Setting the Record Straight
Hannah Arendt was among the prominent bourgeois intellectuals positing an “equivalency of evil” between the two…”totalitarian systems,” Fascism and Communism. This lie, which conveniently disregards context and political purpose, still struts about virtually unchallenged.
The following article was written by a member of the Set the Record Straight project.
One of the lies about communism that has been repeated over and over again is the equating of the Soviet Union under Stalin with Hitler’s Germany. The comparison rules socialism utterly out of order, paints it as a nightmare, rules it off the agenda.and is a total lie!
Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union—Opposite Societies
Nazism or German fascism was a form of capitalist rule marked by extreme repression and open terror against the masses and the abandonment of bourgeois parliamentary and electoral mechanisms. Ideologically, Nazism based itself on the defense of private-capitalist property, the idea of German/Aryan racial superiority, hatred of Jews (anti- Semitism), and anti-communism.
The German economy as it was reorganized under the Nazis remained capitalist through and through: it was based on exploitation and capitalist expansion, and the leading industrial-financial capitalist groups retained their economic control and holdings.
When the Soviet Union was [primarily] socialist, from 1917 to 1956, its economy was based on socialist public ownership. Relations of exploitation had been overthrown and no longer dominated (although they were not completely eliminated). The economy was structured to meet the needs of the people.
When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they went about “restructuring” and “purifying” German society: imprisoning and murdering communists, gypsies, homosexuals, “half-breeds,” drug addicts, and other sections of society that the Nazis deemed to be biological and moral “pollutants.” Ultimately, the Nazi program led to the mass murder of millions of Jews and other people.
The rise of Nazi Germany was not opposed in the least by the “Western democracies,” and even less by their industrialists, which often saw in it an ally in their fight against “Bolshevism” and a desirable trading partner. Thus Nazi Germany was never denied materials, business deals, boycotted, encircled, or interfered with. Hostilities against Germany only started after Hitler had shown everyone that his expansionist policies would sooner or later clash with the geopolitical interests of the Anglo-Americans and their French ally.
By contrast, in the Soviet Union, a pillar of the Bolshevik program was putting an end to national oppression and establishing equality of national languages and national cultures. With respect to the Jewish people, the revolution in power immediately took strong measures to combat and uproot anti-Semitism. Before the Bolshevik Revolution, Jews were subject to constant pogroms—mob massacres by peasants who were told absurd lies about the Jews. This was overthrown in the socialist revolution, and the confinement of Jews to certain geographic areas and discrimination in employment were ended.
The Nazi party rallied German society around an ultra-nationalist program of preservation of German blood and soil and the vanquishing of a fabricated Judeo-communist “conspiracy” to control the world. The Nazi ideology of irrational hatred of certain peoples and racist superiority was rooted in the economic system of capitalism—a system of horrific human suffering even in “peaceful times.” The Nazi mind-set aggressively disdained critical, rational, and scientific thought (very much like the Christian fascists in the U.S. today). The model “Good German” was unthinking, obedient, and blindly followed authority.
How could the Americans ever understand what happened in Russia? Their country was never brutally invaded, laid waste, never declared a “menace to civilization” and thereafter cordoned off, encircled, and denied the most basic products and materials. And the US never had to face a decades-long effort to overthrow, to choke ——by any means necessary——its chosen form of governance. Besides, after capitalism replaced the feudal regimes (with which it shared a huge number of disgusting social characteristics) no one ever seriously tried to put the kings back at the apex of real political power. Compared to the struggle for socialism, the capitalists and their “revolution” had it easy. ——Eds.
Communism is founded on a scientific outlook that enables people to understand the world and society in their motion and development. Communism is founded on an internationalist world-view of achieving a classless world free of oppression and exploitation. And a defining feature of socialist society is that the masses of people are mobilized to consciously transform economic, political, and social relations and institutions in the direction of classless society and to revolutionize traditional ideas and values that reflect and reinforce class distinctions.
Collectivization of Agriculture
In the Soviet Union, the means of production, which had been seized by the revolution, were placed in the service of society (instead of serving exploitation). And, in the countryside, an unprecedented revolution took place. The formerly isolated, suppressed, and impoverished peasants were led by the Communist Party to rise up, cast off millennia of enslavement and mind-numbing tradition, and overthrow cruel and vicious exploitation and oppression. This process was especially dramatic for women, who made huge strides towards equality after being treated like animals.
Were harsh measures carried out by the proletarian state in the Soviet Union against some sectors of the population? Yes, but the dictatorship of the proletariat has nothing in common with the Nazi program, the Nazi outlook, or Nazi methods. For example, many anti-Communist ideologues and historians allege that the collectivization carried out in the Soviet countryside in the late 1920s and early 1930s was a savage campaign of expropriation and murder. In fact this collectivization was a drive to develop a new system of agricultural production based on collective ownership, and it ignited a genuine upheaval against centuries- old authority, tradition, and oppression in the countryside.
The kulaks, the rich peasants who employed hired laborers, were a focus and target of this struggle. But this had nothing to do with their ethnicity. It had to do with their class position, that is, with the economic power and influence the kulaks exerted in the countryside. It had to do with the fact that they were working to undermine efforts to carry forward collectivization and strengthen the new socialist economy—the kulaks had hoarded grain, profiteered in rural markets, destroyed livestock, and organized sections of peasants against the regime. In this period when many peasants were starving, the kulaks were stripped of their private economic holdings, which were turned into the social property of the collectives. Many of the kulaks were punished, including being forced to leave certain areas. And sometimes this was done unfairly. But the kulaks were not made the object of genocide.
The Soviet approach to collectivization and the way the class struggle was waged in the countryside were not without problems. And Mao had big criticisms of the approach taken. There were serious excesses, including the fact that force was used in situations where persuasion should have been relied on. But this was within the context of a real [and urgent] struggle between revolution in the interests of the masses and counterrevolution.
World War 2The German ruling class, under Nazi leadership, went to war with the Western powers as part of a struggle among the imperial powers for global supremacy. France, England, and the U.S. were all seeking to preserve and extend capitalist empire. The Nazis attacked the socialist Soviet Union in order to crush a socialist (anti-capitalist) revolution that was an inspiration to the world’s oppressed and to gain control over a huge, strategically situated land mass, rich in resources.
In the studies that equate communism and Nazism it is also conveniently forgotten that the turning point of World War 2 was the defeat of the Nazi army by the Soviet Union under Stalin. During World War 2, more than 27 million Soviet citizens sacrificed their lives (with millions of communists among them). And Stalin led the Soviet people to defend their revolution against the Nazi-imperialist onslaught.
Setting the Record Straight—And Looking to the FutureReactionaries who promote wild distortions to equate the socialist Soviet Union (until capitalism was restored after the death of Stalin) with Nazi Germany do so with an agenda that capitalism (aka “liberal democracy”) represents the end of history, and that [institutionalized] exploitation and oppression are the highest that humanity can aspire to. Progressive people who uncritically repeat the equation of Nazism and communism should, instead, find out the true story, and ponder how they are objectively joining with open reactionaries in defending this system and ruling “out of order” any real and radical alternative to capitalism.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolution Online