious foes. Instead of admitting state-run industry, inherently inefficient, had blundered badly, he targeted 'saboteurs' who prevented the machine from humming. Instead of admitting the country-side didn't want collective agriculture, he targeted the greedy farmers who were 'hiding' their grain and keeping it from market. Instead of telling people he intended to transform the Soviet Union from an oligarchy, which was the original Bolshevik form of government, to an autocracy with himself as Tsar, he invented all manner of bizarre plots, prosecuting his rivals in government for peculiar ideological deviations, until his rivals were out of the picture and he alone held power.

From its first day to its last, socialism never worked; it never delivered the groceries. The ruling class distracted the people from attending to the system's failures by placing in front of them one scape-goat class after another: various ethnic groups, religious associations, professional classes like the engineers and the generals. Why isn't the system working? How can we get any work done when these saboteurs keep throwing monkey wrenches into the machinery! And they believed that. . .for decades. It is an ugly human tendency to turn on some vulnerable individual or out-group in this way:

Nikolai Yaroshenko: Life is Everywhere

It is striking how successful this approach to governing was in twentieth century Europe. Not only Josef Stalin's Russia, but Nazi Germany, operated on a 'Let Them Eat Resentment' basis, in the latter case scape-goating 'the Jews' rather than 'the Engineers' or 'the wreckers' or the other esoteric categories of Bolshevik ideological enemies. These states did not deliver the groceries, but even in free fall the populace was reluctant to turn on them. Human nature has changed so little that Apollonius' disgraceful tactic of inciting a mob to turn on a helpless homeless person still works today.

Did Josef Stalin do things this way for reasons of temperament:— because he was paranoid and saw enemies everywhere,— or for reasons of pragmatism, because when he did things this way everything worked out his way? There seems to have been a synergy here between pre-existing mental illness and effective tactics, because he got what he wanted by doing it this way; instilling fear of going to prison for 'sabotage,' it appears, is the one way to make the terrified railway workers,— those who survived,— run the trains on time. When well-meaning reformers like Gorbachev took the police-state 'motivators' away and sought to produce a rational, humane socialism, the whole inefficient contraption slid inexorably toward collapse.

Defining mental illness can be a perplexing conundrum, but the definitions offered often revolve around the concept of 'dysfunction.' Josef Stalin's way of doing business certainly worked for him, nothing dysfunctional about it at all. It did not work out so well for the oppressed Russian people. He got rid of all opposition, his goal: "The next day, Stalin reflected to Malenkov: 'I think we're well and truly rid of the opposition millstone.'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 294). He eliminated opposition by eliminating the opposers. He ended up with sole power: "Stalin was now so omnipotent that when he mispronounced a word from the podium, every subsequent speaker repeated the mistake." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 297). Paranoia worked well for him, for a while, though not where he is now.

It is inherently difficult to come up with a 'body count' for Stalin's crimes, but the human beings whose journey on this earth this one consequentialist atheist cut short undoubtedly number in the millions:

"Perhaps 20 million had been killed; 28 million deported, of whom 18 million had slaved in the Gulags. Yet, after so much slaughter, they were still believers." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 643).

V. I. Lenin

Years ago communist sympathizers played Good Cop/Bad Cop with V. I. Lenin and Josef Stalin. V. I. Lenin was supposed to be the good guy, who established a democratic socialism, and even established the New Economic Policy allowing limited economic freedom. Then along came Josef Stalin who started killing people. You don't hear that very often nowadays, partly because there aren't many commies,— and where did they all go?— and partly because the opening of the Soviet archives in the years after the fall of Communism made it impossible to claim that Lenin was any friend to democracy or human rights. The implacable violence against the kulaks, for example, had been initiated on his watch:

"Their war on the countryside would forever exterminate the internal enemy, the kulaks, and return the Party to the values of 1917. It was Lenin who said, 'Merciless mass terror against the kulaks. . . Death to them!' Thousands of young people shared their idealism." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 44).

That the Bolshevik commissars treated the population like serfs was already a fact:

"By a decree of the Defense Council of February 15, 1919 — apparently with Lenin in the chair — the Cheka and the NKVD were ordered to take hostage peasants from those localities where the removal of snow from railroad tracks 'was not proceeding satisfactorily,' and 'if the snow removal did not take place they were to be shot.'" (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, pp. 29-30).

Stalin, to be sure, picked up the pace on the killings and incarcerations, as well as removing the immunity the ruling Bolshevik class had previously enjoyed, for which they could never forgive him; he was posthumously denounced by his one-time protege Nikita Krushchev. V. I. Lenin, who started the ball rolling on all this killing, was never denounced so long as the Soviet Union stood.

New Views for Old
The Theory
We the Living
Opiate of the Intellectuals
How Did it Work Out?
Love Thy Neighbor
So What?

Comrade Lysenko

The Soviets were not the first to politicize the new science of genetics. Darwinian evolution was involved with right-wing politics before it was even Darwinian evolution. Thomas Malthus' ideas on population and poverty had been intended to apply to human beings before Charles Darwin ever thought to generalize the theory to the whole wide world of both man and beast. This is the idea that you mustn't feed the poor, it will just encourage them to breed. Communists never liked these ideas, and they especially disliked them when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi ideologues made almost a religion out of evolution.

So they came up with something better or, at least, more proletarian: Lysenko-ism stressed the role of environment in the organism's development versus genetic inheritance. They were skeptical, not so much of Darwin himself who never quite let go of Lamarck, but of Mendelian genetics. The reclusive monk was initially ignored; later when his contribution was recognized, it was perceived as refuting Darwin. Mendelian genetics would ultimately be creatively fused and reconciled with Darwinian evolution into a new synthesis, but still the Soviets disliked what they perceived as the whiff of biological determinism. They preferred to be optimistic. Comrade Trofim Denisovich Lysenko turned the world of Soviet agronomy upside-down with his technique of 'vernalisation,' which involved wetting and cooling seeds to force their germination. He thought the sky was the limit to how changing the environoment can influence the organism, assumed to be almost infinitely plastic. He went so far as to deny there is such a thing as a gene:

"Heredity, he claimed, was the property of the whole organism, and was dependent upon the environment. There was no gene. 'Bits of cell nucleus or chronosome [are] not what geneticists understand by the term 'gene.' The hereditary basis does not lie in some special self-reproducing substance. The hereditary base is the cell, which develops and becomes an organism.'" (Stalin and the Scientists, Simon Ings, Kindle location 3607).

If these techniques had actually worked it would have been even more impressive. Soviet science went beyond taking a different tack. The scientific establishment started by boosting Lysenko and ended by persecuting and ending the careers of those agronomists and biologists who adhered to Mendelian genetics:

  • “Chosen by Stalin, growing closer to Svetlana and, at twenty-eight, Head of the CC Science Department, Yury Zhdanov was cock of the walk. He took his science as seriously as his father took culture. Yury resented the absurd dominance of Trofim Lysenko in the field of genetics: the scientific charlatan had used Stalin's backing during the Terror to purge ethe Genetics establishment of genuine scientists. . .
  • “On to June, Stalin held one of his set-piece humiliation sessions in the Little Corner. Andrei Zhdanov humbly took notes at the front, his son lurked at the back while Stalin, pacing, 'pipe in hand and puffing frequently,' muttered: 'How did anyone dare insult Comrade Lysenko?' Zhdanov miserably noted Stalin's words in his exercise book: 'Report is wrong. ZHDANOV HAS BEEN MISTAKEN.' Then Stalin stopped and asked: 'Who authorized it?'
  • “His gaze chilled the room. 'There was the silence of the grave,' wrote Shepilov, a Zhdanov protege. Everyone looked down.”
  • (Stalin, The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore, pp. 576-577).

When you are philosophically committed to scientism, as are today's atheists, as were the Bolsheviks, and for that matter the Nazis too, then you cannot sit idly on the porch and watch the free play of scientific ideas flittering by. The actual content of science becomes so important to you that you must take sides. When a police state takes sides, that's a big deal. Seeing the political consequences of Darwinian evolution express themselves in Nazism, the Soviets would not touch it, even steering clear of a legitimate field of inquiry like Mendelian genetics for fear it had been tainted. Consequently the study of genetics suffered repression for a generation:

"The most infamous example was the quarter of a century during which genetics was suppressed while Trofim Lysenko reigned over biology. It was his theory, sold to Stalin and Khrushchev, that characteristics acquired from the environment could be transmitted in the evolutionary process. Mendelian genetics became anathema; its advocates were dismissed and persecuted, and their leader, the brilliant biologist, Nikolai Vavilov, died in a Stalinist camp in 1942." (Hedrick Smith, The Russians, p. 362).

We hear a lot about a purported war between science and faith, based on a single incident, the Roman Catholic Church's placing the astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei under house arrest for upholding heliocentrism, which opposed the Ptolemaic system which that Church's scholastics had inherited from Aristotle. We hear less about any purported war between atheism and science, even though, in this case, a reliably atheist regime made it impossible to criticize Lysenko-ism. For that matter, the French Revolution guillotined the great chemist Antoine Lavoisier. People tend to look upon such happenings as special cases of no particular consequence, but for some odd reason, one case in human history indicts all Christianity as purportedly hostile to science.

Darwinian evolution, however, got the message that racism is unpopular and that they had better sever their connection with 'Social Darwinism,' though that connection had been there from the start. How can this be done? One ingenious solution is to change the unit upon which evolution works. Charles Darwin was sure that natural selection operated upon human groups, some of whom were favored, some disfavored: that's in the title of his magnum opus. The figured if they could make the unit upon which natural selection operated so small that nobody could see it, nobody could possibly take offense, and thus was born the selfish gene:


Scientific Foundation

The long totalitarian night that settled over the Soviet Union was justified by what advertised itself as a scientific economic theory, Marxism-Leninism. This enterprise evolved its own dauntingly complex, scholastic vocabulary; what is lacked, alas, was any competence in predicting what events might be likely to happen in any given economy.

What it did give the world was graves and suffering:

"Kaganovich called this 'the resistance of the last remnants of the dying classes leading to a concrete form of the class struggle.' The classes were dying all right. Kopelev saw 'women and children with distended bellies, turning blue, still breathing but with vacant lifeless eyes, And corpses — corpses in ragged sheepskin coats and cheap felt boots; corpses in peasant huts, in the melting snow of old Vologda, under the bridges of Kharkov.'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 100).

In Fashion Surplus Value
Wipe 'Em Out Leon Trotsky
Does it Work? Outdated
Product Placement Witness
Progeny Communism Today

Brave New World

Some atheists take on their morals as if protective coloration from the environment around them. Living, comfortably enough, in formerly Christian countries, they decide the ethical problem has been solved; after all, everyone agrees on the basics:

"With notable exceptions such as the Afghan Taliban and the American Christian equivalent, most people pay lip service to the same broad liberal consensus of ethical principles. The majority of us don't cause needless suffering; we believe in free speech and protect it even if we disagree with what is being said; we pay our taxes; we don't cheat, don't kill, don't commit incest, don't do things to others that we would not wish done to us." (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 298).

Hmmm. . .don't do to others what you don't wish done. . .seems like I've heard that somewhere before. The problem with this approach is that it is parasitical: it ungratefully and without acknowledgement steals its ethics from a religion to which it is implacably hostile, Christianity; and it is unstable: how long will it take for the drunken soccer rioters to ask, 'And why should I?' when you tell them to be nice? You, atheist, have no answer to give them.

The second approach, that favored by the Communists, is to sweep all away and start over. Have done with the old world and its nicey-nice morals. And with that, we take up the ethical theory which lies at the bottom of all the towering body-piles collected during the twentieth century:

The Russian Revolution was based firmly on a foundation of utilitarianism. All the killing was worth it because it was the dawn of a new day; the workers' paradise was just over that next rise. But you know something funny? The killing happened; the rats scampered through the huts, but the workers' paradise never quite got here; it got hung up in transit.

The reader will discover a pattern to all this. We are made to worship God; there is a place in our hearts that only He fits. Stuff something else in, an idol, and bizarre things start to happen:


  • “The death toll of this 'absurd' famine, which only occurred to raise money to build pig-iron smelters and tractors, was between four to five and as high as ten million dead, a tragedy unequalled in human history except by the Nazi and Maoist terrors. The peasants had always been the Bolshevik Enemy. Lenin himself had said: 'The peasant must do a bit of starving.' Kopelev admitted 'with the rest of my generation, I firmly believed the ends justified the means. I saw people dying from hunger.'
  • “'They deny responsibility for what happened later,' wrote Nadezhda Mandelstam, wife of the poet, in her classic memoir, Hope Abandoned. 'But how can they? It was, after all, these people of the Twenties who demolished the old values and invented the formulas. . .to justify the unprecedented experiment: You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. Every new killing was excused on the grounds we were building a remarkable 'new' world.' . .
  • “'A revolution without firing squads,' Lenin is meant to have said, 'is meaningless.'”
  • (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 85).

The reader will discover a pattern to all this. We are made to worship God; there is a place in our hearts that only He fits. Stuff something else in that slot, perforce an idol, and bizarre things start to happen. They have no morals to stop them; there is no God to say no, don't kill innocent people; don't do evil so that good may come. It is objected: these are religious people. Yes, they are atheists. We are preprogrammed with a compass bearing pointing toward heaven; if we cannot find the way, we will make our own heaven on earth, as the Bolsheviks bravely set out to do. However the heavens men make for themselves turn out to be indistinguishable from hell.

When Stalin's second wife committed suicide, he plaintively asked his sister-in-law "what was missing in him." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 105). To reply, 'God,' or 'Christ living in me,' is certainly part of the answer, though it cannot be the entire answer, because many atheists never murder anyone, much less millions of their fellow human beings. But Nadya was not the only one close to Stalin to commit suicide; during the years of the purges, she would be followed by scores of once close associates: "Zina ordered him to come urgently: 'Sergo's done the same as Nadya!' Stalin banged down the phone at this grievous insult." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 212). Suffering humanity demands a diagnosis and not an evasion:


Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler was a contemporary of Josef Stalin who rivalled him in the body-count score. For a time they were allies, signing a non-aggression pact. This comity did not last however. There is a curious kinship in several ways: both of these men built themselves up in a cult of personality, both believed in centrally planned economies, however Nazi ideology was fundamentally different from Messianic Marxism. In a ghoulish way there seems to have been a psychic bond between these two dictators; beneath all the rhetoric they were soul-mates, as Stalin recognized:

"On 30 June, Adolf Hitler, newly elected Chancellor of Germany, slaughtered his enemies within his Nazi Party, in the Night of the Long Knives — an exploit that fascinated Stalin. 'Did you hear what happened in Germany?' he asked Mikoyan. 'Some fellow that Hitler! Splendid! That's a deed of some skill!'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 131).

In spite of their ideological differences they had got onto the same track: just as little German school-children were taught to chant their gratitude to Hitler, little Russian children had to say, "Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our happy childhood." (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 178).

Here is a paean to a god, though it was directed to Comrade Stalin:

"Thou who broughtest man to birth.
Thou who fructifiest the earth,
Thou who restorest the centuries,
Thou who makest bloom the spring,
Thou who makest vibrate the musical chords. . .
Thou, spendor of my spring, O thou,
Sun reflected by millions of hearts."

(Babylon, Paul Kriwaczek, p. 151).

According to the author, this poem, "The second, more absurd selection was addressed to 'Great Stalin, O leader of the peoples.' The poem was published in Pravda on 1 February 1935." (Babylon, Paul Kriwaczek, p. 151). Sometimes, when we feel tempted to look down on the inhabitants of ancient Babylon worshipping the god-kings, it provides a corrective to read the newspapers. God-kings are not yet an extinct species.

The love affair could not last, and Hitler turned on Stalin. Hitler's invasion of Russia prospered at first, but after General Winter showed up and took the field, things went downhill. Presumably these two will have aeons to reminisce about all this in Hell:


The Oaks at Mamre

There is an icon-type familiar to eastern Orthodox believers, of the visitation at Mamre, which is understood as a theophany: Abraham's visitor was God. Josef Stalin seems to have perceived himself in the God role:

  • “Yury still remembers Stalin's Jesus joke: they were working in the summerhouse, which stood under a big oak tree, when Stalin glanced at his closest friends: 'Look at you here with me,' he said, pointing at the tree. 'That's the Mamre tree.'"”
  • (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 139).

This is an Old Testament reference, not New Testament:

"Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day." (Genesis 18:1).

These men perceived themselves as world-makers, as gods. There is this theme in Marxism, that man has dethroned God and taken up His place. In a way that could hardly have been anticipated for the more-scientific-than-science-itself science of Marxist economics, the advent of communism made possible a return to the ancient mode of God-king. The Stalinist North Korean variant has even found room for the return of hereditary succession. Stalin offered himself as an object of worship for the people:

"When the writer Mikhail Sholokhov criticized the praise for the leader, Stalin replied with a sly smile, 'What can I do? The people need a god.'" (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, p. 139).

They do indeed, and woe to them if their god is not the living God. If he is naught but a man, it may ultimately be hard to distinguish him from a monster.

Nearly deifying the leader did not start with Stalin; it was already well-established with Lenin, whose wax-infused corpse lay in public display as the holy-of-holies of the socialist state, and to whom little school children chanted, "We want to be like you in every way." (Hedrick Smith, 'The Russians,' p. 161). Lenin's cult started sooner and lasted longer than that of Stalin, who committed the unpardonable crime of targeting fellow Bolsheviks with his crimes against humanity, rather than outsiders:

"The main square of every city is dominated by a statue of Lenin leading, exhorting, declaiming, gesticulating, or striding boldly into the bright future. No government office is complete without a portrait of Lenin writing, studying, thinking, and above all, guiding. . .In Tadzhikistan, the builders of the giant Nurek Dam used their first spark of electricity to light a mountaintop sign: 'Lenin is with Us.' Banners in Leningrad proclaim: 'Lenin Lived. Lenin Lives. Lenin Will Live.'" ('The Russians,' Hedrick Smith, pp. 277-278).

Somehow the rhythm of that sounds suspiciously like, ". . .and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come. . ." (Revelation 1:4).


Dynamiting Churches

The pattern of Bolshevik repression of Christianity was already well-established by the time of Lenin's death in 1924; like the other human rights abuses mentioned above, Stalin did not so much originate the policies as escalate them. Establishing atheism was a very important part of the socialist program: good social hygiene demanded, as a prophylactic measure, the eradication of that ugly old black mold that keeps cropping up, Christianity. The New Socialist Man, of course, was to be an atheist. Like today's New Atheists, the one thing they could not tolerate was Christians educating their children in the knowledge of the gospel. Like the Nazis with their 'German Church,' they sought to infiltrate and control:

  • “In the spring of 1922 the Extraordinary Commission for Struggle Against Counterrevolution, Sabotage, and Speculation, the Cheka, recently renamed the GPU, decided to intervene in church affairs. It was called on to carry out a 'church revolution'— to remove the existing leadership and replace it with one which would have only one ear turned to heaven and the other to the Lubyanka. The so-called 'Living Church' people seemed to go along with this plan, but without outside help they could not gain control of the church apparatus. For this reason, the Patriarch Tikhon was arrested and two resounding trails were held, followed by the execution in Moscow of those who had publicized the Patriarch's appeal and, in Petrograd, of the Metropolitan Veniamin, who had attempted to hinder the transfer of ecclesiastical power to the 'Living Church' group. Here and there in the provincial centers and even further down in the administrative districts, metropolitans and bishops were arrested and, as always, in the wake of the big fish, followed shoals of smaller fry: archpriests, monks, and deacons. These arrests were not even reported in the press. They also arrested those who refused to swear to support the 'Living Church' 'renewal' movement.”
  • (The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, pp. 36-37).

However, unlike V. I. Lenin who could afford to be consistently anti-Christian, Josef Stalin was obliged to reach a rapprochement with the Russian Orthodox leadership after Hitler had invaded his country, and there was need of national unity. This did not go very far, and when the crisis was over, the Soviet Union went back to persecuting Christians. Here was a state which obeyed Richard Dawkins' directive, that educating children in Christianity is tantamount to child abuse. The theory:

"Our society, including the non-religious sector, has accepted the preposterous idea that it is normal and right to indoctrinate tiny children in the religion of their parents, and to slap religious labels on them. . .Please, please raise your consciousness about this, and raise the roof whenever you hear it happening." (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, pp. 381-382).

"In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense, and we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, int eh literal truth of the Bible or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out or lock them in a dungeon." ((quoted, with approval, by Richard Dawkins, p. 367, The God Delusion).

The practice:

"However, the root destruction of religion in the country, which throughout the twenties and thirties was one of the most important goals of the GPU-NKVD, could be realized only by mass arrests of Orthodox believers. Monks and nuns, whose black habits had been a distinctive feature of Old Russian life, were intensively rounded up on every hand, placed under arrest, and sent into exile. They arrested and sentenced active laymen. The circles kept getting bigger, as they raked in ordinary believers as well, old people, and particularly women, who were the most stubborn believers of all and who, for many long years to come, would be called 'nuns' in transit prisons and in camps.
"True, they were supposedly being arrested and tried not for their actual faith but for openly declaring their convictions and for bringing up their children in the same spirit. As Tanya Khodkevich wrote:
'You can pray freely
But just so God alone can hear.'
"(She received a ten-year sentence for these verses.) A person convinced that he possessed spiritual truth was required to conceal it from his own children! In the twenties the religious education of children was classified as a political crime under Article 58;10 of the Code — in other words, counterrevolutionary propaganda!" (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, pp. 37-38).

Even into the 1970's they were still sending parents who shared their faith with their children to the labor camps:

"The archipelago of Soviet labor camps in the 1970's has a population of one to two million, depending on which Western estimates you believe (the Soviets never say), including 10,000 to 20,000 political prisoners — from Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Armenian and other nationalists, to religious believers who refuse to serve in the armed forces or insist on giving their children religious training, to the democratic dissidents known in the West." (Hedrick Smith, The Russians, p. 456.)

This place was Richard Dawkins' heaven, but the Christian's hell.



Most people are familiar with the pattern of mature Islamic conquest societies: the Muslims rule, and those of other religions are grateful to be allowed to be of service to their conquerors, in whatever humble way they can manage. The alternative to servitude is death. In a somewhat similar vein, the Bolshevik triumph inaugurated a layer-cake society stratified according to religion: the Christians were at the bottom, the atheists on top.

An old Communist joke relates a explanatory talk given on Radio Budapest. According to the speaker, under capitalism, man exploits man, whereas, under socialism, it's just the other way around! What had happened in the Revolution was not a new birth of egalitarianism, but rather the displacement of the old ruling class by a new ruling class: the Nomenklatura. These athletes and champions of the New World were, of course, atheists; you had to be to remain in good standing in the Communist Party, and party membership was a sine qua non, in that order of things, for filling a position of responsibility. So your position in society's caste system was a function of religion; no Christians could occupy the highest level, unless secretly (and there were scandalized gasps when, from time to time, a party apparatchik, having died, was discovered to have directed for himself a religious funeral), while the lower levels, living meager, deprived lives, were crammed with believers and other anti-social elements.

There was an entire parallel economy, with separate stores, offering luxury goods to the upper strata purchased with the regime's slender stores of 'hard currency,' while the peons at the bottom of the social pyramid slaved for wages that somehow could never quite be translated into goods, inasmuch as the store shelves of the socialist colossus were always empty. Like the people used to say: "As long as the bosses pretend they are paying us a decent wage, we will pretend that we are working." (popular saying quoted in Hedrick Smith, 'The Russians,' p. 215).This was a far cry, of course, from the egalitarian promise of the Revolution. Socialism was promoted as the horn of Amalthea, securing abundance and freedom from want for all. That promise was achieved, not for all but for some; and, oh by the way, you had to be an atheist to qualify for any of the good stuff:

  • “While I was in Moscow, his mother was still living, and, according to the anecdote, Brezhnev wanted to impress her with how well he had done. He decided to invite her up from their home in Dneprodzerzhinsk, in the Ukraine and showed her through his ample in-town apartment but she was nonplussed, even a little ill-at-ease. So he called the Kremlin, ordered his Zil, and they sped out to his dacha near Usovo, one used previously by Stalin and Krushchev. He took her all around, showed her each room, showed her the handsome grounds, but still she said nothing. So he called for his personal helicopter and flew her straight to his hunting-lodge at Zavidovo. There, he escorted her to the banquet room, grandly displaying the big fireplace, his guns, the whole bit and, unable to restrain himself any longer, asked her pleadingly, 'Tell me, Mama, what do you think?'
  • “'Well,' she hesitated, 'it's good, Leonid. But what if the Reds come back?'”
  • (Hedrick Smith, 'The Russians,' p. 38).

So if your atheist friends ask you, was there every a social order in which atheists held Christians in thrall and used them as a supply of slave labor, tell them, yes, and it used to be rather prevalent: the Soviet Union and China, two huge countries, as well as their satellites. In these places, the atheists were the bosses, the Christians were the serfs:


Katyn Forest

Josef Stalin did not want World War II, but his behavior during that conflict shows him to be a depraved, conscienceless atheist. It is a long-standing tradition of Christian civilization for prisoners to be protected, not slaughtered. But the Red Army methodically killed the Polish army officers who fell into their hands and interred their remains in mass graves in the Katyn Forest:

  • “Meanwhile Stalin and his magnates debated the fate of the Polish officers, arrested or captured in September 1939 and held in three camps, one of which was close to Katyn Forest. . .Stalin compromised. The Poles were released— except for about 26,000 officers whose destiny was finally decided at the Politburo on 5 March 1940.
  • “. . .This massacre was a chunk of 'black work' for the NKVD who were accustomed to the Vishka of a few victims at a time, but there was a man for the task: Blokhin travelled down to the Ostachkov camp where he and two other Chekists outfitted a hut with padded, soundproofed walls and decided on a Stakhanovite quota of 250 shootings a night. He brought a butcher's leather apron and cap which he put on when he began one of the most prolific acts of mass murder by one individual, killing 7,000 in precisely twenty-eight nights, using a German Walther pistol to prevent future exposure. The bodies were buried in various places — but the 4,500 in the Kozelsk camp were interred in Katyn Forest.”
  • (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore, pp. 333-334).

This horrid atrocity was brought to light by, of all people, the Nazis: "Polish mass graves have been found near Smolensk. The Bolsheviks simply shot down and then shoveled into mass graves some 10,000 Polish prisoners, among them civilian captives, bishops, intellectuals, artists, et cetera. Above these mass graves they built installations to cover up any possible traces of their dastardly deeds. The secret about these executions became known through hints given by the inhabitants." (The Goebbels Diaries, edited by Louis P. Lochner, p. 357).

Stalin's own death was a macabre postscript to his life. He suffered a stroke, and was lying on the floor covered in urine. But medical care was delayed, owing to the fear everyone had of getting on his wrong side. Even when the terrified bodyguards managed to get the Communist Party bigwigs on the scene, nothing was done:

“Even when Lozgachev tried to convince them that Stalin was gravely ill, Beria insisted he was sleeping normally and dismissed any concerns about his health, berating the guards for bothering them and even questioning their suitability to serve Stalin, at least according to Rybin. Without a nod from these party leaders, the guards did not have the courage to summon doctors on their own. They were not going to defy Beria. As the writer Nadezhda Mandelstam noted, 'Stalin inspired such terror that no one dared enter until it was too late.' . . .There were multiple locks on the gate and double rows of barbed wire around the compound, along with bodyguards among the household staff. None of these layers of security could prevent him from lying for hours in his own urine, paralyzed, and without the ability to scream.” (Rubenstein, Joshua. The Last Days of Stalin (pp. 38-39).

After the 'doctors' plot,' it was a bold doctor who would venture to treat this man, even when he was deathly ill. One suspects Beria and his colleagues were not averse to letting a man who had struck such terror into even the party hierarchy expire unattended, if indeed the stroke itself was not precipitated by helping hands.


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