PBS Shows the Real Stalin

Article excerpt

When I returned to America after many years in countries with aggressive communist parties, one thing really stuck in my craw. Our great opponent in world affairs was unquestionably the Soviet Union, which many signs suggested aspired to world dominion. The mass of the American population responded in a manner I thought logical: with hostility. But the intellectual class seethed with hatred, not of communists, but of anti-communists.

This is a phenomenon, it's been said, of countries with no real familiarity with communists - neither with communist rule nor with a powerful communist party within their ranks. The great "hate" figures I found among educated Americans were not communists at all but supporters of Joe McCarthy, the country's most notorious and reckless anti-communist, loathing for whom remains to this day. Hatred for communism - about which these people knew next to nothing - was modest indeed compared to loathing for anti-communism in all its forms. Often blamed on McCarthy's antics, this is an attitude so perverse as to seem deranged.

In the following years I saw on the Public Broadcasting Service highly sympathetic documentaries on virtually every Marxist-Leninist regime or revolutionary movement on earth. I read with my own eyes a rejection letter from PBS to the great Cuban cinematographer (and Academy Award winner) Nestor Almendros, whose documentary on a Cuba he knew all too well was rejected, quoting extensively from condemnations in a communist publication.

This sentimental defense of all communists and communist sympathizers might, at long last, be drawing to a close, as a huge ten-hour documentary called "Russia's War: Blood Upon the Snow" begins airing on PBS on Friday, July 11. With introductory passages featuring Henry Kissinger, the film is not simply a war documentary but also a detailed, blood-chilling account of the career of one Josef Stalin. Doubtless to the surprise of many Americans, it depicts a career which parallels point for point that of - Adolf Hitler.

For the film is in fact the story of two wars: the war between Russia and Hitler's Germany, and the even more vicious war Stalin waged against his own people. Of the two - although this will not entirely surprise readers of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelgo" -the latter was by far the more pitiless and bloody. Furthermore, with the exception of Hitler's pathological extermination of Jews, Stalin's class warfare was distinctly more fanatic.

In the modern age, motion pictures, as predicted by Lenin, have been the greatest means of propaganda in history. And it was footage of the inmates of the German camps - barely alive or dead in their mountains of corpses - that convinced the world that Hitler was the quintessence of evil. Since the Soviet Union wasn't defeated, we'll never see the Soviet equivalent of Germany's mountains of corpses. But "Russia's War" provides the fullest revelation yet of how Stalin, while Soviet citizens were fighting a war to the death against a foreign enemy, conducted his own ferocious war against his own people, arresting, transporting, torturing, murdering them by the tens of millions, including members of his own family. …