Correction on Chinese Gulags

 Posted by on 1 April 2013 at 12:00 pm  China, Communism
Apr 012013

In answering the question on doing business with Chinese companies on Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I made an off-the-cuff comment about how China doesn’t have gulags.

At the time, I was thinking of massive extermination camps like those of Soviet Russia in the 1940s or the concentration camps of the Third Reich. Today, China doesn’t have anything that extensive, but it’s wrong to say that it doesn’t have gulags.

I knew that what I said was wrong the moment that I uttered it.. but the moment slipped away too quickly for a correction. That’s the danger of speaking extemporaneously!

The Chinese version of the gulag, still in existence today, is the Laogai. I’ve not read a ton on it, but here are some sources worth checking out:

Alliance with the Soviets in World War II

 Posted by on 5 February 2013 at 10:00 am  Communism, History, World War 2
Feb 052013

I posted these remarks on World War II to Facebook yesterday. The ensuing comments were quite interesting, so I thought I’d share my initial remarks here too.

Now that I’ve gotten to the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” I have a question… I’ve heard various people (of the non-interventionist bent) claim that Britain, France, and the United States should not have allied with Soviet Russia. Undoubtedly, even if that alliance was necessary to win the war, turning over eastern Europe to the Soviets at the end of the war was a major, major evil. (The alliance did not necessitate that, from what I’ve read. Instead, FDR appeased the Soviets as much as Chamberlain did Hitler.)

I’ve also heard such people say that we should have allowed the Nazis and the Soviets to destroy each other. But what does that mean? It seems to mean that when Germany attacked Russia, the Allies should have left Russia to fight its own war, without any coordination with them.

In that case, given how close Hitler came to Moscow, wouldn’t it be very likely that he would have defeated Russia, such that the Allies would have faced a much, much greater threat from Hitler — perhaps an undefeatable threat — even with help from the United States?

I’m sure that I’ll come to my own answers as the narrative progresses, but I still want to understand this “we should not have allied with the Soviets” view better. Right now, it seems wildly unrealistic to me.

I’m enjoying The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (paperback, kindle, or audible) so much more than I thought I would. It’s an intensely detailed history. I’ve seen some people criticize it as “journalistic,” but I vastly prefer such fact-rich histories to those light on facts but heavy on interpretation. When the author draws conclusions, I want those conclusions to be overwhelmingly supported by the evidence drawn from primary sources.

To be clear, I don’t merely dislike interpretation-heavy histories when the underlying ideology is, say, pro-Marxist. Such histories are so unreliable as to be useless. Rather, I dislike any interpretation-heavy histories — even when the underlying ideology is Objectivist. I don’t trust anyone to come to conclusions for me, even when we share the same basic philosophic principles. While I’d be interested to hear what an Objectivist historian would say, ultimately, I want to make my own integrations and draw my own conclusions. I’ve got my own brain, and I’m not interested in any convenient pre-packaged history.

Perhaps my college years in St. Louis rubbed off on me. I’m a one-woman “Show Me State” … and darn proud of it too!

Aug 102012

When I saw this image on Facebook a few weeks ago, I was utterly aghast. See for yourself:

Communism has been attempted in a multitude of countries around the globe. The result has always been shortages, privation, starvation, labor camps, misery, and death. What kind of evasion must be required to think that the results would be any different in America?!?

Alas, we see the same kinds of evasions from the mainstream progressives and conservatives in America. They demand more spending on welfare programs, even while deficits balloon. They want to stop the drug trade, heedless of the cost to innocent lives and civil liberties. They want stricter immigration laws, even though that makes criminals of hard-working people seeking to improve their lives. They want more government regulation, even at the cost of strangling business. In essence, they continue to advocate policies that they know have failed in the past — and that they should know will only fail in the future.

I love the quip, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” Alas, that doesn’t seem to be the way of politics these days. The vast majority of people deeply misunderstand individual rights — or worse, ignore them entirely. Without the guidance offered by those fundamental moral principles, the result can only be one variant of bad judgment after another.

(If you were hoping for an optimistic ending to this post… sorry!)

May 282012

This BBC News story — The terrible price of a Korean defection — tells the chilling tale of Oh Kil-nam, a Marxist professor who defected from South Korea to North Korea with his family in 1985. Yes, you read that right: he defected to North Korea. Here’s an excerpt:

His wife Shin Suk-ja was horrified by the idea of going to the North and opposed it from the start. “Do you know what kind of place it is?” she asked. “You have not even been there once. How can you make such a reckless decision?”

But Oh replied that the Northerners were Koreans too – they “cannot be that brutal”, he told her.

So at the end of November 1985, Oh, his wife and two young daughters travelled via East Berlin and Moscow to Pyongyang.

When they arrived at Pyongyang airport, Oh began to see he had made a mistake in coming. Communist party officials and children clutching flowers were there to meet them. But despite the cold of a North Korean December, the children were not wearing socks and their traditional clothes were so thin that they shivered. “When I saw this I was really surprised and my wife even started to cry.”

Oh Kil-nam was able to escape, but as of his last contact with his wife and daughters in 1991, they were in a labor camp. They’re probably dead now — or so I hope, based on what I’ve read of North Korea’s labor camps.

At the end of the article, Oh Kil-nam says:

I hope there will come a day when I can meet my family again, hug them and embrace them, and cry tears of happiness. If it does happen it will be the happiest day of my life.

The man couldn’t possible deserve that, not in a million years. The evil that he did to his family is simply overwhelming: he delivered his reluctant family into the hands of the world’s most brutal dictatorship. He could never make amends for that. He could never earn forgiveness. He could never be redeemed. No suffering that he could endure in this life could possibly compensate for what he did to his family.

A person can overcome most moral wrongs… but some evils are just too heinous for that.

North Korea Update

 Posted by on 9 March 2010 at 2:00 pm  Communism, Politics
Mar 092010

The February 28, 2010 StrategyPage has an interesting update on the brutal conditions in North Korea.

The whole thing is worth reading, but here is one excerpt that stood out for me:

North Korea is so broke that it can’t even expand its prison system. Currently, there are six main work camps, holding 200,000 prisoners. The camps run factories, mines and farms, but to build additional camps requires cash and resources the government doesn’t have. So food for the camps is being cut, to encourage the weaker prisoners to die, and make room for the many new “economic criminals” (especially those sneaking food in from China.)

There is also paralysis at the top when it comes to resuming negotiations with the U.S. and neighboring countries, that are willing to provide food and other aid, if the north will abandon nuclear weapons. Many North Korean officials are willing to make the trade, but refuse to allow the inspections demanded.

The big fear is that the outsiders will find out how bad off North Korea really is. This, despite the fact that this is not much of a secret anymore.

(Read the full text.)

Fortunately, it looks like the Obama Administration is not in a hurry to agree to more negotiations and talks with such a weakened (yet unrepentant) enemy.

Given that I oppose so many of the current President’s policies, I do wish to give him credit on those occasions where I agree with him.

Defending Stalin?!?

 Posted by on 20 June 2008 at 12:06 pm  Communism, Odd
Jun 202008

While googling for a text relevant to my dissertation, I ran across “The Stalin Society.” It describes itself in large text, next to a picture of Stalin, as follows:

The Stalin Society was formed in 1991 to defend Stalin and his work on the basis of fact and to refute capitalist, revisionist, opportunist and Trotskyist propaganda directed against him.”

Um, wow. (Always those damn Trotskyites!)

Lives of Others

 Posted by on 17 June 2008 at 7:16 pm  Communism, Film
Jun 172008

Some time ago, I recommended the movie Lives of Others. It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching movie about life in East Germany under the watchful eye of the Stasi secret police.

The movie was so good that I thought I’d recommend it again, along with this interesting Wired article from a few months ago on the attempt to reconstruct the Stasi records, so that East Germans can learn exactly what their government recorded about their lives.

I never read anything about East Germany in my obsessive readings on communism a few years ago, but I’d like to do so, preferably a personal narrative of some kind. Any recommendations?

Update on North Korea

 Posted by on 26 April 2008 at 11:12 pm  Communism, Politics
Apr 262008

StrategyPage has a very interesting update on the ever-declining state of affairs in North Korea. It’s definitely worth reading, if you’re interested in that horrid corner of the globe.

Evil Evil Evil

 Posted by on 7 March 2002 at 9:40 am  Communism, George Bush, North Korea
Mar 072002

In today’s OpinionJournal, a German doctor who worked in North Korea for two years has a great piece on the horrors experienced by the people of that country at the hands of their power-hungry dictator, Kim Jong Il. He writes:

What I witnessed could best be described as unbelievable deprivation. As I wrote last March, “In the hospitals one sees kids too small for their age, with hollow eyes and skin stretched tight across their faces. They wear blue-and-white striped pajamas, like the children in Hitler’s Auschwitz.”

Essentially, he is defending North Korea’s inclusion in the axis of evil. Towards the end of the article, he says:

President Bush has rightly identified North Korea as a prison state that uses terrorism against its own people. Moreover, his “axis of evil” has sent a strong message to the North Korean people that they are not forgotten–and they are listening. Every North Korean defector I spoke to over several weeks was delighted by President Bush’s words. For the first time in their lives they feel as if the outside world understands the hell they have endured. Moreover, they are full of hope that, like President Reagan’s “evil empire” speech,” President Bush’s “axis of evil” speech will eventually lead to the collapse of Kim Jong Il’s brutal regime.

I’m sold!

This article seems particularly timely given Will Wilkinson’s indignant comments yesterday on North Korea as merely preferring their bread butter side down.

Preventing Horror

 Posted by on 4 March 2002 at 4:22 pm  Communism, Compromise, Ethics, Literature
Mar 042002

After a lengthy discussion on Saturday with Paul on whether the horrors of the Soviet Union could have been prevented, he recommended the quick World War II alternate history Triumph in which Churchill assassinates Stalin during the war. Although competently written, the possible changes in the timeline precipitated by Stalin’s early death are merely hinted at rather than explored in depth.

If we must make common cause with an evil regime (like the Soviet Union) in order to defeat a even more evil regime (like Hitler’s Germany), the least we can do is be honest about the compromise being made. To sell a ruthless dictator as “Uncle Joe Stalin” is an unpardonable sin. But given FDR’s politics, perhaps Stalin really was an ideological uncle of sorts.

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