By Bryan Caplan
I haven’t finished the first chapter of Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, but I’m ready to highly recommend the book. Just one great passage:
As Stalin interpreted the disaster of collectivization in the last weeks of 1932, he achieved a new height of ideological daring. The famine in Ukraine, whose existence he had admitted earlier, when it was far less severe, was now a “fairy tale,” a slanderous rumor spread by enemies. Stalin had developed an interesting new theory: that resistance to socialism increases as its successes mount, because its foes resist with greater desperation as they contemplate their final defeat…
Stalin never personally witnessed the starvations that he so interpreted, but comrades in Soviet Ukraine did… Forced to interpret distended bellies as political opposition, they produced the utterly tortured conclusion that the saboteurs hated socialism so much that they intentionally let their families die… Even the starving themselves were sometimes presented as enemy propagandists with a conscious plan to undermine socialism. Young Ukrainian communists in the cities were taught that the starving were enemies of the people “who risked their lives to spoil our optimism.”
These self-righteous socialist horrors could almost be out of Eugen Richter, but not quite. His shortcoming: not dystopian enough.