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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wally of the Week: Lord Desai

Crackpot New Labour peer Lord Desai |(above) believes that "Gordon Brown was put on earth to remind people how good Tony Blair was". Now there are a few people, who, if they were running Britain today "would remind people how good Tony Blair was". Adolf Hitler. Josef Stalin. Pol Pot. Genghis Khan. Ivan the Terrible. Mao Tse Tung. General Franco. General Pinochet. Saparmurad Niyazov. Dr Hastings Banda. Alfredo Stroessner. Benito Mussolini. Idi Amin.

And that's about it.

There may be a few bloodthirsty neocon loons who regret the resignation of Tony Bliar, but does anyone else in this country? I certainly don't know of anyone. Bliar was a man who took Britain into a succession of illegal and catastrophic wars, and left our country in a far worse state than it was when he came to power (and it was bad enough then).
Such nonsense is par for the course for Desai. A keen advocate of health service 'reform'- ie let the private sector rule the roost- this not very left-wing leftie is a member of a health policy group organised by the pro-privatisation think tank Civitas, an off-spring of the Institute of Directors. A staunch supporter of 'free trade' he also thinks(and please, no sniggering in the back) that the WTO is "good for the poor".

It's hard to escape the conclusion that, to use his Lorship's own turn of phrase, Desai was put on earth to remind people what a brilliant and insightful thinker this individual was.


Anonymous said...

Is this Neil Clark defending Gordon Brown? If so, that's quite a shift.

Neil Clark said...

No, it isn't Neil Clark defending Gordon Brown. It's Neil Clark saying that very, very few people make Tony Blair look good. Brown might be bad but Blair is unspeakable.

Jock McTrousers said...

Please, please - Stalin in that company? As a Morning Star regular, you should know better than that, Neil. Stalin saved Russia and the world. If he hadn't been ruthless he couldn't have done it. He left the soviet union with universal healthcare, housing, employment and education. Without the soviet example, would the European capitalist classes have felt the need to buy off the working classes with concessions after the war? If Stalin hadn't been murdered he might have done something about the entrenched bureaucratic interest groups who eventually stole all the soviet peoples' accumulated wealth.

No-one serious now blames Stalin for the Ukraine famine ( see Mark Tauger:' the Carl Beck papers' - available online; and Davies/Wheatcroft:'the years of hunger: Soviet agriculture, 1931-33.)
The most authoratitive assessments (see J.Arch Getty: 'the Road to Terror'; and, for a readable overview, Michael Parenti's 'Blackshirts and Reds) of executions during Stalin's period now put a maximum figure of 750,000 over a 20-year period, and I have read of some doubts about that figure - selective release of documents by authorities hostile to what Stalin stood for. That is still an awful lot of people, but it may include Cossack and White forces who fought for Hitler. These were desperate times, and the Soviet Union certainly had a large Trotskyist, treasonous, defeatist 5th column, while faced with a war of extermination from the Hitlerites.
Blair, on the other hand, is directly responsible for at least 2 million deaths in Iraq, from sanctions and war. There are no extenuating circumstances for Blair; he did it for money, which he is now reaping on the US lecture circuit.

As for Brown, when the PFI bills come in, and the IMF forces us to end healthcare, education and social security, and British civilisation comes to an end, Brown will be seen in the way the Irish see the O'Neil (I think) who invited the Normans into their country.

Anonymous said...

If you have sat, as I have, around a kitchen table with three elderly women, all of whom were sentenced to ten years penal servitude in the Gulag; never knowing for what reason, as their charge bore no relation to reality; and, who on release were ostracised (even though eventually formally pardoned), there lives ruined, broken, and as they shared their stories, tears flowed, you would not imagine that Stalin 'saved' anyone. He was a sociopath, a murderer, who led Russia down a dark sterile path from which it has yet to recover - and apologists for him are on a par with the deniers of the Holocaust.

Anonymous said...

jock mctrousers obviously lives in a parallel universe in which, for example, four million people (official records of the Soviet Union) were not imprisoned for 'non-political' crimes up until 1953.

He has not sat around the kitchen table (as I have) with elderly women, recalling with tears, being imprisoned for no reason they could comprehend, and subsequently on release living lives ostracised from society even after having been officially 'pardonned'!

Apologising for Stalin is akin to Holocaust denial - you belong to the same ethical cesspit!

Jock McTrousers said...

Jolie-Couleurs You're short on facts and long on emotional manipulation. I don't know of anyone that denies that great wrongs were done under Stalin, especially by devolving to the local level the authority to fill quotas of 5th columnist Trotskyists to arrest, so that there was scope for abuse - probably the cause of the misfortune of the women you mention, if that's true.
Your other statistics are meaningless without some context. 'official records of the soviet union' is just a meaningless noise without giving a reference to check. 4.5 million non-political prisoners? Do you mean criminals?
How many are in prison in the US currently, and in what conditions?
Whether you would imagine it or not, Stalin DID actually save the Soviet peoples from extermination or slavery, whatever his methods. He also hugely increased life-expectancy, as well as the aforementioned - education, employment, housing.
And 'deniers of the holocaust' is scraping the bucket. That's always good for a bit of cheap grandstanding. I wonder if you believe that there was a socialist paradise created by Lenin and Trotsky, before Stalin corrupted it?
' a dark sterile path from which it has still to recover..' I wonder if your idea of recovery would be the same as that of Yeltsin and his backers.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry I made a mistake the figure is 4.5 million people imprisoned for non-criminal offences up until 1953. The figure comes from Memorial's research. Memorial is the organisation founded in 1988 to patiently record and bear witness to victims of the Soviet Union.

Nor do I imagine there is a trade off between murder/mass imprisonment as a price well-paid for improvements in health and education. Improvements that ran significantly behind similar gains made in Western democracies in the first half of the twentieth century (with the exception of literacy where the Soviet experience was one of dramatic improvement - but it has been in, say, Kerela, post-India's independence but without the murder)!

There are too many people in contemporary US prisons (as there, in fact, in Russian prison). This advances your argument how?

But what reveals your lack of moral compass is your casual dismissal of my three woman - their actual experience of a system constructed and presided over by Stalin - is chilling. It was their lives that were broken not yours, not mine.

As to Stalin 'saving' the Soviet Union - yes but at a cost greatly amplified by his prior collaboration with Nazi Germany, his dismantling of the Soviet Union's high command in the purges of 30s and his refusal to allow the military to make appropriate deployments ahead of invasion.

Let me finish with one victim: Pavel Florensky - scientist and priest - who put his scientific work at the disposal of the Soviet state with particular reference to the extension of electrification. He was exiled in 1928 and imprisoned in 1933 for anti-Soviet agitation. This was for writing a monograph on the theory of relativity! He was shot in 1937.

There is no justification for a system that does this. None.

Jock McTrousers said...

That was a bit more nuanced anyway, but still the usual Trotskyist slanders. I know you won't be swayed by facts, but here goes anyway: the collaboration with the nazis - he tried to avoid war, obviously, and buy time; the purge of the officers - many of them were a hangover from the old Tsarist days, and may have been tempted by overtures suggesting a common interest between them and the Prussian junkers class, against the British Empire; also the Trotskyist had made some inroads into the military - there is no doubt that there really was a plot, though the scale of it may never be known. There is plenty of opinion that considers Stalin's defensive dispositions very effective - I'm aware of the argument about that old Tsarist general's criticism of the in-depth deployment well into Poland, but ultimately most military decisions could be improved with hindsight. Stalin's refusal to mobilise, or believe the Germans were seriously going to invade until the last minute, seems to be generally agreed on - well, think of the pressure he was under! I get diarrhoea when I've got a deadline for one of my open university courses; think of what Stalin was shouldering! The scale of that war! And they only won by the skin of their teeth. Do you seriously doubt that Hitler was serious about his plans for the Slav and Soviet peoples, that they would go the way of the American Indians?
That's what justifies whatever steps Stalin took - the alternative was extermination of all the soviet peoples. The scale of the effort was doubtless matched by injustice on a similar scale. I don't 'casually dismiss' any injustice, but I tend to see these horror stories about soviet injustices through the prism of the perspective best outlined in Chomsky and Herman's 'Manufacturing Consent' where they compare the attention given in the Western media to the supposed injustices suffered by some Polish priests, compared to the concurrent murder of a dozen or so US nuns by the US-trained El Salvador military. I needn't spell it out.

I really, really recommend you to read Michael Parenti's short, extremely lucid and readable 'Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism', for a brilliant, sane, fact-based overview of Stalin and the Soviet Union.

Anonymous said...

Not Trotskyist slander... but the patient accumulation of facts, drawing on the records of the Soviet regime itself, around which the historical consensus coheres, and a refusal to justify murder for the attainment of any means whatsoever.

You inability to address the particular realities of suffering, simply imagining them to be countered by offering other injustices, perpertrated elsewhere, speaks volumes of the blindness of your ideological commitment trumping simple humanity.

As to Stalin 'saving Russia' from Hitler. This is a truism but any Russian regime would have resisted Hitler. It tells you absolutely nothing about the ultimate value of Stalin's regime. A different regime might have resisted Hitler (as did the Western democracies) without consuming its own in quite the same way.

Remember all those returning Soviet prisioners of war imprisoned for the simple fact they had been captured and, thus, must be collaborators, for only one example.

Lucas said...

The whole Russian archive thing is very misleading.
Anyone who has read Kostrychenko's book on anti-Semitism will know that. The documents can be interpreted to fit many an agenda.
I would also strongly reccomend Ludo Martins book "Another view of Stalin". Even if you have no intention of changing your opinion it's a significant work. I am a strong believer in reading genuinely widely in order to genuinely appreciate history and politics. (

Graham Day said...

A recent review of Orlando Figes The Whisperers in the London Review of Books drew attention to what seems to be some methodological deficiencies in the work of "Memorials" - their interviews form much of the basis of Figes work. Some interviewers sail pretty close to the wind in terms of attempting to "direct" the interviewees towards predetermined outcomes.

It's a difficult field, because most investigators have an agenda. However, I believe that Jock is correct above that the general figure for "political" executions over the period is less than 750,000 - which is of course still a terrible figure. I think it's also generally recognised now that people didn't go to the Gulag and disappear forever - for example, after Beria took over the NKVD large numbers of "political" prisoners were released following a review of their case. The vast majority of prisoners in the Gulag were criminals.

"What ifs" are always difficult of course, but given the previous trends it's hard to see how a non-Soviet "Russia" could have achieved the necessary levels of industrialisation it needed to repel the fascist invaders.

And it's worth remembering that even in supposedly "free" societies industrialisation causes massive dislocation, and is often accompanied by violence or excess deaths - whether in the US example of trade unionists being gunned down en masse (Ludlow, Columbine etc), or the British one of workers being massacred by cavalry (Peterloo) and trade unionists being transported to Australia (Tolpuddle). And that's before we get on to what we Brits did in "colonies" like Ireland and India, or the US got up to in the Phillipines.

Anonymous said...

Russia was 'enjoying' a rapid phase of industrialisation prior to 1914 - with estimated growth rates comparable to anything subsequently achieved under the Soviet Union (which having rapidly 'grown' subsequently collapsed under its own contradictions).

But leave all that aside, what I found completely noticeable in this discussion is a refusal to engage with the actual victims - real people - and retreat into pseudo discussions of technicalities, numbers, and deflections to other historical horrors. It is striking a system that imprisoned a woman (known to me) in a prison camp for ten years hard labour, and a life of subsequent discrimination for being Polish (no more no less)is a complete moral failure. A failure that can be multiplied thousands of times in Soviet Russia.

One final point, I notice how casually commentators note that the majority of the population in the camps were criminals with the implication that is acceptable to use people imprisoned for any reason as forced labour, with barely adequate rations, on industrial projects that led to high rates of mortality!