Magazine article Insight on the News

To Any Length in Defense of Stalin

Magazine article Insight on the News

To Any Length in Defense of Stalin

Article excerpt

An extraordinary full-page defense of the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin was published recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education, an academic trade publication dealing with university affairs.

The article in the Nov. 25 issue by a Sovietologist, Professor Robert W. Thurston of Miami University in Ohio, is prominently presented and aptly titled "Point of View." The logic of Thurston's perspective about the Soviet Union is such that it could easily be used as a defense of Nazism and Adolf Hitler or of South Africa's apartheid. The article is an excellent illustration of why a study has been undertaken by Johns Hopkins University Professor Charles H. Fairbanks Jr. and other specialists to examine the methodology of mainstream Sovietology (see Fair Comment, Dec. 7).

Thurston's critique originates in a Library of Congress exhibit, "Revelations from the Russian Archives," this past June. In the professor's words, the "library's accompanying glossy brochure highlighted only the repressive nature of the Soviet regime, ignoring its positive (though flawed) accomplishments." He indicts James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, for advocating "a single point of view" about the Soviet Union.

The first part of the brochure describing the exhibit is titled "Internal Workings of the Soviet System." Thurston complains that it "related almost solely to state repression and violence, ranging from 'Repression and Terror' and 'Secret Police' to 'Deportations.'"

"Nothing appeared," he writes, "on the growth of education, upward social mobility, increased availability of medical care, urbanization or anything that might be considered positive."

Reading this passage reminds one of the hoary fellow-traveling propaganda that sought moral cachet for Lenin and Stalin, at the time of bloody purges, in such attributes as the growth in literacy in the Soviet Union. The library exhibit's "unmitigated focus on repression," says Thurston, makes it difficult to explain the "popular zeal [in Russia] for the Soviet effort in World War II."

Thurston forgets that the vaunted "upward social mobility" was due to executions and imprisonment of high officials who had to be replaced. …

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