As the world celebrates the anniversary of the reunification of Germany, after the destruction of the Berlin Wall which had left the eastern portion under soviet control, the former president of Uruguay, José “Pepe” Mujica, defended the totalitarian regime that oppressed Germans until 1989.
The Berlin Wall was a contingency wall, a part of what was known as the “Iron Curtain” that divided Europe between the West and the East, with the nations under the Soviet Union on the eastern side.
The penalty for crossing the wall was gunfire. One of the most well-known victims was Peter Fechter, the 27th reported fatality during an attempted crossing. At the tender age of 14, Fechter had already graduated from trade school as a brick layer. For years, together with a friend, he tried move legally to West Germany. He requested a labor transfer, but was denied. At 18 he tried to climb over the wall. He hid in the workshop of a carpenter with his friend Helmut Kulbeik. Helmut was shot down mere meters away from the top of the wall. He received multiple fatal shots to the groin area. The soldiers on the western side could not rescue him, since it was a militarized zone and would involve a direct confrontation. They threw bandages so that Peter could cover his wounds, but these were unfortunately not enough to save him. Guards on the eastern side of the wall recovered his body.
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This happened in 1962, a year after the Berlin Wall went up. This case demonstrates the desperation many Germans experienced and the willingness in many cases to risk their lives fleeing from this form of repressive government.
Nevertheless, the former president of Uruguay, Pepe Mujica, is annoyed by criticism of Soviet socialism that has emerged in recent days. He consistently argues that The Soviet Union was instrumental in the defeat of the Nazi army. According to him the Nazis would “almost certainly” have dominated Europe had it not been for the Soviet Union. This is in many ways a contradictory affirmation, as he defends one genocidal regime for opposing another. Also, it is not obvious at all that the Allied Forces needed the Soviet Union in order to stop Nazi Germany.
That is to say, he bases his justification on the danger of the Nazi threat; on their “almost” conquering Europe, as if this justified in any way the atrocities commited by hte Soviet Union which had nothing even to do with the Second World War.
Mujica poses the rhetorical question: “Would China today exist if the Soviet Union had not existed before? Would Mao’s military triumph have been possible?”
It is estimated that 65 million people died under Mao’s government. During the “Great Leap Forward” in the 1950s, which sought to modernize agrarian China alone at least 30 million people died, an estimated 40 million in total; due to famines. Likewise, the Proletarian Cultural Revolution generated a new massive wave of bloodshed through purges.
Purges are a phenomenon learned and inherited from Soviet socialism. Since Stalin-who took over after the death of Vladimir Lenin-began to purge his own party by shooting and sending millions to labor camps. He also subjected famines on those populations who refused surrender their lands, killing at least 7 million Ukrainians. Lenin’s government was comparatively less bloodthirsty, given how short it was. Nevertheless, Lenin had time to starve 5 million people himself while he was still in power. The strategy was to punish the rural areas, as he pointed out their collaboration with this adversaries in the Civil War that came at the end of the First World War, and the boom of the Bolshevik Revolution which brought socialism to Russia.
But in his recent program Conscience of the South, Mujica very much follows in the Eastern German Vein. “The great historical phenomena have repercussions that go far beyond the ethical judgments that we can make about a particular chapter of history and deserve a global consideration”” Mujica says, justifying their atrocities.
According to his line of reasoning, Soviet crimes should be ignored because they assisted in defeating a common enemy of the free world. The first famines in Soviet times began in 1921, are they still beyond “ethical judgments”? Hitler was not net in power at that time, so citing their participation in World War Two has nothing to do with their policy during the years prior. With which appeal to the participation of the USSR in the Second World War would not exempt those abuses. The famine that decimated the population in Ukraine and Kazakhstan happened between 1931 and 1932. The same applies to purges during these years.
Undoubtedly, the Soviet participation in the defeat of the Nazis is not a minor fact. However, it does not change what the USSR has done before and after the war. Is also worth emphasizing that Nazism was National Socialism, whereas The Soviet Union was an example of international socialism. This association is clear to lovers and defenders of freedom, but is unfortuantely lost on many who confuse the two, supposing them to be idealogical opposites. Both regimes collectivized their populations into supporters and enemies, which is how they justified ending the lives of millions.
Mujica seems not to care: “It is very easy to criticize Stalinism, the lack of freedom, the weight of the bureaucracy, etc., etc.” He does not seem to see a lack of freedom, or Stalinism, or bureaucracy at all as things worth criticizing. This makes sense looking at his own governemnt, which was in no uncertain terms Machiavellian: “the end justifies the means”. Mujica attempts to justify nearly a century of oppression, hunger and persecution because of a temporary and uneasy alliance during a time of war. The Soviet Union was also responsible for what happened in China with Mao, a dictatorship which saw the deaths of millions.
In the words of French philosopher and polemicist Jean-Francois Revel, who was a socialist in his youth before becoming a classical liberal, and supporter of a free market economy, with respect to “the lack of freedom”, something that Mujica considered superfluous, despite the fact that so many risked their lives to escape it, these words are as relevant now as ever to anyone still under the yoke of socialism:
“What marks the failure of communism is not the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, but its construction in 1961. It was proof that real socialism had reached a degree of decomposition such that it was forced to lock up those who They wanted to leave to prevent them from fleeing. ”