Monday, August 08, 2005

The hammer and sickle

Why is it, I was wondering the other day, that the Soviet/communist symbols of the Stalinist repressive period are given some sort of cultish reverence, whilst any such symbols of Nazi propaganda are taboo? The records clearly show that of the two regimes the Soviet one can lay claim to the dubious distinction of having claimed the most lives (and by a significant margin), and yet when we look back in history we generally think of the holocaust as the darkest hour of mankind.

There are clubs in Melbourne, Republicka is one example, that are adorned with pictures of Stalin and Lenin and other such trappings of Soviet days gone by. I see people wearing t-shirts sporting the hammer and sickle and, apparently, all sorts of Stalinist era knickknacks can be purchased in states of the former Soviet Union. If a club suddenly opened tomorrow naming itself 'The third Reich' I'm fairly certain there would be outrage; additionally, we have seen the disgust and revulsion evoked when Prince Harry recently dressed in SS gear and went to a party. There seems to be a double standard here.

So why?

I don't think that it is due to a lack of awareness on the part of the general population. Most people have at least a vague inkling that some very funky shit went down in that land where people wear funny hats and drink lots of vodka.

My theory is that it comes down to WW2, a defeated Germany, and a victorious Russia. Once the tide of the war with Germany turned and the allies flooded into the country, freeing the occupants of the concentration camps as they went, all the messed up things that went on there were exposed, sometimes in excruciating detail, for the world to see. Germany would be forced to confront the horror that it had perpertrated upon so many, and as such, it is forced to forever bear the stain of those evil deeds.

In Germany there were trials, there were executions, war criminals were named and denounced. Even now SS officers and camp officials are being hunted down and brought to justice.

To this day not one member of the Soviet apparatus has heard the firm knock of justice at their door. Not a single question has been answered nor confession made.

No such unveiling of Russian evils occurred: nobody invaded her and forced the facts of her evil deeds into the light of day. For years the soviet propaganda machine was able to shield its citizens from the darker realities of what it was doing to its own people. Because there was no erosion of its power, as was the case with Germany through its loss of the war, an unfettered look at its camps through the objective view of an outsiders gaze was impossible. Whenever an international body descended upon Russian camps with the intention of sighting possible breaches of human rights, all signs of such breaches were erased: healthy looking prisoners were installed in the camps, levels of sanitation were improved and bodies were hidden.

Now I'm not saying that what happened during the holocaust was not the manifestation of the purest, blackest evil. I'm not trying to belittle what transpired when Hitler attempted to make the world his bitch at the expense of millions of lives. All I'm saying is that next time you're watching Schindler's List and weeping for the six million lives snuffed out at the caprice of that mad little man, spare a thought for the Russians that were dying in camps at the very same time. Yes, when you mourn for those six million, mourn also for the 30 million(+) that died without reckoning in Solzhenitsyn's metaphorical islands of the Gulag.


lividia said...

sleep-deprived and slogging through work, this may not be the best time to attempt socio-political debate and whatnot... but just a thought: the nazi regime had a far more blatant (in pop culture terms, anyway) racist / anti-semetic thing going on. relatively speaking, the soviet mess was far more hazy and hard to decipher in terms of the 'ideals' being pursued in comparison to the bluntness and clarity of the goals of the german gov't.

theory, anyway...

my personal pisser about nazi imagery as well though is the co-opting and reversal of the otherwise positive swastika symbol. poor swastika!

Don Quixote said...

Ugh! Don't mention work to me - at least not while I'm on leave!

I hear you in respect to the Soviet agenda appearing less distinct, however archival evidence shows that - particularly during the 30's & 40's - very racial specific 'purges' were undertaken by the Soviets. In fact towards Stalin's death Jews in particular were being targeted for consignment to the camps.

Recent records also show that the prison camp administration was constantly requesting that 'more prisoners be sent'. Often the amount of prisoners requested would be in the order of 15,000. The administration was well aware that to fulfill such a request numerous amounts of innocent people would need to be arrested on trumped up charges. What this shows, in my opinion, is that the Soviets were trying to feed the camps thirst for slave labor. It is also well documented that the administration planned to work these slaves to the point of exhaustion and death.

So in a lot of ways I see the Soviet agenda as being clearly worse than that of the Nazi, as the soviets intended to extract maximum labor prior to the death of its victims.

I guess we do agree though, that the Nazi agenda seems to be more clear to the world. The reason for this I think is that their agenda was laid bare after their loss in the war. In the case of the soviets, only in recent times have historians been given access to files that show the full extent of Stalin's evil design. Unfortunately now the issue is too far in the past, and the emotions involved have cooled.

Has this been the longest comment reply ever?


Don Quixote said...

Oh, and the Nazis stealing the swastika. They appropriated it from the Hindus, did they not? It would appear that any symbol can be stolen from the good and used to foward an evil agenda. I have no doubt that at some stage in the future we will see George Bush giving the peace sign at the end of rallies.

The world is a bizarre place!