Every so often, when I hear people tell me that the Cold War is a long-lost issue and that we need to “move on”, to use that cant expression, I remember that there are, unbelievably, people out there who still think that the Soviet Union and its empire was a benevolent force and no worse than that of the NATO alliance that successfully helped to bring it down, and who therefore regard people who helped thwart the Soviet regime, like Vaclav Havel, as bad men. Case in point is this creature by the name of Neil Clark, writing in the Guardian newspaper:
“No one questions that Havel, who went to prison twice, was a brave man who had the courage to stand up for his views. Yet the question which needs to be asked is whether his political campaigning made his country, and the world, a better place. Havel’s anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women’s rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.”
Absolutely. Presumably, that explains why there were millions of downtrodden, poor people attempting to enter the Soviet Empire from such hellholes as West Germany. That explains why East Berlin erected the Wall, to contain the flood of people trying to enter it. Yes, that must have been the reason. (Sarcasm alert).
I guess the fact that the Soviet System created a two-tier society: the Party and Everyone Else, must have escaped Mr Clark’s gimlet-eye attention. Perhaps the Gulag, the shootings of political opponents, the construction of the White Sea Canal (with slave labour), etc, were in fact all features of ensuring that the “needs of the majority” came “first”.
For what it is worth, on a more theoretical level, the horrors of collectivism can be summed up in Marx’s dictum: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. For if you believe that the needs of the majority trump such pesky issues as rights or liberties, then so much the worse for such liberal principles. But in practice, of course, the history of the Communist world was littered with stories of shortages, famines and shabby, crappily produced goods and services.
I had actually forgotten about Neil Clark’s existence. Alas, his ghastly prose now comes back to haunt me. I remember reading about this character about five or six years ago, when writers such as Oliver Kamm and Stephen Pollard tore this man’s sophistries to pieces.
And here is a useful roundup of links for deniers of socialist brutality. Clark makes the list, unsurprisingly.