Last night I watched the harrowing BBC documentary Gulag. It aired in 1999 and marked the first time on British television that the breath-taking scale of the Soviet Union’s crimes against humanity was revealed in all its horror.
We are now all too familiar with the dispiriting and soul destroying tales and images of the Nazi concentration camps. There are countless documentaries, books and films that have placed them firmly and permanently in our psyche.
Sadly, Stalin’s concentration camps were never liberated so there was no footage recorded by an invading army. We don’t have the reams upon reams of footage to properly relate the monstrosities of the gulags, nor the opportunity to visit the sites that echo with mass murder as we do with the Nazi camps.
The remnants of the camps are left decaying to this very day in the remote parts of Russia where very few people will ever go. The victims of the Communist concentration camps are therefore not burned onto the conscience of the world as they should be.
There is another reason why people are not informed of the horrors of Communism as they are about the crimes of the Nazis and why we do not rightly demonise the evil, twisted and inhuman ideology of Communism as we do with the Nazi’s brand of Fascism.
The reason is, of course, that the liberal Left in the media and amongst prominent intellectuals don’t like to admit that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was even more murderous than the Third Reich. That the Communist dogma is just as wrong, just as evil and just as worthy of full blooded contempt and damnation.
Many of those who do begrudgingly concede some ground, in what should be an open and shut case, make the lame claim that the Soviet Union was not “true” Communism; on the contrary, it was that most evil dogma implemented and brought to life for all to see. That is what modern Communists and die hard socialists cannot bear to face up to’ the gulag is an inevitable and necessary development in the imposition of an ideology that requires human nature to be changed by force.
Karl Marx, the false prophet who is still an idol and icon for many, wrote a putrid dehumanising theory that reduced human beings to pawns in his deranged and deluded historical determinism narrative. Making that prophesy come true was the driving force behind the most evil men of the twentieth century and directly responsible for an immeasurable amount of human misery.
The Bolsheviks seized power in a bloody revolution and consolidated it through mass murder, torture and oppression, which is the only way a socialist state as envisaged by Karl Marx can actually be created. The death toll of Soviet Communism could have reached as high as 50 million according to many historians yet despite this the Soviet Union still had many fellow travellers and apologists on the left in Britain.
Intellectuals in the arts and academia believed in the ideological basis of Communism and revered Karl Marx and Lenin thus were instinctively sympathetic and reluctant to see Soviet Russia as a failure and an evil presence in the world.
These sentiments combined, I believe, with the shame and embarrassment felt in the west that we had to ally ourselves with Stalin to defeat the Nazis (and could do nothing to stop his occupation of Eastern Europe) is responsible for Communism getting the free pass it does not deserve.
The BBC series is poignant and harrowing. It pulls you slowly and carefully into hell. Horror is piled onto horror. It is made all the more powerful and evocative by the memories of the knock at the door, the arrests, the interrogations, the sudden and jolting end to a peaceful life and the plunge into torture and dehumanisation, the abject suffering and despair of the victims.
The defiant deportees singing a final hymn in tears as they marched onto the trains; the secret police, the slave drivers and guards who still yearn for the return of Communism. The victims being worked to death and buried in mass graves.
Genocide scholar Adam Jones claimed that “there is very little in the record of human experience to match the violence unleashed between 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power, and 1953, when Joseph Stalin died”. I hope that, in time, we come to terms with this and alleviate the ignorance that many have of this evil, for just like Nazism it is a warning from history that we must heed.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty