ShareThis Page

Ralph R. Reiland: Collectivism & hypocrisy in Russia

| Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
A participant holds a placard with a portrait of Stalin during a march by Communist Party supporters to mark Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow, February 23, 2013. Russia celebrates those serving in the nation's armed forces every year on February 23. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)
REUTERS
A participant holds a placard with a portrait of Stalin during a march by Communist Party supporters to mark Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow, February 23, 2013. Russia celebrates those serving in the nation's armed forces every year on February 23. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)

Martin Amis begins his book “Koba The Dread,” about the gulag and murderous crimes of Josef Stalin resulting in upward of 20 million deaths between 1922 and Stalin's death in 1953, with several quotes about Soviet collectivization of agriculture by forcibly confiscating land and food output from the peasantry and the resulting famines.

Amis drew from Robert Conquest's book “The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivism and the Terror-Famine”: “Horse manure was eaten, partly because it often contained whole grains of wheat.” Amis also wrote: “Conquest quotes Vasily Grossman's essayistic-documentary novel ‘Forever Flowing' regarding widespread hunger and deaths from starvation: ‘And the children's faces were aged, tormented, just as if they were seventy years old. And by spring they no longer had faces. Instead, they had birdlike heads with beaks, or frog heads — thin, wide lips — and some of them resembled fish, mouths open.'”

“Cannibalism was widely practiced,” writes Amis. “In the late 1930s, 325 cannibals from the Ukraine were still serving life sentences in Baltic slave camps.” Peasants were making meat pies from the organs of corpses.

“On 11 June 1933,” reports Amis, “the Ukrainian paper Visti praised an ‘alert' secret policeman for unmasking and arresting a ‘fascist saboteur' who had hidden some bread in a hole under a pile of clover.”

The term “fascist saboteur” in Stalinist and communist ideology refers to a starving peasant who tries to hide a smidgeon of his output — a crime of illicit individualism and theft from the collective.

Elimination of individual ownership in agriculture, state confiscation of farms and output, and turning peasant landowners into cogs in industrialized, state-owned food production all find their roots in “The Communist Manifesto,” written in 1847 by political and economic theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

“In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property,” they wrote. “Precisely so: that is just what we intend.” And: “(T)he theory of the communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”

Translated into the time of Stalin's famines, that anti-private-property command meant the widow of a peasant, a man who'd been starved to death after his farm's collectivization, should be imprisoned for burying a piece of meat in the frozen soil.

The definition of hypocrisy? After this aforementioned famine and genocide, allegedly performed to create a blissful world of equality and classlessness with no private ownership or riches, Fortune magazine reports that Hermitage Capital Management CEO Bill Browder, a major investor in Russia in the 1990s, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July that the jockeying for the position as wealthiest person in the world, as assessed by Bloomberg's tracker, between U.S. tech titans Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, and Bill Gates, each worth around $90 billion, is eclipsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin's $200 billion personal fortune — un-collectivized.

Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (rrreiland@aol.com).

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.