Why Stalin Didn’t Notice Hitler’s Racism

Tony Judt makes the following astute observation in hisĀ Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945:

It was a Marxist commonplace and Soviet official doctrine that Nazism was merely Fascism and that Fascism, in turn, was a product of capitalist self-interest in a moment of crisis. Accordingly, the Soviet authorities paid little attention to the distinctively racist side of Nazism, and its genocidal outcome, and instead focused their arrests and expropriations on businessmen, tainted officials, teachers and others responsible for advancing the interests of the social class purportedly standing behind Hitler.

The reason why Stalin couldn’t afford to draw attention to Hitler’s racism is that, during WWII and immediately after, Stalin was engaged in his own racist persecution of entire ethnic groups. It’s kind of hard to say, “Look at this guy! He wanted to exterminate the Jews! What an evildoer!” when you are planning to exile all of the Jews in your own country to Siberia with no plans for them to survive the move.

Soon after the victory over Nazism, the very word “Jew” would become offensive and nobody would want to say it aloud. When I was 6, my best friend Yulia shared with me in a whisper a huge secret. “We are Jews,” she said. “Do you know what this means?”

“No,” I said. “But I will ask my Mommy.”

I asked my Mommy and she said she had been planning to have this conversation with me when I was older but that she guessed I was old enough to know.

So she told me. I didn’t really understand why some people thought that my Daddy was different and disliked him for that but I knew that there was some darkness hidden in the whole issue.

“So Daddy isn’t Russian?” I asked.

“No,” my mother said. “I just told you he is Jewish.”

“So are you at least Russian?” I asked, hopefully.

“No,” she said. “I’m Ukrainian.”

“Then who is Russian in this family?” I exclaimed, feeling very disappointed. “Can I be Russian?”

When I was told it wasn’t possible, I knew we were all one hopeless family.

Can’t Escape the Brits

On the Interstate, we just overtook a small car that was emitting huge clouds of exhaust fumes. The card had a sticker saying “London Hackney Cab,” or something like that. And the steering wheel was on the right.

As we overtook it, I turned around in the passenger seat to see the driver. The prim and proper gentleman behind the wheel glared at me and pursed his lips in the inimitable British way.

I Hate Updates + an Old Joke

WordPress has automatically updated the app I use on my iPod, and as a result I can’t answer comments on my own blog. The app pauses for about 2 seconds after each character you type. This makes the process ridiculously slow and frustrating.

The way the app now functions reminds me of this old Soviet joke about a man from Japan visiting Moscow in 1982. This businessman was stuck at the reception desk of some official and listened for 30 minutes to the official yelling behind closed doors, “Vladivostok!!! Are you there??? I can’t hear you! Speak to me, Vladivostok!”

The Japanese tourist listened to this vociferation for a while and finally asked the secretary, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but why doesn’t he call Vladivostok on the phone instead?”

And if you don’t understand the joke, you need to read my blog more often.

Fascism in Ukraine

Sorry, I keep getting interrupted and can’t finish the post.

So, to continue, Ukraine’s president Yanukovich, who is one of Putin’s favorite puppets, has made a statement that fascists are now in power in Ukraine and he will be organizing a resistance movement.

For obvious reasons, the word “fascism” is a very charged one in Ukraine. Yanukovich has now apparently gone to Kharkov (my city which is right on the border with Russia) to organize “resistance to fascism.”

The main fear of progressive humanity both in Ukraine and abroad is that Putin will do what he did in Georgia and send in the troops. As we all know, the West stood passively by as Putin invaded Georgia. Chances are Putin will be allowed to do what he wants in Ukraine, too.

People keep asking why Yanukovich doesn’t seem eager to keep his promise to resign. My own belief – and I don’t have any sources to rely upon for this part of the post – is that Yanukovich wouldn’t be averse to resigning (and leaving the country). But his employer Putin needs him in Ukraine, and antagonizing Putin is very dangerous.

And by the way, several years ago I wrote on this blog that the Cold War was not over and the disbanding of the USSR was a short-term tactical maneuver. And guess who was right this entire time.

Situation in Ukraine Still Tense

The problem in Ukraine is that Putin’s television is convincing the Russian-speaking Ukrainians that the protests are organized and conducted by neo-Nazis in American employ. The goal is to get them terrified to the point where they will act out violently against an imaginary threat.

This has long been Putin’s main argument for why Russia wouldn’t survive without him: unless he is permanently in power, he says, Russia will be torn into pieces by American-paid Neo-Nazis. This line is working well in Russia, and now is being tried in Ukraine.