Open wounds – The Holodomor and our conception of genocide

After choosing to ignore this for a long time I’ve decided to try to make this point and therefore I’ll start on that note at this auspicious time of our Rosh Hashanna. If we the Jews, as a people that fear our genocide, or we as Americans or westerners that claim to have an objection to it, want to at least stay on side then there must be an acknowledgment that we object to genocide as a general rule and do not condone it. You may be smirking at the screen right now asking: “What, do I need training wheels here?”

Some people might. This past Sunday morning, a remark by a friend of mine to someone else, in a synagogue, sparked the now played and tired argument over whether our current president is a “fascist”, a “Nazi”, or a tyrant and a new “Hitler”. I’m sure that it’s shocking to you that such a conversation would happen or that the person that was proclaiming this while practically beating his chest claimed he was a student of history in college.

What history are we learning? Unfortunately, whereas it is common , and appropriately so, to learn about the Holocaust and its attendant events the general idea of genocide is neglected. Is that not the worst mistake possible given that the Holocaust was not the first genocide, it wasn’t the last one, and I submit given my own readings that it was not the worst. So I reminded the person that was shouting at us that under communism, the ideology that is so casually excused by the American progressive movement, 5 million Ukrainians had been murdered and then proceeded to mention the tens of millions of Chinese and 3 million Cambodians. I could have kept going but what left me spellbound was that he wrote off the Ukrainians as “anti-Semites”.

The definition of what is a genocide has no dependency on the opinions of the persons it is being perpetrated upon. We can go back into human history and on every continent there’s been an example of some such event of one magnitude or another. I was wrong about the murder of those Ukrainians; it’s possible that 2.3 up to 12 million of them perished in forced famines and other killings in the years 1931-32. The Holodomor, a Ukrainian neologism of the time meaning to kill by hunger, was the ultimate example of the well-known idiom of “cutting one’s nose to save his face”. Josef Stalin, without so much as a hard evening of introspection, mandated that in order to implement a system of social equity and preserve the integrity of the Soviet Union the Ukrainian people would be collectivized and their grain harvests would be seized. One of the reasons it was perpetrated on Ukraine was that its nationalist movements had begun to object to the harsh mandates of the workers’ paradise.

The ignorance of the Holodomor is not unique. People all the way from the moderate right neo-conservatives to the far left in the United States have a blind spot to the horrific ravages of communist genocides that have occurred since the founding of the USSR in 1917. In reality however, some trace the origins of collectivists revolutionary atrocities to the French Revolution of 1789. Free market objectivists Greg Salmieri and Yaron Brook, a former Israeli citizen and arch-opponent of state economic involvement, even consider German philosopher Immanuel Kant to be the one to blame for revolutionary bloodshed.

But such economic and philosophical distinctions should be irrelevant. There’s no doubt than non-socialist societies have gone through periods of unspeakable atrocities and bloodshed. Narco-states are not socialist. The Ottoman Empire was not socialist. There are unique flaws and pitfalls to every system of thinking so let’s not make this about “my idea is better than yours”. For that I think there are plenty of forums to address that.

Instead I propose this – let’s decide once and for all: Is the systematic extermination of entire populations of people a bad thing all the time, or only when it happens to people that suit a number of desirable criteria? There is currently a raging argument about the nature of the Nazi regime, whether it was a “right-wing” dictatorship due to it’s nationalism or “left-wing” due to its socialism. One of the most ridiculous arguments I’d heard a couple weeks ago from radio host David Pakman was that the Soviet Union was a “right wing perversion” of socialism.

And then there was the gentleman from earlier who claimed that 5 million Ukrainians (or how many they were) did not matter because they may have been “anti-Semites” and our people had suffered in Ukraine for centuries. This person defined himself as a socialist, but despite his clinging to a philosophy that claims to oppose the abuse of the common people. Well when you start filtering the common people based on categories that make them salvageable or perishable, they no longer are just the common people, they are a captive people and eventually an expendable people. Happy New Year.




About the Author
Ramón Epstein writes analysis of political and social issues from a libertarian perspective. He also writes for the Hard News Network.