Yesterday marked exactly one hundred years since the October Revolution succeeded in Russia. So often confused with the February Revolution, which overthrew the Romanovs, this event gave birth to one of the evilest states in history: the Soviet Union. Led by monsters, the Soviet Union was to oversee the first man-made famine in history. It was governed by the iron-fist of a repressive secret police, it sent its opponents to gulags and perverted the rule of law with show trials for loyal Communists who fell from favour.
Despite all of this, there is a trend, most obviously on social media, to ignore the wickedness of this brutal, utopian-driven state.
If it were just a few anonymous accounts on Twitter, I would not feel it necessary to write this, but it is not. There is an unnerving trend to write it off in a way that we would (rightly) not do with Nazi Germany. This is by no means a new phenomenon - such apologists follow in a long line of those on the Left. From Sidney and Beatrice Webb (the 1st Baron and Baroness Passfield no less), to the late Eric Hobsbawm, they are in interesting company. The rest of us should remember the October Revolution and what it was: one of humanity’s greatest tragedies.
Clean different things?
Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, has brought forward a motion in the House of Commons to express official regret that a German-backed putsch in the night, which destroyed the first taste of #Liberal Democracy in Russian history, succeeded.
Mr. Rosindell's proposal does not really make all that much of a difference but it is, as they say, the thought that counts. It is necessary to be reminded and to remind others, especially the useful idiots with Che Guevara t-shirts, of the evil that erupted on this day in 1917. Subscription to Communism is not the problem, my policy is the same as Elizabeth I in not wanting to make windows into men’s souls. However, the celebration of the overthrow of Alexander Kerensky’s government, however imperfect it was, is something that I feel should be discussed. We would not debate the rise of Hitler as a simple matter of “pros” and “cons”, and yet we do so for this bloody coup. We saw it in the weird coverage of the death of Fidel Castro, the muted response to the socialist hell that is Venezuela, and the sucking up to China (admittedly for geopolitical purposes).
Nazism and Communism are, in the words of Charles I, clean different things. Their utopian worldviews differ but the result has been the same.
Death and destruction always follow in the wake of those who think to remake the world as they would have it. Peter Hitchens compared the Soviet Union to the Tower of Babel, arguing that, as with all such utopian projects, "they are built on corpses and cemented with human blood". He was right. So, why do we think of the gulags in different terms to Nazi concentration camps? Why do we not think of the NKVD as comparable to the Gestapo? Why don’t we feel the same repugnance at the Hammer and Sickle as the Swastika?
Don’t mention the war
That most people, excluding the blatant apologists, do not think of these two evil regimes in quite the same way is due to the Second World War. That we made a (necessary) pact with the Devil to defeat Satan is something we have still not quite come to terms with. It does not fit into the great narrative of our national religion. We, the British, were the few, pushed back by evil itself so that our homeland was threatened and yet we never surrendered. The Russians similarly venerate the Great Patriotic War, but with the satisfaction of knowing that whilst the American brought the money, and the British brought the time, their fathers brought the numbers.
It does not matter that the Cold War followed, or that the Soviets had made a non-aggression pact with Hitler. What mattered was that Stalin had been our ally. George Galloway made that case on the most recent episode of the BBC’s Sunday Politics. Ask any student what they learnt in history lessons - invariably it will involve the Tudors and Nazi Germany. They may have studied a little bit of the history of the USSR at A-level, but then in a dry way loaded with emotionless figures of the numbers of the dead.
Lenin got a better pass than Stalin
Lenin gets an even better pass than Stalin. No one can really pretend that the anti-Semitic purges and forced collectivisation didn’t happen. The idea abroad, however, is that Lenin was in some way better than Stalin (Let’s not start on the crazy notion that had he succeeded, Trotsky would have been any better), as though he was not the equally wicked father of all that was to come. We remember it, if at all, with a “certain ambivalence” (in the words of Richard Overy) that, whilst emanating from the Left, seeps across most of society.
The truth is that we should break out of this apathetic approach. We have learnt the lessons of Nazism and we are better for it. We must do the same to the October Revolution and all that followed. There was a band of utopians who tried to make real their dreams over the deaths and suppression of millions. This was not the liberation of the masses, it was a sordid coup, with German support, to overthrow a government that could have made Russia a liberal democracy. Instead, they’ve had to wait decades, until the rotten structure collapsed. What replaced it is better but by no means as good as it could have been. So next time you see someone with a Hammer and Sickle t-shirt or engaging in whataboutery over Stalin and Lenin, ask them whether they have Swastika caps and would excuse Hitler. Don’t celebrate this anniversary, weep over the dead and learn from it.