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The Holodomor was a massive, man made famine in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, a constituent union republic of the Soviet Union that took the lives of between 2 and 10 million people from 1932-1933. Some, such as the Swedish Communist Party and certain intellectuals,still deny that it ever happened. Some fascists, like The Daily Stormer website, take the opposite route and refer to it as the Holocaust that actually did happen. Ironically Richard Spencer himself denies that the Holodomor was a genocide.
After the October Revolution of 1917 brought a communist government to power in Russia, and the fighting of the Russian Civil War had stopped, Vladimir Lenin had a tough decision to make. During the Civil War he had followed a form of communism that introduced exciting new labor laws, such as the decree that anyone going out on strike would be shot, but this had been rather bad for the economy.
So, bowing slightly to reality, Lenin introduced the "New Economic Policy," in which capitalism and private property was allowed on a small scale while the government kept control of the larger industries. Specifically, the farmers of the USSR, from the peasants working small holdings to the kulaks who held larger farms, were able to keep their farms running as usual.
But then in came Stalin, who was a little less willing in that regard. He decided to scrap the New Economic Policy and shove the agricultural situation closer to Marx's ideal by collectivizing all the farms; never mind that the peasants themselves considered this an effective return to feudalism.
This entailed reclassifying the kulaks as "class-traitors" because their farms were a little too big, and stopping the kulaks from farming while concurrently importing for farm work large numbers of industrial workers (the so-called "twenty-five-thousanders") who knew squat about agriculture.
Naturally, removing competent farmers and replacing them with utter incompetents, not to mention the continued disregard for basic laws of economics, caused a massive disruption in grain production. This hit the Ukrainian SSR extremely hard; it certainly did not help matters that there was already a nasty drought going on and that the Soviet Union had criminalized gleaning (the removal of leftover crops from a field after the harvest), which was a source of food for many poorer people in the area, and also demanded that an amount of grain equal to approximately seven times that year's yield be sent to the government.
Blunder or murder?
Rather than the fact of the famine or the numbers who died, what is in serious dispute is whether it was the result of ideologically-induced grand stupidity or genocidal design. As with an extreme functionalist view of the Holocaust or the 1957-1960 Great Leap Forward, the claim that the Soviet leaders were not responsible gives them a convenient "out" to deny responsibility.
It could be that Stalin just made an economic blunder, trusting in the Gospel of MarxTM far too much for his own good. But there have been some nastier motives suggested. Ukrainian nationalism was something of a subversive political force at that time, and some maintain that he cunningly engineered the entire famine to punish the intelligentsia. The country remains to this day the "breadbasket of Europe" — historians are suspicious as to why the agricultural engine of the USSR was the hardest hit in the context of broader food shortages from the Caucaus region to Siberia. At any rate, even if it was an economic fuckup, it still makes the Great Depression look like a minor soft-landing in comparison.
This is the view taken by the Ukrainian parliament, which has classified the Holodomor as a genocide. The United Nations declared their agreement with this in 2003, and the European Union followed in 2008.
A third, compromise point of view is that it was indeed genocide, but not an ethnic one (i. e. more akin to democide). Proponents of this school of thought point out that some other USSR regions were also affected by famine. In their view, Stalin engineered the disaster not to specifically target the Ukrainian nation, but rather to purge intelligentsia and peasantry in general (i. e. the most potentially dissident/conservative social groups) and replace them with his loyal lumpenproletariat fanbase.
The historian Robert Conquest, an arch anti-communist who at one point was paid to produce anti-Soviet "counter propaganda" by the British Government, held the view that the famine was not intentionally inflicted by Stalin, but "with resulting famine imminent, he could have prevented it, but put “Soviet interest” other than feeding the starving first – thus consciously abetting it". He did not believe that the famine could properly be termed a genocide.
It is often regarded as the communists' very own Holocaust (although the Cultural Revolution in China and the reign of Pol Pot in Cambodia run close seconds). It is sometimes pointed out that communists (or at least those who do not denounce the Soviet Union, although Stalin did make the mess by moving closer to Marx's vision for agriculture) shatter a bevy of irony meters should they criticize the Nazis for the Holocaust.
There is another parallel of the Holodomor with the Holocaust: widespread denial of the Holodomor among communists. Examples:
- The Soviet Union always denied the famine had ever taken place.
- Walter Duranty, of the New York Times, wrote frantic denials of the event, denounced anyone who reported on it as a fascist and (simply because enough correspondents weren't there to challenge his record of the events) won a Pulitzer. Today's Times editors still facepalm at the thing.
- When in the latter months of 1933 Ukrainian-Americans scheduled protests of the ongoing famine, the U.S. Communist Party sent out thugs to disrupt their marches in Chicago and New York.
- Canadian trade union activist Douglas Tottle put forth a conspiracy theory claiming that the Nazis and people at the Hearst Corporation made up the entire story about the Holodomor. His work inspired a number of other writers to say the same thing, and the Swedish Commies believe him.
A lot more communists denied the Holodomor before 1956, when Stalin's successor Nikita Khrushchev caused a mass exodus from communist parties all over the world by giving his "Secret Speech," essentially screaming in people's faces, "Wake up and smell the corpses, Stalin was a liar!"
In the mid-2000s, Ukraine wanted to make it illegal to deny the Holodomor, along with the Holocaust.
As an excuse for Antisemitism
“”So, my question to you is: Why have you never heard of Yagoda? And why do you never hear about the Communist Holocaust, that killed twice the number of Russian and Ukrainian Christians than alleged number of Jewish victims [killed by Hitler]? Why don't you see pictures of the victims, and the pictures of their murderers? My new book,
|—David Duke. Notice use of the word "alleged". The dog whistle is on a low frequency with this guy.|
Certain bigots have accused Jews of deliberately not giving the Holodomor (as well as other genocides) enough attention in the media (as they supposedly run it) in order to focus solely on the Holocaust. This didn't exactly come out of nowhere: Stalin had stacked the NKVD with Jews (consisting of over 30% of the force at its highest) to create a convenient scapegoat during the Great Purge, and, inadvertently, it seems to have been a factor as to why so many Ukrainians were later joining the SS in World War II.
This also overlooks the fact that unlike the Holodomor, the Holocaust had the benefit of the occupation of the Allies who made sure to scrupulously document, photograph, and film as much of it as they could, as well as put as many perpetrators as they could find on trial (thus creating a lot more information to study). Plus, the Holodomor took place in Iron Curtain-esque secrecy (like Chernobyl) and it was nearly completely impossible for the West see the true enormity of what was happening because of it. But who needs things like logic when you can just blame the Jews for everything?
- Holodomor – Famine in Ukraine, 1932-33, Boston University (List of essential Holodomor reading)
- Execution by Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust pp xv By Miron Dolot Published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1985 ISBN 0-393-30416-7, ISBN 978-0-393-30416-9
- Richard Pipes Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, Vintage books, Random House Inc., New York, 1995, ISBN 0-394-50242-6, pages 232-236
- Ukraine issues joint declaration at the UN in connection with the 70th anniversary of the Great Famine of 1932-1933, US-Ukraine Foundation
- "Crisis in Ukraine 1932-1933" (Translated, clumsily, from Swedish.)
- See also post-Mao China.
- Tony Cliff on Marx and collective farming vs. individual farming
- Robert C. Tucker. Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928-1941. Norton, 1992.
- Ukrainian famine, 1932-1933, Rutgers University
- Davies, R. W and S. G Wheatcroft, The Years Of Hunger. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 441 note 145.
- ibid, xvi note 12.
- "In a train a Communist denied to me that there was a famine. I flung into the spittoon a crust of bread I had been eating from my own supply. The peasant, my fellow-passenger, fished it out and ravenously ate it. I threw orange peel into the spittoon. The peasant again grabbed and devoured it. The Communist subsided." - Manchester Guardian, 1933
- Stalin's Pulitzer winner, Los Angeles Times
- 8,000 Ukrainians in New York City Protest Famine in Ukraine, The New York Times
- Tottle's book on the subject
- Crying Genocide: Use of Political Rhetoric in Russia and Ukraine, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Israeli Media Reveals The Secret Behind Communism by David Duke.
- Google Holocaust + Holodomor, you'll see.
- Grappling With Holodomor, The Atlantic